Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hate is in neither holy book

I am not going to ascribe to all Baptists the biblical stylings of Wiley Drake.

He's the preacher from California, a former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who told Fox News he prays for Barack Obama to die.

Drake has an ironclad explanation should the Secret Service show up at his door. He says it's not Wiley Drake talking, but God talking through Wiley Drake. Whatever.

I think no less of Christians because this one says it is God's will that the popularly elected leader of the free world buy the farm at 47.

Neither will I assail Christianity because the Old Testament reeks of militarism and vengeance. That would be unfair.

So, why, when America has 7 million peaceable, hardworking Muslims in its midst, do we continue to hear Americans say this about them:

"Their faith dictates that we nonbelievers of Islam must be violently put to death." So said an anonymous post on our Web site last week after Obama spoke in conciliatory tones to the Muslim world in Egypt. This person simply was parroting what he'd heard others ascribe to Muslims in general. When their hands are called on it, some will qualify with "militant Muslims" or "radical Muslims." That's supposed to get them off the hook, leaving an intended slur of millions intact.

After hearing this claim for the quadrillionth time, that followers of Islam are commanded to kill non-Muslims, I did what a parrot would never consider doing. I inquired. Not of Google. Not of Fox News. I inquired at the mosque.

In Waco, that's the place adjoining Al's Auto Repair — Al being Al Siddiq, president of the Islamic Center of Waco.

The anonymous poster probably would insist that I seek out a militant Muslim, not Siddiq, who is about car repair and peace. Good point. Siddiq is so interested in brotherhood that he also is president of the Greater Waco Interfaith Conference. (Originally it was the Conference of Christians and Jews. Several years ago it was renamed to be made more inclusive.)

Siddiq said the line in the Quran calling to "fight and slay the pagans" hearkens back to rhetoric when followers of Mohammed were warring with idol-worshipping Arabs — yes, Arabs — in a far-off century.

It has nothing to do with today, unless exploited by someone tetched in the head theologically, like, say, a Wiley Drake.

Speaking of far-off words, Siddiq said that if non-Christians read Deuteronomy the way some Christians interpret a single line in the story of Islam, they would flee this country.

"Kill any friends or family that worship a god that is different than your own." Deuteronomy 13:6-10.

Are the voices of Islam and those of Christianity on a collision course? Not if one reads their sacred books, Siddiq said. In fact, he points out that the Quran mentions Jesus more often than it does Mohammed. It preaches about eternal salvation for the doers of good works.

Siddiq said he'd never heard about virgins and various eternal rewards for Islamic warriors until some of them, in suicidal blasts, left their blackened marks on the landscape.

He said religion is not driving the violence associated with radical Islam. What drives it is despair, economic hopelessness and the plights of marginalized people.

Though he's a devout Muslim, when Siddiq uses "we," he's not referring to Islam. He's referring to his country, a nation for which he served in uniform.

He's as patriotic as any American, but he knows why many in the Third World distrust the West. It's because of a history of invading, colonizing and exploiting people and resources.

Siddiq would not live anywhere else, however, or salute another flag. And the last thing he wants is conflict. He wants to live his life based on the tenets of his faith.

If the essence of Christianity is the Golden Rule, Siddiq said the essence of Islam is, "Serve mankind." Some conflict.

John Young's column appears Thursday and Sunday. E-mail:

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