Same as it ever was
(Punches FAWLTY in the gut.
FAWLTY falls to the floor behind the desk.)
Now, I'm not a violent man, Mr. Fawlty!
(From behind the desk)
Oh yes you are!
Thirty-eight prominent Muslims have sent a letter to Pope Benedict lecturing him on Islam. A big deal is being made of this by Reuters and the usual suspects, but it isn't really anything more than the same old obfuscations fancied up and given a slightly snottier tone than usual. The tactic of claiming loudly to be a force for justice and peace while all evidence points to the opposite is practically the sixth pillar of Islam.
Much of the letter is devoted to the argument that despite the glorification of violence in the Koran, Muslims reject violence. The writers point out ...
... the sacred formula Muslims use daily, In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Is it not self-evident that spilling innocent blood goes against mercy and compassion?
Yes, it is. Is it not also self-evident that a great many Muslims either see things a different way or have a different definition of "innocent"? So once again we face the tired old argument that the ceaseless bloodshed across the Muslim world and wherever Islam intersects with any other belief, secular or religious, is not the work of good Muslims. Fine, for the sake of argument, I will accept that. But the bloodshed is undeniably the work of people whose beliefs (whatever you call them) were generated by Islam. They say so themselves (and further, they often claim the mantle of "good Muslims" and accuse others of apostacy). So what are we to do? The west will always arrive at this same absurd impasse when it tries to speak rationally with people for whom reason is not a virtue, and for whom logical thought and discourse are nothing more than tools in a bag of tricks.
So perhaps we should just play it their way:
We in the west would like to correct some misperceptions that exist in the Muslim world about our sense of mercy and compassion. Those young men and women in uniforms tramping around the Middle East and Asia with guns in their hands are not soldiers. In fact, the U.S. Army is not really an army. It's more of a construction team. Those explosions you hear are merely the work of the demolition division. Once they're done, the building will begin. They are, to the last one, merciful and compassionate, as our society teaches them to be. Should any of them stray from our beliefs and do something obviously unmerciful or uncompassionate, then clearly they are not really of our society, are they? They ceased to be our responsibility the moment they began acting against the mercy and compassion we hold so dear. So don't come blaming us for what they do. And the War on Terror is not really a war. You see, war is peace, and terror is justice, and "on" and "of" are both prepositions, so you could say that it's actually the Peace of Justice.
And after all, the Koranic verse that now conveniently abrogates all others is, "There is no compulsion in religion." But we'd like to take that one step further, just to put everyone's mind at ease. We firmly believe that "There is no compulsion in anything." So do what you like. Chop off the heads of Buddhist teachers and Wall Street Journal reporters. Blow up marketplaces and nightclubs. Rent SUVs and drive them through crowds of college kids. Poison police officers eating evening meals during Ramadan. Revive polio by banning vaccines. Take children hostage with guns and bombs on the first day of school. Buy young boys and force them to jockey camels. Kill nuns when the Pope says something that pisses you off. Fly planes into buildings. Cut off the genitalia of twelve-year-old girls. Then marry them. We don't care. Do what you like. We trust your self-evident mercy and compassion. And don't complain about all those men and women with the uniforms and the guns; don't complain about the planes, the helicopters, the prisons; don't complain about the U.N. inspectors or the trade sanctions. We've got nothing to do with all that.