Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

I wasn’t really going to post anything about the strife in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and the Middle East. I mean, everything I have opined on the matter is on my Twitter timeline. I’m actually at the top of my Twitter game when there’s a revolution going on. During the Egyptian revolution, an NPR editor or something included me in a Follow Friday re: Egypt/Cairo/Tahrir, which was exciting. In a very vain, pointless, ego-stroking kind of way. But still. Occasionally I have those vain, pointless, ego-stroking moments.

Certain things have bothered me for a while now regarding these protests and revolutions. In no particular order:

Stop saying stupid things like, “In the MidEast, people are dying, and here, teachers don’t want to pay an extra 12%.” That is a bullshit argument and I have no patience for it. I got into an argument with a dude named Atraqchi who’s some kind of Iraq war analyst, a while ago. He’s a HuffPo writer (I know, who isn’t?) and he tried to advance the argument that Muslims in the US shouldn’t donate any money to the Park51 Masjid because Muslims overseas were dying in Baghdad and Pakistan and Sudan and Palestine.

That is straight bullshit. First, you can support both, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make in this context. Yes, it’s true that people are dying in the MidEast while workers across the country protest a crack-down on unions. But making that argument creates a false equivalency and is just plain disingenuous.

In this country, we are lucky enough to know that whatever happens, we will not be gunned down in the street en masse by the army or police. En masse, I said. (RIP, Oscar Grant, and the tens of thousands like you.) If we take to the streets in protest (say, about unions) we know that the President will not order air strikes on us, and we know the police won’t open fire on us as we do nothing but walk the picket line. We know this. Call it a product of American exceptionalism, that we don’t think the same things that happen in other countries can happen here, whatever.

We know this won’t happen here. We’re lucky enough to live in an environment that affords us that kind of security. We’re luckier than a lot of the world’s population. Great. Good for us.

But what we do hold dear and what we do fight for are our rights in this country. Currently, one of those rights is under attack – collective bargaining. You can’t put a price on collective bargaining. Stop trying to raise the 12% number. Just stop. The wealthy in this country have lobbyists (and, well, money). The working and middle class? We have unions. Unions are one of the top donors to the Democratic party for much the same reason, along with plaintiffs’ attorneys. And, of course, two of the things on the GOP agenda? Cracking unions and tort reform. Gee. Shocker.

The argument that people in the MidEast is are dying so we are idiots to be upset about a 12% raise is just ludicrous. The contexts and environments are two entirely different things. Yes, they’re fighting for their lives there. Here, we’re lucky to be fighting for our rights, not our lives. And just because people in Libya are being mowed down by Qaddafi’s security forces, we should shut up and sit down and twiddle our thumbs while we have our collective bargaining rights watered down and eventually stripped away?

Unlikely. If you honestly think that, step to the back of the line.

Tear gas in Cairo on Jan 28. Source: Boston.com (click)

And this 12% business is really pissing me off. “Just pay the 12% increase.” I’ve heard this over and over. Um, why? Are we Americans so glued to MSNBC and FOX that we’ve forgotten the very nature of pensions and how they work?! Pensions are not a gift by some kindly employer. Pension funds are PART OF YOUR COMPENSATION FOR THE WORK YOU DO. It is YOUR money. It’s not being given to you by the employer or the government, given at will to be taken at will. It is YOUR entitlement for the work you do. That is how pensions work.

I could go on about this and hash out the economics of it all (my mom has been teaching economics for twenty years – really, I got this, it’s basically all we talk about at the dinner table) but this article says it better than I have time to.

“Really Bad Reporting in Wisconsin: Who Really “Contributes” to Public Workers’ Pensions?”

Read this. If you read nothing else on Wisconsin and labor relations in the US ever, read that. Understand how pensions work. Understand where your money is.

Source: Inquistr (click)

This isn’t about unions, it’s about the budget. No, it’s not. First, Wisconsin isn’t broke. They have a projected deficit of something like $137M, I think. Which is nothing, really, since the last time I checked, IL was about 6 or $7B in the hole. 😛 We really don’t know what we’re doing here. Anyway, $137M is low when compared to the rest of the states in the US. WI isn’t in dire straits. Yet. Or at least, not when it comes to its finances.

