Wednesday, October 11, 2006

And the deconstruct!

So, as a followup to the article I just posted, I give you, my deconstruction.

…more people in the political mainstream are arguing that Islam cannot be reconciled with European values. And this is based on what level of understanding in regards to Islam? How many of the people who are getting up on soapboxes about the cultural conflict between Islam and the West have actually studied Islam from an unbiased source?

“You saw what happened with the pope,” said Patrick Gonman, 43, the owner of Raga, a funky wine bar in downtown Antwerp, 25 miles from here. “He said Islam is an aggressive religion. And the next day they kill a nun somewhere and make his point. Actually, he quoted a 14th century text that was written by someone who was a Christian and still believed that Muslims worshipped a different God. It was a text that essentially called Muslims “heathens” and “murderers.” Take this in the context of the Crusades which had occurred before the writing of the quoted document. I highly doubt that the Christian soldiers who participated in that lovely little cluster-fuck did so without killing and brutalizing in the name of their God (who was also known as “Our Lord of Untaxed Trade Routes” but I digress)

His worry is shared by centrists across Europe angry at terror attacks in the name of religion on a continent that has largely abandoned it, and disturbed that any criticism of Islam or Muslim immigration provokes threats of violence. And here we see one of the first problems in putting together these two viewpoints. Islam is highly spiritual. While there are somewhat secular Muslims, they are largely a minority. One fundamental part of Islam is the relationship with God. So when you stick Muslims into a culture that relies completely on secular values, you are going to have problems. Especially when a secular country does not respect the weight that having a Muslim identity carries for Muslims. This is also ignoring the fact that from their perspective, the West has been attacking Islam for centuries! So when criticism comes along, it is being received by a defensive group that is expecting to be attacked!

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain, a prominent Labor politician, seemed to sum up the moment when he wrote last week that he felt uncomfortable addressing women whose faces were covered with a veil. The veil, he wrote, is a “visible statement of separation and difference.” Or, translated “This is something I know nothing about. It scares me because I cannot remove myself from my bubble long enough to understand that someone may find expressing their identity as a Muslim to be supremely important. I don’t define myself by my religion, so no one else should either. Plus, I have no idea what the actual significance of the veil is. I am therefore, talking out of my ass” Its funny how when a western liberal is uncomfortable with something, then it is automatically a bad thing, yet it seems to be so very hard to understand how uncomfortable a woman who chooses to veil would be without it. It is not understood that it is a choice, or at least, that it should be. I have worn a veil; I did so for one whole week. Taking it off, even in the solitude of my own home was difficult, and I was only experimenting! If I felt it was an integral part of my expression of my identity, then I can only imagine what it would feel like to have someone tell me that I was not to wear it because it made them uncomfortable. I love hypocrisy. As western liberals, we talk about granting autonomy while insisting on denying it to people who don’t fit our definition of “free.” The assumption that every woman who wears the veil is unable to choose it for herself, at least when she is living in a (supposedly) free country, is arrogant and insulting. By pushing for one narrow definition of autonomy, you have effectively denied actual autonomy.

When Pope Benedict XVI made the speech last month that included a quotation calling aspects of Islam “evil and inhuman,” it seemed to unleash such feelings. Muslims berated him for stigmatizing their culture, while non-Muslims applauded him for bravely speaking a hard truth. Yup, cause there’s nothing evil about raping little boys! It’s just evil to expect respect and autonomy, to expect to have their countries finally free of the powers that colonized them. And of course people who have no experience with Islam past what the media and their governments feed them would believe this to be true. Fucking sleep walkers.

Vlaams Belang, too, has suggested “repatriation” for immigrants who do not made greater efforts to integrate. And what motivation has been given them? Immigrants come to another country for greater opportunity and freedom, and now they have to face the stripping of their identity because you can’t get your head out of your ass long enough to try and, gee, I don’t know DO SOME FUCKING RESEARCH? God forbid you actually examine the things you decry. No, instead you ride on fear mongering and threats of violence from people that you are intentionally provoking in order to win power for yourself. At least a terrorist attack is straight forward.

But many Europeans — even those who generally support immigration — have begun talking more bluntly about cultural differences, specifically about Muslims’ deep religious beliefs and social values, which are far more conservative than those of most Europeans on issues like women’s rights and homosexuality. Again, based on whose information and research? I believe if the research is done, you will find that many of those more conservative views are the property of the nationality and the ethnicity of those who hold them, and have simply been adapted into the religion. People wouldn’t say stupid shit like this if they actually bothered to learn about Islam from an (and here’s the important part) unbiased source.

