Sunday, August 5, 2007

Vindicating Islam

Being Muslim in the United States is interesting. It’s very different from being Christian, or Jewish. As a Christian, or a Jew, one can do pretty much anything; good or bad, and no one will attribute it to your religion. As a Muslim, if you do something good, it is assumed that it is because you are not “too” Muslim. On the other hand, if you do something bad, it is said to be exactly because you are Muslim. It’s hard to know whether this is because people in the US don’t feel that Christianity, or Judaism impacts the thinking and behavior of their adherents, or if they believe that Islam employs a special sort of brainwashing technique that every Muslim is subjected to, even if they never attend a mosque, or go to an Islamic school, which is unfortunately true of most Muslims.

Following the attacks on September 11th, quite a bit was written about Islamic schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, even though most of the hijackers supposedly came from Saudi Arabia. A lot was written about Saudi Wahabism, even though it is reported that Osama Bin Laden practiced something called Deobandism, which is said to have actually originated in India, while Al-Qadea’s religious leader is an American Jew named Adam Pearlman who attended Hebrew school. To make sense of these oddities, hoping to understand the impact that we assume education has on Muslim behavior, it would have been helpful, by way of comparison, to also talk about what type of teaching takes place in other schools ran by other religious organizations and sects. In the sixties, when we were trying to figure out what in the world was wrong with African Americans that could lead to riots, we tried to blame it on poor education and poverty, yet ignorance and hunger alone does not cause people to burn down city blocks in their own impoverished neighborhoods. If it did, every major city in the US, and also the rural south, would be on fire, and many Whites, Hispanics, and African Americans would be fanning those flames.

Those who were guiding our post 9/11 discovery of Islam clearly wanted to make an impression, and that impression had nothing to do with fact, and was actually quite a bit of fiction. It was a type of fiction that is malicious. Not only because it led to so much harm to many innocent Muslims and Arabs, and the murders of many non-Muslims who looked like Arabs, but also because it distorted the truth about the beliefs of 1.5 billion human beings with whom we must share a world, in peace. Kind of makes you wonder how and why the idea of perpetual war crept into our national conscience and conversation, along with preemptive strike, and war on terrorism around the same time. It seems that acceptance of any one of these ideas is dependant upon acceptance of the other. For either to become rooted in our national psyche as acceptable, a very formidable enemy must exist, or so we have been told. And so we have the brainchild of Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson, better known as “Islamism.” According to nearly every Zionist pundit writing in our newspapers, or preaching to us after 9/11, “Islamism” is our enemy, and it is what led to 9/11. You are perhaps asking now, what Islamism and Deobandoism, and Wahabism and Adam Pearlman has to do with Islam. The right answer would be nothing the real answer is everything, if you believe the media.

Comparing the technique of Muslim teachers in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Afghanistan, with the techniques employed by Jewish or Christian teachers in Israel, or Rome, might have helped those seeking to understand religious education, that a relationship between religious education and horrendous acts of terrorism is almost non-existent. It may have also helped everyone to understand that religious education is designed to indoctrinate students about how to be righteous according to Books that are said to be Divinely revealed or inspired, and that is why it is usually religious people who send their children to religious schools and not atheists. It is true that “what” is taught is what matters, and not whether it is deemed religious or not, except when you are talking about religious education, and adherents to a particular or any religious faith. So true is this fact, that it is absurd for us to accept that Islam inspired the 9/11 terrorism or any act of terrorism, and more than absurd for us to continue to believe this lie, or to allow those who continue to perpetuate this lie to go unanswered and unchallenged The perpetrators of 9/11 never even went to religious schools. They were not from religious families. They did not expect or seek to die as martyrs as the Muslim bashers and Islamaphobes told us. Instead, they sought to die full of booze, after having spent the previous night at strip joints and with whores.

I mentioned this at a talk that I gave at Columbia University, and after the talk one of the students approached me and said, “what if they thought that by dying as martyrs, they would be forgiven for all of their sins, and so they just had a good time.” Poor child, I thought to myself. He doesn’t understand that people who are taught in religious schools, are not taught that watching naked women swing on poles, drinking booze, and sleeping with whores is a good time. He obviously had not read Emerson’s description of the Islamists mind. Emerson said they hate liberalism, and everything that is part of the Western culture, which is a gross exaggeration. That religious Muslims, like all pious people, abhor sin would have been closer to the truth. Pipes said Islamists are religious fanatics who want to create a paradise on earth, where they eliminate sin and the sinful, another exaggeration, but it at least makes the point that they would not seek nearness to God in whorehouses. It’s as mind boggling as Jews who say that the sole cause for the holocaust was anti-Semitism, even though there were Jewish SS, and Jews who also worked with the Nazis in other ways against their fellow Jews. You can call them self-hating, but you can’t attribute their acts to Judaism, or even Zionism. Similarly, you can call the 9/11 hijackers murdering dogs and cowards, but you can’t call them Muslims, or Islamic, and you cannot blame their behavior on Islam.

It seems that the Muslim organizations, the media and the so-called moderate Muslims have launched another round of Muslim renunciation of terrorism campaign. That’s innocent enough on its face, yet when you think about all of these apologies, you start to wonder if the apologizers don’t secretly feel that perhaps Islam did in some way inspire the behavior of the 9/11 hijackers, and you start worry that all of these apologies might cause others to openly believe the same. Let me take this opportunity to assure everyone that Islam did not inspire 9/11, and to ask Muslim leaders to spare the rest of us the bi-annual ritual of Muslim apology for 9/11. CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, went so far as to send out an e-mail that said, “true Muslims denounce terrorism.” Let me respond by saying that true Muslims also denounce adultery, lying, stealing, and other moral and legal violations of law. Let me add that terrorism is not an Islamic phenomenon. It is an act of violence that is carried out against innocent civilians to achieve political aims. Starving 500,000 innocent children to death, hoping to compel their parents to overthrow a dictator might be included among acts of terrorism, along with 60 years of illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine that has resulted in the murders, displacement and imprisonment of more women and children and other innocent civilians than can be counted. So, if Islam inspired 9/11, who or what inspired the deadly US sanctions against Iraq after the Gulf war, and what inspired the illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine? The answer is that neither, Islam, or Christianity, or Judaism inspired any of these evils, and just as the Church has rightfully refused to apologize for the war in Iraq, and atrocities associated with that war, and Jews have never apologized for the crimes associated with the continued illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine, even though they believe in collective guilt and punishment, and fund the occupation, Muslims should stop taking the blame for 9/11. We should spend our time teaching the truth about Islam and responding to the many lies that have gone unchallenged that seek to link Islam, and Islamic education with terrorism, and that seek to create a relationship between Islam and terrorism that simply does not exist. Most importantly, we must also live our lives in such a way that people come to understand that it’s not our clothes or names, or accents, that make us Muslim. The Qur’an says it is our submission to the Will of God, which is a will of righteousness as understood universally, and not evil. That doesn’t mean that Muslims don’t sin. It means that when we do, we are not practicing Islam, or following Islamic teachings, and that we are uninspired.