Sunday, November 11, 2007
Democracy's Root: Diversity
The Sunday Op-Ed section is always so interesting to read, because there's Frank Rich, who is explosive, yet sometimes astute, in his observations, and there is a section by Clark Hoyt, who is the public editor of the Times. It's fun to read Hoyt call the Times out on various hypocrisies and mistakes in the newspaper.
However, today, I was focused on an Op-Ed by Thomas L. Friedman, whom though is prominently featured weekly in the Times, I have never taken the time to read his pieces. His subject was about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's visit to the vatican to meet Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday. He had presented the Pope with a golden sword studded with jewels and a gold and silver statue depicting a palm tree and a man riding a camel. Friedman's problem with this event is that the Pope should have asked to visit Mecca, because it is illegal for Non-Muslims to go there.
I'm starting to get rather sick of reading about other countries' cultures in the point of view of an American, because it seems to me to be rather presumptuous of us to say that having a single national religion is akin to being intolerant of other religions. Friedman's issue with Saudi Arabia si that they forbid practice of any of Hindu, Buddhist, Christian religions in public. The authorities, according to BBCnews.com, would also deport workers who have been holding private services.
Also, after he observes the lack of religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia, he goes on to say that "more churches and mosques have been blown up in the past few years than any time I can remember." I am not one to crack down on religious tolerance, but I think that it is misleading to equate the dislike of certain religions to the willingness to bomb a center of faith. It is unfair to lump all religious intolerance under the cause of acts of religious terrorism. Sometimes it has to do with social conflicts and class disparities. Sometimes it stems back to the bloody history between two sects/religions.
Friedman is quick in his words, but not so much in thought. He likes to elect truisms in his writing, saying things like, "...in most of the Arab-Muslim world toda, where the political ethos remains "Rule or Die." Another awful, awful mistake he made when comparing India and Pakistan: " Yet they are basically the same people– they look alike, they eat the same food, they dress alike." That's like saying all Americans are the same as Canadians, which many Americans would disagree to. Friedman is focused on the superficial details of the essence of nationality, whittling it down to just appearances and food. The fact that he said that also shows that he took no time to distinguish the subtleties between both nations– which I don't know whether if that makes him stupid (the sentiment "physical features are all the distinguishes a nation.") or racist ("All brown people look the same, and I don't know why they have to fight.")
I agree with his general point, which is that we should celebrate diversity, especially if we want to promote democracy– though I think we should just celebrate diversity, without that conditional. I thoroughly dislike his way of going about it to express it. It was uneducated, as it had many misconceptions of different races and of Islam. It is especially irresponsible to just espouse his views under the guise of "information regarding Islam" (citing BBC and such) when we live in a world fraught with tensions between the Western world and the Muslim world.