Muslims and the tsunami

Posted: Jan 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Prince Felix Schwartenberg of Austria was asked in 1848 how his country would respond to Russia's help putting down a Hungarian insurrection. "Austria," he replied, "will astound the world with the magnitude of her ingratitude."

 Well stand aside, Prince, because Indonesia can now assume first place in the pantheon of ingrates. The world's most populous Muslim nation, horribly battered by the tsunami, announced that it wished to see American and other foreign troops who are providing disaster relief out by March 31. "The sooner the better," said Vice President Yusuf Kalla. The U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln was reportedly asked to withdraw from Indonesian territorial waters off Banda Aceh due to Indonesian "sensitivity" about U.S. training flights.

 Our diplomats are doing what they always do, attempting to portray a knife in the back as a friendly pat. Thus U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia B. Lynn Pascoe was quick to assure the world that the deadline was just dandy. "We don't intend to be there a minute afterward. ... As I understand, the vice president was referring to a plan they have internally for the length of time it is going to take them to be set up and have transportation sufficient that they will not need helicopters. That's a perfectly reasonable position to me."

 Really? It makes many Americans want to spit. Should we be leaning over backward to assure Indonesia that we won't overstay our welcome -- enduring heat, accidents, disease, expense and other hardships in order to help her people?

 Here's an alternate theory: The Indonesian government's hatred for the United States overpowers even the most dire needs of its suffering people. That is a mighty hatred. Even Turkey gratefully accepted aid from Greece when the former suffered an earthquake in 1999.

 Certainly the Indonesian government does not speak for everyone in the country. Many Indonesians have expressed their thanks to the United States and the rest of the world. But neither is it deniable that Islamic extremists have poisoned many minds in the Muslim world. As Paul Marshall reported in The Weekly Standard, a "prominent Islamist Website Jihad Unspun maintains the tsunami struck Thailand for supporting 'the Christian crusaders in the war on terror.'" The other nations on the Indian Ocean that suffered death and destruction were similarly deserving -- India for its "polytheism" and Sri Lanka for supposedly "giving its full backing to the Christian Crusaders inside the White House."

 In Egypt, as the Middle East Media Research Institute reports, an editorial in the government weekly Akhbar Al-Yawn noted that the Arab Doctors Association is aiding jihad warriors in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia, but it declined to assist tsunami victims because the disaster is seen as "punishment from Allah." It does not apparently pause to consider that Banda Aceh, the hardest-hit province in the hardest-hit nation, is the most Islamist.

  Ibrahim Al-Bashar, an advisor to Saudi Arabia's justice minister, explained on Saudi television:

Whoever reads the Koran, given by the Maker of the World, can see how these nations were destroyed. There is one reason: They lied, they sinned, and (they) were infidels. Whoever studies the Koran can see this is the result. ... These countries, in which these things occurred -- don't they refrain from adopting Allah's law, which is a form of heresy? Whoever does not act according to Allah's law is a heretic, that's what Allah said in the Koran. Don't these countries have witchcraft, sorcery, deceitfulness and abomination?

 Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, a Palestinian cleric, pronounced the following in his televised Friday sermon:

Don't you think that the wrath of the earth and the wrath of the sea should make us reflect? Tens of thousands dead, and many predict that the number will be in the hundreds of thousands. We ask God for forgiveness. When oppression and corruption increase, the law of equilibrium applies. I can see in your eyes that you are wondering what the 'universal law of equilibrium' is. This law is a divine law. If people are remiss in implementing God's law and in being zealous and vengeful for His sake, Allah sets his soldiers in action to take revenge.

 It would be reassuring to hear from the Muslim faithful that those who urge "vengefulness" on God's behalf and who shrug off the greatest natural disaster in years as Allah's punishment are themselves heretics. But such reassurance is hard to find.