Of all the shameless, intolerant, and divisive rants I have come across on the far-right blogosphere this year – and I have come across plenty – Dennis Prager's recent Bible-thumping, Ellison-Bashing diatribe takes the cake.
Prager, in his now infamous townhall.com column, argues that Keith Ellison, America's first-ever Muslim congressman, "should not be allowed" to take an oath on the "bible of Islam" and instead should be forced to take his oath on the "Bible" of Christianity.
Why, you may ask?
Because by taking his oath on the Qur'an, Ellison "undermines American civilization," Prager warns us.
But that's not all.
Prager contends that if Ellison does so, "he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11."
There are so many things wrong with Prager's preposterous argumentation.
For one, it is irresponsible, at the very least, to compare the relatively uneventful effect of one congressman's ceremonial oath to the tragic effects of a monstrous attack that took 3,000 innocent lives and scarred our nation forever.
Likewise, it is insane to compare a democratically-elected and committed leader of this country to its most deadly assailants. The only reason why Prager thought up such a farcical and far-fetched allusion in the first place is that Ellison is Muslim. It is inconceivable that he would have invoked the 9-11 terrorist attack had Ellison ascribed to any faith other than Islam.
Secondly, what is with the Bible litmus test?
Since when does America stipulate that its elected officials must show loyalty to a specific theology before they can be loyal citizens and trustworthy public officers? How can a self-describing American patriot further a proposition that so grossly undermines the very principles of America?
Indeed, one needs dig no deeper than the very title of Prager's column to excavate the morbid irony in his two-faced treatise: "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on."
OK, so what does the U.S. Constitution – a.k.a. America - decide for Ellison?
The third paragraph of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution reads:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
By suggesting that members be compelled to take their oath to defend and uphold the Constitution on the Bible, Prager is advocating that they breach the very oath they are taking, as they are taking it.
It is not Ellison who threatens to "undermine American civilization." It is in fact Prager who is uneasy with our secular democratic politics and our religiously pluralistic society and is demanding that we revert to the standards of some medieval vessel of Christendom. "America is interested in only one book, the Bible," Prager preaches in one of many bizarre lines that seem to dominate his column.
If Prager's extremism scares you, here's the scarier part: Prager is not alone out there. He's just one manifestation of a larger phenomenon that is finding plenty of fertile soil in the post 9-11 hysteria that has gripped our ailing nation.
They come out as self-proclaimed defenders of America, but soon enough, end up spewing vitriolic rhetoric that undermines many of the core values that America stands for.
They bear no compelling or outstanding qualifications. No one ever elected them as official spokespersons for America. Yet on a daily basis, they purport to tell us what America is and what it is not, what our traditions and values should be and what they should not be.
They issue decrees on the rest of us, heaping praise on the "good" (whosoever agrees with them), and character-smearing the "bad" (whosoever disagrees).
They call themselves "politically conservative", but they conserve for America little more than the remnants of the racism and intolerance that once went virtually unchallenged in this country.
They have an aversion to debate, and a dependence on fear-mongering. They tolerate hate and hate tolerance. They cultivate suspicion, feed into stereotypes, and incite xenophobia.
They draw hordes of loyal fans, who are either simple-minded or apologists for hate, like the Pied Piper draws mice.
They inhabit the slums of AM Radio, News Cable talk shows, and the internet blogosphere where they typically come with an abundance of American flags and American Bald Eagles.
Can you say "overcompensation?"
Welcome to the logic-light, fact-free, ratings-driven world of hate media. A world where the Pragers, Becks, Savages, and Coulters, FOX News and Clear Channel win – but America loses.
Message to Prager
Despite my annoyance with the hypocrisy that oozes from the likes of Prager, I think it is worth taking a shot at levelling with the man.
I have immense respect for Christianity as I am an observant Muslim myself. I suspect Keith Ellison feels no differently. Yet, I must inform you that our secular democracy is not governed by an allegiance to the faith of whoever is in the demographic majority or whoever landed on our shores first, but is governed by what many of us affectionately call "our Constitution."
Not only is the United States of America a secular democracy, but on top of that, it neither professes a "state religion" nor a "state bible." If you wish to practice Christianity or any other faith without harassment or persecution, then America is the place for you. But if you crave life under a Bible-ruled government, America is constitutionally prohibited from being that.
The Founding Fathers insisted on the separation of Church and State precisely so that America would never be drawn into the type of inconsequential divisiveness and petty discrimination that had plagued European societies for centuries, the type that you now are so desperately trying to provoke with your anti-American, half-baked sermons. Hate will make you do wonders – and argue blunders.
In naked terms, your antiquated argument is calling for the first-ever, state-sanctioned, faith-based class hierarchy among American citizens in which believers in the New Testament would be first-class citizens and believers in the Qur'an or the Torah, second-class citizens – or in other words, tagalong citizens.
In order to justify such a ludicrous prospect, you resort to an equally ludicrous analogy, stating that we would surely not allow a racist to swear his oath on "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible. This severely misguided comparison only exposes your scorching irreverence for Islam, an operable faith practiced by 8 million Americans and 1.4 billion human beings worldwide.
For what it's worth, let me correct you, sir. The Qur'an is not a piece of Nazi-era propaganda; rather, it is "the bible of one of the World's mainstream faiths". It is not suitably compared - however arbitrarily - to Hitler's autobiography. It is more reasonably classified with the Christian Bible, also "the bible of one of the World's mainstream faiths."
When your contempt for Muslims beats stronger than your love for America—denying logic, rewriting history, and undermining our constitution in the process—you not only become a liability to Muslims, but to all Americans, serving only to relegate yourself to the infamous sections of our history books.