Monday, September 13, 2010

Fables On Fables

I believe Aesop wrote a fable about this:
ThinkProgress attended the anti-Park 51 rally near Ground Zero on Saturday and witnessed placards and interviewed dozens of attendees. Not surprisingly, many of them echoed the right-wing noise machine’s anti-Islam rhetoric of the past few months:
  • PARK 51 A VICTORY MONUMENT: “History shows us that they do build where they have conquered,” said one woman. “We came, we conquered and now we’re putting our mosque on this sacred spot. That’s what we believe,” said another.
  • ATTACKS ON ISLAM: One attendee said, “They kill in the name of their god, it is not a peaceful religion,” while another claimed, “I don’t think Islam is religious at all.” “They’re not peaceful people,” one woman said. “Islam is a political system parading as religion,” said a gentleman we talked to.
  • ATTACKS ON IMAM RAUF: “I think he’s a liar,” a rally-goer said, adding, “It’s gonna be a Sharia law mosque which, they believe in the Jihad.” “His intentions are not what he says,” said another attendee. “Hamas’s financier is financing this,” said another.
Islam comes in many varieties, and I would be the last to obscure the reality that those multitudes include hostile, hidebound, intolerant, inhuman fixations that very much deserve a vigilant response. But apart from right-wing mewling, there is little connecting the proposed community center with the dangerous, malevolent fringes of the Islamic world, contrary to the most elevated rhetoric we have heard in recent days. Imam Rauf is reasonable by the standard of Muslim leaders; I agree this is not nearly reasonable enough, but a "reasonable enough" form of Islam, like a "reasonable enough" form of Christianity, accommodates a genuinely pluralistic and egalitarian society and doesn't resemble these faiths as they've been practiced for centuries. This is not to say their traditional or established status justifies them.

The aim ought to be to ground the assessment in reality, not what gas-bags are yelling during the political season. As Aesop recorded in his fable, the trouble with screaming about false threats is that it inures everyone to actual threats and actual attempts to obscure the dangers; in the present case, there are genuine dangers in taking the Koran and allied traditions too seriously.

All of it is proof enough, for any with lingering doubts, that the 'culture wars' are here to stay, no matter how frequently or how far anyone bends to mollify the panics (real, fake, and mixed) that periodically erupt. Amanda Marcotte:
I get that people are sick and tired of it, and that’s why they invest in ideas like, “Electing Barack Obama will bring an end to the culture wars”, which is what Ann quotes Andrew Sullivan basically saying. But too bad. Politics isn’t your entertainment. The culture wars aren’t some movie that you’ve seen so many times that it’s lost its entertainment value, and so you can just change the channel. The culture wars are going to drag out for a long ass time for a number of reasons. One is that the social changes that we’re going through are too profound to be absorbed so rapidly.
One of these appears to be the fact that Muslims live in the USA and, from time to time, seek building permits. This is not novel, of course, but at this moment, gold-plated bullhorns are sexing up its implications. It's important to try for clarity on where the false and the true converge and where they diverge.

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