Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Clinton seeks to improve US image with Muslims

Hillary Clinton is kicking off her firstworld tour by promising an era of American "openness to new ideas. According to My Way News, a prominent theme in the tour is reaching out to the Islamic world. As indicated in the following paragraph, the reaction in the "Muslim street" has been less than enthusiastic.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged a new American openness to ideas from abroad, especially the Muslim world, during a visit Wednesday to Indonesia.

Anti-U.S. protests were held in several cities, with some Islamic hard-liners setting tires on fire and others throwing shoes at caricatures of Clinton, but the rallies were small and scattered.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, is the second stop in Clinton's inaugural overseas trip as the top U.S. diplomat. She said that was "no accident," with the trip designed to show support for the country's hard-won democracy as well as its efforts to fight terrorism while respecting human rights.

How does one reach out to the Islamic world? With the deep rift between Sunni and Shia, is there any single stop to go to? Even within Sunni and Shia forms of Islam are subsects which are often at bitter odds with each other. Saudi Arabia , the centre of the Islamic world has serious problems with sectarian strife. A Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia is deeply resentful of the denial of their religious freedom. There have been Shiite pilgrims to Mecca whose Korans were confiscated because they were printed by Shiites. There have been bombings of Shiite Mosques in Pakistan.

On the other side of the coin is the Arab minority in Iran, which lives in an underdeveloped part of Iran that is also a major oil producing region. They are denied the right to use their language in public. They complain bitterly of their wealth being looted by an occupation government in Teheran.

America has an alphabet soup of religions. People work together and live in close proximity to each other while disagreeing vehemently about the hereafter. We evolved from religious colonies to a system in which no one religion has official dominance. We have a clear definition of religious tolerance. It involves agreeing to disagree and not hurting those of different persuasions. It has worked very well for us. We have evolved from shameful bigotry and discrimination to being a remarkably open society.

The Islamic world has a far poorer record even of tolerating each other. The body count of their perpetual state of anger and outrage mounts daily. Even a Sunni in Saudi Arabia who converts to Shia is laible to a death penalty.

Hillary says America needs to listen to the Islamic world. America has a free press. I can go to a bookstore, go on line or even walk into my local mosque and ask to be educated. Americans listen plenty. We do not only listen by reading and studying. We have an open door at our borders, even allowing in people who are contemptuous of our culture and political system.

I think the Islamic world needs to listen to us. If they want to study their own faith, they are safer doing it on American soil without Islamic radicals pushing intimidating them into skewing their research. There was an era when institutional Islam was more tolerant than institutional Christianity. Now, a non stop costume party of boneheads rages across the globe of people who ignore the range of tolerance that has existed in some interpretations of Islam.

There is a theology of tolerance. When G-d chooses to hide, who is great enough to speak for Him, and to inflict a death penalty for heresy?

We get glimpses into the backward nature of the politically dominant forms of Islam when we see "honour killings" in America and Canada. When there is an epidemic of rape being perpetrated by Muslim youth in Europe, where is the voice of Islam ?

The Daily Mail reports the statement of one Australian imam about this problem.

Addressing 500 worshippers on the topic of adultery, Sheik al-Hilali added: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it..whose fault is it - the cats or the uncovered meat?

"The uncovered meat is the problem."

He went on: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (veil), no problem would have occurred."

Women, he said, were 'weapons' used by Satan to control men.

Why must we pretend that such bone headed ignorance deserves any respect?

The statement of Hillary Clinton echoes the position of the Obama admistration. It is indicative of an extreme lack of self respect . It will not likely lead to any increase in dialogue. It is far more likely to envite increased contempt. Now that Secretary Clinton has spoken in Indonesia, we will not need to wait long for the other shoes to drop. America deserves better. But we did not elect it. What a shame.

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