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Islamophobia [Sep. 16th, 2010|05:24 pm]
[mood |aggravatedaggravated]
[music |Noah and the Whale: Blue Skies]

This, is, as I comment elsewhere, is all over teh intahwebs, but it bears reposting. Via the World SF Blog, Elizabeth Moon raves at the Crescent Moon. It's hard to know where to start--- but; are there other religions in the US that offend your sense of civil society because of their differences, or is it just Islam? And that weasely little 'many'... And once you start playing historical tit-for-tat, it goes all the way back. 'You started it', 'no you started' is no way to end it. Get your comments in fast before the post gets locked or deleted, but, please, be polite. We're better than rant.

[User Picture]From: al_zorra
2010-09-16 04:52 pm (UTC)
I swear, sometime between 9/11 and Obama entering the Oval Office, a passel of older generation U.S. sfnal Greathood pros seem to have rather lost their minds.

The so-called 'culture wars' of the 90's were more disturbing than many realized, and the U.S. visibly failing as global #1, plus active younger generations and their own impatience with intolerance, has brought out all sorts of personality traits that previously weren't running their responses to the world outside their creative worlds.

Is this inevitable for us all?

Love, c.
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[User Picture]From: rimrunner
2010-09-16 05:05 pm (UTC)
I hope not, though lately it's become impossible to have a reasonable conversation with my parents on any subject remotely related to politics. It's disturbing.
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[User Picture]From: cucumberseed
2010-09-16 05:09 pm (UTC)
I've been having the same problem with mine.
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[User Picture]From: al_zorra
2010-09-16 06:08 pm (UTC)
I had this problem with my family starting in the 80's. But in the 90's it got worse. Then, with 9/11, impossible. All we can talk about is the weather.v They really believe all this nutjobbery stuff. And they're not hurting in any way, when it comes to material and economic matters. They are all very, very well off (unlike boho/intellectual/historian/musician/writers that we are).

Love, C.
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From: jamesenge
2010-09-16 07:04 pm (UTC)
It was really painful to read EM's blog post--she obviously thought she was taking the high road but it was full of this vile stuff. I really like some of her work. Here's hoping she has some kind experience on the road to Damascus or Wiscon that causes the scales of hate to fall from her eyes.
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[User Picture]From: allbery
2010-09-17 02:37 am (UTC)
It particularly bothered me because it's much less sensible than her normal blog posts. She blogs on politics not infrequently, and while I sometimes disagree with her, it's usually well within the realm of reasonable disagreement. This is the first post she's ever made on politics where I thought she was completely across the line.

We all have our blind spots... but right now, at least, that's a bad one to have.
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[User Picture]From: ianmcdonald
2010-09-17 08:06 am (UTC)
This is a good and wise response. Incidentally, I thought Lavie Tidhar's introduction was a masterpiece ofr restraint and understatement: We do prefer running positive stories than negative ones on this blog. But one of the aims of the World SF Blog is to highlight not just international speculative fiction, but attitudes in the wider world of SF on issues of race and religion.

So check out this rather extraordinary blog post by American science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon, this year’s guest-of-honour at Wiscon, the “world’s leading feminist science fiction convention”, in which she talks about, ostensibly, the building of a new mosque near the site of the Twin Towers (particularly interesting bits highlighted):

So much sharper than the fire-alrm 'OMG! WTF! Full of fail!!' that seems mandatory in the blogosphere (and I've seen some writers wave that cudgel too).
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[User Picture]From: lil_brown_bat
2010-09-16 08:51 pm (UTC)
Short answer: it's Islamophobia. What else can you call it, when we have Christian sects that advocate the forcible marrying of young girls to old men, or violent oppression of non-white people, just to use a couple examples that come quickly to mind?

Longer answer: It's Islamophobia, and it's a lot scarier than you think, because its most effective foot-soldiers these days are not the Terry Joneses -- they're the people who look normal and act normal and don't raise their voices, and who portray themselves (and think of themselves) as thoughtful, well-intentioned, compromising moderates. They're people, apparently, like Elizabeth Moon. They speak the Big Lie, and the horrifying thing is that they honestly believe they speak truth.

