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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Re: Dan’s Internal Monologue and His Islamophobia Series

posted by on August 14 at 15:40 PM

Dan and I have disagreed before on Slog about how, as Westerners, we should process some of the outrageous things that some Muslims do.

I’m a bit nervous about getting back into that debate, but Dan tells me to go for it, so here goes.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding his new "I Would Have an Easier Time Avoiding Feelings of Islamophobia" series here on Slog, but I think his point is this: If Muslims want people like Dan to stop feeling phobic about Islam, then they should put a halt to attacks on feminist writers in India, stonings of gay men in Nigeria, and the like.

The onus, in other words, is on the Muslims of the world (about one billion people and counting) to police their most barbaric members, and if non-Muslim people in the West find it hard not to hold all Muslims guilty by association for attacks on feminist writers in India and threatened stonings of gay men in Nigeria, then that's the problem of the world's Mulsims, not the problem of non-Muslim people in the West.

It's an argument that's been made often since 9/11, when the West started taking a somewhat more serious look at its troubled relationship with the Muslim world. It's also an argument that carries with it the perils of collective blame—blindness to the diversity of the other being the biggest peril, followed by its attandant consequences. (We see an example of these consequences in, for example, the ease with which Americans were confused about which of the bad Muslims attacked us on 9/11.)

I bring all of this up to point out that Dan seems to be opposed to this type of collective blaming when it comes to gay people. When reading today about a teacher in Tacoma who had an inappropriate relationship with a student, his first reaction was:

Oh. My. God. Please, please, please don’t let this teacher be a gay guy.

Why? Fear of collective guilt and its consequences for gay people. It turns out the teacher wasn't a gay guy, but if it had been...

But if it had been a gay guy that raped that ten year-old, all the usual anti-gay suspects—Pat Robertson, Rev. Hutcherson, the Concerned Women for America, et all—would be screaming about how this incident proves that gay people are a danger to children. The responsibility for a crime is collective and the incident is instructive when a gay person commits it; responsibility is individual and there’s nothing instructive about it when a straight person commits the same crime.

It's not hard to imagine a news article that would prompt a "Please don't let this person be a Muslim" reaction from a moderate Muslim reader, and it's not hard to imagine a moderate Muslim lodging the same complaint about Westerners who find Islamophobia hard to avoid:

The responsibility for a crime is collective and the incident is instructive when a Muslim person commits it; responsibility is individual and there’s nothing instructive about it when a non-Mulsim person commits the same crime.

I'm not excusing the stoning of gay men in Nigeria, and I'm not excusing attacks on feminist writers in India. Both are outrageous violations of human rights. I'm also not saying that it's easy to find as many incidences of, say, stoning attacks on gays perpetrated by non-Muslims as it is to find instances of stoning attacks on gays perpetrated by Muslims. There is currently an imbalance of violent affronts to human dignity in the world, and it tilts against those parts of the world run by Muslim governments.

Which is not to say that there aren't Christians in America who would like to see gays stoned to death (there are), or Jews in Israel that gather each year to throw stones at the Israeli gay pride parade (they do), or fundamentalists of different stripes in locations all over the planet doing unjustifiable violence to minority groups (there are).

The point is that in those cases, we tend to see the violence as aberrant—in need of correction and condemnation, yes, especially from members of the larger group in whose name the violence is done, but still aberrant and not deserving of a phobia of all members of the larger group. And, to return to the news story from today, when there's even a possibility that a gay person might have committed a crime against a child, the immediate wish among gays is that it be seen as aberrant (paired with a fear that it won't be seen that way, and will instead be used to stoke homophobia—fear of all gays).

In those other instances, then, the onus is placed on the person feeling the fear or revulsion (Pat Robertson looking at a report of a sex crime by a gay person, say, or American gays looking at the stone-throwing at Israel's gay pride parade). The onus is on the person feeling the phobia to make the proper distinction between individuals and the larger group, and to cast appropriate (meaning different) measures of blame on each.

If we like that sort of distinction-making when it comes to gays vs. gay criminals, and Pat Robertson vs. all of Christianity, and fundamentalist Jews vs. all Jews, then I think it's inconsistent to say that when some Muslims do bad things, the onus is on all Muslims to prevent Westerners from finding all Mulsims guilty by association (and thus becoming scared of them).

