Note: This editorial originally appeared in a college newspaper during the winter of 2001-2002, shortly after the terrorist attacks. It is written specifically against two cowardly Muslims, but has much greater applicability. Islam by itself is just a religion that can be good or ill. However, in a rush to "understand" Islam some junk is being spread as truth. This write-up argues that those who do this are cowards.
Ironically, since writing this I've found two factual errors in it. The first is the name of a Pope. The second is claiming the Richard the Lion-Hearted set foot in Jerusalem.
Two other quibbles have been uncovered. Adolph is an Anglicization/Americanization of Adolf. Also, mkb pointed out that America was never a Catholic state. Nonetheless, America does has a Catholic plurality, so I stand by my claim.
But those are minor errors, and the gist of the statements remain unchanged. Interested in what really happened in those cases? Explore E2, and find out!
Now, without further ado:
An Editorial Against Cowardly Muslims
It is cowardly to deny your past. It is despicable to deny your belief. And if a man is a guest invited to talk and to hold an honest discussion, and he denies and lies about his belief and its past, he is cowardly and despicable. This describes the speakers from the Islamic Center of Sioux Falls perfectly. When they were talking about complex and controversial issues they used deception and outright lies to minimize the apparent difference between their views and the crowd’s. Like a Nazi who denies the Holocaust, they lied about their view to make it more popular. Like a Catholic who denies the Crusades or an American who denies slavery, they told impossible untruths in a vain and stupid attempt to present their beliefs as politically correct. Instead of educating the community about a great religion, the speakers dishonored themselves and spat on Islam.
“There is no evidence that Adolph Hitler was behind the genocide of the Jews.”
“Nazi Germany did not discriminate against racial minorities.”
The above two claims do not deserve discussion.
“There is no evidence that Pope Innocent III was behind the Crusades.”
“The Catholic Church did not discriminate against religious minorities.”
These statements are hateful too, but for a different reason. Of course, they are false. Pope Innocent was very much behind the Crusades, which were holy wars designed to allow safe-passage of Christian pilgrims to holy places. Likewise, there is no doubt that the Church was hostile to other religions during the Crusades
Especially then, the Roman Church was not perfect. Actions by many Catholics during that time would now be considered atrocities. Richard the Lion Hearted, hero of the Third Crusade, famously ordered all Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem killed. Also, in retaliation for Turkish destruction of Christian churches, the Dome of the Rock was turned into an outhouse. The Crusaders did not always act like Christians.
Nonetheless, as a Catholic I would be angry if these actions were denied. The Church has a rich two thousand year history, from its foundation in the New Testament to the present day. The Church has done many wonderful things for humanity. Its tradition of scholasticism and reason lives on in the fact that of the G-7 nations, only one was never Catholic (The United States has a Catholic plurality, thanks largely to Irish, Italian, Polish, and Mexican immigration, though the Catholic tradition in the country is quite old, going back at least to the founding of Maryland by English Catholics). For as long as the Church has owned land (more than a thousand years), it has used that land to feed the poor. During the worst of the Dark Ages, when much of Europe was Arian or Pagan, the Church saved Latin as a living language, allowing educated Western Europeans to speak to each other and exchange ideas. Without the sharing of knowledge that this made possible, science would be inestimably poorer.
So as a Catholic, and as one who respects the Catholic Church, I cannot abandon and deny the Church’s past. Were serious mistakes made in the Crusades? Yes, we know that. And because we have a record of where we went wrong, we know the consequences of those actions. “Turn the other cheek” and “Love thy Enemy” are empty platitudes until you realize the consequences of ignoring them.
“There is no evidence that Thomas Jefferson supported slavery.”
“The United States of America did not enslave blacks.”
Besides being wrong, these above two statements are pointless.
We have never heard anyone make these claims because they are so obviously false. Did Thomas Jefferson support slavery? Of course. He owned slaves. So did other Founding Fathers. In fact, the Constitution even protected the institution of slavery (I:9).
For eighty years, slavery blighted America. It lowered slaves to the level of animals. It blinded owners to the evil they were doing. It oppressed the poor, making it impossible for them to compete for work. It still haunts us with the hatred and resentment it created.
