Saturday, July 26, 2014

It Takes A Special Writer To Defend The Taliban

Andrea Grimes has a valid thought: "we do not have, and have never had, a nuanced, thoughtful national conversation about Islam."  Good thing that, because it is among her few good ideas in 31 paragraphs. With greater emphasis she argues "there is indeed a powerful, well-funded and rigidly patriarchal religious movement behind America's most misogynist laws, and it isn't any iteration of Islam. It's Christianity."

How insightful to reject stereotyping of Islam while maintaining that "Christianity" is "a powerful, well-funded and rigidly patriarchal religious movement behind America's most misogynist laws."  That will surprise members of, for example, the United Church of Christ (evidently misogynist videos, below):

Grimes writes

I saw it on posters last summer at the Texas capitol, during protests against the state’s omnibus anti-abortion law: “TEXAS TALIBAN.” I’ve heard pundits and preachers on cable news, decrying the “American Taliban” that wants to take away birth control and abortion access.

These phrases aren’t clever, and they aren’t insightful. They’re racist, and they’re Islamophobic, and people—especially white people—who work in social justice movements and who do advocacy for women’s rights need to stop using them yesterday.

Especially white people? Why especially white people? Are non-white people especially entitled to be "racist" and "Islamophobic?"

They're not, though the slogans "Texas Taliban" or "American Taliban" clearly are not racist, anyway.  "An Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan adhering to Wahhabist ideology," as Wikipedia coldly and objectively describes it, the Taliban do not constitute a "race" and criticism of them does not constitute "racism."

It's understandable, however, that Grimes would be confused about the intersection of race, nationality, and religion.  She remarks "There have been a grand total of two Muslim Americans elected to the United States Congress."  Repeating her error, she would refer to "Muslim Americans, and people who are perceived to be Muslim Americans,"

This should come as a surprise to Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), who is affiliated with the Muslim religion and who, as a black man, is African-American.  American Muslim, surely; Muslim-American? Not any more than most of you reading this (at least inside the USA) are "Protestant-American" or "Catholic-American."  If throwing around terms like "racist,"  "homophobic," and "misogynistic,"one ought to guard against misidentification.

Responsibility must be laid at the feet of deserving individuals.  Instead, Grimes contends "Maybe you’re not the kind of American who’s going to plant a pipe bomb at a mosque, but when you try and foment fear by hollering “AMERICAN TALIBAN!” at the top of your lungs, you give those who might an awful lot of culturally sanctioned leeway to try."

There is no "maybe" about it; it's safe to say that no one reading this, nor any of Grimes' neighbors, will plant a pipe bomb at a mosque. It's nearly equally true that if you holler "American Taliban" (all in caps- nice touch, Andrea) "at the top of your lungs" you will not incite a bomb thrower. My guess is that an accusation of being Talibani will not prompt an individual to become a domestic terrorist, and only twisted reasoning would lead someone to conclude that the charge, hurled as an insult, sanctions the behavior.

Unable to conceal her hostility toward Christianity (not fundamentalist or evangelical Christianity, but Christianity), Grimes remarks "Never mind the fact that white, male Americans are doing just fine at oppressing women with bibles at their right hand."  She appears to be unfamiliar with the transcript the Hobby Lobby decision.

The Justices employed 15 times the word "faith" and 103 times the word "religion," both of which would include fundamentalist Islam.  They mentioned "Bible(s)" only twice and "Scripture(s)" not at all. They did not falsely claim Biblical  truth as their motivation,  rather claiming their ruling was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Whatever their actual motivation, they did not make with "bibles at their right hand." the decision, which had little or nothing to do with the Old or New Testaments.

The parallel between the religious right and the Taliban, however tenuous, does lie in religious extremism and the willingness to require government action and civil behavior to submit to a religious test.. Grimes will not acknowledge that the culture of the Taliban, who provided sactuary for al Qaeda leading up to the attacks of 9/11/01,  is singularly antithetical to Western cultural tradition. Wikipedia explains

Afghan women were forced to wear the burqa at all times in public, because, according to one Taliban spokesman, "the face of a woman is a source of corruption" for men not related to them. In a systematic segregation sometimes referred to as gender apartheid, women were not allowed to work, they were not allowed to be educated after the age of eight, and until then were permitted only to study the Qur'an.

Women seeking an education were forced to attend underground schools, where they and their teachers risked execution if caught. They were not allowed to be treated by male doctors unless accompanied by a male chaperone, which led to illnesses remaining untreated. They faced public flogging and execution for violations of the Taliban's laws. The Taliban allowed and in some cases encouraged marriage for girls under the age of 16. Amnesty International reported that 80% of Afghan marriages were considered to be arranged by force.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously wrote "Let me tell you about the rich. They are different from you and me."  The Taliban are different from you and me. If you are Muslim, the Taliban still are probably different from you and me. And when protesters excoriate the "American Taliban," they are acknowledging the group is beyond the pale, outside of the mainstream of Western religious thought, whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.

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