Roger L. Simon

"I find myself in the weird position of sympathizing with the Pope." - Salman Rushdie

Yes, the author puts his foot in his mouth again (well, not really – he was witty and brilliant and on the nose, as he often is) in front of a packed house in the banquet room of Los Angeles’ Four Seasons. I was sitting there, listening to him do it (opine), scribbling down some other things he said, including, re: Islam, “It wasn’t always like this – this religion of permanent outrage. This isn’t the religion I grew up with…” and “I am tired of hearing how Islamic [thinkers] invented algebra. That was a long time ago. A lot of things happened since.”

The event where Rushdie was letting his thinning hair down was the annual banquet of the American Jewish Congress. This year it was SRO because its LA leadership – Gary Ratner and Allyson Taylor – had the progressive (in the real sense) foresight to center the dinner (“Profiles in Courage -Voices of Muslim Reformers in the Modern World” ) on honoring Muslim moderates.

And some pretty incredible and courageous reformers they were: Besides, Rushdie… Wafa Sultan, Nonie Darwish, Tashbih Sayyed and Salim Mansur. These people have more guts than just about anybody in the world right now -and are more necessary. Sultan, a psychologist, may have had the most poignant line: “Get to know your enemy. He might turn out to be your best friend.”

Also in attendance, the parents of Daniel Pearl. I asked Judea Pearl what he knew about rumors that the murderers of his son have been released in Pakistan. He told me that our government has told him nothing. He knows no more than you or I. Go figure.

Because I am busy, I can’t go further with my description of this moving event, but I will come back later in the day and amplify (with links). Look for many of the above to appear on Pajamas Media in coming days – also Cyrus Nowrasteh, the screenwriter of The Path to 9-11, who was at the dinner as well.