The situation in Sudan would be laughable if it weren't so epidemic. It's just another example of a long-standing problem that we can trace to the door of the Man From Plains, the same person about whom a fawning movie was made and which should quickly be relegated to the junk heap.
The situation is that thousands of Islam's greatest in the Sudan are calling for the death of a British woman, who teaches school because (wait for it) her class decided to call their Teddy bear Mohammad.
It was bad enough when a court in Khartoum sentenced her to 15 days in jail and deportation (lucky her) in the incident. That was yesterday (Nov. 29, 2007). But today, thousands who attended services at mosques were harangued there and by truck-mounted loudspeakers. Then the mob demanded that the woman, Gillian Gibbons, be shot by firing squad for allowing the class to call the toy Mohammad.
The woman was spirited away by saner folks and will finish her sentence at a secret location and be spirited out of the country.
This whole mess of Muslim fundamentalism and the stupidity about killing people for small slights, if at all, can be traced, in our time, back to the Carter Administration.
The former president, who presents himself as the arbiter of what is just and right, especially when it comes to Israel and the Arabs, mishandled the whole Iran problem back in the late 1970s, allowed the Shah of Iran to come to this country for medical treatment, a move that led to the capturing of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by student radicals. Then he, allowed the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to enter Tehran is triumph.
Under Khomeini, Iran degenerated from a modern nation to a feudal theocracy. Others, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, followed suit. Is there a direct line from Carter to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks? No, there isn't a direct line. But it became an example that the U.S. could be duped by the shah, one of the most brutal dictators of our time. It became an example that the United States couldn't handle the resulting occupation. The Iranians later said they only wanted to occupy the embassy for a short time, but since the U.S. was so inept in its response that they just kept going for 444 days.
The response, when it did come, was ham-handed and only accomplished the deaths of U.S. service personnel in the Iranian desert and provided another example of America's failure.
Add to that Ronald Reagan's use of the situation for his political ends and Reagan's single-minded opposition of the Soviet Union that led to our arming and backing the Taliban, the same folks who did attack us on Sept. 11.
Nobody ever heard of Islamic fundamentalism before the debacle in Tehran. Even Arabs that were blowing up airplanes and airports were nationalists, not Islamic fundamentalists.
As far as they were concerned, you could call your Teddy bear anything you wanted, as long as you let them put a bomb in it.
I am puzzled about the brouhaha about paroles and the introduction of race into that whole argument.
After the horrible murders in Cheshire earlier this year, there was a reaction, and that reaction was a look at the parole and bail systems. At least one of the suspects in those murders was out on parole. I can't remember if both were.
There has to be a reaction to crimes that horrible. Looking at the parole system is one possible reaction. It's a political reality that if you want people to think you are doing something, but really don't want to do something, you form a committee or you conduct an investigation. My guess is that's what's going to happen. In a year or two, when the horror of these crimes has receded a bit, the investigation will quietly end and nothing will be done.
But some folks decided that because the ratio of minorities in jail to the population at large is higher than among non-minorities, it was a good time to scream racism.
The first duty of a society is to protect its members. That means stopping those who would harm members of society, especially those who do that harm again and again and again. We have chosen to put those people in prison, rather than, say, shooting them in the back of the head and dumping their bodies in a landfill.
Minorities are sent to prison unfairly. I concede that. It's wrong and we need to find a real way to fix that. Having state-paid public defenders is a good idea. Saddling those defenders with so many cases that they cannot possibly do a good job of defending their clients in not a good idea. In fact, it stinks. It should be fixed.
People who live in flood zones are required to carry flood insurance. Perhaps people who live in high-crime areas should be required to carry lawyer insurance and perhaps we should pay for it. Then, if their liberty is at stake, they can hire lawyers and the insurance can pay for that.
Whatever the answer, it needs to get done. There is a but, a big one. But, friends, nothing that is done along those lines is allowed to make society and its members any less safe.
If one person is killed or raped or robbed or injured in any way while we are trying to help the people who harm us or steal from us, then society has failed. At that point, society will protect itself, no matter what it takes.
We should end on a happy note. December is coming tomorrow. The first candle of Hanukkah is Dec. 4. Happy Hanukkah. Christmas is Dec. 25. Merry Christmas. Let's stop saying the holidays this and the holidays that. There are two distinctive celebrations that really have nothing in common with each other. Saying the holidays is a cop-out.
So, have a great weekend, despite the promised weather. For those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos and a happy Hanukkah.
Until next time...