Again, again. It has been several weeks, and it will be several weeks, since we are on the brink of our semiannual Drang nach Norden, up to our ancestral fortification in hardcore New Hampshire ("Live Free or Die!"). Packing the elderly Mercedes.
This dispatch was triggered by one of those send-arounds the politically or culturally motivated release on their acquaintanceships, with instructions to forward to ten or twenty like-minded friends. A cousin of mine, a devoted and very capable fellow, put me on the distribution list.
The title on the circular was: "CAN MUSLIMS BE GOOD AMERICANS/CANADIANS?" The answer was, resoundingly, NO! Because -- I am selecting a number of the source's one-line responses at random -- "Geographically--no...Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.... Socially-- no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.... Politically --no... Because he must submit to the mullahs (spiritual leaders) who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of America, the great Satan. Domestically -- no...Because he is instructed to marry four Women and beat his wife when she disobeys him. Intellectually -- no, Because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt."
And on in this vein, ending with the admonition: "THE Armed Forces WANT THIS EMAIL TO ROLL ALL OVER THE U.S. & CANADA. Please don't delete this until you send it on."
I wrote my cousin immediately: "I don't know where you picked up this drivel, but it is historically inaccurate and philosophically toxic. For a thousand years, when Europe was confining Jews in ghettos and worse, the Muslim world, from Cordova to Alexandria, was supporting and encouraging its Jewish and Christian communities and permitting Jews to flourish and survive the Crusaders and the Inquisitors who were attempting to destroy them. My own personal acquaintance includes a prominent imam and a member of the Saudi royal family; when I was young I hitchhiked all over much of the Arab world, from Istanbul to North Africa, and several times my life was saved by kindly, well disposed natives. Any responsible reading of the Koran reduces the statements you are propagating to gibberish. Like Christinaity, Islam is a direct outgrowth of Jewish thought -- take a look at Leviticus if you have any doubt of this. Both the Jewish and Christian bibles are holy books within Islam. All three Abrahamic religions share the same patriarch, the same spiritual roots.
Don't spread this poison. You are much too civilized to lead people to believe you are an ignorant hate-monger."
The whole exchange jogged some memories. There was that unforgetable incident in a lamplit alley in the Cahsbah in Tangier, when -- I was in my early twenties, and cheaper and even less likely to show signs of common sense than today -- a big Moorish bouncer with a knife attempted to collect the bar bill for a B-girl I had engaged in casual conversation. Ugly, almost suicidal
There was the morning, early, when I was sleeping steerage, on the deck of a Greek freighter bound for Crete among a crowd of Muslim peasants crossing from the Piraeus for Ramadan -- I remember how loud the poultry, trussed upside down, was clucking -- and a little Greek sailor decided to pull the plug out of my air mattress. I never have thought very clearly before breakfast. Deeply irritated, I crawled out of my sleeping bag and grabbed the sailor by the seat of the pants and heaved him over the rail. Other members of the crew charged me, the surrounding Muslim passengers swarmed to my defense, and a brawl broke out.
By then I was waking up. I didn't like the odds, so I pulled my stuff together and climbed up onto the upper deck and watched the melee below. After a few minutes I felt something tugging my sleeve. It was the little Greek sailor, who had climbed the rigging and pulled himself aboard. Smiling, we watched the mob below fighting over our honor.
It was a different world; Americans throughout the Mid-East were respected, even venerated. Our wars of overseas empire really hadn't begun. If we really want to figure out why we are feared and detested in so much of the Arab world these days, perhaps we had better look beyond the Koran, or at least read it intelligently.
Next time from The Granite State,