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You Are Wrong Because I Am Right

April 12, 2010

One way or another, I end up spending a lot of time on my knees rummaging through our stock of very old, very ugly books that no one will ever buy. Often enough for it to be worth the potential arthritis,  though, I’ve found real gems – old editions, out-of-print works, and some just very eclectic pieces. It’s a collector’s heaven, no doubt about it. In the decade or so I’ve been wed to Islamic bookshoppery, I’ve only ever known one person to head straight for that corner, drop to his knees, and rummage as eagerly as I did.*

Last week, we acquired someone else’s back-corner stock of misfits, and I discovered a very old Pakistani print of a book by Suzanne Haneef that I’ve been meaning to acquire, so of course I put aside the fairy book I was reading** and began immediately to devour peruse it.

The excerpt below expresses better than I could (and more authoritatively) some of the assumptions and attitudes that really do my head in when we discuss things like why your face is haram. Though old (1979), it is still – surprisingly – very relevant to our present times.

‘…Islam is so little known and understood in the Western world that to many people, especially in America, it is simply another strange religious cult or sect, Allah is some sort of a heathen deity, Muhammad is someone who is worshipped by hordes of pagans overseas, and Muslims are either militant sword-wielding bedouins mounted on camels, fanatical men of religion with long robes and beards, or rich, decadent playboys.

Indeed, Islam has been so gravely misunderstood and misinterpreted in the West that many people in America and Europe think of it as an enemy to any sort of stability, peace and progress; they mistrust it, fear it, and regard it as a dire threat without as a rule knowing anything about it other than what the popular media convey, which almost invariably reflects grave inaccuracies and errors.

As these lines are written, the media are full of such ‘news’ and views about Islam and Muslims; daily one can hear or read item after item on the subject. Virtually without exception these misrepresent not only the details of the Islamic system and the motivations and characters of sincere Muslims, but also the fundamental concepts and teachings of the religion. They are often so greatly distorted that, indeed, a Muslim who encounters them may not even be able to recognise that they are concerned with the religion he has known and practised all his life.

The Western world today is full of ‘experts’ on Islam who consider themselves far more knowledgeable about it than the Muslims who are living it day by day, but who seldom, if ever, take the trouble to understand Islam, especially its central world-view and basic concepts, on a deeper level.

Why is all this so? First, it is due in part to the legacy of history. Islam and Christendom confronted each other as enemies during the Crusades and afterwards, and the propaganda against the enemy and its beliefs and way of life which is common during times of conflict, whether it is true or false, has never yet been laid to rest in the Western World.

Second, it is partly due to the confused and distorted picture of Islam which the behaviour of many Muslims, those who profess this faith but do not live by it, often doing everything which it does not permit, and doing nothing which it requires, very unfortunately presents. It is also due, in part, to the fact that many people in the Western world think of any religious system in terms of Christian concepts and values, or in terms of the concepts of Western civilisations which do not necessarily fit with or apply to Islam.

And finally, it is also undoubtedly due to the fact that many people in the West, particularly in America, have such an unquestioning conviction of the innate superiority and rightness of the American or Western way of life that they do not consider it necessary or important to be accurately informed about other’s viewpoints and ways of life. To many of us Muslims remain, undifferentiatedly, ‘those people over there’, whose only possible utility or interest is in relation to whether or not they will sell us the oil we need or boost our economy by buying our goods. We often regard them, with secret satisfaction in our own superiority as the advanced people of the West, as simple, child-like beings whose world-view must ipso facto be wrong because ours is right.’

– Suzanne Haneef: What Everyone Should Know About Islam And Muslims (1979, Lahore), viii – ix.

The book also carries a short biography of the author (slightly edited for relevance):

‘Suzanne Haneef, an American Muslim who was a devout Christian during her girlhood, later discovered Islam through contact with Muslims and extensive reading. She is active in the field of Islamic education and has travelled widely in the Muslim world. ‘What everyone should know about Islam and Muslims’ is an outgrowth of her years of studying and living Islam.’

~

* He was – as they always are – Taken. XD

** It was a very absorbing fairy book. It had a girl who could see fairies, and a ‘socially-awkward’ boy who couldn’t. Putting it aside was not a Trivial Matter.

