Universal Values and Muslim-Free Zones


Michael Graziano

Earlier this year, a Florida man made headlines by declaring his gun store a “Muslim Free Zone.” In the wake of the Chattanooga shootings and the murder of five service members, Andy Hallinan, owner of Florida Gun Supply in Inverness, Florida, stood in front of a Confederate flag and announced his decision in a YouTube video which has now garnered a quarter of a million views. Hallinan explained:
Effective immediately, I am declaring Florida Gun Supply a Muslim free zone. I will not arm and train those who wish to do harm to my fellow patriots.
Hallinan sells “Muslim Free Zone” bumper stickers and "Mohammed targets." The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sued Hallinan in July 2015, arguing that his blanket ban on Muslim customers was exclusionary on the basis of religion and violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Andy Hallinan (via YouTube)
In what at first appears to be something from The Onion, but I assure you is not, Andy Hallinan teamed up with George Zimmermanyes, that George Zimmermanto sell a series of Zimmerman’s Confederate flag paintings to raise money for Hallinan’s legal defense. The paintings featured the phrase “The 2nd protects our 1st,” which the Washington Post reports Zimmerman describing as a “double entendre.” Copies of Zimmerman's painting Confederate Flag in Andy Hallinan’s Honor remain available for purchase at Florida Gun Supply’s website.

Last week, US District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed CAIR’s lawsuit. In her motion, Bloom wrote that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because CAIR failed to demonstrate that potential injury to Muslim customers was “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” She continued:
the general desire of Plaintiff in this case to have Muslims able to access Defendant’s shooting range someday in the future is insufficient as well. There are simply no facts grounding the assertion that Plaintiff and/or one of its constituents will be harmed – Plaintiff has failed to allege 'when and in what manner the alleged injuries are going to occur.'
CAIR responded by noting that they lost only on technicalities of legal standing, and would appeal. And Judge Bloom’s motion does note that the “Muslim Free Zone” issue seems to be the “very type” of discrimination identified by Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In other words, this story is far from over.

There is much to say about this case (including what might constitute "imminent harm"). But as I thought about this and other Muslim Free Zones, I was reminded of Charlie’s recent post about John Kasich’s proposed new government agency on “Judeo-Christian values.” Charlie argues, convincingly to my mind, that Kasich’s proposal is attention-grabbing not because it contains anything new but rather because it nakedly acknowledges the peculiarities of American “secularism.” He asks:
Are Kasich’s “Judeo-Christian values” substantively different from Obama’s “universal values” and “timeless values of human progress”?
The response to Hallinan's case is one good example of the mercurial nature of “universal” values. Consider how the American Freedom Law Center (which represented Hallinan) summarized the lawsuit in its press release: “In the lawsuit, CAIR alleged that Florida Gun Supply’s refusal to equip Islamic terrorists is religious discrimination,” and that CAIR is engaged in “civilizational jihad.” Their courtroom victory was thus a blow to CAIR’s “jihadi lawfare against patriotic Americans across the country.”

Thus a Muslim-free zone is a terrorist-free zone, the AFLC (and Hallinan) seem to suggest. The logic behind Muslim-free zones depends upon a civilizational warfare thesis that views American Muslims as in, but not of, the United States, and so they must be combated accordingly. Consider Hallinan's explanation of how the court case led him to view Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of CAIR-Florida, as a "very worthy adversary. Picture the medieval days where kings gather on a battlefield and they respect each others honor, but still have to fight.” And it’s not just Andy Hallinan’s gun shop: Donald Trump is openly discussing a “database” for Muslims in the United States. Senator Ted Cruz would like to filter Syrian refugees by religion, accepting only Christians since “there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” And in the five days between mass shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino, we again saw how media coverage of a shooter’s motives is contingent upon information about the shooter’s presumed ethnic and religious identities.

Even Hallinan, presumably in his own concession to the legal realities of religious pluralism in the United States, recognizes that religious identity is not entirely deterministic. After the initial media uproar, Hallinan clarified that he would be willing to sell guns to select Muslims who he determines do not adhere to a “literal interpretation” of the Quran. One wonders how Florida Gun Supply would make such a determination. Presumably they would first ensure those Muslims held "universal" values.


newer post older post