Jewish World Review April 25, 2003/ 23 Nisan, 5763
Will the 'true' imperialist religion please stand up?
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Media organizations from CNN to The New York Times have all recently admitted to years of lying about conditions in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. They explain that they faced either losing "access" or subjecting their Iraqi employees -- and, of more relevancy, themselves -- to Saddam's torture chambers.
Stipulating for purposes of argument that the media were performing a service to anyone other than Saddam Hussein by being his pimp, rather than just pulling out, it still leaves another devilish question. Why, then, were these same news organizations -- CNN and the Times in particular -- so insistent that the United States take no action to remove Hussein from power, knowing what they now admit they knew?
Liberals learned to live with Iraqi citizens being fed into plastic shredders, summary executions, maimings and unanesthetized ear-loppings. Only now have they found something truly fiendish going on in Iraq: Christian missionaries are proselytizing! On the basis of the raw terror on display at The New York Times, I gather the operating theory is that Iraqis who withstood Saddam Hussein's sadistic tyranny for 30 years will be unable to withstand a Christian missionary.
I don't know. Liberals have resisted Christianity pretty well. Christians are already a majority in America, and we can't even stop public school teachers from passing out condoms to fourth-graders or prevent Hollywood from producing movies that portray Christians as marauding skinheads.
But in the left's doomsday scenario, Arabs who have been stewing in Islamic theology their entire lives could watch a 20-minute video on the life of Christ and convert en masse. G-d only knows what trouble that could lead to.
Interestingly, absolutely everyone concedes that a lot of Muslims are going to have to convert to some new religion. That's the point of the much-ballyhooed claim that the terrorists and their sympathizers are not practicing "true Islam." Well, they think they are. Muslims who share Mohammed Atta's religious beliefs as it pertains to infidels are bossily informed that they are incorrect and ordered to practice "true Islam." Only if a Christian mentions Jesus Christ, evidently, does it constitute imperialism.
In fact, the "true Islam" ruse is straight out of the imperialist's handbook. When the British colonized India, they encountered such charming Hindu practices as "suttee," which involved throwing the widow on her husband's burning funeral pyre. Instead of convincing the Hindus that this hideous practice was a priori wrong, the British went to great lengths to produce ancient Sanskrit texts proving that the natives were not practicing "true Hinduism."
As Anthony Pagden describes it in the book "Peoples and Empires": "The British ransacked Sanskrit texts and questioned local religious leaders in an effort to discover a 'purer' form of Hinduism" that would match -- as Pagden puts it -- "their own notions of 'morality.'" (Pagden, who has taught at Harvard and has written for The New York Times, would be finished as a respected academic if he ever expressed a personal view as to the morality of burning women alive.)
As luck would have it, the governor general of India, Lord Bentinck, made the exciting discovery that suttee was just such a distortion of the original Sanskrit! He outlawed it in 1829, proclaiming that he had restored the Indians to "true Hinduism."
Similarly, when Napoleon occupied Egypt at the end of the 18th century, he imposed a predominantly French culture, claiming he was merely restoring the Egyptians' true culture. (The only French custom that still survives is the aversion to bathing.) Indeed, Napoleon even declared that the French, not the Muslim warriors he had overthrown, were the "true Muslims."
Liberals don't mind pompously asserting that the terrorists are not practicing "true Islam" and demanding conversion to a form of Islam closer to their own "morality" (as per Pagden). Like the prim Lady-Do-Rightlys of Britain, they insist they are not destroying a religion, but rather restoring it to its proper understanding.
Inarguably, anyone who views flying planes into the World Trade Center as a matter of religious devotion is going to have to get a new religion. Could we at least stop pretending that the British colonial office approach of pandering "true Islam" is any less "imperialistic" than Franklin Graham's missionaries showing videos on the life of Christ?
Throughout the history of empire-building, Christians were a constant thorn in the side of the conquerors and slave-traders. They quaintly insisted that, as Pagden puts it, the biblical command "'Love thy neighbor as thyself' should be a real deterrent against pillage and the unwarranted expropriation of the goods of others, even when, as was generally the case, those others were not Christians."
Though some colonialists used Christianity as a fig leaf for pillage, they were precisely as Christian as Cuba, China and North Korea are "democratic" today. Someday, liberals will denounce democracy, citing the atrocities of Red China as proof of what such a monstrous system of government can do.
Christians who are willing to leave the safety and comfort of America to go to barbarous lands, risking disease, pestilence and murder, simply because they so love their fellow man -- these are the miscreants who inflame and enrage liberals more than Saddam Hussein and his rape rooms ever did.