Monday, September 6, 2010

Predictable irrationality

I have many friends and family members who have joined the likes of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert (both of whom I watch and like) to decry the backlash against the building of mosques around the US, most notably the proposed community center near ground zero.

My new friend Eric Bell is shooting a documentary about the opposition to the mosque that is being built in Murfreesboro Tennessee. I have not seen any of the footage yet, but in my conversation with him, he took issue with the irrational fear, prejudice and hatred that is now arising in America to muslims. The broad brush that many are applying to any and all muslims in this country and abroad was, in his eyes based on fear based perception fueled by propaganda and not based on factual evidence.

To be clear, I am not disputing his argument. The only issue I have is that Eric does not seem to addressing what I believe are the conditions necessary for this irrational fear to arise and for the propaganda to gain credence. Many people take issue with how the actions of a few will then be used to impugn whole segments of a population - and I do as well. The biggest differentiating fact for me is the lack of any tractable or visible evidence that the muslim community is doing anything to address the "rotten apples".

I do not deny that there are pockets of muslims and imams who denounce the actions of those who endorse and participate in violent acts and claim that this is not what islam is about. I do not deny that I can't tell you where the line is for me in terms of "what level of action is enough". These sorts of arguments contain the hidden assumption that we are somewhere close to "enough" right now and if one or two more things were done than that would be sufficient. I believe that in order for rationality to take hold in the American populace - there is an enormous abyss that must be not only crossed but also filled. Crossed with words and filled with deeds.

What sections of the islamic community speak out or act when the Libyan nation state routinely celebrates the Lockerbie Bomber?

What sections of the islamic community speak out or act in relation to the Iranian death sentence given to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani? As far as I have seen, France and the Vatican are leading the way and the Islamic nation-states are silent.

What sections of the islamic community speak out or act when the Palestinian people elect into office a group of people whose life mission circles around violence and death? What sections of the islamic community are now speaking out as women's rights are being curtailed in gaza by the Hamas government?

The voices I have heard and the actions I have seen coming from the islamic community are ones of defensiveness around the prejudicial perceptions and not around taking back their religion or their governments. The voices I have heard blame fear of retribution by the extremist elements if they were to speak out or stand against the violence and rhetoric. This, in my mind, is just as much to blame for the mass prejudice and fear, and I honestly find it to be a completely predictable irrational reaction.

When there is at least one islamic group or nation state who begins to turn the tide of violence in the world that is when it will be most opportune to start working on the prejudice and fear here in this country. Any attempts to do otherwise are equally irrational in that they will not be successful in changing the public opinion. They may indeed bolster the opinion in that they seem like defensive words intended to pacify the rage with no visible attempt to address the source.


Irrational fear - garbage
Condemnation of irrational fear with no share responsibility - crap