sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
Religious Literacy in America - Not doing too well.

Less than half of Americans know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, and less than four in 10 know that Vishnu and Shiva are part of Hinduism.

... Meanwhile, Rei and I have amusing conversations regarding someone saying something completely moronic about the Hindu pantheon (I only wish I could remember what the comment was, but rest assured, it was painful to hear):

Me - Ugh, and now millions of Hindus are rolling in their graves!
Rei - ...No there aren't.

It isn't that a lot of people are idiots, really. It's just that a lot of them are sadly ignorant to not only the ways of the world, but the ways they openly claim to follow. For every person who goes around spouting out crap about how "God hates fags", I can come up with ten passages from the Bible that teaches that God values love and tolerance. And I don't claim to hold the Bible up as the definitive book of the religion I follow! Makes me sad that so few people actually want to take a look at the meaning behind what they say and do.

It also makes me thankful that I know a good number of people who are very intelligent when it comes to religion, not only their own but the religions of others.

...Unlike these people.
sarasvati: A picture of a cabbage with the words, "Cabbages, cabbages, barely even human" across it. (cabbages)
It probably hasn't escaped some people's attention that author Elizabeth Moon said some particularly idiotic things about Muslim-Americans recently. Reading her words, I had to conclude that she did have some good points. Unfortunately, they were buried in a deep hole that was rapidly filling with xenophobic crap the longer she went on.

One of the loudest (actually THE loudest) voices on the panel blared at one point "The business of business is profit." Well...yes. But that doesn't mean that the business of business is smart, or useful to the country, when business is granted the rights of a citizen but not the responsibility.

Because citizens have another business, besides whatever pays their rent...the business of a citizen is the welfare of the nation.

In this, I can agree. I've actually been giving a lot of thought lately to the concept of what makes a good citizen. Is it just somebody who goes through life paying their taxes and not complaining much, or is it someone who picks up trash off the street to make their area look just a little bit nicer? Is it the person who owns a string of million-dollar companies and thus gives jobs to countless others, or is it the person who fights hard to get a good government in power?

I don't think there's a way to ultimately define what makes a good citizen, because there are so many variables. For some people, being a good citizen might just mean not making waves, being content with the lot they've been given. For others, it involves something more. And that "something more" cannot possibly be the same in every case.

I think a lot of people understand their rights at citizens better than they understand their responsibilities, because all that's talked about here are rights. You have the right to do this, the right to do that, but I don't recall, at any point in my life, ever being told what actually gives me those rights, other than residing in the country that supports them. It's a screwy thing, too. I'm not a legal citizen, but a permanent resident. From that, I have the rights that every Canadian citizen has, except the right to vote in government elections. All I have to do is live here. Hell, I don't even have to work here to get free health care, even though the health care is only "free" because of tax money.

It's screwy. But before I go off on a tangent about this, suffice it to say that the definition of what makes a good citizen, as well as the responsibilities and rights of a citizen, aren't exactly clear. If we're going strictly for legalities, we'll just say that a citizen is somebody who was born in a country to parents who reside there, or someone who passed a test and got a citizenship card.

It does not matter how: a parent who conveys to their children the responsibility of citizenship--that the world is not their bowl of cherries, but everyone's bowl of cherries[...] (Emphasis mine)

Pay attention to this line, because she seems to have forgotten it later on in her post.

She later gives a list of things that make a person an "unsuccessful citizen." This list includes things like anger, selfishness, cruelty, and outsourcing. No, seriously, she says outsourcing. It takes away local jobs and gives them to somebody else. Hey, I can't disagree with her that outsourcing seriously sucks for locals, especially because it's often done by companies who are already making it big but who want to cut down on expenses so that they can claim they have higher profits from one year to the next. It's greed, essentially. But yup, regardless, she flat-out says that outsourcing makes one a bad citizen.

I find that amusing. Not ironic. Just amusing.

This nation was founded with an overt appeal to universal rights of mankind--those stated (but not stated to be all) being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Universal... so long as you're not one of those pesky Muslims who refuse to integrate into American society, that is. Her universe must indeed be a very small place.

Any society depends on contributors, not just takers...those who grow the crops of food and fiber, those who make the tools and those who use them, those who bear and support and teach and train the young who will carry on the work as adults. Society must benefit them, not just those who skim off a profit from their work.

