Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Arguments I Don't Understand

1) Any suggestion that American foreign policy decisions have an impact on anti-Americanism is unacceptable.

Isn't it self-evident that if you pursue an interventionist policy of taking sides in world conflicts this will create both enemies and friends? If Jack and John are beating each other up and I intervene on John's behalf isn't it natural and expected that John will like me more and Jack will like me less?

Isn't it logical therefore that I should only intervene if I actually want to be part of the conflict and I'm prepared for it?

How is it that Americans expect that they can be actively involved in so many conflicts and everyone on all sides will still see them as neutral observers or something?

That is regardless of whether Jack or John were in the right to start with. In the long and complex history of American interventions, there were lots of times when Americans were on the right side and a few times when they weren't. That's if we were talking from a moral pov.

But morality is ultimately irrelevant in politics.

2) Islamophobia is racist.

How can that be? Islam is not a race. It is a system of belief. Systems of belief are not entitled to respect. They have to earn it. And they earn it when their proponents present them in a manner that earns the respect of others. In modern times, Muslims have singularly failed to do that. And so my anger against Islamophobia is directed mostly at my own co-religionists.

It is like Communism. I would describe myself as anti-Communism because having examined the tenets of Communism, it didn't inspire my respect. Infact it scared me. I don't think I'd like it if someone called me racist because of that.


***Caution: These are random thoughts inspired by a sleepless night spent flipping between Fox TV, CNN and Iqra TV. They're not very well-thought-out as they're a result of listening to lots of arguments with lots of holes in them rather any serious attempt to construct my own argument.

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13 Comments:

Blogger Kirthan ston kosmo xenoi said...

well put: "Islam is not a race".

And as far as discrimination against muslims is concerned, I have seen it from everyone to everyone, it's not just muslims who feel/are victimized from the rest of the world: Muslims in Syria mathalan claiming that christians do not bathe (?! - heard this with my own ears) 2al! Or how do monotheists look down on buddhists or hinduists, seeing them as stupid naive ppl who for some reason are devoid of "high" intelligence and imagine gods as marionettes with 7 hands to play with. Or 3anna in Greece there is this small percentage of ppl who believe/chose to believe (and not born with the christianity chip planted in their brain/genes) to the 12 gods, not fatalistically, but they seem to feel connected to our roots heik (coz there's this triptych Greece-Orthodoxy-Family motto-for-laughs going around, as if ma kan fi Greece abl el Orthodoxy,they are cancelling all the glorious ages, back to when this civilisation actually MEANT sth, ALLAHU AKBAR ya3ni! > sorry for huge off-subject bracket story), well you can imagine how all the rest 97+% orthodox reduces and looks down on them.

Just because ppl always think they are better than the rest. That they have better lifestyle, better culture, better religion, better moral values. I don't know, is it a weird system of self-preservation that makes ppl do this?

6/25/2008 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Safiya Outlines said...

Salaam Alaikum,

You are wrong about Islamophobia. When there is so much cod-orientalist talk of 'backward countries' and 'barbaric men', there is obviously a huge racial input. All the old orientalist, racist stereotypes are now gleefully employed against Muslims, whether they are Arab or not.

Just go on Little Green Footballs and see for yourself.

Yes, there are bad Muslims, but of a billion people, they are an small minority. People have been being Muslim for a long, long time now, it's just fashionable and convenient to dislike us at the moment, it's got nothing to do with whether we 'earned' their respect or not.

Think about what you saying. The Jews were widely despised and scapegoated in pre World War Two Europe, was that because they didn't 'earn' enough respect?

It is a dangerous myth that respect has to be earned. Does the right to live have be earned? As once you decide that people are not worthy of respect, then that's what follows.

6/28/2008 12:45:00 AM  
Blogger Kirthan ston kosmo xenoi said...

No. Being polite and kind to people and accept them whoever they are, whatever they believe in andhowever they look like, this is what is self-evident and goes for all ppl. I really do not know about Islam in this particular case, and how could an entire religious community earn respect, this is beyond my way of thinking, but respect IS sth to be earned and prove that you are worthy of it. You ALWAYS have to prove if you are worthy of anything. A worthy mother to your child, a worthy friend, a worthy employee, a worthy citizen, a worthy human. The absence of respect does not mean disrespect. It can mean simple acceptance.

