I guess it's Ramadan again. One Ramadan I was down in Zamboanga drinking beer, at a streetside cafe, in the day time, with Filipino Scout Rangers. The whole 'alcohol' thing isn't such a big deal there, and many of the Scout Rangers are Catholic. Islam is a powerful force in the area, but for the most part even the self-described Islamic groups aren't insane (like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which offered last year to help free a kidnapped priest). There are a few that are: Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. Still, even in the "Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao," even most militants aren't what we Americans sometimes call "Islamofascists." The vast majority of people aren't militants, at that.
One Christmas I was in Iraq, and received -- along with Iraq's few remaining native Christians -- the congratulations of the government of Iraq on the birth of Jesus. Of course there were still Al Qaeda operatives moving in the country at that time, still suicide bombings, still Iranian agents fomenting trouble. (There are yet.) Mostly, though, the people of Iraq are just folks. Even most of the ones who fought us, the militant, worked with them only from fear. They were ready to become Sons of Iraq when the option appeared. They were generous hosts, and kind friends when fate allowed you to be friends. When it didn't, they were dangerous enemies. I can respect that.
Iran remarked the occasion too, sort of. Their leaders don't love us, and do practice a dangerous variant of Shi'a Islam. Still, again: there's a lot of folks in Iran we could leverage -- or for whom we could be a lever, if we dared.
In the comments to a recent post NickC asked me if I would condemn 'bigotry' aimed at the Cordoba House. I said:
You raise a good point on the subject of gravity wells, though I would hesitate to condemn the anti-Cordoba House position as simple bigotry. It's easy to understand the intensity of anti-Muslim feelings for those who live near Ground Zero... What's motivating them is a very understandable rage over a murderous attack in their neighborhood.
Asking them to let go of that rage is not asking them to stop being foolish bigots, and rise to the level of ordinarily decent people. It's asking them to rise above the level of ordinary people, and do something heroic in a noble cause. Until we can see that, no useful discussion can take place; but with that understanding in place, you can see how we might proceed.
It may very well be that Ground Zero is too close for a mosque. It may be that this particular set of people is not playing straight. I don't know all there is to know, and I won't think the least bit badly of people who oppose it. On the other hand, we need to find institutions in the Muslim world -- here in America or elsewhere -- that can serve as gravity wells. We start by looking for organizations we may not wholly approve of, but where there is at least some good. Like the way the Banser in Indonesia deploy to defend Christian churches during the holidays, against their co-religionists of a more radical bent. It's important not to make the mistake that this man makes.
That can be hard to do, this many years into a war in which all of our enemies have Islam as a common characteristic. It is certainly easier to make blanket statements ("No more mosques!"). Nevertheless, it is heroic to do better, and look closer. It marks the unity of several virtues, the warrior virtues of courage and magnanimity, and the religious virtues of charity, and hope. We should always be looking for enemies who don't have to be, and giving them enough road to make an honest choice.
Some of them, we'll have to kill. Not all. Not even most.