Muslims and PR: A response to comments


Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at

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306 Responses

  1. Avatar Jake Collins says:

    caveat/bigotry/anecdote/caveat/anecdote/random aside, etc.

    Is this post apology or apologetics? Either way, it’s 12 paragraphs too long.

    Perhaps the best theory is that lawyers are by nature unwilling to admit that they are wrong?Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    This is mostly a reasonable extension of your first post which i found lacking. I stopped reading the comments to your first post since the comments hereabouts have been weak for a while now. I’d only add that saying Muslim critiism of bad acts by other Muslims sounds wimpy seems like nothing is ever good enough. They criticize some evil but without enough force or eloquence so they don’t measure up is just as weak a complaint as yours. Since the continuing occupation/problems in Palestine is greatly disturbing to people, many of them Muslims, its not surprising they don’t forget it. In fact it sounds like they are pushing the PR they feel is most worthwhile, just because it doesn’t totally fit what you want to hear is not terrible relevant.Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

      I do acknowledge the sincerity and, to an extent, legitimacy of the complained of “occupation/problems in Palestine.” I’m certainly not asking that anyone “forget it.” If you don’t think the point about needing to separate these complaints from denunciations of terrorism is compelling, that’s fair enough.Report

  3. Avatar Ferny Reyes says:

    The problem is that you can’t remove actions taken against Muslims from the actions taken by Muslims.

    If you’re a ‘moderate’ Muslim, you are probably both offended by attacks against civilians in the West, but also against the situation in Palestine. However, if you simply “denounce” the violence, its perceived that you also feed in retaliatory effects against other muslims, particularly those that weren’t at fault.

    It’s much more complicated than you seem to acknowledge.Report

  4. Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

    “I simply meant to suggest that, with respect to the rhetorical issues, folks with a vested interest in accelerating the resolution of Muslims’ social and cultural problems in America might want to think along these lines. Perhaps it was rash of me to assume the folks with such an interest would be Muslims. At the time, I thought it a fair guess.”

    Good one. Nice way to imply that Muslims don’t actually care about resolving “Muslims’ social and cultural problems in America”.

    Even in semi-explanation/apologia mode you cannot stop yourself from being condescending. Thank you for your concerns for the Muslim community in the US, but I think we can do without your condescending lectures.Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


      The response was to the claim that I was wrong to the Muslim community what they should be doing. If I was being a bit sarcastic (and I was), it was directed at hyper-sensitive non-Muslims. I don’t think it means I don’t care about the issues I profess to care about.Report

  5. Avatar Simon K says:

    My question is this, Tim – why are you addressing an article on what group A – moderate Muslims – should do to change the opinions of group B – presumed non-bigots with doubts about Islam – to a group of people who generally belong to neither group A nor group B?

    I mean, you *seem* to be trying to make group A more responsible for group B’s doubts about them than group B is, as some kind of basis for excusing whatever indignities group A may be suffering. You strike me as the kind of person who in other circumstances would find the idea of holding people responsible for other people’s opinions of them to be generally reprehensible. Especially when that results in their civil liberties being, if not infringed, then at least placed under considerable pressure by major public figures. I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, but I don’t see any other possible intent behind this.Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

      Simon K,

      I posted this blog post here because this is where I post blog posts. I’m sure there’s a better, more tailored site for a lot of my posts, but I generally just post what I write here. Besides, it’s nice to get constructive feedback on my ideas and arguments so I can refine them before I think about taking them to other forums.

      You seem to be suggesting that group B could be doing something different. Like what? I actually haven’t thought that much about it. I mean, I’m a member of group B, and I’m doing what I can think of to advance the discussion. It’s obviously not taking well, but I’m open to hearing what else can be done.Report

      • Avatar Simon K says:

        Its interesting that you say here you’re a member of group B, but elsewhere that you know lots of Muslims and that you’re personally convinced that they’re sincere when they say they oppose violence, but you hold up the general skepticism of non-bigots as placing at least some kind of incentive on Muslims to even-more-fervently denounce violence. I mean, isn’t that the thing group B could be doing different? Getting to know some Muslims, or failing that at least getting some familiarity with the practice of Islam and its variations?

        But if your own familiarity with actual Muslims hasn’t been sufficient for you, what would be sufficient? I mean, no-one can speak for American Muslims as a whole, so there’s always some possibility that in spite of the okayness of the people you know, or have made sufficiently profound denounciations of violence to convince you, there may be people out there who do wish us harm. But then there are undoubtedly Christians out there who wish us harm to. Why is Islam different?

        I’m depressingly reminded of one of my earliest political disillusionments, of watching two groups of my fellow countrymen, from opposing communities who in normal circumstances never meet or speak to one another, living and working together on various projects and making friends over several weeks, only to, in their exit interviews, declare that while “these XXX are okay, other XXX are still “.Report

        • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

          You know, I was mistaken to say I was in group “B.” I mean, I DO wonder about leaders of Muslims nations sometimes, especially when they offer qualified or backhanded denunciations of terrorism. But the Muslims in my own backyard? I’m perfectly comfortable with ’em.Report

          • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

            But why should the Muslims in your backyard (I’m being charitable here and assuming that you mean Muslims in the US, not just the Muslims who are lucky enough to be your friends) be held responsible for the actions of the leaders of those Muslim nations? My grandfather left his homeland to escape from rule one of these leaders, and it is the height of irony if his children and grandchildren in America are expected to answer for the crimes and foibles of these leaders.Report

            • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

              I think we’re carrying on our discussion in two different comment threads. I think I responded to this in the thread below.Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

                “Again, if this discussion ever leads into questions of morality, guilt, blame, duties, deserts, rights, obligations, or compunctions, it will not have been by any invitation of mine.”

                I’m assuming you mean that response. But you are the one who brought up the topic of mealy-mouthed and weak condemnation of Islamic terrorism by leaders of Muslim nations like the Palestinian Authority in a post about what AMERICAN MUSLIMS can do to endear themselves to non-bigoted Americans who think that Islam and America is not compatible.

                Again, what does those two things have to do with each other? Do you think that American Muslims have the power to influence what these leaders do? Should I call Mahmoud Abbas and tell him not to be so mealy-mouthed in his condemnation of terrorism against Israel because that might make non-bigoted people in the US question the compatibility of Islam and America, thus making my life harder? I’m sure he would be very sympathetic to the plights of American Muslims, that should be his top priority, not the fate of his own people. In fact, let me just call my grandma to get his number on the speed dial.Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

                Ok, I see your point. It is my experience that similar kinds of responses come from American Muslim groups, though I don’t have any cites for you at the moment. I’ll try to look into that point further.Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

                I …. don’t understand. What will citing similar kinds of responses from American Muslim groups prove? That I am merely parroting talking points by American Muslim groups instead of having my own opinion? Color me confused.Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

                And I thought Muslims are supposed to be bad at PR. But if we already have talking points and all, hey, I guess we are not that bad. Just bad at convincing non-bigoted Americans that Islam and America is compatible.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Though nothing is more offensive than unsolicited advice, I will hand some out anyway, in hopes you may see some value in it.

                American Muslims will never succeed while they don’t unite and push back more vigorously that the ignorant bigots. The facts are all on your side. American Muslims came here, as every other group of immigrants came, giving up everything in hopes of a new start. Until American Muslims stand up and say “Fuck you, I’m an American Muslim and proud of it and you’re a bigot and I’m going to give my very considerable voting power to your political enemies” absolutely nothing will improve. This is a battle for hearts and minds, a battle which will not be won while American Muslims despair and whine and complain. The Jews tried their best to assimilate within the cultures of Europe and the Muslim world (which until recent times treated them with more respect) and even here in America, they said everything the American Muslims are now saying, trying their best to just go along and get along. And it did no good at all.

                Until American Muslims do what the Jews did, stand up and fight back and quit taking all this shit, they will go on being kicked by the bigots and bullies. A bully is fundamentally a coward. Stand up to them and they will retreat.Report

  6. Avatar BSK says:

    Terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam are few, but have taken egregious actions. These actions are then extrapolated to Muslims in totality.

    Muslims denouncing those who commit acts of terrorism in the name of Islam are many and have taken reasonable action to demonstrate this. These actions have no bearing on the perception of Muslims.

    Do you see the inherent flaw in this reasoning? If all it takes is one bad Muslim to poison the water, why can’t one great Muslim undo that? As someone demonstrated on the other board, there are numerous examples of Muslims, individually and collectively, denouncing terrorism. Yet it hasn’t made a difference. Whose fault is that?Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

      As I said above, I’m not talking about this in terms of moral blame. I get the sense many folks are not taking that at face value. When I say “PR” and “messaging,” I’m trying to make the point that I’m not talking primarily about underlying substance. I accept at face value that when a Muslim denounces terrorism, he is denouncing terrorism. But I also recognize that there are other underlying concerns of Islamism/jihadism/etc., some Muslims might want to do more to assuage these concerns. Again, I offer no moral or legal or other authority for the suggestion. It’s just a suggestion.Report

    • I have deleted a comment that was replying to BSK’s post. This is a warning to all. The comments threads, once this site’s strongest point, have deteriorated and lost a lot of their substance. The comments policy will no longer be only loosely enforced.Report

      • Avatar Heidegger says:

        Mark, were the comments you deleted, mine? I thought I was being reasonably polite, so please, when you have a free moment, could you let me know where and what the specific parameters and boundaries are–thanks. (Of course, maybe the comments deleted weren’t mine)

        How can I possibly freely express myself with such a politically correct albatross around my neck? To be honest with you, I think these occasional barroom brawls are quite useful. I also think we learn a lot about each other, good and bad, when these eruptions occur. Can I say, BOMBS AWAY!! Or is it more like, Big Brother’s Watching You!Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          You could — just possibly — express yourself while not recommending that all Muslims be “squashed like cockroaches.”

          That was just one of the objectionable items. I could go on, but I expect you remember the rest.

          Your comment was way, way out of line. Ironically, it was every bit as bad as the worst things that Muslim anti-Semites have ever said about Jews. If it is inexcusable when said by them, it’s also inexcusable when said by you.

          Mark was fully justified if you ask me.Report

        • While you may think barroom brawls are useful, the output of this site, its traffic, and the loss or declining contributions of several commenters who have been with us for years beg to differ.Report

          • Avatar Heidegger says:

            Mark, well that certainly puts a different spin on it. I hadn’t even thought about the loss of contributors/commenters to the site. Sorry. Extreme short-sightedness on my part. I am most certainly not worth the loss of a single commenter, so please do whatever it is you need to do to make sure that doesn’t happen.

            Again, my apologies. HReport

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            You’re probably not talking about me, Mark, since I’ve only been around for a year at most, but I should say that I still think the main contributors here are awesome, and my own reduced commenting is 80% caused by a new baby and only 20% by the rather less collegial atmosphere than now seems to prevail in the threads. I’m still reading, but as you know, writing in a manner that not utterly crap takes effort. It doesn’t offer encouragement when you’re likely to get drowned out by a screaming match, though.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Dude, just express yourself as usual: wander onto threads, ignore completely the content of whatever comment you’re pretending to respond to, post something roughly the length of War and Peace that has nothing to do with what anyone else is writing about, make sure there’s plenty of mean-spirited insults towards the other commenters and jokes about exterminating Muslims, followed up with gratuitous and totally insincere ass-kissing alternating with moaning about how you’re suffering PC oppression, and then switch the subject to Beethoven. And do this on every thread.Report

          • Avatar RTod says:

            It’s the Beethoven that makes all the rest OK.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              I’ve debated with myself telling Heidegger that he can post anything he wants to do with classical music as the parameters of what’s acceptable.Report

            • Avatar Heidegger says:

              Goodness, have I been that bad? Scratch “banning”. Time to get out those canes (Singapore). Anything less than severe caning (100 lashes) would not be sufficient. I’m ready. Don’t forget, I’ve faced the straps of nuns and Jesuits–doubt your punishment would ever be equal to that. Although BlaiseP would most assuredly pull out one of his medieval torture devices and I’d be dead in 5 seconds.

              RTod–great to hear from you! Have missed your delicious black humor. It would appear I’ve lost my position of class clown, class dunce, token idiot, borderline psychotic, etc. and can only comment on Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms etc. And even then, to be billed $5 for each word so as to cut down on my way too wordy intro to War and Peace.

              For your listening pleasure, RTod, here he is, our beloved Beethoven. This is so utterly glorious and gorgeous–how I LOVE Beethoven!!! A trillion I love you’s to Herr Ludwig, life would have been unbearable or at least much less joyful without you, beloved Saint and beatific cosmic wonder. Alles Liebe, Herr Beethoven!Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        Mark, the comments haven’t been worse than Tim’s original post. If you’re going to enforce a comments policy, then it’s only fair to enforce a ‘no dishonest whackjob BS endorsement of bigotry’ standard.Report

        • Avatar RTod says:

          You don’t see a difference between “Muslims need to have a better message if they want to avoid prejudice” and “all Muslims should be exterminated?”

          I disagreed 100% with Tim’s posts and his arguments, but even I can see the shades of grey between the two.Report

          • Avatar BSK says:

            I’m with RTod. I couldn’t be more opposed to Tim’s post, but I thought all the calls for him being removed from the site were absurd.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            The only thing that excuses the latter is that Heidegger is operating somewhere between radical parody and schizophrenia. That doesn’t make him any more appealing to read (in fact, it’s best not to read him), but it does at least make him seem like less of a monster.

            Also, it cracks me up when Bob agrees with him.Report

          • Avatar Barry says:

            From J. Otto Pohl’s post, later down the thread:

            “Imposing collective responsiblity upon racialized groups for the actions of some of their members has a really distasteful history. It is a primary justification for ethnic cleansing and genocide. ”

            Tim’s game is not honest, and it’s evil. He’s just playing on the slimy concern troll end of it, as opposed to the ‘kill the mother_______ing _________’s!!!’ end of it.Report

            • Avatar RTod says:

              Not sure you got my question that you’re responding to, so I’ll ask it again:

              Do you really not see the difference between saying “Muslims need better PR” and “all Muslims should be killed?” Not even a little, tiny difference?

              Tim may (or may not) be being duplicitous; and he may (or may not) really have a thing against Muslims. But everybody who practices wrong-headed thinking isn’t Hitler. Just as folks from the Federalist Society shouldn’t just assume a good-standing citizen who’s a Muslim is a terrorist sympathizer, we shouldn’t assume that people who disagree with us are pro-genocide.Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                RTod, I don’t believe that it’s that, because the right (the GOP and it’s legal arm the Federalist Society) is pushing fear of Muslims as their new hot button issue.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                I agree. And I still say there is a wide spread between that and “all Muslims should be killed.”Report

    • Avatar Heidegger says:

      BSK writes:

      “Terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam are few..”

      Few? When have terrorists EVER claimed to not act in the name of Islam? Just one example should probably suffice. Certainly, 9/11 was a 100% Islamist motivated act. Just read several of their last words they left behind. And don’t forget the way they always sign off after one of their “operations”has been completed. Allah Akbar

      I can’t be more polite than this gentlemen. If this does me in, then we’re simply at an unsolvable impasse.Report

      • Avatar RTod says:

        H – In this case I doubt your post will be neutered. But I still think your logic is off.

        That terrorists have done things in the name of Islam is of course true. But that doesn’t make Islam and Muslims in general responsible for those acts of terror. I’m a American who loves our country, and yet I assure you I had nothing to do with the deaths Timothy McVeigh caused. Likewise, despite being white I really had no part in the violence that the KKK brandished in my youth. I’m from a VERY Irish family, but I don’t cheer any of the deaths of English citizens that happened so often in my youth at the hands of the IRA or Sine FIne.

        To put it another way: those Muslims I know here in Portland, that I meet at Book Club and play soccer with and dine with and (for some) have beers with, just because they share the moniker “Muslim” doesn’t mean that they are terrorists, or supporters of terrorism.

        Trust me on this.Report

        • Avatar BSK says:

          Well, it has to do with how we otherize. Individuals from marginalized groups are more likely to be considered representative of their groups when failing then those from empowered groups. The inverse is true when succeeding.

          So, if a Muslim blows something else, the questions immediately gravitate towards what is wrong with Islam. If a Christian blows something else, some will question the religion’s role but most will recognize him as an individual seperate from his faith (the “lone wolf” moniker).
          Likewise, when a Muslim does something good (i.e., denounce terrorism), we don’t presume that he represents all Muslims. When a Christian does something good, we are more likely to conclude that Christianity is the cause of his goodness.

          This isn’t to say that we have some genetic predisposition against Islam. I’m sure in other nations where the power structure is different (be it with regards to religion, race, ethnicity, etc.), the relationship is very different.

          And, yes, I do realize that this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Some people will bash all Catholics in the wake of an accused priest. But, collectively, the responses are far more likely to fall along the lines outlined above.Report

          • Avatar RTod says:

            All good points.

            And I’d add this: I suspect that that to a certain extent the way we feel about American Muslims is similar to the way we feel about gays and lesbians. That is, those that know and spend time with folks who are Muslim are much more likely to believe that they are just people and not so different from everyone else. And those that don’t know any or refuse to spend time with them are more likely to assume that they’re out to get us and our children.Report

            • Avatar BSK says:

              Indeed. I’m pretty sure there is actually hard research to suggest this. It may have to do with race or sexual oreintation or religion (I don’t remember offhand), but I’m pretty sure it’s out there. I’ll see if I can find it.Report

            • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

              I think this is a good point.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                It’s instructive that the opposition to Park51 goes down the closer you get to the actual site.Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                There was a story from the neighborhood, interviewing locals. On local, who worked in a, um, entertainment establishment (which was even closer to the WTC – Shock!!!!!) said “It’s a free country, ain’t it?”.

                She has more citizenship and civics in her little finger than the entire GOP.Report

      • Avatar BSK says:

        Relative to the number of Muslims in the world, the number of terrorists who claim to kill in the name of Islam is relatively few. There may be a few hundred, but last I checked there was something like a billion muslims.

