Update: Or really, just a better reference. I think this story from MSNBC covers the ground better in a single article.
I believe very strongly that we need to distinguish between radicals who want to kill us, and the very large number of Muslims who are peaceful people. But with the reaction to the knighting of Salman Rushdie, it is again important to point out that we need to be on our guard for violent people, and there are lots of them.
I am very aware that there has been calls for violence by Christians, or at least those who call themselves Christians. I live near where Paul Hill, a defrocked Presbyterian minister, took a shotgun and killed two people. I’m glad to say that he was a defrocked minister, as in not a minister any more, but nonetheless he did violence in the name of Jesus, and I condemn his actions. I will continue to challenge and condemn all violence and calls for violence from my own or from other religions.
But right now, in terms of numbers, the calls of violence seem to be coming most commonly from the Muslim world. I have been told that I don’t understand Islam, but my question is just who do I listen to in order to understand. Is Islam a religion of peace and of choice, or is it one that punishes apostasy by death? In many countries at least, it appears to be the latter. Is it a religion that is willing to become part of a pluralistic society, to win converts peacefully through persuasion, and to uphold the freedoms of other religions no matter how high a percentage of the population become adherents? It doesn’t seem so, if one considers those nations that are already majority Muslim.
Now I know from personal experience that there are Muslims who are peaceful people, good citizens, good neighbors. I believe that these are likely the majority, though I really can’t prove that. But events like this tend to make it hard to keep people’s attention on the moderates:
Salman Rushdie, who went into hiding under threat of death after an Iranian fatwa, has been knighted by the Queen.
His book The Satanic Verses offended Muslims worldwide and a bounty was placed on his head in 1989.
But since the Indian-born author returned to public life in 1999, he has not shied away from controversy.
A devout secularist, he backed Commons Leader Jack Straw over comments on Muslim women and veils and has warned against Islamic “totalitarianism”.
And the reaction? Were Muslims the world over willing to allow a man who opposed their religion to be honored? Well, years ago they had called for his death. What would happen now?
From Pakistan (source: here):
Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistan’s religious affairs minister, said giving the title to the author was an insult to Islam and ‘at the root of terrorism’.
Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses caused worldwide protests in 1989 and led to Iran issuing a fatwa ordering his execution.
Speaking about the writer at the National Assembly, Mr ul-Haq reportedly said: ‘If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified.’
But after the comments were reported on local news networks yesterday, the minister claimed he did not mean to condone or incite terrorism, merely to warn that such insults against Islam could lead to attacks.
Or the words of the one Muslim British peer: (from ABC Australia):
Muslim Labour peer Lord Ahmed describes the decision as provocative and damaging to Britain’s relations with Muslims.
“Actually I was appalled to hear that Salman Rushdie had been given knighthood, particularly when this man has been very divisive,” he said.
“This man – as you can see – not only provoked violence around the world because of his writings, but there were many people that were killed around the world and honouring the man who has blood on his hands, sort of because of what he did, honouring him I think is going a bit too far.”
My major point here is that while we must be careful to blame those who are actually guilty, we must also not allow a desire to be fair to keep us from recognizing evil when we see it. The reaction to the Danish cartoons was evil, and so is this. We in the west should not be intimidated by threats of violence. The insult is not the cause of the violence. People suffer insults without violence every day. The violence stems from the evil in the hearts of the people who preach it and carry it out.
HT: Dispatches from the Culture Wars (and commenters there). That article is worth reading.