Sunday, February 05, 2006

Open letter to the enraged Islamic Community

((Thanks to Barry and his flicker forum section for inspiration))

Dear Muslim Folks on the Internet;

Since 12 little cartoons were released from Denmark we in the world of Blog have posted a lot of things (Including the cartoons) and you Islamic people of the internet have went out to look for these images and look what we in the west have said/are saying about them. And while I supported the Cartoonist and his release I think I can use my little bit of the internet in a better way.

"What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

I want to open with that because Cartoons and these cartoons exist within the context of a culture and human history that continues. And I think some things need to be talked about. But I think we need to focus on this point by a man from Jordan who had an excellent understanding of all these things. These cartoons and other caricatures of Islam have been born from the actions of vile vile men (By our standards of ethics). While their was a time of caricatures of Muslims that were born from the ignorance of colonialism…but those cultural icons do not show the Muslim world as a world of violence and blood. Ideas born by British and other outsiders of the “quaint” Muslim world while offensive in their own way does not defame the Muslim people as monsters these stereotypes while unpleasant to you do not seek to make people –fear- you.

The stereotypes that spread fear are born from aspects of the Muslim culture that many Muslims I have encountered born and bred in the “Western” world hold no pride in, and one many who have emigrated from the Muslim world also do not look to with pride. But these realities of your world, to our shame, we ignored until the coin of oil grew stronger in the Islamic world then in the “western” world.

However the Western world has its own evils and I want to take a moment and discuss the world where our evils and your evils have come and danced in the light of the moon.

In the Western world people with darker skin have not gotten treated as they should. We have for many years ignored the humanity, indeed the value of those folks with darker skin. But as is the nature of politics under classes in areas where they are numerous are a source of political advantage. So raising them up, ending their inferior status became less important then saying “it’s not your fault”

“They are against you because you are (Black/Jew/Mexican/Arab/….)”
“They will never give you a fair shake until we have the power to help you.”

While treating people of different cultures and colors differently was an evil, preaching to those same people that they could never advance because our society is so evil was much much –worse-. Because people will advance in the society in spite of those who say they
can’t because of the evils of our more enlightened society, but breeding generations of people who know no hope and knows only an evil society all around them will find “proofs” of their evil everywhere.

Muslims in Europe are certainly as many new immigrants are at the bottom of the totem poll of society. Due to colonial guilt Europeans preach this fact is their fault, and it is but not –because- of colonial guilt but due to the decrepit state of their economic system. Being born poor into a Denmark whose flag shows a Christian god, and whom white danes have a wealth and power which they say is their fault –because- they were evil imperialist European can make one angry…can deprive one of hope. And then when they come to take your prophet that is the final step of offense.

A Dane protesting the violence that took a member of the artistic community, the violence of things such as honor killings in Europe won’t think that way….But he should have. And those angry for their place in a world which tells them they are the victim because the world is so evil should try to think as the artist does. A German man would not go and kill his daughter for embracing the religion of the prophet and marrying a Muslim as a matter of cultural honor. You would know that the society of Europe views all killing as abhorrent, but understands some killings are modified by circumstances as to degrees of horror.

But the action of those who do honor killings and kill in the name of the prophet show that they don’t care about the laws or cultural mores of those they kill. They kill because of their own moral certainty and rectitude.

The Second place where our evil and yours meet is about colonialism, and some of the deals traders from the west have made for the black currency/ the fuel of the engine of our world. Outsiders took your treasurer and carted it off to their imperial capital. They forced new ethics and ways on you and didn’t let you follow their ideal. Big businessmen came in and made deals that were extremely to their own benefit over your own. While Colonialism did bring some benefits to your society, it had major negative effects and no one can argue it didn’t.

But that guilt has caused some social problems which in this incident you are taking advantage of. Many Americans and Europeans feel guilty that the guys they backed in business deals are now the folks who run and oppress your countries. The Europeans are guilty about everything from colonialist times. That guilt prevents the nations of the world to stand up as they may want to…only when a greater guilt comes forth (the abandonment of the Jews to the mercies of Hitler) do we see anything resembling justifiable outrage on their part. They are guilty of their power and as such turn a blind eye or are silent.

In Europe this matter has an even deeper impact as these people so wronged by their state long ago have returned with their sons, grandsons, and great grand sons. It creates islands of identity which threaten to obliterate the culture and history of those European people because they teach that their culture is unworthy of respect, and the culture of others –should- be respected first.

This is why some of the extremism and violence which incubated these cartoons was ignored…why heads were turned…until it rose up and could not be ignored.

How Muslims will find their own modern European identity will be chaotic. Look at the origin of Catholicism’s feud with Protestantism. The last great hot war on the subject was ended by a man who said “Paris is worth a Mass.” We live in an age where folks expect things to happen quicker and faster but we are dealing with social trends which truly do not change with that kind of desired rapidity.

But as the conflict of cultural isolation born from multiculturalism and guilt, with people who feel a justifiable wrong is not also isolated either. There is the response issued in the Islamic world and I want to address to elements of it.

The Prophet’s image in various points and parts of the Islamic past and Islamic world today is used –not in the manner of these cartoons OBVIOUSLY- so use of the image of the prophet is not the blasphemy. Indeed Blasphemy is a thing we need to look into here for a moment. Blasphemy assumes in some part first and foremost intent. In the process of reading many deep debates on this subject I looked at a Fatwa purporting to be “against” terror. But what struck me was how laboriously this Fatwa judged the intent of those who did this act. If the Intent was to slur Islam by this cartoon it could be considered Blasphemy but if the Intent was to slur the conduct of certain individuals who are doing matters Muslim leaders say is sinful to the character of Islam then is it Blasphemy?

