February 02, 2005

A Good Question

Spiced Sass links to two articles asks a good question; why does the West so cavalierly dismiss the actions of a significant portion of the Muslim population as being an aberration? I don't claim that every Muslim is evil or seeking to kill, crush, destroy, enslave the rest of the world, but too many preach hatred.

Part of the problem is the dismissal of their actions by those of the left. Those who would speak against the evil are not given voice, are intimidated into silence. For them to have the courage to speak they need to know that the world will not remain silent, and those who perpetuate such crimes will be held accountable.

Posted by Rachel Ann at February 2, 2005 03:47 PM

Well hello there Willow Tree!

I'm finally back in the 'Holy Land'. Just finished the Bar Mitzvah of my last (of six children) son. Now its "down-to-business".

The reason is probably complex, but one very real thread in that complexity is our tendency to project onto thers what we ourselves are capable of. Hence Arabs believe we (the West, Israel etc.) are capable of every attrocity and the 'West' can't believe that Arabs or Muslims harbor hatred and a desire to see the 'West' humiliated and destroyed. Each side sees in the other what they themselves believe, desire. I think its called "wishfull thinking". Unfortunately as the US discovered in 9/11 and Israel has suffered since when, 1929?, it isn't a great way to run a country or international relations.

We have to get Jerusalem bloggers to a face-to-face somehow! Any ideas? I'll carry the ball, I simply need some ideas of where to carry it from and to!


Posted by: YoelBA at February 2, 2005 03:59 PM

That's a great point, Rachel Ann: those things which we refuse to condemn in others, we must be prepared to ourselves endure. One would have thought, witnessing the last century's horrors, that this lesson would have been learned by everyone.

We must regain our ability to distinguish between those things which are evil and those which are merely imperfect.

Posted by: lex at February 2, 2005 07:35 PM

Excellent points,.

This is, indeed, a complex problem.

There's a lot of subjectivity that goes into the personification of "evil".

On the one hand, many "westerners" view the muslim world as backwards, ignorant, and hateful. That's not to say that there aren't those in the muslim world that are all that and more...There are. But, this generalization, of course, is absolutely false.

On the other hand, there is the same thing going on in the Muslim world. Many view the United States, et al., as spoiled, arrogant, and bullish. While many Americans are, in fact, big, dumb bullies...The truth is, that this is also absolutely false as a generalization.

The bottom line, is that people are suffering, and nations are at war, and lives are being torn apart.

If only, the world could try to tackle the real problem: Ignorance.

With the real solution: Tolerance.

We'd be a much happier, vibrant world to live in...Wouldn't we?

Posted by: Andy at February 3, 2005 03:15 AM

Andy - I wish it was so simple. I am not sure that it is. I was far more ignorant about the Arab middle east three and a half years ago than I am now. And knowing what I know now, I am somewhat less tolerant of many of the differences.

Perhaps there's a higher plane I have yet to break through. Perhaps.

Posted by: lex at February 3, 2005 04:46 AM

Lex, perhaps not. I hear you.

I'm not sure I was aiming at simplicity, and I may have missed the intended mark.

Allow me to elaborate a little bit on this train of thought, and I apologize in advance for esoteric rhetoric, and a lengthy rant:

Your perspective: I'm not suggesting that you SHOULD be tolerant of the things you've experienced in your 3 1/2 years in the middle east. I'm not suggesting that your observations, and ultimate conclusions, are not completely valid. I'm certain that they are. I'm certain that you've seen atrocities, and imbalance that I can only speculate about, and couldn't possible understand as I don't have the experience and the knowledge that you do. You've earned those conclusions. They are yours, and they are worthy of my respect. So, I'm not inferring that your conclusions are any less substantial, or true.

To me, Ignorance and Tolerance are more like college subjects. They are, in my mind, like umbrellas, under which all truths, relating to the cause and consequence of that subject, exist.

Ignorance and tolerance, is more like a required subject in the university of life, that we all, ultimately, must confront, consicous or not of this reality. In the end, I think it can be said that what we learn in year 1, is far more simplistic, then what we learn in year 4. In fact, our conclusions in year 4, may be entirely different, then our conclusions in year 1.

I'm digressing. Let me get back on track. I said that your truths were valid, respected, and completely rightous conclusions, based on real experiences, and I cannot question that.

But, the challenge for you, I humbly suggest, is to not stop now. Continue to explore the landscape, and where these conclusions take you on your journey. You must move beyond those conclusions, so that you can form new, more evolved realizations, and place your experiences in their rightful place, under these new truths. That's your journey, as I see it, at least relating to this discussion.

