Participatory democracy on a multicultural model wherein equal rights are enjoyed by both sexes – and all genders in between – and predicated on religious tolerance will never stand in as a definition of Islam.
So there now, I’ve said it. But before you post the letter bomb, please allow me to explain.
How anyone lives in their own country is their own business. I have no argument with the ages-old adage that people get the government they deserve. It’s a matter of evolution: you enjoy or suffer the consequences of your choices or your parents’ choices or their parents’ choices. I also believe in the corollary, that the woman is the mother of the son and therefore has no right to complain that a macho, sexist, male dominated society is oppressive to women when they train their own sons to ‘find their faith’ or ‘be a man’ in the most sexist and violent manner. Christian women are debased and guilt ridden because they choose to perpetuate a system that instills a guilt complex in their children long before the age of reason. Moslem women are oppressed because they believe in the tenets of their religion and pass these values on to their children in all the obvious and subtle ways of mothering. But again, how people live in their own countries is their own business. I might feel sorry for them, but hey, we have enough unique problems of our own right here at home.
In the American context, while immigration is what built this great country, assimilation (the old melting pot idea) was a basic requirement that everyone – newcomers and native sons alike – understood, at least in the past. It was also understood that, although individuals here have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, as opposed to Europe where they don’t, and detonating explosive devices for amusement in your own backyard isn’t any big deal, preaching the violent overthrow of government and/or the substitution of other systems of jurisprudence for the established law of the land based on the Constitution and the civil code, is, and has always been, considered treasonous in the USA. There were, and still are, serious penalties for preaching hatred and advocating overthrow of the government or threatening our elected representatives with violence.
Furthermore, the now-antiquated notion that ‘separate and equal’ meant a separate system of governance for one group of people on the same soil with the rest, just didn’t go down well with most folks. Some, like the Mormons and the Amish and a few other sects, achieved a measure of self-sufficiency and social isolation but they never advocated destruction of the national or state governments or violently assaulted other citizens for practicing their own beliefs in the pursuit of their own happiness. The Mormons and Amish didn’t make pipe bombs or fly airplanes into skyscrapers.
As a child of Italian immigrants who arrived in this country fleeing poverty, war, out-of-control crime, and political corruption in Europe, I never heard mention of any need to change the American system to make Roman Catholicism the state religion or establish Catholic courts of justice (e.g., Canon Law or the medieval Inquisition) to judge and punish civil transgressions in place of American state or federal law, as the more recent Muslim immigrant communities are demanding today. Where Italian immigrants misbehaved, they were dealt with harshly and more than a few were deported. People accepted this as the cost of safeguarding and maintaining the American way of life. Despite the racism and inequality inherent in the American system, they agreed on this one point. Although Italian immigrants were largely treated as second-class citizens for decades, when World War II engulfed the country in a conflict played out largely on foreign soil, fully ten percent of the US armed forces were comprised of first and second-generation Italian-Americans. This signalled a change in American society’s attitude toward what was earlier considered a scourge and the cause of everything that was wrong with the country at that time: that flood of little brunettes from the Mediterranean, as American politicians of the 1920’s often put it. Back in the day, politicians talked about building walls around American society to keep the outsiders out. Sound familiar?
While we applaud the motivation of today’s refugee Muslims to seek a better life outside their troubled home countries, and hesitate to condemn the rich among them from moving their wealth to more stable economies such as Britain and the USA, the garrison mentality and demand for separate treatment under the law with a separate schedule of benefits and penalties for themselves sets Muslim communities against what America and Britain have always stood for, that is, social equality, freedom, and tolerance for all under a single system of governance. There appears to be a distinct misunderstanding among some Muslim immigrant groups about the terms and conditions under which their members are welcomed into this country, as well as into many host countries of Europe with their own distinct languages and cultures.
Similar to the Italian immigrants of the early twentieth century, many, if not most, of today’s refugee immigrants are poorly educated and without any knowledge of American or European history or what is expected of them in the new social environment. But as a group, the immigrant Italians of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation didn’t advocate overthrow of the government or demand a separate court system to deal with transgressions of their own unique laws, and when a small fringe movement did (the international anarchist bomb throwing cliques of the 1900’s), their subversive activities were harshly suppressed within their own communities and by the authorities.