And it is at least funny to claim that of a billion ppl (ppl, not muslims or christians or whatever, just a group of ppl) only a small minority has a characteristic or not. You cannot count. And whatever your sample is, it is even mathematically inconceivable to state so :) It is not convenient and fashionable (?!?!?) to dislike muslims, it is stupid and pathetic. Just as it is to do so for anyone because of their religion. Thinking like that is dwelling in a self-imposed victimization.

6/28/2008 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Safiya,

Asking for respect as a person is one thing. Asking for respect as a Muslim means you're asking people to respect a system of belief that you chose and they didn't. And if they don't you feel insulted and call them racist, which is unlikely to make them more open to your point of view.

It is because Muslims identify with their religion to the point that they take every criticism of their faith as a personal insult that we are not able to respond to the criticism in a reasoned manner that others can understand and appreciate.

I don't agree that the problem is a few Muslims out of 2 billion. The few Muslims are very vocal and the majority is either silent or spends its time trying to justify the actions of the bad minority. There is a serious problem in the Muslim discourse and the way we present our religion to the rest of the world.

Are you really satisfied that we have done everything we can to present Islam properly to the world? To condemn and disown those unpalatable behaviors that are committed in the name of Islam as vocally as we rail against a movie or a set of cartoons we perceive as offensive?

When the Saudi government goes out to the world's media and tells them Islam says a female rape victim deserves to be punished, how many Muslims object with as much passion as they do over cartoons? Which is more detrimental to the image of Islam -the behavior of the Saudi government that most of us ignore or the cartoons?How come there are no mass demonstrations in any Muslim community against the Saudi government?

To the rest of the world, it looks like we care more about cartoons than the fact that in Saudi for example, female rape victims are jailed and imprisoned or stoned while their rapists go free, all in the name of Islam. Is it any wonder that we're not taken seriously?

And I also disagree with the comparison with anti-Semitism. Jews were discriminated against as a race - not for their beliefs. Again, Islam is not a race and Muslims have never looked at themselves as a race the way Jews do.

As for Orientalists, that is old news and there is no point in dragging it back into the discussion today. At the time when Orientalists were writing unpleasant, ethnocentric things about the Islamic World, do you think that Muslim or Eastern writers and historians were writing nice things about the West or about non-Muslims? They saw us as barbarians and heretics and we saw them as unclean kufar and infidels. Intolerance of the other was a sign of those times. Communication was not what it is today and so the other remained as a fearful dark entity to be despised.

This is 2008. When people call us barbarians today they're not talking about things that happened hundreds of years ago. How many people who fear Islam today have actually read Orientalists? The average person in the street gets his information about Islam from the news and our reaction to it.

6/28/2008 01:44:00 AM  
Blogger Safiya Outlines said...

Lou Lou - You seen to be thinking in some kind of binary - respect or disrespect with no inbetween. I am Muslim, does this mean I disrespect people of other faiths (or none)? No, of course not, they have their beliefs I have mine. Just because I do not share their beliefs, it does not mean I wish them any ill will.

As for the silent majority arguement, why should I constantly be expected to apologise for something I didn't do? Do we expect all men to apologise on behalf of the many men how rape and murder?

Do you not ask yourself why the 'extremists' get so much air time compared to the silent majority? Do not wonder why that might be? You know as well as I do that the blogosphere is filled with ordinary, law abiding Muslims who were equally outraged by the Saudi Rape case, yet that didn't receive any meida coverage. We can present what we like, but the media will print what it wants to, regardless.

Ayan Ali Hersi, is the most famous Muslim women in the world, famous for criticising Islam. Do you not look at the ongoing wars in Muslim lands and wonder why this might be?

As for Orientalists being old news, come on, where do you think Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes get their inspiration from?

As for the anti-semitism, indeed Muslims are not an actual race, but we are viewed as a monolith, a quasi-race.

"the other remained as a fearful dark entity to be despised"

And you really think those times have gone?

6/28/2008 02:23:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Well I'm a Muslim and I can't say I respect all other beliefs. If someone tells me they are a member of the Flat Earth Society, I'm not going to pretend I respect that. I can respect them as a person but asking me to respect your belief is dependant on whether or not your belief make sense to me.

"As for the silent majority arguement, why should I constantly be expected to apologise for something I didn't do?"

