by Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover) Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover Translations by Google Translate(R)[This piece was originally written for and will be published on another venue and a primarily Muslim audience.]
Many Muslims are bitter about the attitudes of people in the West toward their culture and Islam in general. This bitterness is both justified and not, but in this post I will be discussing ways to change the status quo.
The simple reason non-Muslims have these attitudes is this: We Fear You! Who can blame us after nearly 20 years of harangue from our right-wing media and press about the Muslim World? By my very rough estimates, the Muslim haters in our World have had over $1 Trillion worth of free publicity, with very little response from Muslims. As I have previously noted, the Rev.(?) Terry Jones alone got over $100 Million worth of free publicity for his nearly bankrupt church, with practically no rational counterpoint from Muslims. The publicity given to Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, after a 10-day silence to the controversy over the Park51 Community Center caused by his travel, was pale compared to the daily harangues from the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
Of course, there is a lot of discourse within the Muslim community. I see daily e-mails zinging around the e-mail sphere from organizations like CAIR and ADC, but their spokespeople are very rarely given sound bites on national television in the United States. My point is, and I would shout this in your ears if I could, you are talking to your selves! The Muslim community in the United States has pretty much missed how we resolve these problems. Yours is not the first ethnic and/or religious community to suffer intolerance here. Many others have survived the cauldron of public discussion and debate, and come out stronger for it. They have added to “What It Means to Be an American” in the process. I suppose a few of these could be mentioned here: the Blacks, Jews, English (New York was a Dutch settlement, and my ancestors fought 3 wars against the British), Irish, Chinese, Germans, Japanese, Mennonites, Catholics, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Cambodians, etc. There are literally more than 500 of these groups, some more prominent than others. All were or still are feared at one level or another, but most are a part of the fabric of our society now, and all, including Muslims, will embellish their roles in the American Dream as time progresses. Sometimes these changes take centuries.
This will continue to be one of my major themes in these pieces, but please consider one model for success. Blacks in America did many important things to change their ever-improving place in the United States, but I will mention two for context: 1) The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a non-violent rebellion against our intolerance and won the Nobel Peace Prize in the process. Today we celebrate a National Holiday to commemorate his contribution to our society. 2) Black artists got themselves into the mainstream of “What It Means to Be an American” any way they could, and demonstrated that they too, as well as their culture, were entitled to be respected as human beings. One example was the CBS television program “The Jeffersons,” which was produced for 11 seasons with 253 episodes and 11 Emmy Awards. Ironically, the show was created and produced by Norman Lear, a white American Jew, who founded People for the American Way during his long and illustrious career.
Honestly, I will be the first to admit that I was viscerally fearful from the time that Cassius Clay, one of my childhood heroes, became Muhammad Ali. Islam seemed so strange and mysterious, and no one was explaining it to me in a sensible manner. In fact, no one ever did until long after my own study and life experiences allowed me to see something that approaches the truth about the Muslim World. Most of my fellow Americans, and Europeans, have never had those opportunities. You must forgive our fear, until you teach us why it is wrong. That is The American Way!