Aside from that, the Public Worker’s Union AGREED to Walker’s demands for pension/benefits cuts. They agreed. And Walker told them to go screw. And he admitted in that prank phone call from David Koch, I believe, that it was about cracking down on unions. I’m sure FOX News has found some clever way to spin it, but really? Really? When it comes straight from the ass’s mouth? I mean, horse’s ass? I mean, horse’s mouth? Really?

Also refer to what I said earlier, about unions being one of the largest donors to the Democratic party. Follow the money. Always follow the money and you will have your answer to just about everything. And you will be severely depressed and need lots of chocolate.

Om nom nom.

Source: Feet in 2 Worlds (click)

All those countries in the MidEast that are revolting – they’re all the same. Okay, no one actually explicitly said this, verbatim. But it’s the prevailing attitude. The glibness of it all – “Oh, what Arab/Muslim country is protesting today? Har har har. Eh, heard it before when Country A was doing it, now it’s just Country B’s turn.” It really just – grr.

First of all, try to be a bit more precise. Not all Muslims are Arabs. Not all Arabs are Muslims. I have the feeling the world just got a lot bigger for some people. (God, could I be any more condescending today? Fine.) In a lot of cases, these are NOT even Muslim countries! Sure, most of the population is Muslim, but that doesn’t mean the country is necessarily an Islamic nation and not a secular one. That’d be like saying that just because most Americans are Christians, America is a Christian nation.

… Okay, that’s a bad example, because America basically is a Christian nation, especially if you listen to those idiot Teabaggers. For more on that, if you’re interested, read American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips. You can find it here on GoodReads.

More importantly, Country A is absolutely NOT anything like Country B. That’s nothing more than a racist, xenophobic perspective that reeks of American exceptionalism. (Hm. That seems like a theme with me today.) Bahrain is not Egypt is not Libya is not Yemen is not Sudan is not Jordan is not Syria is not Iran.

I bet it’s easy to think in those terms. Break yourself of that habit. These are countries with different governments, different rulers, different histories, different cultures, different population demographics (the Egyptian revolution, for example, was led by a youth movement as I think some huge percentage of the population is under 30 so it just makes sense; in Libya, it’s the business and middle class that is leading the revolt with the youth movement close behind), different relations with other countries in the region, and different relations with the US.

Don’t lump them all together. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because Egyptians threw off Mubarak, Iranians can throw off Ahmadinejad or Pakistan can throw off Zardari. Don’t do it. It displays nothing but ignorance, and you’re going to anger a lot of people along the way.

I’ve gotten twitter replies to that effect: Oh, those countries are all the same. I never trusted myself to reply, so I didn’t. Because I would have said something really, really mean, and made the person feel like an absolute idiot. I just know I would have. I figured it was better to hold my counsel and let someone a little more patient somewhere down the line explain the folly of that mindset.

Just … don’t do it. You’d never say that Portugal and Spain and Andorra were basically the same just because they all share the Iberian peninsula. You’d never say that Sweden and Norway and Finland were the same, even though they’re all crammed up there in the Scandinavian peninsula. You’d never do that because everyone would look at you like you had a second grade education.

Don’t do the same in the Middle East.

Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt

Pearl Roundabout, Bahrain


Benghazi, Libya

Also, stop being so surprised that the people in the Middle East are standing up to their rulers. I’ve seen it all over the place – from lay people and from pundits on news shows and from writers for news sites. “Oh, wow, I never thought the Arabs would do this!” What? Stand up for their basic human rights? Really?

All that says is, “I never thought the Arabs were capable of doing this.” Because they’re weak and stupid and subordinate and don’t have the same taste for freedom and liberty like we do in the developed world or in the Western world. That they’re just not capable of standing up for themselves.

It reminds me of the romantic paternalism I despise so much. It sounds like a great compliment – “Yay, Arabs!!!1!” – but it’s just xenophobic and racist.

