Letter to the editor: West’s column is inaccurate and shows her ignoranceDoes anyone else find columnist Diana West as bigoted, inaccurate and tiresome as I do? In Wednesday’s paper, she ranted against the construction of “Cordoba House,” a 13-story building containing a mosque that will be placed two blocks from the former World Trade Center in New York. She believes that this will “mock the dead.”
By: Timothy Bratton, The Jamestown Sun
Does anyone else find columnist Diana West as bigoted, inaccurate and tiresome as I do? In Wednesday’s paper, she ranted against the construction of “Cordoba House,” a 13-story building containing a mosque that will be placed two blocks from the former World Trade Center in New York. She believes that this will “mock the dead.”
Excuse me? There were more than 60 Muslims dead from the 9/11 attacks, not including the terrorists; these victims included a few passengers on the planes who had no connection with the plot, people working in the WTC, and nurses and emergency personnel who lost their lives when the towers collapsed. Virtually every major Muslim organization in the U.S. denounced the attacks and supported our invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban. It was only after West’s hero, President George W. Bush, launched his questionable invasion of Iraq that an anti-U.S. backlash began.
“Jihad” can mean both one’s ongoing struggle against Satan and a war against unbelievers, but the word depends upon its context. Christians talk about “crusades” against vice and sin, but it also can mean the warriors who disgraced their religion by killing all Jews and Muslims alike when they captured Jerusalem in 1099. Because al-Qaida believes that “jihad” means a holy war against unbelievers, West makes the illogical claim that therefore all Muslims share a similar belief. Having taught several Muslim students since 1982, I have not encountered a single one who professed such a notion nor any hatred toward the United States.
She shows her ignorance of Islamic history by claiming that “Cordoba House” is named after “an early caliphate that, of course, subjugated non-Muslims.” Jews and Christians did pay higher taxes for the privilege of living in Muslim-controlled Spain, but that was no different from Western Europe, where Jews were forced into ghettoes, could not compete in business with Christians, had to pay Christian kings “protection money” to be guarded from their hostile neighbors and were massacred anyway when the First Crusade began. Umayyad Spain regarded both Jews and Christians as “Peoples of the Book” — monotheists who had received their own books of revelation — and Spain was a center of multiculturalism and tolerance. Of course, for West, “multiculturalism” is a bad name.
Had Bush actually known anything about the Near East, we wouldn’t have blundered into Iraq; we have paid the price for his ignorance. And if neoconservative writers like West continue to spew their venom, America is not going to make any new friends in that region either.
(Bratton, a professor at Jamestown College, has taught history of the Near East since 1982, and also has offered classes on the anthropology of the Middle East)