As Hagrid would say...
Richard and Linda Thompson: Dimming of the Day

Muslims in America

Apropos the conversation with Daniel (on this post) about anti-Muslim feeling in the U.S., I wondered how many mosques there are in the state of Alabama, and I found some interesting stuff. 

Many people in this country would be quick to tell you that white southerners are the most racist xenophobic etc. in the country. But according to this site, there are 20 mosques in Alabama. Muslims in Birmingham do not appear to be in hiding. There's a black Muslim (from Selma!) in the state legislature. There is a Muslim community in rural Mississippi. Etc. 

I'm sure many of the Muslims involved in these places and activities have some stories of prejudice and hostility. But they are not being persecuted. They are not subjected to violence, they are not being chased away, they are not in any significant way prevented from practicing their faith. No one is calling for their mosques to be destroyed. (Ok, I'm sure that if you looked you could find some ignoramus advocating that, but there is no one advocating it publicly.) 

All this in spite of the fact, which I had forgotten, that one of the mosques in this area actually produced a violent jihadist. He grew up in Daphne, just up the road from Fairhope where I live. This was, naturally, a pretty big story when it first came to light. But no one is trying to shut down the mosque. As far as I know this young man's poor parents are still living in Daphne.

Here is an amusing story from two young Muslim men who have been trying to visit thirty mosques in thirty days around the country. This episode takes place in Alabama and Mississippi. The roughest treatment they got was from an imam--who was, I think, the father of the jihadist mentioned above, and who apparently didn't want any publicity (not surprisingly). Even the purportedly scary story of being stopped by a cop at night in Mississippi is not much different from times when some of my own children, as teenagers riding around late at night, were pulled over by cops who apparently just wanted to see what they were up to. I assume they were on I-10, which is a big drug-trafficking corridor, and they were speeding, and they got pulled over and questioned. They didn't even get a ticket. Big deal.

All this pretty well establishes, I think, that there is something more than simple anti-Muslim prejudice at work in the opposition to the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.

One thing that strikes me is the role of the media in whipping up a frenzy on a question like this. The professional drum-beaters on all sides start pounding, and people who would not otherwise have given it much thought take positions and dig in their heels, refusing to listen to the other side at all.

And people are complex: someone can answer "yes" to the question "Is Islam a false religion that breeds terrorists?" and still behave with ordinary decency to the Muslim family down the street.


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I met a woman from that Muslim community in rural Mississippi (unless there was another one) at a Sustainable Agriculture Workgroup in Yazoo City once. She was very nice. They used to have a really beautiful website. I wonder what happened to it.


That one's not exactly ugly, but it's not pretty, either.

Well, Rauf has really put his foot in it now:

He may not have intended it, but this does come across as a veiled threat: "if you don't do what I want the terrorists may come after you." That was a big PR mistake, if nothing else.

I'm sure he meant it as a warning, rather than a threat, but that sort of warning from someone who's an interested party always raises eyebrows.

The guy is certainly showing himself to be obtuse, if he's not duplicitous. I don't think he understands this country nearly as well as he seems to think he does.

Yes, someone can answer "yes" to the question of whether Islam inevitably breeds terrorists and be nice to particular Muslims. And they can answer "yes" to the question of whether Jews are evil and plotting against them while being nice to particular Jews. And certainly you know that white people can harbor prejudice against black people and be nice to individual blacks (and vice versa). Didn't you write something once about the tyranny of nice people?
I think Imam Rauf is absolutely correct when he warns that this uproar will radicalize Muslims around the world; in fact that is already happening.
I'm sorry; this whole thing reeks of demagogory. The center is NOT at "Ground Zero", Muslims have worshipped in the neighborhood for years, there is an interfaith chapel, the 9/11 Memorial Chapel, in the Pentagon where the planes struck, which on Friday is used by Muslims. There are Shinto shrines in sight of Pearl Harbor. The imam professes nonviolence and moderation. It should be a non-issue, but the Right sees a chance to whip up furor, based in fear and ignorance.

