Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Burqas On The Subway & The Islamic Problem

I am not a Muslim. I don't pretend to be an authority on Islam or Islamic culture. I have never visited a Muslim nation, nor have I even stepped foot inside a Mosque. I have little to no understanding of the nuance of the Koran or how it applies to the daily lives of Muslims.

I do however know some things for certain. I know that a good chunk of the problems around the world today, and a lions share of the violence --from stonings in Iran, to murder/suicide bombings in Israel, to genocide in the Sudan, and the list goes on-- stem from Muslim fundamentalism and it's incompatibility with the reality of modern life on this planet (including the very simple fact that not everyone is a Muslim). I know that all nations practicing fundamental Islamic law are backwards, 10th century hellholes, known best for slavery, beheadings, suicide murder, and the suppression of even the most basic civil rights. I know that Muslim leaders, regardless of where they reside, are all too often a voice of encouragement to such abominations, and rarely criticize even the most horrific acts carried out in the name of their religion (like 9/11), without also including some conspiratorial rant against Israel as a counterpoint. I know that even allegedly 'moderate' Muslims have been largely silent in the face of such dysfunction, preferring instead to seek victim status, and the protection which they know it affords them in this multicultural, 'sensitive' society we've developed (which, ironically, does not exist in Islam). It does not take an expert on Islamic culture or history to recognize that there is something very wrong here, on a very basic level.

Mind you, this is not an indictment of all people who call themselves Muslim, however it is a hard truth that these people need to come to terms with quickly, if they wish to save their faith from becoming even more of a pariah than it already has. Up to this point, we as a nation have been more than willing to give the so-called 'moderate' Muslims the benefit of the (rather large) doubt. Immediately after 9/11, president Bush made sure he was seen with Muslim leaders, and there has not been any real widespread persecution or violence against Muslims in America. Certainly nothing like the Japanese internment after Pearl Harbor (which was, in my opinion, wholly justifiable, however unfortunate and heavy handed it may seem today).

You see, most people in this country can identify with the plight of Muslims (and other immigrants) who come to America to seek a better life; nearly everyone here can trace most of their family back to relatives who did exactly the same thing. And we certainly sympathize with Muslims who come here to escape the tyranny and brutality of their home nations.

However, we find it very difficult to accept these people when they attempt to bring a part of those tyrannical and brutal regimes here with them. Case in point, the burqa. We all know it as the symbol of Taliban oppression used to help keep women as fourth class citizens in Afghanistan (just below the dog and goat), now no longer mandatory in that country (but old habits die hard, and many women still opt for the formless, top-to-bottom cover rather than risk a dirty look, or worse, from the local mullah ...baby steps I suppose). However, it is not uncommon here in NYC (at least, not as uncommon as it should be) to see women walking around in a full burqa, complete with the little mesh grate so that not even her eyes can be viewed by the lecherous infidel public, lest she excite a male to the extent that he cannot resist and takes her 'honor', (which would obviously be her fault for being such an eye-exposing whore) leading of course to death by stoning.

Now it has been argued that these women have the right to wear a burqa, which is obviously true. But honestly, when these people come to the United States and walk around in blatant symbols of oppression and hardship, one which we have fought a war in Afghanistan to help remove, it becomes very difficult for most Americans, myself included, to sympathize with their culture or plight as immigrants. More importantly, if they are so unwilling to adjust even slightly to our traditions and way of life, why should we have any respect at all for theirs? This of course recalls the case a couple of years ago of the Florida woman who wanted to have her drivers license photo taken in full burqa (which is odd, because if she has to wear a burqa, it's surprising that her male overseer allows her to drive... but I digress). Anyway, I believe that sanity prevailed in that case and she did in fact have to remove her veil for the photo (or not get a license), but the fact that anyone could argue on her behalf in that case was mind boggling. Aside from the obvious fact that wearing a burqa for an ID photo entirely defeats the purpose of an ID photo (and any security implications associated with such), what reasonable grounds can one have to justify something like that? Religious belief? What if a Klansman wanted to wear his white hood for his license photo? Or what if a nudist wanted to take the picture naked? Those are not religions, you say? Says who? Many Klansman and nudists regard their respective belief systems as religion, and with a bit of light paperwork, they'd have the tax status to prove it. So who decides what a legitimate religion is? The government? No, I don't think I want the government making those kinds of decisions, and neither did the founding fathers, as this is exactly what the establishment clause sought to prevent. So beyond that, what legal grounds would anyone have to argue for the diver-license-burqa? And no, for the record, feel-good, warm and fuzzy 'cultural sensitivity' does not trump the word of law.

But this is merely a symptom of a much larger issue. Historically, when most immigrants made their lives here in this country, for better or for worse, they did so because they saw this as a place where they could have a life better than the one they left behind. And it is also very true that most immigrant communities have had growing pains in their first few generations here. One only needs to look back upon 19th century Manhattan to realize this. But we have not seen anything like what has been happening with the Muslim community previously. You see, when the Irish came to America, they did not want to make the country like Ireland. And when the Italians came, they did not want to make the country like Italy. Nor the Germans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans etc. Each brought a piece of their culture, but realized that America is a nation unto itself and different from the one which they left behind... and they were happy with that. That in turn led to a rich, diverse set of people who contributed their unique experiences and valuable cultures to the overall American tapestry, thus enhancing it for each and every citizen, and helped to make us the most successful nation in the history of the world. The crimes and acts of violence committed by Irish & Italian immigrants during their periods of adjustment, however despicable, were more often than not carried out for the rather simple goal of making fast money or otherwise 'getting ahead' in a world that they had yet to fully come to terms with. After a few generations, these tendencies had by and large faded into the background. In stark contrast, the violence we see Muslims committing around the western world today has the far more nefarious intent of actually changing the values of their host nations as they exist today, and imposing the fundamental belief system of Islam on the rest of the world. These are not 'immigrants' as we have come to know the term historically, but rather jihadist missionaries who take advantage of western tolerance and diversity to spread their beliefs by any means necessary (literally).

