The story may be apocryphal — I’ve read several versions of it — but it’s worth retelling: a mother once brought her young son to Mahatma Gandhi and implored, “Please,” she said, “please tell my son to stop eating sugar. It’s destroying his health.”
The Mahatma then told the mother, “Come back in a month.”
Three weeks ago, I was at the George Washington estate, Mt. Vernon, in Virginia, with my wife Noreen and the couple Adam and Nepretiri Policastro. Nep is a childhood friend of Noreen, and Adam is an Italian American whose job it is to make scores of millions of dollars every few months for the bank he works for.
The estate, a national landmark awash with local tourists, was once a plantation worked by slaves. Nestled on a bank of the gently flowing Potomac, it’s a neat piece of property with boundaries that were once disputed. It’s also the final resting place of America’s first president, who reputedly could not tell a lie. He is counterpointed today by a presidential candidate who cannot tell the truth. Romney, of course.
The jubilation was justified. When the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” last week, 16 years of sporadic negotiations finally reached a new bright peak. The war-weary people of southern Philippines and peace-loving people everywhere welcomed it.
“Bangsamoro” as used in the agreement refers to areas of Mindanao where there are large Muslim majorities. The term “Moro” was first used by the Spaniards to refer to the Muslims of Mindanao, after the Muslim Moors of Spain. It used to be a pejorative word but was eventually adopted by 13 Muslim ethno-linguistic groups in Mindanao as a proud way of identifying themselves — in the same way “Indio” was once derogatory but in the course of history became a badge of honor.
Some Western pundits are wringing their hands, lamenting that a war is raging against freedom of speech in the UN General Assembly. In effect they are accusing Muslim leaders like President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of battling against freedom of speech.
What the president did was to propose the development of an international instrument that would prevent the unbridled defamation of any religion, and serve as a reference point for all countries in dealing with this problem. He proposed that in a speech before the UN General Assembly. That speech doesn’t qualify as a declaration of war against freedom of speech.
The days of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad are numbered, though we don’t know the exact number. It may be a long, gory and suppurating goodbye. But goodbye it will be and good riddance.
Since Assad has turned down the Arab League’s offer of a quick and safe exit, the odds are that he will be slain like a dog — a la Qaddafi — when the fighters of the Free Syrian Army finally break through the walls of his last bastion. Whatever happens to him, he will not be the problem.