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Thursday, July 11, 2013

What I Learned from Talking about Islam on Facebook



Moo-slime, muzzie, sand-n****r, raghead, ass-lifters, camel jockey, towelhead, goat-f***ers, koranimals, pisslam, i-slime. 

I'm seeing words like this in more and more internet discussions. The words slip by without protest.

Also sentences like this: "Get rid of them all," "Wipe them off the face of the earth."

***

In a recent facbook discussion, someone mentioned Muslim terrorist Doku Umarov's threat against the upcoming 2014 Russian Winter Olympics in Sochi.

I said, "Of course terrorism is wrong, but the Russians should not be holding Olympics in Sochi. Sochi is a site of the Russian genocide of the Circassian people."

The other Facebook poster didn't care about the Circassian genocide. "Muslim troublemakers," was all he said.

I was stunned.

The Circassian genocide is very real. Please learn more about it here.

This genocide is as deserving of our compassion and concern as any other. The perpetrators were Russian Christians. The victims were Muslims.

***

The other day a Facebook friend posted a link to a youtube video, "Dead Dog Jihad" by a man calling himself "Wild Bill for America." "Guess what's coming to America," Wild Bill said. "Jihad against pet dogs…In every nation where Muslims become more than six percent of the populace, they begin to force their rules on everybody."

It's true that Islam includes significant hostility to dogs. It's true that dogs have been poisoned in Muslim neighborhoods in European countries.

That doesn't prove that Muslims in the US will begin to poison dogs.

***

Words like "Moo-slime" and "Muzzie" are disgusting. These words don't say anything about Muslims. They say something, rather, about the person using the word. They say that the person allows their lizard brain to speak in public. They allow themselves to be swept away by primitive hatred. They may publicly identify as Christian, but their words place Jesus Christ right back up there on the cross and crucify him all over again. See Matthew 25:40.

Words like "Moo-slime" and "Muzzie" are every bit as disgusting as "Kike" or "Polak" or "N****r" or "Fag" or "C***."

They should arouse the same kind and degree of condemnation.

Comments like "They should be wiped off the face of the earth" are genocidal. Yes, that's right. When you declare that you think all followers of one religion should be murdered, you share strategy with Adolph Hitler.


Believing, without question, someone named "Wild Bill for America" about "Dead Dog Jihad" is not the best path. A better choice: read books by scholars. 


In internet discussions of Islam, I have tried to make one simple point over and over. 

Muslims are human beings.

Islam is an ideology.

Muslims do not equal Islam.

I give this example.

I have never loved anyone more than I loved my Uncle John. A great man. A great human being.

My Uncle John was an atheist and a Soviet Communist. I reject atheism and have no respect for it, and I loathed the Soviet Empire. I was on the streets in Poland in 1989, actively protesting against the Soviet system, contributing to bringing it down.

I loved my Uncle John. A human being.

I loathed the system he was a part of. Soviet Communism.

A human being.

An ideology.

Two different things.

***

I feel pain, fear, and hurt for my Muslim friends when I read words like "Muzzie" and "Moo-slime." I recoil when I read sentences like, "They should be wiped off the face of the earth."

I want to introduce the people who write these obscenities to my Muslim friends.

Why?

Because Muslims are human beings. Just like those who hate them.

The same. Not different. The exact same: human beings.

Just like all other human beings, some Muslims are handsome, some are ugly, some are kind, some are greedy, some are smart …

Oh, this is all so basic. Why is it so hard to communicate in any way that gets heard.

***

I used to teach English to foreigners. My female Japanese students were perfect in their written work, and were painstakingly polite. They couldn't converse in English.

My Arab students bathed in language. They kicked up suds, splashed and played with idioms. Their written work was lush, but flawed – I got the sense that there is no tense in Arabic, no concept of time, except the time of the heart and the palate. So different from the English language's careful notation of time: I eat; I am eating; I will have eaten; I had been eating... But my Arab students were such ardent lovers of language that they bent English to their desires and their essays were among the best student essays I've read. We conversed for hours, on every topic.

My car got a flat tire. A Malaysian Muslim student not only changed the tire, he inspected the rest of the vehicle. Wouldn't let me tip him.

I remember one day at work my Arab co-workers bringing in a small mountain of rice, a platter of stuffed grape leaves, pools of hummus and plates of pita bread. It was their holiday, which they shared with all.

During Hurricane Sandy's closed roads and halted bus travel, one of my former students, a young man I had not seen in years, made sure to pick me up and drive me anywhere I wanted to go. He did this several times, once with his mother at the wheel. He had nothing to gain from this; I was no longer his teacher. But still he called me, "My teacher." A Palestinian Muslim.

