Something’s been getting fairly annoying lately. The Terrorism Conversation. Makes me want to give up. As a Muslim, people constantly engage are always engaging me in either an accusatory or inquisitive manner – or worse, both. Here’s a typical conversation all too familiar to countless Muslims living in the West:
BOB’, But you have to admit, you Moslems are pretty prone to violence.
ABDUL: No, no. You don’t understand. Muslims are peaceful people. Of the billion and a half Muslims worldwide, only a small percentage are hell-bent on using violence.
BOB: Yeah, but they kill innocent people. And they call themselves “Moslems.” They carry out their aggression in the name of “Islam.” How could you not feel some responsibility?
ABDUL: Why should I feel responsible for the crimes of some whackos just because they claim the same faith as me? They’ve twisted the teachings of Islam. They’ve sold out the vision and spirit of a great religion – that’s not my fault!
BOB: Well, you and your leaders should at least condemn the violence; condemn the aggression; condemn the terrorism.
ABDUL: What do you think we’ve all been doing – especially since 9/ 1 1 ? Every major Muslim organization, every big Muslim leader and scholar . . . heck, even every single Muslim country on earth has done nothing but condemn terrorism! Yet you continue to blame ISLAM and ALL Muslims for the actions of a radical fringe element. That’s just not fair.
BOB: Really? Well, why haven’t 1 ever heard of all these condemnations?
ABDUL: Gee, that’s a good question . . .
And so on. But recently 1 overheard a very interesting conversation along similar lines. It felt like quasi-déjà vu; very familiar, but not quite right. Two guys were talking in the row behind me on an airplane (of all places):
ABDUL: But you have to admit, you Americans arc pretty prone to violence.
BOB: No, no. You don’t understand. Americans are a peace-loving people. Of the nearly 300 million people in my country, only a small percentage is hellbent on using violence.
ABDUL: Yeah, but that small percentage is running your government. They invade countries without the right to do so, and they end up killing innocent people. They’re American leaders, and they carry out their aggression in the name of “America” and “Freedom and Democracy” – how could you not feel some responsibility?
BOB: Why should I feel responsible for the crimes of my government? I didn’t vote for Bush. In fact, the majority of American voters didn’t vote for Bush in zooo, and in 2004 nearly half of them didn’t support him – and that’s with a pathetic voter turnout anyway! These warmongers have twisted the meaning of Freedom and Democracy; they’ve sold out the vision and spirit of a great nation – that’s not my fault!
ABDUL: Well you and like-minded Americans should at least condemn the violence, condemn the aggression, condemn the ridiculous, counterproductive “War on Terror.”
BOB: Well, I can assure you that there a lot of Americans who feel that way. And they do speak out against the criminal and imperialistic actions of our government. They arc grassroots activists, and intellectuals, and professors, and journalists, and business leaders, and important public figures and celebrities. They condemn openly and forcefully what’s wrong about American policies at home and abroad. Yet you continue to blame AMERICA and ALL Americans for the actions of a radical fringe element. That’s just not fair.
ABDUL: Really? Well, why don’t we ever hear these alternative voices condemning misguided American policies?
BOB: Gee, that’s a really good question . . .
Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Next time, perhaps I should politely interrupt Abdul and Bob:
BOB: Uh, excuse me, gentlemen. If I may, I’d like to suggest two things. First, you might want to stop watching FOX News and Al-Jazeera. Secondly, you’re both complaining about the same thing – so how about if you stop arguing and instead try to find a way to constructively work together?
Both of them register blank stares.
BOB (BOB & ABDUL): : I don’t even have cable/satellite.
ME: Oh, I see.
Now that’s annoying. Like I said, makes me want to give up.
And the fact that Muslim terrorists are simply Islam’s “right wing neo-conservatives” – and the radical American right is simply America’s “Christian Wahhabis” – makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs: “Stop it! You guys are on the same team, and it’s called Hizb ashShaytan – The Army of Satan.”
But I don’t do it, of course. What’s the point of yelling condemnations at the deaf? Sounds a lot like a tree falling down in the forest.