Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

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24 Hour News Cycle to Blame for Fringe Radicals Getting National Spotlight

09.17.10

It’s quite a stunning statement about the state of the American press when the activities and fringe interests of the very few — we’re talking fewer people than you’ll find cars in your average supermarket parking lot — gain such natural interest as to make the military leader of our forces in Afghanistan personally state his disapproval of said activity.

Take a look at this diagram I found courtesy of Andrew Sullivan:

MuslimVennDiagram

Image via Mark Shea:

It’s easy as pie to generalize to millions of people the crimes of a few. We Catholics have had it done to us. And we can have it done to us again. So we should be bloody cautious about insane schemes to do it to 18 million fellow citizens.

The grotesque excuse “But the the first amendment is dead, and Islam killed it. There is no ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘freedom of religion’ with the threat of Muslim violence hanging over your head” is rubbish. Cancelling the rights of 307 million people because you are, by your own admission, afraid is neither patriotism, nor courage, nor Christian fortitude. It is cowardice. And it is extra-special cowardice when you are ready to cancel your most precious national heritage because you are afraid of a speck.

I couldn’t say this any better myself even if I tried.

Some could argue that it is newsworthy — sure, burning the Quran will get you noticed.  But, this is the kind of thing for Hard Copy (if it were still around) or the local Gainesville six o’clock news.  It went from a blip on the radar – where it should’ve remained – to garnishing worldwide attention because our 24-hour news cycle needs to fill their shows with content, regardless of how newsworthy the item may be.

And if it’s not quite newsworthy enough, well, rest assured that the weeks and weeks of talking heads commenting on the rightness or wrongness of Rev. Terry Jones and his Quran-burning plans will make it so.  (Note that they must include the rightness AND wrongness because they mistake their role of reporting the truth with being balanced on every topic, no matter how lunatic.)

And to what end?

All that’s happened is that these radicals have been legitimized.  Now Rev. Jones is planning to go to New York City to talk to Imam Rauf regarding the “Ground Zero” mosque.  Since when does a Gainesville reverend with a congregation of 50 followers have any authority whatsoever to involve himself in the building plans in a neighborhood 1,000 miles away from where he calls home?

Oh right.  Because he was on the news TV.

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Why We Shouldn’t Stop Rev. Jones’ Quran Burning Party

09.08.10

Rising from the still-smoldering debate over the legitimacy of the Park51 community center is the Rev. Terry Jones’ proposed “Burn A Quran Day,” scheduled for this Saturday, September 11th.  Just like the name implies, from six to nine in the evening, people will gather to set copies of the Islamic holy text ablaze to show their opposition to the faith held by the radicals who attacked New York City nine years ago.

Jones’ plans have been met with considerable opposition of their own by just about everyone in the State Department and even from the military — General Petraeus warned that this very act could harm our efforts to control Afghanistan, even endangering our troops.

This hasn’t deterred Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center church.

Jones, who has about 50 followers, gained some local notoriety last year when he posted signs in front of his small church declaring “Islam is of the Devil.” But his Quran-burning scheme attracted wider attention… The Quran, according to Jones, is “evil” because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.

Religious freedom sure is an odd thing, isn’t it?  People want it when it suits them, but want ways around it when it doesn’t.  It’s part of the freedom’s brilliance and why it’s so vital to our Constitution.  Just like the Muslims have the right to build their mosque near Ground Zero, Jones and his own crew radicals have the right to burn some books.  Freedom of expression, of speech, of religion, however you want to slice it: they have the right to do this.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it an effective, worthwhile use of time.  Combating extremism with more extremism isn’t going to work.  Not to get all squishy, but you can’t beat hate with more hate.  You can’t beat ignorance with more ignorance.  You beat brutality with civility.  You overcome oppression with freedom.  You trump prejudice with acceptance.

What people don’t want to realize is that conflating all Muslims into radical terrorists is the same fallacy as Muslims condemning all Americans as infidels.  So, by blaming the entire religion of Islam for the terror attacks, Rev. Jones and his followers are responding to the mentality with which they disagree by adopting that exact mentality themselves. There’s very little in the way of logic going on here — it’s simply an “I’m right, they’re wrong” line of thinking.  No rationality required.

Another paradox is that these 50-odd people and their inflammatory plans for Saturday really could’ve just come and gone without much notice from anyone, except the media exploded this thing to the point where all levels of government voiced their opinions, it’s all over the news, all over the blogosphere.  It’s everywhere.  We could’ve all ignored Jones and his followers’ sad, unfortunate response to tragedy and they would’ve faded away without much of a whimper — no television stories for people abroad to see and misinterpret.

Although, that’s never going to happen — nor should it necessarily.  It is a news story, after all.  But does it require the amount of national exposure that it’s receiving?