        You misread the statement. I was not saying that the ratio of Muslim terrorists to terrorists was low, only that Muslim terrorists to Muslims was low.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Leon Czolgosz.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Okay, maybe Timothy McVeigh works better.Report

  7. Avatar J. Otto Pohl says:

    Imposing collective responsiblity upon racialized groups for the actions of some of their members has a really distasteful history. It is a primary justification for ethnic cleansing and genocide. Why should American Muslims apologize for actions taken by people with which they only share an affirmed religious faith? Should all American Jews or at least “moderate Jews” be forced to apologize every time the State of Israel (The Jewish State) commits an atrocity? Or even more analogous should American Jews have been forced to apologize for the actions of high ranking Jewsih communists in the Stalin regime such as Lazar Kaganovich? After all Kaganovich murdered orders of magnitude more people than Osama Bin Laden ever has. One can see how ridiculous the claim is when applied to other groups, why is there an exception for Muslims?Report

  8. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    “Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, said he ‘clearly and firmly denounces the terror attack, just as I have denounced crimes against Palestinians.’

    You know there’s a charitable reading to this, right? Leviticus 19:18.

    Sounds like he’s doing just what the God of Abraham asked him to.Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

      I’m afraid I don’t understand. I’m referring to the fact the denunciation contains a backhanded denunciation of Israel. Again, I would agree that Israel has committed terrible crimes. I’m just saying it’s in poor taste to use the massacre of a Jewish infant as an opportunity to leverage terrorism claims against Israel.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        The denunciation says: “I denounce violence against my neighbor (Israel) in exactly the same way I denounce violence against myself (Palestine).”

        If you find that to be poor taste, don’t take it up with me. Take it up with Jesus, Moses, Confucius, Buddha…Report

        • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

          Now this is getting really embarrassing, because I still don’t get it. How is this any different from my characterization immediately above? I’m not the best Christian in the world, but I’m pretty sure Christ never instructed his followers to denounce one’s own sin by referring to and denouncing the sin done to him by others. And the Leviticus verse you cited refers to “seek[ing] revenge or bear[ing] a grudge.” If anything, “denouncing” the acts done to me by another does nothing to suggest I’m not “bear[ing] a grudge.” It might even suggest the opposite.

          At any rate, we’re in the weeds here. I’m just confused by your response.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

            I’ll try this again, in steps.

            1. When someone says “just as,” he is making a reflexive statement. Thus, “I love my neighbor just as I love myself” is precisely equivalent to saying “I love myself just as I love my neighbor.”

            1.1 The golden rule asks us therefore to treat people with a strong degree of reflexivity.

            2. I take it as a reasonable (though not logically certain) claim that when you love someone, you also denounce violence against them. At the very least, denouncing violence against someone in no way precludes love of them or makes it less likely.

            2.2 To say “I denounce violence against my neighbor just as I denounce violence against myself” is precisely equivalent to saying “I denounce violence against myself just as I denounce violence against my neighbor.”

            3. Saying that you denounce violence against your neighbor, just as you denounce violence against yourself, is very likely an exercise of the Golden Rule, or at least compatible with it, because it (1) treats neighbor as self, in reflexive fashion, and because it (2) acts in a way that seems at least compatible with loving them. At any rate, it in no way excludes or makes less likely the possibility of loving them.

            4. Denouncing violence is not biblically forbidden. If it were, I imagine that you would be unable (or at least reluctant) to denounce September 11. I don’t think that’s the case.

            Which one of these is the problem?Report

            • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

              I think I follow it now. I had an faint idea this might have been what you were getting at, but it took me a bit to get to that level of abstraction.Report

            • Avatar Mike says:

              The problem with the whole “I denounce X just as I denounce Y” is that they are taking a horrible tragedy and using it to try to shift blame.

              It is the equivalent of saying “blah blah is horrible BUT justified because of blabbity blah” or “blah blah is horrible BUT blabbity blah is much worse so why are you bothering with blah blah.”

              And any honest person seeing this is going to see such a “denunciation” as insincere at best.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                When you say you denouce x as you denounce y, it doesn’t say anything about x being justified because of y. In fact, it seems to me to do quite the opposite. If you don’t think, for example, that violence against your self or your own people is justified, and you denounce violence against another “just as” you denounce it against yourself, isn’t that saying that if you think the violence against yourself is unjustified, you think the violence against others is unjustified for the same reasons?Report

            • Avatar BSK says:

              Doesn’t this all presume that every denouncement has been coupled as Tim described? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some Muslims, at least 1 or 2 maybe, simply say they denounce terrorism.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        Tim, please don’t pretend that you don’t understand. You are a lawyer, and trained in logic and argumentation.Report

        • I am permitting this comment to stand only to state that going forward, comments similar to this will be deleted. Comments that simply presume bad faith and dishonesty on the part of another commenter or contributor will be deleted. They inherently have no bearing on the topic up for discussion. If you think a topic is being brought up for discussion in bad faith or is unworthy of discussion, then the solution is simple: don’t participate in the discussion.Report

          • Avatar Barry says:

            Mark, it’s reasonable to enforce such a policy. People who write things assuming bad faith should have their writings deleted.

            Perhaps you’d like to read:



            I think that that writer should have a stern talking to, and maybe their posts deleted.Report

            • 1. You ignored this phrase: on the part of another commenter or contributor will be deleted. Notice that your comment on Max Boot has not been deleted.

              2. Even if that phrase had not been included in my comment (and I put it in for a reason – otherwise entire topics would be unapproachable, such as North Korea, Libya, Paul Ryan’s budget plan, etc.), Tim’s posts do not actually accuse anyone of bad faith. And even if you think they did, there is an actual attempt to support that position, however unpersuasive. The posts do something other than “simply” make presumption of bad faith and dishonesty.

              3. I also stated a reason for this policy: such topics “inherently have no bearing on the topic up for discussion.” The nature of any blog is such that the writer of the main post sets the topic up for discussion. Thus, anything in that main post is by definition germane to the discussion.

              This place is an online home for those on the Masthead or with sub-blogs. I like to think it is also an online home for the commenters who have been participating in it for years and who have made this place rewarding. If it is to be a home, then it should feel that way to those people.Report

  9. Avatar Sam MacDonald says:

    I think it might be interesting to step back from this issue and view it through a different cultural lens. How have the views of, say, Bill Cosby, impacted the discussion of the problems impacting the black community? Has it helped the situation? Hurt it?

    I am not imposing this question rhetorically. I am honestly interested in hearing Tim’s response. Is this the kind of thing you have in mind? Cosby has made headlines by challenging the black community to look inward and be more self-critical. Does this make potential bigots say, “Wow. Great news. I am leaning more towards not being a bigot now”? Or do the potential bigots react in a different way? What’s it do to actual bigots? Or people who are non-bigoted? Does it have a positive or negative impact on black communities?Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


      Thanks for the question. I think this case is too different from the case of Muslims, because I don’t know that there are any non-bigots who legitimately wonder whether American principles are intrinsically incompatible with black people. Again, my claim is that there are non-bigoted Americans who fear that Islam and American principles are incompatible. This is where I think we need better messaging (and suggest it should probably come from Muslims, though I am not purporting to impose any moral duty or collective guilt).

      As for actual bigots, as I mentioned above, I don’t know that anything can be done about them.Report

      • Avatar RTod says:


        Reading this response, I think semantics might be playing a pretty big role in why you and some of our critics here seem to be talking past one another. What I mean is this: I suspect you define “bigoted” differently than most.

        Most people I know think of a bigot as someone who has a negative prejudice against someone of another race/creed/religion/sexual orientation/etc., despite evidence to the contrary. (Example: My neighbor to the left thinks black people’s brains can’t aren’t wired to understand math, despite the fact that my neighbor to the right is both an African-American and a successful accountant.)

        In this instance, you are saying that despite a mountain of evidence you yourself see that Muslims can indeed lead happy, productive lives here in the USA, people who believe they can’t because Muslims can’t be good Americans because they love violence/hate freedom/use silverware incorrectly/whatever are not bigoted. This leads me to think the impasse you’re having with others is that you have a very different definition of what a bigoted belief is.

        So, in Burt’s spirit of principle of charity, I have to ask: How DO you define bigoted? I think that if I know that, we can at least get to the next step in trying to reasonably understanding where the other is coming from and (dare I say?) maybe see one convince the other.Report

        • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


          I completely agree that the word “bigot” is thrown around loosely, which is irresponsible given the gravity of the charge. It’s a particularly big problem since, well, the word has been directed at me around here lately. Given that, it occurred to me as well that it would be helpful to at least define the term before we continue chucking it at each other. In my post above, I offered the Merriam-Webster definition of “bigot”: “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”

          Under this definition, I submit there are no grounds for calling me a bigot.Report

        • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


          Incidentally, I do very much appreciate the spirit in which you asked the question.Report

    • Avatar Mike says:

      “How have the views of, say, Bill Cosby, impacted the discussion of the problems impacting the black community?”

      The views of Bill Cosby were not the problem. The near-universal rejection of his views by the “black community” (especially the thug-culture and race-baiter types), however, continues to do large-scale damage to the image of blacks in modern society.Report

  10. Avatar Chris says:

    Tim, I’ve got to say, this post actually makes you look worse, to me, instead of better. Sure, you say all the right things about how you appreciate Muslims and their culture. You do throw in the “No really, I’ve had a Muslim friend” thing, which seriously, dude, is the worst way to respond to accusations of racism or bigotry. But the real problem with the post is that you not only stick to your primary position, which is that if Muslims would just do better PR, at least the reasonable bigots would feel differently, but you actually respond to the criticisms of this position in the most predictable way: “Yeah, sure, they go on TV, or release official statements condemning violence, but it just seems like it’s not sincere enough, or they feel the need to condemn the other side’s violence at the same time, so it’s just not working for me.” I’d ask why they shouldn’t criticize both sides of a self-reinforcing cycle of violence, but that, I see, would be pointless. Instead, I’ll just point out to you that it sounds like nothing they could do would be enough for you. And that makes you look like you’re certainly not one of the reasonable people whose mind could be changed. I’m not saying that’s true, but that’s how you come off.

    Perhaps a better way of approaching this is to suggest that both sides, the “reasonable” people who feel like Islam may be incompatible with western ideals and culture, and the “moderate Muslims” (the fact that you feel the need to modify “Muslims” with “moderate” doesn’t make you look good, either – do you feel the need to modify “Catholics” with “moderate” to distinguish them from the IRA and Phalangists, “Jews” with “moderate” to distinguish them from Gush Emunim or TNT, or do you often say “moderate Hindus” to distinguish them from the LTTE? Something tells me you don’t), should engage in more dialogue. It’s clear that many of these “reasonable” non-Muslims have misperceptions, or gaps in their knowledge of Islam, and I can’t imagine Muslims wouldn’t benefit from understanding the differences between these “reasonable” people and actual bigots, if such differences exist. This way, you’re not blaming the victim, as you seem to be set on doing, but instead suggesting that we start a dialogue to move towards mutual understanding, which, you know, is what we really need.Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

      “it sounds like nothing they could do would be enough for you.”

      Enough for me? I already acknowledged that I accept the claims of moderate Muslims at face value. And I explained some of the reasons I accept this: because I’ve spent a lot of my professional and personal life around Muslims, so it’s easier for me to believe they really are just like me. (If you read my post above, you’d see I give a completely different explanation of why I’m not a bigot, thanks very much.) I only suggest there are other non-bigoted Americans, perhaps who have not spent as much time around Muslims, or who are not from a county with one of the highest populations of Muslims in the U.S., who might benefit from better messaging.Report

      • Avatar Mike says:

        It’s not “better messaging.”

        I’ve been around Muslims my entire life.

        I have come to the conclusion that Islam is best judged by one simple rule: the less devout a Muslim is, the less likely he is to be violent, terrorist-supporting, anti-semitic, or just a freaking jerk.

        I have known Muslims who – IN AMERICA – say they have no problem with my being a Buddhist. As I explained below, however, they are part of the “phase 1” Muslim infiltration. On the other hand, mention being a Buddhist around a Pakistani and… ugh. It’s like having a Jewish surname around a “Palestinian.”

        By the time Phase 2 or Phase 3 come around? Forget it. A while back we had a young Sudanese-born intern, a Muslima, who insisted on wearing a burqa to work. She filed complaints against a young woman, one of our new hires, at least twice a week for three weeks claiming the woman was “rude”, causing a hostile work environment, making sexual comments, etc. The young woman never made a large case of it and was generally regarded by others in the office as a quiet, unconfrontational person (the “sexual comments” part surprised us also, since our young hire was engaged to a very nice young man).

        Finally, we had enough to need to investigate, so we had our IT crew put up a camera with microphone in the breakroom area where the Muslima had alleged most of it occurred. What we saw the next day? The Muslima going into a racist rant about Israel/Palestine while our young employee cowered in the corner trying to get away until a manager came by to get some coffee. Seems our young Muslima had found out that her new coworker was Jewish and thought she was being “smart” to either run her off or file enough complaints to get her fired.

        Despite having the video evidence of this, the Muslima tried to file a suit against us for “racism” when we sent her back to her college along with informing them of what she had done.Report

        • Avatar Dan says:

          Having read Burt’s recent post about the value of argument, I’m going to attempt a reply to your comment. (This, despite my common sense whispering softly that doing so is a waste of time.)

          You seem to be saying that all devout Muslims are “violent, terrorist-supporting, anti-semitic, or just… freaking jerk[s].” In support of this statement, you offer as evidence your experience with a young Muslim woman. (As an aside, I wonder what motivates your decision to call her a “Muslima”? Would you refer to a Jewish woman as a “Jewess”? If so, you should probably stop.) You offer further opinions about Pakistanis and Palestinians, which I will infer are based upon your own experiences.

          Using the “if P , then Q ” formulation, your “P” seems to be “devout Muslim,” and your “Q” that list of unpleasant attributes above.

          I dispute this.

          In the roughly two decades since I started medical school, I have known innumerable Muslims. They have included recent immigrants and second-, third-, etc. generation immigrants’ children. They have included the nominally-observant and women who wore the hijab. They have included people from Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Palestine, Morocco, Turkey and doubtless many more I’ve forgotten. One of these people is one of my best friends, and a godmother to my son.

          Not once, not one single, solitary time has any one of them been violent, a jerk (in any way other than is common among human beings of all stripes) or indicated anything other than horror (in such situations as the subject arose) at acts of terrorism. Not once has any one been anything less than civil to me, despite my being an openly gay man with a Jewish mother. Not once have I ever witnessed a Muslim being confrontational or belligerent with a Jewish colleague; to the contrary, I have seen many such relationships blossom into deep respect and friendship.

          I would say that, based upon my own experience, your encounters with the young Muslim woman (among, perhaps, others) are not dispositive. I assert that your argument is not sound.Report

          • Avatar Mike says:

            Muslima – the term – as the young muslim woman used it to self-identify:


            “Using the “if P , then Q ” formulation, your “P” seems to be “devout Muslim,” and your “Q” that list of unpleasant attributes above.”

            I am not claiming a 100% correlation. But I am, based upon the representative sample of Muslims of either gender I have interacted with over my life, there is a strong correlation between a Muslim’s devoutness and the probability of their being belligerent in one of these fashions.

            Consider the case of a Muslim crane operator who decided he was being “discriminated against on a religious basis” because he was shutting the jobsite down – for two hours or more each day – for “daily prayers” after his mosque shifted from a rather relaxed, almost-Reformist-style Imam (who retired) to a fire-and-brimstone, anti-semitic, nasty style Imam imported from the Theocracy of Saudi Arabia.

            Is it 100% correlation? Of course not. IS there a correlation between devoutness to a religion (and with a few exceptions like Mormons, who seem to make politeness an article of faith) and probability that the person is an asshole? Of course there is. With Muslims, I’ve found the correlation to be even higher than with evangelical Christian-types.Report

            • Avatar Simon K says:

              Agree with your last paragraph, but are Muslims terribly devout on average? Not in my experience, admittedly mostly with South Asians, whereas I’m guessing yours in not.Report

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            Dude, that was awesome. Probably pointless, but awesome.Report

            • Avatar Mike says:

              No, what’s pointless is responding with links to anything, since it goes into the mod filter and disappears never to be seen in a timely manner if at all merely for having a hyperlink.

              If my response earlier ever shows up, you’ll see it. If not, well, then I guess the bloggers have started enforcing groupthink.Report

        • Avatar RTod says:

          “It’s not “better messaging.”

          I’ve been around Muslims my entire life.”

          Just out of curiosity, when others who have Muslim friends/family in their lives say that those people have always been just plain folk (like Dan, right above), what do you attribute those observations to? Is it possible that you have known Muslims who happen to in fact be jerks, and others have through their observations confirmed that there are also many who are not jerks? Or do you see these “I know some Muslims, and they’re pretty good people by and large” observations as some kind of moral/cognitive failure by the observers?Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            Knew some? I used to be in a band with two of them. Twin brothers from Pakistan. I wanted to play rockabilly and they wanted to play prog rock and we sort of met in the middle. Holy Moses was it bizarre. We did sound like Zappa at one point. The issue was I loved stuff like D.O.A. and Dead Kennedys and they loved Rush. God almighty did they love Rush. Because of this, they learned to play bass and drums. I’m told the bass playing in Rush is unbelievable. Anyway, they were both devout and sometimes the subject came up but I don’t remember them being a-holes, although again they did love Rush. We drifted apart because I got a girlfriend and the band broke up because of musical differences. I didn’t hear from either of them until a year or so ago, when I heard that one of them was arrested on conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. No, I’m just being a dick. He got married and lives in the suburb with a nice WASP wife and three kids. The other one plays music all over the world and races motorcycles.Report

  11. Avatar Francis says:

    Let’s see if I have this right:

    1) there exists a group of non-bigoted Americans who are concerned as to whether Islam ( of the moderate variety) is consistent with American values; &

    2) in order to assuage these concerns, moderate Muslims need better public relations. One example of good PR would be to give up the Ground Zero Mosque.

    To which, if I were a moderate Muslim, my response would probably be: “please don’t try to help” or, more likely, “go f**k yourself”. The reasoning behind such response would include the following:

    A. Who are these concerned Americans and how can Kowal possibly know how to address their concerns since he specifically disavows being one of them? Polling?
    B. Since when do law-abiding members of minority groups had an obligation to explain themselves to the majority? And is there any evidence that such outreach strategies work?
    C. What more, precisely, should we be doing? Hire Hill & Knowlton?
    D. Someone who purports to be concerned about constitutional rights thinks that a good first step would be to abandon the building of a religious / community center. Really? Since when did surrendering to the heckler’s veto do any good? And who wants to rake advice from someone whose commitment to allegedly core values (like honoring the 1st amendment) is so weak ?Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


      A. I don’t know, really. My own unqualified guess about human nature, I guess. Do you disagree? I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this point.