I mean, it’s an easy thing to fall into. I’m sure I’ve done it plenty of times. We generally do do it often enough – like when people remark that an African American is ‘eloquent’ or ‘articulate.’ The implication, of course, being that most usually aren’t, so we’re surprised when a black person actually is. It’s horrible and cringe-worthy but we’re used to it. That’s why few really notice the implication when someone says “I never thought the Arab world would do this.” The implication being, somehow, that they’re used to living in dictatorships, that they can’t imagine living under anything but a dictatorship, and that they could never be stirred to fight for anything more than living under a dictatorship.

And the only way to fix this is to really think about the underlying meaning of what we’re saying. It would be far more appropriate, for example, to comment on how astonishing it is to see regime after regime come under attack by protesters so quickly, like a domino effect. I think that’s what most of us are getting at – we’re surprised that Tunisia fell, and then all of a sudden everyone was packed into Tahrir with roses, and then Bahrainis retook Lulu Square after the bloody massacres there and all crammed into Pearl Roundabout, and then Libyans freed Benghazi and a day later, Tripoli fell.

That’s what we’re surprised about. That’s what we should say.

Click for source

The Democratic Senators in WI (and also IN) should just COME HOME AND DO THEIR GODDAMN JOBS. You can’t say this and support the notion of the filibuster. You can’t. The Democratic senators are doing what they were elected to do – represent the will of those that elected them. And if you can find a Democrat in WI that wants those lunkheads back in the Senate so that Walker can get his bill rammed through, you deserve a cookie, because there aren’t going to be that many WI Democrats thinking that way right now.

And I’m sick of some Republicans saying this and railing against the WI 14 for bailing. With all of the filibuster threats from the GOP we’ve had to endure this past year? Really? What is Boehner’s threatened government shut down but a giant, “Screw you guys, I’m going home?” Some Republicans are just mad because it’s their legislation that’s stalled.

Hell, I’d have been mad if Republicans pulled this over legislation I wanted passed. But again, I understand filibusters and am fine with that, for the most part. Sure, we’ve been seeing a lot of them in our Congressional sessions recently, and they seem to be on the rise, which isn’t a good thing. But too much of anything isn’t a good thing; it doesn’t mean the concept of the filibuster itself is horrible and ungodly and turrible. So I’d have to grow up and deal with it if the legislation I liked was stalled because of a GOP filibuster or mass exodus to another state.

Also, a funny little aside: Abraham Lincoln jumped out of a fricking window so there would be no quorum and a vote couldn’t be held.

I think that visual is a good one to end on, don’t you? Abe Lincoln, hat and coattails and all, jumping out a window? I like it.

I’m sure there are more things that are bothering me. But for now, this will do. Plus, I have a hell of a lot of work to do today. And unfortunately, I can’t hole up in a hotel in Rockford to escape it. Don’t think I haven’t considered that, though.

I’ll end with a picture of a masjid in Cairo.


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My friend Jill put it better thanI could. This is her post about the TSA scanners and pat-downs, and I highly recommend it to anyone that’s even remotely interested. Remotely interested, adn even un-outraged by the new procedures.

As for me, I shall remain outraged.” — Click.

She hits on all the important points and here are just a couple that I co-sign:

  • If we’re suddenly safe on airplanes now that the scanners and pat-downs are in effect, were we unsafe between the time of the last attempted hijacking/bombing and now? Were all of you ‘safe now’ people sitting at home, petrified to fly during that time?
  • No, flying is not a right. Neither is talking on the phone. But if the government tapped all our phones and overheard every single one of our conversations to our spouses, friends, children, parents, would that be okay? By that logic, you ‘flying is not a right’ people are also huge fans of the Patriot Act. AND GO.
  • Of all the terrorist plots aboard airplanes since 9/11, none were stopped by the TSA. Big fat none. They were stopped by the passengers. The same passengers that are now having their butts, breasts, and genitals groped.

Here are just some of my own points I want to toss in:

  • The scanners are a big waste of time and money and can easily be overcome.
  • Just because you’re fine with it, don’t for a minute think that means you get to tell the rest of us to be fine with it. Because victims of rape or sexual abuse, Muslim/Mormon women, among many others, will never be fine with this.
  • Obama is a fucking idiot not to speak against the scanners. It’s an issue that crosses party lines, that has Dems, Repubs, Libs, everyone up in arms. He could have easily turned this into a uniting issue and helped put an end to it, instead of coming off as our out-of-touch overlord who doesn’t care about the scanners because Sasha and Malia will never have to be patted down before boarding Air Force One.
  • Adam Savage was chosen to go through the scanners. They got their picture of his body but somehow missed the 12-inch razor blades on his body. Since the razors weren’t near his genitals they probably wouldn’t have been detected in the pat-down, either.
  • You are no safer now than you were before. If you honestly think you are, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you. Take a flight out tomorrow, because I’ll need about 10 hours to drive there.

