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Jan 09 2012

Islamophobia Does Not "Cause" Riots

So I was reading the current issue of Utne Reader (great magazine, by the way) and came across an article about Islamophobia, reprinted from Intelligence Report.

At was a good article, at least up until the third paragraph. There, I saw something that made my eyes want to pop out of my head, migrate to the author’s place of residence, and slap him in the face:

Recent news reports strongly suggest a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes. In May 2010, for example, a bomb exploded at an Islamic center in Jacksonville, Florida. In August, a man slashed the neck and face of a New York taxi driver after finding out he was a Muslim. Four days later, someone set fire to construction equipment at the future site of an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In March 2011, a radical Christian pastor burned a Koran in Gainesville, Florida, leading to deadly riots in Afghanistan that left at least 20 people dead. [emphasis mine]

No. No no no. First of all, unlike the first three incidents, burning a Koran is not an “anti-Muslim hate crime.” Last I checked, in America that counts as free speech, heinous as it may be. Second, Islamophobia may have caused the first three incidents, but it did not cause the fourth one. That one was caused by morons who chose to respond to a provocation in a violent way.

One of my biggest issues with liberal discourse on societal problems is its proclivity to diminish or erase entirely the concept of human agency. (Some) liberals talk as though society just makes people do things without them actually processing information and deciding how to act on it.

(Among more radical liberals, this lends itself to the belief that violent response to injustice is not only inevitable, but morally justified, even if innocent people are injured or killed in the process. See: Hamas apologists.)

Leaving aside the morality of the rioters’ actions, it nevertheless takes quite a few conceptual steps to get from American Islamophobia to Muslims killing people in Afghanistan. While one could reasonably assume that Islamophobia (along with a number of other factors, such as having a violent disposition) caused people to do things like bomb mosques, stab Muslim taxi drivers, and burn Korans, one cannot then jump from that to “Islamophobia causes people in Afghanistan to riot and kill people.” Just, no.

I should hope that it’s quite clear that moderating variables must be at play here. (Case in point: Jews have been subject to as much [if not more] racism and discrimination throughout history as Muslims have, but if we rioted and killed each other every time somebody did something anti-Semitic, there’d be none of us left. Do a Google search on “burning Israeli flag” and you’ll see how common this is, and don’t tell me nobody ever burns Bibles, either.) For whatever reason, the rioters in question chose not to respond to this incident by starting an initiative to educate Westerners about Islam, by simply ranting about it to family and friends, or by shrugging and moving on.

Instead, they chose to respond to a no-name dipshit burning a Koran thousands of miles away by killing 20 innocent people.

Clearly, the vast, vast majority of Muslims in the world did not react this way, just like most teenagers who happen to come into possession of a loaded gun do not immediately go shoot up a school. The few who do go shoot up schools have serious issues that go way beyond the fact that they have access to a gun.

Islamophobia is a serious problem and should not be swept under the rug. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. All humans have agency, and we should assign the same level of responsibility to the Muslims who rioted as to the Americans who provoked them.

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  1. 1
    Ramy Daoud

    It is hard to get an Atheist such as myself to comment on any sort of religious topic, but this article was so mind blowingly terrible that I just had to. The point you are trying to make is laughable, as is your “sassy” writing style. Your perspective is limited by your lack of knowledge and cultural sensitivity, the points you try to make are comedic and the self indulgence in your writing style has to be the high point. Thank you for the entertainment!

    1. 1.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Good job trying to discredit my article without actually refuting any of its points.

      For future reference, “This is terrible” is not a valid criticism of anything, besides perhaps a song or type of food.

      Have a nice day.

    2. 1.2
      !?!?!?!??

      cool argument bro

      i’m going to make a bunch of statements and don’t back them up because i must be right 100% of the time amirite i don’t need to back up my points

      hurr i’m so smart

  2. 2
    Titfortat

    The problem really is that Islamaphobia shouldnt even be a freaking word. But in the age of Political Correctness it is gold. Sad.

    1. 2.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Why do you think it shouldn’t be a word?

      1. 2.1.1
        Titfortat

        Because it is an easy way to discredit people who have a legitimate beef with the radical aspects of the religion. Think of it this way, if I disagree with Fred Phelps and his crazy westboro baptist church does that make me a Christianphobe? The truth is radical Islam should be a concern that the west in general needs to pay attention to. Take a look at Denmark and you might get an idea why. Listen this guys rant for a minute and tell me if he is an Islamophone or accurate.

