Tom Friedman’s column in the New York Times for November 25, 2007, is The Case for Illegal Mingling.
Tom’s subject is the great divide between various parts of the Muslim community. Here are some excerpts, my emphasis added in bold and my comments in italic:
One of the most talked about stories in the Middle East last week came out of Saudi Arabia, where the government affirmed the sentence of 200 lashes for a 19-year-old Shiite girl who was sitting in a car with a male acquaintance last year when they were attacked by seven men who gang-raped both of them.
The Saudi Justice Ministry said the young woman deserved 200 lashes and six months in prison, even though she had been raped, because she was guilty of “illegal mingling” — sitting in a car with a man who was not related to her.
What to say? The first measure I apply to a group, be it a community, a town, a religion, or a country, is to ask, “How does it treat its women?” Saudi Arabia fails this test miserably, to say the least.
Two hundred lashes for a woman who was raped, under any circumstances in even the most traditional country, is barbaric — period. But what also keeps tripping off my tongue is this phrase “illegal mingling.” It seems to me that if the Middle East could use more of anything these days it is more mingling — if not between the sexes then at least between the sects.
Right on, Tom. The more mingling the better.
From Gaza to Lebanon to Pakistan to Iraq there is a huge struggle going on today, primarily between Muslim sects, over who can mingle with whom. This is the central issue in Iraq: Can Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis mingle anymore, after all the blood that has been spilled, and, if so, can the country be stable enough for us to reduce our troops? By mingling I mean something less than embracing each other, but more than total segregation.
The prognosis for Iraq, and the rest of the Muslim world, is not good. No surprise in that. It’s worth noting that our troops can’t mingle. They must secure themselves in armored vehicles, lets they be shot. And even these vehicles are not sufficient. The next IED may be only meters away.
There is only one good thing about extremists: They don’t know when to stop. That was key to the surge. The anti-mingling, pro-Qaeda Iraqi Sunnis went way too far — in beheading people, suicide-bombing mosques, forcing marriages with the daughters of Sunni tribal sheiks and demanding that men grow beards and stop drinking whiskey.
This will be one of our key advantages. We know how to mingle, and the XO laptop will prove to be a great tool to promote more mingling.
The jihadists know that if they can defeat America — in the heart of their world — it would influence the whole region.Gen. David Petraeus understands that if we can defeat them in the heart of their world, it could do the same. But the locals have to lead the fight — we can’t want mingling more than they do.
We have used military power, and it has failed. The remaining tool left to us in education and the promotion of more mingling. We will soon have at hand a powerful tool to pursure this goal, the XO laptop.