Thursday, December 20, 2007


Hamza Yusuf is the prominent American moderate Muslim who once said, “There are times when you have to live like a sheep in order to live in the future like a lion.”

In "The Real Teddy Bear Tragedy" at the Newsweek/WaPo "On Faith" site, the sheeplike Hamza avows that the charge against the Muhammad Teddy Bear teacher, Gillian Gibbons, was "without merit," and that the Sudanese authorities' arrest of Gibbons left him "appalled."

That said, the leonine Hamza avers that the whole incident is the fault of the non-Muslim West:

Unfortunately, millions of Muslims all over the globe are humiliated and betrayed by the ignorance and lack of basic humanity that a small minority of Muslims too often exhibits.

Should I, however, bring this up with many of my Muslim brothers and sisters a common response is: "It's true, but look at what the West is doing to Muslims; 800,000 thousand dead in Iraq. And what about Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and the rest? Why don't Western people denounce these atrocities against us and only harp about how backward we are?"

I.e., change your foreign policies, and we will stop committing terrorist acts. The burden is all on you.

A famous Iraqi poet once wrote, "If one person is harmed it is an unpardonable sin, but a whole people's destruction is something to debate."

Indeed. Let's talk about the numerous affirmations by Islamic clerics of how they want to destroy Israel and kill all Jews. "Have no mercy on the Jews, murder them everywhere...” That was broadcast on Palestinian TV on October 13, 2000.

Care to denounce it, Hamza?

And Hizballah's Hassan Nasrallah has said that "if they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”

Similarly, a 1992 Hizballah statement vowed “open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth.” Let's talk about that, Hamza.

Unfortunately, these Western horrors against the Muslims demand responses, but Muslims must also recognize and denounce these wrongs too often associated with our Prophet and our faith without always pointing fingers elsewhere.
Fair enough. I am giving you an opportunity to do so.

But to speak about alleged Western offenses as if they somehow justify the madness of imprisoning someone over a teddy bear -- well, I can't say that I find that quite rational.
Our current world can go one of two ways at this crossroad.

We can go down the path of more violence, more hatred and more alienation, or we can attempt to understand each other, recognize our real differences, and display mutual respect. True religion -- as well as the highest secular values -- demands we take the latter road.

Indeed, the situation in Sudan is a medieval misunderstanding and overreaction. So are the myriad cases of torture, rape and pillaging that are now part of our daily patch of foreign, and increasingly, domestic news. Indeed, our dark medieval past seems to be having an ironic renaissance in the West and the Muslim world.

So when we see an irrational or misguided reaction of some Muslims, as we now see in Sudan, it behooves us to reflect on the deeper reality causing it.

Very well. Let's do that. Let's reflect on blasphemy laws that are so sweeping and vague, and so irrationally applied, that they victimize harmless middle-aged British schoolteachers and rouse people to call for her blood.

Let's reflect on freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry, and why they are essential prerequisites for peace between people whose views differ. Would the sheeplike and/or leonine Hamza care to reflect on any of that?

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