‘…Islam is so little known and understood in the Western world that to many people, especially in America, it is simply another strange religious cult or sect, Allah is some sort of a heathen deity, Muhammad is someone who is worshipped by hordes of pagans overseas, and Muslims are either militant sword-wielding bedouins mounted on camels, fanatical men of religion with long robes and beards, or rich, decadent playboys.

Indeed, Islam has been so gravely misunderstood and misinterpreted in the West that many people in America and Europe think of it as an enemy to any sort of stability, peace and progress; they mistrust it, fear it, and regard it as a dire threat without as a rule knowing anything about it other than what the popular media convey, which almost invariably reflects grave inaccuracies and errors.

As these lines are written, the media are full of such ‘news’ and views about Islam and Muslims; daily one can hear or read item after item on the subject. Virtually without exception these misrepresent not only the details of the Islamic system and the motivations and characters of sincere Muslims, but also the fundamental concepts and teachings of the religion. They are often so greatly distorted that, indeed, a Muslim who encounters them may not even be able to recognise that they are concerned with the religion he has known and practised all his life.

The Western world today is full of ‘experts’* on Islam who consider themselves far more knowledgeable about it than the Muslims who are living it day by day, but who seldom, if ever, take the trouble to understand Islam, especially its central world-view and basic concepts, on a deeper level.

Why is all this so? First, it is due in part to the legacy of history. Islam and Christendom confronted each other as enemies during the Crusades and afterwards, and the propaganda against the enemy and its beliefs and way of life which is common during times of conflict, whether it is true or false, has never yet been laid to rest in the Western World.

Second, it is partly due to the confused and distorted picture of Islam which the behaviour of many Muslims, those who profess this faith but do not live by it, often doing everything which it does not permit, and doing nothing which it requires, very unfortunately presents. It is also due, in part, to the fact that many people in the Western world think of any religious system in terms of Christian concepts and values, or in terms of the concepts of Western civilisations which do not necessarily fit with or apply to Islam.

And finally, it is also undoubtedly due to the fact that many people in the West, particularly in America, have such an unquestioning conviction of the innate superiority and rightness of the American or Western way of life that they do not consider it necessary or important to be accurately informed about other’s viewpoints and ways of life. To many of us Muslims remain, undifferentiatedly, ‘those people over there’, whose only possible utility or interest is in relation to whether or not they will sell us the oil we need or boost our economy by buying our goods. We often regard them, with secret satisfaction in our own superiority as the advanced people of the West, as simple, child-like beings whose world-view must //ipso facto// be wrong because ours is right.

viii – ix

John Green

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. Fjafjan permalink
    April 12, 2010 1:45 am

    Okey, so this is a rather low level discussion here. If people are starving to death, should we help them? If there is a genocide going on, should we step in? Well I think we all agree on this. If there is a brutal dictator somewhere, torturing and killing those who oppose him(Has there been any female dictator since the middle ages? Not counting thatcher…). Is it right to act, not necessarily by guns, but maybe by supporting with words, money, influence, to those who support democracy there? Well I think that is a good thing. Maybe you disagree there. If there is a culture where parents chose who their children should marry, can we condemn them? Well here we’re entering more shallow ground, and certainly it would be fairly presumptuous to try and impose our cultural norms here.
    My point with these examples was to claim that there are levels at which cultures can be different, and the moral judgments can be varying clear. So people being slaughtered, well that’s not an acceptably cultural difference (“but they’re black, we’re white, we can kill them as we please! This is our culture”).
    Now this lady has a rather skewed perspective, being from America she assumes “Westerners” are christian, which is true in tradition, but certainly not in faith or opinion for a lot of people these days, I personally find Christians, like all religious people, a bit strange(don’t take it too personally, I find a lot of people strange, strange is not bad).
    So I look at a foreign culture, in this case Islam, there are some practices I find simply different (not drinking alcohol/pork, we typically don’t eat dogs, some Asian cultures do). Then there are things I consider more morally questionable, deeply contradicting gender equality etc.
    There is no moral precedent for me having to accept these things are merely different. I can accept they exist and try to argue for changing them, but that they deserve some equal place next to other values is simply unfounded, if your cultural practices are just as fair and healthy and all the other things you want, then you prove it and argue it. You cannot simply say “different culture, you don’t know!”, then we would have to allow female circumcision, dumping babies in dumpsters or discrimination of homosexuals (not things that are Islamic, but some unacceptable features of some ‘non-Western cultures’.