Please read Jill’s post. It’s awesome.


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Cropped headshot of Keith Olbermann

Image via Wikipedia

So Keith Olbermann was fired on Friday (ish?) for making a contribution to three Democratic campaigns in Arizona, in violation of MSNBC’s policy that their personalities not donate to political campaigns because it compromises their journalistic integrity. My thoughts on the policy itself don’t matter – whatever. If that’s their policy in their handbook, then that’s their policy.

Keith was brought back after public outrage, and Progressives are now patting themselves on the back for Keith being back on the air Tuesday. I even got an email with a link to a ‘national card’ to sign that will be delivered to Keith personally.

Personally, I love Keith Olbermann as played by Ben Affleck on SNL. That was one of my favorite Ben Affleck skits ever. Click here to watch it. Just hilarious, dead-on stuff.

Now, I understand why people were upset about the firing. Three GOP frontrunners for the presidential nomination are FOX contributors/personalities. And corporations can make endless shadowy donations while if you or I wanted to donate to a campaign, we’d have to give our name, address, etc, etc. And with Citizens United, our $20 donations to a candidate mean nothing anymore, not when corporations can easily pump 1000x our donation into the opponent’s campaign coffers.

So I understand why people were very upset and alarmed by Olbermann’s suspension. What with the place Faux News occupies in our social and political culture and how it helped shape the midterms and will continue to do so for the presidential election of 2012, outspoken, angry, impassioned liberal voices are needed to counter it. Sure. Fine.

But if MSNBC had a policy against making campaign donations (don’t get me started on what I think about that policy), then MSNBC had a policy against making campaign donations. A policy that Olbermann was presumably aware of or at least should have been aware of. A policy that was applicable to his colleagues as well.

And if he violated that policy, he violated that policy and MSNBC was well within its rights to suspend him or fire him or whatever action they decided to take.

Just like NPR was with Juan Williams, even though Keith Olbermann didn’t make disgusting racial remarks that make me want to punch him in the face.

Of course, there were other things at play in both situations. NPR was looking for a reason to get rid of Williams, in large part due to the fact that he was a FOX contributor and NPR wanted its people to remain objective and bipartisan or whatever, and were uneasy about his alliance with FOX. And with MSNBC, it’s just been taken over by Comcast, which is one of the largest Bush and GOP donors. Obviously, there were other issues here.

But again, if Keith violated the policy, he violated it and there are consequences for that. Am I a little pleased that public outcry saved him? A little, I guess, more so because I hate FOX News and its bullshit GOP pundits, and less because I adore Keith Olbermann. I think he has his place in our current media landscape, arranged opposing FOX, of course.

But pardon me for not being all up in arms about his firing. That would be entirely hypocritical of me, especially given my thoughts on Juan Williams.

(Even though Olbermann’s breach was entirely according to the letter of the policy and not for hideously racist remarks.)

(I can’t mention Juan Williams being a racist douche enough.)

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Check out this awesome Tumblr, Muslims Wearing Things. And understand that there is no one way that Muslims look. That’s as absurd as saying that all Jews dress a certain way, or that all gay men look a certain way.

And to anyone who thinks that this is all about the battle to take PC a little too far, get off it. This is racism, plain and simple. Don’t think so? Guess what: Leaving my (future) kid in a room full of Catholics makes me nervous.


That wasn’t so nice, was it?

Click the Muslims below, who probably wouldn’t scare that idiot Juan Williams if he were to fly on a plane with them.

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Journalist and correspondent Juan Williams spe...

Image via Wikipedia

So Juan Williams said that when he sees Muslims on planes, in their religious garb, he gets all nervous about flying with them or some crap. I have already forgotten what he said exactly, and I’m nowhere near interested in this mess to go look it up. I don’t care all that much, but obviously, I care enough to write a little something about it.

