Tuesday, July 09, 2002
Religious relativism: The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof attacks Islam for its brutality towards women, support of terrorism and dearth of freedom and democracy. But American Christians are just as bad.
[T]he Islamic world represses women, spawns terrorism, is prone to war, resists democracy and has contributed remarkably few great scientists or writers to modern civilization. So it's time to defend Islam.
In speaking to Arab friends, I've reproached them for the virulent anti-Semitism in their societies. But it's a cheap shot for us to scold Arabs for acquiescing in religious hatred unless we try vigorously to uproot our own religious bigotry.
That's right. Evangelist Billy Graham's son, Franklin, is just as bad as the imams throughout the Middle East who exhort their followers to kill Americans and Jews.
I'll let NRO's Rod Dreher take the first shot:
You just can't make this stuff up. In this column, New York Times big thinker Nicholas Kristof admits that Islam has some problems with, oh, violence, and this discrimination against women thing. But citing American critics of Islam, who call it "a religion of war," he suggests that America is just as bad. Mmm-hmm. When Paul Weyrich orders a mob to stone a retarded man claiming to be the Prophet, as happened in Pakistan yesterday, or Franklin Graham exhorts Christians to kill Muslim men and enslave their women, as God hath commanded, as a Palestinian imam did months ago, then Kristof will have a point. Until then, he's full of the same self-hating liberal guilt we've come to expect from the Times.
If Kristof's premise isn't bad enough. He tries his hand at Biblical exegesis in an effort to make his point.
Of course, Islam is troubled in ways no one can ignore. The scholar Samuel Huntington has noted that the Islamic world has "bloody borders," with conflict around much of its perimeter. Of the 26 countries torn by conflict in the year 2000, 14 have large Muslim populations. And on average, Muslim countries mobilize twice as large a share of the population in armed forces as do predominately Christian countries.
This is fair grounds for debate, but the sweeping denigrations of Islam are mush. Critics often quote from the Koran, for example, to argue that Islam is intrinsically violent ("fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them"). But the Koran, like the Bible, can be quoted for any purpose. After all, the New Testament embraces slavery ("Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling").
While it is true that you can pick and choose verses from the Koran, Bible or Torah to make any point you want, there are larger, overarching themes and ideas that run through these books. While the Bible is a story of God's love and redemption of humanity. The Koran is about God's venegence. Kristof suggests that the call to kill infidels is but a small part of the Koran -- it isn't -- as evidenced by Sept. 11 and the violence throughout the Middle East directed at Americans and Jews.
It's curious that Kristof chose the verse he did to juxtapose with the one from the Koran. With the wealth of verses available in the Old Testament where God commanded the Israelites to wipe out the inhabitants of the Promised Land (and they usually disobeyed), you'd think that those would be more attractive and a better comparison for Kristof. Instead, Kristof says that the New Testament "embraces" slavery.
Unfortunately slavery was a fact of life in the ancient Roman empire.The New Testament writer wasn't condoning slavery, merely addressing the life situation that many early Christians found themselves in. Does Kristof recall his history, and the fact that the 19th Century abolitonist movement in this country was spurred by Christians? Why?
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -- Galatians 3:28
Christianity sees value in every person -- no matter what their station in life is.
There are those who claim to be Christians that are racist, violent hatemongers. They are a minority.
There are those who claim to be Muslims that are racist, violent hatemongers. They are a majority.
You'd think that Kristof would recognize and appreciate the difference.