Years ago, when I was very stupid, I traveled through rain forest in the center of Africa, alone, at night. I was picked up by Sudanese smugglers, a caravan of Muslim men on trucks. I was alone. They could have done anything. They could not have been nicer. They asked for nothing in return for transporting me the hundreds of miles to my destination.

I could go on. I grew up with Arabs in Passaic County, which has one of the US' largest Muslim populations. I've traveled in Turkey, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, in areas with heavy Muslim populations. I have met people who have been kind to me, who have fed me, who have befriended me, who have done me favors that could never be repaid.

You call these people "Moo-slimes?" "Koranimals?" Have you ever actually met a Muslim? Do you not realize that your using these filthy words says everything about you and nothing about Muslims?



Two features of Islam must be named and critiqued: Jihad and gender apartheid.

The rest of Islam is none of my business. If people want to abstain from pork, fast during Ramadan, make hajj to Mecca, pray five times a day, wear a hijab that does not obscure the face or bodily silhouette (which must be visible for reasons of civil society and security), that is none of my business.

If people want to kill me because I am not a Muslim, that becomes my business. If people do damage to women and girls, that becomes a universal human rights issue, thus, my business.

So, yes, I name and shame jihad and gender apartheid.

Not Muslims qua Muslims. Not all Muslims.

***

"But!" some insist. "All Muslims deserve to be condemned as if they themselves were terrorists or those who commit acid attacks on women or perpetrators of 'dead dog jihad.'"

No, all Muslims do not deserve to be criticized as if they were terrorists or child rapists or dead dog jihadists.

I'm Catholic. Am I personally responsible for the sex abuse crisis?

I'm American. Am I personally responsible for the Trail of Tears?

Could I have done anything to prevent either?

No.

We demand that Muslims look at themselves. How about we Americans do the same?

Our greed for petroleum funds terrorism. What did we do after the 1979 oil crisis? We bought SUVs! Gas guzzlers! We lambasted President Jimmy Carter for telling us to put on a sweater, rather than turn up the heat, when we were cold! We could strive for energy independence; we don't.

We tinker with foreign countries. We overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh, Iran's democratically elected prime minister. We supported the Taliban in Afghanistan and Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and then entered into quagmire wars with both.

***

Let's look at another source of trouble in our own backyards. There are forces in the West eager to stir up trouble between Muslims and non-Muslims.

We need a name for this powerful force: Westerners who believe that the West is hopelessly flawed and should be turned to scorched earth so that a Brave, New World can come about.

These are Americans or Brits or Germans or French people who think that Western Civilization is nothing but imperialism, that white skin is nothing but a stigma of unearned privilege and oppression, that Christianity is nothing but witch-burning and that Judaism is a form of Nazism. They think that any belief system far from the West is inherently better than anything Western.

Some of these folks are atheists, some are Marxists, some call themselves "anti-fascist." These folks hate their own societies and they embrace Muslims not as real, flesh and blood human beings, but as tools, as levers they will use to overthrow the West. Islamists, of course, see these "liberal" Westerners as useful idiots.

***

In short, yes, we Westerners have a problem, and we Westerners, not just Muslims but we ourselves, are not addressing it as we might. How can we blame all Muslims when we haven't done all we could?

Let's stop blaming and start working on solutions. 




Some say, "It's impossible to reform Islam!"

True, reform of Islam presents challenges. Conversion from Islam, criticism of Mohammed, Islam's founder, and identifying the Koran as a human creation, rather than as divine, are all punishable by death. It's hard to reform a system that erects such formidable barriers against change.

We know, though, that there are uncounted millions of Muslims who have no interest in killing anyone for their faith, who are good neighbors, law abiders, loving family members and loyal friends. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by respecting and acknowledging these good people, and joining our dream of a better world to theirs.

***

Some say, "But Muslims are all to blame because they all support jihad and gender apartheid!"

When I hear things like this, I think of my friend "Leila."

It was late at night and we were coming back from a family party. Leila and I were in her SUV in a parking lot while her sister was buying a bottled juice in a supermarket. Her sister was taking a long time and Leila and I got to talking.

Leila was an exquisitely beautiful young woman. It wasn't her features that made her beautiful; it was her warmth, eccentricity, and her enthusiastic embrace of life. Leila was a Palestinian Arab and she wore hijab.

Leila lived in New Jersey and in the Middle East. She spoke fluent Arabic and English. She loved American TV shows and movie stars and she was a devout Muslim.

In that supermarket parking lot, waiting for her sister, we got to talking. I asked Leila, "Have you ever questioned the existence of God?"

She said yes, she had. And at those times, she said, she stopped doing her five daily prayers. When she did that, she said, she realized she had lost touch with her spiritual foundation, and was drifting toward something dark and negative. Belief in Allah and observant prayer kept her spiritually alive and in touch with all goodness, she said.

