Filed under: Culture, Racism, Religion | Tags: Dixie Chicks, Franklin Graham, Islam, Islamophobia, Keith Ellison, Phil Donahue, Ross Douthat, Sarah Palin, Sinéad O'Connor, South Park
In his column today, the New York Times‘ Ross Douthat takes Comedy Central and others to task for censoring depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. Douthat sees a double standard afoot, pointing out that while our sensibilities are routinely satirized, “Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all.” Phil Donahue and Sinéad O’Connor no doubt will find that statement astonishing.
Douthat is, of course, wrong. Not only has it become acceptable to attack Islam and vilify Muslims, but xenophobia directed at the community has become commonplace and in some places, rampant. These days, it’s not unusual for Muslims to be referred to as barbarians. Anti-Islam/Muslim books are New York Times bestsellers. Prominent Christian groups have called for American-Muslims to be deported. Others want Muslims barred from serving their country. The term “Islamo-fascism” is as casually used as “Judeo-Bolshevism” was in the 1920s and 30s. When Rep. Keith Ellison first won a seat in Congress, Glenn Beck said to him, “[P]rove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”
Substitute any other group in place of Muslim and you’ll see just how insidious such rhetoric truly is. Arizona recently passed a law which for all intents and purposes will open the floodgates of racial profiling. The bill is rightfully being attacked as unconstitutional and unjust. But as any Afghan or Arab man can tell you, profiling has long been a reality in the Muslim community. And we have endured and joined the democratic process and aimed to influence policy. As a group, we are neither victims (as some claim) nor a protected class (as, no doubt Douthat believes). We are Americans who are oddly asked to repudiate the actions of people we don’t know and linked to the actions of people we disagree with. Imagine for a second if a Christian in Kansas was constantly asked to repudiate the actions of Christians in Kenya.
Not only is criticism of Islam and attacks against Muslims acceptable, but actually, the fact that they occur go against Douthat’s underling claim that it is Muslims alone who are pushing for censorship in the public square. You’ll remember that several years ago, the Dixie Chicks received death threats for political speech. More recently, congressional Democrats received death threats because they voted for health care reform. Abortion clinics have been attacked because people’s religions tell them that abortion is a sin. It’s not Muslims who’ve led these attacks. That’s a fact. It wasn’t a man named Khalid that called for the banning of the dictionary.
Meanwhile, conservative politicians have openly embraced pastors who’ve said very vile things about Islam. Sarah Palin’s praise of Franklin Graham (who called Islam “evil” and advised Muslims to accept Christ so that “they don’t have to die in a car bomb“) is but the most recent example. It’s unlikely that Palin will be forced to distance herself from Graham.
This begs the question: Is Mr. Douthat being naïve, dishonest or both?
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald also has a very interesting take on Douthat’s fallacious conclusion.
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