People wonder why others hate Americans and then when snippets of news of Americans burning Qurans flood the airwaves, it’s not hard to see why they might be too fond of us.  Because just like how we only catch glimpses and read certain stories about what kind of people they are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and Palestine, you have to figure that people in those countries only catch glimpses and read certain stories about us, too.  And who knows what is being passed off to them as representative of Americans as a whole. Odds are that if there’s video footage of a bunch of Floridians burning Qurans gleefully, claiming that the entire faith is of the devil (remind you much of Ahmadinejad calling America the “Great Satan” at all?), that will make it over to those Islamic nations with which we’re firmly entrenched overseas.

While we can’t stop the Dove World Outreach Center from their Quran-burning plans, we can do our part to embrace our diversity and focus on remaining rational in the face of these highly emotional times.  Let them burn their books.  Because when has that ever changed people’s minds?  The beliefs aren’t in the books; they’re in people’s minds and hearts. They won’t accomplish anything good with their pointless, crude event, so why give them a soapbox any bigger than they already have?  Our efforts are best served doing something else, something productive, something positive.

If we continue to do more and more things that promote tolerance, acceptance, rationality, and – ultimately – positivity, we can outshine any blaze by the loud, radical outliers.

Image courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele — All Rights Reserved.  And no, it has nothing to do with this post other than it makes me happy.  And we need more of that in the world, right now especially.

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Religion: Anachronistic Perhaps, Yet Still Valuable

08.25.10

Andrew Sullivan:

If you see the world as something to be understood, you will seek to understand it through many voices, idioms and perspectives. To dismiss all religion as mere anachronistic bunk is a closure of the mind, not an opening.

While I agree, I don’t know that I agree in the same way that Sullivan means it.  I haven’t used that precise term – anachronistic – to describe religion before, but it’s relatively close to my feelings toward it.  I don’t know that my issue with it is that it’s old-fashioned so much as that the rigid structures of religion are itself closed-minded, ignoring new evidence and thousands of years of human development, ingenuity, and discovery in favor of some ancient texts.

At least, that’s the case for the Abrahamic religions.  One could argue that since their texts are so old, that they must be relevant and worthy if people are still worshiping them after all these centuries of new ideas and new religions have come to pass.

The same can’t be said for new faiths like Mormonism or Scientology.  Those followers intrigue me the most, especially the latter.  To think that people subscribe to a set of beliefs that include some pretty out-there sci-fi babble in an age where we have so much scientific evidence showing that there’s no way the universe is trillions of trillions of trillions of years old stuns me.

So where do I agree with Sullivan?

It’s precisely because those people stun and baffle me that these religions are worthy of studying and investigating.  We’re all so different yet we all have so many traits in common.  Why am I not religious while others are extremely devout?  Why do certain cultures tend to embrace such different faiths?  Or is it their faiths that determine different cultures? These religions, and the human race’s constant desire to believe, offers all kinds of information that we can dissect and study from sociological, anthropological, and psychological perspectives in order to learn how our minds and cultures evolve and function.

Just about everything involves religion.  Just glance at the news and try not to incorporate Islam, Judaism, and Christianity t0 understand what’s going on.  From the two wars we’re fighting in the Middle East to the already-existing mosque near Ground Zero in NYC to award speeches, it’s impossible to separate humans from religion.

And even for those like myself who follows no religious institution, my doing so is notable because of my lack of religious desire.  I admit that I frequently dismiss the concept of religion as anachronistic bunk, as Sullivan says, but I don’t dismiss its impact or its intellectual worth when it comes to understanding our world.   In that sense, I don’t see my beliefs as being a closure of the mind at all because one doesn’t need to give credence to religious faith in order to investigate our world so much as accept religion’s existence and how it affects people, places, and things.

I just keep it in its place along with other myths, legends, and fables that speak volumes about ourselves as self-conscious beings and human nature than they do anything related to defining our existence or explaining the afterlife.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Booyabazooka

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This is Still a Holy War

01.07.10

Segregating people of certain countries to go through pat-downs or walk through full-body scanners, forcing everyone to remain in their seats during the last hour of certain flights, and disallowing passengers from accessing their carry-on baggage during certain times of the flight will do nothing to change the fact that so many people consider this a holy war.

The total religious disconnect with this war makes it unlike anything else we’ve encountered.  This isn’t just an ideological difference like the capitalism versus communism conflicts that America endured in the last century.  Communist ideals didn’t create suicide bombers willing to detonate themselves along with their American counterparts like those involved in this conflict.

America has some difficult decisions to make.  The knee-jerk reaction would be to make any and all Islamic countries banned from all air travel.  We’re already doing a less severe version of that with the restrictions and mandatory extra-security measures for those who travel from certain countries and anyone who is a citizen of said countries.  Sure, on the surface it makes sense: stop those people from countries who want to kill us from entering America’s borders.  But, the issue though isn’t just with those specific countries.  The obvious way around this form of security would be for terrorists to get official papers from countries not on that no-fly list.  They have the money and the connections so you know that will be possible.  What happens when the next terrorist travels on a British, Australian, or Canadian visa or passport?  Do we just start banning anyone with an Arabic sounding name?  What about Richard Reid, the infamous shoe-bomber?  Were these current rules in place then, he still could’ve made it through.

