We Fear You!

by Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover) Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover Translations by Google Translate(R)[This piece was originally written for and will be published on another venue and a primarily Muslim audience.]

Many Muslims are bitter about the attitudes of people in the West toward their culture and Islam in general.  This bitterness is both justified and not, but in this post I will be discussing ways to change the status quo.

The simple reason non-Muslims have these attitudes is this: We Fear You!  Who can blame us after nearly 20 years of harangue from our right-wing media and press about the Muslim World? By my very rough estimates, the Muslim haters in our World have had over $1 Trillion worth of free publicity, with very little response from Muslims.  As I have previously noted, the Rev.(?) Terry Jones alone got over $100 Million worth of free publicity for his nearly bankrupt church, with practically no rational counterpoint from Muslims.  The publicity given to Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, after a 10-day silence to the controversy over the Park51 Community Center caused by his travel, was pale compared to the daily harangues from the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Of course, there is a lot of discourse within the Muslim community.  I see daily e-mails zinging around the e-mail sphere from organizations like CAIR and ADC, but their spokespeople are very rarely given sound bites on national television in the United States.  My point is, and I would shout this in your ears if I could, you are talking to your selves!  The Muslim community in the United States has pretty much missed how we resolve these problems.  Yours is not the first ethnic and/or religious community to suffer intolerance here.  Many others have survived the cauldron of public discussion and debate, and come out stronger for it.  They have added to “What It Means to Be an American” in the process.  I suppose a few of these could be mentioned here: the Blacks, Jews, English (New York was a Dutch settlement, and my ancestors fought 3 wars against the British), Irish, Chinese, Germans, Japanese, Mennonites, Catholics, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Cambodians, etc.  There are literally more than 500 of these groups, some more prominent than others.  All were or still are feared at one level or another, but most are a part of the fabric of our society now, and all, including Muslims, will embellish their roles in the American Dream as time progresses.  Sometimes these changes take centuries.

This will continue to be one of my major themes in these pieces, but please consider one model for success.  Blacks in America did many important things to change their ever-improving place in the United States, but I will mention two for context:  1) The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a non-violent rebellion against our intolerance and won the Nobel Peace Prize in the process.  Today we celebrate a National Holiday to commemorate his contribution to our society.  2) Black artists got themselves into the mainstream of “What It Means to Be an American” any way they could, and demonstrated that they too, as well as their culture, were entitled to be respected as human beings.  One example was the CBS television program “The Jeffersons,” which was produced for 11 seasons with 253 episodes and 11 Emmy Awards.  Ironically, the show was created and produced by Norman Lear, a white American Jew, who founded People for the American Way during his long and illustrious career.

Honestly, I will be the first to admit that I was viscerally fearful from the time that Cassius Clay, one of my childhood heroes, became Muhammad Ali.    Islam seemed so strange and mysterious, and no one was explaining it to me in a sensible manner.  In fact, no one ever did until long after my own study and life experiences allowed me to see something that approaches the truth about the Muslim World.  Most of my fellow Americans, and Europeans, have never had those opportunities.   You must forgive our fear, until you teach us why it is wrong.  That is The American Way!

Posted in 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, American Politics, Ethics in Journalism, Ethics in Religion, Freedom of Speech, Islam & the West, Muslim Opinion of the West, Politics, Republican, Right Wing, Tea Party, Western Opinion of Islam | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Equality for Arab Women

Equality for Arab Women

The following televised debate took place on an Arab television station on June 1, 2005.  It demonstrates how things are changing in the Muslim World, and how Muslims themselves must find ways to make their own changes.  I here provide you with links to the various segments of this debate, carried on YouTube®, leaving comment to you.  I have provided here only a few interesting quotes from each segment.  If you have time to listen to only one of these, listen to Dr. Tareq Mohammed Al Suwaidan speaking passionately about what is wrong and must be changed in Part 6.

I particularly urge my readers from the United States and Europe to look at these segments.  You may be surprised about what you see here!

BBC Doha Debates, Sponsored by the Qatar Foundation:  June 1, 2005

The proposition for this debate was:

“Arab women should have full equality with men.”

Episode 7 Part 1:

Toujan Faisal, 1st woman elected to the Jordanian Parliament, speaking of an understanding between the “great powers” and Arab leaders:   “They don’t want us democratized.  How can you empower women when the whole nation is not empowered; when men themselves cannot have a saying in their own lively issues….  Women are the Trojan Horse through which Western influence can be achieved.”

