Bigotry has been having a bumper week, worldwide. Thankfully, the plans by the pastor of a tiny evangelical church in Florida to burn the Koran have been called off. Yet those plans were only the latest ripple from a similarly irrational outburst of hostility against plans to build a Muslim community centre a few blocks away from the former World Trade Centre site. That New York controversy also whipped up opposition to Muslim community centres across America in places like Murfreesboro, Tennessee and elsewhere.
Meanwhile in Germany, a Central Bank economist called Thilo Sarrazzin has just published a best seller arguing that Muslim immigrants, mainly coming from Turkey – such migrants comprise 5% of the entire population – are ‘dumbing down’ German society, because of their alleged genetically inferior levels of intelligence. This German ground surge against their Islamic minorities follows in the wake of French laws to outlaw the burqa and Swiss laws to ban the building of minarets. In a tiny step forward, the authorities in Teheran have commuted the death sentence on a woman convicted of adultery, and formerly sentenced to death by stoning.
How ironic that the Florida church at the centre of this week’s controversy should be called the Dove World Outreach Center. The only ‘outreach’ involved here was a fist in the face of Islam. This gesture is symptomatic of an evangelical tradition that keenly looks forward to Armageddon., and expects to see it occur in our time. Creating carnage in the Middle East is therefore – according to this warped world view – God’s work, of hastening the apocalypse, the arrival of the rapture and all the other nutty elements of the End Times. If that logic makes Barack Obama a top contender to be the Anti-Christ, this Christian website at least has one other prime contender in mind.
Given its history, the German example is almost as worrisome. As you might expect, Thilo Sarrazzin and his supporters are happy to blame the forces of ‘political correctness’ if anyone happens to feel queasy when a prominent German public figure starts labeling vulnerable social minorities as genetically inferior. Yes, Sarrazzin – a board member of the most powerful central bank in Europe – is definitely a poor, persecuted victim of PC thinking when he starts laying the blame for the social problems of immigration on the alleged genetic traits of the migrants concerned. At 66, Sarrazzin is old enough to remember, and know better.
At time of writing, President Obama and commander of US forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus appear to have succeeded in convincing the Florida pastor to rethink and call off his plans to violate Islam’s sacred text. The anger behind this and other attacks on Islam and the civil rights of Muslims remains. Maybe Obama could try reaching back to an earlier, more tolerant America, and should dial up Batman and Robin on the Batphone. Once upon a time, the Caped Crusader could convince middle America that tolerance was really the most sensible response, and the approach most consistent with core American values. For example :
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