The podcast was called “Ask a Muslim”. I was offended by the very idea.
There are probably a thousand reasons the concept is flawed, but two jumped to mind quickly.
- It perpetuates the idea of Muslims as some exotic other to be diagnosed, explained and understood.
- Is assumes that asking a question of a Muslim is the same as asking a question of “Muslims” as a whole.
It begins from a place where Muslims are weirdos with a hive mind who can be explained by asking basic questions of one of them. If I played “Ask a White” and my wife was the person involved, I’d assume that all white people like deep dish pizza (disgusting), listen to The Cure (no argument), and can recite The Little Mermaid by heart. (just bizarre) Her likes, interests and personality are her own. They’re not necessarily representative of some larger societal norm. The podcast doesn’t give Muslims the same humanity.
Then I listened and understood why, sadly, it was necessary.
The idea itself was Imam Yahya Hendi’s. During a previous event discussing religious discrimination they noted how many questions surrounded basic ignorance about Islam. He wanted a forum to answer those people. He’s a better man than me. I respect the endeavor, but I’m beyond it. I will dialogue with almost anyone. I will not waste time with those who begin by questioning my humanity. If somebody comes to me with, “Why do black people…”, my back is already turned. They’re not worth the time. If someone sees any group as a mass without individuality they’re not worth the words or the effort. I don’t even want to listen to those people. The Imam wanted to speak with them.
Weird Muslim guy
Among the guests was a comedian, Dean Obeidallah, who visited southern states and had an “Ask a Muslim” booth set up. After being asked inane questions like, “Why do you dress like an American?” and “Do you think you’re American?”, they found one question being asked time and again. “Why don’t peaceful Muslims speak out against terrorism?”
Dean dressed as an American
What an important question. And so thoughtful. When have I heard that before?
Oh yeah, every single time any Radicalized group with even tenuous ties to Islam commits an act of violence. (Here’s a good response article where high-profile Muslim leaders supported acts of terrorism. Right. It’s them denouncing, over and over again, any violent act as abhorrent, unethical and wholly incompatible with Islam. You know, the same thing that happens every single time.)
The idea that peaceful Muslims must denounce violent Muslims isn’t just ignorant. It’s really, really stupid.
- It asks more of Muslims than is asked of any other religious group or movement.
- It assumes that without a public declaration, there is assumed support. (See hive mind comment above)
Remember Timothy McVeigh? Right-wing Christian extremist from Michigan who blew up the Oklahoma City Federal building? Yeah, that was a while ago. Remember Dylan Roof? Isolated, Evangelical extremist who was radicalized by message boards and other online groups and killed people at a church in South Carolina? Remember Eric Rudolph? Right-wing Christian extremist from North Carolina who bombed the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as well as three women’s health clinics?
Radical Christian terrorists
What did all of those terrorists have in common? Sure they were evil. Sure they were killers. Sure they were all Christian. Wait, they were all Christian?
They all identified as such. They were radicalized in part because of their Christian faith. They killed people in support of it. No church was asked to denounce them on behalf of other Christians.
And no church should have been asked to denounce them. That’s the whole problem with the current climate we have. Some people are granted humanity. Others must demand it.
I have no problem with local pastors not being hounded to speak out against right-wing Extremists who happen to worship the same God. Those two people have little in common and do not speak for one another. I wish that same humanity was granted to Muslims.