Episode 7 Part 2:

Sheik Jihad Brown, Muslim scholar born in the U.S.:  “Blurring of culture with religion…. Equality is not the term we use.    It’s not our discourse.  This is not how we discuss the relationship between a man and a woman.  Equality is a term, a construct; it’s an idea.  It’s not a natural human right that every human being was born with … It’s a philosophical concept that comes out of the 18th Century French Revolution.”

Episode 7 Part 3:

“We need women training.”

“Give me the right to choose.”

Episode 7 Part 4:

“We need to find our own solutions.”

Khola Hasan, Author and Lecturer:  “Women are fighting femininity in the West.”

Episode 7 Part 5:

Western “obsession with emancipation” has destroyed family values.

Episode 7 Part 6:

“We can have equal rights by law, but I don’t think it should be imposed on women … “

Dr. Tariq Mohammed Al Suwaidan, Presenter on Islamic Television Programs and Supervisor of Engineering at the Ministry of Oil in Kuwait:

“There are girls here in the Middle East that are forced into marriages, this is wrong!  It’s Islamically wrong; it’s wrong in every aspect.  It is happening.  We need laws to protect women from that!  There are men who are marrying a second wife for no reason.  This is wrong!  We need laws to protect women from that!  There are women whose inheritance is taken away, and there are no laws to protect them.  This is wrong!  The whole society should stand against this …  When we give women the right to choose, I hope they don’t choose to be like men!  Because most men are worthless!  Unfortunately.” [Applause]

Episode 7 Part 7:

Dr. Al Suwaidan:  “Freedom is not given, it is taken!”

Posted in Arab Women, Ethics in Religion, Freedom of Speech, Islam & the West, Koran, Muslim Women, Politics, Women's Rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

America’s Right-Wing Fringe (Tea Party and Far Right Wing): Part 1

America’s Right-Wing Fringe (Tea Party and Far Right Wing): Part 1

by Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover) Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover

It is silly season in American politics, so we have to hear endless harangues by America’s right-wingers about their unsupportable claims about practically everything.  This is because our TV networks feel somehow compelled to give them equal time to speak, even though they don’t speak for all that many Americans.

The Tea Party Movement is a prime example.  They believe in the 10 main points of the so-called “Contract from America.”  Notice the subtle use of the word “from” rather than “for” or “with,” since the citizens with lesser incomes are exactly the people their policies will be “from.”

Here is my commentary on their 10 points:

1.  They want a “single rate tax system.”  That would be something like Social Security in the United States, I suppose.  Americans pay 6.2% of their taxable income to Social Security up to $106,800, and their employers pay a matching sum.  Who does this benefit?  Well, let’s see:  If I earn less than the $106,800, I pay 6.2%.  If I earned  much more, let’s say $250,000, I would be paying 2.64% , of my income.  If I earned $1 million for the year, I would be paying 0.6 % of my income in taxes.  That’s fair, isn’t it!  Let’s make the very wealthy pay almost nothing in taxes, while the rest of us have to pay 6.2%.  This is a movement I could join, if I earned over $106,800, which I don’t, thanks to the venal and corrupt behaviors of the Wall Street fat cats, who paid themselves $100 million bonuses, rather than leave that money for their stockholders!  Who needs that much money for income?  How many yachts can you buy, or at least use?

It’s the rich folks and the American right wing who keep telling us that we won’t have enough to cover Social Security when we get older, because of the post-World War II “Baby Boom,” but that is ridiculous.  First of all, when the “Baby Boom” came along, the population of the United States was 150.7 million, according the the U.S. Census 1950.  It was 280.4 million in the 2000 U.S. Census.  Everyone believes it is approaching 310 million for the 2010 U.S. Census, which is not yet published.  The point of this is that, while there were a lot of people born during that  “Baby Boom” generation,  there are the Social Security taxes of almost twice as many people to cover these “strains” on Social Security in the out years.

I want to know who these opinion leaders are, who are using smoke and mirrors to convince those of us with incomes under $106,800 that they should not be taxed.  One article I read said if we raised the tax up to the first $150,000, 60% of the problem would be solved.  What if we made it on all of one’s income?  That wouldn’t hurt anyone with incomes under $106,800, but it would be a mosquito bite to the fat cats!  They’ve gotten the Democrats in the Senate totally off balance, because they have lower income Americans thinking its their taxes that will be raised, when the fact is that it’s the rich folks, who had the tax cut that caused a 3X increase in our national debt during the Bush years, who are actually going to be affected.

