DENVER (CBS4) – In light of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders recent remarks calling Islam “a totalitarian ideology striving for world dominance,” Colorado State Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, expressed support for considering regulations on the construction of new mosques.
Wilders sparked controversy during a recent appearance at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver by warning audiences of the rising Islamic threat and hailing a stop to the “islamization process.”
“More Islam means more intolerance, more Sharia and less freedom,” said Wilders at the event. “We must stop immigration from Islamic countries, we must expel criminal immigrants, we must forbid the construction of new mosques. There is enough Islam in the West already.”
After Wilders’ speech, Grantham told The Colorado Statesman that he believes the idea to prohibit the construction of mosques warrants some attention.
“You know, we’d have to hear more on that, because, as (Wilders) said, mosques are not churches like we would think of churches,” said Grantham. “They think of mosques more as a foothold into a society, as a foothold into a community, more in the cultural and in the nationalistic sense. Our churches, we don’t feel that way, they’re places of worship, and mosques are simply not that, and we need to take that into account when approving construction of those.”
While Wilders justifies his proposal as an effort to “preserve our nations and our homes,” his plan of action seems to contradict the fundamental liberties established in the Constitution. Muslim-American activists highlight the proposed regulation on building mosques as a violation of the First Amendment’s right to freedom of religion.
“The same kinds of smears were used against Catholics and Jews,” said Corey Saylor, national legislative director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We have moved past that kind of bigotry and we have the Constitution which prohibits the regulation of religion. In the U.S., we have the First Amendment. They are talking about interfering in the exercise of a minority religion, which is fundamentally against American values.”
However, the First Amendment argument is not a definitive tactic in preventing all attempts to ban new mosques. In May 2011, Wilders gave a speech in Tennessee that bears a striking similarity to his recent comments in Denver where he called upon the audience to “forbid the construction of new hate palaces called mosques.” A little over a year later, Murfreesboro, Tenn. finds itself in the midst of a dispute over whether to allow a new mosque to open.
In May, Chancellor Robert Corlew ruled that construction on the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro must stop because the Rutherford County Planning Commission did not give the public adequate notice of the May 2010 meeting where the site plan was approved. However, planning commissioners are currently appealing Corlew’s decision with the hope of opening the mosque before Ramadan, which begins July 19.
Despite the situation in Murfreesboro and the remarks by Wilders and Grantham, Muslim-Americans are optimistic that the United States will remain tolerant of Islam and unite to combat discriminatory actions.
“Too often what you see after fear mongering speech is fear mongering behavior,” said Saylor. “We just always stick to the greater hope that the bulk of American people will find that speech repugnant and stand up against it.”