August 28, 2002


Cuckoo in Carolina (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, August 28, 2002, NY Times)
The ruckus being raised by conservative Christians over the University of North Carolina's decision to ask incoming students to read a book about the Koran--to stimulate a campus debate--surely has to be one of the most embarrassing moments for America since Sept. 11. [...]

As a recent letter to The Times observed, the problem with the world today is not that American students are being asked to read the Koran, it is that students in Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim lands are still not being asked to read the sacred texts of other civilizations--let alone the foundational texts of American democracy, like the Bill of Rights, the Constitution or the Federalist Papers.

The fact that they ignore such diverse texts is the source of their weakness, and the fact that we embrace them is the source of our strength. What we should be doing is driving that point home, not copying their obscurantism. [...]

America will always be a strong model for how a nation thrives in the modern age, as long as our culture of curiosity, free inquiry and openness endures. And the Arab Muslim world will continue to struggle with modernity as long as 12th graders in public schools there are never challenged to read Genesis, Luke, Job and Psalms over their summer vacations.

When a columnist who, though you may disagree with him often, you respect and think is reasonably intelligent gets a story as wrong as Mr. Friedman gets this one it's awfully hard to avoid the feeling that he's intentionally mischaracterized the situation in order to score political points. The alternative, that he's a dunderhead, simply seems implausible.
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2002 2:28 PM
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