It turns out that I have more to say about this than I thought, and I’m only on point #1 of 10, and that’s just in the “Contract from America.”  I’m going to call this Part 1, and give the people who are convinced of this ideology a chance to talk in the comments below.  Bring it on!

Posted in American Politics, Baby Boom, Census, Contract from America, Democrat, Ethics in Journalism, Freedom of Speech, Politics, Republican, Right Wing, Social Security, Tea Party, World War II | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Dear Clara (@ Women’s Rights in Islam and the West)

Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover, Translations by Google Translate (R)

Arabic * Urdu * Malay * Turkish

The following piece was first written in response to my piece “What do you Expect?”, but I felt the issues Clara raised were important enough to carry them as a primary entry here:

I certainly sympathize with your point about not being subjugated.  My point in part is that subjugation and abuse of women is a worldwide problem and phenomenon.  Many US divorces are brought on by this.  In my opinion, Muslim women also do not want to be subjugated, and they are now seeing that women outside the Muslim World are standing up for their rights.  This information dissemination cannot be stopped.  As this process happens, Muslim women will naturally stand up for their own rights, and the nature of Islam itself will change.  But this will take much courage and a very long time.  Just consider the fact that American women since Carrie Nation and Susan B. Anthony have been standing up for women’s rights for 150 years, yet we still have huge inequalities in our society too.  Shamefully, our politicians could not even pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  As I have three daughters, and for many other reasons, I do want to see that effort revived, and I want to see the venal politicos have to come up with their lame reasons why it should not be passed once again.  They will sound sillier and sillier as time goes on.

As with the heroine in Lysistrata, I believe one day Muslim women will stop wearing their abayas on the same day, and simply begin to drive.  That will take great courage on their part, but there is certainly a movement afoot for significant changes.  And the men know these changes are coming, and are trying to sensitize the population that things will change.  From your point of view and mine, this will take too long, but in the greater sweep of history, it will be a microsecond.

I agree with you on some parts of your points about  Rev. (?) Terry Jones.  But there is a problem, and it is a central part of my reason for starting blogging again.  I published a book on this entitled Tsunami of Blood in 2007.  Yes, in general principle Rev.(?) Jones does have the Right to burn Korans in the USA.  But, we also have laws against incitement to riot.  He intentionally did a stunt designed to piss off a lot of people in the Muslim World, and he got $100 million or more in free publicity out of it.  But, he should have known that if he did it as planned, he would get hundreds or thousands of people killed in riots all over the World.  We know that from the experience with the Danish cartoonist, who got more than 1,000 people killed, but was recently honored by Angela Merkel for his stand for Press Freedom.  What are these people thinking?    This is why the President had to step into the Rev.(?) Jones case, partially because of the atrocious judgment of the media in publicizing this man’s threat, and partially because of the consequences that could be expected if he proceeded.  I had a Muslim friend, who lives near the border of Malaysia and Burma, tell me of fears of the consequences if this threat were carried out in that region so remote from the Florida congregation of Rev.(?) Jones.

Whether or not people in the West feel Muslims are too sensitive about these issues is not the point.  The point is that we live in the real World where these consequences are known and very real.  In that context, it is incitement, in my opinion, to raise such a flap.  And it is unethical for the news media, knowing this, to give them a megaphone to be heard around the World.

One of my objectives in this blog is to point out to our political establishment on all sides that, in order to find an end to this age of violence, we are going to have to be more sensible about our interaction with Islam.  I am planning another piece shortly in which I will be pointing out that Muslims know that they have many internal problems, and are frank about these in their internal discussions, but they are distracted from solving them and changing their societies from within when they have a perceived threat from outside.  Making one’s people ignore their own problems and focus on threats from outsiders is a classic political ploy, that is mentioned in literature dating back to Thucydides in his The History of the Peloponnesian War, around 431 B.C.E.  Sometimes it is justified, as when Germany and Japan tried to conquer the World, but, when it’s used by venal politicians in the United States to get people to ignore the fact that we are practically in a depression because of our international adventurism, it is not justified.  All I’m trying to do is shine a light on these facts!

