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A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, October 1, 2010

Apparently These Things Are Important

In no particular order. 

1. A group proposes to build a religious establishment on their own property near a site associated with great pain and significance for some people.  These people, rightly or wrongly, associate that religion with the many deaths that were caused and so raise a great ruckus in protest against the said establishment.  For their part, the religious establishment pleas that they intend to pray for all who died there, including their own co-religionists.  But this plea is dismissed. 

I pause while you assume the proper attitude. 

I write, of course, of the Polish sisters who wanted to establish a convent near Auschwitz, which created a great outcry that it was insensitive to Jewish concerns.  The Pope intervened and told the sisters to place their convent elsewhere, since if they remained intransigent they would do more harm than good.  That they had a right to do what they planned did not mean it was right to do it. 

Now, of course, there is a similar contretemps in Manhattan regarding a proposed Islamic center.  It would be curious to compare the stated opinions of people in both matters.  Curiously, in a survey by Elaph, an electronic daily in the Arab world, 58% say the "Ground Zero Mosque" is a project of folly.

2. A pastor of a sect of 50 people announces that he will burn copies of the Qur'an, sending the entire world into a tizzy.  The POTUS intervenes personally to beg him not to do so as such a burning will deeply offend many people.  (Unlike, say, the burning of a US flag.)  Curiously, in a TV shot, all the copied stacked up appear to be in English and thus not legitimately Qur'ans.  (The true Qur'an is written only in Arabic.) 

3. OTOH, Charles Merrill, cousin to Merrill Lynch co-founder, burned a Qur'an valued at $60,000 (in the apparenly magick belief that it would "eliminate homophobic hate."  This book was not only a genuine Qur'an (in Arabic) but was a rare manuscript given to his late wife, Evangeline Johnson Merrill of Johnson & Johnson, by the late king of Jordan during a UN mission in the 1950s.  So not only was it a real Qur'an, but a precious antique, and a diplomatic gift by the King of Jordan, and he actually did burn it.  Not a peep. 

So why the tizzy over #2 but not over #3?  Was it because #2 fits the media paradigm of backwoods Bible-thumping bigoted yahoos while #3 involves a rich artist guy who is gay and atheist?  And so he cannot be a yahoo bigot, or even a vandal destroying a significant a work of art?  There are no templates or paradigms for him? 

Fouad Ajami tells us: Elaph was at it again in the aftermath of Pastor Terry Jones's threat to burn copies of the Quran: It queried its readers as to whether America was a "tolerant" or a "bigoted" society. The split was 63% to 37% in favor of those who accepted the good faith and pluralism of this country.

4. And how does #3 compare to the Taliban blowing up Buddhist statues, vandalism-of-artwork-wise?  Why is one denounced on artistic heritage grounds (forget about offending Buddhist religious sensibilities) and the other is not? 

5. The POTUS comes out and defends (in a wishy-washy way) the 1st Amendment right of the people wanting to build the Islamic Center in Manhattan; but regarding Molly Norris, erstwhile cartoonist for the alternative paper Seattle Weekly, who has had to go into hiding not a peep in her defense. 

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