Are American Muslims here only to spy on us? Are they inherently evil? Are they keeping deep dark secrets hidden in the bowels of the Mosques?
The answer is…..
Wait. Are we talking about the Muslims or the Catholics? A few years ago it was the secret papal rituals of the Catholics and their Agnus Dei and secrets of the Knights of Malta. Or, maybe…maybe…are we really talking about the Jews?
The Jews have never really been a part of this country, have they? Of course there are all these Jews giving all their money away to build hospitals and universities and social centers and museums and cultural centers and…yeah…well, ok, and there was Barney Ross and Benny Leonard (look it up) and Hank Greenberg and Moe Berg who risked his life as an American spy. And George Gershwin and Jerry Seinfeld. Ok, so not the Jews.
Wait..that’s it. The Masons. The Masonic Order of Something or Other. Secret society. Of course, they say George Washington was a member. He wouldn’t try to bring down the country. Would he?
So we’ve had all these different groups not to mention the Italians and their twenty different kinds of sauces and confusing names for different pastas. We tried to hate them all and we did all kinds of things to them at one time or another. Then some cousin married some girl from somewhere and we all got together at the wedding. One of her cousins did our plumbing and a brother from our side did their roof.
People get along when they get to know each other. We just don’t know any Muslims. Do you know any Muslims? The American ones seem to be pretty hard workers. Maybe they just don’t hang out much.
Anyway, looks like our problem is definitely not Catholics, Jews, Masons or Muslims. Looks like our problem, as Pogo says, is: “We have met the enemy and they is us.” Actually, most Muslims seem to be about as threatening as a horse in a pasture. If you train it to be a thoroughbred, which is what most Muslims seem to be striving for, many will win a lot of races. But if you abuse them, kick them and whip them…they will kick back. Sounds kind of, well, kind of…American…doesn’t it?
Of course that doesn’t mean that you actually have to whip and harass people. Sometimes others can create an image of you that can make others hate you. So if the Arabs, the Muslim Arabs, in the Middle East, hate us, we’ve got to change something. We could maybe start by being a little kinder and more understanding to our Muslim fellow citizens.
Something like 2% or 2 out of a hundred people in the U.S. are Muslim. We wouldn’t even notice them, probably, if we didn’t hear so much about Muslim terrorists. How could people hate us, kind, generous loving international oil and chemical companies that we are, and kind, gentle loving military with guns, planes and missiles in 700 bases around the world? If these Middle Eastern Muslim terrorists weren’t after us, then we would look at Muslim-Americans—and many of us do—the way we look at Italians or Lebanese or Greeks.
Let’s be honest. Italians aren’t that great. Yes, there was Rocky Graziano and Joe DiMaggio…but there was Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. Of course then there was…you guessed it…Frank. Yeah…and there still is Tony. They basically trump everything else. So, let’s give them a break, even though they tend to go overboard with the tomato sauce.
Lebanese? We’ll just go with Danny Thomas. Focused, dedicated to St. Jude’s, leaving behind him a family still dedicated to St. Jude’s. If you can’t love someone whose mind always turns to ways to help children in desperate straits, what do you expect from a nationality?
Greeks? Sure, they fought in all our wars. They know how to turn a buck in a restaurant and you’ll seldom go away hungry or dissatisfied, and you’ll have change back from a twenty….but good citizens? They’re OK, but they’re no better than the Irish or French or Swedish.
We’d probably have to ask…do any of these groups, get down on their knees and pray 5 times a day? Do any of these groups tolerate absolutely no blasphemy of their holy scripture? Do any of them regard it as a slur of the worst kind to hear one of theirs blaspheme another’s religion? Well, then, let’s not suddenly get on our high horse about how much “better” people we are than Muslims.
But what about the terrorists? Well, American Muslims will tell you, if you ask them, that they hate all this “jihad” talk and all the nonsensical, faux theology that some of these terrorists sling around. And while “jihad” they say does have a meaning to do with warfare, it is used in a completely distorted context by the terrorists to create an emotional impact on weak minds.
