If there’s one discernable assumption among the American public in our post-Sept. 11 world, it’s this: The Muslims of the world are wild-eyed, fanatical beasts bent on destroying everything we hold dear, while America’s religious life is a beacon of clear-headed reason.
Um, really? During a procession of the cross last Good Friday, some of Salt Lake City’s Catholics and other Christians got a dose of wild-eyed protest by the same lot of evangelical poseurs who protested in front of LDS Church members during last conference. Using the old phraseology of Protestant bigotry from ages past, they expressed a beef or two about “The Whore of Babylon,” i.e., the Roman Catholic Church. Incidentally, that’s the same language the LDS Church directed against Catholics decades ago, until it, too, admitted the error of its ways. Funny how fanaticism makes its rounds.
Where will these evangelical losers strike next? The local mosque? Sounds likely. The local synagogue? In a way, it would be nice to see them try. That way, they will have finally exhausted every last reservoir of sympathy. Don’t blame the ACLU for letting these pathetic figures lay claim to the Church Plaza. Least of all, don’t blame the First Amendment. When people like this have a full, free forum to express their ideas, it exposes a cancer deep in the heart of American religious life we’d all do well to avoid. In a perverse way, they teach by their bad example. A popular tale among Muslims goes something like this: When a man approached the famed eighth-century Muslim cleric Hasan al-Basri for a religious debate, Hasan replied, “I know my religion. If you’ve lost yours, go and look for it.”
& ull; Along the same theme, consider our nation’s own wild-eyed Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham. Billy obviously ditched history class when he called his ministry a “Crusade.” Among Muslims, that word is even more loaded than “jihad” is to Western ears. Then Billy stepped into a tar pit of his own making after privately confiding to President Richard Nixon that he, too, had a problem with the “Jewish media.” That’s nothing compared to little Franklin who, on one hand, calls Islam a “very wicked and evil religion” and, on the other, uses blessings at the Pentagon to launch missionary work in war-torn Iraq. Forget “shock and awe.” How about “Bomb ’Em and Convert ’Em!”
& ull; Also last week, our Sen. Orrin Hatch equivocated all over the place when answering questions about rampant polygamy in Southern Utah. He couldn’t justify the practice. But even though it’s against state law, he couldn’t condemn it, either. In fact, he knows polygamists “who are very fine people.” Except for the fact that they’re breaking the law, you know.
& ull; Granted, the Muslim world—and the Arab world in particular—has more than its share of fanatics. But a lot of those tendencies have been cultivated by centuries of invasions, colonialism and more than a little American support for the region’s brutal dictators. More often than not, those dictators haven’t been kind to Muslims. We can gloat over jubilant Shiite Iraqis grateful to see Saddam gone, but we turned a blind eye to their sufferings for many long years while Saddam waged war on our bitter Islamist enemies, the Iranians. Give a cloistered plant a little sun and it will return to growth with a vengeance.
But religious fanaticism at home? Wild-eyed preachers howling about the one, true religion? Polygamy and child brides thriving in Utah? We do quite well on our own without interference from others, thank you very much.