I Need Your Help
When I first arrived here, in 1959, frequent references were made
to God, and people were admonished to look to their churches.
Some years ago, Americans started to be admonished to look to their
churches and synagogues.
Lately, we are reminded to go to our churches, synagogues and mosques;
and to consult our Bible, Torah, and the Koran.
One of my burning questions is how far we intend to go on this
road. How soon are we planning to add Brahmanism and Buddhism? Are
we going all the way to female genital mutilation?
But that is not my real question.
Growing up in Hungary, a hundred-and-fifty years of Turkish occupation
makes every schoolboy acquainted with Islam. But here comes a story
far closer to home.
It is Thanksgiving 1990. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are
spending it in Saudi Arabia, invited by its rulers to protect the
country - not against the infidel, but against a fellow Arab Moslem,
Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Having raped Kuwait, the Iraqi forces were
poised to storm Saudi Arabia, a country as incapable of defending
itself as indeed it is incapable of doing practically anything at
all. It lives off the geological accident of petroleum deposits
underneath its territory.
The President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush,
arrived to share the Thanksgiving meal with the armed forces whose
Commander in Chief he was. Upon arrival, the Saudi hosts informed
him that the sight of a banquet connected in any way, shape or form
with Christian traditions, giving thanks to God, was so hateful
to Moslems that he and his lot would have to repair to the high
seas, far from the shores that would be soiled, defaced, desecrated
by their act and presence.
(Astonishingly, the President of the United States complied.)
The foregoing did not happen in Islamic fundamentalist Iran, or
under the Mullah of the Taliban regime in fanatical Afghanistan.
It did not happen in communist South Yemen. It happened in enlightened,
America-friendly Saudi Arabia, whence princes of exquisite taste
come to be celebrated among the playboys of the Western world.
Here then is my question. When Arabs and other Moslems arrive and
settle in America, when and how does the miraculous transformation
occur whereby the Christianity - or Judaism - that surrounds them
ceases to offend?
Does it really occur?
How do we know it has occurred?
Or do they live here, quietly hating the rest of us, waiting for
the time when our unwanted presence no longer obscures their sight
lines to Mecca?
I believe we need urgent replies to these questions while we are
still alive to ask them. In all the television newscasts, with all
the Moslems appearing everywhere in force, I have not heard a single
word that would somehow indicate the presence of the first germinal
molecule of religious tolerance from an Arab, or other Moslem.
And speaking of which, I find it in questionable taste that Moslems
are paraded on television at this particular time. Why are we incapable
of a middle road? Why is it not possible to keep our Arab residents
free from harm, but not have them pushed in our face?
It is of equally questionable taste when Tom Brokaw and others
in his position repeat the word "bigot" five times per
sentence in describing fellow-Americans who are openly angry at
Arabs just now. When nineteen out of nineteen highjacker/mass-murderers
are Arabs, the stereotyping did not originate with us. Arabs have
been attacking civil aviation for decades. No other people has a
I will be eternally grateful to anyone, regardless of religion and
ethnicity, who can shed light upon my questions. This nation was
founded upon, and in many ways for the sake of, religious tolerance.
People died for founding it, people died for preserving it. Might
we, just might we owe it to our dead of the distant and very recent
past that we make the adoption of religious tolerance a condition
of settling in this country?
Please write to me, chastize me, instruct me. But do not sidestep
the question. Until we hear differently, our whistling in the dark
about Islam the peaceful, Islam that shares the same God, remains
a disturbing puzzle. We repeat breathlessly that Christians, Jews,
Moslems share the same God. Has anyone heard a Moslem say that -
except, perhaps, when they feel threatened for a change?
For, if we share the same God, why can't we give thanks to Him
in Saudi Arabia?