Does that post just sweat disingenuousness or what? Moon refers to "a memorial center at/near the site of the 9/11 attack", even though she knows good and goddamn well (unless she has literally had her head up her ass for the past month) that the proposed location of the Cordoba Center could be called "near" Ground Zero but is no more "at" it than half a dozen other religious institutions in the neighborhood. How about the bland assertion that "[t]hat some Muslims died in the attacks is immaterial" and that it "does not wipe out the long, long chain of Islamic hostility"? To be "material", I suppose, the deaths of those Muslims would have had to not only bring each and every Muslim around the world into a completely peaceful and agreeable state of mind, but would also need to go back and rewrite 1400 years of history. If they can't accomplish those little things, apparently, the fact that Muslims also died on 9/11 is completely irrelevant. They still attacked us, and don't you forget it!

And then there's the false comparison of the double standard: when Muslims open a cultural center, apparently, they are "us[ing] that site to proselytize for the religion that lies behind so many attacks on the innocent". Can I get a "think of the children"? Let's focus everyone's attention on the "so many attacks" of Islam -- and please, don't be so disruptive as to point out the historical aggression of other religions. Mere peccadilloes!

If those tactics aren't winning people to your side, well, let's go more overtly on the offensive, by accusing those who want the mosque built of trying to "start a controversy". How rude! How tactless! How not-very-nice! How unlike me, the nice, moderate, compromising, voice of reason! But no, those uppity Muslims can't just be happy with things as they are -- they don't appreciate "how much forbearance they've had", they have to get all yappy and want to build a mosque. Or a cultural center. Or some goddamn thing. Why can't they just shut the hell up?

The absolute icing on the cake is the last line and its hypocritical sentiment that "on this anniversary of 9/11, all I can do is hope that no bombs are thrown, no Korans burned, no innocents killed... by anyone". Take your own medicine, Ms. Moon -- those who stir shit have no right to complain at the stink.
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[User Picture]From: unhipster
2010-09-16 08:51 pm (UTC)
Well, that's disappointing.
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[User Picture]From: matt_arnold
2010-09-16 09:27 pm (UTC)
are there other religions in the US that offend your sense of civil society because of their differences, or is it just Islam?

Pretty much all of them, except the Unitarian Universalists.

But yeah, group blame is not constructive.
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[User Picture]From: lil_brown_bat
2010-09-17 02:27 am (UTC)
Disappointing but not surprising.

America definitely has an Islamophobia problem at the moment, which doesn't mean that we all have some uniformity of thought and the flavor of that thought is anti-Muslim. It means that some of us, as usual, are being complete fuckwits about something, and others of us are following along out of boredom or malice or laziness or ignorance, while the rest of us variously reason, cajole, mock, call bullshit, protest, and try to find ways to support our Muslim fellow citizens, some of whom are no doubt fuckwits themselves, but who as a group are most definitely getting handed the shitty end of the stick at this point in time. Not wanting to be remembered by posterity as a fuckwit, I count myself in the latter group. No silence!
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[User Picture]From: f4f3
2010-09-16 11:54 pm (UTC)
"I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship"

...which just about says it all, really.
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[User Picture]From: lil_brown_bat
2010-09-18 02:33 am (UTC)
Yup. As I said, the Big Lie uttered with complete sincerity and absolutely no awareness that one is lying. It's horribly effective.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-09-17 12:22 am (UTC)

Brave new world

So all in favour of multiculturalism as long as you conform to our standard of culture. Given the philosophical undertones of her books, this isn't an entirely surprising position.

What it mostly indicates is that SF authors, like everyone else, has its own collection of people with unreasoned opinions. Like with the Peter Watts thing where there were those arguing that he must have deserved the treatment he got in some way and that those that saw something wrong were defending a left wing ratbag.
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[User Picture]From: slimmeroftheyea
2010-09-17 12:31 am (UTC)


I have just tried to read the original blog. I failed to finish it. Couldn't be bothered reading the nonsense.
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[User Picture]From: applez
2010-09-17 02:41 am (UTC)

My $0.02 as one American on the West Coast

I'd first say that the opinion is incredibly ill-informed.

