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Jewish World Review Dec. 5, 2002 / 30 Kislev, 5762

Mark Goldblatt

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Consumer Reports

Our 'lunatics' and theirs | Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is incensed at derogatory statements about Muhammad made by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson - the former referred to the prophet as a "terrorist," the latter as an "absolute wild-eyed fanatic."

Hooper responded in kind, comparing the reverends to Osama bin Laden on the grounds that they seek to "divide the world into a religious war." The entire exchange would hardly be worth noting except for a final dig by Mr. Hooper: "Conservative evangelical leaders," he said, "would kill Muslims if given the chance."

The assertion is ludicrous. Regardless of whether Falwell's and Robertson's remarks are distasteful, or even factually correct, there's no logical connection between insulting Islam's founder and slaughtering his followers.

Still, Hooper's charge is worth dwelling on. Note those final four words: if given the chance. For even if Falwell and Robertson did harbor genocidal impulses towards Muslims (which, of course, they don't), they could never act on them.

Consider: American citizens enjoy mind-boggling freedoms compared with those of Muslim nations, yet apparently feel constrained from waging rogue wars against foreign interests. Citizens of Muslim nations, on the other hand, where individual liberties are tightly circumscribed by repressive, tyrannical regimes, apparently feel free to hatch, organize and carry out homicidal assaults against whatever infidel targets present themselves.

The contrast is instructive. Notwithstanding Mr. Hooper's evangelical paranoia, hundreds of Americans surely have the maniacal will, the technical expertise and even the financial wherewithal to, say, arrange the hijacking of an Air Jordan passenger flight in order to dive it straight into the Dome of the Rock. But they will not get the chance.

Their friends and families would hear them planning it, their neighbors and co-workers would observe them coordinating it . . . and someone, somewhere would drop that dime. Law-enforcement agencies would be tipped off, and the operation snuffed out before it ever got off the ground.

This imperative seems lost among Muslim cultures. Americans might not squeal on their countrymen for lying, cheating or stealing, but few of us would fail to report a plot to murder innocent civilians.

Think of it as the Code of the Unabomber's Brother. Where, in the Muslim world, are the Unabomber's brothers?

That, indeed, is another sign of the superiority of our culture to Islamic culture: We keep a lid on our lunatics.

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JWR contributor Mark Goldblatt' teaches at SUNY's Fashion Institute of Technology. His new novel is A Africa Speaks. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Mark Goldblatt