Saturday, December 26, 2015

Denying Mosques and Allowing Sharia Law

The Sterling Heights, Michigan, city council recently voted 9-0 against granting a permit to build a large Mosque in a residential area. This was to the obvious relief of the many residents who literally cheered the decision.

Reactions were predictable. On the one side were those who groused that Sterling Heights had no respect for religious freedom or the first amendment. On the other end were those glad to see some government somewhere finally saying "no" to a religious group which quite frankly manages to make a nuisance or worse of itself wherever it is found alongside other faiths or cultures. They did not care if the Muslim Community was outraged, because their perception is that the Muslim Community always seems to find themselves outraged about one thing or another.

Meanwhile, nearby Dearborn Michigan is filled with Muslims and Mosques. Muslims are at least 30% of the population and I understand that minor disputes between them are often, by mutual agreement, arbitrated under Sharia law. As with the previous situation, this state of affairs has been praised in some quarters and indignantly condemned in others. These two cities are just a bit more than two hours away from each other.

When comparisons like these get made, our conditioning leads us to try and peg one of these cities as the one with the "right" policy, and assign the other city the label of the bad city making the wrong policy. A localist is free to escape such binary thinking. Neither city is necessarily bad. They are both just ordering their communities as the residents of those towns wish to live. It is not our place as outsiders to demand that either of them alter their policies to accommodate our ill-informed opinions of what life in their home towns ought to be like.

A localist can sleep well at night even though people they have never met living in a city they have never been in are doing things differently. Our culture's present rush for conformity and uniformity has many of us upset and demanding change if strangers in some distant city choose policies different than those we ourselves would wish for our own community. I frankly find this position to be extreme and if taken too far even bordering on mental illness.  If we want to be left alone to order our communities as we see fit then we should be willing to extend the same courtesy to other communities (short of them holding hostages or something really crazy).

The only other alternative to the call for tolerance outlined above is for all decisions on how all communities ought to live be decided by one central tribunal such as the Supreme Court. In that case, all Americans (in a nation of 320 million people) who want to live differently than the nine members of the court think we ought to are out of luck. I simply cannot call that state of affairs freedom. Only in a localist framework can true freedom prevail over time. In our current mentality freedom can only be lost over time. We must be free to have different rules, or fewer rules, for different places. The decision on whether to have a rule and what it might be must be made by people we have the power to see any day we wish to. Nothing less can honestly be called freedom or self-government.

Can cities co-exist near each other with such radically different views towards Islam? Sure, they are doing it. Can two cities with radically different views on other important cultural issues co-exist? Of course.  Let people decide what works for them where they are. After all, who knows what is best for them more than they do? If some dislike what comes of it and they find themselves living in a place where the rules don't suit them, let them work to change it locally or failing that, go to a nearby place where the rules (or lack thereof) suit them better. In time, everyone will wind up in a place more like they want to be in. Everyone can win. Localism is freedom. Centralization is slavery hiding behind a false name.

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