Responding to the Embassy Bombings: Freedom of Religion Requires Respect for the Sacred
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
The first issue in responding to the attacks on American embassies beginning on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 is one of cause and effect. Did the mere appearance of the film, “The Innocence of Muslims”, cause the violent responses by Muslims around the world, or was it merely exploited by ideologically committed Muslims or others with a political agenda?
Reactions of anger over desecration of the sacred are natural, and “the madness of crowds” can be easily manipulated, but resort to violence usually comes from ideological origins derived in part from felt injustices that date back centuries. These origins are compounded by current injustices with little hope of constructive change.
One can argue that America’s imperial mindset and policies and its exploitation of unjust and corrupt local elites are the real causes of the embassy attacks, rather than a single amateur film by a common criminal out on bail. Do the real reasons behind the attacks on American and European embassies derive from the realpolitik of both America and Europe and from a similar realpolitik of their allied elites in the Muslim world, which could give the protests real and lasting meaning?
In the epicenter of the Arab Winter, Cairo, 50% of people between 25 and 35 years of age are unemployed, which is the highest percentage anywhere in the world.
Some Salafi religious extremists are involved, but they are less important than they are, for example, in Tunisia, where the secular extremists provoke counter-extremism.
It may appear that the Islamist leaders, especially in Egypt, have no plans to change anything in the existing system, so most people expect only more-of-the-same imposed by the military. America is a scapegoat for their frustrations, and perhaps the film is a scapegoat for America, rather than the other way around. To some extent, the same is true all over the Muslim world, which is a made-to-order scenario for extremists, including those counter-extremists who want to solve all problems by bombing Iran.
The second issue of importance in the September crisis involves freedom of religion. Freedom of religion calls for restraint of those who would deny freedom of religion by insulting what is sacred to others. Religious tribalism by Christians, Jews, and Muslims was condemned by America’s Founders, simply because most of the original colonies were founded by religious exclusivists, who by definition opposed the original American confederation.
The U.S. constitution calls for freedom of religion not for freedom against religion. Religion in the language of the Founding Fathers was generic, because most of them did not believe in the Trinity, which is the central and essential dogma of Paulist Christianity.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims, in that order, have been the most tribalistic of all peoples and the most guilty of violating the fundamental principles of their own religion. Christians as the most imperialistic of all peoples during the past two centuries therefore have a special obligation to stop the abuse of freedom by those Christians who are guilty of hiraba in the form of religious terrorism.
Criminalizing those who deny the Holocaust and are anti-Semitic should be part of the Constitutional protection of religion. The issue is rarely outright denial of the Holocaust but centers on whether the statistics have been exaggerated. Only politics explains why such people are criminalized, while doing the same to Muslims is defended as protected freedom of speech.
Traditionalist Muslims should join traditionalist Christians and Jews in demanding freedom of religion by criminalizing those who deny it. Unfortunately, most Muslims are ignorant of the great Islamic classics of the fourth through eighth Islamic centuries. This failure in Islamic education explains why many Muslims are no better than the mukharijun who murdered Imam Ali. They are no better than the Christians who practiced genocide against Muslims and fellow Christians in the Crusades.
From an Islamic perspective, the issues are simple and so are the answers. The issues should not be linked primarily to defending Muslims and what is sacred to them. The central issue is generic. Religious tribalism in the sense of the asabiya based on seeking one’s own self-identity by looking down on others is a threat to everything sacred, including the Great American Experiment in self-determination through reliance on God.
Unfortunately, few Muslims in the modern era think strategically, which is why so many Muslims, especially in America, cannot distinguish between four basic strategies: 1) assimilation, which is individual suicide; 2) ghettoism, which is slow suicide, 3) confrontation, which is mass suicide combined with reciprocal mass murder; and 4) integration, which is the only salvation for Muslims and everyone else.
During the past thirty-five years of my experience in America as a full-time Islamic evangelist, I have seen a lot of assimilationist talk, ghettoism, and confrontation, but practically nothing about the proactive requirement of Muslims wherever they live to participate in the national discussion on common issues in order to shape the nation’s agenda and, in turn, to make long-run national and international policy. Perhaps we need a poll and study of Muslim leaders in America on the challenge of integration, which means bringing the best of Islam to enrich the best of America for the best of the world.
How many of America’s Muslim leaders know that as you walk up the steps to the U.S. Supreme Court building you can see near the top of the building a row of the world’s greatest lawgivers and each one is facing one in the middle who is facing forward with a frontal view. It is Moses and he is holding the Ten Commandments. How many know that James Madison, the fourth U.S. president, sometimes known as the “The Father of Our Constitution”, made the following statement: “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for Self-Government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God”.
How many know that the Father of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, annotated the Qur’an and wrote: “No people can remain free unless they are properly educated. Proper education consists of teaching virtue, and no people can remain virtuous unless the personal and public lives of the individual are infused with awareness and love of Divine Providence”, by which he meant God.
How many know that among the world’s greatest jurisprudents honored by reliefs above the main building of the U.S. Supreme Court is The Prophet Muhammad, and that twenty years ago, we defeated a suicidal demand by many Muslims to remove the bust of the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam.
Soon, in sha’a Allah, Abdullah Schleifer will present the true history of Islam as a major source of America’s Founding, based on the writings of Edmund Burke, who was by far the major mentor of America’s Founders, not the contract theorists, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. He was the West’s leading expert on Islam as a civilization for the future in opposition to the British Empire.
As I have been saying repeatedly for many decades in hundreds of articles and talks to the general incomprehension of Muslims, unless we overcome the narcissistic and even autistic focus on ourselves as Muslims in self-defense, there is no future either for ourselves or for the Great American Experiment in divinely-guided self-determination based on peace, prosperity, and freedom through the interfaith harmony of transcendent and compassionate justice.