        1. 2.1.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          Well, if you read the passage I quoted, “Islamophobia” here refers to brutally injuring innocent Americans who happen to be Muslims and destroying their places of worship.

          What does this have to do with radical Islam?

          1. Titfortat

            @Miriam

            You asked me why I thought Islamophobia was not a good choice of words, so, I told you. I think calling those people hateful racists/bigots would be more appropriate because I have a sneaky suspicion they are probably the same people who would burn down a synagogue.

          2. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Good point.

  3. 3
    Titfortat

    I meant Islamophobia. :)

  4. 4
    Stringer Bell

    I left a comment earlier but I don’t see it anymore. Do you know what happened?

    1. 4.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Huh…nope. Maybe it got stuck in my spam filter for some reason, but I just emptied it like half an hour ago. :/

      1. 4.1.1
        Stringer Bell

        I don’t think it could’ve gone to the spam filter since it was published.

        Nevermind. This is what I wrote:

        “One of my biggest issues with liberal discourse on societal problems is its proclivity to diminish or erase entirely the concept of human agency. (Some) liberals talk as though society just makes people do things without them actually processing information and deciding how to act on it.”

        It is weird that you believe in the concept of human agency when your blog is full of posts about how society forces women to feel a certain way, talk a certain way, look a certain way, etc. etc. In your description of society even advice columns hold so much power that they dictate how people behave. Your support for this human agency thing seems to be rather selective and convenient.

        I agree, though, that anyone who makes the argument that the flag burning caused those killings is an idiot.

        “Among more radical liberals, this lends itself to the belief that violent response to injustice is not only inevitable, but morally justified, even if innocent people are injured or killed in the process. See: Hamas apologists.”

        Well, then, those Hamas Apologists should adopt whatever justification Israel claims it has for killing and injuring innocent people.

        1. 4.1.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          Well, that’s a valid point, except that I never used words like “force” in talking about how society affects women. I do say that it pressures, influences, or teaches them, because I do believe in the basic premise that society affects people in some ways.

          I would never claim that society “forces” women to do anything because I myself am an example of the fact that women can and do resist culture. However, just because I and many other women (and men) are able to ignore the messages that society sends doesn’t mean that those messages are RIGHT, or that it’s a waste of time to try to pick them apart.

          Similarly, it is undeniable that Islamophobia influenced those Muslims to riot. But it did not FORCE them. Ultimately, the decision was theirs.

          (Furthermore, it’s one thing to unthinkingly adopt culturally-appropriate ways of dressing, talking, and behaving, as many women do; and quite another to unthinkingly murder innocent people.)

          I also don’t think that Hamas apologists should “adopt whatever justification Israel claims it has for killing and injuring innocent people.” I haven’t written on this subject very much, but I absolutely don’t think that Israel is being just with regards to the Palestinians. But I ALSO don’t think that the policies of a nation’s government justify brutally killing innocent men, women, and children who happen to be ruled by that government. These are positions that I hold concurrently. I don’t believe in either extreme–I don’t believe that Israel is always right, and I don’t believe that the Palestinians are always right.

          tl;dr things are complicated.

  5. 5
    ecks why

    Informed rational freedom loving people have all the reasons in the world to fear islam. The twin fogs of political correctness & ignorance must be dispersed before western society better understands this menace. Even a brief review of islamic theology & history quickly exposes the deadly roots of this evil ideology.

    Mohamhead was a 7th century murdering warlord who rose to power on a river of blood surrounded by thugs and gangsters using intimidation, violence, deception and trickery to expand their criminal empire while mercilessly suppressing and killing their opponents and enriching themselves on stolen booty.

    The evil koran is a collection of sayings and speeches by this diabolical madman claiming divine guidance from some mythical sky-god which has inspired generations of crazed fanatics to abhorrent behavior resulting in historys worst ever crimes against humanity starting 1400 years ago and still continuing even today.

    Islam is just another fascist totalitarian ideology used by power hungry fanatics on yet another quest for worldwide domination and includes all the usual human rights abuses & suppression of freedoms.

    and a snappy graphics version, great for emailing…

    http://img256.imageshack.us/img256/1479/dangermoko.jpg

  1. 6
    Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion « Clarissa's Blog

    [...] my favorite post of the week: “One of my biggest issues with liberal discourse on societal problems is its proclivity to diminish o….” This is exactly how I feel. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

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