Regarding Muslims & Apologies
As an Afghani-American Muslim, I am now quite used to dealing with prejudice and bigotry. In my short life, I have experienced both on various levels from seemingly benign but extremely offensive comments and questions, to aggressive and accusatory hate speech, all the way up to outright assault. I wrote the first version of this a couple of years ago when y’all were going cray for the fifty-leventh time about some other irrelevant stuff. We have made this argument so facile and anti-intellectual that we are slipping into dangerous territory, so… the time has come to deal with accusations, interrogations, and bigotry. Let’s try this again… again.
Ridiculous Things: That I Sometimes Hear
1. "You don't look Afghan."
Right. I try to ignore the inherent prejudice in any statements like these. I almost forgot about you and your experiences with thousands of Afghans! You are an authority on this subject and you would know! I think what you are sorta struggling to say is that I don’t look like what you think I should look like, which is a racist caricature of a real human being (see Charlie Hebdo illustrations for references on racist caricatures). Really, what you’re saying is, I ‘don’t seem like a ‘terrorist,’ threatening you with my abundance of body hair and violent religion!’ What you mean is, I am not threatening to you. Its super condescending, and dumb.
Sometimes I respond to this with, “You’re not what I thought a white person would look like either!” Or “How do you pronounce that, Stee-van?!’ I am what I am, Homie, and if you are unclear about that, please see my last post, I Am Not A Moderate Muslim.
2. "That's where terrorists come from."
… Is it, now?
Terrorism is defined generally as any individual or group that uses intimidation in the form of violence or oppression, to meet political ends. In terms of criminal profiling, the term ‘terrorist,’ is unscientific and represents a wide breadth of suspect profiles. Using the word sheds no light on the critical modus operandi or probable causes for the crimes committed.
Terrorists can be any gender, can come from all levels of socio-economic class, and have been known to kill themselves after or during their attacks, but don’t have to kill themselves. Terrorists can be both ‘educated,’ and ‘uneducated.’ One can be deemed a terrorist for harming thousands, or never having directly or physically harmed anyone; as a figurehead or a funder. Historically, terrorists can arise individually, also in small groups, medium groups, large groups, even in networks encompassing all three. In their attacks, they can act alone, or with accomplices. Really, any criminal, under the right political circumstances, can be a terrorist.
Because of how nuanced the term terrorist is, the international community has not given ‘terrorism’ any legal definition, or standing in criminal courts, preferring instead to work with universally accepted terms, and pursue offenders on the basis of definable violations of the law, i.e. rape, murder, weapons proliferation, conspiracy, human rights violations, etc.
Terrorism was a term being used by America and the rest of the world, well before September 11, 2001. The meaning of the term, however, seems to have changed.
3. “Yeah, but why are Muslims the only one’s terrorizing then!?"
Known Terrorist Attacks (number dead/number injured)*
Terror can be achieved lethally with explosives, gunfire, suicide bombings, biological and chemical weapons.
Like in the cases of (I add to this list it seems every few months):
Shoko Asahara of the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo (13/58)*, who used a designated weapon of mass destruction, a nerve agent called sarin, on Tokyo public transit in 1995. 13 died, 58 were seriously injured, and 1,000 more were hurt.
Timothy McVeigh (168/600) was from Lockport, NY. White, a military veteran, with ties to extremist groups around the country, he planted a fertilizer truck bomb outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma. The building housed the regional offices of the Social Security Administration, the US Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Army Recruitment, and Marine Recruitment; all government entities. The building was occupied by an estimated 550 employees and included a first-floor daycare center. In addition to the 168 dead, 19 of whom were children, an estimated 600 people were injured. He was executed by lethal injection, and was quoted in his last words saying, “If there is a hell, then I’ll be in good company with a lot of fighter pilots who also had to bomb innocents to win the war.”
Anders Behring Breivik (77/319), of the Norway attacks in 2011, bombed a number of government buildings in the capital, Oslo. He then targeted an offshore Worker Youth League Camp and killed 69 teenagers. He survived, and last year, staged a hunger strike for “better video games.”
James O. Huberty (21/19) a Californian doomsdayer, who in 1984 killed 21 at a MacDonald’s in San Diego, CA. 13 of the victims were children, one only 8 months old, he shot the infant, through the back, while still being held by its mother.
