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Op Ed

Takedown: I’m Tired

This week’s crapdate, it looks like, is one of those gifts that keeps on giving. It comes from a blog post from 2009, and there is so much to tackle in it that it’s going to have to come in parts. Otherwise, you’ll suffer from rage fatigue, which is a constant threat for many of us, and I just can’t push you over the edge in good conscience.

The excerpt I will focus on here:

“I’m tired of being told that Islam is a “Religion of Peace,” when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family “honor;” of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren’t “believers;” of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery;” of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur’an and Shari’a law tells them to.”

A short answer: “I’m tired, too! Tired of assholes pretending that misinformation and declarative sentences justify their racism.”

Let me explain a bit about the post in its entirety. It starts out:

“I’ll be 63 soon. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce, and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I’ve worked, hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven’t called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn’t inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there’s no retirement in sight, and I’m tired. Very tired.”

It then talks about all of the things he is tired about. The post was written by Robert A. Hall, a former Massachusetts senator. I’ve seen it attributed to Robert D. Hall, an actor on CSI, and to Bill Cosby, an actor on everything including Little Bill, adored by 2-year-olds throughout the United States, and thus still relevant. Both of the wrong attributions are weird, because, seriously? Successful actors bitching about how hard they have worked and how they’ll never be able to retire? Doesn’t make sense. But that doesn’t stop people from reposting! Because they want to believe that their ignorant and racist beliefs are shared by beloved popular culture figures, instead of by a former Republican state senator who is shilling the party line. In a racist, bigoted, disgusting way.

I wish you could see how far back my eyes are rolling in my head at how tired he is (I’m amazed I can still type). He was elected to the Massachusetts state senate directly out of college. It is no small feat to get elected at such a young age, and he had a successful and popular run, remaining undefeated over five terms. He then went on to work as an executive director of various nonprofits. He has had a lifetime of politics and management, and his salary, as he admits, is good. He certainly didn’t spend his youth in the coalmines or on oilrigs. Or as a migrant worker in a developing country. A white collar life, one which he worked hard to achieve, is great! But his life is hardly one of hardship and exhaustion. When you are an executive director, you can afford vacations and massages and, yes, even retirement. His tiredness is a choice.

I have tried to determine if Mr. Hall himself is religious, and although he often talks about religions that he hates (Islam), he does not seem to discuss openly his own religious beliefs. I have found poetry written by him that references God as well as Christmas; my best guess, given his conservative Republican beliefs and the Christian majority in America, is that he considers himself to be Christian. This takedown will thus use Christianity as a reference point, although similar information could certainly be found about other religions; Christianity is likely to be the “good” against which he measures the “bad” Islam.

Let’s focus on the passage at hand. He could have shortened it simply to say, “I hate and fear Muslims.” This is certainly not unheard of at the moment, as is illustrated by Lowes’ pulling of advertisements for a reality show featuring Muslims. Instead, he cited examples so that people could repost the thing and claim legitimacy for their own bigotry.

His first statement: every day he can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their family members out of honor.

I’m not sure what he is reading. I figured maybe Fox News would be a good place to start, since, well, it seems like his kind of news. Fair and Balanced and all. A search on Foxnews.com for “honor killing” gives me four stories in the past year. Now maybe he isn’t talking about news. Maybe he is reading books on honor killings, in which case, it makes sense that he has been reading dozens of stories every day, but it also means he isn’t being completely honest. I can read dozens of stories every day about lightning strikes, if I look in the right books, but that doesn’t mean there is an epidemic of them.

The truth is, honor killings are deplorable. Really, horribly awful. But the common thread of honor killings isn’t Islam. The National Geographic‘s article covered this topic quite well with Hillary Mayell’s article, “Thousands of Women Killed for Family ‘Honor.'” She writes:

“”In countries where Islam is practiced, they’re called honor killings, but dowry deaths and so-called crimes of passion have a similar dynamic in that the women are killed by male family members and the crimes are perceived as excusable or understandable,” said Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. The practice, she said, “goes across cultures and across religions.””

Like the Christian father who murdered his daughter because she wanted to marry a Muslim. Or the fundamentalist Christian father who beat his daughter to death because God wanted her to be obedient. Or the Jehova’s Witness who murdered the mother of his 13 children because he thought she was in another relationship.

