I am writing this one and only time about Nate Hansen's "Gadfly" columns. Basically, from what I've read so far during his tenure with your paper, Nate seems to have limited abilities to function as a credible editorial writer. I have seen more reasoned and logical presentations of opinions in your "letters to the editor" section than in Hansen's pieces that have been published thus far.
In this letter, I am specifically addressing the Dec. 5 Gadfly column. I think that you as an editor got the headline of this particular piece wrong. It should have been worded thusly "Crazy, Mixed-up Nate Hansen totally misunderstands the Teddy Bear Incident and the realities of life within countries ruled by Islamic (Sharia) Law." Oh, sorry, that would have taken up a lot newsprint but I think that it would have been a better summary of the content of his piece.
The poor school teacher in Sudan who was the focus of this incident (and the jumping off point for Hansen's column) was convicted and nearly sentenced to a horrific type of corporal punishment (lashing) for what was construed by the Islamic judicial system as a thought crime - having the temerity to let her students vote to name a child's toy "Mohammad."
Luckily for her, the outrage from the British government and its people exposed the barbarism of this situation and managed to get the poor woman deported instead. From what I have read from many thoughtful commentators on this issue - there was no debate regarding this incident in the western world. Basically, all rational, thinking people agree that what happened was hardly a "crime." The Sudanese Islamic courts were just plain wrong in the level of punishment initially threatened. This situation was not one that serves as some grand illustration of the misunderstanding of Islam in the western world. More appropriately, this incident focuses on the inhumanity in some Muslim countries (and not just in the Middle East, Nate) that are ruled in accordance with Sharia law - and for those countries in which radical Islamists are attempting to impose Sharia law on their hapless countrymen.
Let's review, shall we, some crimes and associated punishments in countries ruled by strict interpretations Sharia law (e.g., in Saudi Arabia): adultery - stoning to death; converting from Islam to another religion (apostasy) - death; theft - chopping off hands; blasphemy by insulting the prophet- death; rape - sometimes punishments for the victim but not for the perpetrators; wrong turns onto the Muslim-only highway to Mecca - death; women not conforming to dress codes - whipping and public humiliation.
I could go on and on with similar examples for non-Arab Muslim countries. But I think your readers are smart enough not to fall for the crazy argument that if only people in western societies would "walk a mile" in the shoes of Muslims, that we will be disabused of our belief that our system of law based on Judeo-Christian principles is superior to Sharia-law based on the Islamic principles. Sorry, but any thinking, rational person realizes that Sharia law is an oppressive, inhumane and sexist system.
And remember, Sharia law is based on a strict interpretation of Islamic religious teachings and therefore by definition only exists in Muslim societies.
In the beginning of my letter, I called into question Hansen's ability to credibly function as an opinion writer. I've noticed after reading several of his opinion pieces that he likes to use a lazy rhetorical method of trying to be provocative by throwing some sort of verbal "bomb" in his writing in an attempt to be provocative. In the case of this particular piece, he tries to poke at Christians. In this, he seems to be adopting the finger wagging "Rosie O'Donnell" approach to matter by drawing equivalencies between "radical" Christian beliefs and "radical" Islamic ones.
This approach is not only just plain wrong, but also reflects a mental laziness that I wouldn't expect to see in an opinion piece published in any newspaper anywhere. If Hansen really wants to be provocative, then how about trying this. Rather than poking fun at Christians and suggesting Jesus-based toys, why doesn't he provide a cartoon or photo accompanying his piece that shows a Mohammad doll or better yet a satirical drawing of Mohammad? I guarantee that Hansen isn't such a brave boy to poke fun at Muslims as he is with Christians. It's really easy to poke fun at a group that you know with 100 percent certainty that will, at most, respond with words of dismay or shock. It's quite another thing entirely, to poke fun at a group who takes any criticism or perceived slight deadly seriously (ask Theo van Gogh, Salmon Rushdie or the Danish Cartoonists about that - oh sorry, forgot Theo was murdered for his opinions but you can ask the rest them about their experiences if you can locate where they are hiding out).
In closing, I don't consider myself a person who is a Christian so much as a believer in and defender of Judeo-Christian values. Hansen's little digs at Christians don't affect me. It's his assault on common sense, rationality and logic that gets my goat.
In the meantime, I plan to just skip over Hansen's pieces from now on. That way, I can get on to the truly interesting and thoughtful opinions - those in the letters to the editor.
Robin G. Weesner