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Reader comment on item: Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam
in response to reader comment: our dear Jon and his little trip "out of interest" to Egypt

Submitted by Jon Frost (Germany), Aug 6, 2008 at 06:59

Dear "dhimmi no more",

I am rather surprised to find 5 comments by you to my last comment, spanning 2 days, and basically repeating the same garbage and insults that you have leveled at me (and apparently several others in this forum) above. Do you actually do anything else besides write flurries of comments to people you deem "beyond help"? ... I wonder if you are this way in "real life", too, or if you would be as rabid if you didn't have the option of anonymity in an internet forum. I hope that you can tone down the rhetoric and the snide jeers and act like a normal human.

Regarding "qash wa tibn" - this means "dance and straw", doesn't it? You are right that I am not fluent in Arabic, but I am learning Arabic. The fact that you speak it is, again, good for you, but it does not give you the authority to discount others as ignorant. Muslims do not recognize the validity of the Qur'an except in its original Arabic version, but you are not Muslim, right? So why should you have a problem with translations? Your frequent assertion that I can't read the Qur'an and thus have no right to talk with you is a stupid mechanism to establish your superiority without actually discussing real ideas. Incidentally, I also only read translations of the Bible (my Greek and Hebrew aren't so good) but think I can discuss Christianity anyway.

So, as a clarification: I am both a white American and an atheist, and I don't particularly care if you believe me (by the way, Jon Frost is my real name - google me if you really want to. I don't feel any need to hide behind online forum names). I just got back from three weeks in Cairo for Master's research relating to informal employment of youth in urban Egypt. While I was there, I got by mostly with English and some very basic Egyptian Arabic. While out and about, I talked (out of interest) with probably about a dozen people who identified themselves as Copts, and 4 in some depth. I only know their first names, but these were: Magdi (in Coptic Cairo), Maher (in Darb al-Ahmar, where I was conducting some interviews with the help of an Egyptian (Muslim) friend named Walid), and two younger guys in Muqattam az-Zebbaleen whose first names I have since forgotten (in the St. Simeon the Tanner complex's cafeteria and in a street café later). All of them either had good enough English that I could talk in English with them or, in the case of Maher, I talked to him through a translator. Does this answer your question as to who and where?

And yes, each said something to the effect of "Egypt isn't so bad for Christians. We get by well." The younger guys proudly showed off their Jesus tattoos, and were really happy to talk to foreigners. Magdi and Maher both mentioned having a lot of Muslim friends (Maher was a friend of Walid's, who is Muslim). One had a Muslim girlfriend, which his family didn't approve of.

So yes, it is anecdotal evidence, but it was an interesting personal experience for me, which is why I mentioned it.

To come back to your point, I had originally said that Christians and Muslims live in peace without major incidents. The isolated occurrences of violence against Christians are terrible, but they are not large-scale organized violence, and are in contrast to a myriad of peaceful everyday interactions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. So, I stand by my point that, for the most part, Christians and Muslims coexist fairly well in Egypt. I never said that there was absolutely no violence, only that they live in general peace.

Regarding your use of the word "Paki" - yes, this is an ethnic slur against South Asians. I know this because: a) I am not ignorant, b) I lived in the UK for a while, and c) any online or print dictionary can tell you the same. Pakistani is an abbreviation for Pakistani (which comes from an acronym, but also means someone from the "Land of the Pure" in Urdu). But the word is pejoratively charged because of its use by racists - like the "n-word" in the US (which I also find vulgar). What the Arabs call Pakistanis does not justify your use of the word "Paki" - which was clearly meant in an offensive way (and for no discernible reason). What was even your point in writing that? I still don't get it.

Your example of Jainism as an example of a peaceful religion is valid - there are unlikely to be very many violent Jains. However, this is a pretty small religion and basically every other religion has examples of violence by its members against other groups - including for religious reasons. Christianity had a pretty bloody phase in the Middle Ages (remember the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades?) and a lot of atrocities by Christians during Colonialism (though usually out of non-religious motives). Hindus have some pretty spectacular recent examples of violent riots, purges, etc. Even the Buddhists aren't immune from religious violence - Buddhists in Sri Lanka have killed other Buddhists (President Bandaranaike - killed by a monk) and Hindus (Tamils) in organized or spontaneous attacks (and also been attacked - as have Muslims - by Hindu Tamil extremists). Pol Pot even used Buddhist ideas of reincarnation to justify his mass killings. Religiously motivated violence is not exclusive territory of Muslims.

Regarding attacks on Muslim immigrants - the fact that there are also attacks on gays and blacks does not change the point that attacks on Muslims in the US for the sole reason of their religion are wrong. There have also been deadly attacks on Sikhs in the US (for "looking like Muslims") which are equally wrong. I would be the first to tell you that attacks on gays, blacks, Jews, or other groups are also wrong. This isn't much of a point on your part.

Let's get back down to the basic point: violence motivated by intolerance is tragic and wrong, and should be condemned everywhere. Its source is quite often religious intolerance - which can come from a lot of religious sources (not just Islam). But religions - unlike most political ideologies - are strongly culturally anchored and cut to the core of people's identity. Fighting Communism may be possible (it mostly implies fighting armies, and taking the floor out from underneath the arguments - by showing the economic failures of Communist countries or alleviating poverty, etc.). Fighting Islam, though, means fighting the cultures, identities, and deeply seated belief systems of over a billion people. If you really want to declare a war on this, please count me out. I really doubt you'll do much in "the marketplace of ideas" (do you want to convert one billion people? to what?). This means that by nature you (alone? with some other fanatical anti-Islam demagogues?) would have to resort to violence. Which, when motivated by religion (or your disdain for a particular religion) is wrong.

Submitting....

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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