As a matter of fact, the Koran doesn’t support the practice. The same article from National Geographic explains that, “there is nothing in the Koran, the book of basic Islamic teachings, that permits or sanctions honor killings.”

You know which book does support such a practice? “And the man that commits adultery with another man’s wife, even he that commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death”: the Bible.

Islam is not the common thread. Overwhelmingly, there is a tie between these crimes: they are committed by men against women. Maybe what Mr. Hall means is that he is tired of being told that men should be treated respectfully? Looking at it in this light, though, such a statement is just absurd. Honor killings don’t happen because men are horrible. It’s because some men are horrible. Some Muslim men, some Catholic men, some Atheist men.

Next Mr. Hall says that he’s tired of reading stories about Muslims rioting over some slight offense. Again, dozens of stories daily is a stretch, unless he is doing research on a specific topic. I believe he is talking about the riots that occurred over the cartoon depiction of Mohammad in 2006.

The truth of the matter is that there are a myriad of motivations behind any riot, and things that seem silly to outsiders provoke riots in all sorts of people, not just Muslims. The recent riots in London seemed to have no motivation, or at least no coherent motivation, other than general unrest. Students at Penn State rioted to protect a coach from being fired (the same coach who failed to protect children from being raped). A quick Google search of “sports riots” will find that people regularly riot over games.

The “slight offense,” perceived blasphemy against a critical religious figure, is far more offensive than no reason at all, the firing of a facilitator of rape, or the outcome of something that is done purely for entertainment, all of which were deemed offensive enough to riot by mostly white, Christian communities.

What riots ultimately come down to is feelings of powerlessness. Powerlessness against authority, powerlessness against the decision made by a college administration, powerless against the results of a sporting event, powerless against how the most important spiritual figure in your life is depicted by people who have no connection or understanding of your religion. People riot when they are in a position of powerlessness and when frustration has built up to the breaking point.

This kind of emotion is foreign to Mr. Hall, because he has the luxury of a cushy life (completely due to hard work and in no way affected by the fact that he was born a white male in a peaceful, powerful country, I’m sure) and has never had to deal with such overwhelming frustration and anger with no effective outlet. Perhaps the ridicule of a religious figure is no big deal. And it isn’t. For him. And when it is, he has a variety of options to express his anger, such as writing a bigoted blog post. A better exercise might be to count his blessings and think about how lucky he is not to be bothered by these “slight offenses.”

He’s tired of reading dozens of stories daily about Muslims murdering Christian[s] and Jews because they aren’t “believers.” Hello, pot, meet kettle. Throughout history, Christians have murdered pagans, a million innocent citizens in the Crusades, 350,000 people in the Inquisition, not to mention “witches” at the stake, and Christians have, at one point or another, justified multiple wars, slavery, and the murders that accompanied it, oh, and let’s not forget the Holocaust, the genocide in Serbia, the genocide in Rwanda, or the killings by the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.

Actually, the Christian bible calls for the killing of nonbelievers, in Deuteronomy 17:

“If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”

I’m tired of reading these stories, too. But I’m not about to use specific stories to justify my hatred of one group, and pretend that the group to which I belong doesn’t have an equally horrifying history. And contemporary situation.

As for the stories of Muslims burning schools for girls–I think he must be referring to the burning of a girls school in 2002 in Mecca. The school was burned accidentally, and the girls were blocked from leaving, and thus murdered. This is undoubtedly a horrible situation. Much like the atrocities committed by the Ku Klux Klan (no stranger to arson) and others in the name of the Christian religion. Do you see the common link? These are horrible people using a twisted definition of religion to justify their crimes against humanity. And what is Mr. Hall doing in his blog post? Using a twisted definition of religion to justify his hatred against a group of people.

He is tired of stoning stories. I am, too. The Bible calls for stoning all over the place (see above for one example)–actually it is the most common penalty prescribed in the Bible. On the other hand, “The Koran forbids all sexual intercourse outside the marital bond as sinful, but makes no distinction between them. The punishment is flogging 100 times for those found guilty. Stoning (rajm) as a punishment for adultery is not mentioned in the Koran, so some modernist Muslim scholars like Quran Alone Muslim scholars take the view that stoning to death is not an Islamic law.” The Bible calls for stoning. The Koran does not.