And most definitely, it is one of an exploration of ignorance and tolerance...Not just yours, but of those you encounter in your travels within and beyond the arab world.

And, I'm not suggesting Utopia either.

To me, Ignorance can stem from things completely beyond an individuals control, such as from a lack of education, a lack of resources, a society based on poverty and crime and corruption and violence, and cut off from the information, the development, and the innovation of a modern world.

Ignorance, indeed, is not just a simple idea, and I don't necessarily believe that it is something one simply chooses. How can a 5 year child, trained to kill and destroy and hate...How can he be considered in control, or making a choice? But, he's still ignorant of many, many things, I think. So what do you and I do with this? Do we hate him and reciprocate? Do we accept that he is evil, and vow to destroy him before he destroys us? Or, is there something else we can do, to build upon our feelings and conclusions? This is what I was really keying in on, when I defined Ignorance as the problem.

All I'm trying to say, is that Ignorance is an observable, real phenomenon that every one of us lives through, every day. Tolerance, is the opposite experience. Those that choose to observe the inner landscape, and confront these two, polarized charges within all of us...Those are the evolved ones you jokingly hinted at. In addition, those same individuals cannot change the ignorance of others, but they can certainly observe it, seek to understand it, and move beyond the emotions that the outside world can impose upon all of us. And I think that they are indeed, noble, and rightous, and smarter and wiser than me, and something worth striving for...

Not only as an individual, but as a society.

And having said all of that, I do have to agree that my original statement was far to simple. But I still do think that the problem is ignorance, and the solution is tolerance. Even though, I don't think those two concepts, are necessarily as simple as they sound.

Posted by: Andy at February 3, 2005 07:28 AM

We have a big problem with political correctness. It is more highly favored than honesty or empircal knowledge by many.

Posted by: tallglassofmilk at February 3, 2005 07:51 AM

Everyone has made some excellent points here; I"m enjoying the discussion!
Yoel, you are correct; often, not always, but often we see what we are. Other's become our mirrors. It is hard to look at something objectively. We expect what we ourselves would give or do.

Andy, I understand your meaning regarding tolerance, but I think there is a difference between tolerance and condoning immoral behaviour. While I can understand the concept of a woman completly covering herself, even though I disagree with such a need, for a parent to murder a child because she was raped is not acceptable. As to a five year old child; what do we do? We first must protect ourselves and the innocent; because the child has suffered does not mean we allow for more suffering, and sometimes, horrifically, that may mean the death of a five year old. Certainly when faced with a five year old killer I would hope we could find alternate solutions. Israel has stopped, without killing, several youthful potential suicide bombers; I haven't heard any as young as five, the youngest I heard of was ten. But isn't one way to stop such abuse of a five year old to condemn and put to an end (jailing being the more desirable action) those who would train him to kill?

Lex, I agree; and here Andy is where we MAY part company. I do not feel it right to tolerate murder of a woman because she was the victim of a crime, or because she was rumored to have acted against the will of her family. I don't condone it even if she does behave in what I consider an immoral behaviour (I know, Judaism has its rules and you could die for certain behaviour. Captital punishment under Torah law was rarely carried out as it was extremely difficult, based on Rabbincal rules, to prove guilt.)

And TGM, you hit the nail on the head. I don't completely object to political correctness. I think that there is nothing harmful in saying "emotionally or mentally challenged" if that makes those who are in that state feel better about themselves. Rude speach is rude speech; it should be avoided, whether or not we call it pc or not.

But to accept a false idea to protect the feelings of those who are promoting hatred and murder is counterproductive. There are Muslims who want a true peace; not a peace of murder of the other, but a peace of acceptance of alternate views---even if hotly debating such views. But Muslims who want a true and honest peace have no chance if the world is embracing those who preach hate. Their voices get lost. And I think there are more of them than many believe.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at February 3, 2005 01:47 PM

About 15 years ago or more very early into the intifada, I had a journalist over, interviewing me. She tried to explain: "The Arabs throw rocks at you to get the world's sympathy." So I answered the obvious: "If we threw rocks, would we get the world's sympathy?" I got a look and a change of subject.
I wrote about the topic in "Teflon Terrorism," http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2004/11/teflon-terrorism.html

Posted by: muse at February 3, 2005 07:29 PM

Take the Irshad Manji challenge, Westerners:

"My question for non-Muslims is equally basic: Will you succumb to the intimidation of being called "racists," or will you finally challenge us Muslims to take responsibility for our role in what ails Islam?" - Irshad Manji


Posted by: Mark at February 5, 2005 07:40 PM
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