Newsweek ran the oddest article by Christopher Dickey yesterday. It reads like an opinion piece, in that way that so much of what's in the news magazines do, but it's not marked as an opinion piece. The first portion of the article is an attempt to describe the Muslim world as extremely moderate. Then he contrasts the moderate Muslim world with this:
There's no use wasting much space on the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, the dyed blond with ugly roots who is promoting a film he says will prove his belief that "Islamic ideology is a retarded, dangerous one." What to say about a politician reminiscent of Goldmember in an Austin Powers film who claims the Qur'an should be banned like Adolph Hitler's "Mein Kampf"? No Dutch television network will show his little movie, so he released it on the Internet this week, reportedly drawing 2 million page views in the first three hours. The general reaction in Holland thus far has been little more than shoulder shrugging.
The general reaction in Holland -- where two major figures were assassinated for speaking out against Muslim violence -- has been shrugging shoulders? Interesting.
Danish cartoonists and editors previously unknown to the wider world garnered international attention when they published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 that brought on bloody riots in several Muslim countries in 2006. Having sunk once again into obscurity, the editors decided to publish one of the cartoons again last month, reportedly after the arrest of an individual plotting to kill the cartoonist. Great idea. Take one man's alleged crime and respond with new insults to an entire faith.
The editors of the Danish cartoons who republished them as a bold stand against death threats are insulting? Interesting.
The most problematic event of late, however, was Pope Benedict's decision to baptize the Egyptian journalist Magdi Allam in Saint Peter's on the night before Easter, thus converting a famously self-hating Muslim into a self-loving Christian in the most high-profile setting possible. Perhaps Benedict really thought, as the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano opined, that the baptism was just a papal "gesture" to emphasize "in a gentle and clear way religious freedom." But I am not prepared to believe for a second, as some around the Vatican have hinted this week, that the Holy Father did not know who Allam was or how provocative this act would appear to Muslim scholars, including and especially those who are trying to foster interfaith dialogue.
The most problematic event was the baptism of a journalist?
For an article trying to argue that Muslims are moderate and Christians and those in the West are not, I'm having a really hard time here.
If Newsweek is going to run this type of first-person-journalism-with-an-edge thing, could they pick people who are less cowardly? People who care about freedom of religion, the press, etc.? A reporter who gets why these values are important would do a much better job arguing that Pope Benedict XVI was being sinful when he baptized a prominent Muslim convert.
I'd like to know, too, who the media thinks the Pope should have baptized, of the many who were baptized during Easter vigils throughout the world. And why. Dickey goes on to disparage Magdi Allam, the convert in question:
Allam says he has lived in hiding and in fear for years because of reaction to his columns in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra, which regularly denounce excesses by Muslims and praise Israel. Allam converted to Catholicism, he says, as he turned away from "a past in which I imagined that there could be a moderate Islam." Speaking as if for the pope, Allam told one interviewer in Italy, "His Holiness has launched an explicit and revolutionary message to a church that, up to now, has been too prudent in converting Muslims." A Vatican spokesman says Allam was not speaking for the pope.
Allam claims he is hoping his public embrace of Catholicism will help other converts to speak out in public. But that hardly seems likely. The more probable scenario is that others will feel even more vulnerable, while Allam's books, like many Muslim-bashing screeds that preceded them, climb the best-seller lists.
Okay, Dickey, for a professional writer, you need to work on the writing part of your craft. That last quote from Allam doesn't sound like he was claiming he was speaking for the pope. It sounds like he was giving meaning to the pope's action. You don't need to set it up salaciously. Particularly when the Vatican spokesman says Allam wasn't speaking for the pope.
And to say that Allam's public conversion was because he is greedy? That's a bit much, isn't it? As for the idea that Allam's conversion makes "others . . . feel even more vulnerable," it's not the best way to end a piece arguing that moderation carries the day in Islam. Or maybe I don't get why these "others" might feel so "vulnerable."