Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Talking to a Conservative

I had an interesting argument with my sister-in-law that I thought might interest some of the people around here. We got to arguing politics (as we should never do, it always ends badly) and her thesis was possibly the most preposterous I've heard from a conservative in a long time. Her thesis was this: "Islam is a Terrorist Religion."

Awesome, huh?

She felt that the vast majority of Muslims were terrorists and they created the religion, so the religion was a terrorist one. I tried calmly explaining that only a small minority of muslims were terrorists and that NO religion is a "terrorist" one.

I explained that defining a religion by a minority of people perverting the doctrine isn't fair and was, in fact, dangerous. "That would be me saying that the LDS faith is a Republican religion because a lot of them around here that I see most are Republicans."

Her response? "I'd agree with that. Mormonism is a Republican religion."

I calmly tried explaining that even the Senate Minority Leader was both a Mormon and Democrat and outside of Utah I'd imagine the mix of Democrats and Republicans in the faith to be the same as the rest of the country. Fifty-fifty.

"No," she continued. "The majority of Mormons are Republicans and the majority of Muslims are terrorists."

I tried to explain further that these small sects of fundamentalists were based largely in the middle east and that there were way to many Muslims in the world to couch them all as middle-eastern terrorists. "There's more Muslims in Europe than in the middle-east and they aren't all terrorists in the middle-east, so it's obvious it's only a minority."

I found some numbers on Wikipedia that explains only 18% of the worshippers of Islam live in the middle-east. Most live in Sub-Saharan Africa (20%) or Asia (30%). Those Muslims aren't terrorists.

This answer didn't hold much water with her. Then she started attacking me personally. She's a political science major at UVSC and explained that I was an un-informed idiot because she talked to the Syrian Ambassador (?) and muslims are terrorists.

I tried explaining to her that not all Christians are terrorists because a small minority of them blow up abortion clinics. I said Christianity isn't defined by discrimination of same-sex couples although some inside it's faith have perverted to that end. I tried explaining that you couldn't describe an entire people as large as Muslims and say since the majority of them (even though not really) are terrorists that their entire religion is based in terrorism.

I don't know about you guys, but what I've researched into the Qu'ran, it teaches the same peace, love and understanding as any other organized religion.

If Muslims want to make sure that people as idiotic as Conservatives like my Sister-in-law don't keep running things, then they need to make an outreach effort to make sure people understand the actual tenets of their religion. Not the bombast that guys like Osama put in the mouths of their prophets.

FOR THE RECORD: I'm not identifying all conservatives through my sister-in-law, but she is a conservative.


Kevin said...

I don't think there are very many Conservatives who hold that Muslims are terrorists.

For that matter, GW's war in Iraq was premised on the naive notion that Islam and the Islamic people are peace loving people who are yearning for freedom and will dance with joy in the street when they have the choice of munching their lunch at Taco Bell or Micky Ds.

There are some people who do argue that foundations in Islam tend toward totalitarianism. This is an interesting thesis that one can support with quality research.

As for Islamic terrorism, most conservatives prefer to trace this to Marxist teachings in France. Ayatollah Khomeini pretty much planned the 1979 Iranian revolution while in France. The revolution was pretty much based on Social theories from folk like Satre, Fanon, etc..

Of course, the use of terrorism by early Zionists and the funding of the Afghan insurgency by Ronald Reagan helped solidify terrorism as a way of life.

Saddam Hussein, by the way, modeled his life on Stalin (PBS). His secret service was trained in East Germany, his library filled with every thing he could find on Stalin. Arguably, the current Iraq insurgency has its roots in Stalinism.

Mideast terrorism clearly comes from studying modern revolutionary theory ... You know, the stuff your film teachers at UVSC preach.

As for you sister. I haven't a clue about what is going on in your Mormon family. Since Mormonism holds that the archangel Michael (aka Adam) is the one true God and Gordon B. Hinckly is his prophet, I suspect that there has to be a way of discrediting competing claims about Allah and Muhammad.

Back in 2003, Bush clearly thought that Muslims were peace loving people who would wave American flags after liberation. You can give him a big negative mark for not realizing the extent to which divisive ideologies would tear about Iraq after the shock and awe invasion.

Anyway, both conservatives and liberals are all over the map. I don't think we can peg any poorly thought through statement as indicative of an entire spectrum of thinking.

Joe Vogel said...

Yeah, I had an almost identical conversation the other day when I was invited for a panel discussion with the UVSC College Republicans. A guy there made the claim that 98% of Muslims are terrorists. When I told him to substantiate the claim, he said, "Well, they are at least potential terrorists," at which point I realized I was in a futile discussion.

Unfortunately, it seems a growing number of "conservatives" have deeply skewed views on both the nature of Islam and every other "foreign" religion. But it doesn't stop there: they don't understand Christianity either.

Here's the thing with the Koran. Can it be used to justify violence? Absolutely. But so can the Old Testament; some have even managed to do the trick with the New Testament. But the fact is mainstream Islam doesn't promote or embrace terrorism. It is totally unfair to label them as such, and is about as ignorant as labeling contemporary Mormons polygamists.

Bryan said...

I don't think very many conservatives prescribe to that belief either, which is why I tried to, at the end, distance my sister-in-law as A conservative instead of with conservatives.

As far as perverting beliefs, it's something people of every religion seem to do.

Kevin said...

I have to apologize. Since the post was labeled "Talking to Conservatives" I thought it was meant to be one of those absurd conversative v. liberal jabs.

The fact that you are hearing many Mormons equating Islam with Terrorism is quite interesting. For that matter, if the figures you suggest are correct, it would be a very interesting sociological study.

Doing a survey and finding out opinions of different groups toward Islam would provide some insight into the current mix of ideas.

The idea that Islam is necessarily totalitarian is not new. There were some voices on the left that essentially argued that Islamic society naturally tends toward totalitarianism; therefore, Bush's attempts to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq are naive. Bush argued back at this time that the yearning for freedom was universal (there were quite a few Iraqis in the US spouting that line as well).

Anyway, your blog is named "This Divided State." So I figure that the blog itself is primarily about what divides this state (Utah). One guaranteed way to divide is to do what this post does. You made an interesting observation about a group of people. Instead of exploring where that observation leads, the post injects unrelated jabs at political enemies.

Of course, I did the exact same thing in my reply. I injected my distaste form Mormonism into the discussion.

It seems to me that the constant need to inject our jabs at our enemies ultimately has the effect of undermining our system of discourse. It leads to deep divisions in society and can plant the seeds of totalitarianism when those divisions get exploited by the Saddam Husseins of the world.

Of course, I was trained in the same school system as you. Modern schools don't teach people logic or how to engage in civil discourse. We are taught that we have to manipulate things at a subliminal level to get our way.

As a gentile living in Zion, I've found myself resorting to the thought that the only way to engage in discourse was through the systematic use of subliminal jabs. The method works for a while but I find it ultimately ends up undermining me.

Bryan said...

I think you're right. I think someone should get a study done on the opinions of Islam in this country.

That way, we'd have a better to chance to figure out how to educate people about the ACTUAL nature of Islam.