If we're being consistent, then the onus for making the distinction between some Muslims and other Muslims, and for avoiding sweeping phobias, should be on us.

RSS icon Comments


There are only about 1 billion Muslims in the world, not 5 billion.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 14, 2007 3:52 PM

Oops, thanks Keshmeshi. Fixed.

Posted by Eli Sanders | August 14, 2007 3:54 PM

When a gay guy rapes a child, there aren't a lot of gay guys out there making excuses for him. There's a full-throated condemnation from 'mos everywhere. What's lacking in instances like this Bangladeshi writer bring attacked, or these gay Nigerian men being condemned under sharia, is a full-throated denunciation of this barbarity by moderate Muslims. Hence the posts, Eli.

It would be easier to make the distinction between the actions of individuals -- or in cases like Nigeria and Iran, the actions of Islamic states -- and the actions of beliefs of larger group if moderate Muslims were making that distinction. We hear a lot about moderate Muslims, Eli, but very little from them.

Posted by Dan Savage | August 14, 2007 3:57 PM

There are a lot of flaws with this analogy. For starters:

1) I think you would agree that being gay is a genetic condition, not a cultural/ideological choice. People are born with the tendency to end up gay; they are not born Muslim (and yes, even if you are raised Muslim, that doesn't mean you were born Muslim; in the end you have to take responsibilities for your beliefs).

2) Even if it had been a gay teacher, he would not have been kidnapping and molesting that child because he was gay, or because the Church of Gay tells him that children should be kidnapped and raped. Muslims who perpetrate these attacks do so because they believe their religion/god demands it. And, by most interpretations, they're right.

Posted by Levislade | August 14, 2007 4:03 PM

Good debate so far. Easy to relate to and understand the reasoning of both sides. Do continue...

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 4:11 PM

Levi@4- The analogy above doesn't exactly work when you say it that way, but take out gay and insert "Christian" and the idea still stands. What do you say to that?

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 4:16 PM

Btw, I honestly don't know where to stand on this one. Retrograde medieval societies run by moslems make it hella hard to be clear-headed and even-handed. FGM is my favorite go-to example. How can you hear about that and not feel like forcing people to renounce their faith under threat of death? Not that I'm going to start any wars. I'm just illustrating the visceral emotional reaction this gives me (and many others).

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 4:22 PM

"There is currently an imbalance of violent affronts to human dignity in the world, and it tilts against those parts of the world run by Muslim governments." Only if you exclude war or foreign policy from "violent affronts to human dignity"!

As John Pilger recently noted, "in the last half century, United States administrations have overthrown 50 governments—many of them democracies. In the process, thirty countries have been attacked and bombed, with the loss of countless lives."

Is there a nation in the world, or political movement, that can match that record, that can take credit for sewing the seeds of so many genocidal regimes and repressive dictatorships, from Cambodia to Guatemala? You guys will get upset about the stoning of one child by fanatical Muslims somewhere, and say that things aren't as extreme in the U.S., but you'll ignore the killing of over 500,000 Iraqi children from U.S.-led sanctions during the 1990s. Yes, the imposition of sharia law brings injustice. But that's small potatoes when compared to the imperialist histories of any of the Western nations.

We hear a lot about moderate Americans, but very little from them when it comes to American foreign policy.

Posted by western fascism | August 14, 2007 4:22 PM

I say if Christians were going around stoning/murdering/raping people with anything like the frequency Muslims are, based on their interpretation of the Bible, I would think they all have some 'splainin' to do. As it is, I decry Christianist violence where I see it, along with Islamist and any other religious-based violence. Let me be clear: I would rather there were no Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Zoroastrians, you name it. I'm an equal opportunity religious intolerant.

There are bad, scary things at the base of most religions; it's just that, developmentally speaking, a big chunk of Islam seems to be where a big chunk of Christianity was several hundred years ago, and clinging desperately to that dark age, so they're the most scary and threatening right now.

