The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Thanksgiving weekend gave the Mercury News letter writers a few extra days to sharpen their, um, pointy heads.

I applaud President Bush for spending Thanksgiving with our brave and much beleaguered troops in Iraq. But I'm saddened by a major opportunity forgone.

Bush could surely have included a few sentences of outreach in his remarks, along these lines:

``This year, the American celebration of Thanksgiving and the great Muslim feast of fast-breaking fell on two successive days. I was struck by our two peoples' giving thanks and praise together, for all our blessings, to the one God in whom we Peoples of the Book both believe. On the occasion of the two feasts, America wishes you happiness and peace, and many happy returns.''

Thirty-five seconds. I really don't think that would have been too long. And it would have done much to defuse the problem of the execrable Lt. Gen. William Boykin, which is taken very seriously indeed in the Muslim world.

David A. Appling
Morgan Hill

When I first read this on Sunday I was annoyed by Appling's assumption that everyone in America was a Yahweh worshipper. What about the Buddhists? What about the atheists? Also, try to imagine how much this sham attempt at ecumenicalism would irritate people who were actually religious. "Hey Muslims, heard you were stuffing your faces today too. Here in America we always eat too much, but on Thanksgiving we really eat too much. Then we drag ourselves to our couches and watch sports. Is that what religion is all about or what? Want some ham?"

But after my annoyance had passed I began to wonder about "People of the Book." The reference is to the declaration in the Koran that Jews and Christians are "people of the book" and should not be persecuted. Is there really anything to this? I suspect not, any more than some randomly selected phrase pulled out of the Bible would tell you whether you were likely to get along with Christians or Jews. All sacred books are to some extent ambiguous and self-contradictory, and anyway people are very good at ignoring inconvenient proscriptions. If it really was a religious duty for Muslims to respect Jews and Christians, why do Arab countries televise such copious amounts of vile anti-semitism?

Here's what Arab Muslims think of Christians and Jews in the real world:

I've spent a number of years in the middle east in various countries. I like to think that I have had a good relationship with muslim co-workers. We had numerous discussions on political subjects. Always, I came away with the impression that all is permitted to dar al islam.

Forget this "people of the book" bullshit. Learn the phrase "dar al Islam" instead.



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