    Now this sounds a bit too negative, it’s certainly not all bad, I think there are a great many things to learn from other cultures, but being critical or skeptical is not being arrogant, it’s being moral.

    • April 12, 2010 10:45 am

      I think you’ve missed the point altogether, and that’s EXACTLY what I’m talking about. XD

    • April 12, 2010 1:07 pm

      What constantly gets me is the fact that Western non-Muslims are obsessed with fixing things Muslims do “wrong” and Muslim cultural practices that bother them MORE than actually giving a whit about human rights abuses – their own culture’s or others’. Otherwise we would be discussing ways to change the situation poverty (especially the poverty of women and children) and discrimination in Europe and elsewhere, not veiling practices in those places. Or at least someone would stop and ask “those poor third-world women” what would actually benefit them before getting up on their high horse and deciding without ever fully caring to know or understand the situation. “Help” isn’t really “help” if it’s only about projecting your values, beliefs, and ideas of what is right and wrong and should be changed without ever caring what women elsewhere (or women, period) are actually experiencing. It might make you feel better, or something, but it’s not actually doing anything for anyone.

      • April 12, 2010 4:01 pm

        So many things get me that I wouldn’t know where to begin. There’s something terribly officious about having a thousand problems of your own which you CAN SOLVE (but don’t), and then gallivanting off to solve SOMEONE ELSE’S. There’s something wrong with that.

        It is a lot more about assuming moral superiority than it is about philanthropy. Philanthropy can – excuse me – screw itself, as long as we’re making a lot of noise about all the great stuff we’re doing ELSEWHERE – anywhere else but right here.

      • fjafjan permalink
        April 12, 2010 5:30 pm

        That’s also a product of your skewed perspective, you will notice there are a lot more people trying to solve AIDS, cancer, poverty in general, TBC, Malaria, malnutrition and contamination of water supplies than there are trying to ban the Burqa. The issue of course is that you can’t simply legislate away any of those real problems, and they’re not controversial, so they won’t be covered in the press. But I am fairly certain if you ASK ‘non-muslim Westerners’ whatthey think is more important, and if you look at how much money they spend, the real issues are in focus.
        So why then, to flip the issue, do you care so much about a handful of women wearing or not wearing the burqa in Belgium, and so little about the millions suffering from HIV/AIDS? Why are you so concerned with the faults of the Dutch, and not writing about how bad ‘you guys’ (whatever group you wish to associate yourself with).

    • April 12, 2010 5:44 pm

      To your first comment, my sister says: ‘it’s like you’re using Cartesian to understand spherical co-ordinates from first principles.’

      • fjafjan permalink
        April 12, 2010 7:29 pm

        So she’s saying I’m right, but doing it in a round-about way.

      • April 12, 2010 9:47 pm

        No, she’s saying you’re absolutely wrong. 😛

    • Levantine permalink
      April 12, 2010 7:32 pm

      Okey, so this is a rather low level discussion here.

      You asked somewhere to be enlightened re: why people so often seem to find you offensive or enraging… this is an excellent example. To deem the thoughts of someone who has put them forward as ‘low level’ simply because they have little import in your world does not make them low level, but just makes you either self-centered or disinterested. At any rate, given that a) non-Muslims are often challenging Muslims to speak up about themselves every other day on your TV screens, and that b) it is clearly hurtful to be a Muslim who IS seen and viewed or treated in the ways described, and thus a cause for concern for them, I think it IS a matter of great import.

      To suggest that one should ignore all more ‘minor’ matters simply because there are bigger fish to fry is nothing short of laughable. That’s how injustice gets to grow quietly but malignantly, until it’s too extensive to root out or reverse. Rather, priority should be placed on things proportionately – and, sad to say, the Western media doesn’t exactly place much proportionate priority on some of the more pressing matters you mentioned. (I estimate that far more people know what Cheryl is saying about Ashley Cole lately, than those who are aware that a small and insignificant European country kicked its president out a few days ago, or why they would want to in the first place. Or how many people died from AIDS or malnutrition in the last month in some corner of Africa.)