Posted by Levislade | August 14, 2007 4:23 PM

Thanks for this. I do see the point Dan is trying to make, and I think it would be so much better received if only 'Islamophobic' wasn't the term he uses to express it - blanket statements aren't fun, and inherently implying it at the start of every post is where the problems lie.

I also don't think it's fair to say that the fact there isn't widespread denunciation from moderate Muslims is a reason to paint them all with the same brush. Bush's approval rating were, what, 30% at one point? I didn't see 70% of the nation out on the streets protesting about the murdering bastard.

I don't think the lack of uproar is a Muslim thing it's a general 'people suck' thing.

Posted by Rebecca | August 14, 2007 4:27 PM

western fascism- That's childish horseshit. Of course we hate the fucked up policies of the US and denounce them. Read 9 out of 10 people on the "Friends of Slog list" and you'll see that. What we're saying is there isn't a whole lot of denouncing of Islamic fucked-up behavior coming from moslem corners. And that merits a discussion.

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 4:32 PM

Well said, #8.

People might also like to look into Bush Sr's dealings with Bin Laden, or the part the American government had in the Taliban coming to power in the first place. It wasn't so long ago we were supporting Islamic extremists.

Bush Sr and Bin Laden are both super-capitalist business men, both religious fundamentalists, both were/are fueled by plain old imperialism leanings. The only difference is that one used Christianity as an excuse for a very poor grasp on morality, and the other used (uses) Islam. Oh, and Bush killed more people.

Posted by Mandy | August 14, 2007 4:33 PM

The crisis within Islam is a political crisis, not a religious one. That's the part you're missing, I think.

It's like Northern Ireland, where it was never about Catholics and Protestants. That's just the symbology they used for a conflict that was really about class and rights and economics and politics.

Islam IS in crisis, no doubt about it. Muslims are embroiled in most of the world's wars right now, and most of their liberation struggles (or terrorist movements, if you prefer). The Great Satan of America is a convenient target, but the real problem is with oppressive national governments, in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt, in Syria, in lots of places -- virtually all Islamic countries, in the Arab world at least, are human-rights black holes.

You can't ignore the economic devastation in the Arab world, either. In Saudi Arabia, GDP per head is ONE-THIRD of what it used to be at its peak in the early eighties. Not DOWN one-third, one-third. Egypt is hopelessly corrupt and kept afloat on aid dollars. Muslim Africa to the south and west is a basket case. The Palestinians live in a swirling miasma of misery. The only people in any Arab country who are well off are the oil sheiks and maybe some upper-middle-class Jordanians (and of course the many Israeli Arabs). In Asian Pakistan, you have a brutal military dictatorship engaged in a conflict with India.

In Europe, you have the immense dislocations and discriminations, and other political issues. You're seeing people turn toward fanaticism, or even just conservatism (the scarf controversy for instance) who were never interested in that stuff before.

Many Muslims in these countries see themselves surrounded by the wealth (and violence) of the West, and they see the almost universal failure of their own states. It's the crisis that's driving them to extremism, not their religion.

When everybody discovered that there were Sunnis and Shi'a in Iraq a few years back, it became popular to say "these people have been at each others' throats for a millennium", but that's not really true. Shi'a and Sunni can and do get along fine when there's peace and a humming economy and, most importantly, a reason to believe in the future here on earth. They don't have that now.

Many Muslims see the world as nothing but a playground of misery and despair. THAT'S what's got to change. Most of this change will have to be accomplished by them, not by us. We can help, by working to establish the conditions of peace and prosperity, by not getting freaked out by expressions of anguish with a religious facade on them, and by keeping fucking nuclear weapons out of their hands, so when the military dictatorship falls and the religious people take over, they have time to build a demand for freedom from within before they blow themselves up.

Honestly, I think Iran could be the most useful model in the region. The mullahs' hold on the country is actually very tenuous -- that's WHY Ahmadinejad is saber-rattling. Iran is an educated, industrialized, modern country at heart, and a democratic, free breakthrough there that turned them into something more like Turkey and less like Afghanistan is possible.

Or would be, if there were any grownups in the US government.

Posted by Fnarf | August 14, 2007 4:35 PM

Levislade @4:

Muslims who perpetrate these attacks do so because they believe their religion/god demands it.