"I think Imam Rauf is absolutely correct when he warns that this uproar will radicalize Muslims around the world; in fact that is already happening."

This was a major, major misstep on his part. Absolutely, there is demagoguery going on, and this is a gift to those engaged in it, playing right into the hands of those who believe Muslims are ready to turn violent on the least provocation. It falls back into the pattern of the Danish cartoon episode: Muslims are a peaceful people, and let all who insult them beware their wrath. Rauf is putting himself in the role of the peacemaker warning against that, and I see no reason to assume he isn't sincere, but the implications of what he's saying are terrible. I have less sympathy for his case now than I did a week or two ago.

I still say this should never have been an issue outside of New York but it's way too late for that.

What I meant in that last paragraph is that the fact people have a low opinion of a person or group doesn't mean they represent a danger to him/them. Do you really think that 60 or 70 percent of Americans (depending on which poll you're looking at) are bigots?

I am (far more than I would like to be) a child of this age, so I would really like to believe that Muslims are happy to get along with the rest of us. But I can't. It's not helped by the fact that I have never met a Muslim I liked (especially the men, whom I have found to be patronising and/or stupid), but I'll admit I've only met a few. One of them was a doctor who treated me like an idiot, when he wasn't talking to me like I was a cow (I was breastfeeding my 3rd child and he told me I could see someone who would teach me how to make good milk! Blech!)

I think "Muslims" is way too broad a brush to paint that picture with, although I think Islam is more inherently problematic than Daniel does. You should see the film Color of Paradise for a very moving and profound look at another side of Islamic spirituality.

I think "Muslims" is way too broad a brush to paint that picture with

Yeah, I take your point. But I'm so sick of Muslims and Gays right now. By way of comparison, I don't think all gays are serial pests either (it's the activists, mostly) but really, it's "Gays" I think of. E.g. one of my in-laws is gay and he's a lovely fellow, but I'm not so naive as to think he's quite as lovely when he's just hanging around with his gay friends - their subculture is really very toxic, going by my exposure to it in my early adulthood. Very nasty, very bitchy. Incidentally, I think we could fairly easily undermine their agenda by pointing out the real divisions that exist in their "community" (overused and meaningless word that's become). I mean, gays and lesbians really can't stand one another, in general, but they can pull it together in activism for the sake of trying to get society to conform to their silly whims. Anyway, when I wondered aloud why FB was putting up "gay ads" on my page, this relative said that perhaps it was to target my relatives. I mean, seriously? That's typical gay narcissism - it's not as though FB advertises Belloc books on his page for me! LOL!

I don't know what it's like at your place, Maclin, but at mine, every time I turn on the radio it's Muslim-this and Gay-that. So irritating. I wouldn't listen to the radio at all in the home and especially not to our national broadcaster, which I have moaned about here before, but Nick likes it and has a higher tolerance for its arrant nonsense than I do. I have left the kitchen on more than one occasion when Nick has flicked on the radio, b/c I just couldn't stand it any more.

We feel angry, I'm told, when we feel powerless. In worldy terms I feel powerless. I mean, I'd write letters to the newspaper, but they wouldn't get printed...

Turn on the radio here and, if it's AM, you'll probably get tiresome right-wing shtick. Or possibly a preacher. If it's FM, you'll probably get pop music, unless it's a Saturday in the fall, when you have a good chance of getting football. Less probably, if you're down around the low end of the spectrum, you might hit on the local NPR station, which will be playing either classical music or newsy stuff which although definitely on the liberal side is often refreshingly calm and reasonable.

But I sympathize with your anger. I'm not sure what to recommend for it. :-)

Your point about gays and women is interesting. I know exactly what you're talking about--I used to see it sometimes in my college and somewhat-post-college days, when my social life was a bit more...diverse than it is now. It seems to me that gay men have an odd love-hate relationship with women. I always thought that on the one hand they (I'm generalizing, of course) sort of wanted to be them, and on the other hand were sort of repelled or disgusted by them. I suspect that women who are friends with them don't necessarily see this side. If you hear a group of gay men talking about women when none are around, it's sometimes a rather different tone. That doesn't mean they can't be really good friends, but, well, I just don't think the women see that side. And maybe it's not necessarily there, but, like I said, I've certainly seen it.

