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Not submitting for your approval

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I have absolutely no talent for any other language besides English. I've often speculated that my ability with words might have come at a price; I am gifted with my talent for using the English language at the expense of being utterly unable to learn any other tongue.

That might be related to my fascination with etymology -- the study of word origins. Sometimes I'll find how some words share a common origin, and marvel. I still recall that little frisson of "wow" when I suddenly realized that the Russian "czar" and German "kaiser" both were derived from "Caesar," giving concrete proof to the undeniable fact that both languages were largely based on Latin.

I'm starting to wonder if a little exploration of other words' origins might help explain the current furor over a series of cartoons.

People often say "Islam is a religion of peace." Some say it sincerely, others ironically. Some even take it so far as to say "Islam means peace," and that is wrong.

Islam is an Arabic word. Arabic has a word for peace -- "salaam." It's most often heard as a greeting, "salaam aleikum," "peace be unto you." (I rather pleasant greeting, far more graceful than "yo, homes," "whazzup," or "how they hanging?") It reminds me of the Hebrew word for peace, "shalom." It's a little surprising that Arabic and Hebrew, considering the current state of geopolitics, should be so similar, until one recalls that both languages are Semitic, derived from Aramaic. (A language that is largely dead today, outside of Mel Gibson's "The Passion Of The Christ.")

Islam does NOT mean "peace." It means "submission."

Submission to the word of Allah, as revealed to his prophet Mohammed.

Under Islam (or, at least, the most vocal strain of it), everyone is required to submit to the word of Allah. Even unbelievers are required to obey some laws, even if they aren't Moslem. Those that don't can expect to be punished. And those who willfully flout the tenets of Islam can expect to face the full fury of the faithful.

The problem is, here in the West, we have a few core beliefs of our own. One of them is that the state shall not establish one faith as superior to another, able to inflict its dictates on the people with the blessing of the government. In the United States, we valued that so highly that we made it the very first part of the very first Amendment in the Bill of Rights. To most westerners, "blasphemy laws" are an oxymoron.

Another core belief of the West is the right to speak freely without fear of being muzzled by the state. That also was so important to make it into the First Amendment. And Voltaire said something that still echoes today , that encapsulates one of the fundamental tenets of modern Western civilization:

I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.

Those original 12 cartoons were not solicited, published, or sanctioned by any state, but by a newspaper exercising its rights to free speech and free press. No government in the world has any right to interfere with that, and no place apologizing for it. Those who are demanding such action are betraying their fundamental misunderstanding of how the West works.

I know how silly it might seem for such a huge row to develop out of twelve simple cartoons. But it is not about the cartoons themselves, but a far greater issue: we are being demanded to submit to the dictates of a religion, to subsume our own rights as endowed to us by our Creator (to coin a phrase) to placate the laws of a faith that the vast majority of us do not ascribe to.

Some -- mainly in the media -- have already demonstrated their willingness to shoulder the yoke, to willingly put on the shackles, and knuckle under to these demands -- expressed with threats of violence -- out of "sensitivity" or "respect."

Others, however, are drawing their line in the sand. "No," they say. No to submitting, no to bartering away their rights, no to surrender.

The traditional response to such stiff-necked resolve is usually the sword. We've seen that time and again in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the calls for beheading.

Bring it on.


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Comments (32)

Hmmm.I eagerly awa... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

I eagerly await the NYT's next attempt to garner kudos for "speaking truth to power", standing fast to defend "freedom of the press" and "freedom of speech", fighting "censorship of all kinds" and mocking Jesus Christ because they "respect Islam".

Brave, brave journalists.

Courage.

Just a small correction. Ar... (Below threshold)
Kin:

Just a small correction. Aramaic, as you refer to it, is not a pre-cursor of Hebrew, rather a seperate off shoot.

I'm just waiting for some F... (Below threshold)
Bob Jones:

I'm just waiting for some Federally funded art exibit to display Mohammad's Golden Shower right next to the Piss Christ and the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung.

I was always struck by the ... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

I was always struck by the irony of Yiddish being pretty close to German.

Hmmm.I thought yid... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

I thought yiddish grew as a ghetto pidgin for jews living in German speaking areas.

Is this wrong?

By the way, neither German ... (Below threshold)
meep:

By the way, neither German nor Russian =as=languages= derive from Latin to any appreciable degree, though they did pick up some useful vocabulary from it (same for English).
I believe they're both Indo-European languages, meaning they did derive from a common root a long time ago.

I also wouldn't try to derive much meaning from ancient etymologies. It doesn't matter what the word "Islam" meant originally. The question is: what does it mean now? Would it make any difference if the word =did= mean peace once upon a time?

I wholeheartedly agree with... (Below threshold)
Ms. B:

I wholeheartedly agree with this essay. I am SICK of the hypocritical left ranting and crying about separation of church and state, yet bending over and going out of their way to placate Muslims and defending their faith. Last year, a reader in the Boston Globe's Letters to the Editor made a comment that to this day haunts me -- he referred to God as "an imaginary male chauvinist in the sky." (Or something very close along those lines.) And where was the outcry from the Boston Christian community over that letter? Oh, wait -- there WASN'T any.