      As to whether it’s a minor problem in the first place: obviously you will be oblivious to this. It has nothing to do with you, you are not Muslim. However, others out there take bullying and scapegoating – which are consequences of this great misunderstanding – very seriously, and if you can’t see the rate at which these have increased in Europe, you’ve been asleep.

      If you find it’s so low level, that’s fine – keep that to yourself, but don’t join in the discussion simply to tell someone else that it was not significant enough to discuss or imply wasn’t a point worth making – especially not someone who is personally affected by the matter in question in ways you cannot, and thus have no idea or understanding of. Personally I find the question of injustice to and repeated misrepresentation of millions of people to be a serious matter, especially when this demonisation of said people is used to justify treating them differently, altering laws, invading other countries, etc. But then, I personally don’t like to be lied to, caught up in masquerades, brainwashed with propaganda, etc.

      I think, beyond that, there’s not much to be gained from addressing the rest of what you said. Really, Fjaf – you ought to start considering other people’s feelings and leave your mathematics, physics and other abstract systems within the confines of the laboratory. You might then find that you will enrage people considerably less. You can still state your same views without incurring such reactions – it’s the method involved. Humanity works somewhat differently. Join it sometime, and don’t forget to bring your heart along for the occasion. Bringing brains alone will leave you sorely ill-equipped.

  2. April 12, 2010 1:11 pm

    And also that everyone else has a skewed perspective BUT Westerners trying to be do-gooders. That’s defaulting culturelessness at its best, baby.

  3. April 12, 2010 2:35 pm

    Practicing Muslims, no matter what color or culture, will always be considered “other” because what they “practice” puts them outside the bounds of normalcy for a lot of people. People don’t like “others.” They wonder if the “others” know something they don’t. They wonder why the “others” don’t want to live life the way they do. Unfortunately, most people enjoy being around people that make them content and happy with the way they live their lives, people like them, doing the same things they are doing, believing the same things they are believing etc. It’s much easier to “save” these others from themselves, or demonize them, or feel superior to them or whatever. Anything, ANYTHING, but relate to them like, you know, another human being. ‘Cause really, what woman really likes being seen as the sum total of a swath of fabric wrapped around her head? Great book excerpt.

    • Levantine permalink
      April 12, 2010 7:36 pm

      ‘Cause really, what woman really likes being seen as the sum total of a swath of fabric wrapped around her head?

      Well… to be honest, that’s sort of precisely what most women who cover themselves in the street (and don’t wish to be looked at, thus the kind who don’t also plaster the uncovered parts of their face with make-up) WANT you to think… so long as you remember there’s a human inside. In terms of your eyes, however, aesthetically, that’s what they want you to see: a secret world, the entrance to which they alone can grant, and only to those whom they wish to enter it. The exact opposite of the exhibitionist, who offers their wares to all and sundry, with no filter, and relishing the attention received.

      At any rate, Interesting excerpt. I think this attitude thrives especially in those who don’t actually know any Muslims… those who take the trouble to meet and get to know them find they *shock, horror!* share much in common. : )

      • April 12, 2010 10:10 pm

        Meh, I cover and don’t wear makeup (or heels, God forfend! A pet peeve of mine) and while I’m pretty shy and like to fly under the radar as much as possible – hence my plainness, I’m not at all sure I wish people to think my sum total is my hijab as long as they remember I’m a person. They too often DO NOT remember I am a person, but rather a scarf of oppression/depression/repression…you get the point. But I do understand your point in that the hijab is a cover – a cover for beauty, personality, and the private awesomeness you might not want to share with the world 🙂

      • April 12, 2010 10:16 pm

        TheSimplePoppy: I did just this moment find this quote, of Abdul Hakim Murad:

        ‘Islam, by veiling her, reveals her; Edom, by unveiling her, erases her face.’

  4. April 12, 2010 10:22 pm

    Saya – I’m writing this down. For me, for my daughters. Good stuff.

