MEETING AT NOON

A few months ago you may recall that rioting in Ferguson, MO was followed almost immediately by a large riot at, of all things, a Pumpkin Festival at Keene State University in New Hampshire. This happened for two reasons. One is that God loves us and has a sense of humor. The other is that white college kids like to go crazy and destroy lots of property and it's cool because Kids being Kids, amirite? Of all the sarcastic commentary comparing media and public reactions to the two riots, this tweet was my favorite:

pumpkin

It came to mind immediately when I saw this recent bon mot of brilliance from Rupert Murdoch:

rupert

We have this remarkably silly tendency to refer to all minority groups – ethnic, racial, religious, etc. – as a cohesive and organized group. It is an extension of the Well They All Look the Same! mentality, and it is not worth stating that it is deeply flawed logic to assume that everyone who is black or Muslim or Asian or Latino believes the same things. But if that isn't ridiculous enough, we take it one step farther and assume that they are somehow collectively responsible for one another's behavior or have control over what their fellow humans do.

I can't tell you how many times over the years I have had the conversation where I press other white people to explain what exactly The Black Community is. Like, do you think they all have a meeting every week or two where the grand Black Strategy is plotted? Do they have some kind of quasi-parental control over one another, not to mention a highly efficient information distribution system that instantly tells them "Brian in Fresno robbed a gas station – someone get on his ass!" I like to ask Black Community enthusiasts, what should you and I be doing to stop serial killers? Aren't nearly all serial killers white men? We, as pillars of the White Dude Community, are clearly responsible for their actions. Perhaps I should Speak Out Against serial killing, just to make sure people know it's illegal and not cool.

Granted, mocking the words of Rupert Murdoch is an exercise in harvesting low hanging fruit. It just baffles me how people who say things of this sort expect "Good Muslims" to stop small groups of committed and fanatical terrorists from behaving as committed, fanatical terrorists? The absolute best argument that could be made would be some sort of slow, indirect process of trying to identify every radical cleric (How would this witch hunt be executed? Some would be terribly obvious. Most wouldn't.) and then engaging in some sort of ecclesiastical politics to get them removed. Of course that is impractical even if the Muslim Community, spread across a hundred countries and representing every language, social class, and different interpretation of Islam on Earth, could organize at their weekly meetings and decide to do it.

The truth is that Good Muslims have as much ability to combat Islamic terrorists as you and I do. As much as any person, Muslim or not, does. I would not roll my eyes if someone argued, as many did after 9/11, that Islamic states and governments should take more responsibility for terrorist activities that may happen within their borders. That is because governments are organized, structured toward making decisions and executing them, and possessing of a security apparatus that allows them to take action against violent people. The Paris attackers trained in Yemen, which is widely understood to have slid toward anarchy and failed statehood in the past two or three years. To propose a productive solution, one might suggest that the Arab League or a comparable organization take some sort of action to increase the strength of a legitimate government in Yemen.

No, that would involve too much thinking. Let's just tell all of The Muslims that they're responsible.

40 thoughts on “MEETING AT NOON”

  • The US has no moral high ground from which to tell anyone to do anything. We torture people. We overthrow democratically elected governments. We murder children with drones. We blow little children to pieces. When we can control our own government, we can tell other people what to do — and not until.

  • I've posted a link to this entry to two Media Matters items with one of your paragraphs as the tease. Here's hoping it attracts that many more readers.

  • Yes Evo. A pervasive, structural pattern of hegemony that benefits a significant proportion of the population is *totally* the same thing as isolated, unpredictable acts of violence that benefit no one.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Great point about White Dudes and serial murders, Ed!

    Most of 'em won't get it.
    It's easier to blame the brown people.

  • "The Paris attackers trained in Yemen, which is widely understood to have slid toward anarchy and failed statehood in the past two or three years."

    A time period which, oddly enough, coincides with the Obama administration's increased levels of meddling in that country.