From other conversations, I knew that Leila didn't know much about the Koran.

What Leila knew of Islam was this: it was the religion of her beloved family. It was her source of spirituality. Mohammed was the best man who ever lived, the wisest and kindest. That's what she'd been taught.

She understood the world outside Islam as one of sexual promiscuity and drug taking and disrespect to parents and a lack of honor.

Leila didn't associate Islam with 9-11 or acid attacks or child marriage. All of those were foreign to her.

When those who want to be part of a counter-jihad use words like "muzzie" and say all Muslims are to blame, I think of Leila, a beautiful human being. I think of how she would hear those words. She would hear it as so much ugly, hateful, threatening noise. As the violation of all that was good, spiritual, safe and pure.

If you want to be part of a counter-jihad, learn how to communicate to a good human being like Leila. What would you say to her?

***

Sadly, the hate is on all sides, now.

When I observe internet conversations about Islam, poet William Butler Yeats' terrifying verses recite themselves inside my head:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

"Liberals" are as full of hate as those who use words like "Muzzie."

I received several impassioned emails recently from internet correspondents. All were sent by white-collar British women. They all condemned me for speaking out against jihad and gender apartheid.

To these "liberals," if you speak out against clitoredectomy, acid attacks, and child marriage, you are a "racist" and a "fascist."

One very long, very well-meaning message urged me to stop criticizing Islam, and to realize that Israel was the troublemaker.

In other words, it's okay to hate. As long as you don't hate jihad. Hate Jews! The liberal solution!

Just for the heck of it, I asked my trusty reference librarian for some facts. Here they are: The territory of the state of Israel constitutes 0.139 % of the world's land mass. For emphasis: that's point one three nine. Less than one percent. The population of the state of Israel constitutes .11%. of the world's population. That's point eleven. Less than one percent.

So a woman who finds it obscene to criticize jihad or gender apartheid struggles to point out that Israel is to blame for all the trouble. Less than one percent of the world's population and land mass.

Yes, there is as much crazy hating on the pro-jihad side as on the anti-jihad side.



8 comments:

  1. am going to respectfully agree to disagree with most of this except on one crucial point. We do need to keep this discussion civil and informed. When people see the atrocities committed by muslims in accordance with their belief system, it takes nerves of steel to not use the language that you described. I have no muslim friends. I have no intention of acquiring any. As long as they are committed to my destruction as a woman, a gay person, a free American, there is no reason for me to have them for friends. When islam and it's adherents are criticzed, I will not offer a word of defense, ever. This is a cross that THEY must bear, I have my own. I can be friends with former muslims, BECAUSE their rejection of islam also means their acceptance of my God given right to breathe. None of us are perfect, we all fall short of God's glory. In the fifty years that I have been on this earth I would venture to guess that there has been more hatred of me as an openly gay person, than every muslim on the planet has ever experienced, AND I have never bombed, beheaded, or acid attacked a single person.
    about an hour ago

    Patti York

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  2. I've been told that the numbers about Israel are incorrect. I should say I got them from a reference librarian. If someone would like to offer corrected numbers, please do.

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  3. From Joe Carey:

    Very well written. And reflects my sentiment. I've had many good, fruitful conversations with Muslims, and often when we are done the Muslim will ask ME to pray for him!! A Muslim asking a Christian to pray for him? What you said is what I try to help Christians understand as I speak at churches around the nation. Even within Christian churches, many have a difficult time separating the ideology (Islam) from the people (Muslims) and incorrectly lump both together.

    Yes, Islam deserves to be critiqued, as does every ideology which makes claims of truth. Indeed, all truth claims deserve to be challenged to determine if they are, in fact, true! And there is a great deal within the ideology of Islam that is being and should be challenged and held accountable for. But Muslims are not Islam; Muslims are people, and deserve the same level of respect as all people. I prefer to see Muslims as the primary victims of the lies contained within Islam; Muslims are victims! Muslims are not the enemy. The enemy is an evil ideology that has captivated the minds of 1.8 billion humans.

    Even those who do evil in the name of Islam do not commit those evil acts because they are evil people. They do those things because they believe with all sincerity that's what their deity requires to achieve eternal bliss in paradise. Muslims are after the same thing Christians seek: an eternal life free from punishment in hell and in eternal bliss. The problem is they have the wrong message. We cannot fault the people for sticking to their sincerely held beliefs; our responsibility as Christians is to show them they have been misled and deceived.

    Hate Muslims? Not a chance!! Nuke them all and let God sort it out? That's not what Jesus would say.

