What Do You Expect? (Criticizing Reticence of Muslims)

by Skip Conover~Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover)

Arabic

Essentially all of my Muslim friends are cynical about the prospects of attitudes towards Islam changing in the West, as well they should be!  Today, when I shared my views about Rev.? Terry Jones, one acquaintance responded by simply sending this link, with no comment.   I infer that he is saying to me that I am on a fool’s errand, because I’m up against western politicians.  After reading the article I ask,  “What do you expect?”  Rupert Murdoch and his ilk have been allowed to present $100s of Billions of dollars of free PR to Muslim haters with no counterpoint from the Muslim world.  I have suggested to my influential Muslim friends that they acquire media outlets in the West, just as Murdoch has done, to present a more balanced view of the Muslim world, but almost without a response.  Al Jazeera English is barely noticed at all in the USA.  They have a bureau in Washington, but it is almost impossible to find, and its product is only beamed to the rest of the world.  I know of no place that anyone can subscribe to it as a cable channel in the U.S. market.  They will tell you that you can get it over the Internet, but I know of few people that would do that, including me.

My perception is that my Muslim friends think a more balanced view of the Muslim World will come from immaculate conception.  They are happy to leave the heavy lifting to a handful of Muslim spokesmen, me, and Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf (a *Sufi* cleric, apparently). We know what’s right is right, and we will do what we can I suppose, but if minds are going to be changed about Islam in the West, it will take a countervailing effort to balance Murdoch, Glenn Beck, and the likes of them.  That will take a concerted effort and a huge pile of money.  Until that happens, nothing will change.  I would be happy to work on such a project with anyone, but honestly, my efforts to date have fallen on deaf ears.

I want none of my Muslim friends to come to me with hurt demeanor and whine that the West does not understand that Muslims believe in living in Peace until the same amount of PR value as Murdoch has spent, well over a Trillion dollar’s worth I feel certain, is invested in countervailing PR.  My Saudi acquaintance seemed afraid to even say that he thinks Angela Merkel was wrong.  He just gave me the link and expects me to intuit the offense he takes from it and act to soothe his emotions.  Yes, I will, but I cannot change the attitudes of most Americans, according to CNN today 70% believe that Islam is bent on world domination.   Unless some Muslim, or a group from the Muslim world, is prepared to counterbalance Rupert Murdoch, with the same level of investment, nothing will happen.  The message must be heard in America and Europe, not in Riyadh, Doha, Karachi and Jakarta.  When that happens, we will start to see change.  Until then, Muslims can play the “victim” of intolerance all they want, but they will get little sympathy from me on that score.

What’s right is right, and I stand for justice and the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which I swore to defend to the death.  I don’t need to be convinced, but at least 70% of the rest of America and Europe does need to hear a counterpoint to the propaganda they have been fed for a decade.  That is a big job, and it will take a long time, but that is what needs to be done.  Sitting in the Muslim World and feeling hurt by attitudes in the West will get us absolutely no where!  Why are Muslims so reticent?  Please examine your behavior.  It takes courage to change World opinion.  Who has it?!

Twitter: @skip_conover

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12 Responses to What Do You Expect? (Criticizing Reticence of Muslims)

  1. Dear Clara,

    I certainly sympathize with your point about not being subjugated. My point in part is that subjugation and abuse of women is a worldwide problem and phenomenon. Many US divorces are brought on by this. In my opinion, Muslim women also do not want to be subjugated, and they are now seeing that women outside the Muslim World are standing up for their rights. This information dissemination cannot be stopped. As this process happens, Muslim women will naturally stand up for their own rights, and the nature of Islam itself will change. But this will take much courage and a very long time. Just consider the fact that American women since Carrie Nation and Susan B. Anthony have been standing up for women’s rights for 150 years, yet we still have huge inequalities in our society too. Shamefully, our politicians could not even pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As I have three daughters, and for many other reasons, I do want to see that effort revived, and I want to see the venal politicos have to come up with their lame reasons why it should not be passed once again. They will sound sillier and sillier as time goes on.

    As with the heroine in Lysistrata http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysistrata , I believe one day Muslim women will stop wearing their abayas on the same day, and simply begin to drive. That will take great courage on their part, but there is certainly a movement afoot for significant changes. And the men know these changes are coming, and are trying to sensitize the population that things will change. From your point of view and mine, this will take too long, but in the greater sweep of history, it will be a microsecond.

