It's been a busy few weeks for Muslims, Muslim countries, and Islam in the news. Most of the coverage has not been favorable. Here, then, are four thoughts for readers who find themselves worrying about Muslims this Sunday.
1. Muslims serve in the military too. Last week, the world learned that yet another Qur'an would soon be desecrated by yet another Floridian, and sane people everywhere yawned in unison. Three small and maladjusted demographics, however, felt a dirty little trill of excitement. Local journalists felt it because stories about the desecration of "holy" books damned near write themselves; Islamaphobes felt it because they enjoy offending Muslims' sensibilities; and somewhere, radical Islamists felt it because they'd soon have another opportunity to break things and hurt people.
That the gentleman who intended to do the desecration is mentally unstable gave the story an interesting wrinkle. This was Mark Rowley of Boca, who intends to do his desecration on Memorial Day in Sanborn Park. Perhaps because he lacks the charisma, media savvy, and intriguing facial hair of the Qur'an-burning pastor Terry Jones -- or perhaps because people are more willing to align themselves with the certifiable than with the already-certified -- the comments fields of the stories about Rowley's desecration are filled with a heartening absence of cheerleading anti-Qur'anites. Except, sad to say, at our sister publication the Miami New Times.
So if you're a Rowley cheerleader, consider this: He's shredding a Qur'an on Memorial Day precisely because he thinks Qur'an burning is in some way a tribute to our military. Think again. There are Muslims in our military, and many Muslim-American soldiers have died in our foreign wars. You can meet some of them here. Drop a line, and thank these vets for protecting us while we sleep.
2. The best way to reduce the number of radicalizing Muslims probably isn't to make Muslims afraid to leave their homes. I spoke briefly this week with Nezar Hamze, the much-maligned head of the Miami branch of the even-more-maligned Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). He sounded pretty busy, but when he gets around to it, he promises to send me copies of some of the hate mail SoFla's mosques have received following the arrest of people who (may) have been providing material assistance to radical Islamists in Pakistan. Whether they were or weren't, there are plenty of good reasons to their teachings without proclaiming the guilt by association of their congregants. (You can find one such reason here and another here.) There's apparently been a lot of hate mail, some of it threatening, and it's certain to do no good. It will only make certain Muslims nervous -- immigrants in particular, who may have been nervous to begin with -- and therefore less inclined to associate with non-Muslims. Fear begets insularity, insularity begets ignorance, ignorance begets contempt, and insular, ignorant contempt begets radicalism of all kinds. Hate mail: Usually a bad idea.
3. Barack Obama isn't an Israel-hating stooge of the radical Islamists. Listening to certain reactions to Barack Obama's speech on the Middle East, you'd think the president showed up wearing a turban and demanding Netanyahu turn the Knesset into a madrassah. Which wasn't exactly the case.
Ileana Ros Lehtinen said: "I am also disappointed that the president failed to call on the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state."
Except that's exactly what Obama did when he said:
Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
Did she even watch the speech?
Marco Rubio said: "The president's reference to Israel's 1967 borders marks a step back in the peace process, as the U.S. must not predetermine the outcome of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians."
Which sounds a lot like what Obama said:
Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed on them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away... The borders of Israel should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
Allen West said: "Today's endorsement by President Obama of the creation of a Hamas-led Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders signals the most egregious foreign policy decision his administration has made to date and could be the beginning of the end as we know it for the Jewish state."
West went on, and somebody could do a fine critical exegesis of his statement, but his most salient points are contained in the above sentence. It contains at least two lies. The first, that Obama endorsed the creation of a "Hamas-led Palestinian state," is pure scaremongering. (Obama actually said: "Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection... The recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel. How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.") The second lie, that Obama has called for Israel's retreat to pre-1967 borders, is obvious to anyone who understands the meaning of the suffix "pre." Obama called for no such thing. As Rubio seems to have understood, Obama called for negotiations to begin using 1967, not pre-1967, borders as a template. These borders could then be altered with "mutually agreed swaps."
Elsewhere in his speech, Obama said things like:
[Palestine's] symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state... As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.
If those don't sound like the words of an enemy of Israel, it's only because they're not.
4. Don't be afraid to pray for Osama Bin Laden. Henry Borja, a parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in West Palm Beach, last week asked that a mass be said partially for the soul of Osama Bin Laden. In the face of surprising public outcry, Borja has retracted the request. The mass will now be said "for peace."
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Really, though, it doesn't freaking matter. If there's a god and if there is such a thing as a soul and if whatever god there might be gives a hot hoot what happens to a human's soul after death, the prayers of the good people of Holy Name of Jesus weren't going to change that god's plans for Osama Bin Laden. Unless the concerned faithful believe in an especially wishy-washy deity, that prayer wasn't going to matter a whit -- save, perhaps, to show the deity that some believers are more magnanimous than others. So much for that.