Sunday, May 11, 2008

Religious Bigotry from the Right

Shiites pray during Friday prayers in Kadhimiyah, in northern Baghdad. Iraqis, bitterly divided along sectarian lines and reeling from a brutal insurgency, await US report that could signal exit by American troops
Ali Yussef, AFP/Getty Images

Most people assume that bigotry and prejudice are born of ignorance. Of a lack of education. But I think it is also based upon an overabundance of "slanted" knowledge".

Like many of my readers, after 9/11, I steeped myself in literature of the Robert Spencer-variety, warning me of the dangers of (radical/political) Islam. Anyone who wanted to define Islam as "a religion of peace" was ridiculed as being asleep and ignorant; of having drunk the political correctness kool-aid and multiculturalist nonsense. And they were right.

But now, I think we have become so "educated" on Islam, that as mostly outsiders looking in, we have only educated ourselves to the opposite extreme, in our views. And that is just as damaging to fighting and winning the war against Islamic terror as it is to deny that we are engaged in a real war with a radical movement. Yes, radical. Not normative, but extremist, radicalism.

I know allies of mine on the right insist that radical Islam is the norm; that there is no such thing as a "moderate" Muslim, unless he be an apostate to the religion of Islam. And they will point me to all the passages from the Hadith and Koran that I'm already familiar with, and tell Muslims that they know Islam better than the Muslims themselves know Islam. Great.

A devout Muslim tells you he is peaceful, and you tell him, "No you're not; and if you are, you don't know Islam. You're not a real Muslim, because I read Robert Spencer's books and know better than you do about your own faith; you don't get to define it, who practice it; I get to define it for you, who studies a slant side of it." Merely reading anti-Islamic books and taking the Koranic word literally, isn't necessarily education. It's an important part of our education; but when you are only immersed in a one-sided viewpoint with an agenda, then that becomes propaganda. Propaganda from the right, countering propaganda from the left. Somewhere amidst all of that, lies the reality.

Michelle Malkin is a high-profile blogger of great influence, with many "fans" on the right side of the blogosphere.

Amy Proctor's reaction to one of Malkin's latest entries, is shared by myself as well. By way of Bottomline Upfront:

Michelle Malkin’s appalling new series on her blog, Stuff Muslims Don’t Like: A new feature, is inflammatory, insulting and ignorant. My husband is a MSG in the Army and a Religious Leader Engagement subject matter expert in the war on terror, particularly relating to Iraq, and he is equally appalled. She justifies her series by comparing it to a blog called Stuff White People Like:

“Of course, Stuff Muslims Don’t Like doesn’t purport to characterize the entire Muslim population anymore than Stuff White People Like purports to characterize the entire population of white people. It’s a look at predictable predilictions, proclivities, and trends.”

Sure it doesn’t, Michelle. She makes no distinction between an entire population and whoever her swipes are intended for. Her flawed analogy doesn’t consider that Islam is a religion, not a race.

A sign of a mature, 21st century-evolved religion, is one that is thick-skinned enough to endure irreverent humor and insults without flying off the handle. So someone like Bill Maher enjoys the freedom to slander the Pope and insult a great religion and we have the freedom to criticize him for it. Bill Maher isn't courageous, since he knows Catholic Crusadists aren't going to come after him and take his life; all he can whine about in terms of persecution and freedom of speech, is if his HBO show has the plug pulled because we exercised our freedom of speech in expressing our indignation and dissatisfaction. Real courage is standing up to the Islamic crazies. It's when Iraqis like,
Abu Ali said that on 1 April 2007, he and his people attacked al Qaeda in Buhriz for their crimes against Islam. He also said something that many Muslims have said to me: al Qaeda are not Muslims. (Both Sunni and Shia have said nearly the exact same words, at times on video.)
Abu Ali said that “al Qaeda is an abomination of Islam: cutting off heads, stealing people’s money, kidnapping . . . every type of torture they have done.”
Muslims like him, who oppose the hirabahists, should be embraced as the true adherence to Islam. The majority of Muslims who are not plotting to subjugated the entire world under Islamic fundamentalism should be allowed to define who and what they are; not the armchair Spencerian Islamic scholars and not the Zawahiris and Qutbists.