Agreed, but only agreed out of context. See, she starts off her post by throwing in a lot of patriotic ramblings in order to eventually indicate how unpatriotic Muslims are. Making an "us versus them" mentality, with no real evidence behind it, but she's banking on the fact that no person who agrees with the essence of American patriotism would ever disagree with anything else she says, not when they're included in the same discussion. She makes the blanket statement ("A good citizen is someone who works hard for the wellbeing of the country"), makes an assumption ("Someone working for the wellbeing of the country is somebody thus properly integrated into that country's society"), makes a statement regarding a particular ethnicity and religious group ("Muslims who express openly that they are Muslim segregate themselves and thus are not properly integrated into society") and then draws her final conclusion ("Muslims are not good citizens.")

I took a class in logic in university. We dealt with all kinds of logical fallacies and how they're used to dupe people into agreeing with things that make no goddamn sense. It doesn't take a genius to recognize the fallacy in her argument.

Which brings me, on this particular day, to the aftermaths of 9/11. And, in line with that, the vexed question of the Islamic memorial site and the responsibilities of immigrant citizens in general.

Apparently she's confusing a community centre with a memorial site. It's going to be a Muslim-friendly version of the Y, for crying out loud! Oh noes, how dare we give those Muslims a place to hang out, congregate with people who share their interests, participate in community efforts, and incidentally enjoy a place to pray as they please! Why, that's just unAmerican!

Yeah. The sarcasm tastes bitter on my tongue.

We have always had trouble with immigrants (the native peoples had the most troubles with immigrants!) Every new group that landed on the shore was greeted with distrust (and often responded badly) until it showed that it was willing and able to contribute something those already here wanted.

Yup, 'cause all European immigrants totally ended up giving in to the demands of the people whose land they were taking. She makes another appeal to sympathy here ("See, I acknowledge the plight of those who have non-white skin.") But then she pretty much blows that out of the water by making the second statement. It's pretty much true, I'll grant you, but it seems to me a bit off that a person wants to appeal to those who came before her and then demands her rights as white overlord and ruling class of America. Can't have it both ways. Either the Muslims are doing it as wrong as all the white folk who came and settled on already settled land, or the previous inhabitants of a land don't mean a damn thing in the grand scheme of things.

I can imagine the offense that a lot of Native Americans might feel at her comparison to their situation through American history.

Public schooling was viewed as a way to educate immigrant children into the existing American culture--to break down their "native" culture and avoid the kind of culture clashes (between religions and national origins) people brought with them from the old country. Refusal to send children to public schools was once considered a refusal of the duties of citizenship (this changed in the '60s/'70s, with the white flight from public schools as an attempt was made to create racial balance.) English-language-only instruction was one method used--there was to be one language all citizens understood, so that anyone from any background could communicate with anyone avoid the tight little enclaves that people naturally retreat to because it's more comfortable. Was this ideal? No, but in a couple of generations, nearly all immigrants' grandchildren were able to speak English, even if their kids dropped out of school.

... Where do I start with this paragraph? I mean, really. Where do I begin? She's pretty much saying that the ends justify the means here, no matter how much crap people had to endure in the process.

Is America the Borg collective on acid or something? Assimilate or be destroyed?

I'm half expecting a line about how if people don't like things then they can just go back where they came from. Oh, sweet naivite. If only it were so easy to get enough money to pack everything up and fly to another country and find work all over again, just because the people who live where you also live don't like the colour of your skin or the way you dress or which deity you pray to.

The point here is that in order to accept large numbers of immigrants, and maintain any social cohesion, acceptance by the receiving population is not the only requirement: immigrants must be willing and able to change, to merge with the receiving population.

You'll notice how it's pretty much only a small percentage of Muslim immigrants who ae lobbying the US (and other countries) to adopt Sharia law. The rest seem pretty happy to go about their lives, working, raising families, and so on. If they still carry traditional dress and practice a non-local religion, big freaking deal. 10 to 1 they're doing things differently than they would in other countries simply because the society is so different.