In fact, many of the western Muslim communities' more vocal members, openly state that it is the goal of Muslims to become the dominant, and eventually the sole faith in America and world. One only need to look at the recent Islamic violence in Amsterdam, arguably the most tolerant and liberal society in the world, to see that regardless of how open and understanding we try to be, fundamentalist Islam only seeks to either convert or kill. The murder of Theo Van Gogh puts an underscore on what conservatives have been asserting all along, and what liberals have been attempting to deny: that Islamic terrorism occurs not as a reaction to any foreign or domestic policy of this or any other western nation, but rather from very basic Islamic incompatibility with modern life. Here you have Amsterdam, a nation which has minded it's own business and not offended anyone in the last 500 years, is neutral in basically every global conflict, and welcomes people from all corners of the world with lax immigration and welfare laws. Yet somehow now finds itself with a very serious terrorism issue. It seems that the individual who brutally and publicly murdered Theo Van Gogh, then nailed a jihadist screed to his chest with a knife was not necessarily unique in his beliefs there.

Can anyone honestly argue at this point that we 'create' terrorism through 'insensitive' foreign and domestic policy? No, one cannot. As I said before, you cannot hope to find a more liberal/progressive society than that of Amsterdam, and even they are under attack. What are they being 'punished' for? Leftists will point out that Theo Van Gogh was of course involved with a controversial film project that took a critical look at fundamentalist Islam (as though this was some kind of legitimate rationalization), but it only further proves my point; when you allow fundamentalists of this sort to go totally unchecked in the name of 'tolerance', it will only serve to foment their fundamentalist tendencies and encourage ever-escalating acts of violence against their host nation, to the point where the basic freedom of speech rights of all citizens are steadily encroached upon for the sake of 'sensitivity' (which has become code for 'not wanting to upset those who may find it a religious duty to make a home movie of your decapitation'). I believe Ann Coulter put it best when she said "Ah, yes, we must seek to mollify those who hate us and want to kill us, otherwise they'll hate us and want to kill us". You see, Muslim fundamentalists are not impressed with our multiculturalism, tolerance or sensitivity to their culture. They do not come to America (or Amsterdam or Canada) with the intent of committing mass murder, only to have their hearts and minds won over by our liberal values. Quite the contrary. They view our value system as a weakness to be exploited at every possible opportunity. You can see this demonstrated on every level imaginable; from the Iraqi insurgents that hide weapons and ammo inside a mosque, to Palestinian terrorists that use children as runners to carry messages and explosives, and set up bomb factories in the middle of residential districts. The 9/11 hijackers themselves lived good, middle class lives here in the USA for several years, and yet had absolutely no qualms whatsoever with waking up one morning, getting dressed, driving to the airport, and flying jumbo jets into skyscrapers.

And where are the so-called 'moderate' Muslims? The ones who come here and love this country and work hard and build a family and go to school and have Jewish and Christian friends and think that burqas are an abomination and suicide bombing is the most horrific and cowardly act that a human could possibly commit (with no caveat about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians or American favoritism)? They're out there... you see them occasionally on Fox News, or Frontpagemag.com but they are not nearly loud enough. I think that some of that has to do with the liberal media not wanting to cover pro-America Muslims because that may translate into more widespread support for the Bush administration policy. But generally speaking, there simply are not enough loud voices from within the Muslim community speaking out about these issues. One has to wonder why... I know that if some group of crazies was out blowing up schoolbuses and airliners in the name of Jesus Christ, the outcry from Christians in this nation would be deafening. Surely, when a small taste of this occurred here in the form of Timothy McVeigh, he was one of the most hated men in the nation; swiftly and surely condemned by all and rapidly executed. Contrast this to Osama bin Laden, who has become a sort of pop hero even within the mainstream of Islam. One wouldn't have to look very hard to find a picture of Osama hanging in a classroom of a Madrasa, or even on a T-shirt sold on an Arab streetcorner. I wonder how many Sunday schools have a portrait of Tim McVeigh hanging up? When was the last time you saw a Tim McVeigh tee? Unless we begin to hear more from the moderate Muslim community around the world, and until they begin to take some actual, tangible steps to condemn and stamp out these murderous fundamentalists on their own, we must be left to conclude that either the so-called 'moderates' are not actually all that moderate, and actually do tacitly approve of the global 'jihad' against the west, or that they are such a small percentage of Muslims, that in fact Islam as a whole is simply too dangerous to continue to exist in it's current incarnation. Neither of those options are very pleasant to think about, but alas, those are the only two logical conclusions one can reach if the rather conspicuous silence continues.

So you'll have to excuse me if I'm a bit uncomfortable, and a touch offended when I see a burqa-clad female (presumably) trotting down the street as though this were Kabul. I can't help but wonder if she realizes exactly what freedom means, or if she is here to help stamp it out.

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