Clara:  Your second to last paragraph is … I can’t even find words to describe it.  You obviously have not hung out with many Christian fundamentalists and “born again” Christians.  They have insinuated themselves into my family in regrettable ways that are extremely divisive.  They DO swear that every word in the Bible is true as the infallible “word of god,” despite its internal inconsistencies and declared genocide in several cases, and despite the fact that scientific research has now explained many of the phenomena that were witnessed by these ancient and ignorant peoples as “acts of god.”

My mother-in-law was told by her “born again” sister that she was sorry that she won’t be seeing my mother-in-law in heaven, because she is not one of the “chosen ones.”  Yikes!  My mother-in-law’s comment, when I mentioned this to her last night was, “It’s not for me to judge.”   I retorted, “Yes, it is!”  Modern human beings do not have to stand for such divisive behavior from their religions.  What does it accomplish except existential threats to mankind itself?

My daughter, after a lovely evening, just the two of us, on her 22nd birthday, told me as the very last thing she said that night, “Dad, I’m sorry, but I think you’re going to hell.”  If Mephistopheles himself had plopped down in the seat next to me on my ride home, I would have gladly signed the Faustian bargain if only none of my daughters would think that of me in their lifetimes.  What a divisive and horrible thing to teach young people to say in their youth, to anyone let alone members of their immediate family.  And those are Christians!  I could expound further, but I’ll save it for another occasion.

Let my emphasize to you that I VERY MUCH appreciate your bringing these issues out in your responses.  I do not expect everyone to agree with the things I say.  I do believe that if people of good will have open discussions about these issues they harbor in their hearts, we might just have a chance of saving the human race from self-destruction.  I do know these blogs are influential.  When I was writing Tsunami of Blood online in 2006-07, I once heard President Bush use an analysis I had put forward only 3 days before.  I have reason to believe that he got it from my blog, through a channel I will not disclose here.

Please DO continue to comment on my blog, and continue this discussion here as time permits!

Best regards, Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover)

Posted in Bible, Catholic Church, Christian Fundamentalism, Ethics in Journalism, Ethics in Religion, Freedom of Speech, Islam & the West, Muslim Opinion of the West, Pope Benedict, Priest Pedophilia, Western Opinion of Islam, Women's Rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Pregnant Nun Provides Big Dividends! (Gaming the Media!)

by Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover) Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover

Arabic * Chinese * Hindi * JapaneseMalay * Turkish * Urdu

I never heard of Antonio Federici until a few minutes ago.  Apparently it is a kind of ice cream in Italy.  CNN reported today that the “Advertising Standards Authority” [“ASA”] of the United Kingdom has banned an advertisement depicting a pregnant nun as “offensive.”  What a laugh!  Read some of the hundreds of comments beneath the story.  What the ASA did was absolutely guarantee that anyone with a computer will see or hear about the advertisement within this 24-hour news cycle.  Reports of the advertisement are already on YouTube® and will be the subject of this and many other blogs by this evening.  I’m sure anyone with half of brain will be able to Google® it and see the advertisement on their desktop.

So what does this prove?  It proves what a fool’s errand it is to try to ban any information in this World.  The advertisement will be debated and fussed about all over the World until the next attention getter hits the news cycle, but Antonio Federici got PR buzz far beyond its wildest dreams.  One can imagine that among the members of the UK Advertising Standards Authority there must be some members of the Church of England, who are simply continuing the 400-year-old struggle between the Catholic Church and the descendants of Henry VIII.  By banning the advertisement they assured that practically everyone in the World sees or hears about it.  Antonio Federici probably never imagined that simply by preparing a slightly amusing and sacrilegious print advertisement on a limited budget, they would receive over $100 million worth of free PR, but that’s what they have done.

This will cause debates and sermons all over the World about all manner of issues related to the Catholic Church, as well as the ethics of advertising.  But it also makes me want to try Antonio Federici Ice Cream!  This is a round-a-bout way of showing the implications of our Freedom of Speech.    Larry King interviewed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on the topic of burning Korans, and received an instructive response.  It illustrates the power of issues being aired and debated, and finally resolved.  As I have said many times, the fundamental reason the United States is the envy of the World and the destination of choice for beleaguered peoples wherever they may be is because in these debates the good ideas survive and are adopted by all—and this is now becoming a Global phenomenon.  Take Starbuck’s Coffee for example.  Despite the known political leanings of the founder of Starbuck’s, its franchises can be found all over the Muslim World.  I know one large building where there are four Starbuck’s shops on the premises.   Bad ideas, like burning Korans or using a certain offensive word in America, are hammered out of the system.  I consider this analogous to the process of tempering steel.  The impurities are hammered out of the steel to make it stronger!  Who is afraid of honest debate?

