Thursday, November 3, 2005

“We in America know the benevolence that is at the heart of Islam,” declared Condoleezza Rice, addressing assembled Muslim dignitaries at the annual Ramadan dinner at the State Department — and provoking a second, consecutive examination in this column of the rhetoric of the most important US official next to the president.

The secretary of state’s annual Ramadan dinner at the State Department is not to be confused with the president’s annual Ramadan dinner at the White House, although it’s easy to get mixed up. The legacy of September 11 has left us with: an open-ended war abroad; the introduction of homeland hyper-insecurity; and the open-ended introduction of Ramadan celebrations all over official Washington. Which is worth a question or two on its own, beginning with: “Why”? Why has it become the post-September 11 function of the U.S. government to celebrate Ramadan? The buzzword of “Muslim outreach” comes to mind, but, as the Judeo-Christian culture hit by Islamikazes on September 11, haven’t we got it exactly backward? That is, wouldn’t Muslims better outreach themselves if the Saudi Embassy, for example, celebrated Christmas and Hanukah?

But I digress. Getting back to Miss Rice’s shindig, Ramadan wouldn’t be Ramadan without Nihad Awad, the executive director of the notorious Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). His invitation alone deserves separate mention — and maybe an investigation into whether security concerns arose over bringing into the State Department someone from a Hamas-linked group boasting five current or former officials arrested, convicted or deported on terrorism-related charges. Oh well. In the holiday spirit, let’s just recall, as bestselling author Robert Spencer did at, the words of CAIR’s former board chairman, Omar Ahmad: “Islam isn’t in American to be equal to any other faiths, but to be dominant.” By Washington’s Ramadan measure, Mr. Ahmad’s wish is America’s command. After all, George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice aren’t breaking the fast with Jews on Yom Kippur, supping with Hindus on Diwali, or cavorting with Druids on the Winter Solstice. And they certainly aren’t feting official Christendom on Christmas Day — and no, the children’s Easter Egg roll doesn’t compare.

But I digress again. “We in America know the benevolence that is at the heart of Islam,” Miss Rice said. Really? Is that what history tells us? Is that what current events tell us? Miss Rice’s speechifying, which included a personal riff on Ramadan as being a time “characterized by sacrifice and abiding faith, by prayer and self-reflection and by compassion and profound joy,” makes a wicked contrast to real-live Ramadan headlines. Not the big ones about Scooter and Judy and Matt and Peter; or bird flu; or Charles and Camilla, or even the substantial ones about the new Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito.

I’m thinking of the Muslim suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed five, and the Hitlerian promise of Iran’s Shiite president that “the stain of disgrace”—Israel—will be “purged from the center of the Islamic world.” I’m thinking of the week of Muslim rioting in Paris, and the news that a July 7 London suicide bomber was buried in Pakistan (his exploded remains, anyway) at the shrine of an Islamic saint. In New Delhi, Muslims are suspected of killing 60, while actor Omar Sharif has received Internet death threats, thought to come from Muslims in Italy, for playing St. Peter. And I can’t stop thinking about the three Christian girls who were beheaded in Indonesia en route to their Christian high school. The killers carried off one of the severed heads to a new church, where they left it.

I could go on about the magazine editor in Afghanistan just sentenced to two years in jail for “blasphemy” — that is, criticizing Sharia law. Then there’s Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper in Denmark that has received bomb threats, become a potential terror target on an Al Qaeda Internet list and drawn official diplomatic protests from 11 Muslim ambassadors for having published 12 cartoons of Mohammed. Depictions of the Islamic prophet may be a no-no under Islamic law, but redoubtable Denmark and its free (non-apologizing) newspaper are not under Islamic law.

Condoleezza Rice isn’t either. But her soft-soap routine comes across as supplication, not statecraft. The United States should never kowtow to the Islamic diplomatic community by pretending that no doctrinal or institutional links exist between the teachings of Islam and the terrorism that has benighted our days. She and they must face facts. An informative place to start would be to challenge these same Ramadan diplomats to denounce, not newspapers that publish funny faces of Mohammed, but anyone who chops a schoolgirl’s head off.

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