Daniel Wiener at Libertarian Party blog: ‘Islamic Cultural Center and the Heckler’s Veto’

Posted by Daniel Wiener at LP blog. Others who have weighed in on this issue include Tom Knapp, Kristin Davis, Warren Redlich, Carl Paladino, and LPHQ interns Marissa Giannotta and Josh Roll.


You’ve all heard the quote that “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” All too often libertarians emphasize the second part while ignoring the first, as is evident in the current controversy over building an Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero in New York. Many people view the Center as a symbolic F-U in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack. These people are angry and are applying whatever pressure they can to stop it. Libertarians need not go to the opposite extreme of actively promoting the Center’s construction just to prove that we believe in property rights and religious freedom.

This tension between rights and sensibilities is nothing new. A famous instance occurred in 1977 in Skokie, Illinois when the heavily-Jewish town passed laws to try to prevent neo-Nazis from parading through it. The citizens, many of them holocaust survivors, were outraged over the demonstrations, but the courts struck down the ordinances as an unconstitutional abridgment of 1st Amendment rights. This incident showed that it was possible to vigorously oppose the neo-Nazi march, while at the same time proving that the fundamental values of a free society were strong enough to withstand such a challenge.

Another instance hit closer to home for me, literally, in my home town of Simi Valley, California. In 1991 Rodney King was videotaped being beaten by Los Angeles police. The subsequent trial of four police officers was moved to Simi Valley, where their 1992 acquittal sparked massive riots in Los Angeles which resulted in thousands of fires, a billion dollars in property damage, thousands of injuries, and 53 deaths.

After the riots, white supremacist Richard Barrett and his self-styled Nationalist Movement tried to cash in by announcing a march to the Simi Valley court house. Enraged Simi Valley residents demanded that the City Council block the march on the grounds that it might incite a violent response. My wife, Sandi Webb, was on the City Council at the time, and she published an article in the local paper identifying this demand as a “heckler’s veto” and a violation of free speech and assembly. She suggested instead that residents organize a counter-protest. The City Attorney (also a libertarian) warned the City Council that blocking Barrett would lead to a lawsuit and heavy monetary damages against the city.

After some dithering, the rest of the City Council followed Sandi’s lead and the City Attorney’s advice. Barrett and his pathetic handful of supporters twice paraded around the court house. Each time they were vastly outnumbered by hundreds of Simi Valley citizens expressing their loud opposition. Barrett normally made his living by shaking down those cities which prevented his demonstrations: He would sue them and (acting as his own lawyer) be awarded legal fees. But in the case of Simi Valley he left empty-handed and humiliated.

How does the Islamic Cultural Center compare? No one doubts the fact that the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center did so in the name of Islam. No one denies that repressive governments in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and elsewhere openly commit atrocities in the name of Islam. These governments, along with radical Islamic groups, issue death fatwas against those who defy them, murder homosexuals, treat women as chattels, conduct “honor killings” against apostates and rape victims, etc.

It is clearly unfair to tar all Muslims with the evil actions of these vicious fanatics and religious dictatorships. By the same token, we should not whitewash these evil actions out of a misplaced fear of offending the good Muslims who don’t engage in them. It’s not the place of the Libertarian Party to take a position on whether an Islamic Cultural Center would ultimately be harmful or beneficial; that’s a judgment for each individual to make. What the Libertarian Party can say is that the decision on whether to build the Center near Ground Zero should not be subject to government edict.

56 thoughts on “Daniel Wiener at Libertarian Party blog: ‘Islamic Cultural Center and the Heckler’s Veto’

  1. George Phillies

    “No one doubts the fact that the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center did so in the name of Islam. ”

    Another lie from our ignorant LNC.

    Mr. Bin Laden went to some considerable effort to state his explicit political objectives, which were (1) end American support for corrupt Islamic governments, (2) remove American troops from Saudi Arabia, and (3) end American foreign aid to Israel. These were political objectives, not religious ones.

  2. George Phillies

    Of course, this requires that Bin Laden is honest about being supportive of the attackers’ efforts, as opposed to opportunistically taking advantage of the attack to advance his own position.

  3. Dan Wiener

    Alright, George, I’ll give you that one. Based on your post and one other individual who emailed me earlier today with the same argument (and perhaps others who haven’t yet weighed in), there apparently ARE people who doubt that the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center did so in the name of Islam.

    I’m not one of those people; regardless of their mixed grievances, it seems pretty clear to me that they bundled everything together into an Islamic Jihad. But since some people disagree, my assertion that “No one doubts…” turns out to be inaccurate. It should have said “Few people doubt…”

    Now, does anyone have similar problems with my next sentence, “No one denies that repressive governments in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and elsewhere openly commit atrocities in the name of Islam.”?

