Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pondering the phobias around Muslims

I'm fortunate, in that I've had a lot of positive contact with people who were Muslim. Coworkers, friends, lovers, students. I've traveled to Muslim countries. I've visited mosques. I've had no bad experiences. In fact, they were all just normal people, like you and me, with all the same hopes and fears, just different religious beliefs.

And yet, I think the world has somehow decided that it's ok to hate people for this religion. To blame it for what is going wrong in the world. When truly we need to look at ourselves to find the hatred. We all carry it inside.

I'd read an article, "Islamophobia and Homophobia" yesterday which supported my thoughts, by comparing it to people's changing feelings surrounding gays and lesbians.

"Still, however "natural" this irrational fear, it's dangerous. As Islamophobia grows, it alienates Muslims, raising the risk of homegrown terrorism — and homegrown terrorism heightens the Islamophobia, which alienates more Muslims, and so on: a vicious circle that could carry America into the abyss. So it's worth taking a look at why homophobia is fading; maybe the underlying dynamic is transplantable to the realm of inter-ethnic prejudice."

Earlier I posted an article about a German-Afghani filmmaker who felt he had no place to call home. Though he felt Germany was his home, he was still seen as an outsider. The same article talked about the sweeping fear in Germany regarding Muslims. It bothered me for days, seeping into my thoughts as I wandered about.

By accident, I ended up having a lengthy conversation with a nonmilitary coworker, an RN about 50 years old. He'd been recently working at another military post and stated, "I couldn't stand it there. Too many Muslims. You'd go off post, go left one block, and they were all around."

I was sort of stunned, didn't understand and wasn't sure what to say. "Were they wearing burqas?" I asked.

"No, but they had those head scarves all wrapped around themselves, covered up. You can't make eye contact. You don't know who you can trust. It's so uncomfortable. I just don't want to work there ever again. You never know who's gonna turn around and take you out."

"Oh, but I don't know if it's like that." I tried to smooth it over, relate my positive experiences. But it was a waste.

It left me wondering even more. If someone who appeared to be fairly normal and smart could have such reactionary feelings, it seemed rather hopeless.

I mentioned it to a friend of mine. And he also seemed to think that guys reaction was not so strange. Maybe it is hopeless to hope.

I can see that burqas might be alarming for main stream society, but head scarves should definitely not. And what is the difference between a burqa and some of the skin-baring attire that's out there? That makes people uncomfortable too. Why is one better than the other? The oppression of women in some of the Muslim sects is an issue, for sure. But there are many religions where this is the case. That's a different question all together.

Maybe I am in my own happyland planet where I think we could all get along one day.

It just seems sad, that's all.


Anonymous said...

I've always thought that the exposing of skin, the slavery to fashion/makeup and body image issues in western cultures were just as controlling and insidious as burqas and headscarves in Muslim societies. In some ways more, because western women don't often realize how they are controlled by those forces. Someday people will stop lumping individuals with a larger group. I think we're seeing the last gasps of fear expressing itself in the world as awareness and justice grow.

Sara said...

I hope you are right.