Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The wrong way to ask a very important question

Babble on.

RightGirl has put the blogosphere in a bit of a tizzy, and rightly so. And no, I couldn't find a way to say that without making a cheap pun. For those few who haven't yet read her original call to action, here's a sample:

If everything from smoking to lead paint to pitbulls can be banned because they are dangerous and deadly, why can't Islam? At what point is a death cult afforded the status of legitimate religion, and why? What makes Mohammed any better than Jim Jones?

Islam must be labelled for what it truly represents: wholesale slaughter and a corrupt ideology of sex and death. It must be stopped.


While her post is clearly bigoted - it castigates all of Islam when her real beef is with the extremist element within it - I don't believe she is bigoted, given the fact that she was engaged to be married to a 'moderate Muslim' at one point. Perhaps that is a distinction without a diffence, but I choose to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Moreover, I think that her overly-broad and poorly worded original post has been somewhat mitigated by her clarifying comments (scroll down to RightGirl | Jul 25, 2006 8:15:39 AM, and RightGirl | Jul 25, 2006 9:27:46 PM) - she doesn't count moderate Muslims like those she grew up with, the one she was engaged to marry, and those she works with as Muslims at all, as they are considered apostates by fundamentalists anyhow.

That is a weak line of argument, since I believe it's up to the individual to determine his or her own religious status - who is RG to determine who is a true Muslim and who isn't?

So yes, she takes her point way too far, into the realm of bigotry. And in so doing, she brings every kill-the-ragheads-and-pakis-before-they-kill-us hateful nutjob out of the woodwork to rally to her cause (read the rest of the comments at The Shotgun link above). I would gently remind her of the maxim about being judged by the company one keeps.

But her intemperate and ill-advised post does raise a more reasonable question: if extremists are hijacking a cause (religion, political movement, organization, etc), at what point does the identity of the cause become reasonably conflated with the hijackers' agenda? Remember the tired coffee-house cliche that Communism isn't bad, it was just corrupted by the Russians and the Chinese?

It is a statement of fact that there are moderate Muslims. It is a statement of fact that there are Muslim extremists. I have no idea what the proportion between the two groups, or more accurately, the spectrum between these two cardinal points looks like worldwide. But if the adherents to Islam should at some point become overwhelmingly immoderate, assuming they haven't already, then will we be free to label Islam itself an extremist ideology? At what point will that be acceptable? At 51% extremist? Three quarters? 99.99% pure hatred? Or will we forever cling to an idealized definition that does not exist in reality?

Hopefully we'll not have cause to find out; hopefully Islam will be rescued by the moderates, and the extremists will be marginalized as they are in other major religions the world over. The sad fact is that this entire question is of far less importance to me and the vast majority of my audience than it should be to Muslims everywhere. The character of their system of belief is at stake.

Babble off.

Update: James Bow, as usual, has an exceptionally clear-headed and reasonable post up on this same topic.

9 Comments:

At 4:38 PM, Blogger GenX at 40 said...

That is a very good post. I do think that there also is a discussion about how Canadian bloggy people are approaching this sort of statement, too, and not just that the statement is made but that is different and can be left for another time.

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger Wonder Woman said...

Very good point Damian, but I would take it one step further...if moderate Muslims don't want to be lumped into the fanatical category, they have a responsibility to speak up and stand apart. Thus far, the objections of the Muslim community have been muted at best and when you let the monsters speak for you, you run at great risk of being found guilty by association.

 
At 5:25 PM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

...if moderate Muslims don't want to be lumped into the fanatical category, they have a responsibility to speak up and stand apart.

Agreed, WW. And glad to see you haven't retired the golden lariat entirely!

The one caveat I'd add, though, is that it's much more difficult to speak out from a 'minority' position. Muslims have seen themselves as an oppressed and besieged population for centuries now. And when you're inculcated with that mentality, it becomes much more difficult to break ranks, even when you think your co-religionists have gone too far.

In my own life, I find it very difficult to publicly criticize soldiers, even when I'd tell them to their face they're being idiots. I always have a feeling that the CF is set-upon by so many sides as it is, that for an insider to join the chorus is somehow a betrayal, even when I can intellectually see that that's not the case.

I imagine it's the same for moderate Muslims in many instances.

Which doesn't excuse any of us from breaking ranks when it's required, btw. Just an explanation to factor in.

 
At 9:30 PM, Blogger James Bow said...

...if moderate Muslims don't want to be lumped into the fanatical category, they have a responsibility to speak up and stand apart.

