Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Moslem Rage

When I was growing up, a friend learned that he could get me to agree to almost anything by threatening to go home. Finally my mother suggested that I just let him go home and see what would happen. The next day the inevitable, "Do this or I'm going home," came up. I replied, "OK. Bye." My friend stopped in mid-stride and said, "Maybe I can stay a while longer."

I learned a lot about human nature that day. I learned was that you had to be willing to follow through on your threats. You don't want to over-use a threat. Most important - once you give into a threat, you have lost control.

The world needs to learn this last lesson about Muslim rage. For the third time in the last year, Muslims are raging world-wide over a small incident in the west. The first time it was the flushing of a Koran at Guantanamo Bay. It turned out that the incident never actually happened so little came of the rage.

One side-result was the condemnation of reporter who originally broke the story. It was felt my many that he should have known what would happen and been more sensitive to Muslims before writing a story about Koran desecration.

The Mohammad cartoons were a different matter. The Muslim rage was greater as was their success. The West turned its back on issues of freedom of the press and religion. Only one or two major papers in the US dared print the cartoons. In Europe, many nations promised that nothing like this would ever be allowed again. The editor who commissioned the cartoons in the first place made an abject apology. The cartoonists went into hiding with death threats on their heads.

The issue that started the mess - the reluctance of artists to illustrate a child's book on Mohamed for fear of offending Muslims.

The current issue is a remark made by the Pope. This one was ready-made and, to some extent, manufactured by the press. The Pope was giving a talk before a university about different ways to approach God. His point was to justify the Catholic Church's approach. along the way he mentioned Mohamed and the practice of conversion by the sword. While the text the Pope was quoting was ancient and obscure, the issue is not. Just a few weeks ago two Fox reporters announced that they converted while kidnapped with the implication that they were given no choice. Ont he anniversary of 9/11, al Qaeda aired a video telling Americans to become Muslim or die. Unless you believe in forced conversions you have to side with the Pope on this.

But a single line was quoted in the news reports without the context and instantly the Muslims of the world were raging again. Keep in mind that this is not limited to just a country or two. Even an official from officially secular Turkey compared the Pope to Hitler over the remarks.

And the result has been successful. The Pope has issues three apologies. That's two more then the Vatican issued to Galileo. But it is not enough. So far the Pope has apologized for offending Muslims. They are demanding that he repudiate his speech and apologize for having said it.

They want the Pope to be subservient to Islam. The head of the world's largest organized religion needs to be subservient to a different religion.

That's what all of the Muslim rage is about. The people inciting it have found a threat that the West will give in to. Given enough rage and enough time, the Imams hope to eventually make western civilization subservient to Islam. They are instituting sharia (Muslim law) one baby step at a time.

In many ways the orchestrators of Muslim rage are more successful that the outright terrorists. It is easy to recognize merciless killers for what they are and to refuse to give into them. It is something else to refuse when mobs are firebombing churches and shooting nuns.

That's what the world needs to do and should have already done. When the Mohamed cartoons came out, every paper int he West should have printed them with the explanation that this was being done in support of free speech. In the current flap, world leaders should come out in support of the Pope and condemn forced conversion.

It should be made clear to the organizers of these mass protests that we hold our values dear and that attempts to intimidate us will cause us to close ranks.

Unfortunately, that takes more guts than most world leaders have. An exception is Australia's government which read the riot act to Muslims last week.

Anna Applebaum has similar thoughts to mine.

By this, I don't mean that we all need to rush to defend or to analyze this particular sermon; I leave that to experts on Byzantine theology. But we can all unite in our support for freedom of speech -- surely the pope is allowed to quote from medieval texts -- and of the press. And we can also unite, loudly, in our condemnation of violent, unprovoked attacks on churches, embassies and elderly nuns. By "we" I mean here the White House, the Vatican, the German Greens, the French Foreign Ministry, NATO, Greenpeace, Le Monde and Fox News -- Western institutions of the left, the right and everything in between. True, these principles sound pretty elementary -- "we're pro-free speech and anti-gratuitous violence" -- but in the days since the pope's sermon, I don't feel that I've heard them defended in anything like a unanimous chorus. A lot more time has been spent analyzing what the pontiff meant to say, or should have said, or might have said if he had been given better advice.

All of which is simply beside the point, since nothing the pope has ever said comes even close to matching the vitriol, extremism and hatred that pour out of the mouths of radical imams and fanatical clerics every day, all across Europe and the Muslim world, almost none of which ever provokes any Western response at all. And maybe it's time that it should: When Saudi Arabia publishes textbooks commanding good Wahhabi Muslims to "hate" Christians, Jews and non-Wahhabi Muslims, for example, why shouldn't the Vatican, the Southern Baptists, Britain's chief rabbi and the Council on American-Islamic Relations all condemn them -- simultaneously? 

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