Monday, April 16, 2012

Discrimination, distrust and xenophobia: Part 2

(This is the second article in a multi-part series. If you haven't already read Part 1, I recommend that you do so before continuing here.)

Q: When those airplanes hit the Twin Towers, I remember seeing TV news reports showing Muslims dancing in the streets with joy. They were happy that our people had been murdered! How can I ever trust them after seeing that?

A: Yes, some Muslims did, indeed, dance in the streets for joy after the 9/11 atrocity. I saw those TV reports too (readers can watch some of them at the link), and I was as sickened by them as you were. However, let's get a couple of things straight - facts that have largely been obscured by the anger felt by so many of us after 9/11. First, those celebrating were mostly Palestinians - a people who blame the USA for the continued existence of Israel, their inveterate enemy. When Israel bombs Palestinians, it's usually with US-supplied aircraft and bombs. It's the USA that continues to support Israel's occupation of Palestinian areas. Is it any wonder that they rejoiced to see 'the friend of their enemy' suffering? Please note, I'm not saying it's right that they did so - only that it's understandable, from their perspective.

Second, note that while many Palestinians support terrorism as a response to Israel (and the USA), they do so after having been born and raised in a highly politicized society, where their every thought has been oriented towards hatred for their enemies. Even their children's TV programs teach hatred of Jews, the virtues of becoming a suicide bomber, and Islamic rule of the world. (Many clips from such programs are available on YouTube.) Children are not taught to think critically, or for themselves; they're indoctrinated from birth into political, social and religious fanaticism. Indeed, so fanatical are the different groups involved (Hamas and Fatah) that, despite their recent peace agreement, many of their leaders and supporters still appear to hate each other as much as they do Israel and the Jews!

Given that fetid soup of religious and racial intolerance, hatred and indoctrination, is it any wonder that some Palestinians celebrated the news of 9/11? The supporter of their greatest enemy had been dealt a grievous blow. To them, this was good news. They didn't - most of them probably couldn't - analyze 9/11 intellectually, or morally, or theologically. They reacted out of the whole mishmash of emotion and fervor in which they were born and raised, and in which they live to this day. They exhibited, in fact, precisely the same sort of biased, prejudiced, knee-jerk, theologically illiterate reaction that we see in, for example, the behavior of members of the Westboro Baptist Church in our own country. Let me give you a few examples from actual posters carried by members of that church at their demonstrations during funerals for deceased servicemen around the USA:

  • "God hates fags";
  • "God hates fag enablers";
  • "God hates your tears";
  • "Thank God for dead soldiers";
  • "You're going to Hell";
  • "Fags doom nations";
  • "Thank God for 9/11";
  • "God is America's Terror".

Can you honestly say that rejoicing by Muslim Palestinians over 9/11 is any worse than those horrendous, horrific, hate-filled slogans displayed and shouted by American Christians, rejoicing over the death of US servicemen?

I don't - I can't - excuse Palestinian celebrations after 9/11, just as I can't excuse the attitudes of Westboro Baptist Church members. Both are inexcusable. However, both are also understandable in the light of the prejudiced, bigoted, morally bankrupt climate within which members of both groups have been raised. If we'd been raised under similar circumstances, brainwashed in the same way, would we be any different? "There, but for the grace of God, go I". We need to remember that truth.

Furthermore, bear in mind that the Arab world in particular has little, if any, reason to love the West, irrespective of its and our religions. Their nations were largely occupied by colonial powers, whether or not they wanted that. In further displays of colonial and post-colonial arrogance, the former Ottoman Empire holdings in the Middle East were divided between Britain and France (in the Sykes-Picot Agreement) without reference to the wishes of local inhabitants. Promises made to Arab tribes during World War I in an attempt to gain their support against Turkey were almost universally ignored and abandoned as soon as the war was won. Nations such as Transjordan and Iraq were created after World War I by a stroke of the colonial pen, and the Hashemite Emirate was established in Transjordan, without bothering to obtain the consent of local sheiks. For that matter, the state of Israel exists only because the British government promised to support its establishment (in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which contradicted promises already made to Arabs), and permitted Jewish immigration as a result. Britain acted in its own interest to secure Jewish support during World War I, at the subsequent expense of Arab residents of Palestine.