Damian makes a good point about it being to speak out from a minority position, but there's also the question of whether or not your voice is heard.

As I say on my blog, Christians like Pat Robertson and Dr. Dobson don't speak for the silent majority of Christians, and there are moderate and liberal Christian groups trying to combat the stereotype of the Religious Right. Unfortunately, the media just isn't interested in this story. A congregation shows up at a gay rights rally in support of gay rights, and where do the cameras turn? Invariably towards the religious anti-gay rights protesters.

This is because the corporate media is often drawn towards particular storylines. The cameras always lean towards the controversial ones. Normal people expressing moderate views don't put butts in seats, and so the people watching the media are left with the impression of a polarized debate.

I know that there are moderate Muslims out there who have tried to speak out. There's even been Imans in the Middle East who have issued jihads against extremism, but we don't hear about them, because the media don't report about them. They're too boring.

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger RightGirl said...

Some words from the one currently being tied to the stake, if you will.

Damian, I will address your post first, as you are the host.

That is a weak line of argument, since I believe it's up to the individual to determine his or her own religious status - who is RG to determine who is a true Muslim and who isn't?

I was thinking about that on my way home this evening. It is up to the individual, that is correct. But take this for example: I call myself a Catholic. I go to church maximum of once a month. I have never been confirmed or taken communion. However I have a certificate that says I was baptized when I was 2 months old. Therefore, when I say I am a Catholic, I am telling you the truth as I know it. But when a priest or a deacon or a very devout Catholic looks at me, they see someone who can't really be bothered to practice their religion. It doesn't mean that I don't observe the glory of God - it just means that I am not a practicing Catholic. Do you not think that a moderate Muslim is the Islamic version of what i just described?

But if the adherents to Islam should at some point become overwhelmingly immoderate, assuming they haven't already, then will we be free to label Islam itself an extremist ideology? At what point will that be acceptable? At 51% extremist? Three quarters? 99.99% pure hatred? Or will we forever cling to an idealized definition that does not exist in reality?

Christianity, Judaism, Hindu, and Bhuddism all seek to see the best in people. No one is completely lost. No one is without merit. And that is why many people are too afraid to call this spade a spade. It isn't just political correctness - it is something in our natural law that comes from deep within us that makes it near impossible for us to believe in evil on earth. Sure, we can talk about heaven and hell, and how the devil is in charge of the underworld blah blah. But to dismiss a person or a people as pure evil is outwith our capabilities. And when someone (with a big friggin mouth and an obvious death wish.... like me) declares that the emporor isn't wearing any clothes, I swear it scares the shit out of most people to the point where they would rather shun me than face what I've said. So be it. I'll get over it. And I'll still let you buy me a beer the next time we see each other.

From the comments (sorry this is going on so long)

The one caveat I'd add, though, is that it's much more difficult to speak out from a 'minority' position.

Does that mean you admit that the moderates are in a minority position? If that is the case, then do my words not merit consideration?

When an idiot like David Koresh, Jim Jones or even Pat Robertson say something stupid or vile, or do something that harms others, you find no shortage of perfectly good Christians lining up to spit on them for their deeds. There's some wacko running around Texas right now, wanted on polygamy charges or somesuch, who has a crazy cult compound like the Davidians had. Have you seen the way the so called Bush-Bots on Fox vilify this guy? They are doing all they can to distance themselves from his corrupt brand of Christianity. You never hear Bill O'Reilly making himself out to be a victim of that guy's actions, do you? No. And you won't.

Anyway, we'll talk soon. Have a great night. And I can't say I'm not at least a little bit flattered to be getting so much attention, negative though it is. Geez, little ol' me?

RG

RG

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

RG, thanks for commenting. And I'm not trying to tie you to any stake. You're not a witch, in my books at least. What I AM trying to do is rescue the one reasonable question your post raised from an unfair and unreasonable post. I'm finding the silver lining, if you will.

Do you not think that a moderate Muslim is the Islamic version of what i just described?

Let's say I do. Turn it around, and ask yourself how you'd feel if someone told you you couldn't be Catholic anymore, and it shouldn't be a big deal to you, since you're not REALLY Catholic anyhow.

The state has a reasonable case to regulate action that harms. Regulating belief is a very, very dangerous step into entirely new territory.

And that is why many people are too afraid to call this spade a spade.

I'm not going to respond to your implication that I'm holding back because I'm afraid, other than to say that calling someone a coward isn't a great way to win friends and influence people.

Many of us on the right side of this conflict have no problem calling a spade a spade. What I have a problem with is calling every card in the pack a spade because there are a bunch of them scattered through the deck.

