September 05, 2002
Stupid Letters

Today's Seattle Times had a letter to which I feel compelled to respond.

Naarah Hastings' letter condemns Islam for "acts of oppression, murder, rape, torture, displacement, hatred and forced conversion." The Islam Hastings describes fits Christianity's entire history. Shockingly, Christian conversion campaigns targeting Jewish and other non-Christian children today are OK.

There is a vast difference between forced conversions (as practiced in Arabic Muslim nations) and missionary work, which compels nobody, and does not advocate oppression (such as the treatment of women), rape (such as what occurred in Pakistan), torture (such as homosexuals being buried alive), and hatred (Palestinian schoolbooks actively target Jews). Equating the two is obscene.

President Bush welcomes American Christian missionaries to the White House who were imprisoned overseas by radical Muslims. Their imprisonment was horrible, but missionary work shows utter contempt and hate for its victims, too. Why? To tell children of one faith their religion is "inferior" and has been superseded by a "newer, better" one is hateful, demeaning and condescending.

We'd all be worshipping plants and trees today if not for missionary efforts. At one time or another, all converts to any religion were told (implicitly or explicitly) that their religion was inferior to another. If you choose to believe (or not), that is your right. While I have little time for religious proselytizers, I do not consider it hateful, demeaning, and condescending , unless they become overtly insulting of my chosen religious beliefs (or lack thereof, as may be the case).

Of Islam, news reports estimate 1 billion-plus Muslims worldwide. There are 60,000 or so actively involved in violent anti-Western activities and 1 million to 2 million sympathizers. Gross generalizations and incorrect facts offer nothing useful to students and teachers.

The largest Islamic nation in the world is Indonesia, with which the United States enjoys relatively cordial relations. Malaysia, Phillipines, Albania, Bosnia, Nigeria, and several other nations have large Islamic populations, but they are not the Arabic nations that hate the Israelis (and by extension America). And considering the polls of Arab nations that show support of Anti-Israel and Anti-US groups running at well over 50%, the 1-2 million figure cited is far too low.

Looking for scapegoats other than a non-existent "leftist elite"? When American oil companies remove oil from Nigeria and leave nothing but crushing, grinding poverty, we hand radical Muslims a silver platter. Thousands of young children earn 90 cents a day in Ghana and the Ivory Coast harvesting the cocoa bought by Nestlé and Hershey for our insatiable appetite for chocolate.

The grinding poverty in Nigeria is not the fault of the American oil companies, it is the fault of the corrupt series of Nigerian governments that have mismanaged that country's finances since it achieved independence in 1960. And if the Nestle and Hershey were to stop purchasing their cocoa from Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire, would the children now earning 90 cents a day suddenly find a better-paying job elsewhere? Sweatshops are only offensive to those who have other ways of earning money. Nicholas Kristof discussed this in a June column (I blogged about it here).

Where's morality, political correctness and ethics?

Morality and ethics are right where they should be. Political correctness should have been checked at the door; I don't subscribe to that point of view, and I don't want to see it in here.

Akiva Kenneth Segan, director, Holocaust Education Through Art, Seattle

Mr. Segan is a well-known and widely exhibited artist. He is also on record as opposing the "occupation" (here is a copy of the ad to which he is a signatory).

posted on September 05, 2002 06:03 PM


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