  • I have similar thoughts about the gay agenda. The draft/ratify/adoption process for that agenda must have been formidable.

  • The great thing about white (male heterosexual) privilege is that I get to be an individual, self-created and unique, while everyone else gets to be a type. And if your type is messing up, don't complain to me about how you're treated.

  • schmitt trigger says:

    "A time period which, oddly enough, coincides with the Obama administration's increased levels of meddling in that country."

    Which has consisted mostly of drone attacks.

    Drones are, for the countries being attacked, the terrifying and polarizing equivalent of a terror attack in a western nation.

    Terrifying, because of the randomness of occurrence and the amount of damage they inflict. Polarizing, because it causes otherwise undecided Muslims to cross the line and go the full-jihad route.

  • It's funny how blacks or Muslims are automatically complicit in crimes committed by their "kind," but the idea that whites might be equally complicit in white crime is ridiculous political correctness.

  • Vicious pieces of shit from the West like Murdoch lecturing Muslims about how they should respond to Islamist terror is especially gross and disgusting because the overwhelming majority of victims of Islamist terror are Muslims in the Muslim world. It's like siddling up to your neighbor and telling them you about your burned roast while their house is on fire.

    To most of us in the west those victims aren't really considered people the way Real Muricans or even French cartoonists are. I guess primarily because we don't want to think about the number we kill while going about our global deadly keystone cops routine.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Alan C,
    Remember all of the Christian TV Evangelists who apologized to the nation after Timothy McVeigh's OKC bombing?

    Yeah. Me neither…

  • To paraphrase Murdoch: Most Christians are peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy the cancer that is the Westboro Baptist Church, they must be held responsible.

  • Speaking as a 40-something, balding, pudgy white dude who drives a pickup, I am obliged to denounce the recent unpleasantness in Colorado. The vast majority of balding, pudgy white dudes who drive pickups do not plant IEDs at the offices of those with whom we have a quarrel, and I hope that the peaceful majority of balding, pudgy white dudes who drive pickups will join me in denouncing this violence.

    EDIT: I am reliably informed that nobody expects me to make such a denunciation. I feel – what's the word for it? – Oh, right – privileged.

  • Just last summer Christians murdered 298 innocent civilians on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in the name of their religion. Where are all the moderate Christians condemning this?

  • Bill Maher tells me that Islam is a violent religion and all Muslims are latently violent. So if that is true, do Muslims really have to apologize? Don't they just have to be like the scorpion on the frog's back and say "It's in our nature–be forewarned."

  • I agree. And yet: I don't really have a good idea of what the family of Muslim nations, particularly in the Middle East, particularly our (nominal) allies, are doing to root out extremists. They have the locations, the languages, the cultures, and connections to help, but how significant are their efforts? If they are doing a lot, seeing that might help de-fuse anti-Muslim sentiment. If they are not doing much, the public should see that too, and ask why.

  • Okay, I don't believe that some random Indonesian Muslim is responsible for the terrorist attack in Paris. No disagreement there.

    But really: "it is deeply flawed logic to assume that everyone who is black or Muslim or Asian or Latino believes the same things"?

    One of these things is not like the others. Hint: three are "races", one is a religion. And if the word Muslim (or Christian, or Buddhist…) is supposed to have any meaning at all, then it must be about shared beliefs. That is what having the same religion means. So no, it is in fact extremely logical to assume all Muslims share at least some core beliefs, even as it is deeply flawed logic to assume the same for, say, Asians.

    Also, it should go without saying that, again in contrast to ethnic minorities, religious communities do indeed have meetings, and that they have leaders who have a strong influence on what everybody believes. For example, it makes a big difference whether the top clerics in Pakistan say that the massacre of school children that recently took place in that country was a damnable act by the Taliban or whether they mumble something about a Jewish and Western plot to divide Muslims, as several of them apparently did (fide last issue of Guardian Weekly), just as it makes a big difference what the pope says about condoms.

