And that's how I feel about his message of good wishes to Muslims on the eve of their Ramadan month of devotion, reflection and fasting. You can view it here:
[5:04] It is worth watching, even though it contains nothing earthshaking. Some highlights:
Seems like kind of trite stuff -- just pro-forma courtesies about someone else's religious observances -- unless you hear off to one side the cacophony of voices trying to gin up the United States (and Europe) for a war to the death against Islam and its adherents. I've been noticing a lot of these voices lately in some likely and unlikely quarters. Here's a random sample of a few:
- One Christopher Caldwell, a U.S.-citizen who is a columnist for the British Financial Times, has a new book promoting fear that Europe is being overrun by Muslims. (Muslims are 3 to 4 percent of the population of the European Union.) This hardy perennial fear taps into the historic reality that, half a millennial ago, European Christians were at war with an advancing Islam. Today it is hooey, but it gets the phobic adrenalin flowing and leads to stupid policies. Caldwell will be widely discussed. There is no reason for the United States to adopt Europe's ancient enmities and Obama knows it.
- Meanwhile, a Brandeis University professor is enduring a small re-igniting of the 2005 controversy over the Danish cartoons depicting and defaming the Prophet Mohammed. The story is complex, but political scientist Jytte Klausen apparently tried to write a nuanced account that focused particularly on how demagogues in Libya, Nigeria, and Pakistan used the cartoon flap to pursue local political quarrels. Now the respected scholar finds herself re-visiting the issues of disrespect v. free speech that were the original flash points.
- Jim Naughton has chronicled how breakaway Episcopalians (they style themselves Anglicans) not only are building a pure refuge from gay cooties, but also are turning to promotion of fear of Islam. This accords well with the concerns of their right wing funders. Having left their church of origin, perhaps they needed new enemies to keep their coherence?