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September 30, 2006


Filed under: Islam, Terror, Tyrkiet, Western civilisation — limewoody @ 5:16 pm

Whenever Tom Friedman sets aside his partisanship, he pens out a column that demonstrates how well he gets it. He did so today and so I am pasting it bellow. He is right to call for an inter-Muslim dialogue and right in identifying the growing Western wish (expressed not only by the masses) to erect an anti-Muslim wall.At a recent FPRI lecture on Arab media an audience member suggested that the West agree to pull out of all Muslim lands and in return evict all the Muslims leaving in the West. On the train home, I mentioned the surprising comment to my husband. “That’s right,” said the passenger in front of us. “That is precisely what we should do.”

For the papal demand for reciprocity is beginning to echo throughout the land. Friedman writes:

It will be terrible if Turkey is blocked from entering the European Union, but that’s where we’re heading, and the only thing that will halt it is honest dialogue.

Unfortunately, I am not sure Turkey is not blocking itself. For instead of providing ammunition to their EU supporters, Turkey provides it to their opponents by using its courts again and again to stifle speech.

We got used to repeated Turkish attempts to prosecute Turks acknowledging the Armenian holocaust. The charges against two well known writers, Safak and Pamuk, were dropped but the higher court upheld the conviction and a six-month suspended sentence for the less well known Hrant Dink, editor of Agos, a Turkish-Armenian newspaper in Istanbul.

But now we have to ponder the frame of mind of the members of Diyanet-Sen, an imans’ union with the Religious Affairs Directorate, which demands that the authorities launch legal proceeding against the Pope and arrest him when he visits Turkey in November.

And why not, after all, Prime Minister Erdogan has just won a court case against Fethi Dorduncu? Who is Fehti Dorduncu? A man in his eighties who dared write and unflattering comment in the visitors book in Ataturk’s boyhood home in Saloniki, Greece. How did Erdogan respond? He ripped the page out of the book and sued the man in Turkish court. What did the court do? It found him guilty and gave him a large fine, 10,000 lira or $6700. When is all this taking place? In the middle of an election campaign.

Do not worry. Erdogan is not about to lose the elections. Turks do not seem any more offended by this show of their Prime Minister’s vindictive pettiness than Muslims as a whole seem offended by Muslim suicide bombers blowing up Mosques and markets on Ramadan. Something very fundamental must change before we are going to see the kind of inter-Muslim dialogue needed to prevent the world from careening towards a full fledged clash of civilization.

September 29, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Islam and the Pope
We need to stop insulting Islam. It’s enough already.

No, that doesn’t mean the pope should apologize. The pope was actually treating Islam with dignity. He was treating the faith and its community as adults who could be challenged and engaged. That is a sign of respect.

What is insulting is the politically correct, kid-gloves view of how to deal with Muslims that is taking root in the West today. It goes like this: “Hushhh! Don’t say anything about Islam! Don’t you understand? If you say anything critical or questioning about Muslims, they’ll burn down your house. Hushhh! Just let them be. Don’t rile them. They are not capable of a civil, rational dialogue about problems in their faith community.”

Now that is insulting. It’s an attitude full of contempt and self-censorship, but that is the attitude of Western elites today, and it’s helping to foster the slow-motion clash of civilizations that Sam Huntington predicted. Because Western masses don’t buy it. They see violence exploding from Muslim communities and they find it frightening, and they don’t think their leaders are talking honestly about it. So many now just want to build a wall against Islam. It will be terrible if Turkey is blocked from entering the European Union, but that’s where we’re heading, and the only thing that will halt it is honest dialogue.

But it is not the dialogue the pope mentioned — one between Islam and Christianity. That’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient. What is needed first is an honest dialogue between Muslims and Muslims.

As someone who has lived in the Muslim world, enjoyed the friendship of many Muslims there and seen the compassionate side of Islam in action, I have to admit I am confused as to what Islam stands for today.

Why? On the first day of Ramadan last year a Sunni Muslim suicide bomber blew up a Shiite mosque in Hilla, Iraq, in the middle of a memorial service, killing 25 worshipers. This year on the first day of Ramadan, a Sunni suicide bomber in Baghdad killed 35 people who were lining up in a Shiite neighborhood to buy fuel. The same day, the severed heads of nine murdered Iraqi police officers and soldiers were found north of Baghdad.

I don’t get it. How can Muslims blow up other Muslims on their most holy day of the year — in mosques! — and there is barely a peep of protest in the Muslim world, let alone a million Muslim march? Yet Danish cartoons or a papal speech lead to violent protests. If Muslims butchering Muslims — in Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan — produces little communal reaction, while cartoons and papal remarks produce mass protests, what does Islam stand for today? It is not an insult to ask that question.

Muslims might say: “Well, what about Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo or Palestine? Let’s talk about all your violent behavior.” To which I would say: “Let’s talk about it! But you’ll have to get in line behind us, because we’re constantly talking about where we’ve gone wrong.” We can’t have a meaningful dialogue if we, too, are not self-critical, but neither can Muslims.

Part of the problem in getting answers is that Islam has no hierarchy. There is no Muslim pope defining the faith. There are centers of Muslim learning, in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but their credibility with the masses is uneven because they’re often seen as tools of regimes. So those Muslim preachers with authenticity tend to be the street preachers — firebrands, who gain legitimacy by spewing hatred at both their own regimes and the Western powers that support them.

As a result, there is a huge body of disenfranchised Sunni Muslims, who are neither violent fundamentalists nor wannabe secularists. They are people who’d like to see a marriage between Islam and modernity. But right now there is little free space in the Sunni Muslim world — between the firebrand preachers and the “official” ones — for that synthesis to be discussed and defined.

I had hoped Iraq would be that space. Whenever people asked me how I’d know if we’d won in Iraq, I said: when Salman Rushdie could give a lecture in Baghdad. I’m all for a respectful dialogue between Islam and the West, but first there needs to be a respectful, free dialogue between Muslims and Muslims. What matters is not what Muslims tell us they stand for. What matters is what they tell themselves, in their own languages, and how they treat their own.

Without a real war of ideas within Islam to sort that out — a war that progressives win — I fear we are drifting at best toward a wall between civilizations and at worst toward a real clash.


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