The moderate Muslims are saying they don't approve of the riots and violence over the cartoons. To which I say, "Say it a little louder!! No one can hear you!"

Yeah, while the czar/ceasar... (Below threshold)
Jay:

Yeah, while the czar/ceasar thing is fascinating, Russian is not in Latin's family tree. Perhaps it slept around enough to pick up a few words so derived, but nothing like English, which shares the Germanic family tree yet is fat with Latin-sourcing too.

Have you ever noticed that while most of us spell it czar, crossword puzzles ALWAYS spell it tsar? Why is that? Plus it is always the word crosswords are looking for to mean ruler, despot or whatever; never king.

Great post. Thank you so m... (Below threshold)

Great post. Thank you so much for adding to the discussion and not simply repeating the pundits. I am grateful for the clarification of meaning and clear representation of the conflict between principles. Again, great post.

Qu'ran quote of the day:</p... (Below threshold)

Qu'ran quote of the day:

"O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust."

5.51

Lesson: the holy book of Islam tells Muslims not to be friends with Jews nor Christians, or else they are no longer Muslims.

Question: how can we seek diplomacy and dialogue with those who cannot be our friends by definition of their own religion?

It seems to me that we can ... (Below threshold)

It seems to me that we can defend their right to publish the cartoons without saying, "They're right to publish the cartoons."

Remember the controversy over the NBC show The Book of Daniel? Yes, the protests took a different form, but it was still at heart a protest over the depiction of a religion.

It is the form of the protest that is objectionable; the burning and killing, not the actual protest itself.

Small correction, Jay, Russ... (Below threshold)
Oleg:

Small correction, Jay, Russian is not based on Latin. Not "largerly" at least. A lot of words used for politics, science and technology have been borrowed from other languages but the roots of the language are nowhere near Latin. Russian belongs to the group of Slavonic languages derived from a common slavonic base and that includes Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Serbian, Croation, Slovak, Checzh, Polish, Bulgarian, etc. etc. etc.

Seixon,Go point. ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Seixon,

Go point. What does the Qu'ran say about being friends with atheists?

As one little added comment... (Below threshold)
Phinn:

As one little added comment on the Latin-German thing (they are not related, except for a common root, a long long time ago), \the word "kaiser" is not German at all. It is a borrowed word.

We Americans pronounce the title of a Roman emperor "See-zar," but the Latin pronunciation (as far as we know) was basically like "kaiser." The letter "c" in Latin is a hard-consonant, and the "ae" vowel combination is like our "ai." "Kaiser" is merely a Germanic spelling of a Latin word, but it is pronounced as the word "ceasar" actually should be.

Meep wrote:It doe... (Below threshold)
JEW:

Meep wrote:
It doesn't matter what the word "Islam" meant originally.

I believe is does matter what words origionally meant and that the origional meaning should be kept. Communication is difficult enough without the added burden of changing definitions. If a different meaning is needed, invent a new word, then confusion is lessened.

I bring my brothers and 72 ... (Below threshold)
Abdullah:

I bring my brothers and 72 virgins. We find you at Jillians. Die western pig! Die freedom! The streets of Manchester will be rivers of your blood!

Allah akbar!

Bring it on.

Any similarity between Abdu... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:

Any similarity between Abdullah's DNS and mine is purely coincidental. ;-)

Ed:I understand th... (Below threshold)
leelu:

Ed:

I understand that Yiddish is a "German pidgeon". I've been told, but have never heard it, that there is a Spanish-based Yiddish as well, originating in Spain.

Actually there, "Abdullah",... (Below threshold)
solo:

Actually there, "Abdullah", the whole 72 virgins 'thingy' isn't even in the Qu'ran. If it is, I sure can't find it.
Similarly, I can't find any reference in the New Testament about "The Rapture" that the Baptists keep going on about. Go figure!

By the way Jay Tea...I agre... (Below threshold)
solo:

By the way Jay Tea...I agree. That was a great post. cudos.

I also agree with "Brainster" up above that they should protest if they feel offended. Its just disturbing that their call to murder innocents in the interest of defending the honor of the "Religion of Tolerance and Peace"TM is a not-so-subtle irony that seems to elude them.

Solo,My client "Ab... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:

Solo,

My client "Abdullah" asked me to pass this along to you:

"If they can make it to heaven, one of the rewards all Muslims are promised is 72 virgins. The number of virgins is not specified in Koran, it comes from a quotation of Muhammad recorded in one of the lesser known Hadith. ("Hadith" is an Arabic word meaning traditions. After Muhammad's death, several collections of his deeds and sayings were assembled. These collections are called Hadith and form the second most authoritative document is Islam, right after the Koran.)