  • Alex SL: plenty of Muslim clerics condemned the attacks in Paris. Hell, even the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah condemned the attacks. Is that influential enough for you?

  • Did I miss a couple of memos?

    I don't recall McVeigh proclaiming his motivations to promote Christianity. It was to avenge "gub'mint overreach" against Koresh and his "family" (wouldn't that have made him a Koreshian?) or some kind of far right secessionist, 2nd Amendment, watering the Tree of Liberty deal.

    Same with MH17? When did the Russians or ethnic Russian Ukrainians or whoever claim blowing up the plane because it had a blasphemous image of Jesus on it?

    Seriously guys?

  • What Alex said.
    Islam is a religion and therefore has structure to it. There is a hierarchy AND there are schools where one goes to learn to become an imam and receive orthodox theological instruction. They have shared core beliefs, where though Shia and Sunnis may normally at each other's throats, they lay down arms and perform the hajj peacefully. Keep in mind a Muslim is a Muslim first, everything comes after that.

    Yes they do have regular meetings, both on a local, national and international level. Part of this is to hash out and argue theology. Australia has a Grand Mufti who's elected by a council of clerics. I do not believe he has as much authority as the Pope, but he can exercise moral authority. A few years ago after a series of gang rapes by Lebanese youth the Grand Mufti famously compared immodestly dressed—ie not wearing a hijab or wearing western fashion—women to leaving meat out on the counter where the cat could get to it. Rather than, oh say, telling men to lift their game and learn to restrain themselves. A message like that coming from that high up, probably reinforces bad behaviour don't you think?

    Exactly whom are you expecting to deliver the message of how to integrate their beliefs into a secular society? The police?

    The best eyes, ears and influencers are friends, family, neighbours and those they attend mosque with. They are also in the position to understand context and nuance of what is being said. A cleric could call for a "jihad" against the world and society. Are they meaning an actual armed conflict or a spiritual one?

    So it's not to far off base to expect that teachers and leaders will teach and lead responsibly.

  • Xynzee

    Islam does not have a hierarchy, does not have an organised church, does not have a Pope. Why do you presume to criticize the religion when you do not understand the first thing about it?

  • @zebbide so those recognised q'ranic scholars/schools mean…?

    So who's this guy then?
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibrahim_Abu_Mohamed
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Mufti

    And these guys?
    http://www.shiitecouncil.org.au/about-us/

    And a role such as the ayatollah derives it's power from…?

    Granted Islam can be as fractious as Protestantism—where any schmuck can pretty much hang out a shingle with little to no qualifications, WBC I'm looking at you. But it doesn't remove the fact there are recognised leaders and scholars.

    With my "presumptions" made by my working and studying with and being told by Muslims of Iranian, Indonesian, Turkic, Saudi, Algerian, and Kurdish background. So forgive that my experience and educational background do not fall into that box you think it should.

  • You can't have it both ways.

    Maybe religion is an important force informing the core values of people's lives. In that case, it's legitimate to ask whether the endorsements of violence by the Koran (both in and of itself, and as interpreted by Tafsir ibn Kathir) and the hadiths (as recorded particularly in Shahih Bukhari and Shahih Muslim) are to blame for violent acts by Sunni Muslims. A case in point: of the four major schools of Sunni jurisprudence (fiqh,) the Shafi'i school considers FGM to be obligatory, and it's the school that the Sunnis in Indonesia follow. And, FGM is nearly universal in Indonesia. To me, FGM is an act of violent extremism. So if religion is really as important as people claim, then the Shafi'i school is directly responsible for the fact that nearly all Sunni Indonesians are (in a sense) violent extremists. This doesn't mean I expect them to put on suicide vests and come kill me. It doesn't mean I'm blind to the horrors Obama has perpetrated on innocent Muslims around the world. It just means I respect women and value the clitoris, and I respect Muslims enough to listen to their explanations for their behavior.

