Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First They Came for the Muslims...

Beginning with the controversy about the Islamic community center and mosque being planned several blocks away from the World Trade Center site in NYC, there seems to be a concerted, nationwide campaign underway to villify and persecute Muslims, mosques and any kind of Islamic activity across the country. Nine years AFTER 9/11, people seem to be going crazy with intense hatred of Muslims and anything to do with Islam. This is so disturbing on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin.

First of all, the fact that people across the nation are going on the warpath against mosques and Muslims demonstrates that this is NOT really about the mosque in NYC, which has anyway been in the works for a long time, and would not be major news if not for people like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich doing all they can to make this into an angry, divisive issue. This is one in a continuing series of efforts (remember the phony controversy over Death Panels?) to use lies and distortions to whip up a fearful and poorly-informed population into a mad mob frenzy for political purposes. The Republican Party and their Tea Party and FOX News divisions clearly want people to spend lots and lots of time talking about the "Muslim menace" supposedly demonstrated by Islamic groups doing horrible, heinous things like applying for construction permits.

Why do the Republicans want to push the panic button, if not the "Beat up on Muslims" button across the country? Because they know that the more that people get worked up over things like this, the less time and energy they will have to think seriously about issues like the Gulf oil catastrophe, the economy and the plight of the millions of unemployed, and the opposition of the Republican party to ANY government programs to help people or regulate corrupt and out-of-control corporations. The same applies to the news media, who get caught up in chasing these Republican Party-guided, FOX News-generated phantoms instead of attempting any thoughtful analysis or investigative reporting into matters of greater relevance to people's day-to-day lives. This kind of phony controversy plays perfectly to the Republicans' desire to portray themselves as the champions of patriotic, Christian, conservative white people--REAL Americans-- who desire protection, if not pogroms, against such horrible un-American entities as Hispanics, Muslims, gays, and liberals. In fact, you could almost say that the split in our politics today could be described as a divide between one party that proposes programs, and another that advocates pogroms.

But let's go back to the original topic. I noted that this is a phony controversy. It is important to understand the facts. (1) The proposed mosque and community center will NOT be at Ground Zero, but several blocks away, taking the place of a defunct clothing store, the Burlington Coat Factory. So all the noise you hear about the suppposed outrage of building a mosque on the hallowed ground of Ground Zero is hyperbole and crap. (2) The Muslims involved are peace-loving Sufis. They have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda or any Islamic extremism or terrorism. (3) The intention of the Muslim group planning the construction is not to build some kind of anti-American, pro-9/11 Muslim victory monument, but to create an institution like the Jewish-run 92nd St. Y, where lectures, concerts and other events open to the public can be held, along with a swimming pool and yes, a mosque, one of more than 100 in the NYC area.

This may very well seem a completely different situation than what you may have been hearing or reading from journalists and politicians bent on stirring up anti-Muslim passions. If you doubt what I am describing, please take some time and check the facts from a reputable news source like Reuters, Associated Press or The New York Times.

Some readers of this Pagan-oriented blog may wonder why I am taking so much time on this Muslim matter. "None of our business; they're not us, so who cares?" you might say, but you would be wrong. Modern-day Pagan movements are only possible in the USA and other countries because of the increased respect for social and cultural diversity, including religious diversity, that has been part of American culture and to some extent world culture since the 1960s, building on our long-ignored, Constitional respect for freedom of religion. If we start going back to a witch-hunting, minority-persecuting mentality in this country, it will only be a matter of time before emboldened conservative Christians will undertake a crusade against Pagans and Heathens along with anyone else whose life does not revolve around Jesus and the Bible. Remember the 1950s and McCarthyism? To some, those were the "good old days."