Wade Michael Page (7/4), was the US Army Veteran who massacred 7 at a Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin in 2012. Investigations revealed an active life in the neo-Nazi and white power movements, and accounts of vested beliefs in an ‘impending racial holy war.’
Craig Stephen Hicks (3/-) on February 10, 2015, he entered the home of his neighbors, newlywed college students 23-year-old Deah Barakat and 21-year-old Yusor Mohammed Abu Salha and shot them, along with Yusor's 19-year-old sister Razan, execution style. Americans were quick to paint Hicks as an 'atheist,' but the white power movement is on that atheist bullshit, so... you know what it is.
James Holmes (12/70) in 2012 he killed 12 and injured 70 during a screening of Batman: The Dark Knight in Aurora, CO. Additionally, his apartment was booby-trapped from top to bottom with explosives; indicating he intended to, and definitely had the capacity to kill many more. He has been recorded saying he wants to be remembered as a villain. ... for me 'terrorist,' will do just fine.
Elliot Rodger (6/14) The son of a prominent British film producer, Rodger killed 6 and injured 14 others around the campus of UC Santa Barbara before he took his own life in 2014. Though only 22, Rodger had displayed a distinct pattern of criminal behavior, sadistic abuse of women, bearing false witness, extortion, and attempted murder. 3 victims were stabbed, three victims were female students shot in their sorority house, the rest were literally run over and gunned down by Rodger on a rampage.
Dylan Roof (9/3) Was 21 when he entered the historical Black South Carolina church Emanuel AFrican MEthodist Episcopal Church during a prayer service and opened fire. He confessed that he committed this crime to ignite a race war and had known ties to neo-nazi groups.
George Sodini (4/9) Sodini chronicled almost a year's worth of sexual frustration, rejection by women, and sadistic fantasies in writing before he entered an LA Fitness women's aerobics class, placed a duffle bag on the ground, turned out the lights, and began opening fire with 2 handguns. He shot 52 bullets before he turned the gun on himself. August 2009
Jared Lee Loughner (6/13) At a Tucson, Arizona supermarket front rally in 2011, Loughner shot and severely injured US Rep Gabrielle Giffords, along with 6 others who later died; including a Chief US District Court Judge, and a 9 year old bystander.
Adam Lanza (27/2) Was the 20 year old son of a local educator and gun enthusiast Nancy Lanza who he killed at home before the shooting. Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff at SAndy Hook Elementary, a week before Christmas. He committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. The children were all 6 and 7 years old.
Andreas Lubitz (150/-) ooooweeee!!! The attempts to discreetly sweep this 2015 atrocity away have been amazing. He was an outstanding pilot who had been recruited right out of high school to train with Lufthansa air. He was attractive. He was an expert runner and ran many marathons. He also deliberately increased the speed of the plane as he aimed it down towards the French Alps, and intentionally crashed it, killing himself and 149 others. The media was nice enough to allow the Lutheran Church to distance itself from the incident. He is also a 'victim of mental illness.' I wish anyone who kill innocent people was considered a 'victim of mental illness,' but with darker skin, also comes more martial behavior, right? So, he was sick, and brown and black folks are just animals? Will we invade the village of Montabuar, Germany, for its influence as his birthplace!? Germans are Nazis, right? So he must have been a Nazi! Logic dictates that the Nazis are trying to steal your freedoms... When will we take action against this foreign, axis of Nazi-evil, agression!? Hold your breath...
Terrorists are cult leaders and suicide pacters. People like David Koresh of the Branch Davidians. In 1993 articles were published accusing him of child molestation, statutory rape, polygamy, and the stockpiling of weapons to prepare for an ‘impending holy war.’ The subsequent siege in Waco, Texas killed 84.
Luc Jouret of the Parti Communautaire Européean, in Switzerland 1994-1997 (20+), Park Soon-Ja, “The Benevolent Mother” of the Paradise/Five Seas Cult in Seoul, South Korea, 1987 (33). Jim Jones 1978, of The People’s Temple, transplanted to Guyana via San Francisco (913). Marshall H. Applewhite & Bonnie Nettles, of Heaven’s Gate, 1997 in San Diego, California (39). Joseph Di Mambro of the Solar Temple in Quebec (74) between 1995 and 1997. The world famous, Charles Manson and 25 members of the Manson Family, who from the late 60s to the 70s became famous for murdering actress Sharon Tate and 8 others, in California (9).
