Thursday, May 26, 2005

Why Islam Is Disrespected

It was front-page news this week when Newsweek retracted a report claiming that a US interrogator in Guantanamo had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet. Everywhere it was noted that Newsweek's story had sparked widespread Muslim rioting, in which at least 17 people were killed.

But there was no mention of deadly protests triggered in recent years by comparable acts of desecration against other religions.

No one recalled, for example, that American Catholics lashed out in violent rampages in 1989, after photographer Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ"—a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine -- was included in an exhibition subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. Or that they rioted in 1992 when singer Sinead O'Connor, appearing on "Saturday Night Live," ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II.

There was no reminder that Jewish communities erupted in lethal violence in 2000, after Arabs demolished Joseph's Tomb, torching the ancient shrine and murdering a young rabbi who tried to save a Torah from the flames.

And nobody noted that Buddhists went on a killing spree in 2001 in response to the destruction of two priceless, 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha by the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Of course, there was a good reason all these bloody protests went unremembered in the coverage of the Newsweek affair: They never occurred.

Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don't lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted. They don't call for holy war and riot in the streets.

It would be unthinkable today for a mainstream priest, rabbi, or lama to demand that a blasphemer be slain. But when Reuters reported what Mohammad Hanif, the imam of a Muslim seminary in Pakistan, said about the alleged Koran-flushers—"They should be hung. They should be killed in public so that no one can dare to insult Islam and its sacred symbols"—was any reader surprised?

The Muslim riots should have been met by an international upwelling of outrage and condemnation. From every part of the civilized world should have come denunciations of those who would react to the supposed destruction of a book with brutal threats and the slaughter of 17 innocent people. But the chorus of condemnation was directed not at the killers and the fanatics who incited them, but at Newsweek.

From the White House down, the magazine was slammed—for running an item it should have known might prove incendiary, for relying on a shaky source, for its animus toward the military and the war. Over and over, Newsweek was blamed for the riots' death toll. Conservative pundits in particular piled on. ”Newsweek lied, people died" was the headline on Michelle Malkin's popular website.

At NationalReview.com, Paul Marshall of Freedom House fumed: "What planet do these [Newsweek] people live on? . . . Anybody with a little knowledge could have told them it was likely that people would die as a result of the article." All of Marshall's choler was reserved for Newsweek; he had no criticism at all -- not a word -- for the marauders in the Muslim street.

Then there was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who announced at a Senate hearing that she had a message for "Muslims in America and throughout the world." And what was that message?

That decent people do not resort to murder just because someone has offended their religious sensibilities?

That the primitive bloodlust raging in Afghanistan and Pakistan was evidence of the Muslim world's dysfunctional political culture?

That the Bush administration would redouble its efforts to defeat the Islamofascist radicals who use religion as an excuse to foment violence and terror?

No: Her message was that "disrespect for the Holy Koran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, tolerated by the United States. We honor the sacred books of all the world's great religions."

Granted, Rice spoke while the rioting was still taking place and her goal was to reduce the anti-American fever. But what "Muslims in America and throughout the world" most need to hear is not pandering sweet-talk.

What they need is a blunt reminder that the real desecration of Islam is not what some interrogator in Guantanamo might have done to the Koran. It is what totalitarian Muslim zealots have been doing to innocent human beings in the name of Islam.

It is 9/11 and Beslan and Bali and Daniel Pearl and the USS Cole. It is trains in Madrid and schoolbuses in Israel and an "insurgency" in Iraq that slaughters Muslims as they pray and vote and line up for work. It is Hamas and Al Qaeda and sermons filled with infidel-hatred and exhortations to "martyrdom."

But what disgraces Islam above all is the vast majority of the planet's Muslims saying nothing and doing nothing about the jihadist cancer eating away at their religion.

It is Free Muslims Against Terrorism, a pro-democracy organization, calling on Muslims and Middle Easterners to "converge on our nation's capital for a rally against terrorism" this month -- and having only 50 people show up.

Yes, Islam is disrespected. That will only change when throngs of passionate Muslims show up for rallies against terrorism, and when rabble-rousers trying to gin up a riot over a defiled Koran can't get the time of day.

Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, May 19, 2005

Friday, May 13, 2005

Everybody Loses in Sharon's Gaza Plan

PLOTS OF FLOWERS grow outside most of the homes we pass as we drive through this small agricultural cooperative in southern Gaza. I point out a particularly lavish one, and the driver, a gruff 55-year-old, stops the car.

''What are those white ones?" I ask, motioning through the window. ''And those yellow ones with the orange tips?"

From the back seat, Rafi Horowitz, a veteran of four Arab-Israeli wars, calls out a Hebrew name for one of them. Debbie Rosen, a resident of nearby Neveh Dekalim and a spokeswoman for Gaza's Jewish communities, isn't sure he's right. I get out of the car to take a closer look, and a moment later the three Israelis are in the garden with me, admiring the flowers and arguing about their names. A consensus is reached on the begonias, hibiscus, and pimpernel, but the white ones remain an enigma.

Rosen knocks on the front door and tells the man who opens it about the botanical debate underway in his front yard. He steps back inside, then reappears with a well-worn guide to the flora of the Holy Land. In it we find a picture of our mystery flower: white bougainvillea.

