Who knew BP was even that popular? Almost 19,000 fans for BP. Huh.

Yes, I'm doing this in hopes that Google Ads will dump some BP ads on me, so you can click on them, and I can do my part to drain a few pennies from BP. That's British Petroleum. Got that Google Ads? British Petroleum.


This is what demonizing a population gets you:

At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.

"Go home," several shouted from the crowd.

"Get out," others shouted.

In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry — were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called "The Way." Both said they had come to protest the mosque.
It got so bad that police had to come to the rescue of the two Egyptian Copts. Mind you, I don't have a lot of sympathy for anyone involved in this story, from the ignorant non-Arab protesters who consider a mosque to be an insult to the ignorant Arab protesters who consider a mosque to be an insult. One of the charges we have as citizens of a secular, inclusive country is to make room for and tolerate all different beliefs. Notice I didn't say "respect"--I said tolerate. More on that later.

The first thing I thought of when I read this article was "that's what happens when you spend eight years conflating Muslim with Arab." When you have know-nothings like the ones who were in charge until January 2009 constantly saying Muslims are terrorists and yet downplaying the fact that not only are there significant numbers of non-Arab Muslims in the world, but that there's a sizable non-Muslim population in the Middle East, it's no surprise that you'd have an ignorant mob fail to notice that the Egyptians at the protest are on their frigging side. After all, we've seen politicians and pundits argue that anyone who looks like they're of "terrorist descent" (thank you forever, Aaron Magruder, for coming up with that) should be profiled before being allowed to board a plane--why shouldn't the public assume that everyone with a name like Karam isn't ready to blow up a crowd of people? Besides, Idol's on, and the news media's biased anyway.

I wish I had any confidence that anyone involved in this mess would learn a lesson from it, but I don't. I'm cynical today--I'm cynical a lot when it comes to the intersection of religion and politics these days, because we can't seem to get the basics of human interaction down. We're all sharp elbows and hurt feelings and looking for a shortcut to get mad at each other, and religion doesn't help that. The people who are going to get along are going to get along, and if they're religious, they belong to some moderate faith which uses some variant of the "all roads to the same place" metaphor. And the people who are looking to hate on the other are going to hate, and if they're religious, they're going to relate to some version of the "we're right and you're going to hell/should die, infidel" metaphor. Add in a dash of racism and you get what happened in this story--a case of mistaken identity nearly causing a (sort of) fratricide.

There are a lot of things I could rant about here, lessons that could be taken away. The first would be that this is a great example of why profiling is foolish, but no one who matters is going to listen to that one. None of the people in that mob would listen to it. They're the kinds of assholes who carry signs to identify themselves as "A Proud AMERICAN Infidel."

But I want to go back, instead, to what I mentioned in the first paragraph--tolerance. In the past, I've thought that we need to be more than tolerant of other faiths, or other belief systems. I've said that I think we need to respect those systems. Not anymore. I can't do it. I can't respect faiths which treat women as less, which demonize non-believers or different-believers, which preach peace and loving kindness one week and justify war and death the next. I can't respect Islam either (see what I did there?)

But I can tolerate them, because I neither expect nor even desire everyone else to think the way I do. I'm not one of these Pollyanna atheists who thinks the world would be unquestionably better if everyone gave up God, because it's not belief that makes us assholes (though it doesn't help)--the assholes are just assholes. Some of them use religion as an excuse for acting that way, just as some truly wonderful religious people use their religion as a justification for being wonderful (like they need it).

All I ask--all I demand, as a citizen of this nation--is that you tolerate my non-belief, and that you tolerate your neighbor's different belief. You don't have to like it, you don't have to pretend to like it. You just have to tolerate it, just like they have to tolerate you. And that means that if some New York Muslims get all the necessary clearances and permits to put a center up in the general vicinity of the former World Trade Center, and you don't like it, tough. I don't like that the Catholic Church is still allowed to run elementary and junior high schools given their recent record, and I don't like that creationists can open up "museums" that show humans and dinosaurs walking together, but I deal with it. That's the price of the United States. We're diverse. We're secular. Get used to it.

I really shouldn't, because all it does to me is make me shake my head and wonder about the world he inhabits, and why he's getting a paycheck for this. Take today's column, for instance. Hell, take the first paragraph:

As a friend of both Turkey and Israel, it has been agonizing to watch the disastrous clash between Israeli naval commandos and a flotilla of “humanitarian” activists seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Personally, I think both Israel and Turkey have gotten out of balance lately, and it is America’s job to help both get back to the center — urgently.
Sounds reasonable, except for those snarky, sarcastic scare quotes around the word "humanitarian." Why put those in, unless your motive is to suggest to supporters of a two-state solution that you're anti-Israel? The scare quotes are there to suggest that the supplies headed to Gaza weren't really aid at all, but we're all going to pretend they are for the sake of this conversation. John Cole has provided a graphic with a partial list of what's forbidden by the blockade--take a look at it and then tell me if Friedman's scare quotes are anything other than a dick move.

It's not Friedman's last, either.
I have no problem with Turkey or humanitarian groups loudly criticizing Israel. But I have a big problem when people get so agitated by Israel’s actions in Gaza but are unmoved by Syria’s involvement in the murder of the prime minister of Lebanon, by the Iranian regime’s killing of its own citizens demonstrating for the right to have their votes counted, by Muslim suicide bombers murdering nearly 100 Ahmadi Muslims in mosques in Pakistan on Friday and by pro-Hamas gunmen destroying a U.N.-sponsored summer camp in Gaza because it wouldn’t force Islamic fundamentalism down the throats of children.
Of the four instances he mentions, the first two were criticized loud and long by many of the same people who want the Gaza blockade lifted, and I'm not exactly sure what the last two have to do with this discussion, other than to try to link opponents of the blockade with Muslim extremists. Note to Friedman--it's entirely possible to be a supporter of Israel's nationhood and the two-state solution, and acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Supporting an end to the Gaza blockade is not equal to supporting Hamas, no matter how much you would like it to be so.

I'm also curious as to exactly how Friedman thinks this flotilla was a "setup." Israel's done a pretty good job on its own of making itself look bad in recent years. To treat this situation as though Israel is the victim of crafty opponents is insulting to anyone who's followed this story. It's offensive.

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