Dear Reader: Brush up on history and religion

Responders point to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan; their memories are short


Each time I write about the Middle East or another controversial subject, I am inundated with comments and questions. I welcome a spirited and dynamic dialogue with my readers, as long as it is not ill-spirited.

My July 22 column on the coup in Egypt, “In wake of Morsi ouster, Egyptian democracy’s future murky,” brought the usual reactions. Some responders, however, jumped beyond the subject at hand and tried hard to inform or persuade me that Muslims are a rotten bunch of people and that nothing good will ever come from them.

They point to Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. Regrettably, their memories are short. Their history has no relevance to, or context with, the present.

One of my readers objected to the word “Muslim” in Muslim Brotherhood. To him, it is religious and sexist, and he said that a democratic government should be beyond such divisions.

A cursory check of political parties in democracies around the world shows that 55 political parties have “Christian” in their name, and that includes most European democracies.

Some responders recycled a hateful and flawed litany of world events that proves in their minds that Muslims are barbaric and their religion is evil.

You can make such a list about any religion. You cherry-pick incidents, crimes, terrorist acts, and pogroms that were committed by the followers of a particular religion, string them together, and make them appear as if the religion is violent and advocates destroying everyone who disagrees with its teachings.

Because most of my critics are Christians, let us start with their faith. We could start with the killing of pagans in the 4th century and continue through the Nazi era and the Vietnam war. Fill in the gaps with isolated incidents of the massacre of Saxons in 782, the Crusades from 1095 through 1291, massacre of the peasants of the Steding, Germany, in 1234, and the battle of Belgrade in 1456.

While most of these atrocities were committed in the name of Christianity, do they reflect the teachings of Christ? If not, and I know they do not, then I rest my case.

Some of my readers automatically assume, albeit erroneously, that all Muslims think the same way and that all of them are on a path of war with the rest of the world. Strains of self-righteousness and violence exist within all major religions.

Even traditional pacifists, Buddhists, and monks are involved in killing Muslims in Burma. U Wirathu, the monk who is leading the charge, has been labeled the “Buddhist bin Laden” and made the cover of Time magazine.

But back to Egypt and the military coup against a democratically elected government. Mohammed Morsi, the deposed president, is held by the army.

A list of allegations is being compiled against him. That may lead to a trial and his exclusion from politics. If that happens, it will be a sad day for democracy.

I oppose religion-based politics. If I could vote in Egyptian elections, I would have voted for a secular candidate. But Egyptians rejected that, and instead chose the Muslim Brotherhood to rule the country.

So why not give the brotherhood a chance to prove that it is worthy of Egyptians’ confidence? If it fails, voters can turn out its members.

The infusion of money by Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf states into the Egyptian economy after the coup is strange, but not surprising. These countries oppose any democratic change in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is ruled by an uncompromising religious government, where orthodox clergy have unprecedented sway in the public domain.

Contradictions abound. On one hand, we chant the mantra of democracy for the Middle East. On the other, we condone and support the rigid anti-democratic orthodoxy of Saudi Arabia and some Gulf States.

It is nothing but a shadow play, stage-managed behind the smoke screen of democracy.

Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a retired Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade.

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