Saturday, March 29, 2003


MSN Hotmail - Message" Unfortunately, the middle-east is very keen to make any disagreement or conflict to be a fight between muslims and/or christians, "infidels" or the "great satan". This is once again evident in the speeches broadcast from Baghdad, where every other word is "God is willing?", every casualty is a "martyr", and "america is intent on killing all muslims". If these religious connotations didn't fall on willing ears, they wouldn't be using them. "

I don't want to argue points of "fact" regarding how many Iraqi's have died under Saddam's leadership or anything like that...Facts are used by both sides to bolster arguments and often it is more a question of how they are used. What concerns me more are assumptions and generalisations. These, I have found, are usually disastrous.

You point out that you have never been in a mosque but you are sure that they are hotbeds of fanatical outcry against the US. I have been in mosques and for all but 45 minutes of a week, they are places of peace, quiet, tranquility and prayer. There are Friday sermons in mosques, just as there are Sunday sermons in churches and Saturday sermons in synagogues. In some mosques (those that make the most interesting news) there may be the sentiments you decry expressed. In most, there are commentaries on how to lead a better life. As for the opposite, I've seen the religious right on TV plenty of times going on about how Islam is a religion of hate. If you believe that, then you have listened and heard them too.

The Arabic language is one that has an unusual feature. It has a benchmark against which the quality of language is judged and that benchmark is the Quran, a book of truly extraordinarily beautiful poetry, no matter what you may think of the content. You are right. Every other phrase in Arabic is "Inshallah", "if God is willing" and this is only to remind us that at the end of the day, we may not actually control the outcomes. I can say that definitely I will come to see you and be hit by a car....shit happens, to quote the stickers in the US. The presence of God in Arab life is meant to be very real. The prayers five times daily (exactly like the Christian prayers in the Middle Ages and those still observed in churches and many religious communities) are meant to bring one's thoughts back to our relationship with God or whatever one believes to be a central force in the universe. Many Muslims are not particularly religious, just as most Christians aren't. I'd even go so far as to say that most are not. However, to speak of God as part of the language is just that, part of the language. Just as many phrases in other languages incorporate religious images, Arabic incorporates a lot. People need to understand that.

Finally, a group of people should never be judged by the rhetoric of their leaders. What comes from the mouths of any leaders is almost always self-serving and designed to have some effect on the listeners. If all Americans were judged by the speeches of George W., you'd probably be unhappy....especially considering how many hysterically funny blunders he makes when speaking.

"My reference to "mullahs" isn't about "mullahs" per se, but any such authority figure, that incites the populace based on fiery religious propaganda. While other religions have their own problems and imperfections I have yet to hear of any church, temple, or synagogue preaching the destruction and full annihiliation of another people. I'm sure they exist, however, I would venture to say there is a larger proportion of them within the Islamic faith."

Again, Bob, take care how you generalise. When you think "mullah" try saying "Pat Robertson" or "Jerry Falwell"
and consider what you are saying. I wouldn't say that Christians are warlike based on their remarks, nor would I generalise that most ministers and priests are like them. The Pope isn't. You are generalising from grossly inadequate and skewed data.

Arabs aren't scary people. Arab men are, on the whole, very polite, decent people...until they are behind the wheel of a car and they turn into New Yorkers. There are nasty, evil people in any country, any culture and in fact, I believe that they inhabit their own culture that is outside of the usual world that we live in. That they inflict their harm on our world is wrong.