I honestly think that's backwards.  Muslims (and others) interpret their religion to condone or demand violence in order to rationalize what they're intent upon to begin with.

Most Christians live in climates (social, political, physical) less conducive to such militant strains, but if violence is what you want, it's not hard to find Old Testament verses to hide behind.

Posted by lostboy | August 14, 2007 4:36 PM

@8, reasoning like this drives me crazy. It seems you're saying the west has done bad things which trumps any bad things done by Islamic fanatics. You say, blithely, "imposition of sharia law brings injustice". This actually means making the public stoning of homosexuals not only acceptable but legal. Sharia legalizes second class (or worse) status for women. Separating religion from the law of the land is one of the west's most important accomplishments. Like democracy itself, it is a value system we should not be ashamed to promote anywhere it can take hold. We shouldn't be prisoners to "multiculturalism" to such a degree that we can no longer say so in public.

Posted by Westside forever | August 14, 2007 4:41 PM

@14 - So you think fathers and brothers are for some reason intent on murdering their daughters and sisters for the crime of having been raped, and looked through the hadith to find a way to justify it? (Just as one example.) I really, really believe and hope that you're wrong.

Posted by Levislade | August 14, 2007 4:41 PM

well that answers everything. if people on slog opposed the invasion of afghanistan, and i'm not even sure a majority do, then that makes up for the fact that all of the major contenders for the dem or republican presidential nomination supported it and want to continue the occupation of iraq and push the war on terror forward. cause the us is a fount of democracy compared to the middle east, you know.

anyway, how much middle class resistance to islamism do you want in the middle east? you think fatah is islamist? or egypt? saddam's iraq? or northern lebanon? or pakistan? everywhere that there is an islamist movement, it faces resistance, often tribal and/ or undemocratic, along with middle class and even fringe marxist. even in iran. if you don't see that, you're just reading the childish horseshit that andrew sullivan (friend of slog) posts about freedom and democracy coming only from western civilization.

Posted by wf | August 14, 2007 4:45 PM

Yay Fnarf! Make me feel like a liberal. @15- I hear ya. It's hard to find the sweet spot between religious oppression and separation of church and state in countries with these issues though... @16- I could find bible passages to justify killing babies and committing genocide. You believe and hope someone is wrong about that, but they're right.

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 4:46 PM

Must be hard to be the most mature person there. Keep up the good work.

Posted by calvin | August 14, 2007 4:53 PM

Hey, 17, you stole my childish horseshit line... I'm so sad. Actually, I can tell you're too far to the other side of this debate for me to find common ground with you, and could from the get-go. Probably shouldn't have gone ad hominem right away- that was childish for sure. But it doesn't change the fact you're a wackaloon. (Oops, I did it again!) Freedom and equality can only come from MODERN government, and the West developed that first, so I guess you could characterize it as "Western Government", but I don't. Anyone in the world could adopt representative democracy with protections for human rights and do a better job than we've done of it, if circumstances permitted. This isn't an eas-west issue. It's a sanity vs. medieval fuckery issue.

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 4:54 PM

I am leaning towards Dan on this one, though he is walking a fine line. The acts he is condemning by muslims are not the acts of an individual, like the "gay teacher" scenario would be. They are in fact, the acts of Muslims in general. Further they are committed in the name of Islam. So yes, they do warrent condemnation of Islam itself. Like most posters here, and of course Dan himself, i am just as quick to condemn other religions for heinous acts committed by and sanctioned by their members. If the teacher had been gay, this would have been a single member of a group committing an act with 0 support of the gay community and in no way in the name of "gayness". Apples/Oranges, really.

Posted by longball | August 14, 2007 4:55 PM

I haven't gone searching the web to try to prove or disprove this, but I wonder how you know that moderate Muslims aren't condemning these abuses, as you say? When gay men speak out against gay child molesters, I would guess you probably hear about it because you read Andrew Sullivan, Towleroad, and other gay media/news are "in the loop" as far as what gay talking heads are saying. I mean, are there moderate Muslim blogs you read regularly? When abuses like these are publicized, do you make an effort to search out moderate Muslim responses, and if so how? I don't think the cable news shows or daily papers are falling over themselves to bring you moderate Muslim viewpoints.

