Sunday, October 28, 2007

Standing Tall for Religious Diversity: Some Oklahomans Critical of Intolerant Legislators

When State Rep. Rex Duncan, a Sand Springs Republican, rejected the centennial gift of a Quran this week, he made exactly the wrong symbolic and political move.

Rep. Duncan reduced all believers in Islam, one of the world's great religious traditions, to terrorists or terrorist sympatherizers. "Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology," Duncan told the Tulsa World.

On this point, we agree with Duncan.

But as the legislator surely knows, the vast majority of world Muslims are not terrorists. And as far as we can tell, the Oklahoma Muslims who presented the copies of the Quran are peace-loving neighbors and good citizens, hardly the sort to endorse the killing of innocent Americans.

A leader in the Tulsa Jewish community has recognized this fact and supports Oklahoma Muslims. "Today, I'm an American Muslim, speaking for our brothers," David Bernstein, of the Jewish Federation, said in Saturday's Tulsa World. "Hateful words inevitably lead to hateful actions," he added.

Exactly so. That's why we reject the narrowmindedness of Rep. Duncan and a group of other state politicians who refused the Quran. This action may placate the religious haters in Sand Springs and elsewhere, but it also plays into stereotype of Oklahomans (and many Americans) as small-minded bigots who can't tell the difference between lightning and a lightning bug (thank you, Mark Twain).

We're proud to side with Oliver Howard, president of the Oklahoma Conference for Community and Justice, who told the newspaper that religious intolerance has no place in Oklahoma. As Howard also noted, "All religious communities have or have had zealots who exploit scared scriptures for their own ends, including violent and human acts."

We're also proud to quote the words of Allison Moore, a member of the Islamic Society of Tulsa. "Our religion teaches us to be peaceful, tolerant, loving and respectful of neighbors and friends, and uphold justice for all people."

It's reprehensible that Rep. Duncan and like-minded legislators can't see beyond the violence of some Islamic extremists and recognize the goodness and humanity of their fellow Oklahomans.


Tulsan said...

"MichaelC" has three excellent posts on this subject over at (No, I'm not MichaelC)

Part of it...

The architects of most wars use religious rhetoric. Many, many Nazis invoked "The Lord", "God", "Christ,"; it served a purpose, to keep people interested. Religion is very utilitarian for leaders.

Today, the Iraq War, the majority of citizens still supporting it are highly religious. That was done by design, it is not a coincidence.

It's the same for Islam. Hussein appealed to religion to invade Kuwait. Hussein appealed to religion to defend Iraq. Ahmadinejad appeals to religion to keep people believing there are more pressing matters than his own country's economy. Osama Bin Ladin, a very wealthy "noble"-type tribal leader, appeals to religion for jihad against the West.

Religion itself is not a bad thing, none of them are. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, the rest, they're all fine. But they are all used as tools. It's never a Christian calling for a Crusade, it's a preacher or a pope or a king. Same with Islam, jihads are called by sultans and clerics and tribal leaders. None of these are popular religious uprisings, based solely on inherent evil within a religion.

There's no reason to dig through the Koran or Bible, in order to find out how evil Muslims or Christians are. You can find it in both cases, if that's really your goal. Both religions are tools of warfare, not the cause. And if xenophobia is not the idea, you might want to clean the slate and just start over.

Jeff Shaw said...


"Today, the Iraq War, the majority of citizens still supporting it are highly religious. That was done by design, it is not a coincidence."

This statement has no basis in fact, nor could it ever. That's propaganda.

This is the type of crap that people peddle on the internet. Once it gets started, the real simpletons start believing it to be true.

That being said, I might agree with some of what is said here. But the "divide and conquer" approach to destoying a country seems to be working. It's easy to criticize a religion if you know nothing about it. Mike Duncan might want to know that New Testament Christians believe and follow the Old Testament for many reasons, one of which is that it is instructive in our daily lives. Another of which is that we believe that it is the Word of God.

Tulsan said...

Probably a strong majority of the remaining supporters of the Iraq war (30+ percent of the populace) are also supporters of Bush, whose approval ratings stand at a similar percentage. Bush's diehard supporters are mostly either religious or highly religious.