Terrorists are the leaders of churches who facilitate the abuse of children and protect the perpetrators with impunity. People like David Berg of The Children of God, Father Oliver O’Grady defrocked from the Roman Catholic Church, Father Marcial Maciel of the Roman Catholic Legion of Christ, Father Kit Cunningham of the Rosminian branch of the Roman Catholic parish, Tony Alamo of the Alamo Christian Foundation, Father Warren Jeffs of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints. Community leaders with victims in the hundreds, with potential for the thousands, all of the victims were children. The John Jay report of 2004 estimates there are a total of 4,392 priests and deacons in the US alone, against whom allegations of sexual abuse have been made. That’s the United States, alone. Considering the emphasis of the global Christian ‘mission,’ this can only be a fraction of the numbers of children who were abused abroad, and who did not have the social channels or opportunity to report it.
I have been acquainted with many a brand of terrorist and terrorism, and I have not forgotten the scope of terror is much wider than one religion can manage. Just some ‘benign’ factoids about the information above: Every single terrorist group or individual listed above, is Christian/Catholic, used Christian/Catholic doctrine to directly support what they were doing, and if funded, were funded through Christian/Catholic channels (you can reread that, if it didn’t quite hit). To keep things topical, every single name listed committed their acts in the last 50 years.
So they could have, but did not include hundreds of older examples of terrorism like: Roman and Greek expansion, The Crusades, The Protestant Reformation and the subsequent Schmalkaldic Wars/30 Years War/English Civil War/Scottish Reformation/etc a huge number of Religious Wars, The French Revolution, European Colonialism, Imperialism, The Triangle of Trade and American slavery, the American Abolitionist movement, the Civil War, The East Indian and Indo-Chinese Trade era, The World Wars, The Cold War, the era of the Troubles and the rise of the Irish Republican Army, or the Cuban ‘Crisis’ Era… and those are also some examples of times rife with ‘terrorism,’ which forever effected millions of innocent civilians, and have brought us to where we are now.
There are Hindu terrorists, Christian terrorists, Atheist terrorists, Buddhist terrorists, Jewish terrorists, and no joke, Amish terrorists who cut beards as a form of intimidation and punishment. I simply outlined the most well known Christian cases.
But again… you are right. Terrorism is a Muslim thing? Terrorism is a good justification for international war? Surely, terrorism is a good reason to ignore domestic policy issues? Wait, what’s a terrorist again?
The only thing I can conclude is that ‘terrorism’ is a term applied with extreme prejudice. Its actual definition, however, is arbitrary and circumstantial, at best. Or should I follow the logic of the media and suggest that these are not radicalized groups or minorities? Instead, perhaps I will say, ‘I know now that Christianity is a religion of terror, sexual exploitation, cult leadership, misogyny, and violence?'
I say, no. I say anti-intellectualism is the worst friend to freedom, and I will not reduce a fellow human being to platitudes to meet my own needs. There is no religion more or less responsible for terror, it is a tool used indiscriminately. It kills indiscriminately, as we have seen over and over again. Your discrimination won’t change that.
4. "I am not a Muslim, but I read an article about the Jihad and let me tell you...!"
Oh, don’t do that, BB. Do not delude yourself into thinking you understand one of the most nuanced tenets of Islam, when most Muslim scholars spend lifetimes trying to understand them. Like… I took Religious Studies 137A, but I’m not going to go around claiming to be an authority on Zoroastrianism, because that’s ridiculous, but at least I’ve read some books… by scholars.
Do not try to tell me anything about Islam, if you have still not read the Quran. It was 2001 when our government tried to tell us about, ‘Islamic’ extremism, and you still haven’t read the Quran. You’ve read Twilight… All 3 of ‘em, and seen the movies. You memorized the all the words to Selena/Demi/Beiber/Cyrus/Swift/A$AP Mob last year, lost 30 lbs doing Crossfit, dyed your hair blue, got married, saved a pit-bull, ate sashimi for the first time, started your career… but you still haven’t read the Quran.