How do you know there aren't moderate Muslims who are condemning these events, but aren't being heard beyond their own circles....which you aren't a part of?

When some gay-hating preacher from Texas -- or perhaps more to the point, say, a well-meaning midwestern suburbanite who would never consciously harbor prejudice, but has unexamined, ingrained old-fashioned attitudes about homosexuality -- reads a sensationalist story about a gay child molester, I bet you they don't hear all those "full-throated condemnations" from other homos that you are hearing.

Posted by David | August 14, 2007 4:55 PM

then longball makes a weak argument and david makes a strong argument (21-22) and I lean even more to the Eli side...

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 4:59 PM

15: Sorry, but his reasoning is correct. The United States has been much better at killing people than the Muslim extremists could ever hope to. And the United States could have helped stave off Islamism if they had gotten behind secular Arab Nationalism when it was happening, but Cold War wrangling prevented it. The US decided at the time that it would rather have fundamentalists than socialists. And the the American people allowed it to happen. Because at the time everyone thought Nasser was a bigger threat than Allah.

Do people actually think the US has made the world safer or better? Of course not. We'll be dealing with the blowback for Iraq for the next 25 years, and of course in the future when this war is fading from popular memory, people will make stupid reductionist arguments about religion in order to rationalize whatever horrible thing is happening.

Right now, the biggest threat to the world are the established world powers and the up and comers (US, EU, Russia, and increasingly China and India). These are the people who are consuming most of the world's resources, selling the developing world their weapons, pumping the greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, dictating global trade, etc. People worry about Muslim societies because what they read horrifies them, but anyone will tell you that that's the story of the developing world. Do people think things were any better or more "civilized" in Central America in the 1970s and 1980s? No, because the impoverished and the oppressed don't have access to the fruits of global capitalism. "Civilization" is a privilege; it costs money.

Right now the US is sitting on its hands about global warming because fat fucking Americans refuse to change their lives. It doesn't matter that we have civil liberties, because they're not going to stave off the bigger problems that we simply refuse to consider. And you know who's going to feel the brunt of the damage we and China are causing? The developing world- they are going to be the victims, not us.

In my view, crazy Muslims in India are far less dangerous than Americans and the Chinese in their cars. Because the problem we're contributing (climate change, resource depletion, labor unrest) to is going to affect the whole world adversely. That means increased poverty, increased violence, increased instability, increased terrorism, and everything else that goes with environmental collapse. The Muslim extremists are retarded, but we're a much greater threat, to the world and ourselves. The only safe world is one with a balance of responsible powers, and America isn't responsible.

We're in the process of making more, not less, extremism. But because we simplistically believe everything is cultural (we've been conditioned to overemphasize culture), we ignore real causes and look at the silly religious bullshit on top of them. It's religion that causes the problem, not the 5 or 6 real problems.

Posted by Jay | August 14, 2007 5:09 PM

In the spirit of the devil's advocate, I re-write longball's bit to make it more realistic: The acts he is condemning by muslims are not the acts of an individual, like the "gay teacher" scenario would be. They are in fact, the acts of large groups of Muslims, seemingly representing the majority beliefs of the areas they live in, and certainly the most vocal beliefs. If Islam, as broadly believed in the world, is most truly represented by these mobs, then Islam warrants a condemnation. If the teacher had been gay, this would have been a single member of a group committing an act with 0 support of the broader community and in no way in the name of "gayness", versus the Islamic mob acting in full accordance with the dominant beliefs of moslems everywhere. Apples/Oranges, really.

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 5:11 PM

@24, @8, etc.

Let me be clear: I revile many (if not most) of the things our government has done abroad over the past, say, 60 years. I fully accept that our nation is probably responsible for the rise in Islamic extremism in many places, and for al qaeda's and the taliban's strength, etc., etc. I wish our government were less imperialistic and evil and more of a force for good in the world (or even less of a force at all; that would be something).

And yet.

I can hold all that in my brain, and at the same time think that people do some really fucked up things in the name of Islam (as they have in the name of pretty much every other religion since we started making up gods), and I revile those things and the people who do them.

See how I did that?