What do you think?  Comment below please!

Posted in 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Catholic Church, Ethics in Advertising, Ethics in Journalism, Freedom of Speech, Islam & the West, Koran, Muslim Opinion of the West, Women's Rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Victory for Islam!” (Criticizing Rhetoric of Muslims)

by Skip Conover Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover  (Twitter: @skip_conover)

Arabic ~ UrduMalayTurkish (All translations produced by Google Translate (R))

It’s time to dial down the rhetoric on both sides of the confrontation between Islam and the West.  All of us may think negative things about other people, but our public face is different.  This is common in the human experience.   We all must be careful about how we say or write things, so as not to cause unintended consequences.

Last week Rev.(?) Terry Jones nearly caused Armageddon by threatening to burn the Koran.  He was quickly silenced and stopped by leaders all over the World: Muslims, Christians, and millions of others concerned with bringing the World to an Age of Peace.  That’s why I was startled when I read an Arabic comment that called it a “Victory for Islam!”  I quickly retorted,  “You mean a ‘Victory for Civilization’ don’t you?”

Google Translate® is a game changer!  In that moment I realized that it will cause a major change in the discourse between Islam and the West.  This is, of course, from my point of view, being a native English speaker, who does not speak, read or write Arabic.

Until now, the rest of the World has had relatively total visibility on our discourse in the West, because many people read English as a second language.  As a  result, when some “crazy” like Terry Jones decides to raise money for his church by committing blasphemy everyone in the World hears about it in every language in the World.

The same has not been true in the other direction.  Though I speak and read two Asian languages, Japanese and Chinese, I rarely look at anything in those languages.  I know I would have to spend hours with my dictionary.  That problem is now solved!  In the last few days, I have translated this blog into Arabic, Urdu, Malay, and Turkish.  I would use Farsi as well, but that is not one of the 57 languages that allow this instant approach.  No, the translations are not always perfect, but they are certainly far better than I could achieve using my dictionary, even if I had a Ph.D. in the relevant target language.

The implications of this “Aha!” moment are both good and bad.  I have known that much of the discourse in the Muslim World has been relatively inflammatory toward the West.  This is true of both blogs and newspapers, to name only two sources of information.  Nonetheless, Muslims have essentially not been called on their rhetoric because few of us could read it.  That is all changed now, for better or worse.

My wife suggested that I not write this piece, for fear I will be blamed for lighting off a storm of criticism of Muslim discourse from the West.  My view is that the storm is coming, so I might as well offer a warning to my many Muslim friends, so that they can start to temper their rhetoric, both in their own homes, and in the media at large.

I have always regarded Arab News as an instrument of moderation and fair reporting.  I thought its editorial of September 11, 2010, “A threat to us all,” was quite sensible, as usual.  Its online version received an immediate comment, however.  One N. Frank commented as follows:  “… instead of speaking the language of PEACE, instead of speaking about reconciliation, instead of thanking and appreciating all those responsible for defusing this explosive situation, instead of advising those Muslims, who are still protesting, ignorant of the end of this problem, who ever wrote the editorial is bent upon creating a war between the Muslims and the non Muslims, specially the christians. I pray to Allah to give you the wisdom to speak of peace instead of war.” I am sure “speaking of war”  was not the intent of the author of the editorial, but nonetheless, nerves are frayed and too many of us are wearing our religion on our sleeves.

Such comments can cause writers to reexamine their approach to a story or editorial, and perhaps use a different approach the next time.  I regard that as quite positive, and an appropriate part of the process of having common understanding.  It is the very essence of our 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which causes a noisy and messy discourse in the United States, but has produced a very strong country, like tempering steel—the process of pounding out the imperfections.   I am sure the editor was not offended by the comment.

I am sure I need not go into vivid detail about how positive criticism can easily devolve into something far worse.  This was my wife’s immediate intuition and concern.

I call on everyone who can read this to take greater pains in how you say and write things, wherever you are in the World.  The World may be listening and watching for insult.

