By the way, guys, I tracked you back and it seems not to be working. Other bloggers hither and yon are getting out the word on Abdul Rahman, the Afghani in peril of execution for becoming Christian.
The West is not to blame for this - at least, not in the sense that we're the ones holding Rahman in a cell, trying to decide whether he is fit to be killed or just crazy for leaving Islam. Luckily some people are doing all that can be done. I will be calling myself. But outside the blogworld I see a lot of blasé about it all.
Try to follow me here.
I was angered when some fool decided to dunk a crucifix in a pot of piss and call it art - and used my money to pay for it all. It was meant as an insult and taken as an insult. But that is not persecution. Nobody was killed or jailed. Now we have the real thing. It deserves a stronger response from the civilized world, and yet all I hear (officially) is a nancy-boy Official Statement about "respecting personal freedom" and "raising the case" with the proper authorities.
In other words, we are so caught up with our own little niceties that we are missing the big picture. We can't storm the jail and free him by force - but why can't we openly condemn this act? Why can't the President say, "We didn't pound on the Taliban so you could act just like them." The blogworld is up in arms, and thank God, but where are the self-approved social bellweathers?
Susan Sarandon is arm-in-arm with Cindy Sheehan, and will shortly be portraying her on-screen. George Clooney is bravely accepting awards for opposing Joseph McCarthy, who's been dead nearly fifty years. I bring them up not to have a go at Hollywood-bashing but to raise a point - the real red-letter moment in Edward Murrow's campaign against McCarthy wasn't that a dangerous fascist was finally brought to account. In fact, McCarthy's accusations have turned out to be accurate, and the Soviet Union really HAD infiltrated many levels of the US Government. Murrow, however, succeeded in making the image the message. McCarthy was also a demagogue and a bully - at least, the parts of him that Murrow and CBS chose to exhibit. Because of this, his warnings were discredited as well.
By and large, the West has fallen for image over substance ever since. So, when the Piss Christ and the Danish cartoons are set side-by-side, there is a certain parallel appearance, so the media stop there - but the Christian reaction to the one is peaceful protest, and the Muslim reaction to the other is rioting and pillaging. This suggests that the Piss Christ is a lot less accurate than the Mohammed Bomb Turban; it also suggests that the surface similarity ends the instant anyone tries to find supporting evidence.
But that brings us back, full circle, to the tepid protest from our government. We are, quite simply, afraid that this will be another Cartoon Moment, and that a strong protest will get Muslims tossing rocks and decrying the new Crusade descending on their shores. We are so afraid of it, in fact, that we go out of our way to fail to mention certain inconvenient truths. Ironically, let's let a blogger named Crusader drop the clue: He quotes an article where a neighbor of Rahman's describes why he was turned in.
"For 30 years, we have fought religious wars in this country and there is no way we are going to allow an Afghan to insult us by becoming Christian," said Mohammed Jan, 38, who lives opposite Rahman's father, Abdul Manan, in Kabul. "This has brought so much shame."
This guy neglects to notice that it was his side launching those wars, and is more insulted by the conversion than he is by the great swaths of fellow Muslims who endorse or carry out murders, honor rapes and killings, tyrannies, ethnic warfare, and too many other brutalities to mention. Meanwhile, the man who has done this "shameful" thing has also left behind all the things in the current Muslim world that pass for virtue, things they don't bother hiding.
Only a willfully blind society could hear the open declaration of hostility and the stated motives and yet bend over backwards to deny both the motive and the hostility. Why else wouldn't you believe the chants, the deeds, and the open declarations? Maybe people think we're being nice about it, trying to prove our tolerance and fairness. In doing so, we prove that we aren't fair at all, since we're not willing to stand up for fair treatment of ourselves.
But in the long run, honesty is much less insulting. This inability to admit what we see every day says that we don't take the enemy seriously - that we don't even take them seriously enough to use the word "enemy." On some level we watch the demonstrations and burning cars and intifada and say, "Isn't that cute? They're being international!" Then we set them up at a kiddie card table in the UN and treat them with a legitimacy they value only as a strategic asset in their continuing aggressions.
In effect, we're doing to them what was done to McCarthy - we miss the substance of what is said because we're distracted by non-essentials. We're trying to appear equal instead of working toward actual equality.
An open condemnation of religious persecution would say that we think of the new Afghanistan as a liberated country of adults who can handle a little criticism maturely. Ironically, they're the ones dealing with us as adults - "We want to kill you and make our religion pre-eminent on Earth, by force" - and we are too childish to admit it.
double update - March 23, 1:12 pm - from MSNBC (w/t to the Coalition): Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity should be killed regardless of whether a court decides to free him.
... "He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian," said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.
... "He is not mad. The government are playing games. The people will not be fooled," said Abdul Raoulf, cleric at Herati Mosque. "This is humiliating for Islam. ... Cut off his head."
Raoulf is considered a moderate cleric in Afghanistan.
So? Are we going to call them on this barbarity, or keep our fingers in our ears?