The question is why aren't you as angry at those who do the things that you find yourself having to apologize for than at the world at large? Isn't this a hint that we need to direct the effort to improve the image of Islam inward?

"Do you not ask yourself why the 'extremists' get so much air time compared to the silent majority? "

Because the majority is silent. Silence doesn't get much airtime. That was the point. The extremists and their apologists write more books, issue more statements, organize more riots and mass demonstrations, have more websites etc.....A simple google search would demonstrate that.

"Ayan Ali Hersi, is the most famous Muslim women in the world, famous for criticising Islam."

Because there are so few Muslims willing to criticize mainstream Islam, when one does, they get a lot of coverage. If we had more effective self-criticism, we might fill this gap so the likes of Hersi don't have the field to themselves.

"Do you not look at the ongoing wars in Muslim lands and wonder why this might be?"


Wonder why what might be?

"You know as well as I do that the blogosphere is filled with ordinary, law abiding Muslims who were equally outraged by the Saudi Rape case, yet that didn't receive any meida coverage."

Muslim outrage over the cartoons received round-the-clock media coverage. If there was equivalent Muslims outrage over the Saudi rape case, it would have received the same coverage. The fact is, there wasn't. There were no Muslim demonstrations to condemn the Saudi government, no rioting at Saudi embassies around the world, no international Muslim conventions, no Muslim calls for boycott. Nothing vocal or visible enough to attract media coverage. Again, the extremists dominate the scene when it comes to speaking for Muslims and that is our fault for letting them.

"As for Orientalists being old news, come on, where do you think Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes get their inspiration from?"

Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer are recognized as extremists by most reasonable people. They're not exactly mainstream. And they're not the reason why most non-Muslims, including those who live in Muslim countries, have a negative view of Islam.

6/28/2008 03:12:00 AM  
Blogger Safiya Outlines said...

"The question is why aren't you as angry at those who do the things that you find yourself having to apologize for than at the world at large? Isn't this a hint that we need to direct the effort to improve the image of Islam inward?"

Who says I'm not angry? Of course I am, and I speak out against it as do many others. You are confusing us not being listened to with us being silent.

You watch Fox News, the channel that regularly features the likes of Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin (she who felt the keffiyah was a terrorist symbol), and many other prominent anti-Muslim presenters. That's pretty mainstream to me.

America has many literate, educated mainstream Muslim scholars, who are willing to engage with the mainstream media, such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir to name but two, but how often do you see them getting interviewed compared to features on "scary extremists"?

The head of the largest American Muslim association, ISNA, Dr Ingrid Matteson, is not only female, but American born, yet how often is she approached for interviews?

They talk about us, but they never talk to us.

On several occasions in the UK, the main Muslim organisations have but out full page adverts denouncing terrorism. There is also a lot of interfaith work and community liason going on, but that doesn't get reported.

It's easy to sit and watch tv and say 'oh those terrible Muslims', but when you live in a land that paints a completely false picture of you constantly, you start to lose patience with the idea that if Muslims did x, y or z, everything would change.

Really, do you really think anyone would care about Muslims if there wasn't tons of oil in Muslim countries (plus billions of dollars of opium in Afghanistan)?

Another ten, twenty years and we'll be hearing about how bad China/Russia/e.t.c is instead.

6/29/2008 01:26:00 AM  
Blogger Kirthan ston kosmo xenoi said...

Aside from anything else, I must say that you really consider America as being the whole of the world! Europe does not feel like this for muslims, it is not such a big deal socially etc what religion you believe in, is it too small of the pie of the world to consider?! What happens in US is not a representative sample of what happens in the rest of the world. Would you wish a religious group to BE discriminated if it was not against, but for, in a positive way?! 'Cause you sound a lot like it!

"America has many literate, educated mainstream Muslim scholars, who are willing to engage with the mainstream media"

Also has tons of Hinduists and Buddhists, do you see them organised anywhere, complaining about how they are not taken into consideration or heared out, therefore not accepted as a religious group?

Do I live in a weird country maybe where none of this matters? I am really wondering. And the place I come from has a significant community of muslims, which is weird for Greece if you think about it, and still it never was "fashionable" or convenient to dislike them for religious reasons.

6/29/2008 03:37:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Kirthan,

I can tell you firsthand that Americans don't hate Muslims for religious reasons.