  5. April 12, 2010 10:38 pm

    “That’s also a product of your skewed perspective, you will notice there are a lot more people trying to solve AIDS, cancer, poverty in general, TBC, Malaria, malnutrition and contamination of water supplies than there are trying to ban the Burqa. The issue of course is that you can’t simply legislate away any of those real problems, and they’re not controversial, so they won’t be covered in the press. But I am fairly certain if you ASK ‘non-muslim Westerners’ whatthey think is more important, and if you look at how much money they spend, the real issues are in focus.
    So why then, to flip the issue, do you care so much about a handful of women wearing or not wearing the burqa in Belgium, and so little about the millions suffering from HIV/AIDS? Why are you so concerned with the faults of the Dutch, and not writing about how bad ‘you guys’ (whatever group you wish to associate yourself with).”

    I must repeat again how amusing I find it that everyone’s perspective is skewed BUT yours. You could at least accept that we are rational human beings capable of making rational decisions, but we must somehow be skewed/warped because we aren’t like you. Levantine has a point – this is why people find your discussions infuriating. Not because of the points you raise, but because you must constantly belittle the people with whom you claim to be wanting to have a rational discussion. If we aren’t worthy enough of your time to be considered equal partakers in the discussion process, please, by all means, go spend your precious energy enlightening people elsewhere. Stop acting like you are doing us a favor and saving us from our own incapability to think rationally. It’s dehumanizing.

    The thing is, I spend a great deal of my energy on many other more immediate causes – empowering women in my own local communities and as much as I can elsewhere, speaking out about rape and violence, supporting HIV/AIDS health initiatives (I’m active in the gay community so it’s a big deal there), and working as much as I can in initiatives to improve race relations and poverty wherever I can (as I come from a poor, multiracial background). It’s rather fallacious to assume that just because I think it’s important to stop judging and legislating what women wear doesn’t mean that most of my energy is not spent on other equally important causes.

    I also speak out frequently on women’s rights in Islam and have been part of a couple of groups working to educate on a grassroots level Islamic women, especially immigrants, on their rights both civilly in the West and Islamically. One of the biggest problems with women’s rights in Islam is that women don’t always know what their rights ARE. So please don’t tell me that I am not working within my own community to speak out against injustices against women. My work, and that of other Muslim women, to educate women on their rights both civilly and religiously has probably done more on an individual level than a niqab ban will ever do on a social level to improve the status of women in Islam.

    I think it’s really sad that there are entire, powerful governments speaking out about the burqa issue, while the same governments refuse to speak out about other things. One of the movements I feel very strongly about is ending the civil war in northern Uganda. Government support from the West is extremely important for this, and there are so many avenues that have been pioneered by activists to build a way for governments and politicians to help. Alhamdulillah, after ten years of uphill fighting, we are finally getting just the US government to even THINK about speaking out on this subject. Contrast this to the burqa argument – when there is an opportunity for a government to show themselves morally superior in the cause of “liberating” Muslim women, you get talking heads on the news, politicians making statements, legislation getting pushed through. Two countries are now seriously about to see this happen (Belgium and France) in a very short period of time. If that same kind of energy was put towards eradicating poverty in those countries, or even in the world, imagine how much could be achieved.

    I do think the fact that men and goverments in 2010 are still feeling the need to decide FOR women what they can wear and what spaces they can inhabit is the biggest sign that resistance against the oppression of women is one of the most important fights I can fight. And because covered women are NOT allowed an equal say in the media and political discussion on this topic, I will fight about it, as loudly as I can, until we are. And I will not apologize for that.

    It is one thing to say that YOU feel niqab is oppressive. It’s another thing entirely to completely erase women’s voices from the process and then legislate my right to wear what I want to wear. I feel the fact that women starve themselves into bikinis (and I am not using this as a talking point, I’ve worked with eating disordered women for 10 years and had an eating disorder for that long myself and dealt with this issue firsthand, so I have seen many of the inner and outer pressures women face with clothing and body image) and stuff themselves into uncomfortable power suits and heels in order to fit some ideal of the body or to be considered pleasing to look at by men is oppressive, too. But I’m not campaigning to ban bikinis and high heels.

    And the issue I have with people who want to “liberate” the oppressed Muslim female masses via legislating what we wear instead of “liberating” us by actually working to eradicate poverty, creating job opportunities, etc. is that legislating what we wear will not actually make our lives better, and may in fact create more problems. Which is a sign, as Saya said, that it is indeed about moral superiority and not philanthropy. If it were about philanthropy, all the people who claim to want to help us and liberate us from our oppression would work WITH us, or at least care to have our voices in the process and care to want to know what we need to advance in the first place.