How can people be so enraged and obstinate about something they know nothing about? Ignorance is clearly, not bliss. Your eyes won’t burn out of your skull, Homie, you can help yourself to the knowledge. You won’t go to hell. Even folks in the Seminary read it. The Pope has read it. You can read the Quran, and should!
The knowledge is the power, nobody can take that from you. If they claim the knowledge is a secret, that the knowledge is expensive, or that the knowledge is inaccessible or inscrutable, I’m telling you you’re being had. All knowledge is available for you to learn. You don’t have to feel ignorant and afraid, you could face your fears and find real peace. Just read a book… Or read several, plural, books!
Jihad for one Muslim is rarely the same for another. My jihad was toward biting my nails at one time, and with focus, I managed to stop. I realized how important education was to self-confidence, so my jihad turned outward and became illiteracy. I started to teach people how to read and write and express themselves all over California and then later in the Peace Corps. When my health was poor, my jihad turned inward again, and I needed to battle self-pity.
Jihad is a broad term which, on a non-political and every-day basis, is about making yourself a better being, and making the world a healthier place. Consider the twelfth book of the New Testament,
This is the same sentiment behind jihad. If this parallel has peaked your interest, I suggest you read the Quran for more of these ah-ha moments. You might find yourself surprisingly unafraid, open-minded, and capable of having scholarly conversations, after! Its fun!
5. "My turban does not make me a terrorist." Or “I Am A Person Of Color, But Please Don’t Associate Me With Islam!”
Yuck. Come on, baby, don’t do us like that! I was your mother in a time passed, your sister in another, you’ll be my father, they are all my sons, you are my brother, I am the every-daughter… We are from the same, and we go to the same. People Of Color UNITE!
No, your turban does not make you a terrorist, and when you are done trying to gain sympathy from your abusers, let me just say, they don't care, and that's not the point. That's like saying, 'Not all women are bitches,’ in a PSA against domestic violence... its nonsensical and condescends the real issue at hand, which is bigotry in America towards Brown folks, both Sikhs, and Muslims. There are public service announcements being broadcasted and printed into posters that say things like this, and they are dehumanizing and divisive.
Please, don't say stuff like that. Whether you are a non-Muslim Arab, a non-Muslim Indian, or a non-Muslim salamander, please don’t conflate your ‘suffering’ with Islam. Islam is not your problem! Racism, bigotry, prejudice, and ignorance are your problems.
I’m not sure if you realize you are condoning the act itself, insinuating that 'the negative feelings around the world towards Muslims are okay, just don't misappropriate them towards me!’ Come on, Homie, do you really think the guy who is bashing another guy's skull in, is doing it because he has given Reason its fair shot? This isn't about reasoning with people. This is about bitter hatred fostered by unethical media, poor public education, and systemized discrimination. Peace should be a part of every life. Communities and Peoples of Color need to stand together, in solidarity, to educate and dispel the ignorance that fuels unwarranted aggression, and violence. We cannot stop hate with hate.
6. "Don't veil me, Bro!"
Oh, LOL! You used that one thing that one guy said in that one terrible video about that other infringement on personal freedoms in America... “Don’t taze me, Bro,” to “Don’t veil me, Bro,” tee… hee.
Thank you for fighting for women's rights in the developing world, by running around naked, in protest. Muslims really needed that! Its super duper valuable to spend time lobbying against something this important to the advancement of human beings… veiling. Or should I say “the veil,” because they only mean the Muslim one, when they say that.
How many non-Muslims wear veils? Catholics, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Amish, Buddhists, Sikhs, Shinto, Zarathushtri, Animists, Shaman, Nuns and Monks of all religious and social orders, all genders (even the Trans and Intersex communities around the world) cover their heads and faces. Some dogmas instruct followers to covet their bodies, while some are taught to punish their bodies, like the hermetic monk orders of the Roman Catholic Church. Some religions require the taking of oaths like poverty or silence. An oath of silence is a literal thing. Literally… you can’t talk. No Freedom of Speech. Some belief systems promote customs where intermediaries to God are resigned to stay hidden within sacred confines. They are often taken from their families at a very young age. Some religions have sacred undergarments, instruct that a person must eat very little; some inhibit socialization, some practice self-flagellation or self-mutilation. Political organizations like Anonymous rely completely on the internet to function, in public they don Guy Fawkes masks. Just free people, practicing their freedom and standing up for what they believe in... Right?
