>You know, this is one of those things that really annoys me about Americans. We’re REALLY bad about this. I mean really, really bad. I’m sitting her watching the debate between Biden and Palin (good job Biden!) and my guy just said something SO stupid… And, it’s not necessarily his fault, but the media’s. Somehow we Americans get lost in the idea that a foreign word may have the same meaning as an English word. Okay, I know that sounds stupid and self-evident, but… if the shoe fits.
I have gotten so tired of hearing about these “madrassas” that are in Afghanistan. Hello! You idiots, madrassa means school in Arabic. How stupid do we sound? Now, if what you mean is a school of radical Islam, then say that. Don’t say madrassa. Because, in fact my daughter attends a madrassa (a school). And so do my nieces and nephews in the US. They all attend school. So, let’s drop the stupid attempt to use foreign words to sound scary.
It calls to mind Americans saying about Muslims, “they pray to Allah” in that tone of voice that is saved for horrifying whispers about serial killers. And I always answer, yes and so do Arab Christians. Allah means God. It’s just the Arabic word… How stupid can we sound? And I blame the media in great part. They do a good job of brainwashing us… And, they do it because it makes better news if it’s sensational.
So, while I’m on the topic of misleading and outright lying, I wanted to go back to a post by Ali. I know he thought I missed his comment, but this is one of those conversations that requires thought and mulling over. Ali’s post was on the mailing of 28 million copies of an inflammatory movie called Obsession to voters in swing states in the US. Now, long ago in my life, I learned not to comment on something about which I have no personal knowledge. So, I went out to youtube and watched the movie. It’s divided into 10 six (ish) minute segments. So, now I’ve mulled and fermented my ideas and have some thoughts.
First, I am disgusted each time the elections roll around by the tactics Americans will use to win (or cause to win) an office. The movie is clearly designed to scare people and push a political agenda. Within the movie there are misstatements, poor translations, and outright falsehoods. Some of my favorites are:
- The equating of the Palestinians and the intifada with radical Islam (ignore those Christians over there with crosses, won’t you?)
- The statement that Yasser Arafat hated America for its religious freedom and hated Christianity (You know, his wife was Christian, right? And he was on TV each year in church on Christmas. Funny demonstration of hatred for Christians, that.)
- Even I, with my pitiful Arabic, noticed that they translated the same word from Arabic into English multiple ways (some of which were outright wrong) to make their point. One example is when they translated deen as law. That was blatant enough that I caught it (since ButterBean takes deen in school and I’m fairly certain they aren’t starting law in the 1st grade).
- The obvious pro-Israeli slant that has no actual place in a piece on radical Islam.
- The horror with which they presented the idea in Islam that every non-believer would not be saved. Far be it from me to point out that this is a central belief in every faith. We Christians believe that only those who know Christ as their personal saviour will be saved. Hello. Every faith has the same fundamental principle…
But, (and here’s where I’ll get into trouble) the movie had some valid points that moderate Muslims everywhere need to hear. Therein lies the challenge. Here are the points I walked away with that I think bear some thought:
- One fundamental message that followers of Islam would do well to heed is that Americans, average Americans, are scared of you. No, not just the radical Muslims -all Muslims. This is normal, it’s natural. We’re almost always scared of anything that’s different. And, you look different. Sadly, both non-Muslims and Muslims alike get drawn into the trap of focusing on differences. Instead of pointing out the similarities between Ramadan and Lent to help bridge the understanding gap, the message delivered is that Christians wouldn’t understand fasting (which says more about a lack of understanding of Christianity than anything). Islam and Christianity may vary widely, but they also share similarities. If you can help Americans (and Westerners in general) see that, you will be doing all of us favor. Each of you can play a role as an ambassador of your faith.
- Moderate Muslims have a role to play in stopping the spread of radical Islam. Over and over again, we hear about the “silent” majority. You know what? The time for silence is done. Now is the time to raise your voices. Get angry about the fact that a fringe element who does not even represent Islam faithfully has hijacked your faith for their political purpose. Osama bin Laden doesn’t represent Islam. He’s not out there fighting for your rights (or those of the Palestinians). He’s out there fighting for his own agenda (whatever that might be). But until Americans hear the voices of good Muslims everywhere standing against what is being done in their name, they have no choice but to believe that you agree with it. The reality I face is that outsiders will not be able to stop this zealousness and twisting of Islam. Only Muslims can. Just as only Christians could stand against those who bombed clinics and killed in the name of our faith. It was wrong during the Crusades, it was wrong during the abortion clinic bombings, and it’s wrong now. Murder is never justified, but only we can ensure that that element doesn’t represent us. As an American, I have a role to play in ensuring that another bad advertisement for Christianity like George Bush doesn’t end up in office. He doesn’t represent my faith. I take that responsibility very seriously. So now is your time to take a stand. Don’t have sympathy for these people who pervert your beliefs to their own ends. Don’t sit idly by and let them continue. Speak against them, work to bring them back into the right faith. Do whatever you can to reclaim your religion.
- All that it takes for evil to flourish is for good mean to do nothing. And this is true in every society in the world. Take it to heart and resolve to do SOMETHING. The movie tries to use this as a scare tactic, but it should be a call to do what’s right, what’s just, and what’s religiously based.
The reality about Americans is that while we may not be the most aware people in the world (nor are we the least, by the way), it’s mostly a country of good people. They get up every morning and eat breakfast. They work hard to provide for their families. They love their children and want the best for them. The more things are different, the more they are the same. Americans are just like Jordanians. They’re people who try their best to live life and ensure the well-being of their families. Understanding that whatever differences in tradition are just that – differences in tradition – may help bridge this gap. Remember that while you may even agree that American women are immoral, in the same way Americans agree that Arab women are subjugated and without rights. Neither picture is either wholly true or accurate. I think if we all try to understand each other better (not necessarily become like each other), our conversation will be richer and we may be able to leave fear behind and move forward with understanding and respect.