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On jihads and crusades.

by Dear Jon
October 2, 2001

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85th Sort_Dear Jon-On jihads and crusades. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Those people who bombed us said that God told them to. What right do we have to say they are wrong? Don't we believe in freedom of religion?

Dear Unsigned,

Let me state first of all one simple truth: To paint Muslims with the brush of Osama bin Laden, is the same as saying that all Americans think like Timothy McVeigh.

Let me also take this opportunity to address a common historical misrepresentation. It is taught as gospel that in 1099 the Pope of the Catholic Church declared a crusade against the peace-loving Muslim world. For the sake of dialogue, along with historical and religious clarity, let us turn back the clock several centuries and see what was really happening geo-politically.

It is difficult to argue with anyone who insists that only cruel hypocrites would conduct a "crusade." Yet, for the purpose of clarity, I must point out that the "jihad" predates the "crusade" by approximately 300 years. The "jihad" swept through the Christian civilizations of the Middle East and Africa, thrusting through Turkey and Spain, and laying siege to the one island of Christianity that remained: Central Europe. Two hundred years before any Pope called for an attack on the Arab homeland, the French had to defend themselves in a little skirmish called the "Battle of Tours," which no one talks about in high school history classes because it really wasn't all THAT important--it just kept Europe from becoming a Sultanate, that's all.

Has Dear Jon become just another Internet kook? Are am I simply reporting dry, dull, undisputed history? You make the time to look it up. Try "Battle of Tours," "Spain: Moors," and "The Song of Roland."

But of course, Christians who call for "crusades" are in fact cruel hypocrites, because the founder of their religion, namely, Jesus Christ, leaves no such room for that kind of activity in his ethic, teaching, or lifestyle. Happily for Islam, to conduct a "jihad" is not at all hypocritical, since Mohammed the Prophet himself laid out the justifications for "jihad."

Just so we're clear: Al Qaeda fanatics who commit suicide bombings against civilians are justified according to the tenets of their faith; Christian zealots who take the fight to their enemy's homeland are cruel, ruthless hypocrites. That is the logic of those Taliban supporters you see burning the flag of the United States.

Very few people "believe in freedom of religion" as a religious principle. This is a social principle only designed to protect a civil society. Since the vast majority of Muslims are reluctant to invoke Jihad, and since the vast majority of Christians are rightly embarrassed by the crusades, the separation of church and state combined with the freedom to peacably assemble is an important tenet of American civilization. It is precisely this liberal approach to the family of humanity that has extremist bigots of all religions so upset. It is precisely this liberal approach that has been a shining beacon around the world for millions of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Christians who imagine a world of peace.

They know such a world is possible, because they live in peace side-by-side in the same United States. No wonder the bigots and fanatics of the world want to destroy us. A wise man once said, "Whoever does evil hates the light, because their deeds are exposed."


Should people be quiet in church before the service starts, or should they greet their friends?

Dear Another Unsigned Letter,

No, people should not be quiet, and no, they should not greet their friends. They should greet those who are strangers, those whom they know less well, and those who are of a different generation. They should greet them warmly, joyfully, and attentively as one welcomes family at a reunion. Furthermore, they should greet those with whom they are having conflict and try to reconcile. I have no idea who you are, but I guarantee from the way you phrased your question that you hate my answer because you know I'm right and it makes you darn uncomfortable.

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