You're using a shotgun on an issue that requires a sniper rifle. By all means, kill the bad guys. And that includes so-called religious leaders preaching hatred from the minarets, and so-called teachers indoctrinating children with ideals of bloody martyrdom. But telling someone what they can and can't believe? That puts us on a par with Saudi frickin' Arabia, and MY COUNTRY is damn well better than that.

Does that mean you admit that the moderates are in a minority position?

No. I obviously wasn't as clear as I could have been. I mean that Muslims - moderate and extremist - have seen themselves as downtrodden underdogs for centuries now. I'm not arguing the accuracy of that belief, I'm just recognizing it exists. And I'm saying that as a moderate, you still feel part of the whole, and feel reluctant to criticize it to anyone outside the group, since you feel that the whole world is ganged up on you already.

Hence my comparison with my own feelings about the CF. You just don't want to break ranks, since when you're constantly under attack from without, loyalty from within has a premium value in the group.

That doesn't mean that you don't break ranks when it's called for, uncomfortable or not.

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger Janet said...

I have actually been heartened by the number of Muslims I have seen speaking out lately. Is the Letters page in the Ottawa Citizen the only place they get published? Back that up with the somewhat muted reports that the recent arrests in Toronto were made with the help of the Muslim community there and it's downright cheering. Reason may yet prevail, or at least enough of it to ensure some kind of order. Human beings in general tend to be rather poor in the reason department. And thirdly, that pronouncement by a group of mullahs that Muslims are to work for the good of the society they are living in. There is good news out there.

BTW, Captain's Quarters is reporting that Hezbollah is offering to disarm in the context of a ceasefire agreement. This open admission of weakness is positively mind-boggling. Sure hope Ed has his facts right.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Dr. Dawg said...

Very good point Damian, but I would take it one step further...if moderate Muslims don't want to be lumped into the fanatical category, they have a responsibility to speak up and stand apart.

Balderdash. Why should anyone be forced, in effect, to appear before a modern Inquisition? What "responsibility" do people have to distance themselves from others? This is something that we never seem to ask of ourselves, only of minorities. Im tired of this throwaway line, just as I am weary of homogenized notions of community--as in, "the Muslim community needs to speak out."

Put yourself in the place of the average Canadian Muslim--let's call him, pace Christie Blatchford, Mohammed. Some nutbar in Toronto wants to be a jihadist and falls into frozen lakes in rural Ontario during risible training exercises. Mohammed is now expected to make a public speech averring that he, certainly, is a hard-working Canadian who would never dream of bombing subways. Indeed, as he has taken them on occasion, he would be very much against such a thing.

Then another nutbar in Seattle, a rather more serious nutbar this time, decides to shoot people because he's angry with Israel. Once again Mohammed is required to stand before the public tribunal to state, for the record, that he disapproves of this sort of thing, and likes to live in a country where, until recently, we had gun control.

After a few of these newsworthy incidents, some real, some false alarms, Mohammed figures that he should take out permanent advertising space in his local newspaper. He dutifully does so. He scours Google News every day before work, and makes a note of every violent jihadist activity he can find. These he compiles, and adds a note to the effect that he, Mohammed, considers these actions extreme and unconscionable.

It seems to me that two things are likely to happen. First, he'll find himself on an active CSIS watchlist. Secondly, his neighbours will be asking, "Well, you're OK. But we haven't heard from your wife and son yet."

All kidding aside, it is nothing less than totalitarian to impose such duties on individuals, and I wish this infernal meme could be stopped in its tracks.

 
At 1:31 PM, Blogger Jason Hickman said...

Balderdash. Why should anyone be forced, in effect, to appear before a modern Inquisition? What "responsibility" do people have to distance themselves from others? This is something that we never seem to ask of ourselves, only of minorities.

Doc: I disagree. I can only speak from personal experience, but as a (somewhat) observant Christian, I have been asked to account for and/or distance myself from people who could be called Christian extremists, ranging from the truly offensive "Rev." Fred Phelps to the nuts who shoot abortionists.

When you see someone like Phelps on the air, you often see religious folk, including social conservatives, going to great pains to distance themselves from what Phelps has to say.

Where I do agree with you, I think, is that it's not fair to expect a religious person to have to distance him- or herself from the extremists. Not everyone is in a position to do so, for one thing (theological debate is, shall we say, not exactly welcomed in all countries).

I think it's helpful when one chooses to do so, however, as it shows that the followers of a religion don't feel bound by what the most extreme and/or loudest element of that religion have to say.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home