Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways.
Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld -- whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. . .
President Barack Obama, Address in Cairo, 4 June 2009
President Obama sounded some of the correct notes - in particular his call for freedom of religion, but he fell far short of the type of honesty that is needed to address this problem. And indeed, praising Islam for its history of "tolerance" is akin to praising an alcoholic for his history of sobriety. Islam is, today, the antithesis of "tolerance," and was little better historically. Oh, and a note to our "student of history," via Barcepundit quoted at Soccer Dad: "[B]y the time the Spanish Inquisition was created in 1478, Cordoba has been reconquered from Islamic hands almost 150 years earlier, in 1236." Indeed, see Daled Amos's entire post at Soccer Dad for an in-depth discussion of just how much "tolerance" there was in Andalusia.
To be perfectly clear, the historical "tolerance" of Islam was never something we would recognize today as "tolerance." It did not involve "freedom of religion" as we see that concept. It tolerated non-Muslims as second class citizens, so called "dhimmis," subject to special laws and payment of the jizya - a protection tax payable by non-Muslims. It was more tolerant than medieval Europe of the day - but then again, Christians of the day had reason to be a bit testy with Muslims. It's easier to be magnanimous when you are the victor and are occupying conquered lands. Do recall that it was largely Christian lands that Islam was conquering as part of the greatest imperealistic expansion in history. It was an expansion that began about 700 A.D. and that continued by the sword all the way through 1683 and the Seige of Vienna. It saw Islam conquer all of North Africa, all of the Middle East, Turkey, and various parts of Europe, including areas in Spain and Italy.
There are several aspects of modern Islamic intolerance that are so outrageous that Obama's failure to mention them is nearly criminal. And indeed, topping the list is one with which Obama himself needs to be personally concerned. That is the dogma that it is a sin to convert from Islam and that a person who changes their religion from Islam is an apostate subject to punishment, up to and including death. It is a dogma followed by many of the sects of Islam. Whether or not Obama ever practiced Islam, his father did, and in most Middle Eastern countries, that would make Obama a Muslim at birth. The fact that Obama later chose to practice Christianity makes of him an apostate.
But that is hardly the only outrageous example of this "tolerance" Obama seems to find so laudable. Obama failed to note that the Wahhabi, Salafi, and Deobandi sects in particular interpret the Koran to mean that they can freely murder non-Muslims or enslave them and rape them. For specific references to these doctrines being taught in a Saudi school in Virginia, read the USCIFR report here.
Besides those instances of tolerance, Obama failed to note that: in Pakistan, the charge of blasphemy against the Prophet is being used to steal vast tracts of land from Christians; in Algeria, Christians are being jailed by kangaroo courts for practicing their religion; in Saudi Arabia, there is no freedom to practice any religion but Islam, even in the privacy of one's home; no churches can be built in Turkey; Christians are being systematically persecuted and driven from Palestinian controlled portions of the Holy Land; and Christains and Jews are second class citizens in virtually all Muslim dominated countries. None of that made the speech.
And as to Indonesia about which Obama waxes so eloquently, it, like virtually all of the Islamic world, is being radicalized by a tsunami of wahhabi/salafi Islam being exported on the back of an endless supply of Saudi petrodollars. Obama may have memories of Christians practicing openly in Indonesia, but the reality of today is of "unauthorized" houses of Christian worship being attacked by Islamic radicals.
And then of course there is the attempt by the 57 members of OIC to foist blasphemy laws on the West, cutting off all freedom speech when it comes to Islam. If there is to be freedom of religion - and if Islam is to every actually to grow into "tolerance" - such laws must be absolutely opposed by the West. Obama apparently saw no reason to raise that as yet another example of "tolerance."
Indeed, for Obama to praise Islam for its "tolerance," while failing to acknowledge any of the above is to distort reality out of all recognition. And as always, the failure to face these truths means that they will continue unabated. Indeed, with the vast expansion of Wahhabi Islam, they will actually only grow.
Summary - Obama's Cairo Address: What We Needed, What We Got
Part 1 - Obama's Cairo Address: Hiding From The Existential Problems Of The Muslim World
Part 2 - Obama's Cairo Address: A Walk Back From Democracy & Iraq
Part 3 - Obama's Cairo Address: Obama Calls For Women's Rights While Glossing Over Discrimination & Violence
Part 4 - Obama's Cairo Address: Nukes, Iran & Weakness Writ Large
Part 5 - Obama's Cairo Address: Israel & Palestine – A Little Good, A Lot Of Outrageousness
Part 6 - Obama's Cairo Address: Islam's Tradition Of Religious Tolerance?
Part 7 - Obama's Cairo Address: The Dangerous Whitewashing Of History