Immigrants adapt in many ways, more ways than a lot of people realise. The problem comes when people stop seeing the similarities and only see the difference. I'm from England. I still speak with a British accent (to my family, that is, because habit and shame still make it feel wrong to use my original way of speaking with any Canadian or American). Culturally, I am Canadian, almost completely. But if I were to speak in my British accent all the time, all of a sudden people would see me as someone foreign, no matter how I acted. Any little inconsistency would be magnified. Any little deviation from the norm, even if it's just a quirky personality trait, would suddenly be called attention to.

Right now, to people on the street, I'm just some random loner who wears a lot of black and is overweight. Open my mouth to tell them the time, and they don't think anything of it. Speak with my British accent, and that's when the crap begins. It doesn't matter if I have integrated almost seamlessly into Canadian society. Let one tiny piece of identity through that is identifiable as "not from here", and suddenly I become foreign. No looking beyond that.

There's a reason that shame and habit still force me to hide that accent. Not only was there the crap that I went through at the hands of idiot schoolchildren, but even now, if I mention to anyone that I was born in England, I suddenly get bombarded with questions about what it's like to be British, what the country's like, say something with your accent! Never mind that I moved here when I was five and have only been back for holidays and am no expert on the culture. I become the epitome of British to everyone else, a damn novelty, and I have to suffer their questions until they become bored. They go away, and only when they get over that weird novelty do they remember that oh yeah, I'm me, and that I'm just as much me as I was before they knew where I was born. They couldn't tell before, because they have a blindness to the everyday.

There's nothing wrong that with in theory. But when it reaches proportions like this, where all people see are differences because they forget how to see similarities, then yes, there is a problem. Elizabeth Moon complains that all these pesky foreigners don't blend in enough as to become invisible, and that makes them bad. She doesn't see the ways that they do blend in, that they did change and adapt to their surroundings and circumstances. She's looking at what's leftover, declaring it different, and declaring it bad.

But in a multicultural society like ours--and it has been multi-cultural from its inception--citizens need to go beyond nature. That includes those who by their history find it least comfortable.

She's referring to non-Americans when she says this. She doesn't seem to make allowances for the fact that multi-cultural means "many cultures", which boils down to many different groups of people expressing aspects of their native culture.

Citizens need to go beyond nature. They need to stop being so paranoid of outsiders, as she mentioned is human nature a few paragraphs ago in her post.

Whether a group changes its core behaviors and values after immigration or not, it must--to be assimilated later--come to understand the culture into which it has moved. To get along, it must try not to do those things which will, sure as eggs is eggs, create friction, distrust, and dislike. (Emphasis mine)

Hear that? If you're different, stop it. Do your level best to be the same as everybody else.

*sigh* You know, one of the reasons that people fear and dislike and distrust strange things is that they're not used to them. Give a child a new food and they're almost certain not to like it, whether or not they've even tried it before. It's the same, sadly, with adults who have grown up and ought to know better. But the way to promote understanding and familiarity is not to hide those things that make us different. It's to accept them, to express them, to teach people about them. It isn't to lock them up in a closet and pretend they don't exist.

With attitudes like this, it's often no wonder that ethnic groups tend to segregate themselves when emmigrating. The culture they move to claims to greet them with open arms, but then in the next breath turns around and tells them that they have to get assimilated as quickly as possible so that their differences don't make anybody else uncomfortable. (What happened to life being everybody's bowl of cherries, huh?) In order to be themselves, to express themselves and bit of the familiar culture they came from, what choice do they have but to create pocket groups in which they're more likely to be accepted?

A group must grasp that if its non-immigrant members somewhere else are causing people a lot of grief (hijacking planes and cruise ships, blowing up embassies, etc.) it is going to have a harder row to hoe for awhile, and it would be prudent (another citizenly virtue) to a) speak out against such things without making excuses for them and b) otherwise avoid doing those things likely to cause offence.

I'm guessing she's ignoring the large groups of Muslim-Americans who did speak out against those attacks.

Also, I don't see America taking its fingers out of all the world's pies because they're offending people elsewhere. Nope, I quite often see America go, "Well fuck you, we'll do what we want, because we can."

