Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of September 20, 2010
Readers write in about Islam, the West, and religious freedom.
Perspectives on Islam
Regarding the Sept. 6 cover story, "Islam and the West": Our neighbors who practice a different form of worship, wear clothing that offers an alternative outlook, and choose to retain cultural practices from their homelands are not enemies to be ostracized and blamed for our own problems.
To condemn and separate ourselves from 2.4 million people in the United States and 1.57 billion people in the world with little understanding of their individual ideas, choices, and contributions offends the teachings of our spiritual leaders as well as our American ancestors.
Thank you for your editorial "Cracking US 'Islamophobia' " and the accompanying religious article, "God's love overcomes Islamophobia" (Sept. 6). The golden rule – what you called the "common rule" shared by all the great religions of the world – has been a conscious linchpin of my personal and professional life. Can't say I've always lived up to it, but your reminder of its simple and profound practicality in regard to religious freedom is more than apt. May we all approach its standard.
Although Ethan Gilsdorf's article "A virtual world that breaks real barriers" (Sept. 6) calls the Muslim-dominated landscape in 8th- through 15th-century Spain a "utopian place," it was hardly so for the Christians and Jews.
According to the history volumes and sources I've read – no, not just right-wing ones; some even by the likes of Cambridge University Press! – Muslims gave their conquered Christian and Jewish subjects only three choices in those years of what Mr. Gilsdorf called la convivencia, or "coexistence": convert to Islam; pay the jizya, a head tax, that allowed some non-Muslim subjects to practice their religion discreetly; or face Muslims on the battlefield. Sure sounds harmonious to me.
As lovers of religious freedom and believers in the ultimate triumph of liberty over evil, it is right to stand up against mobs who would torch mosques or pass unjust laws in the "defense" of the cultural status quo ante. But it is a kind of intellectual weakness – even decadence – not to look squarely and honestly at recent trends. Many thoughtful people in the West are concerned about these trends, and to write them off as "Islamophobes," as the Monitor has done in the Sept. 6 issue, is nothing more than an attempt to substitute pejoratives for a far more difficult intellectual task: reconciling Western liberal religious tolerance with a unique, modern, militant, and highly politicized dogma whose distinguishing feature is its dual demand for tolerance – and cruel contempt for the "unfaithful."