    I agree with you on some parts of your points about Rev. (?) Terry Jones. But there is a problem, and it is a central part of my reason for starting blogging again. I published a book on this entitled Tsunami of Blood in 2007 (http://amzn.to/9V8c4e) . Yes, in general principle Rev.(?) Jones does have the Right to burn Korans in the USA. But, we also have laws against incitement to riot. He intentionally did a stunt designed to piss off a lot of people in the Muslim World, and he got $100 million or more in free publicity out of it. But, he should have known that if he did it as planned, he would get hundreds or thousands of people killed in riots all over the World. We know that from the experience with the Danish cartoonist, who got more than 1,000 people killed, but was recently honored by Angela Merkel for his stand for Press Freedom. What are these people thinking? This is why the President had to step into the Rev.(?) Jones case, partially because of the atrocious judgment of the media in publicizing this man’s threat, and partially because of the consequences that could be expected if he proceeded. I had a Muslim friend, who lives near the border of Malaysia and Burma, tell me of fears of the consequences if this threat were carried out in that region so remote from the Florida congregation of Rev.(?) Jones.

    Whether or not people in the West feel Muslims are too sensitive about these issues is not the point. The point is that we live in the real World where these consequences are known and very real. In that context, it is incitement, in my opinion, to raise such a flap. And it is unethical for the news media, knowing this, to give them a megaphone to be heard around the World.

    One of my objectives in this blog is to point out to our political establishment on all sides that, in order to find an end to this age of violence, we are going to have to be more sensible about our interaction with Islam. I am planning another piece shortly in which I will be pointing out that Muslims know that they have many internal problems, and are frank about these in their internal discussions, but they are distracted from solving them and changing their societies from within when they have a perceived threat from outside. Making one’s people ignore their own problems and focus on threats from outsiders is a classic political ploy, that is mentioned in literature dating back to Thucydides in his “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” (http://bit.ly/ajcL54), around 431 B.C.E. Sometimes it is justified, as when Germany and Japan tried to conquer the World, but, when it’s used by venal politicians in the United States to get people to ignore the fact that we are practically in a depression because of our international adventurism, it is not justified. All I’m trying to do is shine a light on these facts!

    Clara: Your second to last paragraph is … I can’t even find words to describe it. You obviously have not hung out with many Christian fundamentalists and “born again” Christians. They have insinuated themselves into my family in regrettable ways that are extremely divisive. They DO swear that every word in the Bible is true as the infallible “word of god,” despite its internal inconsistencies and declared genocide in several cases, and despite the fact that scientific research has now explained many of the phenomena that were witnessed by these ancient and ignorant peoples as “acts of god.”

    My mother-in-law was told by her “born again” sister that she was sorry that she won’t be seeing my mother-in-law in heaven, because she is not one of the “chosen ones.” Yikes! My mother-in-law’s comment, when I mentioned this to her last night was, “It’s not for me to judge.” I retorted, “Yes, it is!” Modern human beings do not have to stand for such divisive behavior from their religions. What does it accomplish except existential threats to mankind itself?

    My daughter, after a lovely evening, just the two of us, on her 22nd birthday, told me as the very last thing she said that night, “Dad, I’m sorry, but I think you’re going to hell.” If Mephistopheles himself had plopped down in the seat next to me on my ride home, I would have gladly signed the Faustian bargain if only none of my daughters would think that of me in their lifetimes. What a divisive and horrible thing to teach young people to say in their youth, to anyone let alone members of their immediate family. And those are Christians! I could expound further, but I’ll save it for another occasion.

    Let my emphasize to you that I VERY MUCH appreciate your bringing these issues out in your responses. I do not expect everyone to agree with the things I say. I do believe that if people of good will have open discussions about these issues they harbor in their hearts, we might just have a chance of saving the human race from self-destruction. I do know these blogs are influential. When I was writing Tsunami of Blood online in 2006-07, I once heard President Bush use an analysis I had put forward only 3 days before. I have reason to believe that he got it from my blog, through a channel I will not disclose here.

    Please DO continue to comment on my blog, and continue this discussion here as time permits!

    Best regards, Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover)

  2. Clara says:

    “But, he should have known that if he did it as planned, he would get hundreds or thousands of people killed in riots all over the World (…).” – that only proves his point, no? about how violent muslims are. and that actually there is a reason to fear them. by that analogy you start to think that there must be something in islam that makes these people this way.

    the community centre that is supposed to be a ‘bridge’ and build understanding between muslims and other monotheistic religions (what about the rest?) is being strongly opposed. yes, it does offend non-muslims. I think that according to polls 70% Americans don’t want the centre there, they feel it’s a slap and insult to them but they are still going to build it. and president comes out asking to uphold freedom of religion. so the right of muslims to practice their religion is upheld and our rights to burn the quran is not.
    bottom line is that the president got involved because of the security measures (I guess). I think it can be used as a portrayal of how unpredictable those people are! so this guy only proved the point of muslims wanting freedom of expression for themselves but not allowing it for others. sorry, but that’s how i see it.
    just look up muslim march in uk and you will see incitement to riot, muslims shouting for blood and death of denmark. it sent shivers down my spine! what did the police do? nothing.

