Sunday, November 19, 2006

Who's Afraid Of Islam?

Warning: Here comes preachy Keith. I don't want to scare away the folks that come here to dig the stories and poems and what not, so if that's your thing, cool. You won't offend me if you just skip this little tirade. Otherwise, have at it, and feel free to engage me in the comments. No name calling, flame war crap please, but disagreeing with me is always welcome.

A major ingredient in conservative policy is the common enemy. Rally behind the flag for THEY are out there. In my childhood (and my father's) it was the communist threat. As we are now instructed to be afraid of Islam and it's west hating ways I can't help but see an irony in our president's friendly visit to Vietnam. Vietnam was to our Communist-phobic hysteria as Iraq is now to our Islamaphobic hysteria. Well we lost "The Nam", which we were told would certainly have dire consequences, denying us any stability and security. As our President dons his jammies and spends a cozy night sleeping in Vietnam we should not miss the irony here. The carrot was more effective than the stick in luring communist governments into a comfortable relationship with the capitalist democracies of the world. Why do we have to learn the lesson over again now as we convince ourselves that The Muslims will not rest until our way of life is destroyed.

Are the Millitant Islamic factions to be feared. Certainly, just as there are frightening Christian extremists right here in our own country. I fear any philosophy that can excuse killing in the name of god. But we have to ask ourselves why increasing numbers of Muslims are willing to subscribe to an extreme, anti-west interpretation of Islam. The "They hate our freedom" explanation of why we were attacked is idiotic at best. It's time for American to take a good hard look at our dealing in the middle east over the years. You don't have to agree with the complaints against us to realize that there is more to them than just a bunch of freedom hating. To give but one small example, please remember that it was us who helped put the Bathe party in power in Iraq and then supported Hussein's brutal take over of that party.

So, if we assume that there are more complex reasons for hating us than just a bizarre disgust with freedom that still leaves the question of what do we do with it. For one we accept that Muslims come in many styles and we stop grouping them all together, blaming the Muslim masses for any action of any Muslim anywhere. We reach out to the moderates who would like to see peace and we work on extending the carrot. We have faith that we really are on to something that the rest of the world will not be able to resist when it comes to our freedom of press, religion, and this damn attractive economic stability that I benefit from daily. We stop giving them a big bad enemy that easy to hate. Here's where I get real idealistic. If we put as much energy into helping the rest of the world as we put into protecting ourselves and our perceived interests from the rest of the world could anyone mess with us? The Iran earthquake a few years back was such an amazing opportunity for us and we did offer assistance but far too little.

So don't fear Muslims. There are plenty of them right here in our communities who would be happy to let you have a tour of their Mosques (I know I've had such a tour), who would be happy to talk politics, ethics and religion with you in a mutually respectful way (even if you're a dirtbag, homo-lovin' atheist like me) and who are happy to do business with you.

There are those who will come back at me by quoting The Koran attempting to present it as a call to violence. Let me remind them how easy it has always been for people to use the Bible to excuse violent, hateful behavior including genocide and slavery. You can also use The Bible to divide yourself from those who would commit atrocious sins, you know, like eating shell fish. When the Islamic empire was at it's height the Muslims had a very generous and progressive attitude toward Christians and Jews. I could go on an on, but instead I will encourage you to study the history of Islam and you will find a rich, complex and beautiful culture, one you might have a hard time hating.

The bottom line is when people are able to have a nice comfortable life where they can worship as they please and see their children safe and happy, the overwhelming majority will be most unlikely to take up arms or to subscribe to a militant philosophy that will interrupt their ability to live peacefully with their neighbors. That's poor people behavior. So, there's your enemy, your great fear; poverty. Want to be afraid? Be afraid of so many people in the world having so little to lose for these have always been the people most easily inducted into a fighting force. And with every war we wage there are more such people. We can pretend we're fighting over our differences of religion, but would there be a fight if there were not resources like land, oil and other things that equal money to be fought over? I don't think so.

The California Conservative disagrees. Read his post here.


Anonymous said...

Nicely said Keith,
We had a particularly proud moment here in Australia the other day. Our Prime Minister refused a meeting with Bono to discuss global poverty - it must be nice not to have to talk to people that don't agree with you...
P.S. duh huh, you said 'extending the carrot'

Keith Lowell Jensen said...

I'll extend the carrot for you anytime.

Rafael said...

I think the main reason they hate us is that we keep trying to 'liberate' them, what we never thought is that maybe they don't want to be liberated? Many people think of the treatment and behavior of muslim women as atrocious, but did anyone ever think about what the women themselves wanted? I overheard an NPR interview of a couple of muslim women and their perspectives, that's how they act because that is how they live, that is their culture, and it cannot be judged by our culture's standards.
Yea, that's just what i think of it.

RealGrouchy said...

It's a vicious cycle.

(1) Extremist muslims tell moderate muslims that the West wants to destroy their homes, way of life, etc., and uses this as a rallying cry.

(2) Fearmongerers in the US tell Americans the same thing

(3) Somebody acted on the fear (take your pick along the timeline)

(4) The other party pointed to that action and said "see? they really are trying to kill your families", thereby encouraging more fighters for "defensive" (read: retaliatory) reactions

(5) The first party does the exact same thing.

YouTube has some good videos on this, such as This debate between Chomsky and Dershowitz, or this better one, a radio interview by George Galloway of Ilan Pappe (part 1 of 3).

Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment"s also tend to explain this shit pretty comprehensively.

- RG>

Keith Lowell Jensen said...

Excellent point. I'm at work now, with my Republican boss, so I'll watch this youtube videos when I get home. Thanks.

Coexist said...

My daughter's neo natal doctor was muslim. Without him, she would not be alive....

I thank God for that muslim

Keith Lowell Jensen said...

Religious doctors freak me out the most.