      B. They don’t. I said this in my post above. Would it work? Again, like the response to A, above, it’s just a hypothesis. I think you are one of the first, if not the first, to actually engage the point, so I’d be interested to know if you disagree.

      C. Maybe. Or support folks like Zuhdi Jasser and his foundation. Or hopefully just get more Muslims interested in the general idea of changing the narrative and reforming existing organizations like CAIR.

      D. I never said there is a legitimate legal argument to overcome First Amendment protection of the building of any mosque or the Park 51 project. I want to be very clear about that. The line between political/social/cultural questions on the one hand, and legal/constitutional questions on the other, is one I take very seriously. Whatever my reservations about Park 51, they have nothing to do with my commitment to neutral application of appropriate legal and constitutional doctrines.Report

  12. Avatar BSK says:

    “I only suggest there are other non-bigoted Americans, perhaps who have not spent as much time around Muslims, or who are not from a county with one of the highest populations of Muslims in the U.S., who might benefit from better messaging.”

    How might they benefit? Presumably, the “benefit” they would experience would be to harbor a more correct understanding of Islam and Muslim-Americans. Do I have this correct?

    If so, there is ample evidence should they choose to look for it.

    You want to talk about messaging? How about the deliberately false information propogated on the news and the airwaves on a daily basis?Report

    • Avatar Mike says:

      “How about the deliberately false information propogated on the news and the airwaves on a daily basis?”

      Such as the idea that Islam is a “religion of peace” you mean?

      Or the folderol that somehow Muslims were/are “tolerant” of non-Muslims living in Islamist states?Report

      • Avatar BSK says:

        Yes, Mike. That is exactly what I was talking about.

        End sarcasm.

        I am as bothered by “Islam is the religion of peace” comments as “Islam is inherently” violent. Islam means a billion things to a billion people. I avoid painting with any such broad strokes.

        What I was referring to is the daily rants on the radio and on TV that have included (among other things): Park51 is a terrorist training camp; all Muslims support terrorism; Muslims want to propose sharia law on the entirety of the US; Islam demands that all non-Muslims be killed. What chance do “moderate Muslims” who denounce terrorism have of changing messaging when outright bigots and liars are screaming, litereally screaming, this nonsense on a daily basis?Report

        • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


          I’m genuinely curious what you make of folks on the left, like Bill Maher, who make these same claims? He’s a pretty staunch liberal, very much opposed to bigotry against homosexuals and racial minorities. In about every way, as far as I can tell, he is a model lefty. So does he fly into temporary fits of insanity whenever the discussion turns to Islam? Does he have some special blindspot for bigotry when it comes to Muslims? Or is it possible there is some reason why Maher thinks this way? Granted, I think Maher is nuts, but I do think his views about Islam are, unfortunately, somewhat mainstream, or at least shared by a significant number.

          Do you disagree?Report

          • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

            I’m pretty sure Bill Maher is a libertarian, and no matter how much they want to deny it, I’m also pretty sure libertarian fits into the right side of the political equation.

            The inference from your comment is that there must be something especially different about Muslims that differentiate them from gays or other racial minorities when it comes to their treatment from otherwise wonderful people. Otherwise, why would “staunch liberals” (although he is not, actually, I was not aware that being against bigotry against gay and racial minority automatically makes someone a “staunch liberal”) like Mr Maher treat Muslims differently? What is it about Muslims that makes them less deserving than gays and other racial/religious minorities?

            I apologize if that is in fact not what you are arguing. I wouldn’t want to be at the end of another long lecture from Mr Burt Likko about following” the path of hysterical emotion or provocative callousness” in responding to somebody’s obviously logical argument.

            Would you kindly clarify your comment? Thank you.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              Also, Maher tends to go into a frenzy about any religion acting stupidly, whether it’s Mormons, Christians, Muslims, or whoever. Thus, the whole thing where he made a whole documentary about his atheism.Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

                Indeed. In fact, I think Mr Maher has been called an anti-Christian bigot on a few occasions. His vehemence against Islam is in line with his vehemence against other organized religions. Of course, Mr Kowal might have inside knowledge that you and I lack about Mr Maher’s special vehemence against Islam that sets it apart from his stance on other religions. If there is, I apologize for my ignorance.Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                I would say that Bill Maher tears after most religions, pretty much because he doesn’t believe in them. He really doesn’t need provocation.Report

            • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


              Now that you mention it, I think Maher might fall somewhere between liberal and libertarian. He’s certainly not a full-throated libertarian, but he seems to have some tendencies. Whatever sort of creature Mr. Maher is, I am not arguing that anyone is “less deserving” than anyone else. Again, if this discussion ever leads into questions of morality, guilt, blame, duties, deserts, rights, obligations, or compunctions, it will not have been by any invitation of mine. I’m only trying to get at why non-bigoted people are wary of Islam, and what might reasonably be done about it.

              I hope that clarifies. If I’ve missed the point of confusion, let me know and we’ll give it another shot.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I’m only trying to get at why non-bigoted people are wary of Islam

                I suspect it has to do with the amount of misinformation about it being spread by demagogues. As a comparison, look at how relatively few Christians are wary of Jews now that they’re no longer being told that matzohs are made from Christian blood.Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

                I think you’re right. I think my post(s) might have given the suggestion that the only solutions lie at the feet of Muslims. If so, I acknowledge that would obviously be untrue.

                As for Jews, I’d be interested to know more about the history of reformed Judaism. My understanding is that the motivation for that branching off was, in part, to assimilate into American culture. If that’s true, it was wildly successful, and Muslims might think about a similar approach. Yes, that does turn something that’s suppose to be pure into something political and polluted. Still, I find it interesting.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                You continue to avoid the obviousness of the bigotry that DOES exist. While your post attempts to deal with “wary non-bigots”, the fact remains is that there are many bigots out there who deliberately besmirch Muslims and often have a wider platform than any individual Muslim leader. There are non-bigoted people who genuinely believed Park 51 (“the Ground Zero mosque”) was being built AT or ON Ground Zero, because this is what much of the media was spinning. There is so much misinformation out there, much of it being deliberately pushed despite its known inaccuracy, that it is really hard for me to conclude that Muslims have much control over their perception.

                I have yet to see you address this issue, which makes me think you either don’t recognize the impact of these very influential bigots or you don’t think that the promotion of such viewpoints is bigotry. I could understand the former, as I used to dismiss many of these folks until I realized just how far their reach was. Living in primarily liberal enclaves my entire life, it is easy to think that these folks are a fringe element with little impact; unfortunately, that is far from the truth*. However, if it is the latter, it makes me concerned about your ability to honestly evaluate the facts.

                * I realize that these folks exist on both sides of the aisle. However, with Islam, it seems that much of the falsehoods have been pushed by a certain side of the aisle.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                “I’m only trying to get at why non-bigoted people are wary of Islam, and what might reasonably be done about it.”

                I simply think your suggestion is unreasonable. First off, to “rebrand” Islam as you suggest would take years, if not generations, not weeks and months. Second off, it presumes that their is no counter movement to perpetuate the wariness, which many people are making financial and political bank by exploiting and propagating.

                I don’t mean to belabor the point, but I have yet to see you address this aspect of the issue.Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

                Not to put words into his mouth, but I think Mr Kowal would argue that the bigots don’t matter in this case. Since there is probably nothing Muslims can do to change their minds, they are irrelevant to this particular conversation. Of course, for American Muslims, it is not as easy for us as it is for Mr Kowal to consider the bigots irrelevant.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                The bigots absolutely do matter. They shapre opinion. And with greater influence than any Muslim leader can.Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


                I haven’t “avoided” the issue of bigotry. I’ve acknowledged it exists, that it’s a big problem, that they’re not the specific problem I’m talking about in my post, and that I don’t know what to do about it. I think you’re right, though, that the problem of bigotry does bleed over into poisoning the minds of the non-bigots. In fact, part of my argument is that Muslims and non-bigots in general would benefit from a stronger/better narrative to counter the bigoted arguments being made.

                However, I also get from your comment that you might draw the line of what constitutes “obvious” bigotry a bit earlier than I would. I wonder, for instance, what you think of BlaiseP’s comments, because I think it is those sorts of arguments that make people wonder about what Islam REALLY is; and if true Islam, strictly adhered to, would lead to the outcomes BlaiseP describes, then do moderate Muslims believe something different, or do they just ignore the more odious doctrines within their religion, or something else? Am I in real danger of being accused of bigotry or “concern-trolling” by asking these sorts of questions?Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                You’d have to refer me to specific comments by BlaiseP for me to respond to. I can’t sift through everything here to get at what you’re asking. I’m happy to respond to them, I just need to know what you’re refering to.

                “In fact, part of my argument is that Muslims and non-bigots in general would benefit from a stronger/better narrative to counter the bigoted arguments being made.”

                Fair enough. I can agree with that. Yet you still put all the impetus on the Muslims to make this happen. Shouldn’t there be equal impetus placed on the non-bigots? Can we really excuse them standing idly by and saying, “Well, the radio told me they’re bad and I guess that’s that. I mean, where else would I go to learn more about them?”

                You seem to presume that you have the bigots/misinformation on one side, the moderate Muslims on the other, and the non-bigots trapped in the middle. I do not accept this reality. You have most Muslims (and most people, in general) inhabiting a world of sanity and rationality wherein they try to genuinely understand the world around them. This area includes non-bigots. Outside of that, you have irrational folks… bigots and many others (and conservatives certainly don’t have a monopoly on irrational folks). True non-bigots would make an effort to remain in that former group and would make efforts to educate themselves. Even if they were misinformed, they’d be willing to have misunderstandings corrected and open to greater dialogue and learning. Likewise, they would also be expected to contribute reasonably to these conversations. It seems like this last point is what you are suggesting of Muslims. Be a part of the conversation and advocate on your own behalf. Fine, no problem with that. But it doesn’t end there. Others are dutybound to listen and be open to hearing conflicting ideas. They may not accept them, but they must be willing to hear them.

                If someone says, “Wait, that guy on the radio said they’re building a terrorist training camp at Ground Zero. What the hell!” I am not very inclined to say he is a non-bigot. He may not be spouting virulent bigotry, but he certainly was more than willing to allow factually inaccurate (and easily disproven) information from informing his world view, which likely was already sympathetic to an otherized perspective on Muslims.

                I think you are pegging many people as non-bigots who are more likely simply subtle bigots or willfully ignorant misinformed people or what have you. That is why Id on’t like the term non-bigot. Similar to the anti-racist movement, being a non-bigot in a bigoted world is like insisting you are remaining in neutral on a moving train. You may not be propelling it along, but you are doing nothing to stop it. I reject the notion of non-bigots and instead insist on anti-bigots as the people you should be talking about. All else are bigots. Some are passive bigots. Some are well-intentioned, good people who likely could function as anti-bigots with the right circumstances. And many others are just outright bigots.Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

                There’s something to this. I mean, yes, I think we should expect more from John Q. Public on this and many other issues. That’s more of a global issue. As for combating the confusion, misunderstandings, noise, and misinformation about questions affecting American Muslims, it’s true that both John Q. WASPy American and John Q. Muslim American have lots of other concerns in their lives than dealing with those questions. Maybe in theory we could say they share an equal burden. But in reality, Muslims are going to have more incentive to go to the trouble, don’t you think?

                I have to disagree with your approach to bigotry, though. I just don’t see the utility of addressing these questions by analyzing how much or what kind of a bigot everyone is. If someone won’t listen to reason, then they’re not worth talking to. If someone is trying, even if they might give more ear to bad arguments and information than you think they should, I think it best to leave the bigotry talk out of it.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                I would challenge you to examine the extent to which your privilege (as a white male) is influencing your viewpoints here. You are in a position to leave the bigotry talk out of it because you are not the target of it. To those who are, I begrudge them nothing for bringing it front and center when it rears its ugly head.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Poll lovers: “About six-in-ten Muslim Americans (61%) are also worried about the potential rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S.”



              • Avatar BSK says:


                You would have been well-served to read the report itself. The question was actually phrased as: “How Concerned Are You about the Rise of Islamic Extremism in the United States?”

                The lack of the word “potential” in the original question but inclusion in the analysis skews the understanding of this. Islamic Extremism in the US went from non-existent to existent over the last few decades, with the attention it drew going from non-existent to ever present. The rise in Islamic extremism is real, though obviously hard to measure with any accuracy. If respondents were considering the fact that extremism now exists where it previously didn’t (or did not appear to), there is certainly reason for concern. You must also look at this information in the context of the report: there were huge numbers indicating that Muslims felt persecuted in this country largely in response to 9/11 and other acts of extremism. So there concern may well be for their own well being as the nation responded to extremism.

                I am not claiming any disingenuous on your behalf. The analysis is misleading because of the addition of a word that is not present in the initial question, a word that changes the meaning fairly dramatically.

                Also, if you are going to put such faith in these numbers, then I would hope you’d put that same level of faith in the numbers indicating the increased persecution Muslims have felt in this country.

                Odds are you were just trying to be quippy and, as such, any level of analysis of your comment was probably wasted. I hope not.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                I read the report, BSK, thx. I wish everyone here would. Much of what has been said here probably wouldn’t have been.


                I believe my original point holds, regardless of parsing.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Oh God, the meltdown has begun. Head for the hills! The hills are alive with The Sound Of Music! We’re so damned doomed it’s scary.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Sho ’nuff, Heidi. I strongly recommend you head off to your local Kooks-R-Us and stock up on MREs, bottled water, a hand-cranked CD player and turlet paper. Find an abandoned sixties era bomb shelter, huddle up in there, cue up a Beethoven CD and cut off contact with the outside world for — oh, say, two decades or so.

                Be sure you don’t have a working Innertube Conexion down there. Those Mawzlums are coming for you, in concert with assorted Jack Booted Thugs, flying around in all those black helos we have been selling those Benighted Mawzlamic Regimes for a while now. They’ll track you down and stick big electrodes in the ground around your bunker and zap your ass and pipe Mawzlum Gas down your air intake vent, and boy howdy you’ll be converted and buns-up kneeling to Mecca and wearing a little red fez before you know it. And that glazed happy stare on your face like those Hare Krishnoids down on Washington Square, it will not a pretty sight.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Oddly enough Blaise, I seem to be receiving an unusual amount of flaming arrows through my living room’s windows. Any chance you’ve been in the area–Michigan– recently?

                It truly is sad to see such a fine mind as yours being so prosaic and mundane. And a true, blue, Dullard to boot. Of course, it must be irresistible to have such a collection of obsequious sycophants panting at your every word. Sit. Down boy. Stay. Good boy….come and get your treat from Papa Blaise!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You wound me to the quick. I am indulging in Heidegger-brand LOOGies, flicking PoMo boogers and seeing where they stick.

                Flaming arrows, huh? You don’t say. Are you sure those aren’t Mawzlum arrows? Check the fletching. I am given to understand there are entire workshops given over to the making thereof, with fiendish Mawzlamic Turrist Types in the Detroit area whose arrows are distinguished by the use of seagull feathers from the garbage dumps over Belleville way.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                These flights of fancy, Blaise, are getting odder and odder. Always a joy to read, though, so thanks a million!\

                I love Muslims! My mechanic is a Muslim. My barber is Muslim. My neighbor is a Muslim. My boat neighbor is a Muslim, and his entire family are the nicest, kindest people one could ever meet and know. I love all these folks. And they feel deep, deep, shame about all the insanity going on in the name of Allah. They’re deeply saddened and embarrassed by all this insanity. They are just trying to make an honest living, raise their kids to always be respectful, and they work very, very hard to make these dreams come true. I truly love these folks. I even got my Islamic neighbor to play hardball catch! Where you and I differ is your never ending effort to justify Jihad and the violence it advocates. You continually try to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the United States. Why do you do this? Why do you have such deep hatred for the country that you so nobly and bravely defended? Sorry, I just don’t get you Blaise.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I am now old and grown cruel, Heidegger. I feel rather like those vampires of Anne Rice, long outlived my own time, gazing querulously and rapaciously into times I would have benefited from never having seen. Half of my friends are dead, the first quarter died early and in the service of this country you do not deserve to live in, Heidegger.

                You are a Miniver Cheevy. In any sensible forvm you would be given a periodic respite in the Great Outdoors, beyond write access to this place.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Well, such a stunning proclamation! You, Blaise Bufoon makes a decision of who should be honored for their service in Vietnam. You are one arrogant little prick. As if you have a monopoly on the sufferings of our Vietnam soldiers. Listen here you repugnant little bastard–I’ve had two members of my family killed in Vietnam so don’t you EVER tell me that I live in a country that I do not deserve to live in. You are a repulsive and loathsome, depressing, human being. I cannot begin to possibly express how deeply I detest you. Geez, another fraud and liar on the Left. Such a surprise.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                H-man, allow me to express my appreciation for the bravery and sacrifice of your family members. It’s one thing to die in the defense of your country, it’s another to die for the political ambitions of some insane commie-Dem.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh Heidi, Heidi. I am all these things, to be sure. Except little. You seem to think CIA operators are pawns in a game you have never played and whose rules you do not understand. You silly creature. Brave people stand up for this country every hour of every day, keeping watch on the actual enemies of this country on your behalf.

