Some Muslims would rather live separately from the rest of us. The Middle East Quarterly has an essay by Charles Houck examining the constitutional issues arising from that desire:
First in Europe and now in the United States, Muslim groups have petitioned to establish enclaves in which they can uphold and enforce greater compliance to Islamic law. While the U.S. Constitution enshrines the right to religious freedom and the prohibition against a state religion, when it comes to the rights of religious enclaves to impose communal rules, the dividing line is more nebulous. Can U.S. enclaves, homeowner associations, and other groups enforce Islamic law?
Such questions are no longer theoretical. While Muslim organizations first established enclaves in Europe, the trend is now crossing the Atlantic. Some Islamist community leaders in the United States are challenging the principles of assimilation and equality once central to the civil rights movement, seeking instead to live according to a separate but equal philosophy. The Gwynnoaks Muslim Residential Development group, for example, has established an informal enclave in Baltimore because, according to John Yahya Cason, director of the Islamic Education and Community Development Initiative, a Baltimore-based Muslim advocacy group, “there was no community in the U.S. that showed the totality of the essential components of Muslim social, economic, and political structure.”
Baltimore is not alone. In August 2004, a local planning commission in Little Rock, Arkansas, granted The Islamic Center for Human Excellence authorization to build an internal Islamic enclave to include a mosque, a school, and twenty-two homes. While the imam, Aquil Hamidullah, says his goal is to create “a clean community, free of alcohol, drugs, and free of gangs,” the implications for U.S. jurisprudence of this and other internal enclaves are greater: while the Little Rock enclave might prevent the sale of alcohol, can it punish possession and in what manner? Can it force all women, be they residents or visitors, to don Islamic hijab (headscarf)? Such enclaves raise the fundamental questions of when, how, and to what extent religious practice may supersede the U.S. Constitution. [footnotes are linked only in the original article]
Before you go further, think of some other precedents for this kind of community. First, there are the Amish. And now, in Florida, they are proposing a “Catholics Only” town to be called Ave Maria. This is the description from their website:
In 2002, the intersection of two remarkable visions created a groundbreaking opportunity for a wholly new approach to education and land planning.
On one side, Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza and chairman of the Ave Maria Foundation, dreamed of creating the first major Catholic university in the United States in more than 40 years.
“We wanted to build a major Catholic university in the southern part of the United States with the highest standards,” he has said. “I can’t think of a better place than one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, which is centered around Naples. This location will be very attractive to students who want the finest Catholic education. It will offer the best of both worlds -- the great quality of life of Naples and a new dynamic Catholic and educational community.”
At the same time, the Barron Collier Companies, a diversified Southwest Florida company carrying forward the legacy of the County’s founding family, was poised to usher in a revolutionary program in the rural land planning.
“The ‘Rural Stewardship’ program developed for Collier County’s eastern lands is an innovative approach to protecting both the environment and agriculture, while promoting economic prosperity,” explains Barron Collier Companies President Paul Marinelli. “In fact, it is quickly becoming a statewide, even national model for rural development. Ave Maria University was the ideal concept for the Stewardship program.”
As these two visionary parties became partners in the University and Town of Ave Maria, they found not only the means for bringing their respective dreams to reality, but also an opportunity to build an institution unlike any other.
“What we are creating here is truly a unique approach to educational and land planning,” Marinelli continues. “Developing both academic and community features at the same time allows us to create an environment where living and learning form an integrated whole. The campus will be an intrinsic part of the town, and participating in town life will be an enriching aspect of the university experience. Town residents will also benefit from the cultural and academic resources provided by the university.”
The partners plan to invest more than $100 million to create the first phase of the project. Included will be the University, which ultimately will offer not only a full curriculum of traditional liberal arts, sciences and engineering programs, but also a comprehensive graduate program offering master’s and doctoral degrees to an estimated 5,000 students. The accompanying town will provide single- and multi-family housing in a wide range of styles and prices, along with commercial and office facilities to accommodate the businesses and organizations needed to support this major academic institution.
The first phase is expected to open in mid 2007 with all necessary campus and town facilities to accommodate an expected 650 students. An interim campus near Vineyards in North Naples opened for classes in September 2003, and doubled its enrollment for its second year.
If Muslim enclaves are questionable, and The Middle East Quarterly says they are —
The Islamic Center for Human Excellence may seek to segregate schools and offices by gender. The enclave might also exercise broad control upon commerce within its boundaries—provided the economic restrictions did not discriminate against out-of-state interests or create an undue burden upon interstate commerce. But most critically, the enclave could promulgate every internal law—from enforcing strict religious dress codes to banning alcohol possession and music; it could even enforce limits upon religious and political tolerance. Although such concepts are antithetical to a free society, U.S. democracy allows the internal enclave to function beyond the established boundaries of our constitutional framework. At the very least, the permissible parameters of an Islamist enclave are ill defined.
— then what of Ave Maria? Speculation has it that anything considered un-Catholic, e.g., birth control devices, will not be sold within the confines of Ave Maria. Is that unconstitutional?
Disclosure: I don’t like gated communities. I wouldn’t live in a city that was “planned” ever again. When my children were entering adolescence our family moved to Columbia, Maryland, a “bedroom town” between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. It was a pretty place — the streets were wide and curved, the electricity was all underground (no telephone poles), each “neighborhood” had its own center, etc. Lots of landscaping. A town center by a lake and having its own hotel. Housing for the elderly. A lot of thought had gone into this town. It even had subsidized housing so that there was some diversity. There weren’t any churches, per se; instead, there were “interfaith centers” that shared time and space with one another. Unfortunately, there was one problem: everyone had come from somewhere else. There were no generational ties to this place. There was no community soul that had grown up organically, warts and all. It was picture perfect. It was a town for Stepford families.
Now I live in a place that has natural beauty and ugliness all mixed in. A woman I went to church with lives in a house her family has owned since the 18th century land grant gave her ancestors a thousand acres. Descendants of the slaves her family owned live nearby. There are trailers and double wides. There are handsome houses right next to them. The housing codes are for health and hygiene and they are minimal. Some few places remain with outhouses, though I don’t know if they could be sold as such. However, the old lady down the road refused to ever have a bathroom put in, even though her family tried to talk her into it.
Are Amish communities constitutional? Is Ave Maria, FL constitutional? And how about Muslim communities?
Where do you draw the constitutional lines? We live in a time where balkanization seems to be proceeding apace. The Amish have never produced a suicide bomber that we know of. The Catholics long ago made their peace with the U.S. I don’t know one who doesn’t consider himself American before he thinks about his religion. But Lord knows, the Catholics have produced the Mafia —Irish and Italian and Puerto Rican — so there’s nothing to brag about there.
But none of these have a vision of a world devoted to Allah. The Catholics did, a long time ago, but that idea is so dead and gone you couldn’t resurrect it if you tried.
Imagine if the earlier immigrants had decided to wall themselves off. What would the American people have had to say about that? There were immigrant ghettoes, but the point was to earn enough to move away as quickly as possible. South Boston, in Massachusetts, may be an exception.
What is constitutional – or not – about the Muslims’ walling themselves off? How about the Catholics? Where do the visions of La Raza fit in here? Does the American strength of assimilation that de Tocqueville marvelled have to change? What will be the unintended consequences of this balkanization?
Hat tip: Little Green Footballs.