Every day that passes it seems the right continues to further itself from rational debate towards a more ugly form of politics. I am not talking about the typical smearing of opponents for voting for or against a measure, for doing drugs or for seeing prostitutes. I’m talking about the calculated political decision to go after one group of people for their differences.
Currently the right has chosen followers of the Muslim faith for their campaign of intolerance. We have seen it in our chambers of government with bigots such as representative Virgil Goode (R-Virginia) questioning the use of the Koran by representative Ellison (D-Minnesota) for his swearing in photo-op. We have seen it in our news with bigoted talk show host Glenn Beck (Idiot-CNN) when he questioned Ellison if he was an enemy of our country for the simple fact that he is a Muslim.
Now this talking point has filtered down to the willing masses of right-wing ideology. They plague our country, our internet, loyally regurgitating the talking points they have been fed, eager to hate people they do not know for their faith. They repeat these talking points with such zealous fervor that they are unwilling to accept any criticism of what they say and will dismiss all logical and truthful corrections as either wrong, subjective, or off-topic.
Their talking point is that the Muslim religion is inherently different from others, and dangerous, because in the Koran written permission is given to the members of Islam to fight Jihad. They say that the only purpose of this religion is conquest of the entire Western world. This of course is another reason in support of the Iraq war, ‘fight them there rather than here’ they repeat incessantly, and with the zealousness only ideological blindness could provide.
Everything they say can be easily dismissed by anyone with the slightest knowledge of the Muslim faith, however any counterpoint you give to their raging ‘the Muslims are out to kill me’ will only be dismissed or ignored. With the more intelligent and receptive, however, who have fallen prey to believing in this talking point as truth, are open to discussion and will willingly abandon the belief of all Muslims want to kill non-Muslims for the more rational and true points. Hopefully I can succinctly explain these points, and if I miss any that are extremely helpful when going through such a frustrating conversation, please do inform me of them.
Firstly, since the argument of the anti-Islamic individuals depends on the view that Islam is different from any other religion that is open to examples of the misdeeds and violence of the other religions. The difference they point out is that the Koran sanctions violence in the form of Jihad. They see this also as a sanction for the extermination of non-Muslims. Well, in the Old Testament of the Christian bible, the Jews were given instruction by God granted them the land of Canaan, and gave the Jews permission to exterminate the Canaanites. If you want to use historical precedent, the Popes in Rome declared Crusades in the name of religion, quite technically these are similar to Jihad since they are both forms of holy wars.
For some reason these people also believe that Islam is the only inherently violent religion. They cite modern Muslims who call for violence against Westerners, but ignore the radicalism of those in other religions. Pat Robertson, for example, has openly and consistently called for the assassination of the leaders of other countries. Rhetoric from these people has also led to the bombings by Christian extremists of abortion clinics. Our country also has right wing crazies like Timothy McVeigh who bombed a federal building killing scores of innocents. Such violence therefore is not limited to the Muslim world and the Muslim religion. It also behooves our purpose here to be reminded that terrorism in its modern form was invented by the Irish who used such tactics to free themselves from British rule. So, if any religion should be blamed for such violence it is the Catholic religion for being the dominant religion of the people who developed such tactics (I am of course advocating no such thing since such tactics emerged under the pressure of a dictatorial occupying power).
One must also question the relevance of the Jihad teachings in the Koran to modern Islam. For the most part, Muslims do not follow the teachings of Jihad, except for the Fundamentalists who almost exclusively focus upon Jihad. For any who believe that every Muslim follows the Koran to the letter, take a look at Christians. How many stonings of adulteresses have you been to lately? Take a look at the divorce rates in this country. Every religion, it seems, has out-moded doctrine that still exists in its scripture but is almost completely ignored. This has been the fate of Jihad, except among the marginal fundamentalist sects.
Another argument is that Muslims want to bring our country under Islamic Law. These people argue that this is what makes Muslims different and dangerous. First off, its only the Fundamentalist Muslims who want this, most others, especially in our country, are either secular are content to practice their religion without instituting religious law on the government level. Further, what about our own Christian Fundamentalist dingbats who want to do away with secular government and create a government based on Christian law? They are the same as the fundamentalist Muslims, crazy and marginal, only differing in their religion.
This brings us to the finale, the core laws of the religion which the religions do not exist without. For Christianity, there are the Ten Commandments. For serious Christians, these are the laws to abide be, these are the doctrine that is known (except by republican senators) and abided by (supposedly). Islam has something similar, they are known as the Five Pillars of Islam, which most spouting hate against the religion do not even realize exists though it is commonly taught in core college world history courses. They are:
1. Testimony of Faith: There is only one God, Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.
2. Ritual Prayer: Five times a day.
3. Obligatory charity
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca: At least once in a lifetime.
In these basic tenants of Islam, there is no mention of violence, or Jihad. It is also interesting that this view of Islam as a religion of violence has come about since it is also known as the religion of peace.
So, why is such rhetoric against Islam in particular dangerous? Rhetoric against any group of people as a problem is in itself dangerous. They become a scapegoat for the problems in society thus limiting the ability of that society to deal with their problems as they can always have someone to blame other than the actual structure of society. Also, this rhetoric is reminiscent, even identical to that used by Hitler and the Nazis against the Jews. They used Jews as a scapegoat for problems in society, labeled them as different, and then proceeded to attempt to exterminate them. If such rhetoric against Muslims is allowed to proceed in our country, then internment, even extermination of these people in our country could easily become justified and acceptable.
This rhetoric against Islam does not show any solution to ‘fixing’ the problem. They may suggest conversion as a solution, but conversion against peoples of any different religion always brings out stubbornness and militancy. So the next step, quite logically for these people, would have to be extermination. If our country has any soul left, we ensure that this never happens; otherwise our United States will indeed be soulless.
Addendum: I just realized I had skipped any mention of the racist element of anti-Muslim bigotry. This is purposeful since I believe the subject deserves a lengthy post of its own. That may or may not be the topic for next weekend, stay tuned......