                You do not deserve the protection they provide, Heidi. This country is a land where you can speak your mind, but only in the rhetorical sense, for no sane or patriotic mind could possibly say what you do about Valerie Plame and the untold people who worked for her, put in danger by political maniacs intent on Making a Point. Were it up to me, I would fly you into Iran, drop you off and take your passport. I’d love to see you try to talk your way out of that, you pusillanimous loudmouth, for you wouldn’t fight your way out. You are in fine company, Heidi, Remington’s Rangers, the 101 Keyboard Brigade, ready to repeat what you are told by liars and lickspittles. You unpatriotic toadie, that two of your family died in Vietnam and you did not is a great injustice to your family.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Good Heaven’s, Blaise! Sounds like just a normal weekend night at Barney Frank’s house! Your specificity sounds a bit too specific. Are these flights of fancy on your part or things you’ve actually witnessed and experienced? Come on, you can tell us–my lips are sealed. I won’t pull a Pflame on you even though she was just a pencil pushing CIA clerk who knew next to nothing as far as actionable intelligence was concerned. A lovely blond bimbo, nonetheless. And her husband was a borderline cretinous drunk. He goes on a fact finding mission regarding Iraq’s search for yellow cake and comes back with info and files that categorically prove Iraq did indeed seek to purchase uranium from Niger! Here’s the kicker–this besotted, pathetic, clown was so stupid and ill-equipped to handle such a mission, he didn’t even know his own words and findings confirmed that Iraq had indeed “SOUGHT” to purchase yellow cake. Sought DOES NOT MEAN Iraq acquired this uranium. So it’s indisputable–Joe Wilson is a complete fraud and and liar. If you don’t believe me, ask him. Just try though, to find him sober enough to give you a coherent statement. I’m sure this foolish, drunken fop is stuck in some mental institution demanding yellow cake for dessert every night.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heh. I’m probably one of six American children who grew up in Niger Republic during my years there and we all know each other. My family knew the CIA operator in Niger Republic quite well and he was often a guest in our house when he stopped by and he made no bones about what he did. He would profoundly shape my subsequent path through life. He was a real gentleman who made James Bond look like a two-bit gigolo, a scholar and linguist who once held me by the chin and said “Everything you’ll ever want to know about the world is right there in front of you. It’s just a question of seeing it for what it truly is.”

                As for Valerie Plame Wilson, you keep a civil tongue in that empty head of yours. Joe Wilson may have been a braggart and larger than life, but Valerie Wilson was not a pawn to be sacrificed at the altar of your hero, Dubyah. That silly man was daily bent over John Kennedy’s desk in the Oval Office and serviced the carnal desires of Dick Cheney and loved every minute of it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                C’mon Blaise, what’s a 20-year career of public service for if not to be thrown away to make a stupid ephemeral talking point?Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Hey Blaise, just you wait now. It can’t be completely empty–I have every single note of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas in my head.

                Interesting thought–do musical notes literally take up space inside the brain? For that matter, do ideas and thoughts take up neural space? How would one measure such a thing?Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                What was your original point? You didn’t seem to have one.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                What do you think it might mean, BSK? Don’t be obtuse, now.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                You’re being deliberately vague because you are trying to say something that is not supported by the data. You took advantage of an inaccurate analysis to attempt to make a point that Muslims themselves are fearful of Islam and, thus, non-Muslim Americans are justified in being fearful without being bigoted. When I pointed out that, had you read the report, you’d be hard pressed to draw such a conclusion, you insisted you DID read the report and that, having done so, both of us should understand your point. I still don’t get your point. If it is what I believe it to be, that is simply not supported by the data and, if you really read the report, you are being deliberately misleading by quoting inaccurate analysis. So, how about you just say what you mean and own it instead of dancing around the issue.

                And you still haven’t responded to my point: if you put so much faith in the data of that report to draw conclusions from it, then mustn’t you also acknowledge that Muslims are increasingly the victims of oppression in this country and, as such, we supposed non-bigoted Americans are duty-bound to stand up in their defense?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                BSK, what do you make of the factoid? You refuse to say. I wouldn’t want to draw a conclusion that you would find bigoted or reprehensible or unacceptable or the other dozen thoughtpolice delegitimizations that regularly flow through the comments sections.

                Surely it indicates something!Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                I wouldn’t want to draw a conclusion that you would find bigoted or reprehensible or unacceptable or the other dozen thoughtpolice delegitimizations

                Thought police delegitimisations? really?

                Lets try to break this down shall we.

                1. Thought police seems to be a 1984 reference in which we monitor and punish what is thought to be a thought-crime. Now of course, no one is punished in this site over the content of their thoughts. (people do get banned for being un-civil, but that applies equally to those on both sides of the ideological spectrum) Of course, someone with certain kinds of chauvinistic views which are considered socially unacceptable might often be castigated for them, but this is often difficult to distinguish from vigourous debate and argument.

                2. Delegitimisation- To some extent that does go on. Unfortunately most people (epistemically speaking) are not foundationalists but are more of a refelctive equillibrium type. One of the fixed points in most people’s reflective equillibrium is that religious bigotry is morally speaking, very very very wrong. So of course most people’s moral appraisals of a person who does express such bigoted views are reduced. This is of course reflected in how they address said bigot.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                I’ve explained precisely what that stat MIGHT mean, when understood in context (not in the way you offered). I obviously can’t say definitively what is in the head and hearts of the poll respondents, but I offered some possibilities.

                You have yet to offer anything. Instead, you offered a deliberately misleading statement and simply tacked the word “Bigots!” on to the end.

                Again, what was your point? Why do you refuse to state it?Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                And that would be more relevant if people being worried about a potential rise of Muslim extremism was the same thing as, as Tim puts it, people believing that you cannot be a Muslim and a good American. Agree or disagree, but don’t water down the core argument to make the other side look unreasonable.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                And that would be more relevant if people being worried about a potential rise of Muslim extremism was the same thing as, as Tim puts it, people believing that you cannot be a Muslim and a good American. Agree or disagree, but don’t water down the core argument to make the other side look unreasonable.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                I had meant this to respond to Tom’s poll observation. Why isn’t it going there?Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                “I had meant this to respond to Tom’s poll observation. Why isn’t it going there?”

                Because we’re all insane, RTod!!Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                speak for yourself.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                “speak for yourself.”

                This should have nested with Heidegger’s comment on everyone being insane. I of course am quite sane (probably the most sane person around here………)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                @BSK: look, Islam can only be reformed from within and we can’t do anything about that. That’s up to the individual adherents to say “Hey, you can’t lump me in with all these other guys, I don’t believe that.”

                But when it comes to the abstraction called Islam, we who aren’t Muslims aren’t at liberty to speak of it in toto. We can construct sentences like “The Salafi are generally intolerant and widely hated even within Islam, but they’re not violent ipso facto

                And this isn’t about the facts. It’s about perceptions, which can never be completely squared to the facts. This goes back to Tim’s original point: someone has to do the better PR needed to push back against the bigotry. Though facts provide the basis for the pushback, this has to be more than facts. Someone has to stand up for America’s Muslims. They really are ours, you know. The LGBT movement, the civil rights movement, the woman’s rights movement — every successful movement for the rights of man was encompassed by more than its constituent beneficiaries.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                “…every successful movement for the rights of man was encompassed by more than its constituent beneficiaries.”

                Wouldn’t this indicate that the burden lies not only with Muslims?

                And I agree with you in practicality. Yes, things would likely (no guarantee) improve for Muslim-Americans if they made a more concerted effort to disavow the angry and misplaced rhetoric directed towards them. However, that does not make it morally right to promote that. It might work, but so would a whole host of other things that would be far more just to advocate on moral and ethical grounds. They also would be less likely to happen.

                So, from a practical standpoint, I get what Tim is saying. But theoretically, it reinforces a whole bunch of things I cannot stand behind. If Muslims, of their own accord, choose this path, that is up to them. For a non-Muslim to “suggest” it on their behalf is not only patronizing but also promotes an ideology of “blame the victim”. It does not empower Muslims one ioata, despite claiming to be intended for their own best interests.Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


                You’re right that there are some components of the message that only Muslims have ownership of, e.g., doctrinal explanations or delineations. Seems that there could be a collaborative effort on other points, though, such as messaging on Middle Eastern policy issues and terrorism.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                @BSK: those are reasonable concerns, especially that business about condescending to the theoretically oppressed.

                Yet consider: a non-Muslim is party to a discussion and someone who makes a bigoted statement about Muslims. He pops up and says “That’s so tiresome and I wish you wouldn’t say such things. C’mon, can’t someone be both a good Muslim and a good American? Fer crissakes, most of them are over here because they can’t stand it over there. There are hundreds of Muslim servicemen in our military, they’re on our side of the fence now.”

                And that would shut them up. Until people of goodwill stood up at the civil rights rallies, and yes, that meant white people, too, things didn’t progress. Until straight people stopped using words like faggot and queer, gay rights never progressed. During WW2, the Japanese in their internment camps didn’t sit around and sullenly refuse to accede to the bigotry and oppression: they enlisted in the military and the 442 Infantry remains the most decorated unit in American history. The 442 completely redeemed the reputations of the Japanese.

                Making bigotry unfashionable remains the most effective route to progress. And that plays right into Tim’s conclusions: American Muslims need better PR. I repeat myself in saying Islam doesn’t need a Reformation. We, the outsiders, need that reformation.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                But Blaise, if I understood Tim correctly (and I’m certain that I did), his claim is that it is indeed Islam that needs to change, NOT the outsiders. I agree with much of what you’ve said here, acknowledging that efforts to resist bigotry must come from all interested groups. But that is not Tim’s belief. He has advocated that the Muslims in America must change their “messaging”. They must make themselves more palatable. I cannot stand behind that. Muslim Americans have done nothing to deserve the bigotry they receive and, as such, are not required to undo the political and social climate that has been created that allows it to fester. If they so choose to fight it, I would applaud them for it. But Tim’s claim is akin to me rallying a bunch of strangers to suddenly start hating you for the shirt you wear and then someone telling you that you should probably just change your shirt.Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

                At the very beginning of the post, I explained I do NOT argue that Muslims bear all the burden. I said in another comment that I would like to see participation by all interested parties; however, Muslims are the most interested parties, and some questions such as doctrinal ones can be addressed only by Muslims.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                some questions such as doctrinal ones can be addressed only by Muslims.

                As someone who has opinions on Christian doctrine, I’d like to say “bullcrap”.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                @BSK: Again, you’re preaching to the choir in saying it’s we, not Islam, who need to get a clue here. I’ve said so since I started in on this topic.

                If Tim’s implying Islam has to change, well, I’ve also been blowing my rusty old bugle saying American Muslims need to stand up to the bullies and push back. I hope you’ll agree that much needs doing. In so saying, c’mon, that is a change from their current approach. I’m urging the American Muslims to take a page (well, all the pages) from every other successful campaign against bigotry, especially following the model of B’nai Brith and AIPAC, which actively beat the rhetorical shit out of the bigots.

                I suspect you and I are more closely aligned than I am with Tim, but his point, however poorly constructed it may have been initially, is still valid, and has been tempered by further caveats. PR isn’t about facts. It’s about changing opinions, building a brand, and American Islam’s brand sure as hell needs a serious overhaul. They’ve got competition from the KSA/Salafi camp, skeevy little bastards. Saddam used to murder the Salafis sent north from KSA into Iraq.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                Co-sign. If Muslims are so moved to fight back (peacefully! PEACEFULLY!!! Please don’t let anyone google “Muslims+fight back” and find this), all the power to them. But if they are moved to change their lifestyles to appease haters… sorry… no dice.

                By the way, I’m not sure we were ever at odds. Tim asked me to respond to a comment of yours, which I never saw, and I asked him to direct me to it. I think that is how we got started. I agree… we’re in the same boat.Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                Seconding Mike’s post, with gusto!

                Also, please not that we’re seeing a surge of anti-muslim propaganda, and it’s clear who’s spreading it – right-wingers. It isn’t just some sort of water vapor in the air which condenses to to the whim of the Rain God.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I think that Bill Maher is an excellent counter-argument to the trite assumption that libertarians are necessarily on the right.

              Personally, I think you’d get more traction with “Feh, Maher’s not a real libertarian!” than with “Maher is a Libertarian, Libertarians are on the right, QED!!!”Report

          • Avatar BSK says:

            (Sorry, I’m repeating backwards through the posts)

            Maher is admittedly anti-religion of any form. He made a movie called “Religulous”, for Christ’s sake. He does oppose obvious attempts at oppression or discrimination specifically targeted toward Islam for nonsensical reasons. But he does eviscerate the faith as he does every other faith. If he is bigoted, it is toward religion in general, not one specific religion. If you think it is unique to Islam, either you are cherry picking or I have somehow missed something (and I watch his show every week… I don’t necessarily love him but he does get good guests and has interesting conversations).Report

            • Avatar BSK says:

              “He does oppose obvious attempts at oppression or discrimination specifically targeted toward Islam for nonsensical reasons.”

              I should clarify that. Maher is opposed to nonsensical oppression or discrimination towards any religion, Islam included.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Maher is essentially a “New Atheist,” and while not all New Atheists are the same, one of the more common features found among them is a complete inability to think rationally about religions (I don’t just mean religious ideas, but religions themselves). Witness Jerry Coyne’s recent blaming of the Holocaust on religion — the Jewish religion. When it comes to religion, they become standard bigots (yeah, I said it!). If they weren’t equally irrational when it comes to Christianity as when it comes to all other religions, one might almost say they look like the American Religious Right.Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The best thing that Muslims could do to give themselves the best PR is to point out that they, too, are anti-abortion. They, too, are young earth creationists. They, too, want an intrusive government that has the responsibility of making people be better by force of law.

    There will be mosques popping up all over the country in no time flat.Report

    • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

      I think at some point there really was a strong coalition between conservative Christians and conservative Muslims on social issues (the so-called culture war stuff). It makes sense, their interests align in many ways. Reminds me of the book by Dinesh D’Souza about how conservatives and (presumably non-terrorist-supporting) Muslims should band together to battle the evil liberals.

      I have an aunt who rely on movie reviews by a Christian site (I can’t remember which one) because she said unlike movie reviews in papers, the reviews in that site is very good at pointing out the sexual content of the movies so she can ordered her children to avoid seeing them (a losing battle, alas). She just skips anything mentioning Jesus.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        What I see as the fundamental tension is that there is a third religion at play: The American Religion.

        Christianity and The American Religion have been mostly compatible, for the most part, until fairly recently. Their overlaps certainly were more important than their doctrinal differences. It was like the Presbyterians and the Baptists. Maybe the members of *THIS* religion thought that the members of *THAT* religion were all going to Hell (Presbyterians baptize babies! It’s true! They also drink!), but, hey. You don’t say that sort of thing out loud. Not everybody can be like us and that certainly shouldn’t prevent us from having the occasional softball game together on Saturdays.

        Christianity and the American Religion got along.

        Where there were dust-ups were over such things as Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Educational Policy (specifically in Biology classes), and Public Displays of Affection.

        When The American Religion won (Freedom of Speech! Freedom of the Press!), this was cause for some grumbling but, for the most part, Christians were able to suck it up and keep moving because, for the most part, everybody was in agreement.

        In 1989, there was a schism. Rushdie had written a book the year before, you see, and a bunch of Muslims found it offensive.

        There was a huge portion of the American Religion that argued that we needed to be tolerant of the feelings of the Muslims and if their culture found Rushdie’s book offensive, then that was their right as a culture and Rushdie ought to have handled these revered Icons with much more respect and decorum than he did.

        The other portion of the American Religion, like clockwork, started whooping and hollering about “Freedom of the Press” and the right of the author to be offensive, and if you don’t want a copy of the book, don’t buy one, and you CERTAINLY shouldn’t put a FREAKING FATWA on him!!!

        And, of course, the Christians didn’t help by splitting into two camps with one camp pointing out the very recent Serrano kerfuffle regarding a crucifix and some used diet soda and screaming about how Muslims needed to get used to art and the other camp pointing out the very recent Serrano kerfuffle and screaming about how people who were easily offended by blasphemy needed to be catered to.

        This fight was never resolved.

        It went to sleep.

        Until 2001.Report

  14. Avatar RTod says:

    Tim: a good follow up, though for the record I don’t know that my objection with your position was that you we’re a racist. The themes of racisism (for some) and (for others) the worth and worthiness of Muslims seem to have run away with both post. A shame, but perhaps inevitable.

    What I would rather have you defend in greater detail – because I do not agree and you have not convinced me – is this idea that a group’s ability to be left in peace to live their lives the way you or I take for granted should be dependent upon the ability to get the right messaging out through punditry.Report

    • Avatar RTod says:

      So many iPad related typos, but I’m sure you get my drift.Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


      A shame that I feel the need to thank you for not concluding I was a racist, but at this point, I’m not taking anything for granted.

      I tried in my post above to forcefully state that I am not purporting that Muslims have a moral obligation to correct the “messaging” issues I’ve discussed, or that their moral right to “be left in peace to live their lives the way you or I take for granted” are conditioned upon punditry. I’m only suggesting that their interests might be better advanced by changing their messaging.Report

  15. Avatar Heidegger says:

    Okay, okay. Get the point. Can my last words last a day or so?

    PLEEEZE! Thanks. HReport

  16. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Criticize Islam all you like. But the rhetoric of genocide, which some have used, will have to be taken elsewhere. It’s not welcome here.

    Want some examples of things you can say? Okay, here goes.

    –Islam is an intolerant religion.

    –Islam is a cheap knockoff of Arian Christianity, with a pinch of late-antique Near Eastern rock worship thrown in, just for giggles I guess.

    –Islam treats women abominably.

    –Islam, in the words of Michel Houellebecq, is the world’s stupidest religion.

    All of those things — they are offensive, even profoundly offensive. But they’re allowed. Some of them are even defensible, in the argumentative sense.

    But talking about killing all Muslims? Not allowed. Not here anyway.

    Shouldn’t be hard to grasp.Report

    • Avatar Mike says:

      Are we also allowed to point out that Mohammed, founder of the “religion” of Islam, was a:

      – warlord
      – genocidal mass murderer
      – rapist
      – liar
      – thief
      – pedophile
      – pervert
      – fraud

      These are not qualities any sane person wants in a male. However, Mohammed is the “perfect man” whose qualities should be emulated by all other men, according to Islam.Report

  17. Avatar Dan says:

    Tim, this isn’t entirely to the point, but I would like to offer some commendation for the way you’re handling comments to this post. You took some heat for absenting yourself from the comments for the earlier post, and it seems to me you’re making a good-faith effort to respond thoughtfully to criticisms leveled.

    I don’t agree with much of what you had to say. I strongly disagree with your opinion about the Park51 center. But I think you deserve credit for trying to face your detractors in an open and civil manner.Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

      Thanks, Dan. When I came out of trial the other day and saw I had over 200 comments on the post, many of which accused me of hatred and bigotry, I was horrified that perhaps I had worded something very badly to have given that impression. After reading the piece again, I really don’t think the caustic responses were warranted, though it’s really far from my best word. More importantly, I terribly misjudged the sensitivity of the topic. Even if I might think it constitutes over-sensitivity at times, it was an error on my part to ignore it.