    I do agree with you that publicizing things like that is far far from diplomatic, but on the other hand I feel that people are just fed up? they are fed up with tip-toeing around muslims cause they get so easily offended by pretty much everything yet they don’t think it’s offending to insult others.

    Please believe me that your arguments make much sense to me. I think though that what we need is a debate. A serious debate, where all the concerns of non-muslims are addressed and refuted if not based on reality.
    I always say that i’m open to accept others point of view as long as someone provides me with plausible arguments. But I want to see a dialogue between western philosophers/thinkers and people who are authoritative in Islam, and islamic scholars.
    If Islam is truly a religion of peace as we are being told there is nothing to be afraid of. No amount of criticism or critical thought should change it cause I think that in the end the truth prevails.

    yes, you are right. i don’t hang out with a strongly religious people. I guess I intuitively avoid them 😉 I’m very sorry to hear that you’ve been told such a thing. I know how it feels. apart from the things I mentioned above I was also told by that muslim that i’m going to hell (he said it hurts him to know it, but it’s true). I’m repeating myself over and over again but you see I can’t get over it. I simply can’t. No one in my entire life said such a thing to me. It makes my heart sink.
    So you see how huge impact it had on me and i believe I’m not a lone case.
    The topic is about islam but i know from friends of friends that christians can be the same way too. By all means I don’t make christians look better.

    Bottom line: I disagree to be thought of as an inferior being, somewhere lower than the hierarchy, not good enough, dammed to hell because I don’t believe in what others do. Religions are divisive. And I don’t think that’s what God intended (if there is one). We are all brothers and sisters in humanity and that should be our PRIMARY religion.

    I think that I take such stance because I think about my future children and that what makes me kind of angry. WE are responsible for the world they are gonna be living in. So I think it’s better if we don’t screw it up. This documentary by R. Dawkins made me think about our future generations. You might want to see it. And yes, i’m strongly opposed indoctrination of children. They are too young to decide. Let them learn how to think critically to choose for themselves.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_fLPYSW1hg

    thanks 🙂

  3. Qusay says:

    So in other words u r saying: Please don’t hate –> Participate!

  4. Clara says:

    Interesting post 🙂 I do agree that money does matter but… people are not going to buy into a concept of ‘islam – religion of peace’ if 50 people get killed as a result of riots after publication of cartoons. those who dare to even criticize islam receive death threats and are deemed islamophobic straight away. i think that west’s reaction is as it is cause freedom of speech is being suppressed because someone might feel offended and threat with violence.

    • Skip Conover says:

      Dear Clara,

      We must maintain a context for these issues. We live in a World that contains 1.6 Billion Muslims and 100 Million Muslim young men between 15 and 23 years old. Every time we have a big noisy blowout like the Rev.? Terry Jones, we radicalize more of these people against us. Please remember that these young people are too young to think of Americans as “the good guys.” What they believe is what they can hear in their environment. A very large percentage of them have no access to international discourse, and rational discussions like this one. If the Rev.? Jones radicalized just 1/10,000 of them, that’s still 100 new hard corps recruits for people that want to do us harm.

      As you well know there is a certain word in the USA that most of us cannot use. We cannot use it because every time it is used publicly, the offending party is shouted down by the group in question, very loudly. As a result, the word has nearly been obliterated from our lexicon, except within the group in question, ironically.

      Our discourse is often messy and loud, but it ultimately leads to the right answers, which explains why after 400 years of it, the United States is so envied in the World. In a strange sense, many people outside the USA get angry at us for not standing up for our own values, like the Freedoms of Religion, Speech, and Press, because they yearn for those same Freedoms themselves, and any backing down on the American side is giving up to the forces that our ancestors battled. I know mine came to America in 1625 to avoid the 80 Years War, a religious battle between the Catholics of Spain and the Protestants of Holland.

      I have every confidence that the ubiquitous nature of communications today will lead to a many changes in the Muslim World, but many of those must come from within. To the extent that we try to stuff them down their throats, they will resist, just as my hardheaded Dutch ancestors did. They left Holland because they wanted to create a new kind of life. The same can be said for all of us and/or our ancestors, as there was no human being in the Americas prior to 13,000 B.C.

      What I am trying to do with “Man in the Middle” is to point out that we in the West need to fundamentally change our confrontational perspective, to give Muslims the chance to focus on correcting their own societies, many of which are in serious need of change in too many ways to count. I will be writing about some of those in the coming days.

      Best regards, Skip Conover

      • Clara says:

        I do understand where you are coming from but for me the topic got personal. I said on another blog that I was told by a muslim who was very close to me that I’m inferior, not good enough because I’m not muslim (!).

