An American in Cairo

I hope that the President’s speech in Egypt today accomplishes something – anything.

But just by going there and speaking, just by addressing the Islamic world and declaring that the “Unites States is not at war with Islam,” he has accomplished what should have been obvious but has been ignored since 2001.

Religious extremism is the cause of much violence and death in the world and has been since history began. For right now, for these times, Islam is the major cause of this violence, but Christianity has had its centuries. Thankfully Christianity has now evolved into something more secular and less virulent, although there are pockets of that latent violence around as witnessed a few days ago in Kansas.

As the President rightly points out, we need to separate those extremists who would use violence to attain heaven from those who understand the true meaning of religion. We must come to understand why those elements might have appeal with some people who otherwise might not be inclined to violence and we must work to deprive those who would use both religion and the weak of mind and spirit to attain there own twisted ends of the ability to convince others to join them.

It is not as simple as fighting a war. I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting right now that we “root out members of Operation Rescue and bomb their homes” although that is the course some would have us take with regards to Al Qadae. In fact, to follow that analogy, some on the right would have us bombing towns where Southern Baptists live because members of Operation Rescue are Baptists.

The hope that the President aspires to is that Islam will also become more secularized and lose some of its virulence over time. For that to happen we will have to see an increased prosperity among Muslims, see a decline in poverty levels, and to give more people a sense that we are all in this together as opposed to the shared belief that the upper classes and the people of the West are out to deprive the average Muslim of his rightful fair share.

A tall order, especially since most Muslims live in societies that are not fair, and where upward mobility is denied. In those countries the West makes a handy villain, a good place for people to put their anger as opposed to looking at their own upper class and rulers.

But we cannot fight ignorance overseas if we tolerate ignorance at home. We cannot reach out to Muslims effectively while many Americans believe that someone who practices Islam either worships the devil, wants to kill their children or both.

The balance the President is seeking in Cairo must be matched with a determination to educate Americans about other religions, to root out the sources of religious violence right here in our heartland. Otherwise it will all be a wasted effort and we will see a xenophobic administration elected again sometime in the near future, pushing us right back to the “crusade” of the Bush administration.

A tall order, an uphill climb, an arduous task, but one that is begun well with this speech today.

I wonder how it played in Kansas?

By Writeside