West Wing
Isaac and Ishmael

Episode Report Card
Deborah: D+ | 26 USERS: B+
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A Very Special Episode of The West Wing

There are a couple of agents outside the room where Raqim is being cross-examined. Another guy comes up and advises one of them of something; he then goes into the room, where Raqim is being grilled as to why he went to Uzbekistan. He says it was his "Russia trip," and that he went with friends, post-graduation. He's asked about the Islamic League of Allston; the guy who came into the room quietly speaks to Ron. Raqim indicates that it used to be his mosque. Ron and another agent talk to someone at the door, who tells them: "We found him." Ron asks where. The answer: "Germany." Ron takes off with that guy; the other agent turns around and announces, "Mr. Ali: you're free to go." Raqim says, "Thank you." Everyone leaves. Leo sits motionless in his chair. Raqim is almost out the door when he stops and turns: "You know what, Mr. McGarry?" He walks back over to Leo: "You have the memory of a gypsy moth. When you and the President and the President's daughter and about a hundred other people -- including me, by the way -- were met with a hail of .44-calibre gunfire in Rosslyn, not only were the shooters white...they were doing it because one of us wasn't." Big frickin' word to Raqim. He leaves. ["To kick the shit out of a printer. Go Raqim!" -- Wing Chun] Leo looks like the complicated, 3-D, million-shades-of-grey nature of the problem is starting to penetrate him.

Back in the Mess, most of the curriculum has been covered, but we still need a Bible story. One girl asks, "How did all this start?" FLOTUS asks, "How did what all start?" The girl makes a vague allusion to "this," and we're left to assume that she means the enmity and misunderstanding between Jews and Muslims. Or maybe between Arabs and Israelis. Or maybe between the Middle East and the West. Or maybe between Christians and Muslims. Hard to know, since the discussion is relatively superficial. Abby says, "Sarah." She pauses. "God said to Abraham, 'Look toward the heaven and number the stars and so shall your descendants be.' But Abraham's wife, Sarah, wasn't getting any younger, and God wasn't coming through on His promise. I was very young when I had my kids. I was very, very, very, very young. I was barely even born yet when I had my oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Anyway, Sarah was getting older, and she was getting nervous because she didn't have any children. So she sent Abraham to the bed of her maid, Hagar, and Abraham and Hagar had Ishmael. And not long after they did, God kept His promise to Sarah, as He always intended to, and Abraham and Sarah had Isaac. And Sarah said to Abraham, 'Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of the slave woman will not be the heir with my son Isaac.' And so it began: the Jews, the sons of Isaac. The Arabs, the sons of Ishmael." I assume that Sorkin means Jews here as an ethnic group and not a religious one, because if so, the line should have been, "Muslims, the sons of Ishmael." But if we are not talking about religious beliefs, why are we referencing a Bible story? She carries on: "But what most people find important to remember is that, in the end, the two sons came together to bury their father." Some people also find it important to remember that this is a significantly different version of matters than that revealed to Muslims in the Qur'an (and included in other Islamic teachings), where the story of Ibrahim, Sarah, Hajira, Ishaaq, and Isma'il is extremely important. (Muslims actually believe that it was Isma'il, not Ishaaq, for whom God asked in sacrifice.) It would have been more than nice, it would have been highly appropriate, helpful and enlightened, had this issue been recognized and explored. Josh typically adds, "I think most people also find it important to remember that the whole thing took place about seventy-three million years ago." FLOTUS: "Yeah." Way to dismiss the whole thing.

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