Onward Secular Peacemakers
What do you hope to hear from President Obama in his "major speech to the Muslim world" on June 4? How do you feel about his choosing Egypt as the location for such an address?
I expect in at least part of President Obama's June 4 speech he will say nice things about Muslims and emphasize that we are not in a Christian Holy War with Islam. Many Muslims think otherwise, perhaps with some justification.
When President Bush once referred to America's war on terror as a "crusade," I hoped the word was merely one of his many slips of the tongue. I became less hopeful recently after reading how Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, sent President Bush numerous inspirational Bible verses printed over military images.
One example showed U.S. tanks roaring through the desert with a quote from Isaiah 26:2: "Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith." Over a picture of Saddam Hussein was this passage from 1 Peter15: "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."
Too bad President Bush ignored an important time in U.S. history when patriots of our newly formed secular country moved forward with a "Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary." This Treaty of Tripoli in 1797 was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams, and ratified unanimously by the Senate.
To calm the fears of a Muslim nation, Article 11 of the treaty contained these words: "As the Government of the United States...is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion--it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Musselmen--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
The text of the treaty was printed at the time in several newspapers, but no cries of outrage followed. What a tempest it would cause today!
When President Obama gives his speech on June 4, I hope he will remind everyone about those good times in the history of our nations when religious differences didn't get in the way of solving practical problems. Territorial disputes could be just practical problems to solve, but never will be so long as those in power believe that God is in the real estate business and promised the same piece of land to different religions. I hope President Obama will mention that peace-loving people must work to marginalize those whose religious beliefs lead them to kill innocent human beings over land claims or anything else.
We must no longer honor those who, in effect, say, "My God can beat up your God," regardless of what language they say it in.
For more commentary on Obama's speech to the Muslim World, go to the Saban Center at Brookings' Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World and the Doha Network.
Posted by: JessFreeborn | June 6, 2009 10:42 PM
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Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | June 4, 2009 9:37 AM
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