  6. April 12, 2010 10:43 pm

    I rather enjoy having contributed to creating a corner of controversy. ^_^

    Also alliteration.

    • April 12, 2010 10:55 pm

      I love your easily amused face. ❤

      • April 12, 2010 11:02 pm

        But….but…MY FACE IS HARAM!

        No no, only joking XD

        There’s a reason why my avatar has to be THAT face of Shigure’s. That actually IS my expression approximately 88% of my waking hours.

        PS – YOUR face is haram!

  7. Fjafjan permalink
    April 15, 2010 2:09 am

    Noor wrote:
    “I must repeat again how amusing I find it that everyone’s perspective is skewed BUT yours. You could at least accept that we are rational human beings capable of making rational decisions, but we must somehow be skewed/warped because we aren’t like you. Levantine has a point – this is why people find your discussions infuriating. Not because of the points you raise, but because you must constantly belittle the people with whom you claim to be wanting to have a rational discussion. If we aren’t worthy enough of your time to be considered equal partakers in the discussion process, please, by all means, go spend your precious energy enlightening people elsewhere. Stop acting like you are doing us a favor and saving us from our own incapability to think rationally. It’s dehumanizing. “

    How should I have phrased it? Because I think given the objective facts I mentioned, the argument you were making was incorrect, and they were incorrect because you were not looking at those more relevant statistics in claiming westerners were obsessive Niqabi-haters, but rather pointing to the media. Looking at what the Media writes and using that as a gauge for what people care about is pretty skewed. I also assumed, to my discredit, that you were blinded, however rightously, by your personal connection to the ‘burqa-issue’. (I still think this is true, but it’s not a very good foundation for an argument).
    So I could have gone with “well I think you’re wrong, If you look at where Western non-Muslims spend money….” but I think the cause of our disagreement is pretty important for helping you understand why I think you’re wrong.
    So yes, until anyone actually makes an argument for why my views are skewed, other peoples views are wrong and I am right. This is in fact the standard by which I hold my views, if they are right, so that to the best of my knowledge I am always right, accepting of course ignorance on many issues, but not issues where I will try to debate.
    So I should try not to think that I am right when I argue? To quote William Shatner: “I can’t get behind that”.

    Noor wrote:
    “The thing is, I spend a great deal of my energy on many other more immediate causes – empowering women in my own local communities and as much as I can elsewhere, speaking out about rape and violence, supporting HIV/AIDS health initiatives (I’m active in the gay community so it’s a big deal there), and working as much as I can in initiatives to improve race relations and poverty wherever I can (as I come from a poor, multiracial background). It’s rather fallacious to assume that just because I think it’s important to stop judging and legislating what women wear doesn’t mean that most of my energy is not spent on other equally important causes.”
    Ignoring the “equally important causes” stamp, I’ll concede this point and commend you for your work.
    But okey, so you want people to not be unfairly anti-Islamic, I think it helps a great deal to be honest with the causes, which are not so much imperialism or Western superiority complex, it’s poverty, globalization and segregation. The very problems you talk about you wished the government would solve, tackling the root cause I think would be hugely more effective than framing it as Colonialism. Which is not to say you can’t do both, but I believe in trying to love your enemy, at least that much.

    Now, suggesting that covered women don’t get an equal say, that might very well be accurate, I’m honsetly not sure by what metric you meassure an equal say, (should it be the same amount of time/words, should it be proportional to how many they are, etc. The assumed duality of conflicts and then demanding that they be ‘equal’ is a pretty standard fallacy in public discourse imo). It is however entirely different from ‘completely erasing women voice from the process’, as I believe there are a rather large portion of female parlamentitians in both Belgium and France, as well as female journalists etc etc. It is not a case of male oppression, it’s a case of cultur-clash, fueled by poverty, segregation and big economic divides.