Posted in Islam & the West, Muslim Opinion of the West, Western Opinion of Islam | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

What Do You Expect? (Criticizing Reticence of Muslims)

by Skip Conover~Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover)

Arabic

Essentially all of my Muslim friends are cynical about the prospects of attitudes towards Islam changing in the West, as well they should be!  Today, when I shared my views about Rev.? Terry Jones, one acquaintance responded by simply sending this link, with no comment.   I infer that he is saying to me that I am on a fool’s errand, because I’m up against western politicians.  After reading the article I ask,  “What do you expect?”  Rupert Murdoch and his ilk have been allowed to present $100s of Billions of dollars of free PR to Muslim haters with no counterpoint from the Muslim world.  I have suggested to my influential Muslim friends that they acquire media outlets in the West, just as Murdoch has done, to present a more balanced view of the Muslim world, but almost without a response.  Al Jazeera English is barely noticed at all in the USA.  They have a bureau in Washington, but it is almost impossible to find, and its product is only beamed to the rest of the world.  I know of no place that anyone can subscribe to it as a cable channel in the U.S. market.  They will tell you that you can get it over the Internet, but I know of few people that would do that, including me.

My perception is that my Muslim friends think a more balanced view of the Muslim World will come from immaculate conception.  They are happy to leave the heavy lifting to a handful of Muslim spokesmen, me, and Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf (a *Sufi* cleric, apparently). We know what’s right is right, and we will do what we can I suppose, but if minds are going to be changed about Islam in the West, it will take a countervailing effort to balance Murdoch, Glenn Beck, and the likes of them.  That will take a concerted effort and a huge pile of money.  Until that happens, nothing will change.  I would be happy to work on such a project with anyone, but honestly, my efforts to date have fallen on deaf ears.

I want none of my Muslim friends to come to me with hurt demeanor and whine that the West does not understand that Muslims believe in living in Peace until the same amount of PR value as Murdoch has spent, well over a Trillion dollar’s worth I feel certain, is invested in countervailing PR.  My Saudi acquaintance seemed afraid to even say that he thinks Angela Merkel was wrong.  He just gave me the link and expects me to intuit the offense he takes from it and act to soothe his emotions.  Yes, I will, but I cannot change the attitudes of most Americans, according to CNN today 70% believe that Islam is bent on world domination.   Unless some Muslim, or a group from the Muslim world, is prepared to counterbalance Rupert Murdoch, with the same level of investment, nothing will happen.  The message must be heard in America and Europe, not in Riyadh, Doha, Karachi and Jakarta.  When that happens, we will start to see change.  Until then, Muslims can play the “victim” of intolerance all they want, but they will get little sympathy from me on that score.

What’s right is right, and I stand for justice and the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which I swore to defend to the death.  I don’t need to be convinced, but at least 70% of the rest of America and Europe does need to hear a counterpoint to the propaganda they have been fed for a decade.  That is a big job, and it will take a long time, but that is what needs to be done.  Sitting in the Muslim World and feeling hurt by attitudes in the West will get us absolutely no where!  Why are Muslims so reticent?  Please examine your behavior.  It takes courage to change World opinion.  Who has it?!

Twitter: @skip_conover

Posted in 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Bible, Christian Fundamentalism, Ethics in Journalism, Freedom of Speech, Islam & the West, Muslim Opinion of the West, Politics, Right Wing, Western Opinion of Islam | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

“Ten Reasons to Burn …” Analyzed (In My Opinion)

by Skip Conover ~ Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover)

ArabicMalayUrduTurkish

The Rev.? Terry Jones needs money!  This can be the only reason why he would stir up this controversy about burning the Koran.  There will be enough Americans who believe such crazies to get him over his cash crunch.  But that does not mean that he represents anything like a majority of American, Christian, or Western thought.  CNN, MSNBC and other inflamers need money too!  That’s why they let this crackpot stir things up instead of ignoring him.  They are giving him hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free publicity, which only serves to make matters worse.  I wonder if he will collect that much!  He was given 7.5 minutes of airtime on CNN today, multiple times!  Just ask Coca Cola what they would have to pay for that time, if they were buying it.

He says that his message is for the members of “Radical Islam,” and yet his messaging and targeting are clearly designed to upset all Muslims, and the fact that a Malaysian friend brought it to my attention without noting the conciliatory parts of his message means that the conciliatory things he had to say about moderate Muslims were completely lost in the noise level.