As soon as oil became a desirable commodity, the colonial rulers of Arab nations (and their oil companies, plus those of America) began to extract it as quickly as possible. Even after Arab nations became independent, major oil companies - backed up by their governments - paid a pittance for their product, often directly into the private bank accounts of corrupt rulers, so that the broad mass of the population derived little or no benefit from 'petrodollars'. To this day, the USA engages in what has been unofficially labeled 'petrodollar warfare', regardless of whether this is in the interests of oil-producing nations.

Western powers (particularly the USA) have for decades used Arab and Muslim nations and peoples when this was to their advantage, but abandoned them at once if the situation changed. Afghanistan is a classic example of exploitation. During the 1980's the Mujahedin were trained, armed and financed by the USA as a tool against the Soviet Union, which had occupied Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden, among others, was trained and supported by the CIA. However, as soon as the Soviet Union had withdrawn from Afghanistan, the USA withdrew its support and left that shattered nation to its own devices (which led, ultimately, to the rise of the Taliban - comprised largely of former Mujahedin). It was abundantly clear to the Mujahedin, and to the world, that the USA had no real concern for Afghanistan or its people as such - it, and they, were seen merely as geopolitical tools to be used, then discarded. The hundreds of thousands of dead Mujahedin, their families and their supporters counted for nothing. Why are Americans so surprised that the hatred of many Mujahedin for this country grew so strong? I don't condone or endorse that hatred, but I certainly understand it!

9/11 was terrorism at its most brutal, and an act that cried out for justice. I don't think anyone in his right mind can deny that. We have by now largely brought justice to those responsible for that atrocity. However, unthinking knee-jerk emotional reactions by many Americans have been harnessed by our own extremists, who've used 9/11 as a rallying cry for racial and religious hatred and intolerance directed against Muslims. In doing so, they have done precisely and exactly the same thing as fundamentalist Muslim fanatics, who turned US actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere into a rallying cry for Islamic racial and religious hatred and intolerance against this country.

Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, pot.

Tomorrow we'll continue this series by examining atrocities committed by Muslims, and attempt to distinguish between fanaticism and religious faith as motivating factors.



Johnny D. said...

I concur with all this - especially your last paragraph.

I used to get really worked up over this, then I realized that our government is run by fools (has been for years) that will do anything to perpetuate war. War is good for business.

Some years back I had my own skin in this "game." Now my son has his skin in it, and he's right in the thick of it.

I try not to get worked up over this stuff anymore, and I work very hard at not judging an entire people group for the actions of a portion of that group.

In the end, I spend a lot of effort trying to keep this Scripture in the forefront of my mind, Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

Jerry said...

Well Peter, can you tell by the appearance which muslim is going to attack? I would like to believe that there are peaceful muslims walking among us. Then there is Nidal Hussan.

I hold a special dislike for those like westboro.

I will continue to practice situational awareness especially when such professions are in my presence or near my family.

Sorry, I can not share your willingness to "understand." I served 20 years. My oldest got out a little over 2 years ago.

I pray we don't have a collapse such as you've out lined here in previous posts. I will also try to prepare.


tweell said...

Good try on the moral equivalence thing, but... no sale here.
Tell you what, how about an experiment? I'll walk into church during Mass and yell "Christ sucks and priests like little boys!"
You walk into a mosque during service and yell "Mohammed sucks and imams like little boys!"

I'll get yelled at. You may survive.

Peter said...

@tweell: I don't think my arguments here can be equated to moral equivalence. What I've tried to do is state facts - independently verifiable, objective, and true. If they are not true, by all means attack my argument on that basis; but if they are true, then moral equivalence clearly doesn't apply.

Your comment actually demonstrates precisely what I'm arguing against. Far too many people, when confronted with facts, will take refuge in a cry of "Moral equivalence!" or "Moral relativism!" or "Situation ethics!" or some other convenient slogan, and use that as an excuse to turn their back on the issue under discussion. They'd rather not examine their own motivations and compulsions, or be honest with themselves and with others. If they were, they might have to actually change their attitudes and approaches. It's much easier to 'shoot the messenger' than listen to the message, isn't it?

