I have been a bit of traveling. In the last two weeks I have given talks in San Antonio, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Washington, DC; and New York City. I spoke, as it happens, to two Christian and two Jewish groups. And the one question I received from each of these groups most often was: Well, what you’re saying is true, but all religions have their extremists, don’t they? Every religion has inspired violence, hasn’t it?
Of course there have been violent people acting in the name of every religion. But the idea that all religions are equal in their capacity to inspire violence is not only false but misleading: it encourages the arrant nonsense that crops up fairly often in the comments section here, and which I encountered with particular virulence from two self-assured young activists in New York (more on that later, as it was a meeting that showed with particular clarity the danger of some common errors of the zeitgeist): the idea that Jerry Falwell is as much or more of a threat to Western notions of freedom and human rights as is bin Laden or Zarqawi.
For a long time I have thought of this as merely paranoid silliness, so patently absurd that it need not be addressed in depth. But more and more I see this is a principal obstacle to our resistance to the genuine jihad threat: it diverts attention, it diverts energy, and it clouds the issue at hand. For ultimately the point of dredging up the Crusades and Falwell is to suggest that Osama and the jihad are phenomena that are just going to crop up in religions (you know how those people are, not clever and sophisticated like us), and there is nothing we can do about that, so let’s work through education and economic aid to eradicate the “resentment” that “fundamentalism” feeds off. That’s fine, except that the Islamic jihad is not going to be diverted by education or economic aid: it is an ideological construct based on core Islamic principles — principles which are unique to Islam. If attention is not directed to those principles and the role they play in motivating and abetting violence against innocents, that violence will continue, no matter how much money and schooling is thrown at the problem. We saw how the jihadists exploited tsunami relief to harangue people in Aceh into stricter Islamic observance. We see how the schools in Pakistan are veritable mujahid factories. Nattering about Jerry Falwell and Christian Reconstructionism only diverts us from these and other salient facts.
So here fate and the morning news have sent us a test case: the Dutch bishops are protesting what is clearly a blasphemous TV show from a Christian standpoint. The analogy between the Qur’an desecrations and this show is exact. So sit back and wait for the Christian riots and murders of innocents. And when they do not happen, as they certainly will not, have the courage to examine whether or not this may be because there is something about Islam that is different from Christianity and every other religion — and Muslims and non-Muslims alike must acknowledge that forthrightly and deal with it honestly, or its ill effects will continue to play out.
“Dutch bishops protest TV program showing Jesus on a leash,” from The Universe, with thanks to Mrs. Obelix:
The Dutch bishops have asked a TV station to stop broadcasting a series that shows Jesus on a leash being walked like a dog.
In the program, “God Does Not Exist,” six scientists explain why they feel it does not make sense to believe in God.
But the bishops said their criticism was not aimed at the scientists’ views; rather it was the absurdist clips woven throughout the show in which Jesus acts like a dog and a naked African woman is seen hanging from a cross.
The bishops, in a joint statement with the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, said the program “insults and provokes many people, especially religious people, and is a negative contribution to the important debate in Dutch society among believers and nonbelievers.”
The show’s producers said they are offering nonbelievers a forum to explain their views….
A spokesman for the Dutch bishops’ conference said it was “hard to believe” that the TV station did not intend to offend anyone.
“They say they want to clarify the position of nonbelievers, but they do so at the cost of the things that are holy and precious for believers,” Jan-Willem Wits told Catholic News Service.
“We endorse the freedom of speech, but this freedom has its boundaries and must be in service of the dialogue and better understanding of people,” he said.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has called the program “disgusting.”
Muntz and van de Wint have a reputation for being provocative. In 2000, they were fired by another broadcasting company after Muntz walked around a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood in Vienna, Austria, dressed up as Adolf Hitler.
Oh, these are lovely fellows.