Pope vs Islam by Kirsten A. Powers

Who Should Apologize?
Another view of the Pope-Islam controversy. By Kirsten A. Powers
Web Exclusive: 09.25.06

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The week before last, Pope Benedict cited an ancient text that criticized Islam for being too violent. The Muslim reaction was swift and violent: An Italian nun in Somalia was murdered, four Christian schoolgirls were beheaded in Indonesia, churches were burnt, mosques in Iraq were plastered with posters threatening to kill every Christian in the country, and death threats against the pope were made. Following the pope’s comments, al-Qaeda militants in Iraq vowed war on “worshippers of the cross” and protesters burned a papal effigy. Seems the Pope may have been on to something — but at any rate, he apologized.

Meanwhile, on ABC’s “The View,” Rosie O’Donnell was offering her insight on Islam, arguing that “radical Christianity is just as dangerous as radical Islam.” The audience clapped enthusiastically as Rosie aggressively made her ill-informed and irresponsible case. Christian groups complained. Nobody was beheaded. To date, no mass burnings of A League of Her Own have been reported.

The pope’s comment was ironically borne out by the reaction to it; Rosie O’Donnell’s false analogy was also borne out by the (non-)reaction to it. It seems perhaps the wrong person has apologized.

It’s true that the pope’s views of Islam carry more weight than Rosie’s of Christianity, yet many in the Muslim world have shown that no slight is too small for them to retaliate with violence. Danish cartoons deemed offensive to Islam ignite rioting and burning of embassies. When Christians are mocked or their most cherished symbols desecrated, they put out press releases and engage in boycotts.

NBC just announced that they will be running Madonna’s “Confessions” tour where the Material Girl crucifies herself on a mirrored cross. No worry. Tower Records will not be burnt to the ground for carrying Madonna’s CD, and NBC employees can safely go about their business without fear of death threats from The Catholic League. And the chances of A League of Her Own burnings will still remain remote. Madonna’s publicity machine should have figured out by now that if she really wants to cause a stir, she should insult Islam.

Rosie’s — and apparently “The View” audiences’ — fear of “radical Christians” makes clear they understand neither fundamentalist Christianity nor radical Islam. Whatever criticisms one can make of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell — and there are many — fundamentalist Christians are not flying planes into buildings in the name of God, nor are they plotting to blow up ten airplanes over the Atlantic Ocean. Radical Muslims are threatening and slaughtering “infidels” around the world. They murdered Theo Van Gogh and drove a member of the Dutch government into exile for their perceived slights against Islam. In Iraq, they recently kidnapped a Catholic priest and tortured him. They kidnapped and beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. It was reported today that Safia Amajan — a fierce critic of the Taliban’s repression of women — was murdered in the street in Afghanisan. It’s believed she was targeted by Taliban militants because of their opposition to women taking part in politics and education.

In just the last few years, Islamic terrorists have targeted and murdered Westerners in the bombing of the Madrid subway; the bombing of the London underground; and the bombing of an Indonesian night club. They murdered almost 3,000 people on 9-11. They killed 240 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983. In 1993, they bombed the World Trade Center, killing 17 and injuring more than a thousand people. In 2000, they bombed the USS Cole, killing 17 Americans.

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, there has been ongoing persecution and murder of Christians in an attempt to wipe them out and impose Sharia law. Christians who refused to convert to Islam were killed; those who did convert were separated from their families and forcibly circumcised, without anesthetic. Christian pastors have been beheaded for the crime of being Christian.

Rosie’s beef with Christian opponents of gay marriage would presumably pale should she find herself living in many Islamic countries. Perhaps she missed former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami’s speech at Harvard recently saying that, “Homosexuality is a crime in Islam and crimes are punishable. And the fact that a crime could be punished by execution is debatable.” And he’s considered a reformer. Just being a woman in an Islamic country is enough to get you sent to jail or killed. In Pakistan last week, the parliament was debating whether they should continue to jail women for being raped. In Saudi Arabia, the religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress. Seventeen girls burned alive. Under Islamic law, women who seek a divorce — even from abusive husbands — can still be lawfully murdered by their families in so-called “honor killings.” The U.N. Population Fund estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor killing victims may be as high as 5,000.

Adele Stan argued in these pages that “to throw a rhetorical bomb such as that the pope tossed into the teeming cities of the Muslim world is to commit an act tantamount to violence. It appears to be a taunt designed to provoke a response, and provoke one it did.” It’s a curious world where liberals decline to focus condemnation on a violent reaction perpetrated in the name of a religious ideology (Islam) that jails women for being raped or declares it legal for women to be murdered in the streets by angry male relatives. Even stranger to side against a religious ideology (Catholicism) that has vigorously opposed the Iraq war, torture, the mistreatment of detainees, and the death penalty.

Attempts to falsely equate the Catholic Church and Islam usually lead to a discussion of the Crusades — which, of course, happened in the 11th century. Pope John Paul II renounced them, along with the Inquisition, which ended 200 years ago. The Vatican isn’t out celebrating the Crusades while criticizing Islamic violence. It condemns both. Indeed, according to a Vatican spokesman, the pope believes that that there must be a “clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence.” Thank God someone is willing to say it.

Stan also argued that U.S. military operations in the Middle East are partly to blame for Muslim violence. It’s true the United States has engaged in activity in the Middle East that has stoked Muslim rage. But the idea that Islamic culture would be pristine but for the interference of ugly America is an analysis that ignores how repressive Islamic governments can be even with their own people.

Are U.S. military operations responsible for Islamic governments torturing their own citizens, killing gay citizens; stoning women for adultery; amputating thieves’ hands; murdering schoolgirls who violate Islamic dress or jailing people for “insulting” the government? In 2004, a 16-year-old Iranian girl was hanged in the public square for “crimes against chastity.” Is the United States to blame for that?

The only people responsible for acts of violence against innocent victims are the perpetrators. In this, as in far too many other cases, those perpetrators are Muslims acting in the name of God.

Kirsten A. Powers served as deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for public affairs in the Clinton administration and is a New York-based Democratic consultant. In addition, she writes the blog PowersPoint.

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~ by badkow on September 30, 2006.

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