Wow. Ugly talk on LODW. What next? Substitute "Jews" or "black people" for "Muslims" in Louise' post and see how it sounds.

Do I think 60 to 70% of Americans are bigots? No, but I think that many are ignorant and scared and thus easily manipulated.

Believe me, if this place was funded by the Saudis and teaching Wahhabi Islam I would be as opposed to it as anyone. That so few Americans can see or understand this distinction is pretty appalling, like the secularist who thinks Fred Phelps and his fellow Assholes for Christ represent Christianity.

Mac, I think you can say some of the exact same things about many straight men. Many straight men certainly have an odd love-hate relationship with women (though perhaps not exactly the type you outline) -- and straight men certainly do not say everything in front of women that they would say in front of a group of their buddies.

And, in case anyone cares, my experience with "gays and lesbians" has been pretty much the opposite of what you guys reported. Well, maybe not technically the opposite -- just normal.

Oh, by no means did I intend to except straight men from the charge of misogyny, to say nothing of extreme crudeness etc. As we all know, men are pigs. :-) I think there's always a certain negative component that can range from misunderstanding and exasperation to real hostility on the part of each sex toward the other. That's a result of the Fall. But just based on what I've observed, it seems to me to have a different flavor among gay men. Louise used the term "bitchy"--that can definitely be a part of it.

I remember years ago having dinner with another couple, and the wife of the other couple, who was involved in theater, was talking about how much she liked gay men, because they seemed to like women so much. Her husband, who was a psychologist, said "well, not necessarily," followed by something along the lines of what I said earlier. But that doesn't mean there can't be some genuine empathy. It's complicated...

Well, this refreshing: “2 Muslims travel 13,000 miles across America, find an embracing nation.” And on CNN, no less -- see here

So, maybe most Americans really aren’t knuckle-dragging ignoramuses after all?

There's a link to the blog of those two young men in the original post.


I saw that story earlier, Marianne--in fact I thought I might post a link to it tomorrow. It's very refreshing. Only thing is, I wish the turned-away-from-mosque incident hadn't happened in Mobile. The careless reader will take that as "oh yeah, Alabama, racists, blah blah blah" when in fact it was totally an intra-Muslim thing: they had CNN cameramen with them and the imam was wary (with reason--see the post).

So here I sit, checking out the news on Saturday morning, and thinking that if I were media dictator I would ban the term "ground zero mosque."

I don't know, Daniel, it's not like "black people" and "Jews" as specific groups are blowing people up or lopping their heads off with alarming frequency right now.

And I think (though I could be wrong) that St Bernard would be more inclined to agree with me in this matter. Which is only to suggest that a person can say the things I've said and not be a bad Christian. And though I used the word "Muslims" I do not necessarily mean that every single Muslim is respeonsible for this kind of violence. But I don't feel a great need any more to make distinctions, given what a severe menace these attackers are right now (not 500 years ago).

I bought a kebab wrap at a van yesterday which was owned by Muslims, at our main market in town. There were then four aircraft flying overhead doing aerobatic displays. Nick and I wondered what they (The Roulettes) were doing that for. A man of middle-Eastern appearance then conversed with the man in the kebab van: "What are they flying for? Is it because it's 9/11 Hahaha!" *Merry laughter*

I must say, I feel a little vindicated by this, but am the sorrier for it.

And Daniel, I'm not insisting that I'm right, btw. I respect you and it's certainly possible that your interpretation of current events is right and mine is wrong. I'm only stating my opinion as it currently is.