  4. paulie Post author

    Now, does anyone have similar problems with my next sentence, “No one denies that repressive governments in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and elsewhere openly commit atrocities in the name of Islam.”?

    Well, presumably the members of those regimes and their supporters would deny that they are repressive or carry out atrocities. But I agree with you on this point, and I suspect the other regular participants here do as well.

    The rest of your essay leaves nothing that I can disagree with, unless there was something I missed.

    I’m taking it that the headline of the intern blog created the impression with some that the LP actively supports the building of Cordoba Center, rather than merely saying, as you conclude, that “the decision on whether to build the Center near Ground Zero should not be subject to government edict.” However, in reading their essay, that is actually all I think they were saying, despite what the headline could be taken to imply.

    I think changing the headline to correct any such misunderstanding may well be appropriate, although I don’t think the entire article should be removed from LP.org, despite what some people have suggested.

  5. George Phillies

    By definition of the act, governments *cannot* commit honor killings.

    Your claims about the Pakistani government appear to be mostly wrong.

    Apostasy is unrelated to honor killings.

    The world’s large Islamic-majority states, such as Indonesia and Bangla Desh, do not appear to show any of these behaviors. So as an attack on Islam, I’d say your claims are more propaganda.

  6. Rob Power

    Dan, you could say you eat babies in the name of Christianity.* Even though Christianity doesn’t call for eating babies, you could certainly do so in the name of Christianity.

    So I suppose, yes, you could say that “repressive governments in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and elsewhere openly commit atrocities in the name of Islam.” Not that Islam calls for such atrocities (the USSR committed many of the same atrocities and was officially atheist), but yeah, I suppose those regimes could commit them in the name of Islam. But what’s your point?

    By saying that Christianity doesn’t actually call for eating babies, I’m not “whitewashing” your “evil actions” of eating babies — just pointing out that your claim that Christianity compels you to do so is entirely bogus. That’s exactly what people are doing when they point out that nothing about the 9/11 attacks was condoned by Islam.

    My congrats to the LP Interns on a well-written article. I simply cannot believe anyone on the LNC is criticizing them. It’s not the same LP I joined nearly 14 years ago. I wonder what Harry Browne would think. 🙁

    * For the record, Dan Wiener doesn’t actually eat babies. I don’t want you siccing Wayne’s notorious libel lawyer on me.

  7. Brian Miller

    It’s good to see the Republitarians’ effect on LP policy, comparing the desire of Muslims to build a community center with Neo-Nazi marchers in Simi Valley. That’s a very moderate and reasoned comparison.

  8. Jill Pyeatt

    George says: “Why does your state LP give a platform to people who propagate this racist nonsense?”

    We don’t. Many of us are very vocal about it. See my Facebook page from yesterday, and count how many times I posted on Wayne’s page. Short of jumping thorugh the computer and muzzling him, I don’t know what else I can do.

  9. Dan Wiener

    Rob,

    Since I’m of Jewish heritage, your comment to me that “you could say you eat babies in the name of Christianity” is clearly false and libelous. You’ll definitely be hearing from Wayne’s libel lawyer on this matter.

    For the record, any baby-eating I do has absolutely no connection to my religious beliefs.

  10. Pingback: Wayne Root: ‘Why the 9/11 Mosque Controversy Is NOT About Religious Freedom…and Should Be Stopped!’ | Independent Political Report

  11. NewFederalist

    Wow! It just seems to me that many Libertarians are so into minutia. Analysis paralysis has not brought the LP any closer to importance.

  12. Ted Brown

    Here is a famous “Scotsman” who likes to eat babies, but probably not in the name of Scottish nationalism. 🙂

  13. Carol Moore

    Daniel writes: “No one doubts the fact that the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center did so in the name of Islam. ” Well, that and the US troops in Saudia Arabia and support for 60 years of Israel stealing land from Arabs and killing those who resist and creating defacto concentration camps in West Bank and Gaza. Plus, I think we should say “Crashed planes into the World Trade Center.” What really brought them down remains under question given hundreds of witnesses hearing bomb sounds at the bottom of the towers just before they fell and other evidence, including that presented by what – 1000 engineers and scientists who doubt the “official story.” Somebody made lots of money and political hay out of that and it wasn’t the million on Muslims who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since then.

  14. David Colborne

    All in all, I thought this looked like a well-reasoned article. Whether you agree or disagree with the nature and status of the Cultural Center, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s private property and the owners of the property should be free to develop it in any way they see fit, provided it doesn’t interfere in their neighbors’ ability to develop their properties as they see fit.