      If I do take another stab at such a topic in the future, I will be sure to go about it much differently.Report

  18. Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

    Having read Mr Kowal’s other contributions to this blog, I wonder if the problem is that Mr Kowal has not adjusted to the fact that he is now writing for a blog with a more “mixed” audience with more diversity in political persuasions, ethnicity, religious or non-religious beliefs etc etc compared to his personal blog. As a result, Mr Kowal has a habit of turning disputed issues into asserted facts – such as stating that Roe v/s Wade is obviously a bad law and a judicial overreach that should be overturned, or the Park51 project is obviously an abomination that must be stopped – without feeling the need to support those assertions with facts or arguments, confident that those views are shared by the readers. I’m sure that was fine for his personal blog, where the audience are presumably mostly like-minded people, but on a blog with more ambiguous readership like this, I don’t think it is good enough.

    Of course the issue is when people write for more than one blog, they mostly just repost contents from one blog to the other. Mr Kowal is not the first person to do this on the blogosphere. There is nothing wrong with this, syndicated columnists have been doing it for years after all. And I suppose there is the argument that if you alter or water down your arguments for different kinds of audience, you are being dishonest or selling out or whatever. But I think there is an argument to be made about knowing the composition of your readers in order to engage with them better. Mr Burt Likko has written an excellent post on acceptable and non-acceptable methods of argumentation. I’m sure he meant that not just for hysterical and emotional commenters such as myself, but also for front page posters in this blog. Maybe Mr Kowal can get some pointers from his post. Alas, I am a lost cause for Mr Likko. I am too wedded to my hysteria and emotions.Report

    • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

      Of course poor Mr ED Kain had the opposite problem – being used to writing for a more mixed readership, his caveats and explanations are taken as heresy or insufficient loyalty to the cause at a blog with a less mixed readership. I suppose there is the danger that if Mr Kowal starts tailoring his arguments for a more mixed readership, his original readership will be offended.Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


        These are interesting observations. For my part, I don’t THINK I’ve failed to appreciate a “mixed readership” as to my other contributions here. I try to keep my audience well in mind, though this means I try to make my arguments more carefully and narrowly, rather than compromising them or pandering. As I acknowledged elsewhere, though, I did miscalculate the reaction as to my Muslim reform/PR post, and also fell short of my own clarity/quality standards besides. I have appreciated the willingness of the readers here to to consider my follow up post and comments.Report

  19. What I am proposing is simply that there exist non-bigoted individuals who wonder in good faith whether Islam and American ideals are compatible. I recognize that some folks will insist it is the very definition of bigotry to ask such questions, but I’m not prepared to chase the thing down to any more rudimental level than that—if we are not able to agree on certain basic propositions, I think we are not compatible for conversation, you and I.

    I’ll take you at your word that yours and others’ doubts about the compatibility between “American ideals” and “Islam” are not necessarily meant bigotedly. But there is a sense in which it is almost, although perhaps not inevitably, a hazardous undertaking when one talks about “American ideals”–which can mean many different things to many different people, most of whom act in good faith–and their compatibility with “Islam,” a religion observed by 100s of millions of people and with a more than 1000 year history. Both terms–“American ideals” and “Islam”–are, unless defined more clearly and more precisely, are open to speedy assumptions and counter-assumptions that quickly allow any debate to go out of hand.

    The burden is not on Mr. Kowal alone. I, for example, would probably have done better to be more charitable in my comments to his last post. (I might mention that anyone who cites Dennis Miller–who I once heard on the radio say, and I’m quoting almost verbatim, “I wouldn’t have a problem with Muslims if they stopped blowing up people”–might invite accusations of bad faith.)

    I understand that conservatism, if it is an ideology that is as coherent as, say, libertarianism, has as one of its assumptions the existence of “values” that are either easily defined or at least “real” and “constant” in a way that other ism’s deny or hedge on. In this sense, the first project would be to define very precisely what those values are, and in Mr. Kowal’s case, to define what he means by “American ideals.”

    In other words, I agree it might not necessarily be bigotry to ask the question, but it is a question that is, if not bigoted, at least born in ignorance (not necessarily a willful or hate-filled ignorance, but just the first step in asking an honest question in search of an answer). Things are complicated, and if people mistake an oversimplification for “bigotry,” then at least some of the blame lies with the person who oversimplifies, even if most of the blame lies with the reader who reads without charity.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      What I wonder is, from what does one ask that question? In Islam’s history, there are periods of extreme religious tolerance. Granted, there are periods of religious intolerance, as well, but these are present in pretty much every religion and culture: when the culture/religion is unthreatened, everyone’s welcome; when it feels threatened, put ’em up against the wall.

      What’s more, at the turn of the last century, many Middle Eastern intellectuals were actively calling for a more liberal, European-style Muslim culture. That Islam, and in particular, Islam from a particular region of the world, is less liberal now, in many ways, than it was a century ago has less to do with something inherent in Islam than it has to do with the fact that the people of that part of the world have been, at different points, the dupes of Europe (particularly the British; see 1917), exploited for their resources, the center of war over their resources, used as pawns in the Cold War by both sides, occupied, had their oppressive dictators propped up by foreign powers, and that doesn’t even get to the Israeli-Palestinean conflict (the Brits again, too!). It’s a mess over there, and while they’re not blameless, it’s also not surprising that militant strains have become more prominent in that region (Pakistan has similar reasons for a strong militant wing of Islam).

      So, the question one has to ask of someone who questions whether Islam and “American ideals” are compatible is, what Islam are you talking about? The one that’s arisen in a political and economic context that promotes militancy? Or the strain, which has existed for centuries, that is as peaceful as any other religion (which might not be saying much, I admit), which admits tolerance and has, at points, even worked towards liberal Western ideals itself? Perhaps these people, instead of believing that Muslims need a better PR campaign, should actually do a little reading. Because they are clearly coming from a position of ignorance, and I can’t imagine it’s the job of Muslims to cure them of that. And besides, when one ignorantly wonders whether, from the perspective of one’s own values, another culture is inherently inferior, based entirely on perceptions garnered, again in ignorance, from the actions and words of a few members of that culture, that sure looks like prejudice, if not the dreaded “bigotry.” And I’ll be damned if that’s not what Tim’s rational people are doing. I guess we can call a spade a club for the sake of discussion, but the more I think about it, the more I see that they really are spades.Report

      • Avatar Mike says:

        “In Islam’s history, there are periods of extreme religious tolerance.”


        Want to see what “religious tolerance” gets you? Study up on the Khudaibiya tribe.

        Compare it to what’s happening to Lebanon currently, with christians afraid for their lives as Hezbollah’s thugs, feeling they have enough of a majority and enough military power, switch from “coexist while we build power” mode to “convert or the sword” mode.Report

        • Avatar Heidegger says:

          Splat!!! Nice, Mike. We need to learn code here. Do you speak Navajo? I don’t but will learn.

          No one will be offended—an offensive proof language. Even BSK won’t be upset, although the very idea could send him off in a tizzy. Pig Latin is also a possibility–I’m serious. I’m sure you understand what I’m referring to.

          There is one very big problem–BlaiseP speaks about 20 languages–and speaks them fluently.

          Blaise, would do us politically incorrect blasphemers a favor and suspend your knowledge of all languages? Either that or we get Chris on our side. I know Chris is a polymath but not sure about his language skills. We don’t have a chance with a polymath and polyglot on the enemies’ side.
          Thanks. Please don’t make us learn Icelandic or Inuit. Time is limited. Plus, I’ve already been fined $10,000 for my deranged outbursts. Rufus said only cold, hard cash works once Revolution II starts.
          Thanks. H

          p.s. Hey, I just realized, Rufus speaks about 10 languages!! Rufus, will join our side? Pretty please? And how about you, Chris. Can’t you come to the aid of a delusional schizophrenic? I only have a few more weeks left of “sanity”–cost of meds will be a $1000 a month. I thought I discovered a way of making myself invisible and rob banks–it didn’t work.Report

          • Avatar RTod says:

            Ah, THERE’S out Heidegger!Report

            • Avatar RTod says:

              our, that isReport

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Ah, RTod–forgive me, but Uncle Sam Wants You Too! An oversight, my friend. But, yes, we would love to have your considerable intellectual gifts and humor on the side of the Buffalo Heads, subversives, mental defectives–will pay big $$$$! Think it over. Anyone else out there who might be interested? Call Atascadero State Hospital–ask to speak to Dr. Martin Heidegger. Might be doing rounds, but will get back to you. It’s those damn residents from UC Berkeley that ruin my day. I tell them I’m Dr. Timothy Leary and give them psilocybin brownies–usually shuts them up for a several hours. It never fails, though. They invariably come back with visions of Christ, Buddha, Krishna, you name it. Haven’t seen any..-uh-oh, see, just caught myself there–almost went into a Mecca vision) In anyh case, a considerable bang for the buck, though, wouldn’t you say? Heaven, and visions of Christ, for only $5!!Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Seconds out. Those who would condemn Islam ought to know its vocabulary. These words have no explicit English translation. The closest I can get to du’a is the ritual of prayer and by extension, what a Muslim actually does in observance of his beliefs. Madhhab has no English corollary at all. You might use the word Denomination, but that’s a very poor substitute, it’s technically a reference to the scholarship upon which you base the intellectual components usul of your du’a. Sunnis generally choose one from the Big Four. Sufis and Shiites follow their own scholars. The word imam has very different meanings for Sunni and Shi’a. Sunnis will call anyone who runs a masjid (which could be either a full-blown mosque or merely a prayer room) an imam, more as an honorific, but for the Shi’a, the imam is more akin to a bishop within the Catholic and Orthodox Christians, though again, the parallels are not perfect.

            I take Islam seriously. Anyone who wants to raise a hue and cry about it should at least do themselves the favor of learning about it: those who don’t just sound stupid. I am especially angered by those around here who would attack Islam and its Prophet, heaping up abuse on the faith which first gave the world the distinction between Civilian and Soldier and instituted the notion of War Crimes. I condemn Islam where I see it failing, and it is failing Our American Muslims, American Muslims, most of whom came here to escape the very things I condemn in Islamic cultures. These honorable people deserve our respect and understanding and yes, even critique where it is warranted. It starts when we take them seriously.Report

        • Avatar Heidegger says:

          Religious tolerance=9/11. I’m walking on eggshells, but the consequences of religious tolerance can be easily seen by looking at the thousands of terrorists attacks against the state of Israel over the last 30 years. They’ve had the equivalent of effect of 15, 9/11s.Report

          • Avatar RTod says:

            Seems a tad Orwellian. I’d have thought 9/11 was by definition an example of religious INtolerance.Report

            • Avatar Heidegger says:

              Yes, agreed RTod. We MUST understand it is the INtolerance of Islamist radicals and fascists not the “little Eichmanns” working in the Twin Towers on 9/11 –this was Ward Churchill’s thoughtful, eloquent characterization of people working that day.

              “True enough, they were civilians of sort. But innocent? Give me a break.”

              “The technocrats of empire” working in the World Trade Center were the equivalent of “little Eichmanns.”Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

                Is Ward Churchill a Muslim? I’m not being facetious, I really don’t know. Because that would be the only reason you would put his quotations there to prove the intolerance of Muslims, right?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                No, he’s not. He’s Cherokee, or maybe not that either. I think the point is to change the subject to Ward Churchill saying something obnoxious and then get outraged that that also happened once. At any rate, it’s just a totally irrelevant comment. Just ignore it.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            And so finally the inquisitor reveals himself. This is really far out stuff man… Think about it for a moment. Do you really think that religious intolerance is just? This is worse than orwellian, monstrous.Report

            • Avatar Heidegger says:

              “Think about it for a moment. Do you really think that religious intolerance is just?

              Of course not. It would be nice though, to at least accurately identify who is being intolerant, no?Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Look, you just said that religious tolerance = [11/9] (I refuse to be cowed by american syntactical conventions). If that is not a condemnation of religious tolerance, than what is?Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Murali, shall I use only The King’s English, honorable sir? That can be done rather easily, sir. I utterly detest monarchies though–especially when they commit genocide against my beloved Irish relatives. So you know what you can do, Mr. Twit, with your despicable, vile, contemptible King’s English. How about jumping on your polo horse, sing “Rule Britannica”, and all the other ugly, hideous sorts of your glorious songs about Cromwell, and ride into the sunset. Better yet, how about you falling off your polo horse and then getting mauled by a thousand fox hounds!Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                I wonder what my unwillingness to compromise with american spelling mistakes makes me a twit or even pro-british. In Singapore, by convention we use british spellings thats all. As a conservative surely you should respect my adherence to the conventional. And at the same time out of pride for my own nation I refuce to be cowed by american attempts at cultural hegemony. Surely you must respect my pride in my own nation (even though it has faults aplenty)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You mustn’t take Heidegger seriously. I think I speak for every reasonable person in saying you are at liberty to spell Christian however you like.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                My sincere apologies, Mr. Murali. You most certainly didn’t deserve my careless comments. I very much enjoy your thoughtful comments, so thanks. I also love Benjamin Britten!Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              What can we be intolerant of? What are our taboos? The American Religion has a great many, after all.

              “Tolerance” seems to be one of the icons but it seems to be Janus-faced.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Tolerance is one of those things as libertarians we’re supposed to be fond of.

                1. We ought to be tolerant of all reasonable things/views.

                2. We need not be tolerant of unreasonable views.

                3.Unreasonable views are those that are intolerant of reasonable views.

                Of course, once we take a step back it seems that this is kind of circular. reasonable and unreasonable start looking like matters of perspective.

                Things start to clear up once we use specifics.

                A is a particular religious view which is does not advicate violence against people of other religions. We could call it Unitarianism, Hinduism, Quakerism etc.

                B1 is another comprhensive view, according to which A is wrong. Adherents of A are destined to hell or maybe are making deep philosophical errors. However it does not advocate the use of coercive force to convert people from A to B1, restrict some or all of A’s religious practices.

                B2 is yet another comprehensive view similar to A in all respects except that it advocates the use of force to convert people from A to B2, or restrict any number of A’s religious practices.

                B2 is considered unreasonable in so far as we consider its political implications. While B1 and A are both considered reasonable even though they may disagree on tons of religious points.

                Consider a module C which can be added on to A and B1 under which adherents of A and B1 are fully justified in the use of coercive force to restrict some of B2’s religous practices. Specifically they are only justified in restricting those practices that intrude into the political sphere.

                By political sphere, I refer to anything that people are going to attempt to use political power to control.

                Note that the reason why A and B1’s use of coresion is justified is that A and B1 are using it defensively while B2 is using it aggressively.

                Module C is added on only in response to the violence inherent in B2.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Who’s B2, Murali?

                Can’t you just say what you mean and be done with it?

                For the record, Locke argued that government can’t get you into heaven, and hyperCalvinist Samuel Adams agreed [Rights of the Colonists, 1772, iirc].

                So WTF you talking about, Willis? Does anyone around here speak plain English?

                I like you, Murali, and find your insights of value. But who the hell are you talking about? One size does not fit all.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                You are the king of not saying what you mean (see below), instead using insinuation. Classic tactic of someone too cowardly to stand by his beliefs because he knows they are socially and morally unacceptable.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                B2 is not a person. Rather lets just call it a comprehensive viewpoint with political and non-political components. It could be anything ranging from Political Islam to BJP style ultra orthodox Hinduism to what tibet was like before the dalai lama was chased out and I might as well add what the Christian theocons in America (and for that matter Singapore as well) plan to do vis a vis their interpretation of the first amendment .

                The key thing about B2 is that in addition to the usual religious stuff about the nature of God etc it also has some view as to what to do with heathens, heretics, pagans, witches atheists etc etc which cannot be just. What I was attempting was a kind of formal argument by which we could identify the limits of toleration without contradicting oneself. To that I tried to use general place-holders.

                So of course we tolerate the tolerant right? But to what extent can we be intolerant of the intolerant? I interpreted Jaybird as talking about how tolerance talk never extends to one’s intellectual enemies (or for that matter the intolerant) and how this undermined the case for tolerance. My argument was to get at merely a more formal defence of general toleration.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Dude, do you know what the word history means?Report

          • Avatar Heidegger says:

            Yes–of courseOh my God, you can’t even begin to properly spell the name of your religion for fears of ridicule and derision? Sad, sad, sad.
            Be brave Murali. You have, thus far. A warning though:the hyenas will be at your feet as long as you’re there. They truly are human predators.Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


      These are good points. One theme underlying this whole topic is reality vs. perception. Many comments here deal with what Islam actually is, whether it is actually a religion of violence or a religion of peace, whether Muslims actually have tendency to violence or not. I’ve not engaged in this question. Instead, I’ve merely engaged the question of perceptions of Islam and Muslims: what do people believe about whether Islam is violence or peaceful, whether Muslims are violence or peaceful, whether they really do despite terrorism as much as everyone else, etc.

      As for what “American ideals” we’re talking about in this context, to start I’d name religious freedom, a clear separation between church and state, fundamental individual liberties, economic liberty, democracy, aversion to monarchy, social equality, community, tradition, and so on.Report

  20. Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

    “BSK April 15, 2011 at 6:36 am

    The bigots absolutely do matter. They shapre opinion. And with greater influence than any Muslim leader can.”

    I’m replying here since apparently the reply button is only available for a few layers.

    Of course the bigots matter. I was just predicting what Mr Kowal would say, which is very bad of me. Never assume what other people would say. I’ll refrain in future.

    But I guess if you buy the premise of Mr Kowal’s initial post, which is basically a set of instructions to American Muslims on what they should do to get the goodwill of non-bigoted Americans who think that Islam and the American ideals are incompatible, then the bigots really are besides the point, since their goodwill is probably unobtainable. Mr Kowal is clear in his initial post, subsequent post and comments: he is only talking about non-bigoted Americans, that’s whose hearts and minds American Muslims are supposed to win by following Mr Kowal’s set of instructions.