Speaking merely anecdotally - most of the straight men I know are not pigs and do not hate women, even if they do not understand us! and indeed, enjoy poking fun at us.

otoh - most of the gay men I was friendly with in my youth could be very nasty. I was a regular "fag hag" (gay term meaning woman who spends a lot of time with gay men) but my gay "friends" were regularly nasty to me and other women, which makes me wonder why I ever bothered. They must have had some virtues, I suppose.

It's instructive, I think, that "ugly talk" has turned up on LODW in relation to Muslims and 9/11.

For my part, I will try to refrain from any more such ugly talk.

"I do not necessarily mean that every single Muslim is respeonsible for this kind of violence. But I don't feel a great need any more to make distinctions..."

I disagree, Louise, to the extent that I do think it's important--extremely important--to make those distinctions. It's a fact that most Muslims are not even potential terrorists, and we don't need to antagonize them any more than is unavoidable. Liberal democratic societies should be able to live with Muslims, and vice versa, in much the same way that happened with Catholics. There were some legitimate reasons for those regimes to fear the Church. Setting aside the question of whether the accommodations made on both sides are going to last, which I'm somewhat pessimistic about, it should be possible for the same thing to occur with Islam.

Beyond that, it's just basic fairness. A certain amount of unfairness is unavoidable under the circumstances, but we want to keep it to a minimum.

I mean, it's just plain crazy to pretend that the propensity for terrorism is evenly distributed throughout the population.

I didn't classify "I've only met a few Muslims and I didn't like them" as ugly talk. In general I don't think it's necessary to deny that one has observed what one has observed, though depending on the circumstances it can get you into trouble. It's important to avoid over-generalizing, though. I know someone who worked in a retail shop in a ritzy area where a large proportion of the clientele were wealthy Jewish women. That experience left her with the opinion that wealthy Jewish women were likely to be obnoxious, at least to retail clerks. But it didn't turn into a general anti-Semitism.

We live in an environment now where some groups can be criticized, as groups, with impunity, but others cannot. People in the former category have learned to grow thicker skins. Rather than extend hyper-sensitivity to everyone, with perpetual outrage all around, it would be better if those in the latter category could make the same effort, and not act as if any slight to them as a group is to be treated as the equivalent of a physical attack. In some cases there are good historical reasons for the paranoia, but there's no need to cultivate it beyond reason. Among other things, it trivializes real bigotry.

Jonah Goldberg once remarked, memorably, upon Jesse Jackson claiming that some minor racial controversy was "Selma all over again," that Jackson would say it was Selma all over again if the laundry put too much starch in his shirts.

Louise as fag hag--now that's a thought that wouldn't have occurred to me. :-) (We have that term here, too, btw, or at least used to--I haven't heard it for a long time.)

Also anecdotally: the one gay man with whom I was ever close friends was not that way about women at all. But I've certainly picked it up from others. Nor did I get a strong anti-male feeling from the lesbian I knew best (not really close friends, but friends). But it's very strong in some. As for gay men & lesbians, I really don't know.

The scariest misogyny I know of in the world today seems to be among the Islamic extremists. I don't know how much it has to do with Islam itself and how much with sick cultural patterns in some Islamic countries. But the extreme repression of sexuality and the pattern of holding the female responsible under nearly all circumstances seems pretty sick.

There was an interesting comment by Anne Applebaum in the Saturday Telegraph about the 'Koran Burning'. She asked, why is feeling about 9/11 getting stronger, after nine years? She said that sometimes the further we get from a disaster, the more people resent it, including especially people who had no original connection to it.

The Anchoress (blogger Elizabeth Scalia at First Things) had a possibly related point: that if something of a triumphant sort of nature had been built at the WTC site the Islamic center would not have been so objectionable to so many New Yorkers. I really don't have a feel for whether that's true or not.

Isn't something triumphant supposed to be built there, i.e., the Freedom Tower? I don't know the latest plans for that project.

