An early Bible translator: 2-19-10
An African-American lectionary: 2-22-10

Rescuing Islam's heart: 2-20/21-10

As I have been writing about Islam since 9/11, I have gone through many of the same emotions, hopes and fears that all Americans have.


One of the people who has guided my thinking through much of this time has been Fareed Zakaria (pictured below on the right), the wonderful writer/editor at Newsweek, whose weekly news show on CNN asks all the right questions and seeks answers from people who should know.

Fareed's cover piece in the current issue of Newsweek is another example of his insight. He suggests to us that the Osama bin Laden camp of extremist Islam already has lost the struggle for the heart and soul of the religion and that our fight against terrorism must of necessity take into account such changes in the world in the past few years -- changes for the better.

Fareed is a bit more optimistic than I am about all of this -- but for sure he's more realistic than the editors who wrote this cover headline: "How bin Laden Lost the Clash of Civilizations." That oversold the story inside by plenty.


Still, I think Fareed is right that the trends are heading in the right direction and that the politicians who continue to seek advantage by scaring the American people to death need to stop.

Well, it's not just the politicians. It's also some of the radio talk show fools who continue to demonize Islam and to try to get Americans to believe that all Muslims in this country are dangerous and should be isolated. What Wild West cowboys used to say of Indians, these rabble rousers now think (if not say) of Muslims -- the only good one is a dead one.

When I returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2002 and tried to suggest to some people that there are real reformers in the land and that one of them was Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, I was met with great skepticism -- and that was understandable considering the entangled relationship the House of Saud historically has had with religious radicals there.

But I have continued to see genuine efforts at reform and openness in Saudi Arabia, though at a frustratingly low speed. So I was glad to see Fareed Zakaria acknowledge as much in his Newsweek cover piece. Indeed, he referred there to King Abdullah as "a man of wisdom and moderation." And although the problems in the Middle East and in Saudi Arabia itself are far from solved, I will be shocked if Saudi Arabia produces terrorists at anything like the rate at which it produced them in the 1990s and early 2000s -- terrorists who included 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11.

Fareed is proving himself to be a journalist of wisdom and moderation, and I wish people would start paying more attention to him and to other voices of reason and balance than they do to politicians and broadcasters who exploit hot-button issues for political or commercial gain.

(By the way, President Obama recently named a special envoy to Muslim nations. It was the right thing to do even if it gave the talk show hosts, bloggers and others more excuses for trying to scare us.)

(The photo of Fareed Zakaria here today is by Sigrid Estrada.)

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I was intrigued by how much of a role religion played in the statement of apology Tiger Woods issued Friday. Tiger said he had been raised a Buddhist by his mother but had drifted away from its approach to life. Now, he said, he intends to get back to that. One primary tenet of Buddhism is that life involves suffering but by ridding ourselves of selfish desires, such suffering can be mitigated. Clearly Tiger has been giving in to selfish desires in recent years. So I wish him well -- but even more, I wish his wife and children well. For some helpful additional information on Buddhism -- relative to Tiger as well as the Dalai Lama -- click here. It will get you to a resource page from the Religion Newswriters Association.


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