Monday, September 19, 2011

Government-Sponsored Islamophobia, Addendum

After last week's story about the FBI offering seminars on how to deal with average American Muslims (i.e. treat them with suspicion, assume they're all sleeper agents, etc.), writer Spencer Ackerman, who first broke the news for Wired, has a piece up on his blog wherein he discusses the negative reaction he's received to his initial report from the "Booga booga! Stealth jihad! Creeping Sharia!" crowd that this kind of thing usually brings out of the woodwork.

Specifically, he talks about the common refrain deployed by the nutbar anti-Muslim contingent when called on their bigotry, couched in some variation of, "Have you read the Koran? You need to!" which is usually deployed by people who have demonstrably not read the Qur'an beyond a few passages, bereft of all context, and who most certainly haven't done any research beyond having their worst impressions confirmed by a few trusted sources and happily leaving it at that.

Says Ackerman:
"Read the Koran!" has become such a ubiquitous and self-righteous exhortation of the Sharia-Panic circle that it's easy to overlook exactly what it means. At its heart, it presumes that a religious text sacred to almost two billion people around the world for 1500 years is... easy to understand.  
Put aside for a moment the additional presumption that the Koran is a blueprint for war, something like Mein Kampf. That's noxious enough. But just consider that for centuries, theologians, scholars and believers have grappled with the meaning of the Koran -- constructing reconciliatory arguments about its contradictory passages, incorporating counterevidence, arguing with others who give slightly more weight to this-or-that textual nuance. Whole schools of thought develop -- often heatedly -- about the correct understanding of Islam. And none of that matters.  
Because after 9/11, a group of Americans with minimal prior exposure to Islam figured it all out, for all time. They discovered the plot that lurks within the heart of the Koran. They can even quote you passages, like real scholars. The quest for meaning and understanding has reached an endpoint. 
Proving out the point about folks becoming self-appointed scholars despite their demonstrable lack of real world experience, with neither facts nor anything else changing their position, there was the thread that unspooled on my Facebook wall in response to my post on the subject after one participant, R (who also spurred this discussion and this discussion), felt the FBI was right-on, full steam ahead. Read past the jump to see the conversation that ensued. As with previous Facebook threads I've posted here, I've gone ahead and redacted all names except my own, but everything else is exactly as it played out.
R
I agree with the FBI. Worlwide, the Islamic faith has not moderated as did Christianity and Judaism before them centuries ago. That is why Islamic states and actors are the cause of so much violence today even on their own people. In the US, Muslims are moderate which speaks more to the influence of US values. and it smart of the FBI to look for fanatics in the US as well. Because fanatics are the ones who go on to shoot up army bases, or try to down planes. 
P
R, that is some extraordinary insight into Muslims worldwide! Pray tell how many "Islamic states" you have visited in order to come up with that broad and sweeping generalization? 
S
R: perhaps a place to start... http://www.amazon.com/Who-Speaks-Islam-Billion-Muslims/dp/1595620176 
Zaki Hasan
Don't mind R, folks. He's like the "wacky neighbor" of my Facebook wall. Whenever anyone drops a mention of Islamophobia, he jets across the hall like Kramer. 
R
I've seen the results of the societys created in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, on the world etc etc etc. Little moderation, little peace, little good treatment of their people. I've seen the polls that showed Bin Laden hero worship post 911 in those countries (heck even a decent though minority of respondents in a British Muslim poll). I've seen the literally hundreds at this point of terrorist attacks cheered on by those societies, to the extent they aren't inflicting it on each other. 
R
I mean, did i miss the memo where Afhganistan and even Pakistan aren't hell holes?
S
R: have you seen the "Christian" hellholes in South America or the "Hindu" hell holes of India and Nepal? I'm sure if you reflect a little on this issue you will see things differently... 
Zaki Hasan
I have to agree with the above comments, R. There are a whole mess of economic and social issues that are directly and more logically attributable as causes of the conditions you describe, which cut across all religious stripes. The only way that "Islam" works as the root, underlying cause of said conditions is if one has already made up their mind. 
R
and yet every Muslim dominated country sucks. 
Zaki Hasan
Seriously, R...that's just an amazingly ignorant comment. 
R
Fundamentalism is incompatible with modern society and a decent culture. This is where the "hasn't matured" enough thing come s in 
Zaki Hasan
R, I could get into how terms like "fundamentalism" and even "maturity" are entirely in the eye of the beholder, and meaningless without qualifiers, but I'll simply say that you're speaking with a lot of authority about countries and people you know very little about beyond what you see on the evening news, even as you're being pointed in the direction of facts that will correct your misinterpretations. 
Suffice it to say, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan aren't monolithic, anymore than we are here, or any country anywhere in the world. That's something anyone who's lived in that region will readily tell you, and it's being reiterated for you repeatedly in this very thread. I'd think the actual experiences of people who've lived in the Mid East means more than the prepackaged talking points of the pundit class as they brandish a handful of polls stripped of all context and nuance. 
E
Having been to Turkey, I can tell you it's pretty darn moderate and proud of it. The thought of "fundamentalist" in the stereotypical sense scares the vast majority of them to death...and it's a 98% Muslim country with all stipes represented. Istanbul is as modern, secular, and as cosmopolitan as Asia/Eastern Europe gets. The sad thing is that most people don't believe me when I tell them that. Indonesia, the country with the most Muslims in the world, certainly doesn't suck either. 
R
I know Zaki. Itt's all relative. Covering women head to toe. Honor rapes. Hacking off hands for theft. IT's culturally relative, right? Eye of the beholder. Supporting bin laden. Murdering 3,000 people in oneshot just because. None of it is condemnable. It's all relative. 
R
The comparison by you Zaki of the US and Afghanistan is frankly shameful and beneath you. Would you move your family to Afghanistan? a friedn of mine recently went their for her job and has been shelled repeatedly since she got there. Which i guess is an improvement from pre-2001 when she simply would have been murdered. 
Zaki Hasan
R, the question of whether I would want to move my family to Afghanistan is a non-sequitur, since I'm not from there, have no family there, and thus have no connection to the country. 
And as far as the "comparison" you're feeling so exorcised about, it was very narrow, and specifically in reference to the rhetorical trap of painting any country/culture with too broad a brush. There's just too much social and political variation from region to region to soesk in absolutes. 
Yes, I recognize that we live in a complex world that doesn't lend itself to easy quantification or easy stratification. How "shameful" of me. How "beneath" me. And, of course, this is made doubly ironic by what's been, frankly, a pretty staggering display of broad-brush ignorance of Islam and Muslims by you from the top of this thread right on through to the post above this one. 
So you'll forgive me if I find your sudden bout of righteous indignation more than a little hollow. 
R
That's not why. I have no connection to say England. But I wouldn't be shocked and horrified at the thought of moving there. Can't say the same about Afghanistan. You'd have to have a screw loose. 
R
I call it like I see it. The middle east in particular is largely a mess. Yes know i know the west, jews blah blah blah, 9/11 was a shame but..... I've heard it all before. None of that explains why in the bulk of those countries, women are treated like animals, at best, and the men aren't treated too great either, and those countries are the breeding grounds for the biggest mass murderers in the world today. We cannot face a problem until we recognize it. Same with Nazi Germany "but they had great caberets and they were treated kinda crappy after WWI" wouldn't cut it then, it doesn't cut it now. The best thing that ever happens to Muslim individuals, is to get out of Muslim dominated governments/cultures. 
Zaki Hasan
Because, of course, other than religion, Afghanistan and England are a perfect one-to-one comparison. One of those countries hasn't suffered through thirty-plus years of war and hardship. 
In fact, that's the promo tagline for Afghan tourism department: "Except for the relative proportion of Muslims-per-capita, EXACTLY like England." 
R
The correct answer is "I wouldnt move to Afghanistan because it's a hellhole and my children might be shot for flying a kite." Why is that so hard? and why is it that so many of those countries are suffering civil war, war, oppression, etc. It's not coincidence. Its because of the people who live there and around them. It's like saying "russia would be so much better if only it didn't have so many dictators poor Russia, the US would be just like it if it had dictators" without thinking "Wait a minute, why does one tend to have dictators and strong men and the other doesn't?hmmmmm" R The cultural relativism gets old. you know? other than Nazi Germany and the US, is there any culture we're allowed to say " that kinda blows. what are they thinking?" 
Zaki Hasan
It's not about relativism, R. Look at where this conversation started, and look at where you've dragged it. No one is saying that Afghanistan would be a better place to live right now than England. I know I'm not. The question, per your own framing, is whether that's because it's an "Islamic" country, or because there's a whole mess of other factors that led it to that point. 
If you're going to put out a ridiculous hypothetical, at least be intellectually honest and make a comparison that makes a lick of sense. Now, if you were to ask me whether I'd move my family to Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or Bahrain, or Kuwait, or the UAE -- all of which are more apt comparisons to England in terms of relative prosperity, then I'd say absolutely. 
Zaki Hasan
And with that, considering you went all Godwin by invoking Nazi Germany, I'm going to call fin on this discussion. 

