Monday, September 18, 2006

“Angry Muslims, Please Don’t Burn My House Down”

The title of this excellent, short piece from the Telegraph is “Islam, like Christianity, is not above criticism.” It sounds obvious, doesn’t it?

The combination of grievance-nurturing multiculturalism and instant headlines is having a disastrous effect on the worldwide Muslim community. There seems to be no limit to its spokesmen’s willingness to voice outrage; and their messages are then picked up by fanatics who mount appalling attacks on Christians in Muslim countries. When was the last time a Muslim leader apologised for such atrocities?

The truth is that barbaric attacks happen weekly. No wonder that Benedict favours an urgent dialogue with Muslims on the subject of religious violence, rather than the usual touchy-feely exchange of compliments.

Well, he has started a dialogue now, albeit not quite in the way that he intended. And it is essential that it continue. A self-abasing apology from the Pope would have postponed that discussion yet again.

Here’s the thing: the “war on terror” is really an extension of just this conversation.

This is what happens when cultural expectations that we have (a sense of tolerance for opposing ideas, a sense that diverse religious and political concepts aren’t immediately cause for violence, and the belief that our societies afford us protection when we criticize the beliefs and ideas of others) bump painfully up against a culture with a very different idea of societal behavioral norms. It’s not so bad when those differences are merely aesthetic in nature--questions of art, music, and poetry are much easier to deal with than issues like free speech, free press, equality for citizens under secular rule of law, democracy, and terrorism.

It is important that the conversation about religious violence is taken up right now: our cultures are rubbing up closer as the world continues to, metaphorically, shrink. It would be best if the conversation could happen without war and demonstrations in the street, but that’s the core of the problem, isn’t it? The simplest criticisms are met with threats of death, the burning of churches, and the killing of nuns--it makes it hard to keep up a steady conversation.

“Angry Muslims, please don’t burn down my house.” It isn’t just a joking plea; it’s an honest concern.

Read the rest.

The post title is a reference to one of Macomber’s masterpieces.

Update: Kindly linked by Kris at New Every Morning.

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