A visitor would have to be strangely obtuse not to sense the deep attachment of Gaza's Jews to the land they live on. In places like Gadid, streets and kindergartens are named for the Bible's seven species. "Gadid" itself is an old Hebrew word meaning date harvest, and the names of other settlements, like Pe'at Sadeh ("edge of the field") or Netzarim ("sprouts"), similarly evoke the agricultural yearnings of their founders.

When those founders arrived, Jewish Gaza was all yearning and no agriculture: These settlements were mostly built on barren sand dunes where no one lived and nothing grew. Today it is a horticultural powerhouse, supplying two-thirds of the organic vegetables and cherry tomatoes Israel exports, and renowned for its bug-free lettuce and other leafy greens. Gaza's legal status may be complicated (it is technically an unallocated portion of the League of Nations' 1922 Palestine Mandate), but the moral status of this land is as clear as day: As a matter of justice and sweat equity, the Jewish homesteaders whose faith and hard work have made the sand dunes bloom surely have as much right to their homes in Gadid and Neveh Dekalim as the Arabs have to theirs in nearby Khan Yunis and Dir El Balah.

Yet in just 10 weeks, if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's ''disengagement" program goes forward, the 8,000 Jews who live in Gaza -- men, women, and a great many children -- will be expelled. Their homes and property will be taken over by the Palestinian Authority. And the green revolution that has transformed Gaza's sandy wastes into a spectacular oasis of hothouses, nurseries, and gardens will almost certainly come to an end.

But Jews won't be the only victims of Sharon's plan.

At Tnuvot Katif, a large produce-packaging plant here, I watch for a while as about two dozen workers, most of them local Arabs, get heads of tall leaf lettuce ready for export. More than half of Tnuvot's 127 year-round employees are Arab; they in turn account for about 2 percent of the 3,500 Arabs employed by Gaza's Jewish firms.

During a break in the shift, I ask some of workers if they like their jobs. They shrug. But when I ask what they think of the plan for Israeli withdrawal, they grow animated. If the Israelis go, they tell me through an interpreter, they'll lose their jobs. If the plant shuts down, they'll be out of work, and if the Palestinian Authority takes it over, they'll still be out of work -- their jobs will go to workers with better connections to the PA's ruling thugs.

''If that's how you feel," I ask, ''why don't you oppose the disengagement publicly? Why don't you tell the PA that you want your Jewish neighbors to stay?"

When my question is translated, the men look at me as if I'm crazy.

''It's forbidden!" replies Randoor, the only one of the workers who would give even a first name. ''We're not allowed to say that!"

I press him: Why not? What would be so bad about saying that Jews and Arabs should be able to live together? But Randoor shakes his head and crosses his wrists, as if being handcuffed. ''They might put us in jail," he says. ''They might call us 'collaborators.' " In the jungle that is Palestinian society, being called a ''collaborator" can be a death sentence. Indeed, the PA's newly elevated security chief -- a cold-blooded killer named Rashid Abu Shabak -- is known in Gaza as the ''collaborator hunter."

Politicians and pundits are applauding Sharon's planned retreat, yet a simple lettuce-packer like Randoor seems to grasp what they cannot: The lives of Gaza's Arabs will not be improved by expelling Gaza's Jews.

by Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, May 9, 2005

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

So much change is such a short time...

One evening, a grandson was talking to his grandmother about current events . The grandson asked his grandmother what she thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and just things in general.

The Grandma replied, "Well, let me think a minute, I was born before television, penicillin, polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, contact lenses, Frisbees and the pill.

There were no credit cards, laser beams or ball-point pens. Man had not invented pantyhose, air conditioners, dishwashers, clothes dryers, and the clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air and man had yet to walk on the moon.

Your Grandfather and I got married first and then lived together. Every family had a father and a mother.

Until I was 25, I called every man older than I, "Sir"- - and after I turned 25, I still called policemen and every man with a title, "Sir".

We were before gay-rights, computer-dating, dual careers, day-care centers, and group therapy. Our lives were governed by the Ten Commandments, good judgment, and common sense. We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong and to stand up and take responsibility for our actions.

Serving your country was a privilege; living in this country was a bigger privilege.

We thought fast food was what people ate during Lent.

Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins.

Draft dodgers were people who closed their front doors when the evening breeze started. Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends - not purcha sing condominiums.

We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, yogurt, or guys wearing earrings. We listened to the Big Bands, Jack Benny, and the President's speeches on our radios. And I don't ever remember any kid blowing his brains out listening to Tommy Dorsey.

If you saw anything with 'Made in Japan' on it, it was junk.

The term 'making out' referred to how you did on your school exam.

Pizza Hut, McDonald's, and instant coffee were unheard of.

We had 5 & 10-cent stores where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents. Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel. And if you didn't want to splurge, you could spend your nickel on enough stamps to mail one letter and two postcards. You could buy a new Chevy Coupe for $600, but who could afford one? Too bad because, gas was 11 cents a gallon.

In my day, "grass" was mowed, "coke" was a cold drink, "pot" was something your mother cooked in, and "rock music" was your grandmother's lullaby.

"Aids" were helpers in the Principal's office, "chip" meant a piece of wood, "hardware" was found in a hardware store and software" wasn't even a word.

And we were the last generation to actually believe that a lady needed a husband to have a baby.

No wonder people call us "old and confused" and say there is a generation gap.

And how old do you think grandma is?


. . . Grandma is 58 (born 1946)

How could so much go wrong in such a short time?