According to this page, the specific Hadith in which the number of virgins is specified is Hadith Al-Tirmidhi in the Book of Sunah (volume IV, chapters on The Features of Paradise as described by the Messenger of Allah, chapter 21, About the Smallest Reward for the People of Paradise. The same hadith is also quoted by Ibn Kathir in his Koranic commentary (Tafsir) of Surah Al-Rahman:

"The Prophet Muhammad was heard saying: 'The smallest reward for the people of paradise is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from Al-Jabiyah [a Damascus suburb] to Sana'a [Yemen]."

So it isn't the case that only martyrs get the virgins, but the only way to get the virgins is to get to heaven, and Koran is quite specific that the only way to be certain of getting to heaven is to die in Jihad."

So, you're technically correct.

Now where did I leave those virgins? (Denny is frantically searching the garden for concubines...)

Um, JayTea, any chance you'... (Below threshold)
kbiel:

Um, JayTea, any chance you'll be correcting your factual errors regarding German, Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic as noted by several previous commentators?

Denny,To you and y... (Below threshold)
solo:

Denny,

To you and your 'client' I offer my sincere thanks. Really! I did not know that! Wow! I've learned something new and valuable today! Things are lookin' up!

But, now, I'm starting to feel slighted. I don't recall any such promise for paradise in Catholicism. I seem to recall something about: "..my father's house has many mansions". I wonder if one of those is the one with the 72 babes in it? And..I wonder if I could trade in the pearls and rubies for some good tequila and viagra?

Maybe you could help me out with that whole "Rapture" thingy, too. Some years ago (at Christmas), my 'step-neice' (who is into all that rapture stuff) gave me an instruction video entitled "Left Behind". Its an instruction video that explains what I should do after the rapture occurs and she is suddenly missing. Apparently her assesment is: when the rapture occurs--I ain't goin'! But hey, its the thought that counts, huh?

LOL!

Mac,I'm guessing t... (Below threshold)

Mac,

I'm guessing that the Qu'ran doesn't have any warmer feelings towards atheists as friends....

J:"salaam aleikum,... (Below threshold)
NorthwestNeocon:

J:

"salaam aleikum," "peace be unto you."

Yup, that's pretty much what my priest says to we parishoners every Sunday, 'peace be with you'.

Interesting. Thanks for language lesson!

Solo,I'm not sure ... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:

Solo,

I'm not sure I know what you mean by "the Rapture," as I converted from a Lutheran to an Agnostic at about age 12.

However, if you're refering to the wild-assed shit in Revelations with hoards of locusts, and beasts with goat hooves and lions' manes and heads of men, fire and other hallucinogenic shit, it's in there. In college, we used to get stoned and read Revelations from my girl friend's copy of The Way, which I think was a Methodist version of the New Testament written in plain language for lazy idiots. It was hilarious! I'd like to see a movie made of that!

O.K., Denny.Appare... (Below threshold)
solo:

O.K., Denny.

Apparently, the "Rapture" is supposed to be God removing all of his faithful from the earth before 'the end times' (that would be the time of the anti-christ, armagedden, locusts, pestulance, etc).

The deal is: They just vanish. Into thin air. As I recall, the video shows cars out of control because the drivers have been snatched up, planes crashing because of pilots vanishing...like that. Pretty scary stuff if you ask me. I mean...it seems excessively cruel. If we're going to be left behind to face the horrors described in Revelations and then end up in Hell anyway, why add insult to injury by snatching away my bus driver during rush hour?

Yeah, I know. She (my evangelist neice) didn't see the humor in that question either. So I asked her exactly where in the Bible this was described and she rattled off several passages but...when I went to look them up later....no joy. So, I had hoped you knew where this Bible legend originated.

Maybe there's some secret Baptist decoder ring or something. Maybe next Christmas I'll ask her.

Thanks,
Solo

Solo,That's some s... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:

Solo,

That's some scary shit! Just goes to show... don't ride the bus.

The Rapture:1 Thes... (Below threshold)
mantis:

The Rapture:

1 Thess 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
KJ

The "be caught up" part is the modern english translation of the Latin rapere, or rapture. No real word in the Bible on the whole disappearing act, though that's popular now because of the Left Behind series. One would guess that the people would rise up like Jesus and Elijah, but I guess vanishing was more dramatic for the novel. Anyway, if you survive the car crashes, just follow Kirk Cameron, he knows where to go.

The hard-core Believers hav... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:

The hard-core Believers have a bumper sticker:

   Warning! In case of Rapture,
   this car will be unmanned!

I've seen a couple of versions of this one, though ...

   When the Rapture comes ...
   Can I have you car?

Thanks, Mantis! I knew som... (Below threshold)
solo:

Thanks, Mantis! I knew someone on this board would have the answer to my question.

Cheers,
Solo

Solo,I want to cla... (Below threshold)

Solo,

I want to clarify for you that part in the Book of John in which Jesus refers to his Father's house. Originally, the English word "mansion"
referred to a room within a house - which is why the KJV uses the word "mansions".

It was only later that Americans changed the meaning of "mansion" so that it meant a large, luxurious house.

Other English versions of the Bible say "rooms" instead of "mansions".





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