Given everything that's been going related to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last Friday (to say nothing of fiscal cliff and other stories), it's understandable that the world hasn't been paying much attention to the African nation of Mali.
But we'd all do well to take note of the terrible developments in that nation since people widely described as Islamic extremists have seized control of the northern part of the country. Many Muslims would dissociate themselves from these extremists and even claim they cannot be Muslims if they are acting the way they are acting.
How are they acting? As this distressing story explains, they are raping, killing and performing amputations on people.
In more detail, the story describes this horror: "Islamist militants who seized control of an area larger than the UK six months ago have imposed their ultra-conservative brand of sharia law. The tales recounted suggest a population subjugated by a regime well versed in appalling brutality. Allegations of war crimes include summary executions, mass rape, racism and the targeting of elders by child soldiers recruited by the extremists. Some allege that child soldiers are being forced to rape women."
These radicals claim to be living out their particularly rigid brand of Islam, and once again that religion is getting slammed in the courts of public opinion because of this.
And yet in the midst of all this there are stories of courage surfacing, such as the Mali residents who continue to operate a radio station that is trying to bring the truth to the country.
As I've said before, I don't have the answer to how to defang this kind of violent extremism done in the name of religion -- any religion -- and I recognize that the battle for the heart and soul of Islam must be fought by Muslims. But surely the rest of us can stand up for foundational human rights and denounce actions that violate those rights. And surely our diplomats must be vocal about this on our behalf.
And surely Muslims opposed to such extremism (and that's most Muslims) must speak out and work against this radicalism. The louder they speak and the more public they make their voice the better.
In the end, religious wingnuts give all religion a bad name.
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LOTS MORE THAN ONE FRUITCAKE
The Trappist monastery in Ava, Mo., Assumption Abbey, to which my good friend Fr. W. Paul Jones is connected, is the subject of this good story about the 25,000 fruitcakes made there each year. The tale puts the lie to the rumor that there's only one fruitcake in the world that simply gets passed from person to person. Fr. Paul, by the way, is the resident manager of the Hermitage Spiritual Retreat Center at the edge of Pittsburg, Mo. I serve on the center's board. It's a fabulous place. Come for some personal downtime and find yourself again.
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P.S.: If the world ends today, you'll miss my thoughts about webcams, polar bears, humans and my hometown here tomorrow. Oh, well. And speaking of my blog entry tomorrow, it will mark the end of my eighth year of writing this daily material. Year 9, the Mayan calendar notwithstanding, begins this weekend. Whatever you missed is in the archives. Look for them on the right side of this page.
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ANOTHER P.S.: No doubt you and all your friends already own dozens of copies of my last book, but if not, you still can order it for Christmas from Amazon. Just click here to get They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust in paper, hardback or Kindle versions. Or, heck, all three.