You say you want to win the War on Terror? Win in Iraq? How does that instill confidence in Abu Ali that he chose not only the winning side by allying with the U.S., but also that he chose the right side, when we lash out as his religion, as a whole, rather than surgically zero in on the Wahhabists, Salafi fundamentalists, and Qutbist ideologists who are waging war on everyone, including on Muslims?

Amy Proctor writes further,
It goes on with comments of blathering ignorance of proportions that make me shudder. Do Malkin readers hold those views toward this man and his son? Or these Muslim women who are laying down their lives for their country? How about this man? Or these blind children and their amazing teacher? They’re Muslim, too. How about this Muslim who teaches children that the United States is their friend? Or this man and his son? Or these Muslims who reached out to the Vatican in a gesture of unity and peace? How about this Iraqi volunteer who saved U.S. troops and civilians by throwing himself on a suicide bomber? Funny, because I thought she and her readers typically praise these Muslims
Muslims have been losing their lives, fighting against al-Qaeda and other Islamic terror networks. American Muslims such as Dr. Zuhdi Jasser (if CAIR is the Jesse Jackson Rainbow/PUSH Coalition of the Muslim community, Jasser is like the Michael Steele of American Muslims) acknowledges that his faith needs reformation and modernization; telling devout Muslims like him that Islam cannot be reformed, or it's no longer Islam, is like telling all the branches of Christianity that continue to spring up that they are not true Christianity, because they don't practice the faith as it was practiced two thousand years ago (or is it 6,000?).

No, I'm not drawing a moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam. I'm neither a Biblical nor Koranic scholar, and am not talking about theological tenets. I realize that at their core, they have fundamental differences. Christianity has evolved. I find that a portion of the Muslim world is still rooted in 12th and 7th century cultural-thinking and beliefs.

Michael Totten points to a part of the Islamic world that has embraced modernity...and they aren't even in the United States:

I'm writing this from the capital of Kosovo, the least “scary” Muslim country on Earth. I've grown accustomed to moderate Muslims after living in and traveling to places like Beirut and Istanbul, but Kosovo is surprising even to me. Islam in this country is so thoroughly liberal (“moderate” doesn't quite cover it) that, if it weren't for the mosques, there would be no visible evidence that Kosovo is a Muslim country at all. I've been in Prishtina, the capital, for four days, and I can count the number of women I've seen wearing a hijab on one hand. Aside from the conservative dating culture, women here are as liberated as Christian women in the rest of the Balkan region.

A large number of Kosovo's Muslims are Sufis—the most peaceful and the least fundamentalist of all the world's Muslims. Sufis can be found in many parts of the Islamic world, but here in Kosovo they proudly proclaim that they are the most “progressive” of all.

Soft-imperial Wahhabis are trying to export their brand of Islam from the deserts of Saudi Arabia to this fertile green land. They have their work cut out for them with this crowd. Bosnia notoriously welcomed thousands of Salafist mujahideen fighters from the Arab world during Yugoslavia's violent demise. But the Kosovo Liberation Army brusquely told them to stay the hell out of their country—even while they faced an ethnic cleansing campaign directed from Belgrade.

Amy Proctor:
Malkin and her commenters ought to be ashamed of themselves. They say they support the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq but systematically insult the allies GEN Petraeus and our troops are making on the ground in the combat zone. Their words are as poisonous as any Democrat’s who continue to call Iraqis too lazy to fight for their own country. While politicians like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich argue that a U.S. presence in the Middle East in and of itself has provoked Muslim nations to take aim at U.S. interests around the globe, it is sentiments like Michelle Malkin’s that make it more difficult for Muslims to want U.S. soldiers on their soil. If these people are the friends of the troops, who needs enemies?

Cross-posted at Flopping Aces, and expecting hell.

Some previous posts:
One Muslim's Jihad, is Another Muslim's Hirabah
LA Screening of Islam vs. Islamists
Dhimmi Я NOT Us
Understanding Counter-Insurgency
Islam for Dhimmis

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Anonymous Americaneocon said...

"Cross-posted at Flopping Aces, and expecting hell."

LOL! Wordsmith. I have to admit I'm more on the conservative side on this, but I'm open to the Proctor approach.

I know it's nothing to hang your hat on, but one my son's best friends is Muslim, and he and his sister are great kids. Obviously, I'm not going to say "you can't play with those kids because they're Islamic," but I too have read much about Islam, so I'm still thinking about these things.