    Although I am a bit confused why he included the item about weak and mealy-mouthed condemnation of Islamic terrorism by the leaders of Muslim nations. Maybe he is under the mistaken assumption that American Muslims have great power and influence over these leaders, so that we can police what they say in order to obtain the good opinion of non-bigoted Americans towards us. That part seems awfully vague as an instruction: condemn Park51 project, condemn violence committed by other Muslims in the strongest term, (would a full-page ad in the NYT be sufficient? I am actually toying with that idea. “The Ishak family would like all non-bigoted Americans to know that we condemn all violence committed by Islamic terrorists in the strongest terms, with no equivocation whatsoever. Please know that we are one of the good, moderate Muslims, not one of the bad ones. Thank you.”), that’s all very clear and doable. But what on earth are American Muslims supposed to do about the leaders of Muslim nations? Call and castigate them? Have them assassinated and replaced by a more moderate Muslim? I’m out of idea, to be honest. Any suggestion would be appreciated.Report

    • Avatar BSK says:

      My point about the bigots is that they impact the non-bigots. If the non-bigots are being yelled at from the television and airwaves with false rhetoric about the imminent danger of Islam while also seeing press releases coming from Imams and other Muslim leaders disavowing terrorism, which is more likely to impact?

      Maybe the Muslim leaders should take to the airwaves and shout about how they want nothing to do with terrorism. I’m sure no one will spin that… a bunch of Muslims yelling on the radio. Fears confirmed!

      So, when I speak about the bigots, it is not in terms of how the “Muslim PR” will impact them. But as a force against which I believe the Muslim PR to be near powerless. Perhaps I am underselling the ability of good PR work. But any changes that would be effected would take, as I said earlier, generations, not weeks or months or even years.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Is this deliberately a mirror image argument?Report

        • Avatar BSK says:

          I don’t know what a “mirror image argument” is so I can’t answer your question. Can you elaborate so I can hopefully respond with more than, “Deeerrr.. what?”Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            The fundamental assumption seems to be that there is this horde of folks out there and this little tiny outlier group is making the rest of them look bad *AND* it’s completely and totally bigoted to judge the horde by the tiny group of outliers.Report

            • Avatar BSK says:

              I would say that is bigoted, yes. Or, at the very least, prejudicial. Regardless, I think it wrong. And I think it particularly wrong when such judgement is reserved for only select groups. If we judged any group, however loosely constructed, by the worst subset of that group, we’d find just about everyone reprehensible. So, the fact that we do this JUST to Muslims (or Muslims and other groups but certainly not ALL groups) makes it rise from simple prejudice to bigotry to me. They are not simply judging all Muslims on the actions of a few Muslims. They are judging all Muslims on the actions of a few Muslism BECAUSE they are Muslim. If you swapped out Muslim for another religion, their approach would likely be different.Report

      • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

        But if they are really non-bigoted and open-minded people acting in good faith, as claimed by Mr Kowal, I’m sure they wouldn’t be influenced by the bigots. They would be wise enough to recognize the bigoted arguments for what they are and reject them outright. All they need is confirmation from American Muslims that Islam and the American ideals are compatible, demonstrated through certain actions laid out by Mr Kowal in his post.

        Is that naive? Mr Kowal seems to think it is not. I actually would like to believe him. In a way, his contention makes me feel less hopeless. If only we would do the things he said we should do, the magical fairy of non-bigoted Americans would make everything better for us.

        Of course, he’s actually wrong and you are right. If you are told something often enough, especially by people in the position of authority (and there are a lot of people in the position of authority engaging in, or at least flirting with, bigotry against Muslims), no matter how well-intentioned or non-bigoted you are, the seed of doubt will be planted. It is possible for a non-bigot to turn into a bigot after all, or at least believe in bigoted arguments. The two groups are not set in stone forever in time. The “non-bigoted Americans who believe that Islam and the American ideals are not compatible” of today can easily turn into bigoted Americans who think Muslims have no place in this country tomorrow if they are exposed to Fox News often enough.

        The other issue is our degree of responsibility towards the use of the arguments we make. If an argument we make in good faith can be used to justify something reprehensible like racism or bigotry or sexism, how responsible are we as the author of the argument, if our intention is not racist, bigoted or sexist? I don’t believe that Mr Kowal’s post is bigoted or that he is a bigot, but I do believe his arguments can be easily used to justify bigotry. Rationally, I think it is not his fault if people choose to use or interpret his arguments as justification for bigotry against Muslims. But emotionally (and hysterically, too, I suppose, since Mr Burt Likko seems so fond of that word. Sorry, I digress. That is a separate conversation I was having), I think Mr Kowal could have been more careful in setting up his arguments. I think if you have any suspicion whatsoever that what you are arguing can be used to justify something reprehensible, you have an extra responsibility to be more careful and more diligent than usual.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          If we base “bigotry” on stuff like “folks being offended”, we can easily find ourselves with cases where two different cultures are both screaming about being offended by what the other culture considers normal, good, and proper.Report

          • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

            I’m sorry, I don’t remember using that definition. Can you please point out to me where I said that?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I wanna say that I got that idea from something you said in Likko’s thread. Gimme a second…Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Ah, yes. Here we go.

              Great, a post lecturing people on how they should respond to another post that might offend them. All supposedly in the name of intellectual discourse. Look, freedom of speech means you get to say what you want. But it also means other people get to call you idiot, or racist, or bigot. Deal with it.Report

        • Avatar BSK says:

          If Mr. Kowal prescribes to the logic here, then there are a HELL of a lot more bigots out there, no?Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          The problem with bigotry goes two ways: the bigot defines the target of his bigotry.

          Let’s extend this one step farther, for you haven’t. There’s plenty of bigotry within the Muslim societies: even here in the USA, there’s internecine bigotry between Sunni and Shi’a. The Somalis I’ve worked are defined by clans who hate each other with terrible passions. Same goes with the Pashtun refugees I’ve worked with: they hate anyone but Pashtuns. Don’t even get me going on the Shiite Lebanese and the Sunni/Christian Palestinians, I could write an entire book on their disgusting bigotry, that I have seen first hand. To a vanishingly small degree, the violence in Iraq and Pakistan is Muslim-on-Muslim violence. The revolting episodes of attacks on the entirely peaceful Baha’i and Sufi stink in the nostrils of the world.

          Aziz, it does not matter what is said. What matters is what people hear. If America fears and hates Islam, it has excellent reasons to do so. You may be a man of peace, a reasonably enlightened soul who wouldn’t entertain a single note of bigotry in your own soul. But make no mistake, as an American Christian who soldiered for this country, I have to bear the historical burden of that legacy. Islam will get nowhere by shaking their fists at those who condemn it. To be frank, Islam has played the Bigot Card far too often. It holds no weight, not while thousands of Americans died in an effort to suppress Muslim-on-Muslim violence in Iraq. All we have earned is your lasting hatred. It doesn’t seem to matter how much America has done to justify itself, we sense Islam’s smug sense of innate superiority, its suppression of criticism among its own.

          If Americans haveReport

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            …. If Americans have anything to learn about Muslims, it is this: Islam has become an umbrella for sectarian violence, a destroyer of nations, a backward, insular religion which exhibits no tolerance for any other religion where it holds sway. It exhibits a nominal tolerance for Christian and Jews, but only in a position of political subservience: other religions are expelled and wiped out. It has never separated itself from politics.

            I cannot see how American Muslims can separate themselves from this legacy without renouncing many fundamental aspects of Islam. Where it has been tried, it is called shirk and bid’ah. You know perfectly well what those words mean.Report

          • Avatar RTod says:

            I get what you’re saying here, Blaise, but it seems to me a foolish road to go down. Sure, you can make an argument that Muslims have no right to feel offended by what Americans do because Muslims committed an act of terrorism that killed Americans. But if you go there, I think you’re kind of obligated to go down this road: Americans have no right to be offended by Muslim violence, because America has occupied or controlled their countries for years for purely self-serving economic reasons.

            Both arguments will seems plainly true to one side or the other; neither actually get us anywhere.

            To put it simply: I’m willing to bet that if Aziz called you a murdering bigot because you overturned his government 60 years ago and installed a ruthless dictator and have been bombing or funding the bombing of his people more or less constantly ever since, you’d roll you eyes and think he was just an asshole using empty hyperbole. My guess is that when you suggest (as you really kind of do here) that he has no reason to complain about the way he perceives to be treated because of his indirect part in the killing of innocent Americans, he does exactly the same.

            Bottom line: You didn’t oppress Aziz’s people; Aziz didn’t bomb yours. Start from THAT point, and you might get farther in trying to get where he’s coming from AND get him to see things from your point of view as well.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Were he to make such charges, they would be historically justified and I’d take his arguments quite seriously. Insofar as Aziz wants to make this about Arguments which Might Justify Bigotry, I have merely observed Muslims have made their beds very hard. It is not bigotry to observe Muslim nations are among the most backward and internally bigoted in the world. It is not bigotry to observe Islam by definition will not separate itself from politics. It is never bigotry to speak the truth. I am sick of Muslims shouting “Bigot!” in these dreadful days, not while they wage war on each other and drag the rest of the world into their quarrels.

              The only solution, from where I sit, is for American Muslims to declare themselves independent from the remainder of Islam, perhaps even going so far as to create their own madhhab, opening the doors of fiqh in these times. It has been done before in Islam. It would be a truly wise and noble gesture on their part, entirely consistent with the Qu’ran and the Hadith.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                “I have merely observed Muslims have made their beds very hard.”

                I get this if we’re speaking about, say, Ahmadinejad. But Tim’s post wasn’t about him, or guys like him.

                When I look at the Muslims I know and hang with, they really are no different than others around here. To take one as a non-theoretical example: My friend Evrim is a great guy, recently divorced and pretty upset about it, has a great job as a photographer (very talented), has a mean post-up game on Wed nights, often picks up the tab when we have post-game Guinesses, and can recite long sections of Monty Python dialogue verbatim. Exactly what has Evrim done, really, to make his bed so hard? Seriously, explain to me why it’s ok to treat him in any way as a terrorist, a terrorist sympathizer, or in any way a second class citizen.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Let’s not beg questions here. Evrim or Aziz or any individual might be wonderful people and we can both stipulate to their wonderfulness. We are discussing the set, not its members. We are furthermore attempting to address perceptions about that set, not the reality of its members. Don’t continue down this fallacious road: because one good apple exists, this does not guarantee there are no bad apples in the barrel.

                Islam has a PR problem entirely of its own making. Billions of Saudi dollars have gone into the propagation of their intolerant faith all over the world. If anything, the Salafi missionaries have proven my case beyond all doubt. If you doubt this conclusion, let us put it to Aziz, ask him what he thinks of the Salafi.Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

                The Wahhabi form of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia is quite extreme, especially to someone raised in a not-so-devout home like myself. And yes, the Saudi’s government has spent a lot of money trying to promote their form of Islam all over the world. I think some Islamic countries have even pushed back.

                But why should American Muslims be held responsible for the actions of the Saudi government? I happen to think that the House of Sauds are corrupt, greedy, incompetent scums who don’t deserve the honor of guarding the Muslims’ two holiest sites. But I and the rest of American Muslims are guilty of the promotion of Wahhabi-ism by the Saudi government? It’s a PR problem of our own making? Again with the collective guilt. What else? Am I responsible for every US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, too? What about the dead soldiers from the first Gulf War? The dead Christian soldiers during the Crusade? We can go on and on. I suppose we should be grateful that we can’t be blamed for Jesus’ death, the Prophet wasn’t even born yet.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Exactly. Now consider, Aziz, a movement within Islam which held all these things to be true and banded together to exert its influence in the body politic of America. Such a movement will require leaders.

                Islam’s enemies are many, its friends are few. The truth will set us free, but first it will put us through the wringer.

                Lenin’s advice is still true after all these years: Despair is typical of those who do not understand the causes of evil, see no way out, and are incapable of struggle..Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

                My, my, the goalpost sure has moved pretty quickly. First it was denounce the Park51 project (which I could get behind actually, I have my own issues with the project, mainly to do with the financing – NOT the “OMG! it will be financed by terrorists” kind of concern – the more prosaic “I don’t think they can raise that much money in that time frame, and even if they can I think the money can be put to better use for the welfare of the Muslim community”). Then suddenly it’s denouncing Islam itself. I wonder what is next? Converting to Christianity en masse? I call Episcopal! No better way to assimilate in America than belonging to the WASP church, right? Although the Mormon church is awfully tempting. I would hate to lose the right to have multiple wives. I know that’s now illegal for the Mormons, but I’m sure some Mormons still do it under the radar. I watched Big Love after all.

                I’m sorry, I’m being inappropriately snarky and non-serious. I don’t have the energy to rebut BlaiseP’s arguments. He obviously believes in them whole-heartedly, and I don’t think there is anything I can say that will make him remotely reconsider his opinions. Maybe a better Muslim than me can engage with him. Maybe the good Muslims who are not part of the problem like me will have better luck with him.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                This is absolutely wonderful, Blaise! A gem. A masterpiece! Why do you so frequently go off in so many different, ideological directions? I’m speaking of your other essays, not this one. I really love this. Thanks.Report

            • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

              Yes, I don’t think we Americans want to go down the road of collective guilt and being guilty of what is done in our name by other people. (And yes, I do consider myself an American. That fact might be lost on BlaiseP when he is talking about “your lasting hatred”). In fact, if BlaiseP’s logic hold sway, I’m doubly screwed, I don’t have the right to say anything about anything since I am collectively responsible for the sins of billions of Muslims worldwide, as well as the US (just the actions of the US government and military, I hope. McVeigh or the killer of Dr George Tiller shouldn’t be in my column, I think.)Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              … continued from #134.

              Islam has been forced into many untenable boxes by political entities. Consider the problems of the Ottoman Empire: though Sunni themselves, they tried to govern the Shiites and were constantly putting down Shiite rebellions. Eventually they came to terms with the problem, case in point, the vilayet of Basra was created by balkanizing the Shiites into their own local governance.

              The Strong Men controlled the minbar completely. Subversive khutbah was vigorously suppressed. I would argue that since the rise of the Ottomans, Islam has never once known a period where its freethinkers were allowed to speak their minds.

              Now consider the political and theological advantages of a sect of Islam which would arise upon the principles of al-ummah, the most fundamental concept in all of Islam, the equality of all men. Any reader of the Qu’ran would arrive at this conclusion: the first convert to Islam was a slave who rose to command the Armies of the Prophet. The onerous term jihaad would return to its original meaning, the internal struggle for holiness and a life of more than mere obedience to the Will of Allah, but a life of progress, pushing back the boundaries of ignorance and repression.

              There are many imams within Shiism who preach the Separation Clause. The Sunnis I’ve heard talk about this are more-prone to resort to a Secular Islam, which I believe to be a contradiction in terms: at any rate, it’s not going to satisfy those who search for the Divine. Islam as it is in present times is fundamentally incompatible with the give-and-take of politics, despite dozens of hadith from the Prophet demonstrating the necessity of this separation. So why not base a completer philosophy, let’s just give it a provisional name “Independent Islam”, around such beliefs? That way, when some bigot condemns Islam, the accused would say “Ah, but I’m from Independent Islam, we don’t carry water for anyone else. Here’s a pamphlet about what we do believe. We’re as patriotic and you and we believe the Founding Fathers were right when they separated Church and State, because Muhammad the Prophet told us the same many centuries ago.”Report

          • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

            “It holds no weight, not while thousands of Americans died in an effort to suppress Muslim-on-Muslim violence in Iraq. All we have earned is your lasting hatred.”

            By “your” you mean American Muslims, right? Because that is the topic of conversation here, what Americans Muslims can do to convince non-bigoted Americans that Islam is compatible with the American ideals. Of course, I can’t speak for all American Muslims everywhere, but lasting hatred for the US seems a harsh assessment, no? I know many American Muslims who opposed the invasion of Iraq, sure, but I also know American Muslims who supported it, like an Iraqi man who was once tortured and imprisoned by Saddam, or the Kuwaiti women who lost her brothers during Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. So when you say “your lasting hatred”, which American Muslims are you referring to? Who is this great undifferentiated mass of “you”.

            See, you are careful to make distinctions among different Muslim groups when you are talking about bigotry among Muslims. And you are obviously very knowledgeable about this subject. And I agree, it is a big problem, the hatred and divisions between different Muslim groups. And it is a problem we would have to solve, yes, I acknowledge all that. We have to keep our own house in order.

            But when you are talking about “your lasting hatred” (of America? Of your fellow American soldiers? I’m unclear on that point), suddenly Muslims become an undifferentiated mass. Everyone collectively hates, everyone is collectively guilty, everyone has collectively played the bigot card (now that’s a change, usually I hear people complain about the race card. Is there a sexist card, too?) for too long. I don’t even know if you are talking about American Muslims, or the billions of Muslims in the world.

            So which is it? Do Muslims form an undifferentiated mass with collective actions and feelings and opinions, or are there deep divisions and disagreements even among Muslims? Or do we only form an undifferentiated mass when we are engaging in our favorite hobby – hating America?Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Just how far are you willing to go to deny your membership in and adherence to the doctrines of Islam and your madhhab. You will get more than you bargained for in that debate.

              It’s interesting what you respond to and the points you make. I have set forth an idea whereby American Muslims could clearly differentiate themselves from the wretched historical prejudices within Islam. To this you will not respond.Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

                I’m sorry, but my Islamic education consisted mostly of the rituals to be performed and the sura’s to be recited during the daily prayers, when and how to fast, the rituals of hajj (although I did think it was a bit early to teach 10-year-olds about that, they probably wouldn’t go to Mecca for a long time yet) and the most important thing to my mother, not to have sex outside of marriage (sorry mom, that ship has sailed). So if you want to have a conversation about creating a new mazhab, you need to have that conversation with someone else.

                As to my adherence to the doctrines of Islam, I suppose it makes no difference to you what part of the “doctrine” each individual Muslim choose to follow? No, we are all collectively guilty for all parts of the “doctrine”, even the parts we don’t even know about. I’m more of a cafeteria-style Muslim myself, I pick and choose, just like I am a cafeteria-style liberal, I also pick and choose. And yes, I do know how lucky we are living in America where religious beliefs and how we choose to adhere to it are not legislated by the government. That is one of the reasons my grandfather decided to leave his homeland and come to the US. The Muslim community is diverse, there are devout Muslims, not-so-devout Muslims, cafeteria-style Muslims, even MINOs. So how would this new mazhab you propose work? Whose perspective will it take?

