Thus spaketh a Boston Globe reporter at a forum on Islamophobia tonight at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. The panelists were all rather anti-American, making me wonder about what the privileged PA students are learning these days. No diversity of opinion here, it resembled a bobble-head convention at times. Here are my quick notes from the forum:
The first speaker was Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institue in Hayward, California, former imam at Yale. He was a smooth talker, very smart man, prolific author. His books talk of the moral superiority of Muslims over non-Muslims. Several years ago, he was quoted as saying:
"One of the miraculous things associated with Islam is that this civilizational genus in Islam can manifest itself anywhere. And we can make this Islam manifest itself right here in the United States of America so that when people look back in history, they can talk about the Islamic civilization of America." (Apparently not for him the Judeo-Christian civilization....)
He said nothing nearly so interesting at tonight's forum. He quoted Arnold Toynbee, who some 50 years ago said that "The Muslim world is, at worst, a nuisance." (That was before Saudi oil revenue and the Iranian revolution.) We Americans, with our disproportionate military and wealth, we have nothing to fear from Islam! Americans should be asking themselves why we are continuing our imperialistic project and disregarding the rights of others across the globe. He believes that the MSM advances fear and ignorance of Islam. "All of us must learn to work together." The moderator, Susan McCaslin, gazed rather adoringly at Imam Shakir whilst he spoke.
Next speaker was Frank Tifton, BA from Columbia and MA from Georgetown, MESA member, teaches history at PA. He posits that islamophobia stems from ignorance of Islam (it's not monolithic, you know!), and the psychological phenomenom of "self and other." He notes that Muslims in Dearborn Michigan are not assimilating in the standard American way. He concluded that, fortunately, fear of Islam is not a paralyzing force in the U.S. Whew!
The final speaker was Robert Braile, a (former?) Boston Globe/NPR reporter on environmental issues (why was he there?). He spoke about the intersection of journalism and islamopobia. 9/11 had a huge impact on media coverage, which he characterized as patrotic jingoism for two years after 9/11. He noted that covering terrorism was dangerous (unlike the environmental beat), and it's tough to get both sides. Al Quaeda doesn't grant interviews. He observed that you can find a lot of people to say that the Madrid and London bombing were terrible, but it's hard to find people who defended them. (Huh!) No thoughts in his mind about the skillful exploitation of western MSM by Al Qaeda terrorists.
Mr. Braille gave us his personal thesis on the phobic nature of America, for which we have a long history. The Pilgrims were afraid of the woods and the Indians, and thought the Indians were satanic. During the Cold War, Americans were afraid of Russia and "the unknown" for forty years. (Stalin? Genocides? Military invasions of Eastern Europe? All very good reasons to be afraid.) He quoted a Texan man interviewed about rampant illegal immigration, "We don't know where they're coming from, we don't know what diseases they have." And there you have it, the latest chapter in a long story of American fear. Which explains our Islamophobia. Braile said slowly:
"We Americans fear as we breathe."
Speak for yourself, bub.
I fear for those students whose brains are getting washed so very thoroughly. Yet I bet that the majority of Americans have concluded that the rise in radical Islamism around the globe is a legitimate cause for concern. Nothing irrational about it.