It is much the same as Glenn Beck saying that President Obama is a Nazi one day and then a Communist the next day and then a racist the next day. Which kind of racist would that be…against Blacks or Whites? He’s both.
Jihad is a distortion. It is an emotional word. Those are the kinds of words terrorists and propagandists use. It really doesn’t matter. It is all about using words to spread hatred. It might as well be any word. “Mickey Mouse” would probably work. Most of us don’t understand the intricacies of the Muslim faith, so we make our own judgments and they are often wrong.
One of the big confusions we have is between Arabs and Muslims. Arabs started Islam, so that is probably one reason for the confusion. And we are involved with Muslims in Arab countries…Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and others. But Arabs are only about 20% of Muslims. Most Muslims are in the Far East.
We could debate whether Arabs should even have a grudge against Americans. Big oil companies, they might say, came and took the lion’s share of the oil wealth for a long time. Then some stupid American President invaded Iraq and killed about a quarter of a million Iraqis, who were already suffering. We did it supposedly to get at their dictator. Yeah…right. We killed a quarter million people to get one guy. That should be enough for a war crime or a stupidity crime of similar degree right there.
The President’s name was George W. Bush and the great disgrace of our new century is that he has not yet been indicted, along with his Vice President, Dick Cheney and their Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, by an international tribunal for war crimes.
“People kill people?” That’s why the Muslim terrorists attacked. No. They don’t. Most people, 99% of them or more, would never kill another human being unless they were seriously provoked. You can motivate people with lies, and that is sad. But normally there must be some kernel of truth to make the mind begin to connect with the lie. One way you get people to kill people is to lie them into war, or “Jihad.” Take your pick.
We have contributed more than a kernel over the years to get this started. We have killed leaders of Muslim countries and installed our own leaders who then became despots who imprisoned, tortured and killed thousands. We did nothing because they were our despots. We even coddled Saddam Hussein before we captured him and gave him over to be killed.
Are you getting the picture? Someone pokes you in the eye and you poke him in the eye. Someone who will go to church five times a day is someone who has deep convictions about things. Do you really want to poke him in the eye without expecting that he will return the favor some day? It doesn’t matter that you are six foot eight and he is five foot two. He has conviction, a sense of purpose, some forgiveness, but not unlimited patience. It is just that Americans are not without some responsibility in all this.
Probably the biggest surprise about Muslims is that only roughly two in ten are Arabic. Americans would probably say that 9 out of 10 are Arabs. If the population of the Muslims in the United States skews more towards the Middle East, it is probably still not 50% Arabic. Osama Bin Laden is recruiting, poor or highly ideological misfits around the world, fanatics who believe that their cause is right. They are not all Arabs, but they are all receptive to the idea that they have been abused by society or that society condones that abuse.
One could easily despair of American society and want to shoot some of the people on “American Idol” or “Dancing with the Stars,” shave Lindsay Lohan’s head, break the windows in one of Paris Hilton’s Mercedes-Benzes…scream at the seemingly unlimited number of commercials on television. Even so, if you live in this country and are a terrorist–Muslim or not–odds are you are some kind of kook.
Terrorists and killers of multiple people and assassins come in all sizes and religions…Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray, John Hinckley, Jr., Mark David Chapman, Timothy McVeigh, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, John Wayne Gacy, David Parker Ray, Andrew Kehoe, Henry Lee Lucas, Richard Kuklinski, Ted Bundy, Joel Rifkin, Charles Whitman and we’re just getting warmed up. But no Muslims.
There are five “Pillars” of Islam and they are pretty basic and none of them talk about bumping anybody off. Here’s what they say, in no particular order. First there is only one God and his prophet was Muhammed. Second, you must pray five times a day. Third there is something called Ramadan, a month when you have to fast the whole month. Fourth, if you can afford it, you have to get yourself back to Mecca at least once in your life. (Is that too much to ask?) And, you have to give about 2.5% of your earnings to charity. (Not a bad thing for all of us. But the Jews may have them beat. They are supposed to give away about 10%. Hell, they just make it and give it all away eventually anyway.)
