The mad but brave pastor who wants to burn Korans is not relenting. He is not yielding to pressure, from the liberal press, from the Pentagon or from the White House. Suddenly, the pastor made the claim that Imam Rauf had agreed to forget the Islamic cultural center in return for his not burning Korans. I am skeptical until there is much confirmation.
The intellectual confrontation will not disappear, whatever the outcome is. I wonder how many Muslims in the world understand that burning their sacred book is the pastor’s constitutional right. I wonder how many understand those two words.
“Right” means that he does not need permission, at all, from anyone. “Constitutional” has a specific meaning in America that even many Americans don’t understand. Governments at all levels is required to protect people’s rights; that’s their only reason for being. Not only does the Federal Government have no business telling the pastor what not to do, it has an obligation to make sure he is able to do it without interference other than verbal.
I suspect that most French people would not understand this set of simple ideas. Yet, the French Republic was born at the same time as the American Republic and under much the same intellectual influences. In an orderly, civilized Muslim country such as Morocco, a country I know a little, I think you could find about one hundred intellectuals to get it. Most would have extensive legal training. (I hope someone will contradict me on this pessimistic guess. I know some people who are in a position to do it and who read this blog.) Even, in this country, it’s not rare to hear schoolteachers, for example, declare that rights imply (entail) responsibilities. No, teach, they don’t. Rights are unconditional. Teach, go back to school!
The likelihood that millions, or hundreds of thousands of Muslims, or tens of thousands, used to authoritarian rule only, will understand much of this is tiny. Should we wait a couple of hundred years until they grasp them to exercise our rights, any of our rights?
Perhaps responding to my entreaties, Imam Rauf appeared on CNN recently. He is the guy who will be in charge of the Near Ground Zero Islamic Center if it ever happens. I had deplored that he had not come on the American media to explain his case to the millions of Americans who object to the project (while stating clearly that the Imam and his party had the right to build and operate it). His appearance on CNN cleared the air for me.
His answers to the CNN very mild questioning demonstrated that he did not quite understand what the outrage was about. Some call his side “insensitive.” I think “clueless” is a better description. I have met that attitude among Muslims I know well: The nineteen 9/11 assassins were Muslims? So, how does this concern me? I am a good guy; I have never killed anyone.
You can’t (cannot) hold this individualist attitude and think the umma, the community of Muslims is something special. You are part of community or you are not. You can’t use a Western view of the supremacy of the individual and hold communalist religious views at the same time. That’s hypocritical. The Koran condemns hypocrisy repeatedly.
There is worse: In answer to a direct question, the Imam said he was not thinking about moving the location because it would cause bad and dangerous reaction in the Muslims world. He argued that such a move would facilitate the task of (Muslims) radicals in recruiting terrorists and endanger American lives. This is blackmail by proxy. It’s unacceptable, It says if we piss off Muslims they will kill us. Well, they are trying to kill us now for reasons that are obscure or morally unacceptable. (There is still resentment in the Muslim world about our getting rid of Saddam Hussein who slaughtered and gassed 150.000 Iraqi Kurds and an equal number of Iranians in a war he provoked. Both are low estimates; they don’t include the Iraqis he murdered one by one and a few dozens at a time.)
Mark my word: There will be no Islamic center at the proposed address. Some Islamist strategists will count this defeat a victory, of course. It will prove that “Christians” (that includes atheists, agnostics and Jews, in the Muslim mental world) are just as intolerant as they are. There will be a more modest something elsewhere in Manhattan.
I am invigorated though by the mass protests in the Muslims world and among American Muslims with regard to the adulterous Iranian woman. Her condemnation to death by stoning was confirmed recently. She has already been whipped savagely. There are reports that she was raped in jail repeatedly. Given the Islamic Republic record in that area, I think the reports are correct.
OK, I have not seen or heard any such protests. I was making it up. We must “respect” those people? Why?