THE SPINE NOVEMBER 11, 2009
So again, yesterday, in an otherwise poignant and truthful memorial talk at Fort Hood, the president assured us that religion does not kill. It killed in ancient Judaism: remember Amalek. It killed through virtually the entire history of Christianity. Hindu fanatics kill in India. Alas, Muslim faith kills every day in half the globe. It kills in zeroes, many zeroes. Look at your daily newspaper. Read your habitual web-site. Watch blood-thirsty Muslim television from centers of the faith.
There are grave splits in Islam, and no one knows which of the many sides will come out on top. After all, the dividing lines are not only between the ferocious and the tolerant but among the sects and the tribes which are themselves also riven by religious difference, often religious differences in the extreme. The favored venue for suicide bombs seems to be the mosque of the other.
America has been fortunate in its immigrant history. In his elegant talk on Monday, President Obama evoked this living past by reminding us plainly and without fanfare that three of the 13 dead were immigrants. It is true, and it is central to the country's pride in itself. The proportions are also about right. No religion is persecuted in America, and no religion is denied rights that are vouchsafed to others.
Millions of refugees have arrived on our shores in search of precisely religious freedom. When some of them found that freedom they denied it to others. This is also our past. But it characterizes only our past. It no longer describes our present.
The migrations of Arabs to the U.S. started towards the end of the nineteenth century. But it was a movement mostly of Christian Arabs (from what is now Lebanon and Syria) who were both commercially venturesome and put off by the fanaticism around them. Still, their voyage, like the voyage of most immigrants, was a relocation to opportunity. They did not bring much of the fiery passions and hatreds from the old country with them.
The trek of Muslims to the States seems very different. Certainly, the trek of Muslims to England and France, to the Netherlands and Belgium, to Norway and Spain has the essence of jihad about it. And maybe, just maybe, due to some unknown celestial blessings, America will avoid that fate. But I am not sure, and no one can be sure. Not even the president.