YouTube and other social media are deluged with materials that largely paint a very negative picture of Islam and how its adherents behave in the world. There is a reason for this, of course. A video captured with a mobile phone can speak many thousands of words. The barbarism of ISIS aside, they paint the image of an intolerant, anti-intellectual, anti-feminist, anti-western-culture movement, a deadly virus spreading throughout the world. Media interviews with spokesmen for the various Muslim communities in the West, almost without exception, are like boxing matches, with the interviewee ducking and weaving like Mohammed Ali (move like a butterfly, sting like a bee). Being in an unequal situation, they wisely conceal the fact that their religion preaches the destruction, or at least the subjugation, of all other systems of belief in the world.
As usual, truth has become the first victim of this collision. The proponents of a democracy based on multiculturalism and tolerance for all cannot prevail if there is no will on the part of today’s so-called immigrants to adapt the American and European core values and assimilate. The right to free speech, for instance, is enshrined in the French as well as American constitutions, yet we have the Charlie Hebdo atrocity. The right to dress provocatively and attend rock concerts may not be specifically spelled out in the Constitution, but it goes without saying that behaviour that does not physically harm or defame others is to be tolerated and protected. So why the 2017 Manchester bombing? Why September 11? Too many believe in their hearts what is taught in their religious schools and places of worship, that to destroy those who are different (the Unbelievers) is right and just. They refuse to acknowledge the difference between righteousness and what is right. When Muslim youth ‘Find their Faith,’ it often comes with a pipe bomb or an AK-47.
While I agree with the suggestion that we all – including the immigrant Muslim communities in our midst – must pull together in a spirit of love in the face of these seemingly endless atrocities if we are eventually to come to an understanding of the problem and move together toward a common solution, I don’t agree with some Muslim leaders’ assessment of the root cause of the 2017 Manchester bombing, as well as the many earlier bombings, shootings and other massacres, that it was the work of a single madman and a logical outcome of western military interventions in the Middle East. While it takes a madman, or a cabal of madmen, to concoct a powerful bomb and purposely snuff out the lives of innocent children and adults simply because their tastes in entertainment run contrary to the dictates of his or her religion, the bomber himself is undeniably an agent of a religious environment that has historically infused its own youth with hatred, intolerance, and the impulse to condemn pleasures enjoyed by others that are not available to themselves (for whatever reasons).
This is simply the old-fashioned bully mentality. If you can’t have it, then nobody else shall have it either. Unrestricted social contact with the opposite sex, enjoyment of music and art, access to a liberal education for both sexes, the right to be critical, analytical, and participate in decision making, the list goes on and on. Everything about American life is condemned, except of course, the opportunity for easy money.
That’s the background to today’s rant. Now for Manchester.
Today, I read Ariana Grande’s missive to her fans in the wake of the Manchester bombing of 2017. Tears came to my eyes but not for the bombing victims, although I do feel for them and their families. I cried for the ignorance and self-serving attitude of our media stars who capitalize on every opportunity to further their career paths, regardless of whatever tragedy occurs during their performances. They pay the spin doctors to mouth worn-out platitudes on their behalves. Silence on Ariana’s part would have been a better tribute. There may be value in saying something conciliatory, at least to the victims and their loved ones in personal letters and private visits, and perhaps Ariana has already done this, to her great credit. But how about contributing something definitive to help resolve this crisis that’s exploding on our home turf, especially now since these zealots are specifically targeting our children? I don’t see the entertainment industry taking up the challenge except to churn out more and more hideously violent movies that gross billions at box offices and in the electronic media, to glorify guns, drugs, and the degradation of women in their music. Neither do I see Pope Francis inviting ISIS and Al Qaeda to a peace summit at the Vatican. Trump? Forget him. Media stars all.
So, what can be done? On this, I need to side with so many Muslim community leaders and do some ducking and weaving alongside them. While massive military interventions might boost the American economy by funnelling more and more of our hard-earned tax dollars toward the military-industrial complex (hey, come on now, we all know it’s the primary reason we make war these days) and temporarily pound ISIS and the Caliphate into dust while killing thousands more innocents abroad, it isn’t going to solve the problem of integrating massive numbers of Muslims – refugee or otherwise – into our society or encouraging them to accept the values that we Americans, and Brits, and French, and Swedes, have lived by and fought to maintain during almost three centuries. As Muslim apologists like to point out, asking them to go into their own communities to ferret out the bombers is like asking someone to Find Waldo. Waldo always pops up again in the next page, and the next, and the next, like a bad stain that simply won’t wash away.
