Response to a Misrepresentation of Muslim-Americans

I read this the first time a few years ago and again was sent it recently. Its true origin is unverified, but there are several overly-sensational points that undermine the very American principles we hold dear, not to mention logical fallacies, and I wanted to defend Muslim-Americans as the Americans they are.

The main issues I have with the document are as follows:

  • Arabs are equated with Muslims by the author. There are plenty of Arabs that are not Muslims, and there are plenty of Muslims that are not Arabs (only 12% of Muslims in the world are Arabs, and 75% of Arab Americans are Christian). An Arab belongs to an ethnicity; a Muslim belongs to a religion.
  • The facts have been distorted to be more dramatic: one male's throat was possibly cut, not "throats of women in front of children". I mean in no way to degrade the serious nature of 9/11, but this is a clear point in which we can question the author's credibility.
  • He asks how to tell the good Muslim from the bad. You might ask the same thing to someone of my faith: "How do I tell true Mormons from those that are polygamist and/or abusive?" Or: "How do I tell the dangerous thief from the law-abiding citizen?"
  • The distinction of "our" vs. "they" infers that American rights are not applicable to Americans of a certain race or religion. But an American is an American, regardless of background or superficial classification.
  • Sadly, millions of non-Muslim Americans also don't pray for this country and respect the flag and patriots. They too should be under condemnation.
  • Muslim leaders have come together across the nation and the world condemning violence and attacks in the name of their religion. There are many terrorists who kill in the name of some cause or another. How about the IRA, or the Oklahoma City bombers?
  • Proportionally, the number of Muslims that died in the 9/11 attacks (roughly 60, or about 2%) was a bit higher than that of Muslims in the overall US population (about 1.5% using higher estimates). There are about 15000 enlisted Muslim soldiers in the military. This was a national tragedy that cut a cross-section through every community and subculture.
  • To ask for hard facts on Islam is like asking for hard facts on Christianity, or Buddhism, or Hinduism. There is no centralized leadership with Islam, and as such the schools of thought are vastly diverse (as with nearly any other religion). We only have to look to the deviant offshoots of my own religion to see how interpretations can be twisted. Spread that out to Christianity as a whole, where love and peace and tolerance are taught, and explain the many cults and fanatics that are out there.
  • Of course, every Muslim knows someone on that list of 400 persons of interest...
  • The author doesn't seem to take issue with the burning effigies or flags we perform in our own streets, or in other non-Muslim nations. Compound that with the one-sided media the general populace in some other countries receives, and of course there are misunderstandings. But wait, weren't we talking about Americans in this article?

In the end, the author is the one who worries me. He has made up his mind that the idiomatic "innocent until proven guilty" can be disregarded should one member of a group be found guilty. Ignorance like this can only be dissolved by spending time among those we don't know and don't understand.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I've been incorrectly associated with groups simply due to the coincidentally shared history our church has with the FLDS and other splinter groups, and this has helped me better understand the danger of stereotyping before learning from your own personal first-hand experience.

I've also had the opportunity to teach and discuss among Muslims and Arabs alike, both here in the US as well as in France. I've met refugees who have left their own countries as victims of greater afflictions at the hands of terrorism, people who were overjoyed in tears with the news of an oppressor's downfall. Those that suffer most are those that share the culture and heritage of the guilty.

I hope most Americans don't lash out like the author does. Too often, people fight over differences (and often both sides are at fault) rather than finding commonalities.

You can read another response to the text here.


Belle said...

Thanks! I heartily agree with what you've said! It's funny to me how stereotypes can be so right and so wrong. They are only generalities, and people forget that real individuals make up a collective group. A funny thing I've noticed is that minorities seem to stereotype themselves and others in a stronger manner than larger communities...that may me anecdotal, but maybe since in their small group they've been exposed to a lot less options.

Post a Comment