Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Muslim Outrage

I have tried as hard as I can to not paint all Muslims with a broad brush stroke since 9/11. Yet, as time goes on, I become more flabbergasted at the reactions of the "Muslim Street" to events. It seems to me that the Islamic faith, with its anyone-can-be-an-imam system, has been hijacked by fundamentalist freaks bent on violence and driving the world back to the 6th century.

I don't want to feel this way. I do believe that millions of Muslims are peaceful and abhor violence. I think that we are obligated to judge people as individuals and fight the urge to stereotype and discriminate based on generalizations. I believe that Muslims who support individual freedom, moderation, and equal rights are allies in the "War on Terror". I don't want this to become a clash of civilizations or a religious war that pits Muslims against Jews and Christians into a fight to the finish. In my gut, I believe that attempts to lump all Muslims into the same category is despicable and completely against the (for now) free, pluralistic society we all value.

The reaction of the Muslim population to the cartoons published by a Danish newspaper have driven me to the point where I'm sorely tempted to throw up my hands and stop fighting my inner prejudices. Are Muslims around the world nuts? Is violence the answer to everything for them? It sure as hell seems like it. I understand that the cartoons were insensitive and that any image of Mohammed is considered a sacrilidge. I understand that part. It's no different than the outrage at an NEA sponsored artist showing a crucifixion in urine caused back in the late 1980s.

Yet there's a difference in how outrages right wing Christians behave and the Muslim population seems to behave generally. (I can't believe I'm about to favorably compare our religious right to something!) The offended Christians protest, picket, write irate letters, make phone calls to representatives, and boycott companies who do things they don't like. What they do not do is march off and burn down buildings, kidnap people, fire weapons at people, commit crimes, and threaten whole groups of people with death. Yes, the antiabortionists have done these things, but they have been roundly condemned, and they represent a very small portion of the anti-choice community.

Many have asked how the West would feel if cartoons depicting pedophilia, bashing Christians (Anyone remember tough Catholic cartoons surrounding the pedophile brouhaha there?), denying the Holocaus, or bashing Jews. Excuse me, but I thought all Middle Eastern countries bashed Jews on a daily basis. If I'm wrong, I'd love to be proven wrong. I imagine that if Muslims regularly made cartoons on the above topics, the West wouldn't be happy. Christians would protest, write letters, condemn the Muslims for being rude and nasty. Ditto for the Jews. What I'd be surprised to see is groups of maurading Christians and Jews going through the streets of major cities worldwide, burning, looting, and destroying mosques, killing or beating random Muslims in the street, and burning down buildings owned by Muslims. You might have some isolated incidents of this, but it would be far from widespread, and the perpertrators would be found and quickly punished. Syria and Iran have been encouraging their rioters. It's ridiculous!

Where is the outrage at these violent protests? Where is the promotion of peaceful, yet loud, protest? Where's the valuing of human life? Of civil protest? Be angry, be outraged, but this looting, burning, and killing stains the entire faith. It makes all Muslims to be like their wild-eyed lunatics ready to behead anyone who offends.

This whole situation disgusts me. Yes, the cartoons might have been offensive. Yes, it was probably in poor taste to run them. But whatever faults the Danish newspaper had in soliciting and printing the cartoons, the Muslims have more than eradicated with their outrageous behavior. Muslims with sense need to stand up and finally be counted. They need to stand up and say that this behavior is unacceptable and makes them all look like fools in the eyes of the world, let alone Allah. Otherwise, people like me who are struggling NOT to stereotype and paint Muslims with one broad brushstroke will lose that battle...and the Great Religious War of the 21st Century will be on.

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