Here is my rebuttal of Fran Ingram’s ten reasons to burn the Koran, which the Rev.? Terry Jones has published on his church’s web site (I do not offer a link here, because I do not want to encourage these people):

1.  There is no place in the Bible that says that if one does not follow Jesus Christ one is damned to eternal hell fire.  If that were true, all predecessors of Jesus, like King David and Abraham himself must also be in hell.  Christ invited people to follow him to reach the kingdom of heaven, but at no point did he say that his was the only way.  In fact, Jesus himself was a practicing Jew, and “Christianity” was a construct developed long after his death.  Surely Jesus had his beefs with venal politicians and deceitful clergymen, like Rev.? Jones, and the Bible reports many valid reasons for his beefs, but he did not say that Judaism per se was evil, and he surely didn’t opine on Islam, because Mohammed lived 600 years later.  Ms. Ingram is welcome to her 1st Amendment protected belief about “eternal damnation,” but I for one say she’s full of bologna, and just trying to stir up a controversy to raise money for her church.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 I infer, “… and all of the peoples and cultures of the Earth, and all of the methods of seeking God.”  So far as I know, most major religions credit God with making everything!

2.  The same can be said about the New Testament of the Bible (the basis of Christianity), which did not come together in more or less its current form until 325 years after Christ.  So what?  Should we be burning Bibles too?  Think back 325 years from now.  Is there anything you can point to and say this assuredly happened that way?  Take the Boston Tea Party, for example.  One version says that “Old New England Tea” was Rum, and the fight was over a tax on alcohol not tea.  I prefer this telling, myself, but who can say for sure?!

3.   All ancient peoples believed in these early forms of religion.  Religion has evolved quite a way in the past 1,500 years, and neither Jesus nor Mohammed, nor even Moses could have predicted how.  These are simply inflammatory words to stir up the controversy and bring more money into what must be their struggling church.  The majority of Americans would not support this kind of incitement.

4.  The same could be said about the Bible as well, and the life of Christ.  All you have to do is follow the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem to understand how Christian infighting has desecrated the sanctity of the place where Jesus was crucified, if he was crucified in the place the Jewish guides say.  Trust me, it’s nothing like what you saw in the paintings of Michelangelo and others.  They didn’t need any Jews or Muslims to do that, because they managed it quite well on their own steam.  As I noted previously, the New Testament of the Bible was only put together about 325 years after Christ, and all you have to do is read about the Book of Thomas and the other omitted scriptures to understand how venal religious fanatics have dominated our worship to this very day.  The last two sentences of Ms. Ingram’s “reason” are simply her speculation.  I doubt if she’s ever been to a Muslim country or shared a meal with a Muslim family.  Furthermore, “christians” like this believe the Bible without question, despite its own internal contradictions and faults.

5.  The same can be said for followers of Christ today.  She is simply being inflammatory.  The worse she makes it, the more CNN and other media outlets will help them raise funds for their church.  I guess they’re selling books too!  I wonder how they live and what kind of cars they drive.    Are CNN and MSNBC and Fox all contributing to their lifestyle with all of this free publicity?

6.  The same can be said for Christianity and many of its followers.  I know that my first ancestors in North America came here to escape the Catholics of Spain behaving in precisely the same manner.  The Bible does not call for separation of Church and State.  The U.S. Constitution does!  If Ms. Ingram had visited a Muslim country, she might see that most Muslims live in very similar ways to most western peoples.  And she would have seen that they are highly civilized.  This does not condone some practices in those countries, most of which are justified by secular law and not Islam.  This too will change in its own time.  I have a photograph of my Great Grandmother and her three sisters dressed very much as if they are in abaya (1879).  My Great Great Grandfather is wearing a beard, much as Muslim men do today.

My Great Grandmother, Sisters, and Father

7.   The same can be said for many aspects of the Bible and its more radical followers.  I’m sure Ms. Ingram would not have made it at the time of the Catholic Inquisition!

8.  The Bible has similar provisions, and despite the fact that “born again” christians claim that every word of the Bible is true, many enlightened Christian leaders have questioned this assertion, and accepted it as clearly wrong.  While the Koran does include such a provision, it is not practiced in modern Muslim societies (with the noisy exceptions proving the rule).

9.  Who wouldn’t be afraid after our actions have led to the death of more than 1 million Muslims in Iraq?  Afghanistan too!  And then there is the hateful polemic of inflamers like Ms. Ingram to make things seem more “civilized” here in the West.

