When Donald Trump tapped Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser during the presidential transition—Flynn was confirmed but subsequently resigned—the New Jersey Star-Ledger Editorial Board opined against, labeling Michael Flynn a dangerous choice for national security advisor. Among other objections, the Star-Ledger wrote:
Flynn believes Islamist militancy poses a global existential threat, but he targets the faith itself. He asserts that Islam is a "political ideology masked as a religion" and therefore should not be protected by the First Amendment, which is the first step toward stripping American Muslims of their constitutional rights.
I left these comments:
I don’t know much about Michael Flynn. But if he actually said that “Islam is a ‘political ideology masked as a religion’ and therefore should not be protected by the First Amendment,” then I agree that Flynn is a dangerous man who doesn’t understand the Constitution.
First of all, political ideology is also protected by the First Amendment. It’s called freedom of speech, press, and association. Second, freedom of conscience is a core, unalienable individual right, so Islam as a private religious practice by people who respect the same rights of others is most certainly protected. Both political ideology and religion are protected so long as they don’t in practice involve the violation by force or violence of the same rights of others.
But we must stop evading the fact that Islam has a built-in political component. That’s the danger. The First Amendment protects us from government being used as a tool to impose religious law on the rest of us. A large segment of the world’s Muslims, not just the terrorists, reject this separation of religion and state. You can observe this all around the world, from the chants of terrorists in the act to the imposition of Sharia Law by election. Sharia law by definition establishes law that favors a particular religion, the religion of Muslims, relegating all non-Muslims to second class citizenship at best and, at worst, special taxes, persecution, forced conversions, and even death. Would anyone in America stand for a return to Christian law?
For too long our leaders have evaded the truth, and called Islam a “religion of peace.” It can be, and for many Muslims it is—but only for Muslims who reject their religion’s statist/political components. All religions are inherently authoritarian. That’s why Western Culture, led by America’s Founders, separated religion and state. Christianity has been Enlightened and tamed. That’s why nobody, including me, an atheist, fears Christianity in America even though it is 80% Christian. I have the First amendment to thank for that. Many Muslims are Enlightened and not a threat—I don’t have a general fear of Muslims in America, thanks to the First Amendment: But too many around the world still are not enlightened, and that’s the challenge. So-called “radical Islamists” are not a fringe, although practicing terrorists militants are. Unlike Christian fundamentalists, which are rare, Islamic fundamentalists are many. This threat won’t abate until Islam as a religion is reformed and tamed by secular Enlightenment principles, and that won’t happen until we all—Muslims and non-Muslims alike—recognize and reject the political component of Islam.