There’s a new mosque going up on my side of town. About three miles away from my house, on Richmond Road, in the neighborhood that contains Henry Clay’s house (see my message from October 26, 2007), is the Idle Hour shopping center. When I first moved into town, there was a Walgreen’s on one end of the shopping center; now it’s on the other end, next to a Fazoli’s. I did not pay attention to the construction going on where the Walgreen’s used to be, until a friend pointed out it looks like a mosque. Earlier this week I went for a look, and sure enough, it is a mosque! The gold dome, the arch in front of it, and the octagonal window to the side are all giveaways. All that is missing is the minaret, and judging from the mosques I saw in Florida, that is considered optional in America.
When I was younger, this would not be much cause for alarm. After all, I know of another mosque on the other side of town, called Masjid Bilal, and its congregation may simply be moving into a larger facility. You could compare the mosques with the Bharatiya Hindu temple just outside of town (see below). That place also has a gold dome; it opened right about the time I moved into Kentucky. Because it is located halfway between my home and former workplace, I drove past it almost every day for four years.
Though I am not a Hindu, and I have heard about Hindus persecuting Christians in India (see my message from September 14, 2008), I never saw the Hindu temple as a threat. Why? Because Sri Lanka is the only country where Hindus strapped on explosives and blew themselves up in a crowd, and with the Tamil Tigers out of business, they don’t even do it there anymore. Moslems, on the other hand, have gotten a reputation in recent years for being incredibly thin-skinned, rioting at the slightest offense (Danish cartoons, teddy bears named Mohammed, the Burger King ice cream logo, etc.). They just don’t play well with people of other religious persuasions. The current situation in the Middle East and North Africa, with our embassies under attack and four diplomats dead, is one of the worst examples, but by no means the first.
For three days I have been planning to write something about the current unrest, and regular readers have probably expected to see something from me on the subject. Collecting my thoughts has been a challenge, though, what with the headlines changing so quickly. That’s why yesterday’s message was so short; I was planning then to write what you’re reading now. So with no further delay, here are my observations:
1. Supposedly a movie that shows Mohammed in a bad light, produced by Coptic Christians in California, is what started this whole mess. That may be the excuse, but it’s not very convincing. First, the movie is not a major Hollywood production; heck, if it wasn’t for the YouTube videos, nobody would have heard about it before the riots started. Second, we know now that Islamic extremists were planning some sort of demonstration to mark the anniversary of September 11. Third, while we may deplore what Coptic Christians did, their action is understandable, with the recent stories of Coptics being persecuted, even crucified, in Egypt. You may remember we had a Coptic lady named Illaria living with us last spring; I’m sure she is glad to be in America right now.
2. People who are insecure about their god respond to attacks, both real and perceived, with violence. You could say they follow an inferior god. People who are secure about their beliefs only fight others intellectually, not physically. We had an example in the Old Testament, when Gideon tore down an idol of Baal to set up an altar to God (Judges 6:25-32):
That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.
Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”
So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.
In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!
They asked each other, “Who did this?” When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”
The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”
But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.”
So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal that day, saying, “Let Baal contend with him.”
We had a more recent example in 2006, when the pope quoted Manuel II, the second-to-the-last Byzantine emperor, and Moslems were all upset over it. In case you don’t remember it, here is a video explaining that controversy:
And here is what the emperor would probably say if he was alive today:
Along that line, I ask the demonstrators: do you really believe Allah needs your help to fight his enemies? Let Allah judge the producers of that movie, if he is the One True God.
3. Moderate Moslems are finally speaking out against the senseless violence that is giving them a bad name. This is definitely a good sign; for most of the past eleven years the moderates were so quiet, that folks like me wondered if they even existed. This week Neal Boortz had an Egyptian-born caller named Muhammad on his talk show, who gave a moving message about how ashamed he is of his own people, and how much he appreciates living in a country that allows freedom of religion. You can hear the call here. And yesterday I learned about a counter-demonstration by Libyans who like the United States, where they held up banners saying things like “Sorry people of America, this is not the behavior of our Islam and Prophet.” We need more evidence that not everyone in the Middle East agrees with the troublemakers.
4. Our government’s response is to act like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. If there ever was anything to remind Americans of the failed Carter presidency from 32 years back, this is it. President Obama did eventually denounce those who attacked the embassies, killed our diplomats and tore down the US flag, but you know that wasn’t his first instinct, because of what he and the State Department did first: they criticized the filmmakers, apologized for offending anybody, and claimed the protesters were not really demonstrating against the United States. My goodness, there once was a time when attacking an embassy and/or a diplomat was seen as an act of war. For crying out loud, the French conquered Algeria in 1830 because that country’s ruler hit the French ambassador with a fly swatter!
In addition to that, we have heard that the marines guarding the embassies were not allowed to carry loaded weapons, and that Obama turned down another chance to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu, because he was too busy fundraising in Las Vegas. He did have time to appear on David Letterman’s show though; I guess he thinks Letterman is a Jewish leader, too. As for the media’s response, it chose to attack Mitt Romney for criticizing the president, rather than the demonstrators or our bumbling federal government.
Mark Twain once said that history doesn’t repeat itself but it sure rhymes a lot. I am reminded of this 1978 cartoon from Herbert Block (“Herblock”), which made fun of Jimmy’s Carter’s foreign policy. Replace Jimmy Carter with Barack Obama, and the cartoon would be just as relevant today.