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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.
September 16, 2010
Finally—finally—a prominent Muslim has injected some common sense into the controversy which has spread far beyond the question of whether a Muslim congregation in New York City has a constitutional right to build a cultural center—including a mosque—within two blocks of the site where nearly 3,000 people were murdered when Muslims flew two commandeered airliners into two skyscrapers.
An “Opinion” page column in The Wall Street Journal—you can bet it wasn’t in The New York Times—carried several articles under the general headline “What Is Moderate Islam?”
Particularly pertinent, as I see it, was one of the articles headlined: “Don’t Gloss Over The Violent Texts.” By “texts,” the author was referring to writings setting forth principles by which Muslims are supposed to govern their lives.
The author of the article was Tawfik Hamid, identified as a former member of an Islamic radical group but now an Islamic reformer and a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. The reformed Muslim radical started with these paragraphs:
“In regards to Islam, the words ‘moderate’ and ‘radical’ are relative terms…
“Radical Islam is not limited to the act of terrorism; it also includes the embrace of teachings within the religion that promote hatred and ultimately breed terrorism. Those who limit the definition of radical Islam to terrorism are ignoring—and indirectly approving—the Shariah teachings that permit killing apostates, violence against women and gays and anti-Semitism.”
(My dictionary defines “Shariah” as relating to the teachings of Mohammad or his companions.)
Moderate Islam, this Muslim continues, “must provide a strong theological refutation for the mainstream Islamic teaching that the Muslim “umma” (nation) must declare wars against non-Muslim nations, spreading the religion and giving non-Muslims the following options: Convert, pay a humiliating tax or be killed.”
Concluding his call for moderate Muslims to wage a public battle against Muslim radicals who are actively and proudly pursuing a policy of “convert or die” against non-Muslims, the converted radical wrote:
“Finally, moderate Islam must powerfully reject the barbaric practices of Jihadists. Ideally, this would mean Muslims demonstrating en masse all over the world against the violence carried out in the name of their religion.
“Moderate Islam must be honest enough to admit that Islam has been used in a violent manner at several stages in history to seek domination over others. Insisting that all acts in Islamic history and all current Shariah teachings are peaceful is a form of deception that makes things worse by failing to acknowledge the existence of the problem.”
From this converted Muslim radical, finally, a clear definition of the problem which liberals like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Barack Obama have either failed to recognize or intentionally ignore as they continue to prattle about a non-issue; i.e., the constitutional right of Muslims to build mosques wherever they meet local zoning laws.
The battle, which Bloomberg and Obama don’t seem to understand, is not about the legal rights of a Muslim congregation to build a mosque. The battle in New York is over whether it is appropriate, even moral, for followers of one religion to insist on their legal rights when they are offending a majority of New Yorkers and certainly a majority of the people of the United States.
Bloomberg and Obama and people who think like they do are ignoring the true problem—acts of Muslim terrorism in a variety of places around the world. Not only the acts of terrorism killing “infidels,” of course, but also practices like those of the Taliban in Afghanistan, who are killing American troops in order that they can continue their barbaric practices, including assuring that women receive no formal education by forbidding them to attend schools.
The outrageous list goes go on and on. A multiple-victim suicide bombing here, a multiple-victim suicide bombing there, a sentence to death by public stoning for a couple who eloped.
And what are moderate Muslims, from Omaha to New York City to Washington to London to any other city in the free world where they have a legal right to practice their religion—what are the great majority of moderate Muslims doing about it? Nothing, so far as the public record shows.
* * *
I said last week that I would use this week’s column to address the strange case of a non-partisan contest for the Nebraska’s Second Congressional District seat.
I had in mind the fact that in their television commercials, neither Republican incumbent Lee Terry nor Democratic opponent Tom White are mentioning their party affiliation.
White in particular has gone to some length to distance himself from his party’s label. One of White’s TV ads refers to “the debt both parties are piling on our kids.” The ad concludes with this language under White’s picture:
“Nebraska Independence for Congress.”
Tom White’s performance seems to fit a national pattern which was reported under a New York Times headline which read: “Vulnerable Candidates Go Their Own Way.”