The stonings that have taken place in modern times are absolutely atrocious. So is the torture that the United States of America has done, legally, to further its own agenda. I have an idea: let’s decry torture in any form, rather than decry the religion of a person that is perpetrating the crime.

We are all tired of genital mutilation. It is abhorrent. It is part of a larger category of crimes against women, which Christians are quite familiar with. There is a connection of Islam to genital mutilation, but to say that genital mutilation is caused by religion is simplifying the issue to an extreme.

“Asim Zaki Mustafa argues that the common attribution of the procedure to Islam is unfair because it is a much older phenomenon. While individual Muslims, Christians, and Jews practise FGM, it is not a requirement of any religious observance. Judaism requires circumcision for boys, but does not allow it for girls. Islamic scholars have said that, while male circumcision is a sunna, or religious obligation, female circumcision is preferable but not required, and several have issued a fatwa against Type III FGM.”

The truth of the matter is that Islam does not require female genital mutilation. Some Muslims perform this act. So do some non-Muslims. The act is horrendous. The religion of the person wielding the knife is not.

Mr. Hall suggests that all of these atrocities are done in the name of Allah. This does happen, just as so many of the atrocities listed above were done in the name of God. Doing something “in the name of” somebody does not mean that the religion, person, or god being invoked stands for or supports the action–it means that the person doing the action is looking for a justification.

I will say it again: there are people (not Muslim people, or Christian people, or Buddhist people, just people) who use religion to justify their atrocities. Just like there are people (like Mr. Hall) who use religion to justify hatred and fear of other people.

There are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world today. The crimes that Mr. Hall rails against, of which he reads dozens of stories every day, are perpetrated by an incredibly small percentage of those people. Just as the crimes perpetrated by Christians are done by a tiny percentage of those people. This is a good time for comparisons between the two groups. The internet is chock full of “how violent are Muslims” types of conjecture, with polls asking people how they felt about America, anecdotal evidence, and estimates based on”¦something. Professor Steven Fish of Berkeley took the number of violent incidents, divided it by population, and came up with some actual fact-based statistics.

“Murder rates average 2.4 per annum per 100,000 people in Muslim countries and 7.5 in non-Muslim countries. Murder rates such as are found in predominantly Christian Brazil (11), Russia (20), Mexico (13) and South Africa (48) are unknown in the Muslim world. The murder rate in the most populous Christian country, the United States, is 6. In the most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, it is 1; in Turkey, it is 4. Further statistical tests confirm what is obvious from these raw data: more Muslims, less homicide.”

But those are the Muslims in other countries! Mr. Hall is tired of treating the ones in America like human beings, because those are the ones with whom he might come into contact.

In America, too, Muslims are more peaceful than Christians. So, by the way, are Atheists, for whatever that’s worth.

“Through interviews with 2,482 Americans, Gallup found that 78 percent of Muslims believe violence which kills civilians is never justified, whereas just 38 percent of Protestant Christians and 39 percent of Catholics agreed with that sentiment. Fifty-six percent of atheists answered similarly.”

If Mr. Hall’s exhaustion is to be blamed on people doing violent acts in the name of religion, he should perhaps look a little closer to home.

Mr. Hall finishes his blog post with the following: “Yes, I’m damn tired. But I’m also glad to be 63. Because, mostly, I’m not going to get to see the world these people are making. I’m just sorry for my granddaughter.”

This might be the only section where we agree. In part because of blogs like this, which spew hatred in every direction based on a loose definition of facts and an extremely high level of fear, racism, and bigotry, hate crimes against Muslims are increasing. I’m glad that he’s not going to get to see the world that “these people” are making, because he is intent on eradicating “these people,” and I would rather he not be around to see peace and love and a push to end racism and discrimination, for it sounds like he wouldn’t be able to handle it. I’m also sorry for his granddaughter, but not because she will live to see a world with more equality in it. I am sorry for his granddaughter because I can only imagine how painful her holiday gatherings are, and maybe one day she will fall in love with a Muslim. I’m very, very sorry for her.

 

 

 

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

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