Your comparison of walking into a church and/or a mosque and shouting offensive slogans is also not relevant to the discussion. Sure, it would arouse anger and rage. Sure, there would be consequences. However, what's that got to do with the points made in the article? It's going off at a tangent on a completely different subject.

I'll have more to say about 'moral equivalence' in the third article in this series.

Peter B said...

Let's stipulate that the Palestinian street and the Westboro Baptists are brothers under the skin.
You still need to account for statements from the highest levels of Islamic thought -- such as Tantawi, the late mufti of al Azhar to the effect that while Islam opposes attacks on civilians that no Jew in Israel can be called a civilian.
That's mainstream Sunni Islam at its highest intellectual/theological level. Not Khomeini, not the Wahhabis.
Furthermore, your discussion of European colonialism seems to take place in an ahistorical vacuum.
Pizarro, Cortez and their contemporaries are condemned for their brutality and for having crushed civilizations and forcibly bringing their religion to their conquests.
However, since their day the Catholic church and the main Protestant denominations seem to have renounced militant proselytism, and seem to have laid the theological groundwork for doing so. Can the same be said of Islam?

Remember, the Battle of Lepanto was fought a generation after Pizarro's death and it wasn't until a century later that Jan Sobieski finally turned the tide against the Ottomans at Vienna.
Reflect on what the Turks would have brought to Europe. Maybe begin by asking the Greeks how ecumenical Turkish rule was for Christians. Or maybe ask the Armenians. (Should we say the Armenian genocide was just secular Turkish culture and not jihad? Maybe not. And if the Armenian genocide was indeed jihad...
And even so, the Ottoman Empire probably would have been left alone a while longer, not taken over and colonized, if it hadn't had the bad judgement to pick the losing side in WW I.
By the way, Sharia considers itself the necessary legal system for all mankind, transcending any secular/national law. The only open legal-theological question under Sharia is whether, until the Caliphate is established and finally institutes Sharia in the lands it controls (and Sharia mandates the expansion of that territory, by force if necessary,) the laws of non-Sharia legal systems are binding on Muslims. One mainstream opinion is that they are.
However, the fact that Sharia legalizes plundering when it is under the flag of jihad*, (and some Muslim legal opinions say that not just Israel but the West as a whole is jihad territory) might go some way towards explaining the Muslim Brotherhood project in the US, and the reason that its offshoots are aggressive about pushing Sharia provisions whenever possible and seem not to have found an arrested jihadi they won't support.

Remember that Sharia denies equal status under the law to women and non-Muslims, including the right to property. And remember that to mainstream Islam, it is divinely mandated law and cannot be abrogated.

*I understand that plundering takes place in war. But it is one thing to forbid it, as does the UCMJ, even if it cannot be perfectly enforced, and another altogether to state, as does Sharia, that the persons and property of the conquered belong to the conqueror, and the only way the conquered can gain equal legal rights is to profess Islam.

perlhaqr said...

I am inclined to side with what I believe Peter B's position here to be. As much as I may sympathise for the historical events which have shaped the cultures in these places, much like with people who profess to be socialists, it seems best to accept what people say about themselves.

If one takes on the identity of being Muslim, that carries with it the burden of acceptance of Sharia, which as noted above, has the end goal of dominion. If someone self-identifies as a member of a group that cannot live and let live, I feel that I should believe them.

Anonymous said...

I have a very tough time understanding why if you hate the Great Satan, you would come and live in his country?

If your panties are in a bind because Lawrence may have made promises that Churchill didn't keep, please address your letter bombs to Her Majesty The Queen.

As a bit of cultural insensitivity, we gave out candy in my old office when Osama was taken out. Yes childish payback but it still made us feel better.


tweell said...

Sorry, still not buying it. To quote you: Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, pot.

And you're trying not to claim moral equivalence? Yeah, right.

tweell said...

Another quote from this post:

"Can you honestly say that rejoicing by Muslim Palestinians over 9/11 is any worse than those horrendous, horrific, hate-filled slogans displayed and shouted by American Christians, rejoicing over the death of US servicemen?"

Moral equivalence, demonstrated.

Peter said...

@tweell: See Part 3 of this series for a discussion of 'moral equivalence'. I suspect it does not mean what you think it means.