Unfortunately, the old human habit of equating fear and intimidation with respect does not easily die. We see this every day in power relations. China doesn’t feel respected by the US, so it bullies Taiwan. France doesn’t feel respected by the US, so it bullies Germany. Islam doesn’t feel respected by non-Muslims; so radicals try to intimidate infidels and apostates. Think this is fantasy? Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Saudi Institute in Washington, sets the record straight, at least with regard to the dismal situation in Saudi Arabia:
Although considered as holy in Islam and mentioned in the Quran dozens of times, the Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia. This would seem curious to most people because of the fact that to most Muslims, the Bible is a holy book. But when it comes to Saudi Arabia we are not talking about most Muslims, but a tiny minority of hard-liners who constitute the Wahhabi Sect.
The Bible in Saudi Arabia may get a person killed, arrested, or deported. In September 1993, Sadeq Mallallah, 23, was beheaded in Qateef on a charge of apostasy for owning a Bible. The State Department’s annual human rights reports detail the arrest and deportation of many Christian worshipers every year. Just days before Crown Prince Abdullah met President Bush last month, two Christian gatherings were stormed in Riyadh. Bibles and crosses were confiscated, and will be incinerated. (The Saudi government does not even spare the Quran from desecration. On Oct. 14, 2004, dozens of Saudi men and women carried copies of the Quran as they protested in support of reformers in the capital, Riyadh. Although they carried the Qurans in part to protect themselves from assault by police, they were charged by hundreds of riot police, who stepped on the books with their shoes, according to one of the protesters.)
As Muslims, we have not been as generous as our Christian and Jewish counterparts in respecting others’ holy books and religious symbols. Saudi Arabia bans the importation or the display of crosses, Stars of David or any other religious symbols not approved by the Wahhabi establishment. TV programs that show Christian clergymen, crosses or Stars of David are censored.
The lesson here is simple: If Muslims wish other religions to respect their beliefs and their Holy book, they should lead by example.
Indeed, good faith is the best way to peace and harmony. Each faith can be cordial and respectful of others without betraying its own teachings. Indeed, the late Pope John Paul II showed the world that this was indeed possible. There’s already too much for human beings to quarrel over.
Just one other thing: The West has alrady made several overtures to Islam. It is time for Islam to reciprocate, or at least resolve the problem of those who advocate war. Why? Because, Old Europe notwithstanding, the West has the balls to back it up, so if it must be the hard road, rest assured that the West is ready to rumble.
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]