You will find few more fervent defenders of religious freedom than myself. I think "Under God" should be in the pledge of allegiance, I think "In God We Trust" should be on our money. I think you should be able to have a cross or Star of David or whatever you want on your own property. While I don't think that government should push religion, I think it should respect it. I think a lot of religion gets a bad rap in this country.
I think aetheists who dedicate their lives to the separation of church and state are rather sad. But...
I don't understand why when it comes to Islam -- even radical Islam -- suddenly every government official and media type wants to become the face of understanding and tolerance. When there is a terrorist attack, which are, let's face it, done by Islamic extremists lately, one of the first things government officials say is "We know that most Muslims are peace-loving people and this religion does not represent the majority of them." (Great article by Mark Steyn of the London Daily Telegraph on this.) I am certainly not trashing the religion of Islam, but I am perplexed as to why Islam gets a free pass when it comes to hate crimes.
If a radical Christian idiot bombs an abortion clinic, Christianity as a whole takes a hit. Much of the media (left and right) will attribute the act as some kind of byproduct of religion, as opposed to a bastardization of it or an anomaly. (Note: I think the Christian Right is as crazy and facist as anyone, so please don't think I'm justifying their sometimes abhorrent actions.) We never hear anyone say "the Irish Republican Army has hijacked Christianity, we realize that most Irish Catholics do not support this and are a peaceful people."
Yet, when something as horrific as the 7/7 London Bombings happens, we are so quick to defend Islam and the hate that some branches of it can sometimes produce. I am not saying that Islam is a religion of hate, but I don't see anything in the Five Pillars that mentions loving one's neighbor. Where the Ten Commandments has a bunch of "Thou Shalt Nots" (yes, some do find this off-putting), the Five Pillars are mostly about duty. Fine. But why are people so quick to defend Islam, when they would never be so quick to defend an atrocity that was borne of a different religious denomination?
If you have the Ten Commandments (including "Thou Shalt Not Kill") in front of your courthouse, you had better be prepared to take it down. But if someone from the local Mosque firebombs a subway or kidnaps a truck driver, the first thing anyone standing behind a podium will say is how peace-loving most Muslims are. I'm sure that 90% of Muslims love peace and are fine people. I don't actually know any Muslims, period, but I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt. But if we can attack the entire Catholic way of life, and (often justifiably) criticize its culture over a bunch of priestly-perverts, why can't we even call into question Islam (or at least the modern interpretations of it by fallible men) and hold Muslims and their culture to the same standard?
Around the time the latest Iraq war started, there was a massive protest in Washington, D.C. that I caught on C-SPAN. They had several people come out to criticize the war and voice their disgust. I had no problem with this. What I did have a problem with, was a certain Muslim speaker of indeterminate Arab descent, who was carrying on like a madman, screaming and yelling, thumping his fist and carrying on. His tie was flapping in the wake of his spastic movements, his unkempt hair was flying all over the place. One of the themes he kept repeating was, "Peace be unto you." I think this is a great message. I think we should all strive for peace and encourage dialogue and understanding in all aspects of life, leaving violence and confrontation as a last resort. But this man said (and I'm paraphrasing) "Peace be unto you! Islam, which came thousands of years before George Bush, was the first to say 'Peace be unto YOU!!!!'"
Anybody who knows me knows I didn't vote for Bush either time, so this is not a defense of him. But for this gentleman to suddenly come out on the side of peace in the name of Islam is like a Red Sox fan say he's always LOVED Derek Jeter because he was just traded to Boston. (Don't have a heart attack Will or Javen, this didn't really happen.) Where was this guy on 9/11, denouncing violence and spouting all the tenets of peace? Why wasn't he decrying those who committed cowardly acts of murder in the name of Allah, whom he loves so much? Maybe he was busy that day.
I really have no problem with any religious person who is sincere in their belief, thoughtful, open-minded, and pious. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander. But let's stop hiding behind faux religious appreciation. Government leaders are using this disingenuous call-to-tolerance so as not to come off as racist; it's not a religious issue, it's a racial one. Of course, maybe if any of our government leaders gave a damn about people of color (and yes, that does include you, Bill Clinton), we might have tried to stop all that, y'know, ethnic cleansing that went down in Rwanda in 1994.
There are encouraging signs that the Muslim/Arab world is starting to tire of the constant violence and terror, but signs of some leaders still justifying the attacks remain, saying that somehow we as citizens reap what our (sometimes corrupt, historically imperialist) governments sow, as if it's the West's fault. And maybe it is, but if terrorists think that the U.S. or Great Britain is suddenly going to capitulate to terrorism (as, sadly, Madrid did in 2004), then they don't understand how it works. There is no way that any government worth a damn is going to operate on a quid-pro-quo basis, terrorism in exchange for a hands-off approach.
It can't be done that way, and it should never be done that way.
You can't react in a way that rewards terrorism. The only -- ONLY -- reaction can be to squash the bee that stung ya, then go after the rest of the goddamn hive.
If Islamic extremists can say, "The U.S. is creating more terrorists by their occupations in the middle east" then why can't we say, "Terrorism is going to result in violence against Muslims and more oppression in the Middle East"? We can't say that because it's stupid, and it doesn't justify anything other than the two-wrongs-making-a-right theory. So why do we pay this kind of simple-minded terrorism-justification logic any credence?
I'm speaking in generalizations to prove a point. I'm disgusted by people who try to justify cowardly, dastardly bombings and terror attacks. I would hate to see innocent Muslims hurt in retaliation of 7/7 or 9/11, but we have the right to place blame. We have the right to be angry. And in times like this, we shouldn't feel the need to temper our anger with, "Okay, we know this isn't everybody, but...." If one fourth grader is chewing gum, the whole class puts their heads down on their desks.
We DO NOT have to accept this or apologize for being attacked. We DO NOT have to accept terror as a form of political discourse. We DO NOT have to understand terrorists or find out WHY they resort to terror. We in the West are right to criticize them, since so many in the Islamic world (even if they agree that terrorism is a horrible act) are so reluctant to do it. If we try to explain terrorism, or see it as "their only option" then we are accepting it by our rationalization. The only way that terrorists will stop resorting to violence is not by our understanding, but by our (and more importantly, other Muslims') contempt. A martyr is not a martyr if no one "celebrates" his death.
"London Can Take It". But they don't have to take it alone.