My buddy Salem wrote to me today trying to sort out his thoughts on the Mohammed cartoon brouhaha in Europe – as far as I can tell, some European newspapers ran a cartoon that had a caricature of Mohammed, and some of the more extreme Muslim youth around the world (but especially in Denmark and England) took to the streets, screamed bloody murder, burned down two embassies and carted signs that said “Europe, your 9/11 is coming.”
There is something inherently disgusting in that sort of nihilism, especially over a fucking cartoon, and I think most Americans looked at these people while shivering with disgust. Prominent Muslim leaders stressed this was not how most people in their religion felt, but man, it’s hard not to feel the white-hot crazy rage of their rank-and-file members.
Growing up, whenever I heard the “Death to America” chants covered on television, I never gave it much pause: I figured these were dirt-broke, uneducated teens with no job prospects and nothing else to do but become radicalized. Besides, we had it so good here in America – let’s just stick to our business and let them say whatever they want.
September 11 changed that for me, as it did a lot of people, as many of us looked inward to see what America was doing to make people so angry. But it also did something else: it made me fairly intolerant.
You hear enough about any religion, and it all starts to sound a little crazy, but like anything else, there is crazy and then there’s CRAZY. Even though it was a long road, I have largely made my peace with Christianity: I believe 25% of Christians are fully nuts and evil, but there is a warm benevolence to the religion that still beckons to me as a child.
But even nutty Christians would not put a fatweh on Salman Rushdie. They would not gather in the streets and wish the fiery deaths of thousands of infidels over a cartoon. They don’t publicly behead women for adultery, nor do they saw off the heads of Washington Post reporters for being Jewish. Oh, and Christian woman are usually allowed to vote, even if I don’t like who they’re voting for.
I am trying not to let these inner – and surely racist – demons get the best of me. I’m sure my view of their religion has been tainted by the media, by not truly understanding the Arab psyche, by my own prep-school WASPie cinnamon-latté whiteness. I’ve heard that it is a “religion of peace,” that there are thousands of charitable groups at work, and it provides spiritual solace for untold millions. One of my favorite people in the world converted to Islam and remains one of the most fiercely wonderful, independent thinkers I know.
But still, I’m unmoved at best, and scared shitless at worst. Are Islamofascists going to plague us for another fifty years, or am I just another world-class American asshole?
Unbelievable double-standards abound: Muslim sharia law demands death for those who leave the religion, yet Muslims are free to proselytize all over the world. They will try to kill cartoonists who draw Mohammed, yet their papers are filled with cartoons depicting dirty Jews, especially Ariel Sharon as Adolph Hitler(!) The way they treat women should be a worldwide emergency human rights issue.
I don’t know. I’m interested how the rest of you feel about it, because, like Salem, I’m having trouble stomaching so much of what I’m seeing.