The Muslims do not pray to Muhammed. That would probably be the first thing that the truly ignorant, i.e. the Irish, would assume. They pray to God. Muhammed is a prophet, which is what they consider Abraham and Jesus and others. But apparently Muhammed has inside dope or the most recent update.
Some people, like James Joyce, would say that all religion is an absurdity, so what difference does it make which religion you believe…just pick one or pick the most logical one or the one with the best music. Which should you pick–one that started in the 6th century, the 1st Century A.D., or one that goes back 4,000 years? Atheists would say that, if Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and all other religions are poppycock…myths created in ancient times to reduce the fear of death or the power of nature…then just pick one.
Science would say that everything here, rocks, trees, water, air, animals and human beings are made up of the same stuff, the same particles of the same elements and the only difference is in the dramatically different composition of the particles in each. And now that we pretty sure that elsewhere in the universe the same particles exist as here on earth, then it is a pretty good bet that everything came from the expansion and maybe someday the eventual contraction of the universe.
It’s actually a much more spectacular concept than God, unless you want to follow Aquinas and say that God was back there somewhere at the beginning. But then comes the question….where did God come from? If you say he always was….then why not merely agree with 99% of scientists who say that it is merely the universe that is infinite, and “God” is a convenient, arbitrary term for the origin of the universe?
So…anyway…people want to live with rules that were made up 4,000 or 2,000 or only 1500 years ago. But what difference does it make? In this country, it’s entirely up to you. Hardly worth fighting wars over. If the concept of some eternal Father is your thing, then hang onto the one that suits you best and the one who gives you the most comfort. Comfort is a good thing, a very good thing, to have.
The biggest conflicts with Islam seem to be between various factions of the religion itself. Can a Muslim society exist inside a Democratic society? Muslim Americans would doubtless say that it can. After all, Muslim Americans have been living quietly in the United States for well over 100 years in substantial numbers. Americans have never worried about whether a religion that did not interrupt or violate federal or local laws can observe its rituals without intervention. And we’ve had worse battles over it. Ask Mormons or Quakers. So why suddenly now?
This is, after all, supposed to be the ultimate state for free and tolerant observance of religion. We have allowed all religions, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Mormon and everything in between, including some really weird ones and some that proved dangerous to their followers to live nonetheless free, side by side, in peace. This is no time to change or question those principles.
There are numerous prominent Muslim-Americans, including such well-known people of influence as Fareed Zakaria, an American television commentator and moderator on CNN and head of NEWSWEEK’s international edition. Another renowned and admired American Muslim is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Hall of Fame basketball player, philanthropist and author. America can be proud of the numerous Muslim scholars, businessmen, athletes and diplomats, as well as many Muslim members of the Armed forces.
We can’t be too careful. That part is true. The IRA came here and were helped by Irish Americans. And although they felt their cause was just, the reasons for killings and bombings were never resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. It just stopped because people got tired of killing other people. And it also stopped because serious people continued to try to create understanding between the two sides, and they did eventually create enough to make the bloodshed stop. But in the meantime, many Irish-Americans who believed that they were doing a good thing helped the IRA to kill many innocent people as a part of an internecine conflict of continually less meaning.
We cannot ignore the possibility that some Muslims may harbor grievances against the United States even as naturalized or natural citizens. We must not be foolishly unprepared. But that does not mean that we should regard our Muslim-brother, fellow citizens any differently from any other nationality or religion. If we turn against other Americans who happen to be Muslim, Osama bin Laden wins another round.
Unless we embrace our fellow Muslim citizens and neighbors, we not only do harm to our democracy but we work on behalf of the outcomes that Osama bin Laden has striven so dedicatedly and militantly to bring about. Love, not hate, always wins in the end. That would be the Muslim point of view as well.