Then I'd say it's a particularly refined sense of Islamophobia (or indeed, migrant-phobia). The overall logic is locked into a structure that fails to recognize several critical variables:

- Changed expectations and identity over time
- The artificiality (and malleability) of the "American" identity and values to begin with
- The diversity of dissenting identities in American history continuing to this day.

I'll give a detailed response on this site in another Comment, which you may use as you see fit.

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[User Picture]From: applez
2010-09-17 04:27 am (UTC)

Re: My $0.02 as one American on the West Coast

The abbreviated version of my own angry wibbles are:

1. The 20th century expectation and definition of assimilation didn't work then, and certainly doesn't work now, and won't work in the future.

2. The 'majority' identity(-ies) are being challenged, but this isn't about immigrants failing to assimilate, it's about a diversity of identities renewing themselves, and this isn't a threat to broader shared identities of national unity except when they are, or more relevantly, when the overreaction.

3. Looking right past all the history of profound abuse, artificial construction, selective ignorance & blindness that make my great and flawed country - the newer governing reality is that we are in a position of multiple identities (hobbies, religion, professions, geography, mores, arts, sports, etc.), and none trumps the other except when we choose it to, and we only owe as much loyalty and defense to that particular identity as we choose to.

I keep coming back to identity, because so much of the logic behind MoonScape's argument is based on selections that miss a larger picture of how people get along just fine, even with insults.

Here's a metaphor for what I'm trying to get at.
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[User Picture]From: ianmcdonald
2010-09-17 08:28 am (UTC)

Re: My $0.02 as one American on the West Coast

Preserve us from Evangelical privelege. And this maybe is a point, as made above --that as Christianity is not one thing --not one identity-- neither is Islam. Mass labelling may not be a useful instrument here. There are other identifiying factors at work --the Bangladeshi community is quite different from the Indonesian community from the Egyptian community. The sets overlap, but they are also discreet. However, I think the danger is that the many differing groups and individuals live and practise Islam in all their diversity, but react to a generalised threat as one. And that is good for no one.
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[User Picture]From: applez
2010-09-18 07:35 am (UTC)

Re: My $0.02 as one American on the West Coast

A story I heard earlier today, another reflection of cultural dissonance.

A couple of guys flew to my city from Indiana, and they immediately decided to get started with their Dionysian day - and went straight to the nearest bar. They kept trying to order Budweiser from a bar defined by its local craft beer values - and the bartender tried their best to direct them to the most similar options available. Enraged, the two began to fight other patrons, before being forced out of the bar, bodily & bloodily, subsequently arrested by the police.

This is simultaneously an example of:

1. Yer typical drunken loutishness that could as easily be in Indiana, as California, as Phuket, as Barnsely, as Mallorca.

2. Inflexible advocates of one taste value unyielding to the growth opportunity of trying something new - even if they conclude the alternative is disagreeable.

3. A cognitive dissonance within the "mainstream culture" of the United States, failing to recognize the many Americas that cohabit the one nation. Arguably, it was these English-speaking-only Americans from Indiana who are more foreign than the physically-similar multilingual Californians who live here.
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[User Picture]From: applez
2010-09-18 07:00 am (UTC)

Re: My $0.02 as one American on the West Coast

1. re: "Melting Pot" ...yeah, I subscribe to the 'stir fry' - the edges grow mutable, and new flavors may arise, but the core ingredients don't change that much. Ironically, the "Velveeta-like American identity" as you put it is as destructive to 'white' Americans as it's been to other groups.

2. re: "threatened by (loss of) control and privilege currently taken for granted." - I'm not surprised to find that old xenophobic meme has reared its ugly head, and I'm not sure I have a fully effective response to that echo-chamber nonsense. As with a wildfire, you can douse with water early, or be forced to start your own firebreaks. I find neither the US media or the politicians being particularly edifying in how they're managing that cultural wildfire.