    Levantine wrote:
    “You asked somewhere to be enlightened re: why people so often seem to find you offensive or enraging… this is an excellent example. To deem the thoughts of someone who has put them forward as ‘low level’ simply because they have little import in your world does not make them low level, but just makes you either self-centered or disinterested.”
    So it seems that was a poor choice of words on my part, sorry. What I meant when i said low level was not that it was simple or stupid, but that it is discourse of very fundamental questions in Ethics, very philosophical and whatnot. So rather than try to outright answer the very fundamental question of “Are there moral absolutes, can we be certain enough in whatever morals we believe to demand that others follow them/impose them on others, in what way can we do that” I put up a couple scenarios hoping to sketch a common ground.
    (as a side point, do you not mean uninterested, rather than disinterested?)

    Levantine wrote:
    “As to whether it’s a minor problem in the first place: obviously you will be oblivious to this. It has nothing to do with you, you are not Muslim. However, others out there take bullying and scapegoating – which are consequences of this great misunderstanding – very seriously, and if you can’t see the rate at which these have increased in Europe, you’ve been asleep. “

    There is a big difference between anti-islamism/islamophobia, which is a fairly big problem, and banning the burqa, which is a rather small problem, if a problem at all. Now the big problem causes the little problem, but that does ntohing to change how little it is. I’d aruge you should pick your battles, that Burqas are in fact not the future. But I also don’t see that happening.

    Levantine wrote:
    “Personally I find the question of injustice to and repeated misrepresentation of millions of people to be a serious matter, especially when this demonisation of said people is used to justify treating them differently, altering laws, invading other countries, etc. But then, I personally don’t like to be lied to, caught up in masquerades, brainwashed with propaganda, etc.”

    You really think the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan was about Islamophobia? Afghanistan was clearly Bush responding to 9-11, as stupid as that invasion was. And Iraq was about Oil, Idealogical aims as well as boosting ratings (the plan really was to get it done in a month or so). If you’re referring to racial profiling (or just “general” profiling, where a trait such as being a Muslim can be a ‘marker’) again Muslims or Arabs are not the only victims, and from a short term security perspective does make perfect sense. It’s not a good policy, but the reason is not racism/culturalism, it’s statistics and the expected value of capturing someone based on a simple analysis.

    Levantine wrote:
    “Really, Fjaf – you ought to start considering other people’s feelings and leave your mathematics, physics and other abstract systems within the confines of the laboratory. You might then find that you will enrage people considerably less. You can still state your same views without incurring such reactions – it’s the method involved. Humanity works somewhat differently. Join it sometime, and don’t forget to bring your heart along for the occasion. Bringing brains alone will leave you sorely ill-equipped.”
    And what would be the gain of bringing my heart, presuming that I don’t? Should I write more teary eyed arguments? Get angrier when people say stupid things? There is certainly a place for the heart to consider these issues, but in my experience bringing it along to the discussion tends to turn them into huge flame-wars, make them more infected and not less. So when treading on soft ground, already fraught with emotion, being anything but as clinically correct as possible will cause the feeling part of the argument to flare up, rather than the more factual aspects.

  8. April 15, 2010 4:00 am

    “How should I have phrased it? Because I think given the objective facts I mentioned, the argument you were making was incorrect, and they were incorrect because you were not looking at those more relevant statistics in claiming westerners were obsessive Niqabi-haters, but rather pointing to the media.”

    I have yet to see any objective facts, only personal opinions on niqab coming from you.

    What I am saying is that politicians and the mainstream media are creating hype and making these decisions without thinking the consequences through, and without actually bothering to stop and think about other methods which might be more effective in bridging the gap of poverty (because a niqab ban is only going to exacerbate that by keeping women from interacting at all in public spaces) and aiding in the cause of improving women’s rights and status. There is a huge discourse on covering in general going on in political and media circles that is mostly being co-opted by men and non-Muslim, non-covering women. To me it is simply common sense to include a group of people (covered women in this case) in the discussion process before legislating -for- us. That is what I would like to see, and one of the main reasons I speak out so vehemently about this subject. If governments would really like to bridge the poverty gap and incorporate groups that they see as culturally outside the mainstream, it’s not going to happen by projecting their own views of what that group needs onto that group without actually asking the group what it needs to become more integrated socially and to advance.

    As to “how should I have phrased it” – well, you could have bothered to at least argue on the same level without constantly belittling our arguments and our perspectives. I’ve considered your words on the merit of your arguments, not made snap judgments about whether I believe your perspective is skewed or irrational. I’ve also listened open-mindedly and addressed the actual arguments you’ve presented. I think it’s merely common courtesy to expect the same in return.