    OTOH, maybe religion is just kind of a silly hobby that isn't that important to people. In that case, what's the big deal with making cartoons of Mohammed? It's like those stickers of Calvin peeing on the logos of sports teams.

    What I really resent is people telling me that on the one hand I have to respect their religion (because it's so critically important to their lives,) but on the other hand, I can't hold it accountable (because anything religious people do in the name of religion is really completely unconnected to their religion, because religion has no real effect on people's behavior.) I resent being called a racist just because I believe Indonesians when they say that they perform FGM because Shafi'i fiqh tells them to. I resent the condescending racism of liberals who assure me that the lil' brown folks don't really understand their own religion as well as white liberal Americans do.

  • "Islam does not have a hierarchy, does not have an organised church, does not have a Pope. Why do you presume to criticize the religion when you do not understand the first thing about it?"

    LOL WUT? Islam most certainly does have hierarchy, organization, etc. The fact that it doesn't have a pope(or Caliph since 1924) doesn't matter- Protestant churches don't have popes but they have organizations, elders, hierarchy, etc.

  • Exactly, Arslan! Zebbidie's "Why do you presume to criticize the religion when you do not understand the first thing about it?" is entirely typical of what I've been talking about. He doesn't know jack shit about Islam, but that's ok- he's here to mansplain Islam to us.

  • Indeed. Obviously Islam is a diverse religion and it does not wholly dominate the life of every professed believer(many people are "Muslim" in the same sense that many Americans are "Catholic" simply because they are of Polish or Irish descent). That being said, people are being ridiculous when they say that things like Salafism have nothing to do with Islam. As modern as the ideology may be, it is still connected to Islam. The Westboro Baptist church has something to do with Christianity. The guy who shot Gandhi in the face had something to do with Hinduism. Samurai who would test out their swords on helpless peasants on the road had something to do with Buddhism.

    We really need to stop coddling religion.

  • I was under the impression that if you violate the agreed-upon times for the X Community, you lose your charter and are automatically revetted to the default setting: white dude. And, obviously, terrorist/violent acts by white dudes are just, like, a thing, man.

    I remember how the ex pat Irish were totally cohesive in their disdain of the IRA during the Troubles, for example. Similarly, the Conservative Community has been exemplary in handling people like Cliven Bundy, and do not at all cater to that kind of weird, anti-social behavior.

  • Like, do you think they all have a meeting every week or two where the grand Black Strategy is plotted? Do they have some kind of quasi-parental control over one another, not to mention a highly efficient information distribution system that instantly tells them "Brian in Fresno robbed a gas station – someone get on his ass!"

    This attitude reflects the wingnut complete lack of empathy and imagination.

    The white male reactionary monoculture imagines that everyone else thinks and operates the way they do: in an authoritarian echo chamber. They cannot imagine anything else, therefore they project this MO on "the black community," the international, culturally and linguistically diverse "muslim community," and of course, liberals.

    When you challenge them on this, their reaction is either a nonplussed confusion as they try and fail to imagine something else, or an aggressive defense of their misconceptions.

  • Speaking of Yemen, they were doing OK up until December 17, 2009. That's the day the Special Operations Command, authorized by President Obama, dropped a cruise missile on the village of al-Majalah. See, the Yemeni were not happy with their President who appears to have been a brutal, tyrannical, corrupt asshat. Our State Department much prefers dealing with brutal, tyrannical, corrupt asshats, on the grounds that they provide stability. Anyway, the cruise missile carried cluster ammunition, which is not supposed to be used in civilian areas. The U.S., of course, neither confirms or denies that we did it, but 45 civilians were killed. Up until then al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had been maybe a dozen guys basically standing on street corners yelling at passersby. As revolutionary theory predicts, the application of excessive force, and military force at that, has led to a great increase in their support. They now control parts of the country, and have become a force to be reckoned with.

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