Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Last Crusade (religious bigotry)

I receive way, way too many mass-circulation e-mails critical of Muslims and their religion. Real hate mail. Apparently they all want to make Sharia Law compulsory for all non-Muslims; they’re all terrorists, and therefore don’t deserve any right to fair trials; they don’t call God by his right name; they dress funny.

Well, I dunno. One of my personal heroes is a Muslim– a brave man who inspired many people to honour freedom and to oppose the slaughter of innocents. That was Muhammad Ali, who famously refused to join the killing fields of Vietnam on the grounds that "No Viet Cong ever called me 'nigger'".

There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, and it’s hard to generalise about 1.5 billion people. Hey, it’s hard to generalise about a few thousand Caymanians. There are about 1.5 billion Christians, too, and Buddhists, and Indians, and Chinese, and women drivers who... well, never mind. We shouldn’t generalise about any of them, although we do.

"People are people" is a wonderful expression that I first encountered in Cayman; unfortunately, many of us don’t believe it. Some of us– including several world leaders– don’t really think of Muslims as human people. Would it be wrong to take out seventy million of them by nuking Iran? Naah, let’s do it.

We’ve been here before. The history of the world relates one holocaust after another. Slaughter follows slaughter in an endless, bloody frenzy. We Westerners like to think we’re better than that, but we’re not. As long as there are profits to be made from wars, Western companies will invest in them, often on both sides. When Saddam wanted to gas Kurdish civilians in 1988, Western companies sold him the gas. The shareholders must have been pleased with their dividends that year.

For those of us who believe in religious tolerance, it’s tiresome to have to read about the hammering of poor, wretched Muslims all the time. The emails never mention that Western armies have already slaughtered over a million of them in Iraq, and forced another three or four million into refugee camps. I do wish the emails wouldn’t keep telling me what a violent religion Muslims have.

Apparently, their god is an incredibly violent god, whose name “Allah” translates as "Death to America". Actually, Allah is simply a singular form of Elohim, an ancient Hebrew name for the gods. The name Allah is used by Christian Arabs as well as Muslim. Jesus called his god Allah. Top that for legitimacy!

The people who send the emails fall into two categories: bigots and sheep. Mostly, they’re sheep, who hate Muslims because their political leaders tell them to. And the reason why Western political leaders do that is because they regard Muslims in general as sub-human, fit only to be ruled by Westerners and dispossessed of their lands and natural resources. Unprovoked invasions and occupations were bad when German, Japanese and Russian armies did it, but good when American and British armies do it. Go figure.

If the official conspiracy theory is correct, nineteen Muslim terrorists took down the Twin Towers in 2001 with planes, and Building #7 with debris. Somehow, nineteen morphed into 1.5 billion. Somehow, those few Saudi fanatics were regarded as representatives of the entire world of Islam from Indonesia to the westernmost shores of Africa. Somehow, a single act of terrorism came to justify the most monstrous mass tortures by the very nations that once sponsored human rights and fair trials.

I’m not sure about this, but I don’t think many of the West’s professional torturers in Guantanamo and Bagram are Muslims. I’ll have to ask the next person who sends me a hate-email.