Saturday, April 07, 2007

Xenophobia on parade

Last night I was listening to some right wing jock go on about a theme that has become all too common, both in the media and in right wing blogs. The topic was how 'Islamofascism' (a term first coined by Limbaugh if I remember right) was bent on taking over the world, and how we are at war with Islam. Though they may sometimes say 'militant Islam,' they seem to often lump all Muslims as one. I gave the example the other day of Tom Tancredo saying that if the U.S. is attacked by a few fanatics then we should 'take out Mecca' (a city of a million people in a country which is officially an ally-- and about the one thing that really would be guaranteed to make us enemies of all 1 billion muslims in the world-- the huge majority of whom have nothing to do with terrorism). It is worth noting that the most frequent targets of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups are muslims who do not agree with them.

While I certainly don't want to discount the continuing threat posed by a relatively small number of people on the fringes of Islam, I would like to keep this in perspective. For example, I was disappointed recently in England when some schools made a concession to no longer teach the Holocaust in history classes because some muslim students are taught Holocaust denial (I wonder if they would have made the same concession if put under pressure by Nazi students). However, it is worth noting that when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently hosted a conference on the topic, students at Tehran University responded by burning his picture-- clearly we should recognize that not all muslims believe the same thing and that there are muslims who find this sort of thing every bit as repulsive as most of us in the west (or of Jewish ancestry, which I am). To try and fit one billion people all into the same boat shows only the narrow minded thinking of the right.

But, let's for a moment suppose that they believe (as they do) that we are in a war with Islam, and that Muslims are indeed such a threat. Of course their next move would be to try and keep out muslims, as they are. How about then, a group of Christians, more religious and with stronger family values than most Americans, hardworking, grateful for what they have (and not envious of those who have more, but rather aspiring to achieve it themselves) and who appreciate America so much that they are willing to risk their lives if need be just for the privilege of living in America? Wouldn't people like that be the natural allies that those on the right would be looking for, to strengthen America against the perceived threats from inside and outside the country?

Well, no-- not if they are from Mexico or Latin America. Wrong skin color, wrong language, wrong kind of Christian apparently.

OK, so what about fellow Americans?

No, the far right is suspicious of most of us too. If we dare suggest that maybe diplomacy is a better option than to try and militarily force our way into another country, and that perhaps it is time to seek a negotiated settlement in Iraq because we don't see any good coming out of continuing to fight there, then we are automatically 'anti-American,' 'want to lose,' 'surrender-mongers,' or some similar title.

In fact, ultimately the far right reminds me of an old show I once saw in which Carroll O'Conner (who played Archie Bunker) tried to make fun of prejudice. He began (dressed as and looking like Archie) by saying he didn't like this or that ethnic group because of..., couldn't trust this or that group,... (including large groups like 'women' or 'Hispanics') and at the end said, 'so who does that leave? Just me and this other guy. And I don't like him too much...')

It seems as though the far right is truly xenophobic, believing that if you are not one of them then you must be working with some great global conspiracy to try and destroy America and set up a one-world government.


vbspurs said...

Eli, I would to extend to you and your family on this Easter Sunday, my warmest of greetings and good wishes.

You are always a beacon of moderation, and intelligence on any topic, which no amount of disagreement on matters political, will change my opinion.

Happy Easter!


Eli Blake said...


thanks for the kind words. Hope your Easter was fantastic.