Jewish World Review Nov. 26, 2002 /21 Kislev, 5763

Stanley Crouch

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Miss World riot: The new lynching | It may be that northern Nigeria eventually will call for separation into a Muslim state, as Pakistan did when it broke off from India in 1947. I say that because of the murderous violence in northern Nigeria carried out by a Muslim population outraged at the Miss World beauty contest. The pageant, understandably, has been moved to London.

The first incitement was the plan to hold pageant during the Muslim holy season of Ramadan. The second was a newspaper editorial satirizing the Prophet Muhammed, saying the contestants would have looked like marriage material to him.

The newspaper office was burned to the ground. Hopped-up Muslims began attacking anyone they thought was Christian, setting cars afire and generally raising Satan from his secure bed of fire. At least 100 people were killed.

In the wake of Sept. 11, it is easy to recognize that embracing self-righteous violence is becoming an inclination among too many young Muslims, male and female. It is their version of rebellion against corruption and disorder - of revenge for abominable slights.

That is why, since Nigeria is 40% Muslim, I can easily imagine a separation movement developing. If so, the present violence might later be seen as a prelude. Such people do not feel that others should be able to do things they do not do or to say things they would never say.

They most remind me of those lowdown Southern rednecks - and their upper-class pink-necked supporters - who maintained a long record of intolerance, violence and murder whenever a Negro stepped out of line. From the conclusion of Reconstruction in 1877 to the end of the 1960s, they made it clear they would do anything they felt necessary to maintain what they called their way of life. Bombings, lynchings and public burnings of human beings were considered fair. Terrorism was their turf.

The Nigerian Muslims are black people. So, too, are their Christian victims. But such similarities - or distinctions - mean nothing to those who consider themselves more righteous than anyone else.

As one Muslim terrorist supporter said recently on PBS' "Frontline," the Koran teaches that the true believer is supposed to terrorize the corrupt and the infidel.

Of course, the Miss World beauty pageant is a corrupt institution, but it is also meaningless, an elevation of trivia to a significant position. Of course, the Prophet Muhammed was improperly being made fun of, but no one was suggesting that mosques should be burned or Muslims attacked in the streets.

Freedom is a hard thing to handle because it means you have to put up with other people, which we know is not something everyone is inclined to do. You have to be ready to be appalled, shocked or disgusted without assaulting someone.

Yes, free societies do draw lines, but they are lines that allow for lots of latitude. Muslim fundamentalists think of latitude as a form of corruption and its results a form of insufferable insult.

If we go by the deeds of Muslim immigrants the world over, however, such loons do not represent Muslims at large, especially those who have come to understand the sometimes irritating meaning of the difficult freedom we all inherit.

To maintain our own society's safety, we have to hope that the Muslims among us will monitor their communities and alert the authorities whenever they become aware of nut clerics or Al Qaeda supporters. There could be no greater expression of a brave belief in freedom.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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