“So there is this fear,” he said, “that we are being transported back in a time machine where we have to explain to our immigrants that there is equality between men and women, and gays should be treated properly. Now there is the idea we have to do it again.” Yeah, ‘cause its totally like those problems are SOLVED in your society. Everyone treats women equally! Gays are free to be who they are and get married and…ooops. Wait… No they aren’t! Huh. I thought I was losing my mind there for a minute. So what are you really afraid of? I think I can tell you. If you have to teach these values to others, other who are adults with rational thought, not easily brainwashed children, then you may get criticism because it isn’t really all that equal, that work isn’t really finished. You would have to admit that your lovely little “free” society still has the same problems it had back in the 60’s and 70’s, they are just more subtle now. You may have to admit that those cultural revolutions aren’t over. OH NOES!!!!11eleventyone11!!!

Now Europeans are discussing the limits of tolerance, the right with increasing stridency and the left with trepidation. Dangerous ground boys and girls. Dangerous ground.

Austrians in their recent election complained about public schools in Vienna being nearly full with Muslim students and blamed the successive governments that allowed it to happen. Cause we cant give those dirty Muslims an education! Then they may want to stand up for themselves, and demand rights! They may get involved and actually become active citizens! RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!

Some Dutch Muslims have expressed support for insurgents in Iraq over Dutch peacekeepers there, on the theory that their prime loyalty is to a Muslim country under invasion. Or to their faith which is under attack as far as they can see. And we have been over the importance of Muslim identity and I do not like repeating myself.

So strong is the fear that Dutch values of tolerance are under siege that the government last winter introduced a primer on those values for prospective newcomers to Dutch life: a DVD briefly showing topless women and two men kissing. The film does not explicitly mention Muslims, but its target audience is as clear as its message: embrace our culture or leave. yeah, I can really see the “tolerance” part now. “We are tolerant but only if you are willing to give up your identity because we think it doesn’t fit in with the rest of our views”

Perhaps most wrenching has been the issue of free speech and expression, and the growing fear that any criticism of Islam could provoke violence. Freedom of expression if its view that we support. We (ie western liberals) need to be able to express ourselves freely no matter what we want to say and how it may make others feel. But if a girl wants to wear her veil to school, she can’t because a secular state doesn’t allow that. The secular state finds it “offensive” and can therefore ban it. So, people should be free to criticize Islam, but can’t be free to express it. *beats head repeatedly against the wall*

In France last month, a high school teacher went into hiding after receiving death threats for writing an article calling the Prophet Muhammad “a merciless warlord, a looter, a mass murderer of Jews and a polygamist.” In Germany a Mozart opera with a scene of Muhammad’s severed head was canceled because of security fears. As much as I hate repeating myself, I will for this little bit. Remember when we talked about the fact that you’re dealing with a group of reactionary people that are convinced that they are being destroyed and attacked. And you know why? BECAUSE THEY ARE! IF ANYONE BOTHERED TO DISPLAY JUST A HINT OF CULTURAL RELATIVISM AND RESEARCH, OR AT LEAST GET SOME BACKGROUND INFO ON THE CULTURE THEY ARE RIPPING, THEN THEY WOULD UNDERSTAND THE REACTIONS AND MAYBE NOT BE SUCH ARROGANT ASSHOLES!!!

Many Muslims say this new mood is suddenly imposing expectations that never existed before that Muslims be exactly like their European hosts. Yay for assimilation! It totally fits with the whole freedom thing! So someone explain to me how this type of expectation is any better than walking into another country, pointing your guns at them and saying “You’re free now, but only if you do things our way.”?

We have yet to escape our imperialist, colonialist past and attitudes. The Western world has to accept that there are values other than our own, and if we are to be consistent in our views of equality and freedom of choice, we have to allow people to choose which value system to follow. As long as no one impresses their value system on someone that doesn’t want it, then I seriously don’t see the problem. We are not the be all and end all of freedom. We also have to accept that our own fights for freedoms within our own communities are not finished, not by a long shot. Therefore we have very little right to judge those who wish nothing more than to practice and express their views in peace, even if those views directly conflict with our own.

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