I ask this honestly as I do not know the nature of Blasphemy in Islamic law. If judgment of those; who murder, maim, and kill must be nuanced and sober then why can’t the reaction to this cartoon be so…. The answer that seems to be suggested is a trend, a human folly, that the crimes of my people I judge less seriously then the crimes of others. But we live in a world now increasingly where elements of “other” are fading and elements of unity are growing. This is a social struggle but we need to work it out.

Next I want to return to the words I opened this discussion with.

"What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

While protests and challenges to terrorism has started, and the trends in the Middle East and rest of the predominately Muslim states is moving away from them we do not see a “Paris is worth a Mass” moment. I know short of a new Caliph such a moment is difficult, but that does not make the moment any less vital.

In conflict negotiation there is a matter of trust building. The problem is who goes first with building trust. I can make a case that both sides have worked to try the “first trust building” exercise approach and it has worked some of the time and been fubared some of the time not to the fault of one part or the other but of both.

There are those in the west who see words and iconic roles of the Prophet as a man of blood, as a warlord, and worse in the Koran and other important Islamic texts. They see this without examining some modern “Christian” history that shows some parallels. The death of the founder of the Mormon Church came over suppression of the press. His faith in its early days even proscribed executing people to “save” them from their sins. Talk of men on the moon and on the son, and man now as god once was. These things happened when the Mormon people were metaphorically “in the wilderness” and these things calmed down and were viewed different and soberly when they became part of the community.

The Muslim world is in the wilderness as well and while many Muslims may view these tales as sober allegory, or the times of the Prophet there are those who don’t…. those who are a very loud minority. And states are empowered by the loud minorities, not the silent majorities.

But “for justice” you turn a blind eye. For “justice” in Chechnya and Palestine you ignore the excesses of the Mujahadin and of your state in supporting them. It is when we turn a blind eye that evil is born into the world. Germans turned a blind eye as Jews were carted off. Their nation was made hole, their economy strong once again, they were given a reason to feel proud….In the south men and women turned a blind eye to lynchings, to churches being set on fire, and to the inhumanity of the system of segregation…. I could go on but in turning a blind eye for reasons of justice, or healing, or keeping the natural order of things we allow evil into the world.

The Prophet, nor Jesus, nor Moshe, nor Zoroster, nor the Buddah, nor any other religious patriarch…none of them would want you to be blind to that evil.

Some of you will try to compare the military of Israel and the United States and make it a comparable evil… but that logic is slowly drifting away… its false foundation rotting. Those in the Muslim world who felt outrage at the decapitation of Muslim aid workers or the destruction of the wedding in Jordan if that had been done by a US soldier would rightly be declaring war to seek vengeance and retribution. The rules of for me and not for thee have no place here because we feel the same outrage, the same hurt, and the same sense of violation for the same crime. To compare it to the military seeking a “justice” if you will for their wronged people is to try to justify the criminality and base evil of it.

These evil men inspired this cartoon. These evil men brought the retribution from Israel and the United States. These evil men call to violence against the embassies and people of European origin now in the Middle East. While it lay in the hands of god to give final justice, god also calls on you to judge criminals. If a man causes bandits to raid your home...causes a fire to burn down your home…causes people to attack you is he not a criminal who should be judged?

You have a great wealth in your lands, the sins of colonialism could end but for the short sightedness of your political and economic elite. The same people who oppressed and dominated you before the Europeans came are oft the people who now return to fill the void the exit of the Europeans created…these men steal to enrich themselves as they did upon your grandfather’s grandfather’s father’s. While the sin was once on the shoulders of those colonizers and evil business those sins do not exist now except internally. And funny those who are robbing your wealth internally are so often those who direct your rage externally.

I think we would fail our creator, and fail as men if we do not take this opportunity of outrage and take a step back. And realize just how foolish we are all being.

Another sin, a tragic one that comes of this in many online forums is talking about the holocaust. Taking for a moment the same evil artwork demonizing Jews as cannibalistic monsters exists in the world of Islam as it did in Europe the sins of mankind during World War II are on the shoulders of all nations. Numerous nations allowed the Jews to be returned to Germany for their eventual death in the gas chambers. Arabs under the yolk of colonialism either conspired with agents of Hitler or sat on their hands. In mandate Palestine the refusal of Arabs to join the fight against Hitler delayed the Jewish Legion going to battle him for nearly 2 years. The role of the Grand Mufti of Palestine telling Muslims in Europe it was their holy duty to fight for Hitler, and the war against the allies was a Jihad.

I could go on but the sins that occurred in Europe in the 1930s and 40s are not just upon the Nazi’s…. nor are they just upon the German people…. All of those alive then were weak in the face of evil, and many passively assisted the perpetration of that evil. And to those whose grandfathers did actively aid that evil, invoking the victims of it is a matter that no one who knows the history can turn their heads from. Those who fear and guilt based on race and former national dominance have taught you poorly, have sought to bring you into the brotherhood of nations poorly by teaching you that others are to blame for it all.

I welcome any Muslims who seek out information on the Danish Cartoons to make a comment here. Because I think many….far to many are refusing to understand the other, and refusing to honestly understand themselves

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