10.  The same can be said for christian imperialism and colonialism.  What does Ms. Ingram propose happen to 1.6 million Muslims? Reading this, I feel I’m reading an excerpt from Mein Kampf. When did radical christians give up compassion and tolerance?  Ms. Ingram probably doesn’t even know that Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian.

In this piece I have intentionally put the “c” in “christian” in lower case, indicating that I do not believe that these views represent the views of any true Christian church, any more than I believe that organizations that claim the mantle of Islam necessarily represent the beliefs of most Muslims.   Ms. Ingram needs to understand and internalize the distinction.

There is a reason we have Freedom of Religion guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, which all of our Federal officers and military personnel swear to uphold to the death.  The reason is that many of the ancestors of most Americans came to North America to escape religious strife.  We have 10X the number of people claiming to be Irish in the United States as there are in the entire Republic of Ireland.  Many of them came here to escape religious warfare, and Islam had nothing to do with it!  I know my first Dutch-, Swedish-, Welsh-, and German-American ancestors probably never met a Muslim in their lifetimes.

Link to me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter: @skip_conover

Posted in 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, American Politics, Bible, Catholic Church, Christian Fundamentalism, Ethics in Journalism, Ethics in Religion, Freedom of Speech, Islam & the West, Koran, Muslim Opinion of the West, Politics, Right Wing, Tea Party, Uncategorized, Western Opinion of Islam, World War II | Leave a comment

Dear Muslim Friends

by Skip Conover~Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover~(Twitter: @skip_conover)

Dear Muslim Friends,

I hope this finds you in good spirits, and that you are having a wonderful month of Ramadan.  I am sure you have seen the political controversy that has recently been stirred up by our far right-wing politicos about the proposed Mosque in Manhattan, near the site of the former World Trade Center. [Actually, for New York, the site is not particularly near at all, but you would not know that from the media.]

One of my Muslim friends commented to me this week as follows, with apologies to the anonymous (here) source: “It’s rare to see western people want to defend true Islam or Muslims. Neither [do they] want to understand the true stories.”  I quickly pointed out to this person that our Constitution guarantees Freedom of Religion in its First Amendment (of the Bill of Rights):

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Every American federal officer and every member of our Armed Forces is sworn to uphold these rights, among all those contained in our Constitution.  Most Americans believe in these rights absolutely, particularly the freedom to practice one’s faith.  My ancestors came to America to escape the 80 Years War (in 1625), in which the Catholic Spanish came to Protestant Holland for 80 summers to force the Dutch to return to Catholicism.  They failed.  Every fall my ancestors would flood Holland, forcing the Spanish back to sunny Spain.  My whole family knows that we are American because of religious war.  This is a common experience among the ancestors of most Americans.   There are 10x as many Irish in the United States as Ireland, in part because of religious war between Protestants and Catholics.  But I digress.

I told my friend that today an Annapolis Pastor would be preaching about the Mosque in Manhattan.  He has allowed me to share his Sermon with you, so that you can all see that Americans are concerned about this matter, and hearing about it in their places of worship.  I presume that this is a topic in many churches in America, as well as in many living rooms.  I believe a majority of us believe strongly that the Muslim congregation of Lower Manhattan has an absolute right to build there Mosque, and as you can see, many of us believe it should be built.  

Some of you do not know that I also produced a television program defending Muslim rights in general, and wrote a book about my experiences in doing so.  I have decided that I should share that work with you, so it is attached.  I hereby grant you permission to share my book with anyone you deem appropriate to see it, and I grant them permission to do the same.  I want every Muslim to believe that there are many in the USA, who will defend their rights, even to death.  And millions of us have sworn to do so!  The Rev. Hathaway has agreed that his Sermon may be shared in the same spirit.

It appears below in his forwarded message.  Feel free to write to Reverend Hathaway about your reaction to his Sermon.  I am sure he will be pleased to hear from you.   If there is ever anything I can do to advance the interests of Muslims, Christians and other religions living in harmony, please feel free to call upon me.

Ramadan Kareem!
  Skip Conover

PS  Any reader of this blog, who would like a free copy of either the book or the Sermon, please write to me.  You can find my e-mail address at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/donaldconover .

Note:  Originally published on August 30, 2010 on another blog.

Posted in 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, American Politics, Bible, Christian Fundamentalism, Ethics in Advertising, Ethics in Journalism, Freedom of Speech, Islam & the West, Muslim Opinion of the West, Right Wing, Uncategorized, Western Opinion of Islam | 1 Comment