20 October 2010

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday October 13, 2010
An idea least likely to work

There is no point in trying to counter prejudice and hate. We need to unpack some of those beliefs about Muslims and show how untrue they are.

AS IDEAS go, this one ranks among those I would categorise as “least likely to work”. In a fit of helpfulness, our leader decided to offer the Leader of the Free World a slew of lecturers to counter Islamophobia in the United States.

In a follow-up fit of help-the-boss-itis, other leaders piped up about how great our lecturers are and how perfect they would be in countering manic hate against Islam in the US because, after all, they used to lecture there.

I do wish people would wake up from whatever drugged sleep they are under. There are just so many things wrong with this suggestion that I hardly know where to begin. But let me try.

First of all, the last people to counter prejudice of any sort are lecturers, for the simple reason that nobody likes being lectured to, least of all by foreigners espousing a religion they regard as uncivilised.

Are people like that pastor who wanted to burn Qurans seriously going to flock to listen to a lecture on Islam and then come out preaching peace and love towards Muslims? In all likelihood, our lecturers are going to preach literally to the converted.

Secondly, the assumption seems to be that if they should get an audience at all, our lecturers will be greeted with a passive one, just like our students.

But what are they going to do if they meet up with a hostile and vocal audience? What happens if all their lectures are met with demonstrators holding up the vilest placards on Islam? Call our embassy?

The truth is our people here have no idea what Islamophobia is and how it manifests itself. Islamophobes – just like Christianophobes, Hindu­phobes and Buddhistphobes – are not amenable to reason and facts but would rather delve into scurrilous beliefs.

I met someone once who asked me why Muslims liked to cut off people’s heads. That’s the sort of stuff Islamophobes like to say. No point in quoting the Quran there.

In fact, I’m not sure there is any point in trying to counter such prejudice and hate. But if we really want to, we need to unpack some of those beliefs about us and show them how untrue they are.

For instance, one of the many points held against Muslims is that we oppress our women. So the way to counter that is not to send male lecturers who will undoubtedly get defensive about this issue but to send bright young and articulate women who are doing things people don’t normally associate with Islam.

Send female fighter pilots, artists, mountain climbers, activists and the like and get them spots with the most popular talkshow hosts. There is no need to talk about religion at all; just talk about the amazing things they do. The point will be made.

Another charge often made against Muslim countries is that we are undemocratic. Here I don’t think we should even dream of trying to defend every single Muslim country in the world, least of all those which don’t have elections, jail dissidents and ban the Internet.

We should just concentrate on showing off our own record, although that record is very spotty indeed.

If we are going to send lecturers, we should at least make sure they know how to respond credibly to questions about our various laws seen as undemocratic, if that is at all possible. Perhaps training on how to talk to reporters from Fox TV might be useful.

And let us not underestimate the influence of the US media on Americans’ perceptions of Islam. While some media may try to be fair, there are many media commentators who are unashamedly Islamo­phobic, and popular because of it.

It would be ludicrous to try and counter talkhosts like Rush Lim­baugh or Glenn Beck, although it may be fun to watch one set of rabid demagogues go up against another.

The truth is: Who are we to speak for the entire Muslim world? We may say we are peaceful people but then some people from another Muslim country might blow up a few of their country folk, and our credibility along with them.

We may say we have regular elections and then someone would point at those countries ruled by ridiculously wealthy royal families. We may show off our educated women and someone would bring up the torched girls’ schools in Afgha­nistan.

So let’s forget this silly idea and instead deal with our own extremist problems at home. God knows we have enough of them and are doing precious little to counter their many phobias. Lecturers wouldn’t be any good here either.

I am curious however about one thing: When the offer was made, how did Obama respond?