Whether their support of the war derives directly from their being religious is more doubtful.

But MichaelC's larger point is that religion has proven to be a way to line people up and get them marching in the same direction. It's like a magnet's effect on iron filings. When people can be lined up this way, it spells power for the wielder of the magnet.

I don't know if James Dobson started with a will to power, or if he discovered it along the way, but clearly he is focused on it more than "the family." Otherwise, Huckabee would be the obvious and foregone choice of his organization.

Karl Rove (an agnostic) certainly understood that if you can get religious power brokers on your side, you have an enormous political weapon. He has assiduously promoted their pet causes (God in schools and government, gays, Roe) with this end in mind.

These supporters tend to buy the whole Bush package (including the Iraq war) as part of the "team" effort.

When a group of people marchs in the same direction, there is an inertia of motion. They tend to keep going the same direction. But not forever. Evangelicals are becoming increasingly disillusioned not only with Iraq, but even the militantly anti-gay, anti-abortion direction.

Jeff Shaw said...

I support the troops in the Iraq war, but not because I'm a Christian. It's because I'm American. YOu may not support it because you're an American. But we can all agree that it is important that we get the mess righted, at least in the end. I don't believe its the right solution to cut and run. Don't throw all the world's problems on religion.

Furthermore, nobody knows how much of the mess in Iraq is fabricated, because there is no credible press.

My position on the religious diversity issue is that nobody gets to distribute religious material on behalf of the government. And Governor Henry has an obligation to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. No distribution of religious material should have ever been condoned. Bibles, or Qurans. This would have been a non-issue.

Tulsan said...

One more poll number relevant to my argument above:

"According to Gallup polls, the number of persons in the United States who described themselves as either Evangelical or Born-Again between 1976 and 2001 fluctuated between 33 percent and 47 percent with a reasonable estimate being 35 percent of the population or just over 102 million people in 2003."

Likely a large portion of the the 35% of the population who self-identify as evangelicals also fall into both the remaining 30+% who are pro-Iraq war and the 30% who are still pro-Bush.

In response to your last comment, how do you know it ISN'T the right solution to "cut and run," if you believe there is no credible press? I agree that the "mainstream media" has lost considerable credibility, but maily on account of their generally uncritical acceptance of administration's talking points.

Tulsan said...

If the president ordered the military to attack an irrelevant target, would your "support of the troops" also entail supporting the decision to send them, for an unlimited time with unlimited resources?

Re: "Don't throw all the world's problems on religion," religion itself is not the problem. The problem arises from the people who allow themselves to be lined up for political purposes on the basis of an appeal to religion. It is an inherently human flaw, not a religious one.

Jeff Shaw said...

Ok, I might agree with your numbers, and the "likely" part.

But just because the percentages are relatively the same, is not an indication that they are the same groups. It's a big leap.

12.9% of the U.S. population is African American and 12% of the U.S. Population goes hungry every year. That doesnt' mean that All African Americans go hungry.

Facts are stubborn things, sometimes pesky. You shant make them up.

And I realize you are just quoting someone else's quote. I'm not trying to trip you up either, we all need to stop the rhetoric and get to the business of saving our country. There is no place for government sponsored religion. It's not intolerant. The day you give the government our religions is the day the regulation starts, and "religion" ends.

The part of the quote I was most at odds was the unmeasureably erroneous sentence "...that was done by design, it is not a coincidence."

I couldn't completely deny that religion was a part of this, but if there was any design to it, it was Islamist's.

Tulsan said...

Jeff, I'm not arguing that the pro-war, pro-Bush 30+% groups and the "highly religious" 35% have exactly the same members. They don't. But they overlap heavily.

Rove looked favorably on having Bush be a "wartime president" because of the political benefits that would accrue. Religion is a strong tribal identity factor, and thus a cohesive factor for most of the overlapping 30%ers.

Religion, along with fear and blind patriotism would help assure that this group would continue to fervently support Bush. The more ways to line up those iron filings, the better from Rove's viewpoint.

It made no sense then, nor does it now to "declare" war on Iraq as a response to Al-Qaeda. The plans for Iraq were already in the works before 9/11. But they served Rove's purpose and he greenlighted them.