Five Best Friday Columns

Jobs, 9/11, and blood donation policy

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Feisal Abdul Rauf says the 9/11 terrorists weren't true Muslims  Fox News host Bill O'Reilly argued that the man behind the Norway shootings was not a Christian as "no one who slaughters innocents can be a follower of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace." O'Reilly was right, argues Feisal Abdul Rauf, and by the same logic, we should declare the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks non-Muslims. "That's a much harder thing for Christians and Westerners to accept," writes Rauf in The Wall Street Journal, recalling the furor over the effort he launched to build an Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero. "The vitriol hurled against me and Islam was overwhelming. Islam is evil, our critics said." No surprise, then, that the words of some who criticized the Community Center ended up in the Norway shooter's manifesto. In fact, the Quran declares that "whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind." Devoted Muslims would not only cease attacks on non-Muslims, he says, but on other Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. The real battle, he asserts, is between extremists of any religion and the moderates. It can be hard for moderates to come together and resist the loud, passionate extremists, but he asks that moderate adherents to all religions unite. "Extremists can never live together in peace. Conflict for them must be eternal. That's why the Coalition of the Moderates must work together—different religions not just in toleration of each other but in acceptance of each other."

David Brooks on Obama and stimulus  In their book This Time is Different, economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart wrote that "banking crisis recessions" last longer than other recessions. Policy makers, then, should accept that recovery will take several years and should think in the long term, writes David Brooks in The New York Times. "Anything you do to try to boost the growth numbers next month or next quarter is going to be overwhelmed by the underlying forces," he says. "You might as well use the winter of recuperation to take care of the fundamentals. Work hard to fix the education system, the tax code, the fiscal mess and the regulatory system." Yet the considerations change if a slow recovery begins to turn into a backslide, as it increasingly looks is happening now. "This prospect is enough to shock even us stimulus skeptics out of our long-term focus. It’s enough to force us to contemplate the possibility of another stimulus package." Brooks gives Obama high marks for last night's speech. "His proposals were drawn from the middle of the ideological spectrum and were selected to appeal to people who don’t put a lot of faith in government spending." That said, some of the measures might not work. Infrastructure spending takes too long to show results, and hiring subsidies often go to companies that would hire anyway. "The mainstream economic view is that we should combine near-term stimulus with long-range austerity. Up until now, the political system has been unable to perform this two-stage approach. Republicans won’t touch spending, and Democrats won’t touch entitlement reform." Obama seems willing to try again, Brooks says, and Republicans should give him the chance.

Peggy Noonan on never getting over 9/11  As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Peggy Noonan reflects poignantly on the memories, in particular the memories of New Yorkers. The twin towers' collapse, above all, made 9/11 something from which its New York observers will never recover. "The buildings were gone and that was too much to bear because they couldn't be gone, they couldn't have fallen. Because no one could knock down those buildings," she writes in The Wall Street Journal. When New Yorkers recall the day, they first recall "something big", Noonan says, like how they first heard. But then they will report something smaller. "The look on the face of a young Asian woman on Sixth Avenue in the 20s, as she looked upward. The votive candles on the street and the spontaneous shrines that popped up, the pictures of saints... The flags in every bodega, on every storefront, in the windows of apartments, up and down the proud facades of Park Avenue. My beautiful cynical town covered in flags, swept by love and protectiveness toward our country." New Yorkers repeated incredible rumors in the days afterward about men who clung to beams as they fell and walked away from the rubble. Such stories were never true. The firemen, she says, "the heart of it all" knew they were walking into disaster. "The firemen would be going up one side of the stairs, and the fleeing workers would be going down on the other, right next to them, and they'd call out, 'Good luck, son,' and, 'Thank you, boys.' ... Three hundred forty-three firemen gave their lives that day." Many write that America must get over the pain and look forward. "They mean it well: We can't bring an air of tragedy into the future. But I will never get over it," she says. "To get over it is to get over the guys who ran into the fire and not away from the fire. You've got to be loyal to pain sometimes to be loyal to the glory that came out of it."

Lawrence Wright on the questions posed by bin Laden's jihad  "When Osama bin Laden began his war on America in 1996, he was posing two questions. The first was: What is Islam?" writes Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright in Bloomberg View. Osama's definition of non-believers included even Muslims who rejected his "narrow fundamentalism", and it was these Muslims who make up a majority of his victims. Until the Arab Spring, "nothing said by more moderate Muslim voices could compete with the appalling imagery put forward by al-Qaeda’s terror masters." Yet now we see non-violent sacrifice committed in the Middle East on a scale greater even than America's Civil Rights movement. "So far in Syria, more than 2,200 lives have been lost." The victims were often innocent bystanders, protestors, or even soldiers who refused to fire on civilians. "By their moral example, they are redefining Islam and redeeming it from the savage caricature that bin Laden made of his religion." Bin Laden's second question was "What is America?" "Bin Laden never expected to defeat the U.S. militarily," Wright argues. "His intent was to open a gushing financial wound. The war in Afghanistan will cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion this year. The war in Iraq--an unexpected bonanza for bin Laden--has so far reached $800 billion." Though we will defeat al Qaeda, we will remain sadled with a security state that has fundamentally changed "our economy, our laws, our culture and our image now of who we are."

Peter Tatchell on Britain's loosened restriction on gay blood donors  "Bravo!" Peter Tatchell writes to the British government, which lifted a lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men. "At last, after nearly three decades, health officials have realised that they got it wrong," he writes. Yet the new policy, which bans men who have had sex with men in the last 12 months "is still excessive and unjustified," he writes in the Guardian. "Most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV," he writes. "If they always have safe sex with a condom, have only one partner and test HIV negative, their blood is safe to donate. They can and should be allowed to help save lives by becoming donors." Our first priority is to protect the blood supply, Tatchell acknowledges, but the policy should focuse on excluding risky donors by differentiating between those who engage in safe practices and those who do not. "It should focus on excluding donors who have engaged in risky sexual behaviour, those who are HIV-positive and donors whose HIV status cannot be accurately determined because of the delay between the potential date of infection and the period when the HIV virus and HIV antibodies manifest and become detectable in an infected person's blood," he says. We can shorten the exclusion period and add a more detailed questionairre for men who have sex with men so health officials could more accurately determine who is at risk. With a newer, smarter policy, "patients needing transfusions would be the winners."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.