Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Burning

Will he or won't he? Rev Terry Jones announced he's not going to burn the 200 copies of the Quran after all. But the mere announcement that this pastor in a tiny little country church in a small Florida town was going to burn some paper and binding with the word "Quran" on it has sparked thousands of Muslims to riot in violent protests where over a hundred people have been injured so far. News media outlets are showing footage of Muslims burning the American flag and chanting in mass "Death to America!" Yet, we're told that most Muslims are moderates, that it's only the radicals that hate us. Sooo... while American leaders are condemning Rev Jones for what he *might* do, where are those moderate Muslims condemning the violence and burning of American flags?

And speaking of the Ground Zero Mosque. While everyone talks about religious freedom here in America, how would the Muslims feel about building a church or synagogue in Mecca? That's not going to happen anytime soon. Where's the tolerance there?

Newt Gengrich, recently put out a video called America At Risk about how Islam is incompatible with peace. We used to argue that building up nukes meant the world was safe. No one would ever start a war because we all fear "mutually assured destruction," which nicely makes up the acronym MAD. Remember that phrase mentioned a lot during the cold war? In the Muslim world where suicide bombers are heroes, MAD-ness isn't a deterrent, it's a bonus! With Iran building nukes, are we counting down the moments until the end of the world with madness? If Muslims will only accept everyone living under their repressive Sharia Law or the end of the human race then, like Newt says, we must end Islam out of self defense. Right?

Ok, now let me start chipping away at these arguments. First off, I really am a fan of Newt, and I was disappointed by his latest "Muslims are going to kill us, we're all going to die!" video he recently put out. I understand that fear mongering works really well and that's why it's done for tv ratings or votes. But this is over the top. We fear what we don't understand.

A big one, is we don't understand ourselves and how radical the idea of freedom of religion is. Our own culture is invisible to us because we think it's "the norm." But American culture is really, really strange. I can walk up to the leader of my country and insult him or her verbally and not go to jail for it. To a lot of people in other countries, that might mean Obama was weak rather than prove how strong the US is.

Now, let's look at American Muslims. Why are Arab Muslims coming to this country in the first place? Because they're escaping the oppression of their home countries. Consider the argument about the Ground Zero Mosque, "Why should we build one here if we can't build Churches in Mecca?" That's an incredibly stupid argument on several levels. It's Americans who want to build the Ground Zero Mosque in America, so we're talking about a completely different group of people. Americans building in America. Not people from Mecca building in America who are not letting Americans build in Mecca. If Arab Christians(and yes, they exist) living in Mecca, want to build a Church in Mecca, they will be denied because they don't have the same kind of freedom of religion there that we have here. Again, this is why many Arabs, and other foreigners, come to America in the first place.

For a counter to my counter argument, I've heard people bring up that the Mosque is a "whole 2 blocks away from ground zero." Um, no. A piece of one of the planes hit this building(that used to be a clothing store) and it's still damaged from that which is why it's not open now and doing business. That means it's not 2 blocks away from ground zero. It's in it.

Should the Mosque be built? I think we all agree they have the legal right to do so. But should they? New Yorkers should make this call. They know their neighborhood certainly better than I(or Obama) do. I don't feel like I have a good sense of things on the ground there to really form an opinion on this, so I leave this to them.

Speaking of Obama, he gave a speech the other day about Rev. Jones and the Quran burning that I thought was important. Many of our military personnel fighting in Afghanistan are American Muslims. As Obama pointed out, what kind of message are we sending to fellow Americans as we call some of them, including ones shedding blood and dying to defend our freedoms, our enemies? Picture an American Muslim soldier with his arm blown off from fighting for freedom in Afghanistan and call him our enemy simply because of his religion. I don't care what or who someone prays to, but I couldn't do that. Anyone who can should be ashamed of themselves.

I was happy that my conservative influences like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck have condemned Rev. Jones' Quran burning plans. It upsets me to hear fellow Republicans get swept up in this ridiculous Islamaphobia trend, but glad that at least two prominent conservative pundits have not.

Ok, so why aren't moderate Muslims condemning the burning of American flags going on right now? Well, how do we know if they are or not? Are you going to their houses and asking them? I mean really, how do we know what they think unless we see it on the news or the internet or hear about it in person? And if we don't see it, it's not real? What kind of logic is that? Some Imams have been on the news opposing the Ground Zero Mosque. The father of the Underwear Bomber alerted authorities as to what was about to happen. So it at least happens on some level publicly.

Something that we need to understand about wanting Muslims to condemn acts of violence from "fellow Muslims." This seems logical to us because we're operating under the assumption that terrorists do what they do *because* of Islam. This is not so. Members of the KKK burned crosses as means of terrorist acts and they quoted the Bible when doing so, recited scripture in their ceremonies, etc. But they didn't hate black people and Republicans *because* they, the Klansmen, were Christians. They hated blacks and Republicans because they, the Klansmen, were scum. Christianity was just a backdrop. In Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants car bomb each other as terrorist acts but not because of religion. The Catholics in Northern Ireland do feel like they're discriminated against because they're Catholic, sure, but it's cultural difference, not a religious one.

So, if you accept this premise that Muslim extremists are not terrorists *because* of Islam then you can understand how odd it is to expect moderate Muslims who feel like they have nothing in common with terrorists to feel like they need to condemn them. As a Sacramentoan, I've never felt like I needed to come out and condemn the Uni-Bomber for killing all those people or for the band Cake who puts out such horrible music.

Maybe you don't accept this premise. After all, not since the KKK has a large group from one particular religion all conspired to attack the US with terrorism. But let's look at something else these Muslim Extremists have in common other than Islam. The Imam behind the Ground Zero Mosque said that the US is partially to blame for 9/11. This was a horribly stupid and insensitive thing to say way back when it happened, however he is right.

After all, who created Al Qaeda? We did. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, we were so eager to the break the backs of the red army, that we trained and armed the Afghani freedom fighters to fight the Russians. These freedom fighters were successful, and this was a key part of breaking the Soviet Union and ending the Cold War. Yay us, right? Those freedom fighters we trained became Al Qaeda, and the Stinger Missile launchers that they're still shooting at our troops to this day are the ones we gave them decades before.

Most Americans believe that on 9/11 "they" attacked us first. This isn't the case. Clinton had been sending predator drones into Afghanistan during his administration. 9/11 was a counter attack. Now, we were attacking military targets in Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda attacked the Trade Towers--a civilian target and that makes them scum, so by no means am I saying this is tit for tat. 9/11 was a despicable act. Unjustified, but not unprovoked. So please do not misunderstand and think I'm making light of the horrible and tragic attack on the Trade Towers and Pentagon. I think Bush was justified in sending us to war in some capacity, though in hindsight, I think we all wish that would have gone differently(not used WMDs as an excuse, for example) etc, but the better course of action was to not create Al Qaeda in the first place. Right now, we are training and arming a new generation of Freedom Fighters in Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban. I'll bet you we're doing the same covertly, at least on some level, in Yemen and Somalia. We are, perhaps, creating our own future enemies.

I'm not a conspiracy theory nut. I don't believe the US does this on purpose so that we always have an enemy to fear monger about. I never assume malice when simple incompetence seems likely. I'm only saying the politics of temporary fixes to today's problems can cause new problems for tomorrow.

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