The Organization of the Islamic Conference had its meeting of the world's 57 Muslim nations several months ago, and who among us has not slept more soundly knowing that these titans of world peace hammered out some crucial policies to save the world?

Well, it almost did. If not for that one niggling sticking point. The conference eventually floundered on the dagger-edged conundrum of whether blowing up children in pizza parlors constitutes terrorism. These heroes of history finally decided that, like that of the proverbial angels dancing on the head of a pin, it was simply too difficult and too pointless a question to answer. Ultimately, anything that hurts Israel, you see, must be understood in the "proper context." In other words, it's not terrorism if Israelis are the ones being terrorized.

The fact that such an organization exists in the first place illustrates the differences between the Islamic world and the West. Can you imagine George Bush attending a world conference of "Christian nations"? Okay, maybe some reflexive Bush-bashers can, but can you imagine it being an uncontroversial, bipartisan event? Try to picture the "Times of London" with a story that read in its lead: "Bush, the leader of the world's most populous Christian nation, congratulated the new general secretary of the League of Christians — Groe Northwadd, the prime minister of Finland, who promised to fight for the rights and interests of Christians around the world…."

This just isn't the way we do things in the West. Sure, we do have this institution called the Catholic Church, which strives to be a universal organization (hence the word "Catholic") and claims some level of moral — though not necessarily legal or political — authority over Christians around the world. But it hasn't really worked in tandem with the governments of the West for quite some time — the claims by feminists in open-toed shoes with T-shirts reading "Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries" notwithstanding.

This is an important point, missed by many Westerners and Muslims alike. In the Middle East, it is widely believed that the West sees itself in much the same way as the East sees it. That's why so many Arabs ululated with righteous fury when President Bush accidentally used the word "crusade" when discussing the war on terrorism — and why most Americans barely noticed it. Indeed, most Westerners shrug off the almost-hourly references to "jihad" or "holy war" by Muslims around the world, even though Westerners suffered from jihads just as much as the Muslims suffered from the Crusades — if not more so (Jews, by the way, got it coming and going). Indeed, the only Americans, aside from some members of the Arab and Muslim community, who were reliably offended by Bush's "crusade" comment were the knee-jerk liberals terrified that they might offend a dues-paying member of the Coalition of the Oppressed.

But don't get me started on how idiotic most people are when they refer to the Crusades. Still, if you think the Crusades were an attempt by angry white slave-holding men to abolish affirmative action and the living wage (the reigning understanding on many campuses, no doubt), I highly recommend Thomas Madden's "A Concise History of the Crusades" on what they were really about.
Just here proffering my pearls to swine, my throat to wolves and my trousers to the flagpole.