In his syndicated column today, Pat Buchanan responds to the idea that those opposing the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York are bigoted and prejudiced by ... defending bigotry and prejudice.
Buchanan takes issue with an August 19 Washington Post editorial identifying three strands of argument against building the center, which Buchanan summarizes as portraying center opponents as "bigoted ignoramuses or political panderers." After noting the editorial's statement that "the right response to misunderstanding and prejudice is education, not appeasement," Buchanan huffs that "the Post will undertake to tutor us on how to think correctly," calling such an idea "a pure extract of liberal ideology" and "faculty-lounge obtuseness."
Invoking Edmund Burke, Buchanan then launches his defense of anti-Islam prejudice:
For, in Webster's, there are several definitions of "prejudice."
The most pejorative one is "an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race." Another definition, however, is simply a "preconceived judgment or opinion."
It is this idea of prejudice that Edmund Burke endorsed: "Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it most wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but the naked reason."
Why would Americans be reflexively skeptical and wary of Islam?
We were born a Christian nation, an extension of Christendom. For most of us, it is part of our DNA. And for a thousand years, our ancestors fought a war of civilizations with Islam.
In the name of Islam, Muslim fanatics massacred 3,000 of us. In our media, the names commonly associated with Islam are al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.
What are sins in Christianity – adultery and homosexuality – are capital crimes in Islamic countries. From the Copts in Egypt to the Chaldeans of Iraq, Christians are persecuted and purged in the Middle East. Few remain in the old Christian towns of Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. Christian missionaries in Islamic countries risk stonings and beheading. Muslims are attacking Christians in Nigeria, Sudan, the Caucasus, Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
After conceding there are "scores of thousands of patriotic American Muslims, hundreds of millions of decent, peace-loving Muslims around the world," Buchanan declares that "a Western nation that opens its doors to mass migration from the Islamic world is taking a grave risk with its unity and identity." Buchanan continues:
This is not an argument for war with Islam, but for recognition that "East is East and West is West" and America cannot absorb and assimilate all the creeds of mankind without ceasing to be who we are.
Prejudice is prejudgment. And if prejudgment is rooted in the history and traditions of a people, and what life has taught us, it is a shield that protects. Only a fool would reject the inherited wisdom of his kind because it fails to comport with the ideology of the moment.
"Prejudice," wrote Burke, "is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, skeptical, puzzled and unresolved."
Without prejudice, we are tabula rasa, blank slates, upon which any ideology may be written, including what James Burnham called the ideology of Western suicide -- liberalism.
Of course, such borderline-xenophobic protectionism is nothing new from Buchanan:
- He thinks there are too many Jews on the Supreme Court.
- He has asked why the U.S. is promoting democracy in regions that detest the "white, rich Western world."
- He has approvingly noted that ""For the first time in our lifetimes outside the South, white racial consciousness has visibly begun to rise."
- He has also attacked gays, defended Hitler, and lamented that "Old heroes like ... Robert E. Lee are replaced by" the likes of Martin Luther King.
With that record, it's no wonder Buchanan endorses the idea of prejudice.