Yup! Sounds pretty oppressive, but that is life, not just with religious freedom, but personal freedom; Freedom, full stop.
Catholic and Christian religious rituals like the Eucharist don’t really make any sense to me, and frankly, are perplexing… consuming the body and blood of Christ? Transubstantiation is quite unique. Even still, humans' belief systems are far more similar than most of you are willing to admit. Homies can check out 1 Corinthians 11, of the New Testament, to see what I mean.
Try to also wrap your minds around the idea that anything in the Old Testament means it is almost always the same ideology as Judaism and Islam. One could even go further and assert the existence of parallel ideologies between all religions. Religions of all sorts have more details and dogmas in common, than they do separating them.
There are linear relations between Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Mormonism, Baha’ism, Scientology; Even Atheism requires theology to refute and thereby creates an ideology with the same potential for ritualization and culture as any 'religion.' But, as an educated person, and a human being, if someone tried to argue that another person’s system of belief was unfounded, inconsistent, or flawed, I would caution them against generalizations, because that's the point to any worthwhile conversation… building mutual respect and knowledge, remember?
We already know how quickly things can escalate when someone starts criticizing the belief systems of another person. In no time, xenophobia and the ‘us versus them’ mentality can spiral out of control into fear-driven, no-sum war. Remember The Vietnam War? The Cold War? You know… like all the wars.
Addressing Women's Rights around the world is a very important, and there are worthwhile ways to do it. Mischaracterizing Islam is not one of them. Women of all religions deserve full Freedom. (Just so you know, if I have to capitalize iPod, like this, and address a company like Nestle with a capital letter, than Freedom gets the same deference too... proper name my ascot! Grammar is not apolitical.)
Political pundits, getting paid to make stuff up, encourage aggression, raise ratings and make money, is nothing new. Trying to stand reason against the swift and rapidly growing current of bigotry and hatred against Muslims was becoming harder, and less rewarding, by the year. Ignorance was commonplace, even encouraged, by the Media and the political campaigns that benefited from the hullabaloo.
There are so many stories like this in my life, my brother’s life, my father’s life, my mother’s life, and the lives of the people in our extended family. My family members get it from every direction, every day, and it’s been like this for almost 40 years.
I feel like, if people actually knew anything about the dynamics of Afghanistan’s struggle in the last 40 years; If they had to acknowledge that Afghanistan has been embroiled in protracted conflict, brought to it by the United States and Russia, that Afghanistan was the #1 humanitarian crisis in the world for 3 decades, #1 refugee crisis in the world, for decades, before anyone even paid attention to it. If people had to say out loud that the life expectancy was that 1 in every 2 children would die before the age of 5, for 40 years. If we said that Afghanistan has been absolutely desiccated by years of foreign abuse. Destabalized. Ripped apart by the subsequent poverty, and then had to pay the price over and over again for foreign psychopaths taking advantage of a state with no central governing body… I feel like, if people actually knew anything about these details, they would think, before they made excuses for me to their close-minded friends. What I’m trying to say, is have some respect for the suffering of human beings, Homie. All human beings.
8. "No I have no education in Political Science, but I do enjoy employing hyperbole and making absolutely every detail up, until I get to my ill-conceived point."
I know you do, sweetheart.... but stop that, okay?
and 9. This is new; ‘What Ilhan omar Represents is scary’ -Megan Mccain
No, you know what’s scary. That people can’t recognize their own privilege, prejudice and ignorance. That to this day, a blond woman crying about being scared of a person Of Color gains her sympathy. That 40 Muslims can be massacred in their place of worship, in a town actually called “Christchurch,” and there won’t be any outpouring of public outrage or trendy support tactics on social media. It may make you uncomfortable to value the voice of a Muslim woman like Ilhan Omar, because you are really not used to it. Just breathe through it, and remember that she has (or at least is supposed to have) the EXACT same First, Second, Third, Fourth… etc Amendment rights you have, and the exact same rights as the president of the United States. If you’re uncomfortable, that’s the cancer of prejudice dying; celebrate!