    Getting lost in the semantics of whether or not Al Qaeda committed 9/11 to advance political goals or theological goals, and whether or not those goals are consistent with “mainstream Islam”, whatever that might be at any given moment, is a red herring. Just about every human thought, religious or otherwise, has been used to advance all sorts of liberty-infringing actions. This is true of Christianity, Islam, evolution, economics, and on and on. Economics “compels” Krugman to announce that we need a new bubble to replace the housing bubble. Evolution “compelled” the Nazis to embrace eugenics and race warfare. Christianity “compelled” our ancestors to burn witches and “compels” the Westboro Baptist Church to act like a bunch of real-life Internet trolls. Currently, Islam “compels” some people to blow up other people for various wrongs, real or imagined. It’s all immaterial – some people are jerks who enjoy telling others what to do, either by force or by fraud, and will always, always find a rationale somewhere to justify their petty urges. Sometimes those jerks have a stronger voice than others. Right now, for a variety of incredibly complicated political and theological reasons (rejection of secularization after several Arab League defeats against Israel, Nazi influence in the ’30s, among other things), the jerks that self-identify as “Muslims” are a little louder and a little more violent than the rest of the world’s jerks. That’ll undoubtedly change with time – it always does.

  15. Bob Weber

    “Libertarians need not go to the opposite extreme of actively promoting the Center’s construction just to prove that we believe in property rights and religious freedom.”

    Dan, what libertarians are “actively promoting” the Cordoba Center, and how are they promoting it? Advocating taxpayer funds for its construction? Advocating an LP donation to the construction fund? Inquiring minds want to know.

  16. paulie Post author

    @18 The headline of Libertarian Party Intern Blog: Build the Islamic Cultural Center!

    If one doesn’t read the article, the headline might indicate to some people that the Libertarian Party actively supports the building project. Reading the article, I don’t think such an impression is borne out, and I haven’t seen any other articles that could convey such a misunderstanding.

  17. Pingback: Blogosphere reactions to Wayne Root’s ‘Why the 9/11 Mosque Controversy Is NOT About Religious Freedom…and Should Be Stopped!’ | Independent Political Report

  18. Thomas M. Sipos

    Rob Power: “Dan, you could say you eat babies in the name of Christianity.* Even though Christianity doesn’t call for eating babies, you could certainly do so in the name of Christianity.”

    Rob, here’s another example for Dan.

    Consider all the pro-war, pro-national security state actions of the Bush, much of it done “in the name of freedom.”

    By Dan’s logic, a Columbian farmer who’s land was devastated by U.S. drug warriors could well say, “Look what the U.S. government did to me in the name of freedom! Freedom must be a very evil thing.”

  19. Thomas M. Sipos

    NewFederalist: :Wow! It just seems to me that many Libertarians are so into minutia. Analysis paralysis has not brought the LP any closer to importance.”

    I don’t want the LP to become an “important” neocon party.

    If the LP can only “grow” by selling out its principles, I’d rather it stay small.

    I don’t understand people who want the LP to win at any cost.

    Why?

    So instead of two Demopublican parties we can have three Demorepublitarian parties?

  20. Dan Wiener

    @18: Bob, as Paulie notes in his comment @19, the headline in an earlier LP blog post certainly seems to be “actively promoting” construction of the Islamic Cultural Center. The contents of the blog post are less explicit than the headline, although portions of it (e.g., “The Islamic cultural center would be a great way for others to learn about Islam and ultimately build bridges between the United States and the Muslim World.”) reinforce the perception that construction of the Center is being affirmatively advocated.

    A mitigating factor is that the blog post was expressing the personal opinions of the two interns who authored it. We don’t want to lose those personal viewpoints; the blog would be a lot duller without them! But we also have to be mindful that many readers construe the blog posts as representing official Libertarian Party positions. It’s not always easy knowing where to draw the line.

    @6 Paulie suggested that one simple solution would be to change the headline on the blog post. A second, more drastic solution would be to remove the post altogether. I personally preferred neither of those solutions; the blog post is what it is. So I took a third approach of publishing my own blog post to clarify the matter. I also wanted to warn against a “heckler’s veto” wherein the negative reaction by one party to a controversy is used to justify government intervention against the other party.

  21. Rob Power

    George says: “Why does your state LP give a platform to people who propagate this racist nonsense?”

    Jill says: “We don’t… Short of jumping thorugh the computer and muzzling him, I don’t know what else I can do.”