It doesn’t matter what Juan Williams said. All that matters is that his NPR bosses disagreed with it based on their rules/ethics guidelines for their employees.

The end.

Obviously, that’s not clear to Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and moon-faced Mike Huckabee, because they’re off squawking about the First Amendment.

And where were these chuckleheads when Helen Thomas lost her spot in the White House Press Corp for daring to comment on the situation in Palestine? I guess Rick Sanchez didn’t deserve similar protection when he made a comment about Jews, either.

Isn’t it at all terrifying when we get to pick and choose which people and which views the freedom of speech belongs to?

Again, all that matters here is that Juan Williams’s bosses didn’t like what he said and fired him. It’s hardly anything surprising. People get fired for saying and doing stupid crap all the time. If they didn’t, we would have a problem.

For the record, I’m not saying Juan Williams isn’t entitled to say what he thinks. He absolutely is. In his role as a Fox commentator, he absolutely had every right/reason to say that flying on planes with Muslims makes him nervous. But that doesn’t mean he gets to skate away from the flak directed at him for those comments. Having a right to say what you want doesn’t absolve you from being a dick. Sorry.

Also, quick question. What if a journalist/commentator had said:

I don’t like riding the bus with black people and having to keep a hand on my wallet the whole time.

Would that have been okay?

Why are we more tolerant of anti-Muslim speech than we are of anti-Jew speech, or anti-black speech or anything else? The double standard is so transparent, but still ignored.

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Yeah, I said it. I commemorated the lives lost on September 11, 2001, when I was a sophomore in high school, by donating money via PayPal to Park51. Because if that masjid – yes, I’m rejecting the damaging argument that ‘it’s not a mosque, it’s just an Islamic center!!1!’ – isn’t built, then America’s promises mean nothing. They mean absolutely nothing.

And the people who died in the attack on the Twin Towers, including approximately 60 Muslims whose families still visit NYC and grieve, whose families reject the equivalency of ‘9/11 victim’ with ‘white Christian,’ did NOT die just so we could sit around and question our Bill of Rights and whether it applies to all Americans.

The 19 men who carried out those attacks did so without any regard for the religion of their victims, which, again, included around 60 Muslims. And yet they stand in for and represent more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide.

They stood for division and enmity and hatred, saying that Muslims would never belong in the West, that America hates Islam, that this country would see the return of internment camps and the loss of civil liberties for followers of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (S).


I can’t say that they were completely wrong.

And that is why I am donating to Park51. Because I *WANT* them to have been wrong. I want them to have been crazy to think that. I want there to be a masjid close to Ground Zero. Not in the hallowed ground, because that’s not where it is, it’s actually a couple blocks away in an area that has a sizable Muslim community and has had one for years, but that’s beside the point.

(Also, what’s the difference between ‘hallowed ground’ and ‘normal ground’ aside from the lack of Muslims? No one’s ever been able to answer that for me.)

I want there to be a masjid close to Ground Zero. It is the best place in the world for a masjid, because aside from being a religious symbol, it will be a political, cultural, secular symbol of the fact that the terrorists didn’t win: that America accepts its Muslims, accepts their place in our society, and understands that a house of worship in no way means that we want a caliphate set up in D.C. and a Shariah amendment added to the Constitution.

(Moron alert: Most Muslims don’t even know the provisions of Shariah law. It is very complicated and nuanced and takes years upon years of intense study, which is generally left to the realm of Islamic scholars. But don’t let that conflict with the nonsense FOXNews tells you.)

I want there to be a masjid close to Ground Zero as a show to all the terrorists around the world whose ranks are surely swelling with this anti-Muslim sentiment in the US and Europe, that they were wrong. My country accepts my religion and accepts that I, as a Muslim, am not a threat to anyone here just because I touch my forehead to the ground several times a day, don’t wear mini-skirts, haven’t ever smoked pot, and may one day choose to cover my hair again.

The 19 hijackers on 9/11 didn’t care about the religion of those American citizens they killed that day. It would be very nice for America to show that it doesn’t care about the religion of its citizens, either; that it refuses to draw lines in the sand between different faiths in connection with basic civil liberties.

