Thomas Friedman Islam and the Pope

Tom’s column today, as always, speaks for itself. Every word is worth reading and trying to comprehend. Here are a few parts of particular interest:


We need to stop insulting Islam. It’s enough already.

No, that doesn’t mean the pope should apologize. The pope was actually treating Islam with dignity. He was treating the faith and its community as adults who could be challenged and engaged. That is a sign of respect.

What is insulting is the politically correct, kid-gloves view of how to deal with Muslims that is taking root in the West today. It goes like this: “Hushhh! Don’t say anything about Islam! Don’t you understand? If you say anything critical or questioning about Muslims, they’ll burn down your house. Hushhh! Just let them be. Don’t rile them. They are not capable of a civil, rational dialogue about problems in their faith community.”

Now that is insulting. It’s an attitude full of contempt and self-censorship, but that is the attitude of Western elites today, and it’s helping to foster the slow-motion clash of civilizations that Sam Huntington predicted.

I don’t get it. How can Muslims blow up other Muslims on their most holy day of the year — in mosques! — and there is barely a peep of protest in the Muslim world, let alone a million Muslim march? Yet Danish cartoons or a papal speech lead to violent protests. If Muslims butchering Muslims — in Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan — produces little communal reaction, while cartoons and papal remarks produce mass protests, what does Islam stand for today? It is not an insult to ask that question.

I’m all for a respectful dialogue between Islam and the West, but first there needs to be a respectful, free dialogue between Muslims and Muslims. What matters is not what Muslims tell us they stand for. What matters is what they tell themselves, in their own languages, and how they treat their own.

Without a real war of ideas within Islam to sort that out — a war that progressives win — I fear we are drifting at best toward a wall between civilizations and at worst toward a real clash.


His words rang true, as did the words I heard from someone else who spoke of this topic, at the Rosh Hoshanah service in our synagogue, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester.

I think we are blessed in that we know at least one person, and if we are lucky more than one person, about whom it is impossible to find anything bad to say. Just impossible. To attempt to do so is to expose your ignorance.

The man who spoke at our Temple is such a man. He is a physician who has dedicated his life to healing and helping children.

I hope to say more about him in future posts, but for now I’ll just relate part of what he said. I will be paraphrasing his words, in doing so will not be doing them full justice. He said,

We are Jews are supposed to be forgiving. That is one of our responsibilities. Yet I just learned that a nun had been slaughtered in some African country. She had spent several decades living in that country and educating its children.

She was murdered a few days ago, by fanatics who had taken offense at the words of her Pope.

I try to forgive. I do try. But this act, this murder, that I cannot forgive.

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