Tolerance and the dignity of all human beings

Muriel Gray points out some sad realities.

What new creative solutions were on offer to reconcile the directly opposing ideologies that are obedience to Islam and progressive Western democracy? No big thinking of any kind. Actually, worse than that…Obama informed us that throughout history, “Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality”. Hasn’t it just? Darfur was all a silly misunderstanding, and Sunni and Shia Muslims tolerate each other magnificently. Islam also, the president assured us, overlaps and shares common principles with America, namely the “principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings”. Many of these can currently be seen on view in Afghanistan, northern Nigeria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Pakistan, to name but a very few.

One possible reply is that what Obama said was aspirational – meant to inspire people to live up to the flattering description, not to say how things really are. But…it’s not a very satisfactory or convincing reply, given the vastness of the gap between the flattering description and how things really are. Since Islam as it is really practiced in the real world in places where it has state power is conspicuously bad at tolerance and the dignity of all human beings, it seems foolhardy to say otherwise. (Would Obama be happy to see an adult Malia living in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan or Pakistan? If not…maybe he should hesitate before talking about shared principles of the dignity of all human beings. [If the answer is yes, he’s nuts – but I strongly doubt that the answer is yes.])

By far the greatest disappointment was Obama’s “dealing” with women’s rights as lowly point number six in his speech. In a few short sentences he referred, rightly, to the importance of educating Muslim women, then bizarrely to the importance of keeping American citizens in their hijabs…No mention of the shameful atrocities being carried out worldwide in Islamic countries every single day; nothing of injustice and hopelessness, of the drudgery, powerlessness and virtual enslavement suffered by millions of women and girls in the name of an invented deity. To so sure-footedly ignore what is happening to women right now is nothing short of a disgrace, and his appeasement of this outrage is on a par with appeasing apartheid.

Right. He needs a copy of the book.

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