If you feel the way I do, consider donating to Park51 / The Cordoba Initiative by clicking here. One of my Twitter friends DMed me about Michael Moore offering to match the next $10,000 in donations if you forward him the PayPal receipt at webguy@michaelmoore.com.

Stand up for our Bill of Rights on this anniversary of 9/11. Stand up for the same rights the victims in the Twin Towers that day had, that they unknowingly died for.

My condolences to all who lost friends and loved ones on that day. God bless America, and the rest of the world.

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You’ve all heard about Bishop Terry Jones of Florida, who’s threatening to burn the Qur’an on September 11, despite being roundly condemned by Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, General Petraeus (don’t you just LOVE how Greek his name is?!), and Saint Angelina Jolie. (Ooh, Terry better watch out – the Child Army is so coming after his butt.)

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=maddox+shiloh+pax+zahara&iid=8541301″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/8541301/brad-pitt-parents-william/brad-pitt-parents-william.jpg?size=500&imageId=8541301″ width=”500″ height=”750″ /]

Maddox will mess you up, man. That kid plays with KNIVES.

Let’s just get a little book-keeping out of the way.

1. Burning the Qur’an is awful and I find it personally upsetting.

2. Burning the Qur’an and other acts of protest are protected by our Constitution, and I’d find it personally upsetting if they weren’t.

The second one probably upsets some of my fellow Muslims, but that’s the way I feel about it. Things like burning books and flags and protesting [insert whatever here] are all protected, and they should be. Yes, there are certain things that normal, moral (?), tolerant people with any shred of understanding just wouldn’t do (usually, burning religious books or the American flag), but it’s important to have certain protections in place, anyway. So, yeah, I said it. Come get me.

Also, from what I understand from my Floridian friends – as well as TRPLS readers that have been kind enough to comment! – Terry Jones’s church is tiny. And they’re reputed fanatics that have done horrible things over the years. Basically? These people are trash and few take them seriously. So that’s cool.

Now that we’ve got all that stuff out of the way, let’s move on to the more important things.

With this playing out on a national stage now, another little story seems to be gaining traction, at least, in the most reactionary, least-fact-checked corner of our here Interwebz.

It’s the story that Muslims will be burning the Bible in retaliation.

Presumably, there are well-meaning Christians across the country who, even though they may not support Terry Jones’s brilliant plan here, will be up in arms at the thought of someone, somewhere, burning their religious text.

Anyone who’s read these stories or is concerned about them needs to know something: Muslims would never, ever burn either the Bible or the Torah.

We believe, as it is said in the Qur’an over and over, that the Bible and the Torah are the words of God, sent down to believers (people of the Book, ahl-al-Kitab) through His Messengers, Jesus and Moses, among many others.

(That’s right, we love Jesus as much as any other Abrahamic worshipper, but that’s a thought for another time.)

Since the Bible and Torah are the Books of God, we treat them with as much respect as we treat the Qur’an. Typically, in Muslim homes, Qur’ans are placed on the highest spot in the room, usually the top of a bookshelf, and oriented toward the East (Mecca). We only touch the Qur’an when we’re in a state of ritual cleanliness (after we perform wudu, or a religious ablution that consists of basically rinsing the hands, mouth, nose, face, top of the head, ears, neck, arms up to the elbow and feet up to the ankle with water), and we never put it on the floor, nor do we put our feet up when someone nearby is holding a Qur’an, nor do we put our feet higher than the book, or toward the book.

Some of these rituals of respect are cultural. Most of them, probably. But the  Qur’an does tell us to treat it with respect, reading from it only when we are clean, and so on.

But if you went into a Muslim home that also contained a Bible or Torah, you’d most likely find those books on a high shelf, as well. Probably not the top shelf, and probably not reserved only for those in a state of wu’du, but you’d find them carefully tucked away to prevent misuse or disrespect.

We treat your religious texts with respect and care. We wouldn’t burn them. They come from our God, too, despite what you’ve been told.

And as far as those Muslims that might consider burning the Bible or Torah or disrespecting them in some way…well, let’s call them our Terry Joneses.

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