March 05, 2006


Why is it always the West's fault for not understanding Islam? Why is Islam itself never to blame? A Muslim college student wrote:

It does not come as a surprise to me that so many “unbiased” Western news sources carry extremely resentful outlooks regarding Islam.
There is a lack of distinction between orthodox Islamic values and the actions of a minority of Muslims. Western media outlets frequently present a correlation between these two classifications and often interpret Islam out of context. Unfortunately when it comes to reporting Islam, a lack of understanding, quoting sources out of context, and ethnocentric viewpoints seem to be trademarks.

And then in this debate, another Muslim suggested that in order to reform Islam,

we'll have to have a lot of help from rational Muslim minds around the world who buy into the argument that we--you, me, George Bush and Don Rumsfeld (i.e., all of us as Americans)--are not out to get them. ... We could enjoin Western scholars in that process and have them talk through external perception problems with what Islam proposes.
If we had an American Muslim FBI director, or the deputy Defense secretary was a Muslim by faith, or one day we had an American Muslim secretary of State, these officeholders would do a world of good by setting an example of how secularism, tolerance and belief can coexist, much the same way Condi Rice and Colin Powell did for black people everywhere in diffusing race as a factor in service to our country.

So the solution to the problem of Islam is that all we Western white folks have to coddle Muslims for decades and have some sort of new affirmative action that gets Muslims into positions of power so that they don't believe we all think they're evil? Give me a break. (It hasn't even worked that well for black people, since many of them hate Rice and Powell anyway.)

When the big news stories broke about Catholic priests molesting children, no Catholic said, "Well, it's not my priest who did that, it's some other priest who misinterpreted scripture." Catholics everywhere were outraged. Why aren't Muslims everywhere outraged? Why is it so easy for them to say "Well, I lead a good life, so it's not my fault if other Muslims misinterpret scripture."

The solution to Islam's problems is not a Muslim Condi Rice. Lord help us if we have to wait that long. The solution is for individual Muslims to be as outraged as individual Catholics were. Mansoor Ijaz says that he has never believed Allah wants him to kill Jews, but unfortunately many Muslims do believe just that. And they outnumber Ijaz. It's not my job as a white Westerner to make sure that Muslims don't feel offended; it's their job to make sure their religion doesn't offend. (And the solution is definitely not just to have Muslim editors making sure nothing in the newspaper offends Muslims. Good lord.)

The common complaint is that Islam is taken out of context. Please tell me what the correct context is then, because I don't know of any other way to interpret "We will wipe Israel off the map."

Posted by: Sarah at 04:52 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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1 Right on! It's good to see you making these important points. Speaking of "taking things out of context," what's the right context for all those signs held by Mohammedans protesting the Danish cartoons, saying peaceful things like "Behead those who insult Islam," "Europe you will pay, your 9/11 is on it's [sic] way," "Butcher those who mock Islam," "Slay those who insult Islam," "Exterminate those who slander Islam," and "Massacre those who insult Islam"? (see these signs and more at

Posted by: Squidley at March 05, 2006 06:23 AM (2qJKm)

2 I'm sure there are some "intelligent" people out there who could analyze the whole situation, explain it (using their vast knowledge)to the Islamic "insurgents" etc. , and then everybody would understand everybody else and there would be peace in the world...wanna sing Kumbaya now? I'm sure the people carrying those signs and saying things like "wipe Israel off the map" would bow to such superior reasoning.

Posted by: Mary*Ann at March 05, 2006 08:48 AM (ssGwL)

3 Not to go all scientific method on you, but two isolated quotes don't show much. Look, there is introspection and self-questioning going on within Islamic culture, with people there asking how they need to change. Not as much of it as we might want, but that is at least in part due to the fact that Islamic culture doesn't have enough of the intlelectuals that Marry Ann scoffs at, a lack that is partly explained by their history but is also kind of mysterious. The thing is, Sarah, that you seem to be nearly as resistant to the thought that there could be any problem whatsoever with us as you accuse Muslims of being to the thought that there could be any problem with them. Did someone at some university dare to question American policym or your version of American values? Well, then, our universities are darned anti-American. Does George Clooney think that we're less than perfect? Well, then, he hates America, too. Islam needs even more people who are willing to ask hard questions about its own religious and political culture. That doesn't mean that we don't need the ones we have.

Posted by: Pericles at March 05, 2006 09:09 AM (eKf5G)

4 You're right, Pericles, that George Clooney has the right to think whatever he wants, even though I completely disagree with him. But I have the right on my dinky little website to give my opinion as well. Clooney's audience is much wider, but we both have the right to vehemently disagree with each other. Isn't it wonderful? I don't hate dissent per se, as you seem to imply that I do; I'm just exercising my right to grumble for the other side. I'm glad our country affords us this right and that both Clooney and I can say whatever we want. I just wish there were more people with Clooney's airtime saying the things I agree with...

Posted by: Sarah at March 05, 2006 01:07 PM (7aHsI)

5 Sarah- Okay, that is fair. But I have to press you a little bit more. What I'm not sure that you recognize, at least not consistently, is that people who disagree vehemently with you can still love their country passionately. I question the intelligence and competence of Bush and his ilk, but I have never questioned their patriotism. I completely disagree with their vision about what is best for America, but I don't doubt that they are motivated by a concern for doing what is best. Based on my observations, you don't always give the people with whom you disagree that same kind of credit. Ami I wrong?

Posted by: Pericles at March 05, 2006 01:56 PM (eKf5G)

6 Good Job, Sarah. Git 'em ,Gal. You got my vote for Defender of the Faithful. Keep it up, dearie. Subsunk

Posted by: Subsunk at March 05, 2006 11:29 PM (qQLWK)

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