Posted by Levislade | August 14, 2007 5:16 PM

Jay you drive me crazy! No matter how huge the crimes of the USA and its effed up Capitalist Beast, blithely dismissing the atrocities of jackholes in the 3rd world is a terrible thing to do! Are you actually a moslem from India yourself? Or did you just marry one? Because your arguments really seem like the work of a person with the cultural arrogance to think your people can do no wrong. As progressives, most of the people you're talking to are well aware of the shit america has done and is doing, and try to oppose it when we can. But that's fucking irrelevant to this discussion!!! Get a clue!

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 5:17 PM

@23 - I understand if you think the way i stated it was "weak", but do you think the comparing Islam to homsexuality in this case is fair comparison? Condemning a religion as an institution of intolerence based on the actions of huge legions of its followers is just plain different than condemning a natural human condition based on the singular actions of very few individuals.

Posted by longball | August 14, 2007 5:21 PM

Sorry Christopher, my last post came before seeing your re-write of my previous post. I appreciate the help, sir.

Posted by longball | August 14, 2007 5:24 PM

'A survey by a university in Turkey has shown almost 40% support for the practice of "honour killing" ... It questioned 430 people, most of them men. When asked the appropriate punishment for a woman who has committed adultery, 37% replied she should be killed.

Twenty-five percent said that she deserved divorce, and 21% that her nose or ears should be cut off. '

I would never claim that Muslims are an inherently bloodthirsty lot, but it's hard to avoid the notion that there's a certain strain of thought in the culture of many such nations that is incompatible with modern notions of human rights, the rule of law, etc. Islam itself may not be the cause of this, but there don't seem to be many models in the world for a humanitarian, progressive, modern Islamic society right now.

(and yes yes yes, Western nations have problems and nutballs too and blah blah blah. This changes nothing.)

Posted by tsm | August 14, 2007 5:25 PM

I really am on the fence about this issue. I could go either way. But still leaning a bit Eli-ish.

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 5:26 PM

27: Politics aren't just perspective. There's a certain factual assessment that has to be made to counterbalance direction-less anger. I'm an American, I'm patriotic. But there has to be some kind of realistic appraisal of threats. And the deeper problems we face as Americans are related to our own country and lifestyles. Islamists are basically telegenic terrorists- they're not going to bring the West, especially the US, down. It's not from a position of self-righteousness or removal that I'm saying these things. I just want to clarify the divide between the larger problems and these everyday anxieties. What Muslims are doing in India doesn't matter much and falls outside what we can control. We need to address the issues WE CAN control.

Posted by Jay | August 14, 2007 5:29 PM

Join us, Christopher . . .

In all seriousness, this is of course a complex issue, and should not be boiled down to "Islam = evil" vs. "Islam means peace," for instance.

I would be fine with it boiling down to "religion sucks" (or "religion poisons everything," in the words of C. Hitchens), however.

Posted by Levislade | August 14, 2007 5:30 PM

Very frightening and Savagifying, tsm. However, was this like the Turkey equivalent of that Falwell-founded university? Only 430 dudes in attendance compared to the thousands of students at say the U of W? And how was the survey conducted? In public, macho bluster may rule the day. Or maybe the reverse is true - that in public they act more progressive and in private they get more cruel. The information is impassioning but still a wee bit apocryphal.

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 5:30 PM

Lots of people make excuses for the actions of the Radical Extremist Wahhabi Saudi Muslims.

But they shouldn't.

Face it, they're evil, no matter how you slice it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 14, 2007 5:36 PM

Jay@32- Very diplomatic. I'm slightly less annoyed at you. Levi@33- Haha. I'm definitely on that page. But atheism and agnosticism can't win this war in the short term (no question we will win by attrition if the human race lasts another thousand years). It'll be easier to convince a religious psycho to become a less destructive religious psycho than to convince him to ditch religion wholesale. Back @32- You're right that this is pointless in a way since we can't do shit about it, so I'm giving up and making dinnar. Cheers to All!