                But hey, why should individual beliefs matter? As long as you have recited the shahada, then you are responsible for everything ever believed or done by Muslims in any time or any place. Collective guilt, isn’t it beautiful?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Look, if I’ve used the word “you” in things I’ve written, astaghfirullah, it was merely a rhetorical usage, for which I formally apologize.

                Individual beliefs matter. They matter more than you suppose: take heart, there are many Muslims like you, but you will remain isolated while you and those like you do not band together to give life to what Islamic culture might be. Consider paying a visit to the Institution for the Secularization of Islamic Society. They’re now under the umbrella of the Center for Inquiry, an organization I rather like.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Surely Blaise, a similar literalistic adherence to christianity or for that matter almost any other religion should be somewhat incompatible with liberal secular values.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                True dat. No one in America leaves their family, gives away all their possessions and devotes their life to helping the poor, but Christianity still seems to do a pretty brisk trade here.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                I’m thinking more along the lines about witches and the suffering of them to live. Or for that matter about what to do with disobedient sons.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                (Psst. Leviticus 20:13)Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                That too.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                It is precisely because I see and accept the historical horrors within my own religion that I can stand up to demand reforms within it. I believe any society which isn’t safe for atheism and freethinkers is not a just society. The atheist is my yardstick: his sentiments the only valid ones worth considering in the maintenance of a secular society.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Exactly. Though I call myself a Christian, I despise the connivance of Church and State. There’s a thousand good reasons to keep them separate.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Precisely, and if you as a self identified christian can do so, the certainly people who seld identify with other faiths can do so as well by cherry picking or more creatively reinterpreting religious texts and traditions as they see fit. They are not therefore required to identify themselves as separate in the same way that you do not distinguish yourself when you call yourself a christian from others who also self identify as christians and say that in addition to invading iraq america should also have converted all of them to christianity by force if necessary. (I’m looking at you Ms Coulter)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                One of my great heroes is William Penn, whose colony became a refuge for every sort of kook and dissenter in Europe, and the only colony which dealt honestly and fairly with the native peoples. It was not a perfect thing, but from my first encounters with the legacy of Penn, I’ve held him in the highest regard.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                Wait, Ms. Coulter’s here? Shit, I’d better get some clean pants on. I thought it was just us guys.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                That’s Christian with a capital “C”, Mr. Murali.

                I’m sorry to say, Mr. Murali, Ms. Coulter has not yet awoken. Shall I give her a message?Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Do you get some kind if tingle down your leg by spelling Christianity with a c. Don’t be such an ass with your silly, idiotic mockery of Christianity. Thanks. You’ll never get it, either.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                The only thing I did in fact capitalise was Ms Couler whose name had temporarily slipped my mind and had to therefore be looked up. The fact is the bulk of the post was typed and sent of quickly without checking my punctuation. It was also fairly early in the morning, or late at night (depending on your perspective) after a long day’s worth of work. I apologise for the lack of appropriate capitalisations, but it was not deliberately done.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Kein problem mein Freund! Thanks, Mr. Murali. I’m extremely grateful for your kind and understanding words. I’m sure it probably makes no sense to you–or me, for that matter, but we should have a right to worship our gods, don’t you think?
                YES, YES, YES! Votes are coming in—looks like a landslide–the unborn have new found rights–the right to life!
                Who would have thunk that? Thanks so much for your replies. All my best wishes, and looking forward to your appearance on dancing with the stars program. Concerned about your knees, so please be careful! L/G/Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Expert texpert, choking smokers: Don’t you think the joker laughs at you? See how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snide.

                I’m crying.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Is it me or does that rhyme with the beatles’ “I am the walrus”Report

    • Avatar Heidegger says:

      Have great stuff from Ann Coulter if you’re interested BSK. Let me know–love her or hate her, the babe’s go a steel sack. Funny and irreverent, she backs down to NO ONE!!Report

  21. Avatar Murali says:

    Holy crap the nesting is not working for me either!!Report

  22. Avatar BSK says:

    Let’s break this down into what it is really saying.

    Is it right to judge individual members of a group because of the actions of other individual members of that same group?

    If your answer is “yes”, then we could pretty much decide anyone is a horrible person deserving of persecution because in one way or another he is going to be affiliated with a real horrible person.

    If your answer is “no” we move on to…

    But what if there is justifiable reason to believe that all members of the group believe in the horrible actions taken by the horrible members?

    If your answer is “no”, then you are done. You see no reason to hold individual members who were not directly involved in the action of the most horrible members of their group responsible.

    If your answer here is “yes” (as mine would probably be), we move on to…

    What would make one “justified” in assuming that all members of the group are in support of the horrible actions of the horrible members?

    And this seems to be where we are getting lost. My only challenge to those who think that simply being members of a faith is enough, then you are pretty much going to have to denounce every person of religion.
    If you think there is something inherent to the Muslim faith, then you are being intensely presumptuous to claim to understand what is in the heart of every Muslim man, woman, and child.

    And if this is about perception vs reality, as Tim noted up thread, I refuse to accept that it is the responsibility of the misunderstood group to correct the incorrect perceptions of outsiders when there is more than enough information readily available to combat their ignorance.Report

  23. Avatar BSK says:


    You shame the memories of your lost family members when you shit on everything they died for. Bravo.Report

  24. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    Yes, Murali, thoughtcrime is accurate. “Bigot” is punitive enough for a sensible person. Better to stay silent; who needs that noise?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      TVD, Bigot is punitive only if it is a wrongful accusation. Though accusations of bigotry often throw up a lot of heat, the charge would be accurate in the case where the alleged bigot did demonstrate the kinds of chauvinism that we all reasonably agree constitute bigotry. When your views tend to produce conclusions that at least at first sight look bigoted, it would be good to set out precisely what kind of reasoning you used to arrive at your conclusion. This can be done pre-emptively of course, and would in fact advance the conversation far more productively than simply stating your conclusions vaguely insinuating said conclusions.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke says:

        Mr. Murali, I decline to discuss anything with anyone who reserves “bigot!” like the Sword of Damocles. Either everything’s on the table, or nothing is.

        And my old friend BSK wonders why I leave the thoughtful reader to fill in the blanks. Because I trust you can and will, BSK, esp you, a manifestly clever fellow. You ask me to do the unnecessary for the ungrateful. And the condemnatory, see above.

        I don’t need that noise. Come in, said the spider. Thanks anyway, replieth TVD. I’ve been around the web too long.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          An accusation of bigotry is not to take an argument off the table so to speak, but a short label describing in which way the argument is flawedReport

          • Avatar BSK says:


            You continue to refuse to express your point. As such, we must fill in the blanks. And then you object if we fill in the blanks in such a way that you don’t like. You have had ample opportunities to explain yourself. It is not as if you are misunderstood; I have asked you repeatedly to clarify your point! Why do you insist on this forced victimhood?Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke says:

              Oh, BSK, I implicitly—and now explicitly—invite you to fill in the blanks. There is method to my madness, or cowardice, or whatever you must call it.

              You write, “It is not as if you are misunderstood.” Quite so, sir; I trust you and your intelligence, and indeed the intelligence of the very clever bunch here assembled, that y’all get me just fine, and have filled in the blanks on your own without me hitting you on the head with the obvious conclusions.

              It’s best that way.

              Every once in awhile, somebody tries to cheat and put something stupid and indefensible in my mouth. And I let them know I know.

              Otherwise, we all tend to understand each other quite well. And that’s our problem. 😉Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Then I submit that you were being deliberately dishonest and misleading. If you read the report, you know full well that stat is essentially meaningless to this conversation in the context provided in the full report. If you didn’t, then you’re simply stupid. So, you were either lying or your dumb. And, in both instances, your attempt was to show that non-Muslim Americans were legitimate to be fearful of Muslims because a segment of the Muslim population is concerned (for whatever uncited reason(s)) about the rise of Muslim extremism in this country, therefore attempting to offer a justification for unjustified bigotry.

                Happy? Now you are a liar and a bigot. All because you are also a coward who simply can’t mean what he says and say what he means. Bravo. You really know how to handle yourself well.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Thx for your reply, BSK. The aforementioned Sword of Damocles has come down. As predicted, anticipated and eventuated.

                Peace, brother. We’ve known each other for years, BSK, and corresponded in multiple forums. Yet somehow, I knew it would come to this. I tried.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Only you didn’t. I asked you point blank to explain what you meant and you refused. You played a game and lost. I attempted to engage you directly and honestly and you couldn’t hang. Sorry you couldn’t keep up.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke says:

            Mr. Murali, I decline. I repeat: Everything’s on the table, or nothing is; to limit discussion is to end it, and any “philosopher” worth his salt will agree to that much. That much they all have in common, and this fundamental agreement is why those outside Plato’s cave to have more in common than they do with those inside it.Report

            • Avatar Murali says:

              Everything may be on the table. But some ideas are clearly indefensible, and it would certainly be good to clear the clutter away, not by sweeping it off the table, but by arranging it in piles and labeling it and by devoting our energies to those arguments which are not so obviously indefensible.Report

  25. Avatar BSK says:


    I know this conversation has sort of passed, but I’d be curious to see your reaction to the situation that is brewing in Michigan. From what I understand, Pastor Jones (of Koran burning infamy) is planning to protest outside a large mosque in Dearborn, MI (huge Muslim population). He reportedly has stated that he will be armed at the protest. Officials in Dearborn are attempting to curtail where and when he can protest. Muslim leaders in Dearborn and elsewhere have insisted that Jones should be allowed to protest as planned, not only because of their recognition of his 1st Amendment rights but also because of a consciousness of how it would likely be perceived as Muslims attempting to limit free speech and/or impose Shariah law. Former LOOGer James Hanley has a post on his site about it.

    I’m sure you’ll agree with the sentiment that the Dearborn leaders are wrong, the Muslim leaders are acting in a remarkable manner, and Jones remains an asshat. However, I am curious as to how you see this fitting into the narrative you’ve offered about Muslim “messaging”. My hunch is that the actions of the Muslim leaders defending Jones’ rights will be largely ignored by folks, Muslims who raise legitimate opposition (on the grounds of the inappropriateness of the protest but make no efforts to curtail it) or express offense will be vilified, and any Muslim who does react inappropriately or violently will be held up as the poster child for Muslims everywhere. I’d love to be surprised, but there is little evidence to presume I will be. What do you think? Why is the Muslim messaging not getting more play here? How will you, as someone with a platform to speak and a stated belief in the need for “moderate” Muslims and non-bigoted non-Muslims to work together to improve Muslim messaging, participate in an amazing opportunity to do just that?


    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Dude, do you have a link? (I’m putting together an essay…)Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

        I just started looking. Here are a couple links:

        BSK: Here’s a very off-the-cuff response, and I’d appreciate your thoughts before I develop it further. My original point was that moderate Muslims are getting the messaging “wrong.” Perhaps I’d add to or refine that point to say that moderate Muslims often get the messaging right, but that their success has been limited in getting a very large audience. This point was actually first made to me by a Muslim, and it was in the context of his general observation that American Jews, for example, have by contrast been VERY successful at getting a large audience for their messaging. This latter point is sometimes overblown, and critics of Walt and Mearsheimer’s book The Israel Lobby have suggested it amounts to something of a conspiracy theory. But the general idea is that somehow or another, despite having roughly the same numerical population in the U.S., Jews are much more present in the media and politics than Muslims. The observation from my Muslim friend was that Muslims, for whatever reason, tend to prefer to keep their heads down, work on their own businesses and private communities and families, and expect and hope just to be accepted as good Americans. That’s certainly not a morally wrong position to take—quite the opposite. But perhaps it’s naive, and perhaps more moderate Muslims should seek to get involved in media and politics and thinktanks and the like.

        Again, the general idea is, perhaps moderate Muslims by and large DO get the messaging right; they’re just not doing enough to get the message out there.

        (Thanks, by the way, for mentioning this story.)


        • Avatar BSK says:

          Here is JH’s blog post:

          I thought that I had included that.

          “My original point was that moderate Muslims are getting the messaging “wrong.” Perhaps I’d add to or refine that point to say that moderate Muslims often get the messaging right, but that their success has been limited in getting a very large audience.”
          I don’t know if you realize how vast the difference is between these two positions, but I consider it immense. And I applaud you for recognizing that the latter is likely more accurate than the former. I think that the issue is complicated by the audience as well. Some people are simply unwilling or unable to hear anything that does not confirm their preconceived notion of an issue. As such, no matter what platform they took or what message they conveyed, there are many folks who are going to believe negative things about Muslims. And while it would be easy to disregard this as a small, bigoted fringe, I think this is the case for far more people than we often realize.

          Look at this situation right here: how many people have even heard of it? I first came to read about it on FoxNews with the perspective that Jones is having his rights curtailed, with the implication being that nefarious Muslims hands were at work. The situation didn’t garner much attention until it could be spun to frame Muslims in a poor light. Thankfully, it has since gained more balanced attention, but there is still little championing the what I see as quite remarkable efforts of the Muslim leaders.

          Even in your example, with Jews, there are still people who believe horrible things about Jewish people. And, as you said, they’ve been far more successful in their branding. I do think that there are other issues at play (Jews tend to be white, even if they don’t necessarily self-identify as racially or ethnically white, and this makes them more palatable to white America; Jews were the victims of one of the great and most well-known atrocities of recent history and garnered sympathy in many corners; individual Jews or groups of Jews have not been implicated in mass acts of terrorism against American interests (yes, some real whackos think they were beyond 9/11, but they are real whackos)), all of which have made branding easier for Jews.

          So, yes, there are things that Muslims can do to increase the size of their platform and there may be something inherent to the religion of Islam or Muslim-American culture that discourages this. But my point is that much of America, from our media to our government to people on the ground, are actively involved or passively compliant with the promotion of inaccurate branding of Muslims. And that is largely done by non-Muslims who generally skew white and male (like yourself and I). As such, those of us who believe that Muslims are misbranded and deserve better messaging should take up the task and work side by side to make this happen. We need not be patronizing, but we certainly should make reasonable efforts to do so. This situation right here provides an amazing opportunity to do so. I think if you truly believe what you purport to, you would be best served to do a follow-up post highlighting these efforts. You don’t need to turn into the spokesman for Muslim messaging, but since you did take such a strong stand, it would behoove you to put your money where your mouth is.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke says:

            Messaging, indeed. Just another click away:

            “The head of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn cautioned the Dearborn Police chief that some Muslims in his mosque feel that the burning of a Quran is worse than 1,000 deaths, according to court testimony today.

            That detail was intensely argued in a jury trial today in Dearborn district court of Pastors Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp, who burned a Quran last month in Florida.

            Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad testified that Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, who heads the Islamic Center, told him that for some members of his mosque, burning the Quran was considered a major crime. Qazwini expressed concern about how some young members of his mosque might react to Jones, Haddad testified.

            Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran said in court that Qazwini talked about how some feel Quran-burning “is worse than more than 1,000 deaths. That’s what the citizens of this society believe.”

            Moran used that as one reason why Jones should not be allowed to protest outside the Islamic Center, saying it would lead to a breach of the peace.

            But in his closing arguments, Jones said that the fact that such a view about Quran-burning concerns him, raising questions about Islam and violence, he said.”


            • Avatar BSK says:

              Thanks, Tom! This is a great point! The Muslim leader is capable of offering a nuanced understanding of his followers, including some less savory beliefs held by them. Rather than deny the diversity of opinions present, including those some might find objectionable, the Imam was open and honest about how some of his followers might respond. No denialism, no bullshit. He carried himself with integrity, refusing to perjure himself in court even if it might have made his followers and their faith look bad. What a stand up guy!

              Thanks for supporting my argument with this. CLEARLY that is what you meant, right? I mean, why else would you post a quote from an article and offer no commentary on it?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Well, BSK, I like to see if my interlocutor thinks for himself or just culls support for his own position when confronting troublesome facts.

                The imam told the police chief that “some” of his followers might freak out at Jones’ escapade. Jones was put under prior restraint as a result, and indeed was found guilty of something, Allah knows what.

                I’m looking at getting past the “messaging” per se to the reality, as described by the imam himself and not by “mostly white” critics who have reservations not about the good and sensible imams, but with those in his flock whom the imam describes himself, the ones who [might] freak out.

                Change the colors: put Andres Serrano under prior restraint from putting that crucifix in piss because it might drive Xtians to violence.

                Now tell me that we wouldn’t be seeing a press orgy on that, and righteous indignation in quarters like these. Those Xtianists are crazy, lemme tell ya. Serrano convicted! Theocracy! Theocracy!Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Has anyone here spoken out in favor of Jones being detained under prior restraint or any other justification? I sure haven’t. And the Imam hasn’t. When asked he spoke honestly about potential responses to Jones actions by some of his followers. Would you rather he lied? What the government chose to do with that information was their choice and is not the responsibility of the Muslim community, regardless of what their possible response would have been.

                Jones is an asshat who doesn’t deserve to have his name known but has carved out a niche for himself among bigots and hatemongers. Regardless, he deserves the same Constitutional protections and rights as the rest of us. Leading members of the Muslim community have affirmed that. Yet you and another are attempting to insinuate that they are somehow behind his detention.

                There is surely an outrage here about how Jones has been treated. But it should not be directed towards the Muslim community of Dearborn but instead to its political leaders. If they have acted out of a purported deference towards Islam, than they are not only violating their duties as government representatives, but they are offending those they are claiming to be working in concert with, as the Muslim community not only recognizes Jones right to free speech but also realize that successfully objecting to his protest will only lead towards their further vilification. Double-fail.

                So, we have an asshat protesting the existence of a religion and government officials overreacting and limiting his free speech rights. Yet you and Fox News and other BIGOTS are going after the Muslim community because of what an Imam, who supported the asshat, said about what SOME of his followers MIGHT feel in response to a Koran burning (which is not scheduled to take place).Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                “Yet you and another…” should say “Yet you and others…”Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Are you calling me a bigot or not, BSK?

                No matter, you’re simply not getting the point, that there are apparently—by the imam’s own account—some in his flock who may freak out.

