The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad is currently in New York to address the United Nations. On Thursday, the Iranian president will be the honored guest at an Iftar dinner--the ceremonial breaking of the Ramadan fast--at the New York Grand Hyatt Hotel. That meal is sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, the Mennonite Central Committee, Quaker United Nations Office, Religions for Peace, and the World Council of Churches-United Nations Liaison Office According to the invitation, the assembled guests--including Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Rev. Kjell Bondevik, former Prime Minister of Norway and President of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights--will hold a "conversation about the role of religions in tackling global challenges and building peaceful societies."
As you would expect, given the current United States political climate, something so civilized and decent as religious groups reaching out to a Muslim leader to discuss peace has drawn some criticism. One of the funniest things I have read lately was an article at The New Republic website by James Kirchick which actually uses the phrase "the Quaker lobby" to describe a force in our society the writer feels needs to be opposed. Be sure to read the comments to the article. Here is one of the best comments:
The worst part is the Quaker Lobby is so influential. It's so bad these days that a politician can't even call for a war for fear of the Quaker Lobby. Even a hint of war-mongering and they start yelling about "anti-Quakerism." It's too bad they so skew the debate that we can't even talk about war rationally any more. I mean, what if there is a genuine threat to our national security, shouldn't we at least be able to consider the use of force? But no. Our Congressmen and women are reduced to banal pro-Quaker sentiments on the floor of the House and Senate. It's kind of sad. I'm glad you are calling them out on it though Jamie. Keep up the good fight!
And this one:
It's well known that the Quaker lobby has many members of the United States government in their back pockets. The U.S. gives more monetary and military aid to Quakerstan than to any other nation. Their super-secret Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations--the Oatmen--routinely carries out assassinations all over the world, and has frequently been found to be spying on the United States government and military.
Don't misunderstand me. Many of my best friends are Friends. Quakers are often skilled, learned professionals. The fact that many of those currently playing hacky-sack with the U.S. financial system are Quakers is sheer coincidence, and more a testament to their hard work, intelligence, and respect for education. Quaker families and traditions are a model for us all.
However, American foreign policy suffers when any one group possesses undue influence. Thus it behooves us to follow Mr. Kirchick's lead and keep a close watch on the nefarious Quaker lobby.