If you don't want to see our country go backwards toward Christian conformity and open season on anyone defined as an "Un-Christian," or "Un-American" Other, STAND UP, SPEAK UP and FIGHT BACK against the persecution of Muslims, as well as the persecution of Hispanics going on with the anti-immigrant movement. If you hear someone in the supermarket, at your work place, or in your ritual circle spouting anti-Muslim nonsense based on misleading news sources, open your mouth and calmly set the person straight. Otherwise, we may all end up rephrasing that old poem about the advent of Nazism: "When they came for the Hispanic immigrants, I didn't say anything because I am not a Hispanic immigrant. When they came for the Muslims, I did not speak out because I am not a Muslim. When they came for the Pagans...."


Seeing Eye Chick said...

I am quickly concluding that America has gone absolutely insane. That it cannot approach any topic in a reasonable fashion. That it can only rush to find a way to sell itself to the highest bidder, or to the scariest bullies. There are days, like today, when I just sort of stare at it, and really have nothing productive to say. Because you cannot win. I cannot win. We can only hang on for the ride.

Ananta Androscoggin said...

This is part of why I have so little respect for 21st-century Christianity in the U.S.A.

It seems that one MUST in order to be a "good Christian" these days, be a gullible fool, unable to tell bald-faced lies from reality even in cases where the slightest bit of research would show the truth. That one MUST reply with a knee-jerk response in lock-step with the other right-wing extremists with ideologically pure (pure evil, for the most part) hatred for the group targeted by the vilest of leadership.

And if the other Christians don't want to find themselves lumped in with these vermin, they should speak out against them, not just sit back and expect to enjoy an America cleansed of "other people" for them by the extremists.

Anonymous said...

"No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."
- Winston Churchill, 1899

Maelstrom said...

Trumoon, I strongly disagree with the tenor and what I take to be the meaning of your posting. So Winston Churchill did not like Muslims. So what? If you study his life, and not just his WW war leadership, you will find many examples of Churchill being a racist who had a disdain for many peoples that he found inferior. It means nothing to me that he had negative things to say about the Muslims. In fact, it only bolsters my commitment to respect for religious diversity and freedom.

Anonymous said...

Is it wrong to be critical of how Christianity treated heathenism? Is it wrong to point out how Islam treated Arab paganism, and how it treats religious minorities in its midst? Islam took paganism's Kabah, kicked paganism out of Mecca, and successfully destroyed it.

Religious toleration suffers the most in Islamic countries. Islam has some serious work to do. Is it so wrong to point this out?

Surely you have followed how things are going in Europe? Are the tensions there merely some kind of arbitrary hate of Muslims? Christianity is dead there, yet the Europeans have serious concern about their future in the face of Islam. Are they merely racists? I admit that many go too far, but you speak in your posts as if principled criticism of Islam is to be despised.

Islam deserves criticism, does it not? One can be critical without being a hater.

You know, surely, that Islam's raison d'etre is, in fact, the destruction of polytheism, which is an unforgivable sin, and whose existence cannot be countenanced under Shari'ah? Under Islam, all polytheists are mushrikun--they are kuffaar. Being a kaffir is not a good thing, and relegates one to the lowest status under Shari'ah.

Is it fair to demand that Islamic countries permit polytheists to practice with impunity, as they do in every Christian country on earth, and as they do in the United States?

I, for one, am infinitely grateful to live in the United States (this most Christian of countries), in contrast with any Islamic country, if only for the right to practice my faith in full and complete freedom.

We have a right to be concerned about some of Islam's ideas. There is nothing knee-jerk about it. A careful study of Islam, Muhammad, the Quran, the hadithic collections, and the sirahs persuades many rational observers that many of the ideas therein need a direct and forceful critique.

Sorry if I am a bigot or an evil Republican or something.

Maelstrom said...

Anonymous, I share many of your concerns about Islam. I object however to angry-mob scapegoating of Muslims, whether in USA or America. I believe we have to reach out and try to coexist. That will give us a better chance at the tolerant, pluralistic future that I think we both desire.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, Maelstrom!

By the way, I found you through your exquisite book on modern Paganism. I, like you, share a serious interest in both Asatru and in ISKCON. I have a Ph.D. myself, and have put an immense amount of work into the project.

Although on basically opposite sides of the political spectrum, I speculate that our spiritual thinking may be strikingly similar.

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