    “But okey, so you want people to not be unfairly anti-Islamic, I think it helps a great deal to be honest with the causes, which are not so much imperialism or Western superiority complex, it’s poverty, globalization and segregation.”

    Poverty, globalization, and segregation are, sorry to say, some of the natural consequences of colonialism. But even without pushing this discussion in the direction of post-colonialist discourse, I still believe it is perfectly valid to criticize niqab bans as a method of improving women’s rights and integrating Muslims into society because niqab bans will exacerbate poverty, segregation, and access to resources, by removing the ability for women who wear niqab to interact in public spaces at all. There are plenty of other ways to improve job and education opportunities and to reach out to Muslim communities to end poverty and segregation. This is the direction I would like to see Belgium, France, and other countries to go.

    “Now, suggesting that covered women don’t get an equal say, that might very well be accurate, I’m honsetly not sure by what metric you meassure an equal say, (should it be the same amount of time/words, should it be proportional to how many they are, etc. The assumed duality of conflicts and then demanding that they be ‘equal’ is a pretty standard fallacy in public discourse imo). It is however entirely different from ‘completely erasing women voice from the process’, as I believe there are a rather large portion of female parlamentitians in both Belgium and France, as well as female journalists etc etc. It is not a case of male oppression, it’s a case of cultur-clash, fueled by poverty, segregation and big economic divides.”

    I disagree with you on the issue of oppression of women, and hopefully when I get a chance in between work, school, and earthquake relief fundraising, I’ll be able to write my post on the ban (which has sadly been delayed) and go into why. But that’s not really important to this argument specifically. My problem is that covered – Muslim – women’s voices are not heard in the media or by politicians on this subject. Decisions are being made and viewpoints are being presented that are not informed by actual experience either interacting with these groups or by reaching out to them. So yes, Muslim women’s voices ARE being erased from this discussion; Muslim women, despite being highly active in the independent media which most mainstream Americans and Europeans don’t pay attention to, are not being heard in the mainstream media and political discussions at all. By “a say,” I mean, rather than people projecting their idea of what Muslim women and Muslim communities “need” onto them and legislating it for them, we deserve to actually have our viewpoints (plural, because we are not a monolithic entity) heard in the discussion, since it directly impacts OUR lives, not the lives of people making the decisions. (Who for whatever absurd reason find it acceptable to legislate what we wear merely because they don’t like it. I feel distinctly threatened – as in, avoid places out of fear of violence – and I dislike it when people wear confederate flags, as I come from a place, and a family, where confederate flags have meant lynchings up until a few decades ago, and still mean a legacy of hatred and inequality in terms of opportunities. But I’m not trying to pass a law saying people cannot wear confederate flags. People going in public nearly naked isn’t something I enjoy seeing, either, but I’m not pushing to outlaw bikinis.)

  9. July 3, 2010 10:42 pm

    It is of very much importance that each any every person, regardless of background, race, religion, lifestyle preference or gender, should do an inductive, unbiased study on all “holy books” of every religion. To understand where truth comes from, we must first test the validity of our foundation (our background, what where and when we grew up) with it, and then question whether it’s where we should be standing. Knowing where we’ve come from, will give us a pretense of where we will likely end up.

    I grew up in a Christian home – a very broken, Christian home. I had to test the validity of my foundation with truth, before I could believe in standing on it. I went through a lot of horrible things growing up. Dealing with sexual molestation as a kid, struggling with a multitude of addictions, I had a very bad chance of surviving as a successful person according to the standards of the world. But there is a Spirit of Truth who will guide you to the Living God, who yearns for you to come into a relationship with Him. Who will wipe away all your tears, remove all the distruths and unbelief in Him from your life, and cast a net of perfect love beneath you that casts out all fear.

    There is much debate between religions as to who the Living God is, what His name is, and who’s side He’s on. The truth is, He is for all of us. He is for humanity, and He is greatly in love with us and ravished by even one glance from our eyes toward Him. If we would just lay aside our biases, humble ourselves to a place of seeking truth in life for what it is, He will come; and He lead us through all of the trials and tribulations we face. Because there is an adversary, who hates us, and hates Him, and whats nothing more than to destroy us who are created in His image.

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