what do we know?

If this inspires nothing else, please at least take a moment to remember and pray for the people who've been killed in the recent protests, their families and friends, others in danger, and the protesters themselves. Godspeed to peace, all of us.

Some people have expressed vehement opposition to Islam because of the few violent extremists and the recent protests. They always sound self-congratulatory. Ignorant people often sound self-congratulatory and relieved when they get to make a blanket statement. But it makes me wonder: Would they condemn all of, say, Denver, if a few hundred people came out in violent protest over something near to the their hearts, be it God or some other reason?

The religion-bashers are having their day too. As if religion did no good work in the world, provided no comfort, joy, or love. Easy to say religion is only evil when  good works are kept quiet (which is the point of good works) and the violence in God's or Allah's or Anyone Else's name is blared across the world (which is the point of the violence).

But there's another sort of low-burning prejudicial sentiment at work, and this one is nearly as bad. It's the "condemnation of violent protest and extremist" position combined with "but I know most of Islam is a peaceful faith." Do you now? How many Muslims do you know? Have you read the Qur'an? Have you studied the faith at all?

For the record, I don't argue with the notion that Islam is largely a peaceful faith. Study what Muhammad said and it's obvious. But Islam is made of people. Like Soilent Green.

 Really, the sentiment is just a blind for more ignorant simplicity, a soundbite where a dissertation is called for. Easier to believe the protests are only religious-based instead of reading and learning and trying to make sense of a complicated situation. I mean, come on. The notion that a poorly made film buried on YouTube launched these protests with no other propellant from Middle Eastern culture or the world at large is no better than veiled idiocracy. People were waiting for an excuse... sure. Maybe. But, perhaps they weren't waiting for the reasons Westerners think, nor for the reasons the protesters even put forth. We can assume nothing, because to do so is as wrong as the protesters assuming that some bigoted asshole made a film that represents all Americans' opinion, much less act on it. Shall we disregard clumsy US foreign relations, a couple of badly waged wars, failing economies, oil rich and oil poor nations, and just plain old misunderstood cultural differences?  For instance, does the average Middle-Eastern Muslim truly understand freedom of speech? Does the average American comprehend the offense of having a great prophet--one who pervades every aspect of every day life for even the less faithful in Middle Eastern culture--slammed on film? What are Islamic views on idolatry, and why  do Muslims hold those views? Do Middle Eastern cultures carry a standard of revenge and defense that the Western World doesn't understand? Do we possibly comprehend the myriad facets at work in each others' cultures?

In general, we don't understand and we don't try. And saying "they're mostly peaceful" is an excuse to not bother trying.

You'll notice the protesters aren't burning Christ in effigy (not that I've seen anyway). They're burning American flags. They're killing Americans who had nothing to do with the film. Which tells us something, if we bother to listen. To me it suggests that this is a protest against the inbred hypocrisy of America. Inbred because it goes back to our earliest days, when people came seeking freedom to worship the way they wanted to but destroyed indigenous peoples in the process. Or back to a Constitution founded on the ideals of religious freedom but quickly perverted by the cultural condition of the "right" religion.Now we fund lesser evils in warring foreign governments and wonder why they come back to bite us in the ass.

You know, it's actually okay for Muslims to  expect respect for Muhammad, just as it's actually okay for our President to not apologize for something he  nor the American public had anything to do with.

Look, I certainly don't want to see Christ burned in effigy or eviscerated on film. I don't like seeing my flag in flames, though I'd never have a virulent reaction to it. I wonder if the Muslims who burned our flag realize that while it's offensive, desecrating a symbol isn't worth murder to most Americans. I wonder if most Americans are remotely curious about what these acts really mean. I wonder  Americans can try to understand-though not condone--that offense to such acts may run deeper there than here. I wonder if  people from the Middle East realize how conditioned Americans are to reacting to offense with discussion rather than violence, nor if they realize how we are accustomed to and toughened by constant exposure to viewpoints opposite than our own.

For better or worse, the coward who made the film isn't getting half the bad press as the offended violent protesters. That is the American way. But I think we also need to accept that Our Way is not the World's Way. Do I condone the violence? No. Can I start to put a face on it? Understand it? Maybe.  Because only once we understand and accept that Middle Eastern culture is as complicated and divisive as our own can we bridge our differences rather than let them so rabidly divide us.


Peter Dudley said...

I think I mostly agree with your points. The tricky bit: We can build a bridge between cultures, but in order to have understanding and peace, the people on the other side of that bridge also have to walk halfway across to meet us.


It's just Congress.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Yes good point, Peter.