And this is the whole point, isn’t it? If Muslim immigrants insist on perpetuating those elements that kept them in poverty, oppression and war in their home countries, whether economic or religious or culture-based, then how are they ever going to assimilate into American or European society? How are they ever going to stop spawning these child-killers? They are not going to change the American way of life into anything that resembles their own value system, this is for sure. Americans are stubborn folk and they go around armed. And Americans are too smart, despite what DT and his minions might think, to believe that vilifying all new immigrants and attacking them, or building walls around ourselves to keep them out, is a solution to the current crisis. Instead, the immigrant communities must adapt.
The immigrants themselves must take a firm stance against anything that threatens the American system and American way of life, a way of life that we, the children of earlier waves of immigrants, assume they accepted simply for having come here in the first place. If there are evildoers in their midst, then they must stop apologizing for the misdeeds and start pointing fingers in the proper direction. Does anyone believe that, as a whole, the Muslim communities in our midst would contribute their youth to make up to ten percent of the US armed forces in the war on terrorism, as our parents’ generation of Italians did in the 1940’s when Nazism, Fascism and the expanding Empire of Japan threatened us with annihilation? Highly unlikely.
It’s easy to understand why not.
The United States has one of the poorest education systems in the world. Sure, we have a few good schools and universities, but 26th on the list of countries isn’t a high rating (The Finnish education system is rated No. 1). A basic failure of the British and French is that they have not succeeded in integrating massive numbers of Muslims entering their countries from their former colonies. Many of the jihadi-inspired atrocities committed in Britain and France were carried out by persons born and educated in those countries, a massive failure of their national education systems. Let’s start by taking a lesson from them.
Sweden and other smaller nations without a history of colonialism, but that have welcomed Muslim immigrants in recent years, are facing a severe social crisis for largely the same reason as America: the immigrants themselves are poorly educated and fail to appreciate the cultures that are welcoming them. One immigrant when asked why he came there smirked: “In my country I had a Nokia phone. Now I have an iPhone. See?” Massive numbers of discontented, ignorant young men provide easy cannon fodder for psychopathic leaders with criminal intent to mobilize for their own twisted purposes. There is very little difference between ISIS and Al Qaeda today and Nazism of the 1930’s in this respect. Since few today would care to repeat the cataclysm of the 1940's in the world, what will then be the answer?
Today’s generation is largely unaware and unappreciative of the roles played by their grandparents during World War II or the political and social issues that drove that conflict, although many of its veterans are still with us and living in good health. They get their idea of history via Hollywood as our schools place their priorities elsewhere. Neo-Nazism is alive and well in the world, while the jihadists glean many of their followers from youth born and raised in the United States, Britain, France and elsewhere in the First World. These groups are multiplying faster than World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors are dying off.
What does this tell us? It tells us that our education system has failed. While the occasional genius does emerge from the system now and again, for the most part education leaves American students largely the way it found them, that is, semi-literate, and for good reason. America’s leaders don’t want an educated society. Instead they want credit card-indebted masses willing to work for low wages. The American higher education system has undergone a radical transformation as a commercial enterprise that sells courses for money. Universities were once considered the repositories of knowledge in the world. Today they proudly characterize themselves as training establishments for the multinational corporations, operating on a for-profit model. Commercialism has replaced philosophy, just as healthcare mega-corporations and high-tech medicine for profit have replaced compassion and the struggle against disease.
But, hey. I’m digressing.
The formula for eliminating, or at least reducing, terrorism (both domestic and Islamic) is to first establish an educated populace that understands the country’s core values and is ready and willing to uphold them. The Brits and French have failed to provide this opportunity to immigrants flooding in from their former colonies and elsewhere, despite having a proud tradition of tolerance and welcoming those in need. Hence, Charlie Hebdo and Manchester.
If this sounds too difficult or depressing, then next time your pre-teen or teenager asks you to purchase tickets for an Ariana Grande concert, or any other mass media event, better check their life insurance coverage first. The risk of allowing our kids into the street – the very freedom we ourselves once enjoyed – is likely to prevail for a very long time.
Please feel free to take issue with my ideas. You are encouraged and welcome to leave comments on this blog.