I have to confess. the conservatives were right. Upon hearing about the events in Boston, I was hoping for right wing, tea party zealot. Eric Rudolph, McVeigh type. I was wrong.
I have been doing a little research and I have the sneaking suspicion that I may in fact be an Islamophobe. I read this article Exclusive: Dagestani Relative of Tamerlan Tsarnaev Is a Prominent Islamist in Time Magazine yesterday about Tsarnaev's cousin in Dagestan and offer you a quoted section in order to start a brief conversation:
“We also believe in the restoration of the caliphates that ruled after the death of the Prophet, may peace be upon him.”
As such, they are fiercely against U.S. intervention in the Muslim world and, more broadly, the encroachments of Western liberalism. Within 20 minutes of meeting a TIME reporter, Bilyal Magomedov, one of the group’s leading members, poses a rhetorical question: “Tell me, who is not an enemy of America these days?” Asked what he thought about the Boston bombings, he offers a silver lining for the Islamist cause. “In principle, it’s good that this happened, even though the [Tsarnaev] brothers suffered,” he said. “Don’t understand me wrong, but September 11 led many Americans to convert to Islam. It’s another question that people died there, sure. But people also started to wonder why this act was committed… And when the enemies of Islam try to blacken the religion, Allah creates the opposite effect. More people get interested in Islam. They get curious.”
The bright side of 9/11? More islamic converts. Perfect! Honestly, I can think of no other creed that believes in mass conversion by force and is so active in the killing of innocents in order to achieve their theological aims. And allah forbid that you belong to the wrong religious subset, you'll end up deader than an Israeli at Mecca.
In order to explore the roots of my hostility and to learn something about islamophobia, I checked a book out of the library, ISLAMOPHOBIA, making muslims the enemy by Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg. Both of these men are or were connected with Wesleyan University. This book, written in 2008, looks at Islamophobia through the prism of western political cartooning. It is a standard apologist's text for the sins of the religion and its adherents. The book is pretty darn worthless but I did glean a few things from it.
The book points out that only a fraction of a fraction of the world's billion or so muslims engage in terrorist activities and violence. We only have a million or so natives to really worry about. Having said that, muslim sensitivities are quite high because of the results of western empire building on their turf and real or imagined western denigration and hostility.
More muslims live east of Afghanistan than west of it, according to the author, rendering the middle east an "insignificantly minor place" in demographic muslimdom. Only a small minority of muslims today and historically are engaged in religiously motivated armed conflict. Media outlets overlook the moderate voices of the majority of muslims.
The book goes on and on, exploring the tenets of the religion of peace and vilifying anyone who might object to the message. What else did I learn? Part of Mohammed's duty was to be a warlord and raid trade caravans, a tribal tradition. European imperialists are the real bad guys. Muslim slaves brought by the spaniards predated the english arrival in the new world. Muslims have become synonymous with terrorists in the minds of many americans. Muslim defenders of the levant used straight swords like the crusaders, at least for the first two centuries, not scimitars. The croissant was invented in Vienna in 1689 after the successful repulsion of Turkish invaders. Croissant comes from the word crescent. If you think that cartoonists are mean to muslims you should see how they depict the french. Honor killing, genital mutilation and forced marriage occur in some other cultures besides the islamic, one should not assume that the western "ideal" is normal.
I have lived in the middle east and studied the situation both on the ground and from afar. I was thinking about my recent arguments at AlterNet regarding an article contrasting American's comparative reaction to the Boston bombing viv a vis the West, Texas disaster. And I have come to a conclusion. Americans have an overwhelming desire to think that the whole world thinks like they do, that every human being is at heart a rational and moral being. It is a serious conceit of ours, especially among liberals. The Bilyal Magomedovs of the world are fictional, or inconsequential at best, since they don't fit into our favorite narrative that the whole world is interested in peaceful coexistence. It is anathema for us americans to have to consider a large group of people evil. The real enemy is capitalism or the Israelis, flouride or maybe circumcision. It is always our fault because we are americans and when we get attacked by the next terrorist action we might consider turning the other cheek. Perhaps give the mean old, misunderstood terrorist a timeout, but certainly not at Guantanamo.
And so we can look forward to more and more tragedies like Boston. Because we never learn.