    “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." Luke 6:32

    “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you ..." Luke 6:27

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  4. Maria Elena Gonzalez wrote:

    "I loved your article. Growing up and going to school on the west side of Paterson, I have met and befriended many Muslim people. Many of my best friends from grade school & high school are Muslim and some of the most wonderful people I know. I hate when people group them all together and speak ill of them, just as people tend to stereotype any ethnicity, race, or other groups of people. The whole idea that after the attack on the World Trade Center, Muslims were shunned and disrespected boggles my mind. I would hear accounts on how Muslims were treated all throughout America and I would be appalled simply because people were being judged by looks alone.

    Certainly I don't agree with certain customs, and don't think it's fair that I've lost some of my most valued male friends because they decided to become more devout in their Muslim religion, but I respect them for making that decision and in my heart, I will always love and remember them for the friendship they gave me growing up. I have no qualms with anyone of any religion, and the only questions I ask about religions are questions that will allow me to understand the religions better, simply because I am curious and want to know more."

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  5. This is an excellent, excellent post.

    Some thoughts:

    Often, when I hear people in the US and in Israel make nasty, mean-spirited remarks about Muslims, my protests are met with, “You just don’t know. Muslins did this or that to my relative, my friend, my people.” That was how an acquaintance in LA, an Armenian, responded after I took her to task for something she said about teaching Muslims math: “Ahmed wants to blow up three buildings and kill 15 Jews . . .” You get the idea.

    I grew up hearing my own mother badmouth Islam, although with her it was never nasty or personal—my Muslim friends were treated with the same warmth and hospitality that she extended to anyone who entered her home. My mother is a Mizrahi Jew whose pregnant sister was butchered by Palestinian terrorists in 1974, heartbreak from which she and her siblings never truly recovered. Whenever she unleashes one of her sweeping condemnations of Muslims or Arabs, I remind her that the culture in which she was brought up (Mizrahi culture) is similar to Arab culture in not a few ways: the love of family, the emphasis on hospitality, the eagerness to laugh, the excellent food. “But that’s not the point,” she’ll say. “We do not wage holy war. We do not blow up buses and restaurants. They broke my parents’ lives.” And, inevitably: “We do not stab and kill pregnant women.”

    How does one respond to this? How does one convince another to look beyond her own heartache and the narrow confines of her own personal experience?

    Re: Israel and the Left. You can criticize this country without being an anti-Semite—I criticize this country all the time—but there’s no denying the fact that many of the self-righteous leftists who so eagerly denounce the Israeli military for, say, retaliating when Jihadists launch missiles into civilian areas, are, in fact, anti-Semites. And the truly astonishing thing about these spoiled, bourgeois apologists is their willingness to defend vile dictatorships, e.g., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran, under which they could not live for even a day. Said apologists will often masquerade as “human rights activists” or “anti-war activists,” refusing to understand that the best way to prevent war is to let those who want to kill you and yours know that you have weapons and that you will not hesitate to use them should it become necessary. The person who says this firmly and unapologetically is, in my opinion, the true anti-war activist. When I pointed this out to a self-styled pro-Palestinian activist in San Francisco, I was called—you guessed it—a Nazi. And how liberating it must be to call a Jew a Nazi!

    Re: Israel and Muslims. Israel has long served as a whipping boy for Muslims (mind, not all Muslims) who, looking at the dearth of achievements in their own countries, respond with rage at the existence in the region of a country whose path has been very, very different. Often, you’ll hear these people blame Israel for this dearth of meaningful achievements, to which I always respond with this: How has Israel prevented, say, Saudi Arabia from actually doing something useful with its enormous wealth? Why is it that Saudi Arabia has contributed exactly nothing to science, to literature, to, well, anything--even to Islam? Is Israel at fault for this, or is there something about Islam that discourages the pursuit of knowledge? The same goes for Pakistan: Why is that country still wallowing in ignorance and hatred while neighboring India, an equally poor country, is now a player on the world stage? It’s much easier to blame the Jews, I guess, than it is to look inwards and ask some tough but necessary questions, e.g., why is my county’s most bragged-about celebrity Mr. A.Q. Khan?

    I could go on.













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    Replies
    1. Liron, in another internet environment, some friends and I are discussing this post.

      Some are making the point that there is no difference between Islam and Nazism.

      I disagreed. I said that Nazi Germany murdered thousands of Jews per day, in accord with Nazi ideology, and that the Third Reich expanded its territory several fold in just five years.

      I wonder if you would care to comment on this equation of Islam with Nazism.

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    2. Liron I very much appreciate your ability to see the similarities between Mizrahi culture and Arab culture.

      And I am saddened to read of the fate of your aunt. God bless her and your family.

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  6. Only saw this now. Thank you.

    No, I do not agree with those who equate Islam with Nazism. That's complete hyperbole. It's also ignorant and unhelpful.





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