Increasing reports of hate crimes against Muslims in recent years have created the impression that Muslim organizational efforts to raise awareness about Islam have been in vain, and that hostility against Muslims has been increasing in the US rather than declining. I am however reminded of the old saying that whenever you are preaching some obvious truth, the people will first laugh at you, then they will attack you, but in the end they will accept your insight as self-evident. It is only a matter of time before people connect the dots and hear Islam’s message of spiritual universalism.
This week I intended to review an obnoxious pseudo-documentary I saw at the library, which explored the question of how Islam inspires Lebanese militants to kill for the sake of God. I was so sickened by the DVD cover that I left, speechless, yet arguments rattled in my head about the extreme racism of how the question was phrased and marketed to a naïve American public, who would be almost guaranteed to have no concept of the context of political violence in Lebanon. I went to the library again today, my stomach in knots as I rehearsed how I was going to ask the librarian why they carry such vile racist stuff on their shelves. However, the DVD had already been checked out and I walked out with nothing more interesting than Blues Clues.
So now, some poor suckers are watching that slick propaganda financed by a seedy Zionist coalition of interest groups, and it will not likely occur to them to be as outraged as if they were watching a documentary questioning what psychopathology caused George Washington to decide to kill for the sake of God.
There is nothing particularly sinister about calling on God as you protect your humble village from being massacred by a foreign army. Popular freedom movements are generally based on the idea that God has given mankind certain inalienable rights. When some rag-tag militia stands up to a heavily armed, mighty empire, we usually regard such people as heroic – not as insane.
Yet, that evil racist mindset has been steadily promoted in the US throughout the past couple decades through seemingly benign but psychologically twisted docu-dramas and books, which are carefully calculated for psychological and political affect, framing religious Muslims as perpetrators of evil motivated by a bizarre alternate reality. Unfortunately, most people don’t see through it.
Today I attended a social event at a Unitarian Universalist Church in Boston, a denomination known for theological openness and social justice activism. So I was disturbed to read a recent sermon discussing forgiveness, citing Washington Post reporter Laura Blumenfeld, author of “Revenge, a Story of Hope,” whose American father, a rabbi, made “aliyah” to Israel and was shot (not seriously) in East Jerusalem by a Palestinian, Omar Khatib, who went to jail for that crime.
The pastor stated: “He says that what he did was not personal; that it was a necessary outcome of what he calls ‘the occupation’ of Palestinian lands by Israel.”
What he calls…? Why would the pastor of a respected church use newspaper-ese to downplay Israel’s siege upon the native population when people of conscience are boycotting Israel? Omar’s shortcomings aside, this level of insolence towards the oldest community of Christ’s followers on Earth, especially coming from a Christian minister, is seriously pathetic.
As the story goes, Laura writes to Omar in prison, and forgives him. Eventually, Omar goes free after promising never to hurt anyone ever again. This is all good, but the way the pastor frames it sounds blaringly racist:
“She wants her father to have a human face, to be real to them as well, and not be just some Jew that got in the way of the Palestinian quest for liberation.”
Some Jew who got in the way of the Palestinian quest for liberation? These Jews made the conscious decision to participate in a population war to squeeze out Palestinians from their own country. Her father accepted US taxpayers’ money to study Hebrew for free and receive government subsidies so that he would not have to work.
Laura didn’t participate in racist genocide because she was forced to by gunpoint, nor because she was a starving refugee. Laura was wealthy American Jew who simply decided to help ethnically cleanse people she had never met. You don’t move onto stolen property in the middle of a war zone and expect to live in peace, unless you are insane.
In this sermon, we never hear anything about how Laura realized that Zionism, a violent ethnic supremacist movement, was wrong. We never hear about how she apologized to Omar for self-worship that went so far beyond hate that she didn’t even visualize Palestinians as persons possessing legal rights. Laura never did repent for her blind arrogance, but she made a lot of money writing and promoting that book.
There are stories of Palestinians who forgave Jewish terrorists, including a Muslim father who donated his murdered son’s organs to needy Jews without getting any thanks. These Islamic examples of radical acts of charity are not mentioned in many American churches, though, because they are not part of a slick propaganda machine churning out feel-good stories that glorify Jews and vilify Muslims.
How could those Jewish parents snub the Palestinian who gave their beloved child a beating heart? It’s all part of the colonial mindset, Manifest Destiny, in which Jews feel entitled to take all of Palestine, including the body parts of murdered Palestinian children.
Yet, no American is ever asked to psychoanalyze the personality defects that would cause a person to disregard the human rights of Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land.
It would actually be very easy to copy the format of these propaganda flicks but turn the argument around to accuse the actual perpetrators of political violence. Why has it not been done? The truth stands out clear from error. My eleven-year-old recently noted that Jews treat Christians like children who can’t be expected to understand. I think it’s time for Muslims to give Christians the respect they deserve as adults, and to engage with them in all honesty.