Posted by christopher | August 14, 2007 5:37 PM

@ 22: try searching for CAIR - the council for american-islamic relations. lots of stuff on their site about islamophobia panel discussions, muslims being targets of hate crime, even a few press releases condemning terrorist attacks, but i can't find diddly-squat about the horrors of sharia law. what i DID find pertaining to sharia, however, is an article praising caribou coffee for going "sharia compliant", whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

this is supposedly one of the voices of moderate islam, yet they don't appear to care much about the human rights abuses committed in the name of sharia law. and that's a real bummer, because that is ultimately the sticking point between islam and the rest of us living in the 21st century.

Posted by brandon | August 14, 2007 5:42 PM

Levislade @26, I believe we on common ground now.

To answer your question @16, your example is ridiculous of course by being so compressed in time and causality. If you pull back to a more realistic scenario, though, yes I do think that a man feeling (irrationally) shamed and humiliated by a family member being raped will want someone to blame and punish, someone accessible and vulnerable and ideally the very source of his pain.  The Sharia law he needs springs readily to mind, because the flipping through (or dreaming up) of pages was done for him generations ago.

Posted by lostboy | August 14, 2007 5:43 PM

"(and yes yes yes, Western nations have problems and nutballs too and blah blah blah. This changes nothing."

Yes, but worrying about Muslim extremists, while important to the foreign service and intelligence agencies, is not really going to do anything at all. However we can address the problems related to our country. We can try to affect the course of Iraq, we can boost tolerance in this country, we can fight to guarantee separation of church and state, we can try to assimilate immigrant groups by inviting them to participate in our society, we can address our international trade policies and domestic economy, and we can make ourselves a stronger society, more resilient to superstition imported or homegrown. However, worrying about Muslims in a sovereign state on the other side of the planet, while worthwhile in the abstract, isn't going to useful in formulating a policy since it falls outside our jurisdiction. The best we can do is hope our elected and appointed officials use certain political levers to urge Turkey away from creeping Islamic fundamentalism. It's simply not possible to create a containment policy with respect to Islam. Therefore it's not worth getting in a tizzy over what Muslims do in Turkey or India. It's not useful.

It is possible to stop nutballs, Christian, Muslim or otherwise, here. And that's what we should concentrate on. The left needs to win the war against the idiots here, and then perhaps address the idiots abroad. I'm not saying we should be isolationists, but we should emphasize diplomacy rather than ranting about our fears. We should give Turkey incentives to stay secular and urge the continued rule of law in India, rather than getting angry at the usual bullshit from the kooks.

Posted by Jay | August 14, 2007 5:44 PM

@30, I'm not sure how accurate those numbers are, only because the people asked may have been parroting the status quo under fear rather than stating their opinions.

@16, unfortunately, I agree with that logic. In Arab societies, daughters are a liability, killing them is an efficient way to rid of them. Since murder will get you the death penalty, there has got to be a "reason" to kill them. Sad, sad, sad.

Posted by Mariana | August 14, 2007 5:45 PM

36: I'm not good at diplomacy. Which is kind of ironic, since there was a time when I was tracked for the foreign service hehe. But I try. :)

Posted by Jay | August 14, 2007 5:56 PM

Dan @3:

We hear a lot about moderate Muslims, Eli, but very little from them.

Dan, this is just wrong, hypocritical, and small minded. Do you even know any Muslims? Sometimes I wonder about you, dude.

The engine behind the hate is not Islam, it's ignorance and poverty. Without millions of displaced and dirt poor young Arab men to feed into the machine, there would be no jihad.

Posted by Sean | August 14, 2007 6:36 PM

"Without millions of displaced and dirt poor young Arab men to feed into the machine, there would be no jihad."

...but there would still be sharia law, which is the reason we should all be at least a little islamophobic.

Posted by brandon | August 14, 2007 6:45 PM

Moderate Muslims... It isn't like we hear much from moderate Christians and moderate Jews, either--or moderate animal rights activists, moderate drug activists, etc.

I know this goes back to your Jurrasic days, Dan, but when we were in ACT UP, there wasn't much talk of "moderation" then either, was there? Are you declaring the terrorist activity of the past ten years or so to be the product of hundreds of years of Islamic culture? Or could there be other factors in play besides those that are merely religious?

