These guys are pretty clear about their priorities
A thing or two about us infidels
Gotta love that old-time religion. Some 300 Muslim scholars and clerics met in Bahrain yesterday to map out a plan to educate us infidels about the Prophet -- and a prominent sheik at the conference called for the UN to "issue strong rules that would criminalize the defamation of religion."
While this sanctimonious gabfest was going on, 40-year-old Abdul Rahman was sitting in an Afghanistan jail cell facing possible execution for the capital offence of converting to Christianity.
If the irony was lost on the Holy 300, it's no wonder.
Muslim clerics can wring their hands to pieces about how unenlightened non-Muslims are about the Prophet and Islam in general, but they demonstrate on a pretty regular basis that they have little comprehension of western values.
Or maybe they just don't give a damn.
Either way, the Abdul Rahman case presents yet another opportunity to fill them in on a thing or two.
First, according to our way of looking at things, poking fun at a religion's founder is a far, far lesser sin than killing a man for converting to another religion.
Bending the ballpark analogy, you could say that the two sins aren't even in the same soccer stadium.
Second, if Islamic law is cited as the basis for killing a man for converting to Christianity, then, according to our way of looking at things, it is our right -- indeed, for some their Christian duty -- to criticize, condemn, or mock Islam, or at least that particular interpretation of Islam.
Muslims can argue that theirs is a religion of peace and people like me will try really hard to see it that way. But others will not. They believe, after reading the Qur'an and observing its application around the world, that Islam is a religion committed to violence against non-Muslims. That is their opinion, arrived at by using their own powers of deductive reasoning. According to our way of looking at things, it is their right to think that way.
Concepts of religious blasphemy are essentially foreign to western societies, just as our concept of the rights of the individual are apparently foreign to some Muslim societies.
Back in 1873, the French "boy poet" Rimbaud wrote in his prose masterpiece A Season in Hell a disparaging line about the "bastard wisdom of the Qur'an." Rimbaud was equally harsh in describing the Christian Europe of his day (and his mother, for that matter), but should those offensive remarks about Islam be struck from the record because Rimbaud "didn't understand" what Islam really is? Should Rimbaud's brilliant poetry, which has inspired writers from Jack Kerouac to Bob Dylan, be censored almost a century and a half later because some Muslims are offended by it?
No, not according to our way of looking at things. If you don't like Rimbaud, don't read him. End of story.
Western humanist values in their present form are a legacy of 2,000 years of Christianity, two bloody world wars, capitalist economies, cold climates, liberal arts and a host of other factors -- including a nasty habit by European peoples of gobbling up the wealth of other nations.
We are considered hypocrites because we talk about the sanctity of a single human life yet we sanction abortion and ignore the plight of starving children in the developing world. We are a civilization in decline, prone to self-doubt and self-loathing.
But we cling to a belief in the right of individuals to express the truth as they see it.
Without that fundamental, we don't really see a future.
It's a good thing that Muslim scholars who attended the "International Conference for Supporting the Prophet" condemned the cartoon protests that saw at least 50 people killed. It's a good thing they are calling for an open dialogue with the west. Dialogue is a wonderful thing.
And it's heartwarming that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has assured Canada that respect for human and religious rights would "be fully upheld" in the Abdul Rahman case.
But -- the very fact that Rahman faces a possible death sentence for his personal beliefs is, by our standards, barbaric and unacceptable.
Responding to official protests from Germany, an Afghan official said yesterday: "We don't interfere in Germany's internal affairs."
How's that for a double standard?
They can kill a man in a Muslim country for becoming a Christian but they raise holy hell if European artists dare to challenge the tenets of Islam by depicting their Prophet in newspaper cartoons.
Someone needs educating all right, and it's not just the infidels.