3. re: "terrified from a(ny) change of status quo" - Well, it may not be particularly useful to say it, but they're just going to have to grow the F up. They can choose to be pouty curmudgeons outside, or they can join the party, bring some of that Velveeta, and try the hummus.

The "Black/Latino/Migrant/Muslim/Choose-Your-Villain vs. White" is a narrative so old, I'm surprised more people aren't more bored with it.

[rant] What the hell is a 'White' majority anyway? The received national wisdom was that Irish immigrants were somewhere between pack animals and the Pope's conspiracy against this 'land of the free' (and don't let the slaves hear about it) until the breeding menace of Russian Jews came ashore. But wait, they're kind-of 'White' too now? But no, a child by one of those slaves has no claim to the 'White' identity ever? What's that? Nonsense is what, the whole steamy pile of it. [/rant]

Yeah, the whole 'us vs. them' logic structure is broken, despite how many times the political culture tries to re-mortgage it for another generation of keep-smiling-and-comply-all-is-well abuse.

Oh, and speaking of compliance and assimilation, that sure as hell didn't work out so well for the Choctaw Nation, Japanese-Americans, or the countless victims of Americanization or other putrid abuses that arise from failing to recognize other people as people in their own right.

What did work, it seems, is when these groups retained & renewed their identity against all the odds, and engaged the mainstream, and constantly remind/fight/argue/cajole to protect their human rights. I'll set the whole dimension of 'asset-making' to the side for now.

Edited at 2010-09-18 07:21 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: lil_brown_bat
2010-09-18 03:03 am (UTC)

Re: My $0.02 as one American on the West Coast

1. The 20th century expectation and definition of assimilation didn't work then, and certainly doesn't work now, and won't work in the future.

Here's a true life story about assimilation, or lack thereof.

Some years back, I had a co-worker who was a young Chinese-American man. He was a homeboy: born, raised, educated and now working in eastern Massachusetts. His dress and grooming were right on target for a good-looking young guy with a white-collar job and a sense of style, and (not surprisingly) he spoke completely fluent, unaccented Network TV English.

Anyway, one day at work he told me about something that had happened to him that morning before work. It was a cold January day, and he'd stopped to get gas. A white guy was filling his tank nearby, and they had the following bit of dialogue:

White guy: Cold, huh?
Chinese-American guy: Sure is!
White guy: Does it get this cold where you're from?
Chinese-American guy: Well...I'm from here.
White guy: No, I mean where you were born.
Chinese-American guy: ...I was born in Framingham.

He told me this, and then he said, "He never would have said that if I wasn't Chinese."

I don't know why he told me that. I don't know what I said -- probably something stupid like, "That guy was just an asshole." What I should have said, and failed to, was, "You're right. I'm sorry that happened to you." Before that moment, I simply hadn't thought about what it was like to be an Asian-American -- to be, potentially, a fourth- or fifth-generation American -- and yet to always be treated as a foreigner.

The point of that story is that not all immigrants can say, "Oh, tra la la, I'll discard my foreignness and assimilate!" Leaving entirely aside the whole issue of whether immigrants should be expected to simply discard aspects of their identity, they don't all get that choice. It's disingenuous to pretend that all immigrants have faced an equal set of lumps: nobody in their right mind would claim that an English person immigrating to America, now or at any time in our nation's history, would have been given a ration of shit about assimilating. What "assimilation" really means is passing, and passing means looking and acting like a member of the power elite. For that reason alone, as long as assimilation is not an option for some, it's completely unreasonable to propose it as a measure of whether or not an immigrant is trying hard enough to be an American.
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[User Picture]From: applez
2010-09-18 07:16 am (UTC)

Re: My $0.02 as one American on the West Coast

Sadly, not an uncommon story.

re: "Leaving entirely aside the whole issue of whether immigrants should be expected to simply discard aspects of their identity, they don't all get that choice."

The historical reality of the US is that for most of its history, it wasn't a choice. Failure to assimilate often meant death. I'm particularly grateful that the current generation of immigrants and long-maligned Americans have more choice, however flawed, than ever before.
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