A really good article was Malise Ruthven's piece in the New York Review a little while back, where he argues that doctrinally Islam is a "religion of victory." Plus, the film Fitna showed that a lot of the most radical elements are not denounced by more moderate members, particularly in some societies.

In any case, I picked up Yon's book this afternoon, so I'll be taking a look at that, and maybe there'll be more examples like the ones you cite.

We are at war in the world with extremists in the religion, who would indeed annihilate us if they could. Sorting out all the extremism from the goodness of the mainstream of the faith is the big challenge.

Great post! Hope you don't get too much hell!

Sunday, May 11, 2008 7:35:00 PM  
Blogger Nightcrawler said...

WS - I think that the "slanted education" aspect is certainly a valid argument in the discussion over the true nature of Islam. The problem is, there is no real definition of Islam, it's like the definition of the taste of chicken... it is completely relative. To the extremists, Islam is represented by al Qaeda, by Ahmedinejad and by Hezbollah and Hamas. To millions of other Muslims, Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. History tells us that there has been a long tradition of both forms of Islam being practiced.

Radical Islam gets more press for the same reason that IED's and US troop casualties get more press than our success in Iraq - it's a better attention getter. People pay far more attention to masked muslims with AK-47's than to peaceful merchants, mothers, fathers and those working for a more peaceful life in their homeland. Also, the vision of these peaceful muslims is being hijacked and destroyed by the radicals and the only way to preserve their dream is if they are willing to fight the radicals as hard as the radicals are willing to fight them.

It's an interesting battle of wills and it'll be interesting to see which side wins.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 8:23:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


The ones I'm mostly addressing, based upon my past experiences with such posts (check out my "previous posts" list), are those who see Islam as irredeemable as a whole, not distinguishing between radicals, moderates, reformists, moderns....who see "radicals" as those who depart from Islam as practiced by the fundamentalists. Who see "modern" Islam as an oxymoron.


I understand the book is back in stock after having sold out its initial 30,000 (?) press release. It's on my hot list.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 8:31:00 PM  
Blogger Nightcrawler said...

WS - I know the types you mean. I read through all the books and for a long time, I was caught up in looking at the extremists while overlooking the peaceful muslims. Working with one such peaceful muslim and having the opportunity to communicate with many others, I soon learned the error of this line of thinking. It's very easy to do. It's also the same type of thinking encouraged by the radical muslims when we are discussed. That sword cuts both ways unfortunately.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 8:38:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Speaking as a bona fide Christian, I know that ALL Muslims are not terrorists, but ALL Muslims are theologically wrong, whether they are individually peaceful or not.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 9:58:00 PM  
Blogger SkyePuppy said...

You're so right. An outsider trying to define "true" Islam is like an outsider trying to define "true" Christianity. We've got Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God, Calvary Chapel, EV Free, non-denominational, charismatic, pentocostal, and so much more. So, which group is the right one?

The Muslims I know (primarily Iranians who came here when the Shah fell--thank you, Jimmy Carter) are wonderful, funny and fun people. We are NOT at war with them.

Monday, May 12, 2008 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Tapline said...

Word, This is a complicated issue, but people who what to behead or murder a teacher for naming a teddy bear Mohamed, leave much to be desired. People who murder their sons or daughters because of their religion leave much to be desired. People who murder other people because of a cartoon ....This all in the name of religion,,,,leave much to be desired.......Islam is a way of life. It is not just a Relgion.....Neither is it a race thing. stay well.......

Monday, May 12, 2008 8:00:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


With all due respect, I don't think you quite grasp the argument here; I don't think you understand what it is I am pushing for.

Please read and try and understand why a 9/11 pro-war on Islamic terror blogger would write a post like this.

Monday, May 12, 2008 8:32:00 PM  
Blogger rockybutte said...


I continue to admire your ability to explore the subtle nuances that distinguish one way of thinking form another slightly different way of thinking. How did you get to be a conservative?

Peace be to you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008 9:16:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Thanks, rockybutte.

How did I become a political conservative? The short answer is 9/11, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt....I think. From there, I did my own research into the ideas and ideology they champion, and found myself seeing things more their way, abandoning some of the liberal notions and beliefs I held through college.

Thursday, May 15, 2008 9:59:00 PM  

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