Of Racism and Islamophobia
I realized that the accusation of racism and Islamophobia is a commonly detonated gratuitous attack on the right leaning bloggers, and that far from being an exception, my blog's liberal commenters have become the cry for recognition of what has become the liberal norm...
I came across a post written by the talented wife and blogging partner of Bodissey's [Gates of Vienna], Dymphna, on her own blog, giving plenty of food for thought and discussion:
"We are born with a capacity to prefer our own kind. Watch any child encounter a stranger and you can experience the primitive startle effect that leads to a preference to be with one's own. This inclination toward the known is neither sinful nor wrong; it is human.
"Game theory has shown that when members of a community are left to their own devices, groups of similars will collect or 'bunch' together. It is not deliberate segregation, it is congregation. Ask the black students on any campus who they prefer to hang with. And then ask them if this preference is racist...Bill Cosby had it right when he said the main problems facing black children have nothing to do with racism and everything to do with poor decisions. Now whose fault is that?...
"We are Christ's people. We need to be about our Father's business and we already have a Creed to tell us what that business is...Once upon a time, the Episcopal Church was at the forefront of educating children to the fact of their individual free will and their membership, via Baptism, in the City of God. Now it seems that we stand only for the further balkanization by race which has so grievously retarded our culture.
"Race and ethnicity are accidental. They are not instrumental in our salvation."
If "race and ethnicity" is accidental, why are we zoned by the color of our skin into people "of our own kind"? African-Americans are still part of a vividly distinct and separate American culture shaped by our past history of slavery and segregation.
We have largely gotten past the racism of Bull Connor. But there is a subtler level to such things. It consists of a reluctance to deal with a separate culture on it's own terms, or even, in many cases, to try to pretend that such a separate culture isn't there.
We trade our cultures in the public marketplace to work out a common ground of public ethical behavior and liberty under law. Can anyone honestly say that African-Americans do not still have to trade theirs at a discount?
Before you do, ask how much you really know about that separate culture as it exists among the respectable, the honorable, and the pious in the Black community.
This is a matter to which the ideological code phrases of either "individual responsibility" or "cultural diversity" are irrelevant.
No single culture is the exclusive possessor of unbridled license, criminal conduct, or vice. And, frankly, the real meaning encoded in the rhetoric of "individual responsibility" when it is waved around ideologically, is a denial of this fact.
We may dislike the flavor of vice and crime in one particular culture more another--in fact we usually dislike it more in others than in "our own kind" and more in our own kind than we do in ourselves. But this is not something to be proud of. This differential dislike is simple prejudice; it is like saying that, because we like beef, we like rotten beef better than rotten vegetables.
Nor is "diversity" a river that needs to be pushed to run downhill. We are diverse. This is a fact. It does not have to be transformed into a sacred goal achieved when we finally make the New Jerusalem. And this is what the rhetoric of "cultural diversity" implies. Those who use such rhetoric are all for diversity, but only on the terms that conform to their private opinions of how the world should run.
There are two things anyone can legitimately ask from someone else of a different culture--to keep the bargains made about public ethics, public conduct, and public law, and to respect the private differences of culture while rejecting vice as vice and not rejecting it as the vice which happens to most offend our own private taste because it is not the vice of "our own kind".
In my experience, the responsible, the honorable, and the pious in the Black community largely do not ask for more than this, nor does anyone need to give more than this, calls for some ideological brand of "cultural diversity" notwithstanding.
Further, what I have called Islamophobia over on the Baroness' blog and elsewhere is the assertion that there is something inherent in being Muslim that makes its believers violent or destructive.
I deny that assertion categorically, and I don't think truly broad contact with a reasonable range of plain and ordinary Muslims, such as you might happen to have for neighbors, or encounter in a coffee shop in any decently sized city, sustains that assertion in the least.
In this country, at least, Muslims are certainly hard to get to know intimately, especially now. But given the fact that they are tolerated, but largely unwelcome, no matter how peaceful and law abiding they may be, that seems to me to be perfectly understandable.
Consider the prejudice here against any form of hajib, even when undertaken by a woman voluntarily, as it frequently is. One of the strongest social conventions in this country is that you do not display your religion in public. And this is the most important basis here for dislike of the hajib, whatever rational [or irrational] arguments are made against it.
I routinely also violate this American social convention and count mantras on a set of beads in public, on the bus or while sitting alone in building lobbies, for example. This causes a certain amount of hostility toward me from strangers. But that is not my problem. I have certain Buddhist jobs to do and not enough time to do them, so I have to squeeze in work on them wherever and whenever I am free to do so.
The only people who will approach me and talk to me openly about it are Muslims, and they display no hostility whatever to the fact that I am Buddhist and not Muslim. In fact, they accord my open religious life and practice considerable deference and respect, the same, as far as I can tell, that they would accord to a fellow Muslim practicing dikr with counting beads.
You can read all sorts of books and hear all sorts of news about Muslims with violent and hostile agendas. But violence and hostility know no creed, color, or culture. There is always plenty of it to go around. You can confirm this for yourself in Ireland.
We face many open dangers from Muslims who have violent and hostile agendas. So we must be alert, vigilant, and, occasionally and professionally, armed. But that does not mean that we have to develop violent and hostile agendas of our own.
I think any fair minded person reading the Baroness' blog or Bodissey's blog would conclude that they have a violent and hostile agenda of their own.
Particularly when they say things like this about African-American Muslims in America:
I think it's time to "commit a hate crime" and do something about this enemy that's in our midst. If we allow things to continue as they are, these compounds and camps and communes will grow and spawn spinoffs and continue to amass ordnance and explosives and guns.
They will wait. Wait until America is vulnerable, after another terrorist attack, after a major natural disaster, after the avian flu strikes...The Great Islamic Jihad will be happy to piggyback in on a race war in America. They will also be happy to piggyback in on the craven American PC fear of being termed "racists."
[The last sentence in this post has been deleted for the reasons you will find in the comments below. It is far too easy to say intemperate and hurtful things. And I am far too prone to do it. I want to make my apology as public as my offense, and make it to you, the reader, as well as to Mr. Bodissey. Mea Culpa.]