    Um, what about changing the leadership of the state party, Jill? The CA party chair endorsed Root, the head of the Neocon wing of the LP, at the most recent national convention in St. Louis. The state committee shut down the newspaper that was edited by a Root critic (actually a neocon critic in general). And at every turn, they’ve shifted the state LP to the far right. They endorsed the Domestic Partner Initiative effort by San Diego Republicans to derail marriage equality efforts. They sat on their hands regarding Prop 14 for over a year (I proposed devoting resources to opposing Prop 14 in February of 2009 before I resigned from the state committee and was accused of “overreacting” since “the Democrats and Republicans will fund the opposition for us, like they did the last time top-two was proposed”). They did nothing to stop Prop 14 until less than two months before election day (really only less than a month before most of us who are Permanent Vote-by-Mail voters receive and mail back our ballots). With the lone exception of endorsing the “tax cannabis” campaign (which only perpetuates the image of Libertarians just being pot-smoking Republicans), the state LP has downplayed personal freedom and only talked about economic freedom — the Wayne Root model for the future of the LP. Sadly, the Islamophobic perspective is hardly out-of-step with the current state party leadership, and apparently with the state party members who can be bothered to show up at conventions.

    As long as the same conservative leadership of the state party keeps being elected by the same conservative delegates, it’s the definition of insanity to think that they’ll give us any different results.

    To answer George, in fairness, Dan at least admits that it’s wrong to use government force to oppose this privately-funded project. That’s an improvement over Wayne. But why has my state LP given voice to Islamophobia? You might as well ask me why my city keeps electing Pelosi to Congress, giving a powerful voice to socialism. Short answer — because the voters are crazy, blind to reality, or both. Just as I’ve come to realize that Pelosi may well die of old age before being replaced as our Congressperson (likely by another socialist), I’ve given up on the LP of California and its state convention delegates ever eschewing Neoconservatism for a real Libertarian platform. I’m now pursuing other avenues for advancing Liberty. If by some miracle the delegates at the next state convention give us new leadership, I’ll give it another chance, but I’m not at all optimistic. The current people are far too entrenched. From what I can tell, San Francisco is the lone hold-out against the overwhelming socially-conservative trend in LP California. I’d love to hear that other counties are with us in that regard, but I don’t think that’s the case.

  22. Nate

    I think the blog post is quite good. Not great, not terrific, but certainly good. I was hooked at the first paragraph, as I have also noticed some people stating that Warren Redlich *supports* the Cultural Center, when in fact he has publically voiced a position very similar to Dan Wiener’s.

    While I viewed the following paragraphs merely as a demonstration of why getting the government involved is a bad idea, I do agree with Brian Miller @10, that it can be construed as comparing Neo-Nazis to Muslims. This comparison would be lacking in so many ways.

    The second to last paragraph is, as has been pointed out, not particularly good. Much better would have been something akin to:

    “How does the Islamic Cultural Center compare? Frankly, it doesn’t. While the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center may have claimed to have done so in the name of Islam, people sharing only their religion and not their convictions cannot be held to be guilty be association. Nevertheless, for those who feel the project in question *is* a giant F-U to the victims of 9-11, the comparison to the Neo-Nazi marches is all too clear.”

    Which I think would strengthen the last paragraph even more, although I find it even now almost perfect.

    Oh, and btw, you can still eat babies in the name of Christianity even if you’re not a Christian, Dan.

  23. Dan Wiener

    Nate, I firmly believe that babies should be enjoyed for their own sake. That’s why I refuse to eat them in the name of any religion.

    As to Muslims and Neo-Nazis, I think Brian missed my point. I was comparing the use of the “Heckler’s Veto” by their opponents, who wanted to employ the force of government (rather than voluntary means of persuasion) on the grounds that the potential negative reaction of opponents posed a risk of violence or tremendous trauma.

  24. Gene Berkman

    Good column Dan!

    It is not “Islamophobia” to point out that some bad people did bad things, and claimed to do so in the name of Islam.

    The Communist rulers of the Soviet Union did bad things in the name of Communism, and only a few bad things in the name of Atheism.

    I doubt that any libertarian thinks we need to support the construction of the Cordoba cultural center in order to show our support for property rights. Defending its right to be built is adequate. But it is a legitimate means of making an argument to first dispose of a possible interpretation which people can get from your writing which is different from your intended meaning. That is how I took Dan’s comment.

    An additional value to Dan’s column – we get to see who really is over the top in their special animus toward Israel, and who just has a chip on their shoulder about either the LNC or the LPC.

  25. Mike Renzulli

    I would agree with this essay if the Muslims wishing to build the Mosque’s intent is sincere but it clearly is not.

    We are at war with states that sponsor terrorism most of whom just happen to be Islamic and the property of enemy agents can be confiscated if it is thought to contribute to the enemy’s war effort materially or by intelligence.

