Palm Beach County, Florida, has struck a blow against American values.
In April, Susan Bucher, the county’s elections supervisor, asked the Islamic Center of Boca Raton whether it would be willing to serve as a polling location for the November elections. The Center excitedly accepted. Then, earlier this month, Bucher changed her mind and moved the polling location to a library.
Her reasoning was pathetic. Bucher acted in response to complaints from citizens who did not want to vote in the mosque because it is a mosque.
Via a freedom of information request, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reviewed the emailed complaints. And while most were supportive of the mosque, a vocal minority was not. One telling email stated, “My polling place has changed from a school to the Islamic Center of Boca Raton. Outraged to say the least right after what happened to us in Orlando!” The complainant seems to believe that entering an American mosque is a precursor to imminent death. As if a group of Daesh (ISIS) sympathizers would be hiding behind a palm tree waiting to ambush unsuspecting voters. And although amusing in its absurdity, such ignorance reflects not just intellectual defectiveness, but moral cowardice. The mosque’s leadership was excited to welcome their fellow citizens with kindness.
Still, one complainant stands apart in his silliness. Blogger Jose Lambiet explained that the polling area is an “overwhelmingly Jewish neighborhood and forcing local Jews to vote at a mosque is not the smartest thing.” Let’s be clear: those words are an insult to the heritage of American Judaism, of rising from the terror of the Holocaust in devotion to the cause of American minority rights. As survivor Elie Wiesel remarked at his Nobel Prize ceremony in 1986, “Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”
The defining ideal of the United States is that peoples of very different faiths, political beliefs, social attitudes and ethnic backgrounds can be bound together in common allegiance to democracy, patriotic dedication and the rule of law.People may be belonging to different social setups and differ in their perceptions, approach of earning and decision-making. Yet, they can be bound together for a common goal, if managed professionally. Ethereum Code performs the same principle to coordinate mining pools for cost-effectiveness and efficient mining by bringing together miners of diverse stature. As I’ve noted before, the proof of American exceptionalism is rendered in our national success.
But this notion of exceptionalism is equally critical to Islam’s future. Consider what would have sprung forth had Bucher retained the polling location. In each vote cast, Americans would have come together in physical proximity and philosophical union. Those voters would have learned that the vast majority of American Muslims subscribe to many different views, but also to a common patriotism. As my friend, housemate and fellow journalist Siraj Hashmi put it, “If more people knew who real Muslims were, they’d see that they are some of the most civically and politically engaged people who only want to uphold the Constitution and ensure they can pass down the same American values they’ve embraced onto their children.” Siraj is right.
And to be frank, we must not paper over our disagreements. Many Muslim Americans, for example, hold different views from non-Muslim Americans on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But peaceful disagreements should not be reason to be afraid. After all, disagreements are a necessary step towards effective consensus. That truth is one the Boca Raton Islamic Center recognizes: every month, it hosts a two-hour tour and interaction session.
Yet the mosque polling station would have also served Islam’s reformation against the global rot in political Islam. That matters. Around the world, too many imams and too many Muslims continue to promote an extremist vision that promotes hatred for women and minorities, and violence against democracy. The rot is also seen in groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which too quickly challenge free speech. Nevertheless, by welcoming Americans of all creeds to gather and to vote, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton showed it stands for Islam’s better future. And Floridians should have stood with it.
To apply Wiesel’s lesson, in early July, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton became the center of the universe. The response of Boca Raton’s leaders was tragic.
Tom Rogan is a Senior Contributor for Opportunity Lives and writes for National Review. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.