Mike Pence is visiting the most populous Muslim country on earth — Indonesia. And on Thursday morning he said something that you wouldn’t expect out of the man who is second fiddle to America’s Muslim-hater In Chief.
“As the largest majority Muslim country, Indonesia’s tradition of moderate Islam, frankly, is the inspiration to the world. We commend you and your people,” Pence said. “In your nation as in mine, religion unifies — it doesn’t divide. It gives us hope for a brighter future. And we’re all grateful for the great inspiration that Indonesia provides for the world.”
Stop the presses! Pence just admitted something that Trump and many Republicans don’t know or refuse to acknowledge: Islam isn’t a monolithic faith, but rather, just like Christianity, is practiced in very different ways in different regions. And Far Eastern Islam is a different creature than its Middle Eastern sibling.
All Trumpsters and other Republicans “know” from a steady diet of Republican and right-wing media fear-mongering is that Islam=terrorism. It never dawns on them that the overwhelming majority of international terrorist attacks are carried out by Middle Easterners and others radicalized by Wahhabism and clerics who use Islam as a cover for their political views. But then, why should we expect them to know that? That would require paying attention and some critical thinking; two things largely lacking among those who see the world as two places: “America” and “Not America.”
This could be a teachable moment, but don’t wait for it to become one. A discussion about why Indonesia’s brand of Islam is different than Saudi Arabia’s or Iran’s would likely be too uncomfortable for many Republicans. That conversation could start out easily enough, with the fact that Middle Eastern Islam has been influenced over the years by Arab culture and traditions — things that were largely not brought along when the faith spread to the Far East.
However, the next, and most uncomfortable part of the conversation for many Muslim haters would be about the simple fact that there are fewer anti-western radicals among Muslims in Southeast Asia because the United States has never involved itself in the affairs of Far Eastern Muslim nations to the extent we have been involved in the Middle East. And that conversation would just be too much for Trumpsters to handle.
Republican orthodoxy, as originally outlined by George W. Bush, maintains that the U.S. was attacked on September 11 and at other times and places because “they hate our freedoms.” But, in Osama bin Laden’s letter to the people of America, one of the most ignored documents in history, the deceased terror kingpin explained exactly why we were attacked, and that it had nothing to do with “freedom”:
As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple:
(1) Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.
Pence’s comment was a refreshing moment of honesty coming from a member of the Trump administration. But don’t expect his honesty to lead to any thawing of Trump’s or the GOP’s attitude toward Muslims. There are simply too many votes to be won and too many campaign contributions to be collected from the Islam-hating Republican base for them to adopt a softer tone. And as we know, in GOP politics money and votes will win out over honesty every time.