    I believe the people looking to build this Mosque have the backing of foreign Islamic governments through the various organizations set up to do this.

    By allowing this Mosque to be built it will make it easier for radical Islamists to be able to not only recruit more members but enable the continued fundraising for more endeavors like this and funneling money to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

    You really don’t understand the peril this mosque poses. It is truly a field headquarters of an enemy army, planted right behind our own lines.

  26. Ralph Swanson

    And when they rent space for a center IN the new tower at “ground zero,” which they cannot be denied as a public project, what will people say then?

  27. Robert Capozzi

    mr: I would agree with this essay if the Muslims wishing to build the Mosque’s intent is sincere but it clearly is not.

    me: Clearly? Are you a mindreader?

    mr: You really don’t understand the peril this mosque poses. It is truly a field headquarters of an enemy army, planted right behind our own lines.

    me: Consider losing the “mosque” label, since it’s been established not to be one, hasn’t it? If it’s HQ for an enemy army, then by all means the US should declare war and take appropriate counter-measures under the rule of law. That that has not happened suggests to me that the “case” you make isn’t nearly as strong as your words indicate.

    I’d certainly agree that the Wahhabist movement is a concern, possibly a grave — if narrow — one. AQN is, too.

    Overreacting to the threats they may pose only strengthens them and weakens the US.

    Haven’t you noticed?

  28. Thomas L. Knapp

    “We are at war with states that sponsor terrorism”

    Who’s this “we?” Do you have a mouse in your pocket or something?

    I’m personally at war with all states (and all states sponsor terrorism), but more so with the one that has its boot closest to my own neck.

    The organizational entity referred to by its adherents as “the United States” is not at war, nor has it been at war at any time in the last 65 years or so (don’t complain to me about that — it’s Congress which has declined to place the US in a state of war with the requisite declaration).

  29. George Phillies

    @28

    Your claims are racist claptrap. We are not currently in a de facto state of war with any foreign country either, largely because we have installed sets of quislings in Afghanistan and have returned Iraq to the Iraqis, at least mostly, and are allies of the other country we spend a lot of time bombing — Pakistan.

    If the people doing this have secured foreign money, well, good, we have a balance of trade deficit.

    If you are upset about terrorists, you are an Arizonan. Why don’t you spend your time opposing your racist terrorist state government and its war on persons of Hispanic descent?

  30. Robert Capozzi

    tk: I’m personally at war with all states….

    me: Hmm, have you declared war with all states? What does that “war” look like? Do we need to avoid proximity to you as a precaution to not become collateral damage? 😉

  31. Robert Capozzi

    gp: If you are upset about terrorists, you are an Arizonan. Why don’t you spend your time opposing your racist terrorist state government and its war on persons of Hispanic descent?

    me: Huh? This seems to conflate a number of matters in a jumbled way. Care to rephrase?

  32. Robert Capozzi

    es: …ex-Mount Vernon resident pop up instead.

    me: Maybe it’s just me, but this seems VERY cryptic. George Washington is dead, so I don’t think you mean him. Can you give us s’more clues?

  33. Robert Capozzi

    tk, thanks for clearing that up.

    I wonder if the Judge’s producers can be swayed in that manner. Lots of email pitching Redlich on Cordoba House. Root calling daily. One or the other….

    The Judge being what appears to be a constitutionalist who seems to be states’ rights guy, he may himself have a different spin on the matter than we’ve heard to date. Dunno.

  34. Pingback: Darryl Perry: In Support of the (non)”Mosque” (not) at “Ground Zero” | Independent Political Report

  35. Pingback: John Jay Myers: ‘My shameful take on the Mosque’ | Independent Political Report

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  37. Pingback: Statement on the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ by Jake Towne | Independent Political Report

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  39. Pingback: Libertarian Party Blog: ‘Ron Paul, former LP Presidential candidate, supports property rights of Islamic cultural Center supporters’ | Independent Political Report

  40. Pingback: Phil Maymin: In the Lower Manhattan Islamic center debate, everyone is pretending to be something they’re not | Independent Political Report

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  46. Krzysztof Lesiak

    Dan Wiener seems to be a neocon to me? In the name of Islam? That’s bullshit. Terrorists could care less about religion.

    Also, 9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB.

  47. Jill Pyeatt

    This was certainly a topic that got a lot of people wound up. It really should have been a simple property rights issue for Libertarians, but too many people let their emotions color their thinking, which is just what “they” wanted.

    (Insert your own word for “they”. Several different entities seem appropriate).

  48. Shave the Whales!

    Yes. Wiener is hardly a neocon though. The name calling doesn’t help.

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