I don’t have the answers to this riddle and I don’t envy those in government this difficult task.  I recently read an article about how Israel handles their airport security that made me wonder why we can’t scrap our system and start over.  I realize the costs involved would be enormous, but what about the costs if we don’t?  How does it help us to spend money on our current system that doesn’t work: we spend all of our time in fear that the terrorists will sneak through the holes in our security (which they will eventually) and then putting bandaids over those gaps (rinse and repeat).  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t explain how Israel deals with incoming flights, which is our current crisis.

There will always be a way around our false sense of security.  When will we realize that we aren’t any safer by adding more and more reactive, rather than proactive, measures that come dangerously close to infringing upon the very values on which America was founded?  Alienating specific demographics – in this case, Arabs and Muslims – will do nothing to help us in this fight.  If we want to create more radicals, this has to be a pretty solid way to do it.

And that will only make us less, not more, safe.

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Prejudice Overheard

11.06.09

Today I heard someone speaking on the phone about the massacre at Fort Hood yesterday.

“…the fact that he is a Muslim doesn’t even come up.  It’s ridiculous.  They try to make it sound like it was some psychological problem…”

This person was convinced that Major Hasan’s motive was simply that he was a Muslim and that Muslims are inherently violent.  And this person clearly is not alone in that belief.

Dreher:

No matter how badly the media try to spin it another way, or to ignore the religion ghost in this story, Hasan’s religion was to all appearances a key factor in the mass murder he committed. You don’t have a Muslim shouting “Allahu akbar!” as he executes people one by one, and conclude that religion is incidental to his crime. You have to be a moral idiot to draw that conclusion, a politically correct nitwit.

So: how should we regard the role of Hasan’s religion in this infamy?

John Infidelesto:

This was jihad.

 

(links courtesy The Daily Dish)

It’s hard to combat this type of prejudice and marginalization when it seems to come directly from our country’s own foreign policy.  Our president for the previous eight years, not-so-subtlely claimed that this war was a “crusade,” evoking pretty stark images of Christians versus Muslims in a holy war.  That wasn’t lost on many Americans.  While some found it cringe-worthy and blasphemous, others found it justified.

Even if Hasan turns out to be some radical Islamic fundamentalist, it doesn’t confirm the belief that Islam is evil, Islam is dangerous, or that all Muslims are homicidal maniacs waiting in the wings.  It just means that this particular Muslim was disturbed – for a multitude of reasons, including his fundamentalism – and snapped.

It’d actually be much easier to just blame Hasan’s actions on Islam.  Most people would like that idea because it sums up a very complex situation into a nice, little box to point your anger and frustration.  From the information so far, it just doesn’t seem like this is the whole story for Hasan and the tragedy at Ft. Hood.

While people like Dreher cry about people ignoring the Muslim aspect of Hasan, it’s equally as irresponsible to neglect the affect the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have on our troops, no matter what creed, race, ethnicity, or religion.

And for those people like the one I overheard today on the phone, it’s helpful to place this deadly rampage in the right context of history.  Case in point, just today, a man opened fire at work in Orlando killing one and injuring five others.

He wasn’t Muslim; he was just pissed off about being fired.

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The Backwards World of Religion

03.31.09

(Massoud Hossaini / AFP – Getty Images)

I would like to attribute something this grossly offensive and obviously a clear-cut attack on human rights to the sub-sect of fundamentalist radicals within the Muslim community.  But, when Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed, elected president of Afghanistan, a country that we invaded and “liberated,” forces legislation through that legalizes rape, I really can’t blame the fringe.

In a massive blow for women’s rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman’s right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.

Yes, legalized rape.  See, when it’s between a husband and a wife, the wife relinquishes her ability to say no.  In Afghanistan, at least.

I’m beyond tired of hearing about all of these so-called “family” laws that claim to protect any aspect of the nuclear family unit, which, according to certain religions, is THE only way to have a family.  We have plenty of these types of laws in America, too, so Afghanistan is not unique by any stretch.  Ours come in the form of DOMA and numerous generically titled groups and lobbyists.  I’m not saying that DOMA is equivalent to this Shia Family Law by any stretch.  But that’s not to say that DOMA doesn’t egregiously discriminate and deny rights to a specific group of people based on religious rhetoric.  The SFL goes even further to condone sexual abuse, which is too appalling to even capture in words.

This is a sad reminder of how far humanity still has to come as a species.  It makes me glad that here in America we have knocked over some of these boundaries that seem so archaic to us now yet still exist in many other places in the world.  But, at the same time, it also reminds me of how much work we still need to do here in the West.  I hate having to always bring up that less than 90 years ago women didn’t have the right to vote.  People of different ethnicities and races couldn’t vote less than 50 years ago.  We needed a full-blown civil war in order to stop the practice of people owning people.  Equality takes time and an immense amount of effort.  We can’t go into a different culture and just impose our way of life onto them and assume that it will just stick.  We need to continue to progress, better ourselves, and encourage widespread education.

The time for governing our lives based on ancient texts is over.  It’s time for the Next Renaissance.