I could start today's column this way:
Something downright incendiary is happening in Oklahoma. First one, then 17, and now 24 state lawmakers have declined a copy of the Koran offered to all 149 members of the legislature by an official Muslim advisory group to Oklahoma's governor. State Representative Rex Duncan, Republican, explained his rejection of the Koran this way: "Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology."
That's one way. Or I could start it this way:
Something downright incendiary is happening in Oklahoma. Gov. Brad Henry's Muslim advisory council is offering personalized Korans to lawmakers to mark the state's centennial, with each copy to be embossed with the Oklahoma state seal and the recipient lawmaker's name. The all-Muslim group -- plain-vanilla-named the American Ethnic Advisory Council -- asked lawmakers to notify it if they didn't want a Koran, which the group described as "the record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad." So far, 24 have declined.
Of course, it's the rejection of the Korans that's making headlines, not their state-sealed if privately funded distribution. No one asks what the Koran has to do with Oklahoma's centennial, for Pete's sake; or why a government organization is proselytizing about "the exact words" of Allah; or how those words in that book sound to non-Muslims leery of Islam's age-old message to convert, submit or die. In our weird world, it's not the Islamic message that's branded hateful or even insensitive; it's the person who rejects it. This is the technique that usually shuts people up.
Maybe not this time. The reaction in the local media to this perfect PC storm has, so far, been somewhat subdued. I haven't heard calls for anyone's head -- figuratively speaking, of course -- although there is a steady cluck-clucking over the legislators' unenlightened "bad manners" and statehouse talk of "finding homes" for the rejected Korans. (Oh, brother.) Meanwhile, local Muslim advocates display utter bewilderment that anyone could construe Islam as anything but "very peaceful, very inclusive."
To enlighten them, someone might bring up the key Koranic concept of jihad, or maybe ask a Muslim "apostate" in fear of his safety for leaving Islam, or a persecuted Christian or Jew in fear of his safety living under Islam, to explain.
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