Posted by Boomer in NYC | August 14, 2007 7:05 PM

brandon @43:

...but there would still be sharia law

Right, but like any religion, as people become more financially secure and educated, extreme and outdated doctrines fall out of fashion. Religion is the opiate of the masses, but for the upper middle class, it tends to get in the way of much better opiates like sex, drugs, power, consumerism, media, information, and snowboarding.

I once worked for a large company with a substantial number of people of Muslim origin. They wanted the same things every other immigrant does - a good job, a safe place to raise their kids, decent schools, family vacations, respect, etc. When 9/11 happened, only a crass biggot would have asked them to comment on it. They were horrified, even more so than us given the wave of anti-Arab prejudice that would predictably follow.

Dan, your sex advice column is great, and your sex activism is right on. When it comes to foreign policy, however, you are clearly tone deaf. Do yourself a favor and listen to Eli - he is smarter than you.

Posted by Sean | August 14, 2007 7:49 PM
When a gay guy rapes a child, there aren't a lot of gay guys out there making excuses for him. There's a full-throated condemnation from 'mos everywhere.

When a white guy kills a Muslim, as has happened hundreds of times in Europe in recent years, I don't hear any outrage from your side. Instead, you publish hatemongers (Bruce Bawer) who write that the existence of Muslims in Europe is ruining the continent. You write about almost exclusively non-violent Muslim protests against European cartoons, but you don't write about the white atheists and Christians who committed 106 recorded violent hate crimes against Muslims in one month in the Netherlands alone [pdf].

Muslims everywhere apologize that they're not allowed on CNN to condemn violent Muslims, but look at any legitimate Muslim news outlet and you'll find plenty of condemnation. Google "muslim news." I did and the first five sites had condemnations of sharia law, terrorism, or violent Muslims on the front page.

Posted by jamier | August 14, 2007 9:21 PM

I'll apologize in advance if someone has already made this point - I came in late and there were 46 long comments that I just don't have time to read right now - but people seem to be mixing up "Islamic culture" with Bangladeshi culture, Arabian culture, Indonesian culture, East African culture, etc etc. These societies are a lot like America and Europe in that, although there is a single religion they all adhere to (with many variations and sects) there are also local customs that often trump religion.

For example, Arabian honor killings are often described as Islamic but a) there's nothing in Islam that condones honor killings and b) they seldom, maybe never, occur outside of Arabian families.

So how many of these incidents have more to do with older customs regarding gender and sexual orientation than with anything implicit or explicit in Islam? I'm no expert in any of this, but I doubt many of the commenters here are.

Posted by Matt from Denver | August 14, 2007 9:56 PM

Fnarf/Jay 2008!

Is there a phrase that allows us to express the neccessary contempt for the wackos of faith abroad and the wackos of faith in the US in one breath? 'Otherworlders'? 'Suckers'? 'Fantasists'? Let's work on this.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | August 14, 2007 11:58 PM

46: Yeah, the problem is the Fox News style of argument that Dan likes to employ, the technique of grabbing anecdotal evidence to support your case rather than relying on actual statistics or research. "Oh, this news story shows how savage Islam is." Sean Hannity uses it to demonize liberals, and Bill O'Reilly uses it to attack immigrants and gays. Every day, their "news" team goes out and finds out all the local news stories that tell them exactly what they want to believe about the world. "Uh oh, the Highway Strangler's getaway driver's name is Juan Hernandez. Another illegal immigrant claims the life of an American. Where's the justice?" and then some "expert" comes and says "Ooh, a liberal West Hollywood judge had him on a drug bust but only sentenced him to 2 months in jail!" This is exactly the technique Dan employs. "Oh this Muslim killed this woman in Pakistan, and they call this a religion of peace? Where are the liberals and moderate Muslims condemning this! They must support it if they don't say anything."

Posted by Jay | August 15, 2007 12:33 AM
When a gay guy rapes a child, there aren't a lot of gay guys out there making excuses for him.


Posted by Judah | August 15, 2007 7:03 AM

There are people in this world who do not love their fellow human beings and I HATE PEOPLE LIKE THAT!

Posted by Tom Lehrer | August 15, 2007 9:35 AM

NAMBLA isn't a gay organization. It's a pedophile organization.

And it's vile.

Posted by Toby | August 15, 2007 11:36 AM

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