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In an open letter to the protesters in Australia that turned violent — and violent protesters in general around the globe — editorialist Peter FitzSimons questions the sanity of so many people protesting a file someone put on YouTube by attacking police, storming consulates, and rioting.

An excerpt:

Do you not understand that the net result of such irresponsible, appalling action is to give ample fuel to every racist in the country to reinforce every bad stereotype they have ever had of you, and that will affect badly the hundreds of thousands of other peaceful and law-abiding Islamic Australians?

Now I have spent my share of time defending Islam against bigots eager to use any and every example they can get of the quarter of humanity contemptuously known as “them” misbehaving.  I also defend Christianity against bigots who insist we are all homophobic simpletons who think the world is 6,000 years old.  And I defend Athiests from Christians who don’t trust anyone who’s not afraid of the very brimstone Atheists accuse believers of relying on as their only excuse for morality.

Frankly, when I preach tolerance, I sometimes feel like I’m a referee in a match where each guy punches their opponent in the nuts every time my back is turned to keep the other guy fair.

And I’m guilty, too.

For a moment I really wanted to say “People, cut it out, you’re making me look like an idiot defending you.”  Do you see my error?  I’m lumping in the guilty with the innocent.  I’m NOT defending those who have fallen to fanaticism.  I’m defending the rest of “them” — those MANY who shout out against violence and terrorism or form human chains to protect people and places from these crazies.  They are EVERYWHERE, but rarely get any press.  And then people get the notion it’s “their” responsibility to keep “their” militant neighbors in line, just to relabel and the innocent back in with the bad, thereby justifying their prejudice.

But it still makes no sense.

Putting all this aside, it still makes no sense, even for extremists.  They obviously don’t care what we think of Islam because of people like them.  And they obviously don’t care who suffers from their anger.  We’re talking about ONE PERSON in California who deserves to be left in the middle of Taliban territory and they act like the whole world has declared war on them.

Is this really about an amateur flick, or a newspaper cartoon?  This many people didn’t die (on both sides) when the cult leader in Florida publicly burned the Quran.  Or is this an extension of Islamic pride, overflowing from the Arab Spring?  Or is it an organized effort by the usual Islamist suspects to incite some sick, global, totalistic interpretation of Jihad?

I really want to know.

But unlike those who get their education from YouTube and hate sites like TheReligionOfPeace or JihadWatch or Front Page Magazine, I plan to go to the source.  I plan to ask my Muslim friends and neighbors what they think is going on.  And I think the answer may surprise all of us if we listen.  Stay tuned.