But nonetheless it happened. And it is a proof of our greatness as a nation that we overcame it. The United States began life giving greater freedom to a greater number than any other nation in the world. Today, that is still true. The war to end slavery was catastrophic. It wrecked the economy of half of America while killing more Americans than any other war. And yet it was only after this war that America became truly great. It was with American pressure that Britain left Canada and France left Mexico. Later, Americans would sacrifice blood and treasure to bring liberation to Europe (twice). America brought freedom to the Middle East by making it clear to Britain and France that the days of colonial empires were gone, and America brought freedom to the Soviet bloc by checking Soviet aggression wherever it appeared.
It was not with slaves that America won these triumphs. It was only as a society of free men. (The greatest of these victories required the suffrage of women, too). Only by recognizing the early faults of America, especially slavery, do we see how we overcame them.
“There is no evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks...”
“Muslim nations did not discriminate against Christians…”
Before this pair of quotations, three other pairs were given. One was about an evil murderer and an evil government. Two others were about crimes by much more wholesome intuitions. However, these last two quotes are, I think, more troubling. One reason is that the above two were actually said by a speaker invited by DSU to explain Islam. Some other reasons will be explained below.
The first quotation, “There is no evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks…” is not even complete. It ended, “…certainly he has denied that he was.” I may be wrong, but when I see a video from bin Laden where he promises a “storm of airplanes” against the West, I take that as pride in his work. Not even a holocaust denier would go this far. Even a Nazi would agree that Hitler wanted a “Final Solution,” that he hated the Jews, and that he was going to do something about it.
“Muslim nations did not discriminate against Christians..." likewise is not a full thought. It ends “except for the military and the head of state.” Well, I guess this would be kind-of-understandable (though if I said that Christian nations can’t have Jews for Presidents, I would be rightly condemned as hateful), except for the fact that it is a lie. The Muslim Ottoman Empire demanded children from the non-Muslim towns they controlled for slaves. These children were brought up as slave soldiers, “Janissaries,” until these unfortunates were all executed in 1826. During this time the Ottoman Emperors were Caliphs of Islam. Denying that the Caliphs speak for Sunni Islam is like denying that the Popes speak for Catholicism.
Also there is the Sudan, which actually legalized slavery of Christians. But as the speaker of the Islamic Center responded when asked about this, the West’s concern for these slaves is “one-sided.”
The speakers said that Islam forbids adultery in all cases. That would be virtuous, except it is not true. In the Koran, masters may know their slave girls all they want. But at least, the DSU assembly was told, actual prostitution is forbidden. Anyway, we were told, slavery was just an economic nicety, and the slaves and masters got along fine.
“Islam does not allow the massacre of civilians.” This was given as an explanation of slavery. Never mind the fact that Mohammed violated this so-called rule. At the Battle of the Trench, the pagan army of Mecca attacked Medina, the city where Mohammed ruled a collection of Muslims and Jews. After this battle, which Medina won, Mohammed blamed the Jews in the town for the attack, and had the Jewish men of Medina who did not flee massacred. The women and children were spared this type of death, and were given another: slavery.
If these statements were limited to the presentation at DSU, I would not have written this letter. Anyone can have a bad day speaking. But the deceptions were not limited to Madison. In a November 25, 2001, letter to the editor of the Argus Leader, Edwin Kragt reports similar deceptions at a presentation in Sioux Falls by the Islamic Center: on the Sudan, on inter-marriage, on Egypt, and other issues.
The speakers from the Islamic Center were cowards. Though there is a great deal in common between Christianity and Islam (belief in Adam, Abraham, and David, belief in the virgin birth, belief that Jesus is the Messiah, and belief that God will judge the world, to name just a few), there are differences. Some are social (how should slavery work?). Some are on how a holy man should act (may he kill the Jews?). Some are on how believers should act (should we turn the other check or avenge injustice). Some are on contemporary matters (is Mr. bin Laden being framed?).
There are two honorable positions the Center could have taken. The speakers could have said, “I believe these things. You may not agree with me, but you did not create me – God did. I’ll follow God, even if that means this crowd likes me less.” Or, the speakers could have said, “I do not believe these things. Just like the Bible allows slavery, but very few Christians now tolerate it, the Koran allows these things, but Muslims now should not tolerate them.” But they did neither. They chose to lie.
Instead of defending bin Laden’s acts, if they agree with them, they claim there is no evidence against him. Instead of denouncing the murder of the Jews, if they dislike it, they claimed that the Jews deserved it. Time and time again, they chose the coward’s way out.
Dakota State University should hold another presentation on Islam. With speakers who will defend their beliefs, and be honest even on controversial subjects, it would be educational both to the student body and to the community.