Whenever I find myself swelling with a pleasant sense of righteous indignation, I wonder what exactly I’m getting wrong.
Thus, for instance, when I hear that Afghans and other Muslims are rioting and murdering people — including American soldiers — because the American military burned some Korans at Bagram Airfield in Kabul, I try very hard not to harrumph and start spouting such banalities as: “Ungrateful savages and their benighted religion! Ought to be gunned down, the lot of them!” Sure, the Korans had already been defaced by detainees trying to send extremist messages. And yes, American officials from the president down to a guy cleaning latrines at FOB Kalagush have apologized profusely. But before we condemn the rioters, American flag burners and murderers out of hand, let’s be fair.
After all, it was not that long ago, that this very blog — from which I get most of my information — included a post paying homage to the Jews of ancient Palestine, who stood up to the Romans in defense of what, to the Romans, must have seemed a pretty intolerant and backward faith. I argued that it was this very Jewish intransigence, later refined by Jesus, that ultimately gave rise to our western conviction that the religious conscience of man is sacred and deserves protection from rulers of all stripes. (Unless it gets in the way of my scoring some free abortion pills, in which case forget I said anything.)
Now you may respond: “But the Jews of ancient Palestine never wanted to spread their religion to the world. Plus, they took their stand 2,000 years ago and Jews have learned a thing or two since then. In fact, Jews, singly and en masse, are now among the greatest contributors to the good of mankind the world has ever known, whereas the Muslims invented coffee and then called it a day.” To which I would say: “Shut up. Who let you onto my blog?” Because you have to admit that these Afghan riots really could be a scene right out of Josephus. An imperial power — the Romans/us — marches into a backward nation — Palestine/Afghanistan — insults their religion — Judaism/Islam — and sets off exactly the kind of behavior one would expect from the locals — the defense of religious freedom/chaos and murder.
What else do you expect? Pre-medieval people who believe they are called by God to reduce the rest of the world to their own state of misery are going to kill people when you insult them. That’s how they roll.
The problem isn’t them. It’s us.
Consider the following:
In Denmark, author Lars Hedegaard was recently fined 5,000 kroner (roughly a thousand bucks), for pointing out that Islam seems to encourage rape. He was giving an interview in his own home at the time he made the remarks. Truth, under Danish law, is no defense.
In Iran, meanwhile, Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was recently sentenced to death (roughly death) for converting from the religion of peace to a religion that actually believes in peace. Converting to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, especially if there are aggravating circumstances, like you’re caught loving your neighbor or acting charitably.
In Pennsylvania, a Muslim judge dismissed charges against a Muslim who assaulted an atheist for insulting Mohammed with an anti-Mohammed costume. Judge Mark Martin then scolded — you guessed it — the victim of the assault, saying:
Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture, their culture. It’s their very essence, their very being… Then what you have done is you have completely trashed their essence, their being. They find it very very very offensive. I’m a Muslim, I find it offensive. But you have that right, but you’re way outside your boundaries or first amendment rights.
In Afghanistan, under the aegis of American troops, they are destroying Christian churches. In New York, Mayor Bloomberg and others are laboring to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 massacre by Islamists. In Egypt, it’s Spring Time for Mohammed as the new post-Mubarak regime — which was supported by the United States — goes about tormenting, murdering, raping and displacing hundreds of thousands of Coptic Christians. In Washington, the FBI — tasked with protecting America from Islamic radicals — is purging its training materials of any information deemed offensive by Islamic radicals. (Follow the link — I’m not making it up.)
My point is this. We can’t stop people in Islamic nations from being what they are — can’t stop them from oppressing women, murdering gays, banning other religions and tormenting non-believers. But it’s not too much to ask that we stand up for our own values contra theirs — especially in our own, once Christian, countries. We can stop penalizing and insulting those who speak the simple truth about Islamic values, good or bad; we can de-bench judges who don’t stand up for our freedoms; we can stop sentimentalizing Islamic rights to the point of sanctioning intolerance, especially while our own government is attempting to stomp on the rights of Catholics and ignoring the rise in hate crimes against Jews; we can stop confusing Islam with a race — it’s a religion, a metaphysical philosophy of life, and has to be open to question, debate, ridicule and attack like every other.
Let Islamics in their countries stand for what they stand for. But if only to give the world a point of comparison, let’s us stand for something too. Let’s stand for — oh, I don’t know — how about liberty and the rights of individuals versus every principality and power from thuggish Islamists to the feckless president of the United States? And when Muslims — or anyone else — transgresses those fundamental beliefs, let us all say so fearlessly — or at least support and encourage those who do. We cannot be willfully blind to the despicable simply because it goes by the name of an alien god.
So riot and kill away, my Afghan friends. That apparently is who you are.
The only real question is: Who are we?