Radio Free Islam 

Sunday school for Muslims?

You might have missed this relatively minor item, lost as it was in the aftermath of the rampage in Paris and ensuing hysteria: Ohio Gov. John Kasich—that person who, of any of the GOP's presidential candidates, comes the closest to being a competent, serious and intelligent individual... which is absolutely not the same thing as saying he is a competent, serious and intelligent individual, so please, for God's sake, don't misunderstand this to be a recommendation that we elect John Kasich president... Heaven forbid, no!—announced that if he were elected president, he would create a new federal agency whose task would be to spread Judeo-Christian values throughout the Middle East. It is his opinion that our problems with the people of the Muslim world would go away if only they were schooled in the wonderful things that might come to them if only they would start acting like Methodists or Presbyterians. Or Unitarians. Or something.

Said Kasich, America is "failing to advance our values in the battle of ideas. ... We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic, to be part of a Judeo-Christian society. It means freedom, it means opportunity, it means respect for women ... it means so many things."

Aside from the fact that the Muslim world already has a long history of exposure to the "Western ethic"—including but not exclusive to the Crusades; the European colonization of northern Africa, various oil rich countries adjacent to the Persian Gulf, and the Islamic tribal lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan; what many Palestinians consider the bald-faced theft of their homeland in the establishment of Israel; the installation and support in funds and arms by the Western powers of any number of tyrannical despots, ranging from the Shah of Iran to Saddam Hussein to Hosni Mubarak; and, most recently, George W. Bush's disastrous invasion of Iraq, which has led to the entire region degenerating into the worst chaos imaginable—we have to wonder what faction of the Judeo-Christian sensibility would Gov. Kasich put in charge of this venture.

Before we go any further, I should apologize for the length and convolutions of that last sentence, but I find any time I start writing about the Middle East, the Muslim world, all or any of that uneasy interface between the Islamic reality and ours, it rapidly slips out of my writerly control and goes schizo. Seriously, you can hardly say anything about this whole culture clash/sectarian conflict/Israeli-Palestinian/Sunni-Shia/Ayatollah/Jihadist/radical Islam vs. moderate Islam/Salman Rushdie/Lawrence of Arabia/xenophobic/Al Qaeda-ISIS-Hezbollah-Taliban/200 years of exploitation/refugee crisis/Fatwa/shock and awe/Sharia law/9-11/OPEC/IED/WMD/suicide-bombed-up muddle, without getting sucked in by all the variables and anomalies, permutations, histories and histrionics. It's like getting into the middle of an octopus orgy and any tentacle you pick to cuddle with could explode into another 1,000-year war.

But John Kasich, now... he's proposing that we can combat all the Jihadist propaganda that attracts recruits to terrorist organizations simply by telling the Muslims how great it is to be a Lutheran. Or Catholic, maybe. Southern Baptist, I don't know. Kasich didn't get specific as to which one of our sects we should employ to neutralize their sects.

Yet if such an agency actually got up and running, exactly who's running it could be a contentious issue. For instance, when it comes to the "Judeo" share of the Judeo-Christian experience, would President Kasich include those hardliners who would like to expel all Arabs from Israel and who refuse to consider allowing the Palestinians a state of their own? You can only imagine what sort of comfort the Muslim world would take from that aspect of the "Western ethic," eh?

Given a choice between Pope Francis, the Quorum of the 12 Apostles from Salt Lake City or Pat Robertson from the 700 Club, whose values would President Kasich pick to set the agenda for this new agency of his? He mentions how "respect for women" is one of the appeals of the Judeo-Christian tradition—in spite of the fact that when we take a closer look at much of that tradition, there's not enough respect to allow the gals to make their own health choices or serve in significant ecclesiastical roles.

Why quibble over what simpletons say during a campaign season? The truth is, those freedoms and opportunities Kasich hopes would lure Muslims away from Islamist dogma have little, if anything, to do with Judeo-Christian values. That a relatively open, liberal society and Judeo-Christian predominance are here in the same place at the same time is more coincidental than causal. Besides, if Muslims decide they wanted in on this "Western ethic," they could do it as Muslims just as readily as if they converted. The proof: millions of Muslims have already been absorbed into "our" culture, and they are still Muslims.

All Kasich has accomplished with this proposal is to demonstrate that, of all the contenders for the Republican nomination, even the most a competent, serious and intelligent among them is capable of coming up with the silliest damn ideas in their desperation to catch the bitter affections of the Religious Right.

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