                Now can you imagine a clergyman from another sect warning the police chief that members of his flock might freak out at Provocation X?

                The narrative would be different, and louder. That is my point, sir.

                “Messaging” is not all there is to reality. Better “messaging” doesn’t change the composition of the flock.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Common tactic of those who love to paint their privileged selves as “victims”… “If the shoe was on the other foot, we’d be vilified!”

                The Muslims ARE being vilified and even before the Imam’s testimony was released. And Christian’s freak out all the damn time and don’t get near the amount of vilification.

                The problem is, you accept the false narrative that Christianity is the norm and all actions by Christians are reasonable and that Islam is other and any questionable actions by Muslims are wrong. As such, when a Christian is criticized, it seems as unfair. When a Muslim is criticized, it seems right. When a Christian avoids criticism, it is because they did not deserve it. When a Muslim avoids criticism, it is evidence of undeserved appeasement.

                Please offer evidence that Christians in the same situation would be vilified. I’m sure they’d receive criticism in some corners, but they wouldn’t be the targets of an entire media group or the subject of Congressional hearings. But, again, to you, that SEEMS right because the Muslims somehow deserve that.

                More to the point, you refuse to address the issues that don’t conflate with your bigoted (yes, I said it) worldview.

                What say you to the fact that the Muslim community had absolutely zero hand in he denial of Jones’ rights? What say you to the fact that the leaders defended his rights? What say you to the fact that the question the Imam answered was irrelevant because Jones announced no plans of burning a Koran at this protest?

                Those who think that the burning of he Koran justifies violence should be denounced. Fortunately, we haven’t seen any individual stand up and own those beliefs here in America. All we have is one Imam saying it is possible that some of his members might feel this way.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Now can you imagine a clergyman from another sect warning the police chief that members of his flock might freak out at Provocation X?


                That same week, the Moral Majority’s Rev. Jerry Falwell predicted that “The Last Temptation” movie would “create a wave of anti-Semitism,”

                Because if a movie directed by a Roman Catholic based on a novel by a Greek Orthodox writer won’t cause a wave of anti-Semitism, what will?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                I’m not a bigot and you do not understand the point. Good day, sir.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                You’ve exposed yourself as one who holds members of different religions to different standards. You are indeed a bigot. You have been confronted with evidence that Muslim leaders have come out in defense of Jones’ protest and have looked for every effort to undermine those efforts and pin the responsibility for his persecution on people powerless to enact it. You have a biased view towards Islam that you are unwilling to have challenged.

                You are a bigot of the worst magnitude because you purport to act in the name of a deity who preached peace and acceptance yet you practice everything but. I hope you have a terrible day (a day you are supposed to be celebrating the return of your god, no? Good thing you soiled it with hate).Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                You know nothing about me and even less about this topic, BSK.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Tom, what do you think about Falwell’s attempt to stop a movie from being released because it would cause Christians to freak out and attack Jews? Do you recall it igniting a media firestorm?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                A more germane question, Mr. Schilling, would be if the movie were about Muhammad.

                As we know, a South Park episode was nipped in the bud, for far less controversial content.


                As for opposition to “Last Temptation” and “The Passion,” I’m not sure your characterizations of the controversies are quite accurate. For one thing, I don’t think violence was predicted, nor that the religious opposition passed without much notice—precisely my original point. There was much fundie-kicking in the press and blogs like these.

                Since I’m obliged to do a tap dance here against BSK’s charges of bigotry, I had the Falwell types precisely in mind with my original comment. Had they said, look fellas, some Xtians are gonna get violent over this and I’m powerless to stop them, well, that wouldn’t have been very defensible, nor admirable.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                A more germane question, Mr. Schilling, would be if the movie were about Muhammad.

                That would be far less germane, in fact completely irrelevant, to the claim that Christians don’t act that way.

                don’t think violence was predicted

                “A wave of anti-Semitism. ” What do you think that means?

                There was much fundie-kicking in the press and blogs like these.

                I don’t recall much reaction to this particular comment; it was simply part of the : “controversy” surrounding the film. (Which I can’t judge, as I never saw it. Liked the book.)

                I had the Falwell types precisely in mind with my original comment. Had they said, look fellas, some Xtians are gonna get violent over this and I’m powerless to stop them, well, that wouldn’t have been very defensible, nor admirable.

                That’s exactly how I interpret what he said.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                The imam’s warnings of possible violence are bad PR. “Messaging” and reality are in conflict here.

                As for Falwell, I think you’re reading too much into a single statement, and indeed a surface parsing seems to indicate a concern for Jews on Falwell’s part.

                His warning on anti-Semitism? Nah, I don’t think stretching that to a warning of possible violence is justified; it’s certainly not explicit as it was in what the imam told the police chief.

                But reverse the colors on all this, and my position is exactly the same. My little thought experiment here is to determine whether others can say the same, that if a Falwell said such a thing he’d be getting props.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                a surface parsing seems to indicate a concern for Jews on Falwell’s part.

                “That’s a nice movie studio you have there. I’d hare to see anything happen to it.”Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                There was a similar controversy in Dearborn last year. I’m not sure this a one-off, or that the issues are going away anytime soon.

                And that said, I’m not sure that Pastor Jones’ deliberate provocation doesn’t fall under “disturbing the peace.”

                Which I was going to get to, but since there’s really no good faith flying around here—silly me, Charlie Brown & the football again—I’ll just cut to the chase.

                [Your extrapolations of a single Falwell statement are unjustified; even if accurate, my point is exactly that I and likely you would find them highly objectionable.]

                Judging by the South Park episode, the cartoon controversy in Europe, and lord knows what would happen if The Prophet were depicted in a movie


                I expect that Muslim sensibilities will be shown all the sensitivity that Christians in America have grown accustomed to, from persons like yourself.Report

              • Avatar Bsk says:

                In the face of evidence to the contrary you continue to hold to your inaccurate assumptions. You are ignorant and bigoted. I know plenty well about you. Stand by what you say. You think Muslims have it made in the shade and any opposition they face is brought upon by their own actions and justified. Christians, on the other hand, are the true victims.

                The imam was asked in a court of law what might happen if a koran was burned even though no such thing was planned. He answered honestly rather than lie even though it showed that some Muslims held an extreme position. I bet if I asked some Christians on the street what they thought about abortion doctors and some would surely wish them dead. Should we fault all Christians for this? Should we lampoon Christians honest enough to acknowledge this fact? Why is that any different?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Whatever, Bsk, if you’re the real BSK of my long acquaintance.

                Regardless, until you restate my position equitably, this isn’t an adult discussion.

                I actually have deep respect for those with deep religious beliefs and observance, more than most of the highly secular types do. Dearborn presents a rather new challenge for America, or at least the re-emergence of a very old one, of genuine religious pluralism, American style.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                You refuse to state your opinion so I’m left to conjecture about it. I have repeatedly asked you questions that would give a better understanding of your position and you refuse to answer. You say that I should know and then when I draw conclusions, you insist I am being childish.

                Answer these questions please, rather than dodge them:
                1.) Why have you given no credit to the Muslim leaders who have spoken up in defense of Jones?
                2.) Why do you act as if unsavory positions within a faith are unique to Islam?
                3.) Why do you insist that if the shoe were on the other foot, things would be far worse for Christians, in light of sufficient evidence to the contrary?
                4.) Why do you act as if Muslims had a direct hand in situations where they were powerless to enact the actions taken (e.g., South Park and Comedy Central, Jones’ jailing)?

                If you answer these honestly and directly, perhaps we can have an intelligent conversation.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I expect that Muslim sensibilities will be shown all the sensitivity that Christians in America have grown accustomed to, from persons like yourself.

                I believe I was just accused of being disrespectful to Christianity, in a drive- by sort of way. I wish I were surprised by this, but it’s what debate around here amounts to these days.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                Let’s make an analogy:
                Islam = Christianity
                Koran burning = Abortion
                Muslims who believe that Koran burning should be met with violence and would take actions to bring about this violence = Army of God

                Here is what the Army of God has to say about what ought to be done to those involved in abortions: “We the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all godly action necessary,
                including the use of force, to defend innocent human life (born and unborn).
                We proclaim that whatever force is legitimate to defend the
                life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child.”

                1.) Can we extrapolate the positions of the Army of God to Christians in general?
                2.) Can we fault Christian leaders for not denouncing the Army of God?
                3.) Can we blame the Army of God for any criticism of Christians?
                4.) Why are there no Congressional investigations into the Army of God and Christianity as a whole?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Not atall, Mr. Schilling: you seem to have conceded my point, that Muslim sensitivities seem to get more sympathy from persons like yourself.

                I’m sympathetic to them all, pluralistically speaking.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                BSK, I’m speaking of reality, not “messaging” or abstract comparisons.

                The elephant in the room is the imam telling the police chief that violence was a real possibility if those Christian asshats went ahead with their plan.

                If such a warning were given about religious violence in Colorado Springs or Salt Lake City, that would be of real, not theoretical, concern.

                As for what imams are saying for public consumption, I don’t care one way or the other. I expect and credit them in advance for saying the right things.

                Neither would Dearborn be of more than passing interest if not for the current strife in Europe. This is not taking place in a vacuum, and there is no useful discussion that can take place in one. [Although that’s the shape it’s taken so far.]

                If you read me charitably, there is room for discussion and not grenade tossing charges of bigotry. Christians in the West have got quite used to blasphemy: the possibility of violence isn’t raised here in the real world.

                But not so Islam. The Muhammad cartoon thing was not theoretical in Europe, and neither was the self-censorship here in America. There is no real analog to Christianity here, as illustrated by South Park’s regular lampoons of Jesus and Joseph Smith. Colorado Springs and Salt Lake City aren’t Dearborn, and I don’t think that reality is going away.

                As for the one direct question I don’t think I addressed

                2.) Why do you act as if unsavory positions within a faith are unique to Islam?

                this is not exactly relevant to my argument [which is really more a question]. I make no hay atall at Islam’s expense on terrorism and seldom on women’s rights. My sources remain “moderate” Islamic spokesmen, not non-Muslim sources and critics. I do not comb the Quran for antisocial passages, and do not quote Muslim extremists on the order of the Christian asshats disturbing the peace of the good people of Dearborn. Let alone the jihad dudes.

                [Hence, the anti-abortion extremists you cite either. Stipulated, that any religion has its extremists.]

                [And if you call me a bigot again, I’ll be obliged to tell you to go fish yourself. We’ve had a long enough acquaintance and fruitful discussion to give each other at least civility, if not benefit of the doubt. For example, I’ve paid you the courtesy of not addressing you by your real name, although I know it. And neither will I withdraw that courtesy regardless of provocation, but surely I deserve better than this at your hands.]Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                What does any of this have to do with anything? I am seriously baffled.

                I brought this up because Tim made a post about Islam’s supposedly poor messaging. I offered evidence of Muslim leaders taking quite a strong stand that ought to be lauded but has unfortunately garnered little attention, demonstrating that the issue with the perception of Muslims in America goes beyond how Islam brands itself. You felt the apparent need to find an article that showed that not EVERY Muslim in Dearborn shared the perspective of the Imam and the vast majority of other followers who called for peace. What was the point of that? To show that there are some Muslims who might respond with violence to provocation? I could have told you that even without the Imam’s testimony.

                The Imam’s testimony is not an elephant in the room. He acknowledged that some of his followers would react strongly, possibly violently to a burning of the Koran (something that was not planned and, as such, is largely irrelevant). Again, anyone could have told you that. There are always going to be extremists who react inappropriately to provocation who should be denounced.

                You claim to want to talk about reality, but then continue to speak of hypotheticals wherein Christians would be persecuted far more than Muslims had for the same actions. Which is it? Reality or hypotheticals?

                What does Dearborn have to do with Europe? Dearborn is a community with a large Muslim population, nothing more, nothing less. There is no evidence of Sharia law being pursued there, despite attempts by conservatives and others to demonstrate this. The sole piece of evidence they have is the removal of protesters from an Arab-American Festival. So, to act as if Dearborn is something unique beyond the fact that they have a large Arab population is inaccurate.

                The question remains: Are Muslims at fault for the negative perception that plagues them in America? I think this conversation is evidence that they are not. Given an opportunity to recognize courageous efforts by Muslim leaders to promote peace in the face of hatred, you take pot shots at the extremists (which you acknowledge exist in all faiths) that everyone already knew existed and who have, to this point, not taken a single violent action and only expressed violent beliefs. My hunch is that most of them are cowards who are more talk than walk.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                BSK: Hitchens might say Muslims gotta get used to having their religion blasphemed, like every other American who has one.

                That might be the missing “messaging” from our secular left. Just sayin’…

                That might be my point here, and at least for me, this discussion has clarified that formulation and so, has been of value at least to me, in between perfecting my skills at dodging brickbats.


                So let’s leave it here then, BSK, on a note of relative agreement: I believe in American exceptionalism.

                To date. I believe that we have been and remain the beacon for the world for religious tolerance, specifically via a pluralism that still seems unique among the nations of the world. Compare and contrast to “Laicite,” a strict secularism


                …both of which are having their tests in France and Turkey as we speak.

                I’ve been optimistic about Islam in the West specifically because of America and specifically in the 10 years since 9-11 and how little division and esp violence has actually occurred because of that trauma.

                But Dearborn is indeed of critical mass—according to Ronald Haddad [the aforementioned police chief], it’s a city of 100K that’s a quarter Muslim.


                That’s where the rubber is meeting the road on Islam in America—on that we should be able to agree as well, and perhaps that we should keep an eye on developments there.

                [Did I ever mention I hate fucking Europe? That’s another story…]Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Sorry, TVD, but I’m calling BS. Is America more tolerant than most other nations? Certainly. Is that enough? No. Not by a long shot. Not if you ask me. When we just had a Congressional hearing on a particular religion, we can do better. When we have prominent political leaders and major media influences calling for he profiling of Muslims, we can do better. When the fact that a city in Michigan being 25% Muslim is a cause for concern (when I’m sure almost every other major city in America is at least 25% Christian), we can do better. When we hold Muslims (and other religious minorities) to a different standard than the majority religion (Christianity), we can do better.

                Would we all be better served if everyone was more comfortable taking not only legitimate criticism but outright buffoonish criticism? Yes. However, criticism must be balanced with acceptance. My hunch is that Muslims would be much more comfortable with criticism of all kinds if they felt comfortable and confident about their standing in society, something I think they have good reason not to. If they didn’t have good reason to believe that buffoonish criticism was just that and wouldn’t lead to detention centers and Congressional hearings, they’d probably make less a deal about it.

                At the end of the day, America has a hell of a way to go before I can declare us exceptional on issues of religious pluralism. We might be doing better than 90% of other nations or we might be the goddamn best in the galaxy at it but none of that means we are GOOD at it, simply that we are the bunch of a rather motley crew. I cannot rest on that, not when I know individuals who are subject to persecution and oppression at the hands of both the citizenry of this nation and our government.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                BSK, among adults, “calling BS” is overturning the chessboard.

                You have steered around my substantive points and exhausted my courtesy. I have patience for either but not both.

                Since you managed to not call me a bigot this time around, I’ll remain open to replying to you in the future out of past affection, but it is you yrself who have abandoned the marketplace of ideas here.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                You are moving the goalposts. The whole point of this conversation has been the way in which Islam is perceived in America and where the onus lies for adjusting the perception away from the inaccuracies that plague most of our nation. You refuse to address this fundamental topic and when called on it, decide to start insisting on arbitrary rules for discourse. When you engage in BS, I’m going to call you on it. In the post in question, you fell back on “American Exceptionalism” as if the question need not be asked in the first place. Bullshit.

                You can hide behind whatever false equivocations you want and divert the conversation and dodge questions and move goalposts as much as you see fit. None of it strengthens your argument and leaves little for others to conclude than what I already have stated I think about you and your worldview.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                BSK, I have no doubt that the majority here gathered might even conclude you “won.”

                You still seem to be calling me a bigot, sir. I’ve been sold out for less than you just sold me here. Go in peace, Brent.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Hahahahaha… OK, sorry Tom, I just find people this predictable to be amusing. Congrats, BSK, you’ve brought Tom to his “I win!” moment.

                Seriously though, Tom, that you see these things so clearly us-against-them situations (and often, in your case, us against the world) says a whole hell of a lot. Not quite so much as the fact that you think well-to-do white Christian males are the victims in our our political environment, but still a whole hell of a lot.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                First off, who the hell is Brent?

                Second off, you still play the victim. “Woe is me! Someone called me a bigot!” I called you a bigot because you are a bigot and your worldview is far more damaging to those you are biased against than that word is to you. Get off it. You’re not going to get any pity except from your like-minded sad sackers who see anything but absolute privilege for themselves as oppression. I’m sorry that the world is changing and your folk no longer maintain unquestioned and unchallenged privilege. I get that it is probably scary to you. Tough. You think a single city with an Arab population of over 25% is a critical mass. Christ, man, you really just don’t get it…Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                “Brent” was a little joke, BSK. Our work here is finished. Thx for the pleasant chat.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Muslim sensitivities seem to get more sympathy from persons like yourself.

                You bristle when someone calls you a bigot, but you’re happy to call me one. I can;t say I’m surprised.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Here is a proposition. “If P Then Q”.

                Let’s call this proposition R.

                Proposition R is true. This function accurately describes the state of affairs of the universe.

                There are two general responses to Proposition R when it comes to culture.

                “I can’t believe that someone would actually defend the way the world is! R *SHOULD* be False!”

                “Well, you have to understand, to be sure, all other things being equal, more in sadness than in anger, R.”

                Some people have no particular opinion on R, but the attacks on R offend them. Some others have no opinion on R, but are offended by the defenses of R… which results in an anti-anti-Rism and anti-pro-Rism.

                Some people get offended by those things and so argue against those.

                It’s interesting to see the dynamics when someone immediately feels like saying “R is not the way the world ought to be” vs. when they say “Well, you have to understand that R is the way the world is.”Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Seems I was unfair, Mr. Schilling. I withdraw the remark and sincerely apologize.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I of course accept.Report

      • Avatar dexter says:

        Speaking of religious radicals, have you heard the speech from Huckabee saying that there should be ” a simultaneous telecast and all American would be forced, forced at gunpoint to listen to David Barton message”?Report