Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Opened My Big Mouth Again

The other day an old friend from high school posted an album of inflammatory pictures. They depicted militant Islamic fundamentalists in hateful demonstration, as well as practices of conditioning children. She didn't know the source and her captions showed fear and misunderstanding. Troubled, I responded, cautioning her and others to be slow to take in such propaganda, as many images are doctored or fabricated, and whether real or fake, the participation in spreading them is succumbing to brainwashing and fear- and hate-mongering.

I returned to the post several days later to find a discussion taking place. The poster was lamenting corruption in the media, and a Jewish friend was telling stories about being victimized by Islamic youth in a town in Michigan. It was sad, sad, sad to hear, and I can see why it's difficult for him and others to resist making broad, sweeping generalizations based on such trauma. But as I listen to all sides of this situation tell their stories, I hear the same words - everybody's hurt and few are interested in forgiveness.

I began praying about how, or whether to join back into the conversation that I'd started, and continued browsing through the posted links to videos of radical conditioning. When I read the poster's summation statement, "The world has a serious problem on its hands," I felt the spirit move within me. Here's my response, with linked videos below:

Yeah. We have a very serious problem on our hands. The problem is that this indoctrination is happening on every side of this global epidemic.

There are pockets in which deliberate and concentrated conditioning is happening in the Islamic world. There are also many voices of reason and hope. For example, Dhiyaa Al-Musawi - It would be better to hold up reason and hope as exemplary than to continue to perpetuate hate and mutual misunderstanding.

An equally large part of the problem is in our own country, our own neighborhoods and streets, our own minds. We must never be persuaded there is an inherent difference in people because of their race, culture, or beliefs. You're absolutely correct, we are at the mercy of a corrupt and perverted media, and we ourselves are being conditioned to perpetuate the violence, misunderstanding, and hate. We're experiencing brainwashing just the same, albeit usually behind a much more subversive veil. Often it looks a lot more like chain-letters with really scary pictures attached. Accepting this inflammatory propaganda, particularly without knowledge of its source, research into the situation as a whole, or attention to countering arguments is participation in a system that, for thousands of years past and thousands of years to come, will only result in more confusion, bigotry, ignorance, hate, and genocide.

I hope it isn't hard to believe that kids, teens, and young adults all across the Muslim world are seeing Toby Keith videos about the supremacy and bad-ass attitude of the American people, complete with spliced-in footage of actual children all across our nation holding guns, marching, and chanting to the demise of whatever Arab stereotype you could conjure. This material is only a portion true. Same with the lies they are fed about Israel.

The reality that I will stake my life on is that forgiveness, grace, and love will ALWAYS win, even if only a dozen people practice it and are taken to their graves as a result. Hate begets hate, bringing more offense and retribution from each side of any quarrel in perpetuity. The only way to break the cycle is to voluntarily forfeit your "right" to pride and correctness, and in doing so give any aggressor the gift of simply being heard, and given another perspective.

Unfortunately the world is full of ears that will not hear and minds that will not change. We only have the power to affect our own sphere of influence and encourage openness and grace where we can, starting with ourselves. An unwillingness to rise to that challenge, each for ourselves, results in the continuation of humanity's dire state.

In the moment, I didn't think to mention the many wonderful, faithful Muslim people I've met and grown to know and love in the last year. Like the hundreds of Muslims I met in India, Turkey, Tunisia, and Egypt that simply blew me away with their kindness, humor, and hospitality. Like the Alevi Muslims in Aydın, Turkey who invited me into their home and shared their heart of love, tolerance, and the beautiful search for transcendent truth. We had a blast - My experiences prohibit me from accepting, or ignoring, these blanket dismissals and defamations of a huge, diverse group of people. My prayer is that our eyes will be opened, that we'll be able to see what grace we've been given, and that we may offer that grace, in turn, to our neighbors all about the world.

No one responded to the discussion any more.

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi interviewed:

Feast in Aydın, Türkiye:


  1. Thanks for putting into words what many people feel. Right on, brother:)