White’s performance also is compatible with a map in The Times which purports to identify the few places where Democrats feel they can pick up seats, other places where there is a “competitive open race” and a much larger number of states where there are “competitive races.”
On this map, Nebraska isn’t identified as a state which promises a “competitive race.”
Such an appraisal, if valid, could affect national Democratic funding help for White, one would think.
* * *
Here we go again.
A recent headline read: “New program for buyers, with no money down.”
Have we so soon forgotten that we’ve tried the “easy-mortgage” policy and the result contributed substantially to the recession which, I assume, the current “everybody should have the right to own a house” policy is designed to help overcome by stimulating the housing market.
A news story described the new program this way:
Fannie Mae, the federal agency which helped create the economic recession by subsidizing cheap mortgage loans to people who should have remained renters, is coming back into the market for mortgages with no down payment.
Surely there is a sounder economic way to encourage a resurgence in the home market without returning to no-money-down easy mortgage policies.
It seems to me there is some parallel between no-down-payment mortgage policy and the tragic story indicated by this headline: “Debtors Feast At the Expense Of the Frugal.”
The story reported that families and corporations alike are refinancing their loans “in droves” to take advantage of interest rates that are being kept unrealistically low, as a result of federal policy to stimulate the economy.
But those low interest rates—described in the news story as seemingly “impossibly cheap”—are working real hardship on anyone with a savings account, including, tragically, retirees who depended on their life’s savings to earn enough interest to help pay living expenses in retirement.
An index of bank deposit interest rates slipped below 1%--the first time this has happened since the 1950s when Market Rates Insight began tracking the interest that banks pay to savers.
It is more than ironic. It is a tragedy when corporations and homeowners who borrow money can benefit financially at the expense of persons who so managed their affairs that they had passed the stage of having to borrow money. Now, those older Americans, through lower interest rates on their savings, are, in effect, subsidizing loans to working families and corporations.
* * *
As I dictate this, the movement (if that isn’t an overstated description) to force an election to recall Mayor Jim Suttle seems to have appropriately faded away. If so, good riddance.
Suttle inherited a tough challenge—basic budget-balancing needs that simply could not be addressed without some increase in taxes. A 4-3 City Council majority recognized the need and approved a tax increase package which, it seems to me, still falls short of meeting some important city government needs.
It apparently never occurred to the “let’s recall Suttle” advocates that to get revenge for some fairly modest but badly-needed tax increases you would have to recall not only Mayor Suttle but the four City Council members who had the courage to vote for those increases.
The four Council members who voted for the increases are Chris Jerram, Thomas Mulligan, Ben Gray and Garry Gernandt. The three dissenters, who offered no viable alternatives and deserve to be so remembered, are Jean Stothert, Pete Festersen and Franklin Thompson.
Incidentally, one would have hoped that Suttle would have used better judgment than to follow the slender 4-3 victory on the budget issue by creating the position of “bicycle-pedestrian coordinator” with a salary of about $65,000 a year.
If there’s a pressing need for a city employee to take on the assigned job of making Omaha’s streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, Suttle and some biking enthusiasts must be the only ones aware of it.
* * *
This one’s for dear friend Maxine Christensen of Exira, Iowa, a fellow columnist who writes me from time to time. In this case, it was a happy birthday greeting for Marian and me.
Maxine said she is looking forward to next March, when she turns 90.
Maxine has several times informed me how much she enjoys reading about Marian and our dogs. So here, for Maxine Christensen and the numerous others who have indicated they enjoy reports about Marian and the world’s most lovable cocker spaniels, a report on what I overheard one recent morning:
Marian goes downstairs ahead of me and within 30 seconds has greeted the dogs with “Good morning, my darlings” and “How are you, babycakes?” and “Good morning, wild women of Prairie Avenue.”
During the day, of course, there are continuing expressions of affection—eight-year-old Claire is repeatedly referred to as “Precious” and six-year-old Charlotte as “Gorgeous.” But nothing quite matches that half a minute outpouring of affection with which Marian greets Claire and Charlotte every morning.
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