Real re­spect for Mus­lims among us

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

Some of our Mus­lim brothers are ea­ger to re­solve their dif­fer­ences with us, and it’s not easy. If they’re too friendly, they have to be wary of the be­head­ing knife, too. For our part, we must be care­ful not to pan­der.

Our holy men of good will, rang­ing from earnest Pen­te­costal preach­ers to berib­boned high-church Epis­co­pal prelates, seek out their Mus­lim coun­ter­parts for “in­ter­faith di­a­logue.” Some even travel to the Mid­dle East to “di­a­logue” on the dark and bloody ground whence comes most of the ter­ror in the world.

Some­times they abase them­selves, as if ashamed of Christ and their pro­fessed faith. They seem ea­ger to re­as­sure the Mus­lims that they don’t re­ally be­lieve all that stuff they say they be­lieve. When an in­ter­viewer from the New York Times asked the Rev. Katharine Jef­ferts Schori, the newly elected pre­sid­ing bishop of the Epis­co­pal Church, what she thought of the ob­ser­va­tion of Pope Bene­dict VXI that Is­lam has tol­er­ated a cul­ture of vi­o­lence, she replied with heat: “So do Chris­tians! [Ex­cla­ma­tion mark hers.] They [ital­ics mine] have a ter­ri­ble his­tory. Look at the Dark Ages.”

Her ref­er­ence to Chris­tians as “they” says a lot, but so, too, her draw­ing moral equiv­a­lence be­tween mod­ern Is­lam and an­cient Chris­tian­ity, as if the Ref­or­ma­tion never hap­pened. (Did the bishop never take a his­tory class?) The pope, on the other hand, seeks in­ter­faith di­a­logue of a kind likely to do ac­tual good. Bene­dict trav­els to Turkey this week, where ten­sion be­tween East and West, the Cross and the scim­i­tar, is an an­cient af­flic­tion. “He will ar­rive car­ry­ing a dif­fer­ent rep­u­ta­tion,” notes Time mag­a­zine, “that of a hard-knuckle in­tel­lect with a taste for blunt talk and in­ter­re­li­gious con­fronta­tion [. . .] when he speaks, the whole world lis­tens.”

With its prac­ticed tol­er­ance for all reli­gions, the West makes it­self a soft tar­get for reli­gions that merely pro­fess to be reli­gions of peace. Ac­tual faith has been dra­mat­i­cally di­luted in the West, where the church is of­ten merely a place for the rul­ing class to marry its daugh­ters and bury its dead, just as “faith” has hard­ened into a harsh, in­tol­er­ant and deadly ide­ol­ogy in the Is­lamic world. In the West, re­spect for Is­lam has been re­placed by fear and ter­ror.

Our own holy men could re­spect their Mus­lim brothers, as well as their own coun­tries, by show­ing tough love in­stead of plat­i­tudes of one part goo and one part mush. They could ex­plain to their Mus­lim brothers why they can’t al­ways prac­tice their rit­u­als as Is­lam is prac­ticed in Is­lamic coun­tries. The in­ci­dent aboard a jet­liner of US Air­ways re­cently in Min­neapo­lis is in­struc­tive. The de­tails are in some dis­pute, but what is not is that six imams — Mus­lim holy men — were de­nied board­ing af­ter they cre­ated an in­ci­dent and were briefly de­tained. Other pas­sen­gers said the imams made a row with a show of pray­ing, punc­tu­ated with shouted slo­gans about how Al­lah and Sad­dam Hus­sein are great and the United States is not. When an air­line clerk de­nied him board­ing one imam shouted: “This prej­u­dice. This is ob­vi­ous dis­crim­i­na­tion. No one can ar­gue with this.”

But ar­gu­ing with “this” is ex­actly what we must do if we bring the Mus­lims un­der the fra­ter­nal um­brella — of what, in bet­ter times than th­ese, was called “the melt­ing pot.” The imams should be told, force­fully, that mak­ing an in­tim­i­dat­ing row of rit­u­als is not the Amer­i­can way and won’t be per­mit­ted. If a half­dozen Catholic priests in­sist on con­duct­ing a Mass aboard an air­liner, they will be told to stop it. Six Bap­tist preach­ers won’t be al­lowed to con­duct a re­vival meet­ing amidst ei­ther the cheap or ex­pen­sive seats. Jewish mo­hels can’t per­form cir­cum­ci­sions aboard (even for vol­un­teers). We don’t do things like that in Amer­ica, and no apol­ogy is forth­com­ing.

Pan­der­ing, whether by bishops or gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, in­vites con­tempt, not re­spect. Nev­er­the­less, af­ter a Saudi na­tional was con­victed in Colorado of keep­ing an In­done­sian nanny as a fam­ily slave and sen­tenced to life in prison, the State De­part­ment dis­patched the Colorado at­tor­ney gen­eral to Riyadh last week to apol­o­gize to King Ab­dul­lah for Amer­i­can jus­tice and the 14th Amend­ment.

We’re an im­mi­grant na­tion, a source of na­tional strength and pride. But some among us want to turn e pluribus unum — “out of many, one” — inside out. We can’t tol­er­ate that, and it’s time to say so, loud and clear.

Wesley Pruden is ed­i­tor in chief of The Times.

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