Sunday, March 26, 2006

Abdul's fatal choice

Everybody in Afghanistan says Abdul Rahman must be insane for switching from Islam to Christianity. While an Afghan court has dropped charges against him -- yes, it violates the law to switch religions in Afghanistan and the penalty is death -- that's not the worst of it: Radical Muslim clerics have simply declared poor Abdul must be torn limb from limb for the intolerable profanity of abandoning Islam. This comes very close on the heels of the insane religious murders purportedly inspired by a ridiculous newspaper cartoon.

The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent piece today about the throny issues involved when a Muslim would rather switch than fight.

OK, we have our own radical Christian freaks here, and they occasionally suggest that somebody should die (Pat Robertson) or that their choices in life ensure a grotesque death and afterlife (Rev. Fred Phelps) or even become politico-religious terrorists (Tim McVeigh.) So the West is certainly not without examples of its own bloodthirsty forms of ecclesiastic intolerance, although the rest of our culture actively keeps those freak shows in control ... we execute our terrorists, we don't exalt them.

But, man, Islam's preeminent radical bloc makes it exceedingly difficult for the rest of the world to care about Muslim issues, much less to embrace or support them. To draw and quarter a person for changing his faith, to behead innocents because they were snatchable, to crash planes into buildings because Muslims can't live with infidels, to assault embassies because of a newspaper cartoon ... it seems too much to expect tolerance from Islam. And part of me is eager to allow them to live their lives within their own codes ... but doggone it, they don't seem satisfied to let diverse faiths exist, and they keep killing people to prove it.

(And I wonder what radical Muslims think of the thousands of Americans who become Muslims, such as Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Louis Farrakhan? Somehow I suspect they wouldn't get much sympathy in the next fatwah. )


SingingSkies said...

When I was in seminary, a fellow student from Somalia spoke of his conversion from Islam to Christianity. He told us his family were direct descendants of Mohammed. After his conversion, he was shunned by his family and felt blessed because his father let him live. Sometimes I wonder if such was not the case during the early centuries of Christianity, and even during the times of significant schisms within Christianity.

Today at the launch of the Southeast Texas Coalition for Mutual Respect, Dr. Jill Carroll, Assistant Director of the Boniuk Center for the Study of Advancement of Religious Tolerance and Understanding at Rice University, noted that Islam is going through a time similar to one Christianity experienced several centuries ago. Christians, unfortunately, have killed far too many of their own and others in the name of Christ. It's easy to forget that part of Christian history because, for the most part, we seem to have gotten better (but certainly not perfect) at tolerating religious differences.

Perhaps in time, radical Muslims will reach a similar point in the practice of their faith. I certainly hope it happens soon, but suspect that it will probably take longer than any of us would like.

Michael Gillespie said...

Hi Ron,

Could I recommend to you Mr. Patwant Singh's most recent work, a book titled The World According to Washington: An Asian View.

The sad truth is that we Americans are, by and large, all but completely blind to the crimes our government commits in our names, and we have been blind for a long time. Literally millions of innocent civilians, subsistence farmers mostly, died under a hail of U.S. bombs in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war, including some 600,000 in Cambodia and 350,000 in Laos (those are not the highest estimates), countries with which our government was not even at war. And never mind the napalm and other chemical weapons, including defoliants designed to kill foliage and food crops, which to this day are still causing birth defects and death among the innocent in Vietnam.

Most of the citizens of this troubled world understand that terrorism is terrorism and genocide is genocide whether the crimes are committed by the military forces of the state or
by a rag-tag gang of militants, born in crucibles of oppression and exploitation, who can't afford to field armored divisions, fleets of supersonic fighters and heavy bombers, or nuclear tipped cruise misslies, not to mention arsenals of intercontinental nuclear ballistic missiles standing at the ready.

The world doesn't hate America because we are free. Those who hate us hate us because our government's policies are far too often brutal and hideously destructive. In fact, most of the world's people envy us our freedom and would like nothing more than to be as free as we are. But more and more of those people are frightened and disgusted by the arrogant, arbitrary, and unilateral use of military force in couterproductive attempts to solve problems that have no military solution, problems that can only be exacerbated by the ill-informed application of coercive and destructive force.

Our once great country could have led the world to peace, justice, and prosperity by the power of its positive example. Instead, after defeating the fascist Axis powers in WWII and containing and facing down the threat of Soviet communism, our leaders have chosen to bomb the world into understanding "how good we are", one oil-rich enemy of Israel at a time.

If only the five percent of the world's people who call themselves Americans, we who consume more than 25 percent of the energy in a world in which two billion people do not have access to electricity, could see ourselves as others see us!

If only we Americans, who spend some about $30 billion on our pets each year, in a world in which about 24,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes, could see ourselves as others see us!

If only we Americans, who spend about $8 billion a year on cosmetics, which is $2 billion more than the estimated annual total needed to provide basic education for everyone in a world in which an estimated one billion people suffer from hunger or chronic malnutrition, could see ourselves as other see us.

Europeans spend $11 billion a year on ice cream, $2 billion more than the estimated annual total needed to provide clean water and safe sewers for the world’s population.

Our world simply cannot and will not support the extravagantly wasteful standard of living to which many of us in the affluent West have become so accustomed. Yet our leaders, in the name of continued economic growth and stock market profits, are busy globalizing Western consumerism’s unrestricted desire for ever more consumer goods and feeding run amok capitalism’s unrestrained and insatiable appetite for a limited supply of natural resources, despite the resistance of negatively impacted peoples, religions, and cultures around the world, not to mention a growing number here in our own country who are coming to our senses.

For a fraction of what the Bush administration spent in Iraq last year, developing countries could adequately feed the hungry and achieve and maintain universal access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for all women, and safe water and sanitation for all for a year.

We Americans account for nearly a quarter of the world's energy-related carbon emissions and use about 15 times more energy per person than does the typical developing country, in a world in which one billion people go to bed, if they are fortunate enough to have one, hungry every night.

Sorry, Ron, but not only is Islam not the world's biggest problem, much of the growing animosity evident in the Muslim world is a reaction to Western policies driven primarily by American exceptionalism, arrogance, and blindness to the legitimate concerns of other peoples.

Moreover, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries, and Muslims aren't the only people who fear, distrust, and hate our government's often destructive interventionist policies.

If only we Americans could see ourselves as others see us.

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

You came up with three names of Christian nuts vs how many Muslim extremists? As for the American Muslims you mention - aren't they Nation of Islam nuts (as loony as the Scientology cultists) and they're not accepted by real Muslims.

Poor Abdul. He went home after 9 years in Turkey thinking that the US had made Afganistan safe from the mad mullahs.