Saudi Arabia, the seat of violent islamic radicalism. That would be a great move. One of the most oppressive regimes on earth. Rs As far as Afgnistan, one of the main problems is they had rulership by one of the most extreme Muslim groups on earth, the Taliban, which was in bed with another of the most extreme groups on earth, Al qaeda. That sounds like a fundamentalist Islamic problem. 
R
You should reconsider. Your children would be better off living in countries with actual freedom. 
Zaki Hasan
Go home, R. This thread is closed. 
R
m sorry i called you on your openess to move to a country like Saudia where women are slaves. Perhaps you need to look in the mirror on your own values and see if you really meant that.e truth is upsetting to you. " The World Economic Forum 2009 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity. It was the only country to score a zero in the category of political empowerment." 
Zaki Hasan
I spent ten years living in Saudi Arabia, so I have actual lived experience to fall back on, while you have a bunch of right wing talking points and statistics. Are there problems there? Yep, same as everywhere else. But you know what? The average person there is just trying to live his or her life and make a comfortable world for their families and children, same as everywhere else.
S
R: my guess is you don't live in a poverty-stricken, crime-infested urban center, where the police are as feared as gangs are, but no matter: what people with your....perspective,..(and the FBI, apparently) fail to realize, is that the people most overwhelmingly likely to report a potential terrorist to the authorities are Muslims, who,despite the contrary nonsensical notion held by some, actually do not want themselves, their families, their friends, their neighbors, their schools, their communities, their towns/cities, their country (by citicenship or denizenship), blown up or harmed in any way
I'm pretty sure the phrase, "there's no talking to some people," was coined in anticipation of this specific conversation. Holy yikes. Now, if you started feeling the urge to run headlong into a wall as you got further in, don't worry, that's probably normal. More than anything though, this conversation offers a fascinating insight into how our thought processes are shaped and concretized by the mediated, talking head culture we find ourselves stuck in, making everyone an "expert" to such an extent that even actual facts and actual experience -- if they paint a contrary picture -- can't break through the iron walls in our own minds. And the result is...this.

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