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Forced stories about forced conversions about forced freedom

The release of Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig has some interesting and dark undertones to it, as

Scott Johnson notes. This is N.Y. Times story on it, and the Washington Post quotes Centanni: "We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint. Don’t get me wrong here, I have the highest respect for Islam and learned a lot of very good things about it. It was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns and we didn’t know what the hell was going on." And now should I have the highest respect for Mr. Centanni?

Discussions - 14 Comments

I commented on this story a few days ago, and Scott at Powerline has a salient comment here on Centanni’s "love-in with the Hamas leader and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister."

The upshot of all this is too revealing to be dismissed out of hand. This is Fox News, not the New York Times after all. And it is quite disturbing to say the least. This is what the Bush Administration is up against. So is it any wonder that his poll ratings suffer so (and I’m one of the guilty pile-oners, too). We are losing the propaganda war badly. Very badly. And we are losing it to thugs who make no bones about their abject hatred of everything America stands for.

I think the reason for this is because the media and most of the west are simply scared of these thugs and are trying to befriend them in hopes of steering them away from nuking Hollywood. To actually stand up against them and see them for what they are is not an option. And sadly enough, while it will never make them cheer for him, the Bush Administration of late seems to be headed in the same direction as Steve Cenntani and Fox News. If ya can’t beat ’em convert!

I’m sorry, I forgot about the Powerline link in Peter’s original post as I reposted the same link. Oops.

It is interesting that conversion to Islam by conquered peoples is as sincere now as it ever was, historically. Maybe we could just get everyone in the world to say "I convert" with the same sincerity as Steve Centanni, and then this whole mess would be over. Guns and bombs could be put up and we could all go about our own business of life. Do you suppose it would be enough? It is like dealing with some playground bully who sits on your head until you say he is the best. Then he takes your lunch and your only consolation is that you get to home and he has to live with himself, which you know must be a miserable existence.

Except it will not work like that, will it?

But as to Bush’s ratings, as evidenced by you, Publius, and by myself, we can be upset enough with Bush on his handling of the war to be angry if a pollster called, and yet be very much FOR the war. To say that his poll ratings must reflect opposition to the war is simplistic and it is dismaying that the media runs with that simplistic option. We can be upset with Bush because we think he might pursue the war more heartily, or because we think he ought to be tougher on the topic of Islam, or because we grieve that he is not more persuasive in his rhetoric, or because we have any other of the criticisms folks discuss on this blog and elsewhere. Dismay about Bush Administration failure in the propaganda war is very real, and it all begins to feel like defeat. Yet that can not be. Who wants to have to submit, even insincerely, in any way whatsoever to those thugs? No, thank you.

Need it be pointed out that their conversion was about as genuine as a $10 Times Square Rolex? They wanted to live so they recited whatever words their captors wanted to hear. Understandable. The fact that Centanni was able to make a distinction between his captors and the religion they claimed to work for is to his credit. The only reason that I know of at present to have less than "the highest respect" for him (and Wiig) is that he has opted to pose as a journalist while in fact working for the right-wing propaganda machine, Fox News.

"The only reason that I know of at present to have less than "the highest respect" for him (and Wiig) is that he has opted to pose as a journalist while in fact working for the right-wing propaganda machine, Fox News."

Insomuch as I can tell, the supposed "right-wing propaganda machine" has been taught a rough lesson by the thugs over there. That’s been obious watching Fox reporters outdoing each other to describe these terrorists as "very beautiful, kind-hearted, loving people." Surely you don’t think it an accident they picked Fox reporters to kidnap do you?

Kidnapping and terrorism, it appears, works!

They wanted to live so they recited whatever words their captors wanted to hear. Understandable.

Craig- The matter is not of whether it was sincere or not, but that doing so is simply wrong. Any man who would, even nominally, renounce something as fundamental as religion, even to spare their life, is not a man to be trusted. That is to say, if the most sacred of things is not to be kept sacred, then the person failing to do so is a person without virtue in their soul.

David Warren asksWhy not say plainly, “If you do this, we will do that.” and would any of us here diesgree? He also asks It is this inability to deal forthrightly with madmen, that suggests we have lost too many of our own marbles. For why should a man with a gun fear a man with a stick? which is a very good question, indeed.

What an odd bunch of posts. Respect Sentanni? Sure, except for his saying nice things about Islam. How can you respect a religion that converts at gunpoint? He should give his life to avoid the lie of a false conversion to a false god? Are we losing our marbles?
Islam is a meritless "religion"; it is in fact an obscenity.

I guess the question originally was, what is impermissible or dishonorable to do under duress.

If these guys are Christians, Peter seemed to be saying, then this was a classical betrayal and an act of cowardice. But do we know that they renounced their God? Perhaps they were not religious. Does this matter?

There are people who would feel shame if under duress they did anything against their will, like sitting down or standing up. Would their deaths be admirable or foolish? Others are more flexible. What if these journalists were forced to say that they are Republicans (or Democrats)? What if they agreed to criticize their country or renounce their citizenship? Would that be like giving away information that would put colleagues or fellow countrymen at risk? These do not seem to be the same cases.

I agree with Steve that we should give these guys a break for not being martyrs, for not showing heroic virtue.
Their prudence was understandable and need not be interpreted as fundamental betrayal. And only God should judge them in matters of faith.

Steve - thank you for such a realistic post and

Peter Lawler: "And only God should judge them in matters of faith"

Thank you for saying the most sensible thing in this post.

Interesting to think that a high school girl in middle America had more guts to stand for her faith with a gun pointed at her head than these two grown men did... But then I can only hope I would follow her lead in a situation like Centanni & Wiig just emerged from.

About the best response that I’ve seen so far to the Right’s disappointment/digust/outrage (depending on which one is being read or listened to) is this dissection by Glenn Greenwald.

Apparently, it’s not just crazy Muslims who have a craving to see their fellow believers martyr themselves - electively, unnecessarily - for their beliefs.

Yes, Babs, isn’t it great that Cassie Bernall (if you really want to pump this feel-good Christian myth, you should at least refer to her by name, no?) is dead now? Her death has done so much to help Christianity!

(I meant "diSgust" in that first line, of course)

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