        My problem with Islam is that there is NO discourse at all. I get the impression that for islam there is a following rule: if you are not going to speak positively about islam, don’t speak at all. Which is wrong. You are right, they don’t have access to exchange of critical thought, because if they had they would probably have to leave islam. when the governments control access to information that’s just controlling the masses and making a mindless cattle out of them.

        I’m not an expert but I have learned a fair share about the religion. I have a lot of issues with islam but they are not addressed by anyone. And that is because when I voice a different opinion or disagreement I am deemed islamophobic straight away! If I’m lucky, I would also hear that I’m full of hatred, look for negatives only and I simply don’t want to understand. You call it a debate? a discussion? an exchange of ideas? you can’t, cause there is none.
        As for negatives. there are ‘bad bits’ in islam and they ARE being acted upon.

        You say that we try to stuff down their throats our values. I had Islam being stuffed down my throat and believe me it’s not nice. I was being called ‘a disgrace’ cause I refused to see ‘the truth’. Not all muslims are like that, I realize it! but they should do sth with those who ARE like that. after all they are a very strong community who is supposed to forbid the bad, enjoin the good.

        Your first paragraph sounds as if you were saying: let’s not anger them, cause they will radicalize more.
        I, as a westerner, want to hear a debate. I want my issues to be addressed not called islamophobic. I don’t sit for days trying to make things up. They are grounded in history and facts. The problem is that if you have a problem with islam you’d better be eligible for police protection too… I’m sorry but since when you risk your life for speaking your mind? This is your fundamental right that’s being taken away right here, right now. are you sure you want to give it up?

  5. Dear Clara,

    I concur with your observation. I therefore recommend that you read my more recent post, “Victory for Islam!” I have just uploaded this piece in both English and Arabic, with other languages to come.

    Best regards, Skip Conover

  6. Skip Conover says:

    Dear Clara,

    Your points are well taken. There are certainly those in Islam who would take away our rights, the same as the Catholics wanted to take away the rights of my ancestors 400 years ago. Speaking for myself, I have no intention of always being a Pollyanna about Islam. That’s why I call this blog “Man in the Middle.” I have traveled in 10 Muslim countries, and I find them peaceful places with good family values. Are women subjugated there? Yes, they are, but there is little we can do about that. Muslim women are going to have to have their own struggle with their rights issues, the same as women in the USA have for the last 150 years. It will take a long time to change things, but they will be changed … from within.

    I just want us to think about what we are doing and what our message is. Mine is not that I hate Islam. Mine is that I love the United States, and the rights we enjoy here. If right wing loud mouths try to stop a Mosque in lower Manhattan, are they defending our Freedoms, or trying to take them away? Think about it!

    I will defend their right to speak, but I am trying to get them to think about the consequences of what they are doing. It’s all well and good to still be upset about 9/11. I am too! But, I don’t blame Islam and I don’t blame all Muslims for that. Indeed, if my memory is accurate, about 800 Muslims died at the World Trade Center too. What about them? I’m still upset about what Timothy McVeigh did too, but that does not mean I’m mad at all Christians.

    If you examine the many issues raised about Islam in our public discourse, you will find that many of those same abuses are called for in the Bible as well. Indeed, many of the worst things we complain of in Islam came from the Bible. Also, many of the best things in Islam came from the Bible too! What we are talking about is how we develop a civilization to serve the needs of humanity for the coming centuries. We all have to change and adapt, Christians and Muslims alike.

    Best regards, Skip

    • Clara says:

      Dear Skip,

      You see as a woman I do fear subjugation. If Islam were to get a strong hold for example as in majority muslim countries then I do fear that cause that’s not the kind of life I want for myself and my children.
      I don’t think we should stick our noses in their internal matters unless they request it. They don’t and they should be left alone. But I refuse their values to be imposed on my be default.

      About the islamic centre I think that they have every constitutional right to build it and I will support it. the issue was also politicized.
      but then when you think about it, are you going to refuse Terry Jones his right to burn the qurans? it’s his right too, no? and president obama is going out there… sorry but it doesn’t seem to me like a universal standard for everyone. muslims in usa live in a free country with freedom of speech so tough luck if it offends you but to get the president involved? really?

      i’m no expert on the bible or quran but i risk to say that majority of Christians consider those verses as a historical narrative? i’m sure that there are some who think differently and could prove me wrong, but that’s just my personal impression. the quran has a different standard. it claims to be the FINAL word of God, it is perfect, can’t be changed etc. I can’t remember last time i heard such statements from a christian.

      I agree with your last statement: we all must adapt and meet halfway.

      regards

      • Dear Clara,
        Your points and concerns are well taken. I do want to respond to this in detail, but I will will do it in my a.m. Thank you so much for engaging with me here. These issues must be aired.
        Best regards, Skip Conover

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