Posted by Melvin Bray on January 6th, 2008 filed in Useful Perhaps

Adapted and cross-posted on RAW.

After the ’08 New Hampshire Republican debate, I feel I need to say this.

Once and for all, it is unmistakably arrogant, malicious and inflammatory for a Western, non-practitioner of Islam to use any derivation of the term “Islam” (e.g. “Islamo-fascist,” “Islamic terrorist”) in an attempt to designate America’s enemy in the so-called War on Terror—and unless you are a practitioner of Islam your assumed right to rebut this point goes a long way toward proving my assertion. I can make the assertion as a non-practitioner of Islam in humble others-interest, because it is a self-critique, but for a non-practitioner of Islam to try to defend the practice of constructing such labels is an act of self-absorption predicated on the hegemonic idea that we have the unassailable right to characterize anyone else however we see fit. If that’s not arrogance, then the word has lost all meaning! All you can do, non-follower of Islam, is take a moment, consider the possibility and pay attention to how Muslims themselves perceive what we do.

In the debate, the other candidates kept trying to treat Ron Paul like he was the crazy uncle at the dinner table, belittling him for pointing out that Islamic discontent with America doesn’t ferment in a vacuum. Though reactionary in instances, it has cause, and perhaps, justification. (Note I said discontent, not terrorism, has justification.) Why is Muslim humanity so hard for us to concede?

What brought all this to mind for me was the exchange in the debate in response to Huckabee’s characterization of the Bush administration’s policies as “arrogant” and evincing “a bunker mentality.” The conversation reminded me of a Seinfeld sketch of Kramer arguing with himself, “I’m not arrogant; you are! No you’re arrogant, not me! But let’s not forget those good-for-nothing Islamic terrorists! They’re the transcendent bogeymen of the 21st century!”

How dare we freely associate the hatefulness of terrorists such as Osama bin Muhammad bin ‘Awad bin Laden with the faith of over 1 billion peace-loving people who walk in the way of submission to Allah? With all the indisputable, documented atrocities perpetrated by the Western world over the last two millennia in the name of Christianity—up to and including the War on the Middle East—have we ever once dubbed the proponents and perpetrators of the Crusades, Colonial Expansion, the Inquisition, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Jim Crow, the Holocaust, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima or South African Apartheid “Christian Terrorists“?

No! Emphatically no. And we never will. Why? Because we believe that such “excesses” (isn’t that such an wonderfully innocuous term), though unapologetically supported by Christians of that time and place, do not reflect the beauty of the fundamental tenants of the Christian faith. And since those in power continue to be predominately of Christian heritage, we get to tell our story however we want to remember it.

It wouldn’t be arrogant that we won’t afford Muslims the same right to define themselves—would it?

Leave a Comment