I was in the US before Sept.11 and back then most of the Americans I knew couldn't tell Islam from Hinduism. They didn't know the difference between me and my Hindu friends. All they knew was that we weren't Christian because we didn't celebrate Christmas. There was no prejudice, only respect whenever I would say I couldn't do something for religious reasons.

I was there also when that incident happened when a plane full of Egyptians including some army officials crashed in New York and everyone was killed. The investigation seemed to point to the fact that the pilot might have crashed the plane on purpose. And a recording was found where some Islamic religious prayers were repeated by the pilot just before the crash.

Then people had a lot of questions about Islam. They went out and bought copies of the Quran. Not because they were Orientalists. They'd never even heard of Orientalists. People were just scared. To them, it was a shock that some religion they'd never even known existed was apparently out to kill them.

But even then, it wasn't that widespread. The media didn't give that incident the attention given to Sept.11 and so the damage was limited.

I left the States only a few months before Sept.11. And I only heard from my friends over there about the mass hysteria against Muslims after that.

If Americans dislike Muslims then it is because they fear Islamic extremists. And how can I blame them? In my home country, we were scared of Islamic extremists too. These people are scary.

Now, in airports in Europe and the US when I get singled out for random security checks for having a Muslim last name, I feel discriminated against because I'm not a terrorist. But at the same time, I understand that these security measures are necessary because guess what? I don't want any plane that I'm on to be blown up. And I know that if someone does end up blowing it up these days it is more likely to be a Muslim than anyone else. Let's face it, this type of random violence against civilians is practiced mostly by Islamic extremists. So yeah, even as Muslim, I feel reassured that airport security are taking a closer look at Muslims. Even in my home country, these security measures are necessary because there are those among us who feel they are justified in taking the lives of others for religious reasons.

Apart from a minority of born again Christian Crusaders who hate anyone who is not Christian, the vast majority of Americans are just shocked by things like Sept.11and media scenes of flag burnings and masses of Muslims chanting Death to America while invoking the name of Allah. Of all the criminals in the world, the ones most likely to invoke the name of their god while expressing hatred and violence are Muslims.

And the fact is, they look to us - the silent Muslim majority to reassure them. Only they never hear as much from us as they do from the extremists. For many reasons. One of which is that any Muslim moderate who challenges the extremist interpretations gets a fatwa on their lives and winds up dead or having to live in hiding.

In Algeria, dozens of intellectuals and writers and journalists and artists who tried to condemn extremists were assassinated, sometimes with their families. In Saudi Arabia, people receive death threats for saying women have a right to drive! And they end up having to go back on that to protect themselves and their families.

The fact is, Islam is in crisis. Our societies have a huge problem with this epedemic of extremism. The extremists not only try to silence any voice within the Umma other than their own, they also go out and declare war on the rest of the world IN OUR NAME. Bin Laden and the Taliban brought the war on Afghanistan against the will of the majority of the Afghan people. And Hizbollah did the same to Lebanon. When they attack other countries from within our territories, these other countries have no choice but to respond. They are turning the whole world against us. And we are not equipped to take on the whole world.

If we don't do something to control them, we will have a lot more to worry about than our image in the West!

6/29/2008 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Safiya,

"The head of the largest American Muslim association, ISNA, Dr Ingrid Matteson, is not only female, but American born, yet how often is she approached for interviews?"

Do you think Bin Laden or Al Zawahri wait to be approached for interviews? Unfortunately, they are very good at getting their message out and forcing themselves on the world stage with their actions.

It's self-defeating to be passive and wait for others to represent you and then complain that they don't represent you the way you like. You have to represent yourself. You have to organize your own events and invite the media. If necessary, you need to launch your own media outlets, the way Hizbollah did. You have to address the difficult questions instead of letting the extremists answer them.

Even more importantly, you have to get the message that Islam is a religion of peace out to MUSLIMS who are brainwashed by extremists first and foremost. Impressionable young men who grow up hearing that the world hates us and is all involved in a humongous conspiracy against us are particularly vulnerable to the messages of Bin Ladenism.

"Really, do you really think anyone would care about Muslims if there wasn't tons of oil in Muslim countries (plus billions of dollars of opium in Afghanistan)?"