Just another comment or two about the gay men vs. women thing. I think I know what you guys are talking about, but I've never (or rarely) seen it except on TV or in movies. Probably I've just had the good fortune of meeting nice people. Likewise I would venture to guess that Louise had the misfortune of meeting nasty people. And I would say that Mac, given your multiple impressions, that you had an experience that you've had with most people -- some are jerks, some aren't.

I think we all have a tendency to generalize from our own experiences -- it's a natural instinct to try to make rules out of what we know. But of course people are complex, as has been said a couple of times, and so generalizing from one's own experience of a dozen or so people to a group of thousands or millions is a flawed proposition. This is what we used to call "idiot induction": if it's true for the first three cases, it must be true for all other cases. Still, it's a powerful impulse that I certainly find myself acting on from time to time. Keeping your mind open when your experience and gut tell you "case closed" is very difficult.

Yeah, I thought there were definite plans to build something a few years ago, but it hasn't happened. I don't know why.

I think what I'm referring to about gay men and women is more accurately described as ambivalence than hostility. Just out of curiosity, I googled "gay hostility to women" and the first three pages of hits were almost all about straight men being hostile to gay men. I guess just the words "gay" and "hostility" triggered that.

That's certainly true about "idiot induction" (heh). But it works in the other direction, too, if a refusal to generalize becomes a refusal to see what's in front of your face. "Just because the last three people who got bitten by rattlesnakes died doesn't mean all rattlesnakes are venomous." :-) The trick is to strike the right balance. It takes constant vigilance.

Amen to Jesse. All bigotry begins with anecdotal experience. Personally, I have worked for a Jew who was rich and stingy, and I once overheard, in a Jewish restaurant, some young orthodox Jews joking about the best way to kill goyim (that's us). I have known hypocritical self-righteous Christians, criminally-minded blacks, ignorant racist southerners, etc. I do not generalize from these experiences because, a) that is not rational, and b) I have also known folks from each of these groups who were nothing like these examples. The trouble with Muslims is that few Americans know any, other than perhaps superficially, like Louise' doctor. What they know about Muslims is what they see on TV, which is mostly bad.
And Louise, that black people and Jews are not a threat to you does not mean they are not threats to say, people who live in big American cities, where a disproportionate amount of the crime is committed by black men, or in the West Bank, where yes, Jews regularly kill people. It is ugly talk, no matter who is the subject.
And yes, St Bernard would no doubt be sympathetic to you. But then, he was sort of a Christian jihadist, wasn't he? Preaching holy war? He would probably agree with Anne Coulter, who said we should invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and force conversion (sic) to Christianity...
But then Father Benedict (Gtoeschel) once said that you can go to hell imitating the vices of the saints.

Well, I'm one of those people who thinks the crusades were a good thing (though many bad things happened in them such as the sack of Constantinople, and though I'm not a fan of war).

Fr Benedict may be right, but I'm not convinced that St Bernard was exercising a vice. I don't believe in "holy war" but I do believe in just war - though modern day weapons make that impossible now, I think.

btw, I don't think I implied that all Muslims are terrorists, if that's what someone was thinking. I'm not saying there are no good/kind Muslims in the world, but I do think that Muslims in general are causing havoc in many Western countries right now and it would be silly to overlook that.

It is *possible* that "multiculturalism" is just a nice fantasy.

Well, Louise, at least we agree about modern weaponry rendering just war impossible. :o)
Funny that only Catholics think the crusades good. Jews and Orthodox Christians and Muslims think quite other. Indeed, the Orthodox had a saying "better the turban than the tiara", as Muslim rulers declared the Orthodox "tallit", a self-governing entity, with the bishops in charge. They did not interfere in the Church's internal affairs if they paid their taxes. While the Latins would replace their bishops with Latins, impose the Western liturgy, etc. The "etc" often meant raping nuns, violating icons and desecrating the Eucharist. Just to clarify what the "bad things" you refer to were.
Of course the Orthodox did no better when they had power; the Copts in Egypt also prefered Muslim rule to that of Byzantium, for the same reasons...ah, human nature.

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