Politics

The Book of Mitt

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Will the candidacy of Mitt Romney produce — dare I say it — a teachable moment?

I’ve written before about my perspective on the state of Islam, the existence of moderate Muslims and the illogic of people who say “Islam, not Muslims, is the problem.”

First, to make such a claim one must ignore all the real-life examples of moderate Muslims — such as the moderate Muslim who helped the British foil a plot to bomb transatlantic jetliners. If they exist, it stands to reason that there can be moderate interpretations of Koran.

Second, the holy books of most major religions contain violent passages, passages depicting horrific punishments for nonbelievers or outsiders, passages rife with misogynism, racism and fourth-grade ethics. That’s what you get from books written between 1,400 and 4,000 years ago.

It makes no sense to point to such passages in the Koran and say all Muslims are violent or evil without applying the same logic to Christians and Jews and Hindus. The latter have (mostly) managed to overcome the violence and tribalism built into their books; it stands to reason that Muslims can, too — and have.

Which brings us to Romney. Because in his case I’m starting to see the roles reversed: Some liberals/Democrats bashing Mormonism (using sites such as this one) and conservatives/Republicans defending him.

All of which, with luck, gives us an opportunity to pause and think. Liberals should realize that by adopting the tactics of Islamaphobes, they become no better than those they oppose. Conservatives should realize that if the tactic is illegitimate when directed at Romney, it’s also illegitimate when directed at Muslims.

Some bloggers point to time as an important distinction: Christianity’s violence is in its past, while Islam’s is in the present. They are right, but that still does not make Islam the problem; the problem is certain medieval interpretations of Islam that still hold sway in some areas. Instead of attacking Islam as a whole, we should be attacking those vile interpretations. That way we get to be intellectually consistent, logically correct, and as a practical matter it minimizes the number of enemies we have to deal with (some Muslims instead of all Muslims).

As for Romney, he’s not in my top five list of candidates I would vote for. I find his new-found conservative views both wrong and a fine example of gross pandering. But who the heck cares if he’s a Mormon? Even if he was deadset on creating a Mormon version of Sharia law, does anyone seriously think he could do so? You think the distinctly non-Mormon Congress and courts would go along with him, not to mention the American populace and those trial lawyers that Republicans love to hate? I have yet to see any plausible scenario wherein Romney’s faith could have any meaningful impact on his presidency, and thus be a legitimate factor in his presidential campaign.

If we can absorb that lesson in tolerance (and the limits of power) and then transfer it to other religions, Romney’s campaign will have performed a public service, win or lose.