No, I'm not talking about the anti-Arab book, The Haj, by Leon Uris, nor the derogatory name that American soldiers use to refer to Iraqi (Hajjis), I'm talking about the real deal -- the annual pilgrimage to Mecca which looks set to begin this Friday.
Some over-the-top pundits have in the past year or so resorted to calls to nuke Mecca under various conditions -- if Iran attacks Israel (highly unlikely as they have to go through several countries to get there...), if Hamas doesn't step out of power, if Al-Qaida pulls off another major terrorist attack on American soil. These calls are clearly hyperbole designed to create outrage (doesn't matter whether you agree with the notion or not, so long as it makes you angry, after all outraged listeners and viewers stay tuned longer than disinterested ones, which translates into greater market share and greater advertising revenues.).
As a society, we need to think about the harm done by this kind of rhetoric, and start demanding better of our "news" stations.
1) it makes the unthinkable not only thinkable, but even turns it something that we ought to seriously consider, since all these pundits present themselves as the voice of reason while purposefully being as unreasonable as possible.
2) it alienates and divides us. Muslims feel acute pain when someone say Nuke Mecca -- Mecca is a holy place for us, and why should the anger of Americans be turned on the 1.6 billions Muslims who are innocent of any crimes? Think how a Christian would feel at someone suggesting we Nuke Bethlehem or a Jew would be distressed if someone said, Nuke the Wailing Wall. Hateful talk only serves to divide, it may feel good for some to vent, but it does nothing to solve the problems we are facing.
3) it actually creates hatred. People who are undecided or unclear about what it means to be a Muslim will find it easier to distrust, or feel scared because the far, far right position is not, never trust a Muslim, but rather, kill them all. When the extreme position is hyper-extreme, then the "moderate" position is what we would under other circumstances see as extreme. In that atmosphere, a person feels much more comfortable hating Muslims, because, hey, that's the moderate stance.
As we go into Hajj season -- a time of year for renewal, rebirth, rededication and revitalization on an intensely personal level, it would be well for us all to take a breath and think about how much we all have in common -- dreams, aspirations, basic human desires and needs for a decent life, people we love and who love us, something to be proud of. Rather than seeing the Hajj as some exotic ritual, it would be good to see the things in it that speak to religious people of all faiths -- the lessons it teaches us, that all of us could stand to learn.
One of the most important lessons of Hajj is that we are all the same in the eyes of God. If we wouldn't want our holy city nuked, then we should not talk of nuking other people's holy cities. If we want them to undersatnd us, then we should try to understand them -- and I aim this not only at non-Muslim Americans, but also at Muslims. We should go to interfaith groups, eager not only to share our thoughts and feelings about Islam, but also to listen and learn about other's thoughts about their faiths.