Monday, August 30, 2010

"most Americans do not buy the 19 fanatics story"

The Greek word "phobos" (φόβος) is found in Homer, where it means "flight". In fact, Phobos was a Demi-god, one of Ares' attendants, the others being Deimos (terror) and Eris (strife). According to Hesiod, Phobos and Deimos were also sons of Ares by his wife Aphrodite, while Eris was one of the parthenogenic daughters of Nyx, Goddess of the Night.

In modern English usage, "phobia", derived from "phobos", has come to mean "irrational fear". In fact, a phobia is taken to be a psychological malady involving a fear that is not merely excessive, but that interferes significantly with leading a normal, productive life.

Thus the term "Islamophobia" has come to be used like a magic wand to make all reasonable criticism of Islam disappear into a fog of politically-correct psychobabble. Poof. According to the exculpatory apologetics of the multiculturalists, all negative opinions about the Religion of Peace originate only in the mental illness of Islamophobia. This is true even when criticisms of Islam are based on the explicit teachings of the Quran, the traditional biographies of Muhammed, the literature of the Hadith, the documented history of Islam, and the incontrovertible facts on the ground in all modern societies dominated by Islam.

The hysterical, baseless accusation of "Islamophobia" provides the backdrop to Judea Pearl's fascinating piece that appeared on Saturday in the Jerusalem Post (link here, and the full text is below) in which he looks closely at the "intense controversy" in America concerning the proposal to build a lavish $100M mosque-cum-"culture center" at Ground Zero.

A little over two weeks ago it looked like this controversy might die out. But President Obama chose the beginning of Ramadan to enter the fray with a clumsy, nearly substance-free declaration, followed by even more vapid "clarifications" that only further stoked the flames. And now that September 11 is less than two weeks away, there is no possibility of this "intense controversy" becoming anything other than even more intense.

Dr. Pearl -- a world renowned mathematician and philosopher in his own right who is, tragically, more well known as the father of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl -- asks the question: why? Why does this issue have such resonance? Why, in the age of the 24-hour news-cycle, do we seem to be incapable of "getting past" this story?

It's a good question, and Pearl offers some very important insights, and, in the process, does an admirable job of undermining the "Islamophobia" meme. Personally I do think he is far too quick to assert that "Americans are neither bigots nor gullible," for Americans have demonstrated that we certainly have the capacity to be both. Americans were gullible about Saddam Hussein's non-existent "Weapons of Mass Destruction". And a significant portion of the American electorate voted against Barack Obama because he is Black.

But more Americans voted for Obama than against him, and even most of those who voted against him did not do so because of racism. And many Americans never believed the lies about WMD, and even participated in large numbers in massive demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq. (The fact that this anti-war movement fizzled once the war started is a reflection of an understandable, although in this case misguided, reluctance to openly oppose a war once American troops are fighting and dying.)

And so even though we are, in fact, innocent of neither racism nor gullibility, these are not rigidly deterministic factors that by themselves ineluctably lead to any such thing as "Islamophobia". More importantly, Judea Pearl correctly identifies the key factor that accounts for the fact that nearly 3/4 of all Americans now oppose the Ground Zero Mosque: not an irrational fear, but a very reasonable distrust of Islam.
Undercurrents below the Ground Zero mosque
By JUDEA PEARL 08/28/2010 Jerusalem Post (direct link to article here)

I have been trying hard to find an explanation for the intense controversy surrounding the Cordoba Initiative, whereby 71 percent of Americans object to the proposed project of building a mosque next to Ground Zero.

I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a “rightwing” smear campaign against one imam or another.

Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.

Deep sensitivity to the families of 9/11 victims was cited as yet another explanation, but this too does not answer the core question.

If one accepts that the 19 fanatics who flew planes into the Twin Towers were merely self-proclaimed Muslims who, by their very act, proved themselves incapable of acting in the name of “true Islam,” then building a mosque at Ground Zero should evoke no emotion whatsoever; it should not be viewed differently than, say, building a church, a community center or a druid shrine.

A more realistic explanation is that most Americans do not buy the 19 fanatics story, but view the the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.

THE GROUND Zero mosque is being equated with that ideology. Public objection to the mosque thus represents a vote of no confidence in mainstream American Muslim leadership which, on the one hand, refuses to acknowledge the alarming dimension that anti-Americanism has taken in their community and, paradoxically, blames America for its creation.

The American Muslim leadership has had nine years to build up trust by taking proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies, here and abroad.

Evidently, however, a sizable segment of the American public is not convinced that this leadership is doing an effective job of confidence building.

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims.

Affirmation of these conspiratorial theories sends mixed messages to young Muslims, engendering anger and helplessness: America and Israel are the first to be blamed for Muslim failings, sufferings and violence.

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

True, we have not helped Muslims in the confidence-building process. Treating homegrown terror acts as isolated incidents of psychological disturbances while denying their ideological roots has given American Muslim leaders the illusion that they can achieve public acceptance without engaging in serious introspection and responsibility sharing for allowing victimhood, anger and entitlement to spawn such acts.

The construction of the Ground Zero mosque would further prolong this illusion.

If I were New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I would reassert Muslims’ right to build the Islamic center and the mosque, but I would expend the same energy, not one iota less, in trying to convince them to put it somewhere else, or replace it with a community-managed all-faiths center in honor of the 9/11 victims.

Fellow Muslim Americans will benefit more from co-ownership of consensual projects than sole ownership of confrontational ones.

The writer is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, named after his son. He is a coeditor of I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl (Jewish Light, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.
see also:
"The Islamic Exception"
Do Muslims really bear no responsibility at all for 9/11?
The right to oppose Islam
Sam Harris: Islam is Different. (Duh.)
A Plague On Both Their Houses: Notes Toward a Renewal of Liberal Anticlericalism


Meical said...

What is the source of the data from which that graph was constructed?

Apuleius Platonicus said...

As the graph itself explains, it is from the FBI's Hate Crime statistics. These statistics are available online at the FBI's website, under their Civil Rights division:

SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

I think "Anti-Americanism" needs to be unpacked, Apuleius, because that within it which is "anti-imperial" may be quite rational, while that which is authentically a fear of our libertarian values needs to be challenged with Enlightenment-force critique. But how does one perform the latter if empire is still in active operation? More needs to be said about the ways the American Empire has systematically destroyed and suppressed authentic liberation movements in Islamic countries, leaving anger and dissent in the hands of fundamentalists. That doesn't mean those fundamentalists weren't there, but the numbers question is not insignificant, and movements of the Left have been consistently squashed. That's an important part of the equation.

If I were a Celt or a German living on the borders of Rome, I wouldn't be too impressed with their lip-service to values of freedom, and would probably be pretty Anti-Roman. In fact, they had become so corrupted by Empire that I'd be fairly unimpressed with their lip-service to serving cognate Indo-European Gods, if Juvenal's critiques of how openly people flaunted the Gods and perjured themselves in the temples. Sounds like some Romans took their religion as seriously and hypocritically as some Christians do.

One thing that has to be said for the Hebrew Prophets (as well as many pagan philosophers) is that they pointed out the hypocrisy of talking about good things while meanwhile you give yourself over to empire.

So how do we support anti-imperialism while at the same time supporting pro-libertarian currents?