You do realize don't you that Muslim countries are the biggest recipients of international aid?

And is it other people's fault that all we have to contribute to the world is oil? How many appliances that you use in your daily life were produced or invented by Muslims? Is it other people's fault that we are all corrupt, economically failed states that do nothing but export petrol and consume what others produce?

If we had technological or scientific or cultural power don't you think we would have more respect?

6/29/2008 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Kirthan ston kosmo xenoi said...

"the vast majority of Americans are just shocked by things like Sept.11and media scenes of flag burnings and masses of Muslims chanting Death to America while invoking the name of Allah"

Yeah, as if the average american knows what on earth is happening outside their hometown. They simply don't care. If they are shocked by this, they should be shocked of all the detailed crimes their own government is committing all over the rest of the world. Anything can happen and leave them indifferent and intact as long as it's happening away from their own backyard I tell you that. It's so convenient to put a group on the top of the potential enemies list just because it's the only thing we've seen. Sep 11 happens and the world changes, but there has been Vietnam, there has been the Gulf war, tehre has been Yugoslavia, the earth has come upside down, ppl have been murdered cruelly, but none of this touched the average American's heart or lifestyle or anything, just because it was miles away from their a$$, and you're telling me about how they fear islamic extremists?! Sure they would! But what difference does it make in the end!

And I remember well interviews back when the war in Serbia happened, american citizens being asked about the war, kan fi 2 questions, first one being if they agree with the war. 89% said yes. Second question was do you know where serbia is. 95% said no. So do not tell me they have a clue. A mass of ignorant ppl is scarier than a bunch of extremists (on which you are right btw, i just do not get the justification on USA, it is beyond me) coz their decisions affect the world on every level a MUCH more than islamists. Until now ya3ni.

6/30/2008 01:38:00 AM  
Blogger The Queen said...

I think of myself as the 'average American' and I know and care about what goes on in other parts of the world as do most people that I know in this country.

Not only do I NOT know a soul who hates anyone based on their religion, on second thought, I do know some Muslims in this country that fit that desription, but my point was this. After 9-11 the local mosque was guarded by NON-Muslims just in case some nut jobs wanted to take their anger out at the innocents there.

'And I remember well interviews back when the war in Serbia happened, american citizens being asked about the war, kan fi 2 questions, first one being if they agree with the war. 89% said yes. Second question was do you know where serbia is. 95% said no. So do not tell me they have a clue. A mass of ignorant ppl is scarier than a bunch of extremists (on which you are right btw, i just do not get the justification on USA, it is beyond me) coz their decisions affect the world on every level a MUCH more than islamists'

1. How does knowing the exact physical location of a little newly created matter in the scheme of things. It's not about the location as much as it is about the people that live there and how they are being governed or abused or neglected or oppressed.

2. The average Joe American on the street does not set the foreign policy of the country so their intelligence or stupidity is not at all relevant to anyone in the world. But guess what? That dumb average Joe American has a heart of gold and when he hears that a tsunami or an earthquake has devastated lives in some country that he's never heard of (Myannmar where the heck did that country come from?) he gets out his checkbook and sends what he can to strangers whose religion he doesn't even ask about.

6/30/2008 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Forsoothsayer said...

I happen to think that while PEOPLE should never be discriminated against, and do not need to EARN respect, faiths may be evaluated on their merists. that's the whole point of faiths, that they're meant to be the truth based on discernible reasosn. why would you be of a faith if you thought there was truth to other faiths? it stands to reason that people are going to judge systems of belief, whether the universal declaration of human rights likes it or not.
while i agree with Safiya that undue attention is given to the misdeeds of Muslims for political reasons, it is nevertheless true that vast injustices, to say the least, are being committed in the name of Islam that go virtually unchallenged except by Muslims in the West, who are often seen as conciliatory by other Muslims because they are forced to assimilate and adapt to living as a minority. It's hard to even tap into the so-called silent majority when you actually live in a Muslim country. What you often see there is widespread radicalism going unchecked (sigh, I fear the onset of Ramadan).
so yeah, there's hatred and it's not deserved, but that doesn't mean there's not profoundly evil things going on in the name of Islam either. They are. Just because these evil things are receiving more attention and censure at the moment than, say, the monumental human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government doesn't mean they're not evil.

7/16/2008 06:51:00 PM  

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