It's a lot to ask that because some radical extremists from your religion blew up some buildings and acted like cocktards, for you to no longer wear a hijab in public or, heaven forbid, construct a community centre where you can be yourselves in private. There are people who object to Islam's very existence! Does that mean all Muslims should convert, immediately, as a protest to a bunch of jackasses? Even if their religion brings them comfort and is doing nobody any harm.

Daniel in the lion's den... Does anyone else see the similarities?

When an Islamic group decided to build a memorial center at/near the site of the 9/11 attack, they should have been able to predict that this would upset a lot of people.

At or near. I wonder if she knows which. It's not at. It's relatively near, but to claim that something five blocks away is an offense is like saying that nothing can ever be there again because it's an offense. Put a new Starbucks in that radius and it's offensive because it implies the commercialization of the event.

Oh wait, Starbucks is American, so it must be okay. *facepalm*

Also, still not a memorial site. Community centre. Big difference.

Not only were the attackers Islamic--and not only did the Islamic world in general show indecent glee about the attack, but this was only the last of many attacks on citizens and installations of this country which Islamic groups proudly claimed credit for.

The Islamic world... That's a very broad term. Are we talking about the extremist groups that orchetrated the attacks? Or are we talking about every single Muslim across the entire world, regardless of skin colour, country of origin, country of residence, or language spoken. Because it seems to me that a lot of Muslims were fucking appalled by what happened.

Sadly, there were people who thought that what happened was awesome, who condone the attacks, who gleefully rewatched videos of dying people as the buildings crumbled. But that was hardly everyone. That was a minority of Muslims. You cannot say that the general majority acted in accordance with a minority group when they didn't.

This is like saying that all Christian sects are mysogynistic and cruel in their treatment of homosexuals. This is true for some, but not for all. But sadly, the minority often gets painted as the majority because they're so damn loud about it.

That some Muslims died in the attacks is immaterial[...]

Yes, she went there. She really fucking went there.

I know--I do not dispute--that many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks, did not approve of them, would have stopped them if they could.

I believe she did dispute that, when she claimed that the Islamic world in general happily approved of the attacks. Maybe she means "many" in terms of numbers only, but not percentages. And I guess the opinions and feelings of those Muslims are as immaterials as the ones who lost their lives in the attacks too.

But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they've had. Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Muslim-defined clothing...but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities. More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting mosques than synagogues--and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism.

...*facepalm* There's a reason that such actions have been increasing lately. It's because too many jackasses see Muslims as an open free-for-all in terms of abuse! Yes, other minorities get a ton of crap too, but Islamophobia is big these days, and is getting a lot of attention because, much like with the 9/11 attacks, a bunch of very vocal fuckwads are making things extremely difficult for them. That shit spreads. It spreads fast. And what can be done about it but to try to nip it in the bud, or give protection where protection is needed?

She's acting here like a synagogue attack would receive no notice from law enforcement at all. It's not like someone would call in a bomb threat to a synagogue and be told, "Sorry, we'll just have to let it blow up because we're escorting a Muslim woman across the street."

Know what else is targeted for vandalism? Fucking everything! But there are only so many law enforcement officers, and they have to go where they think the biggest threat it. The fact that so many are focused on protecting Muslims likely means that there's a real threat going on, not just some unnecessary mollycoddling.

Muslims fail to realise how much forbearance they've had? Yeah, they've really had it easy these past years. What with the increasing jokes at their expense, the increased vandalism, the racial slurs shouted at random Muslims just walking down the street, the way some Americans act as though they're better than anyone who happens to be wearing Islamic-style clothing just by default. Yeah, they've had it so goddamn easy.

No, actually, a bunch of innocent people have been unjustly tortured, verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically, because of what an extremist group did. Please tell me how that's okay, Moon. You seem to have all the answers here.

Our church, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a "peace and reconciliation" program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Muslims but the attackers themselves. It sponsored a talk by a Muslim from a local mosque--but the talk was all about how wonderful Islam was--totally ignoring the historical roots of Islamic violence.

Okay, I'm going to be the pot, and I'm going to call the kettle black for a moment. Christianity? Also has a violent history. Very violent. For a religion that preaches tolerance and love and peace, it's sure been behind a buttload of deaths for the past, oh, couple of thousand years.

I thought Christianity was also supposed to be big on hating the sin but loving the sinner? When did that change? When did it become so wrong to pray for the souls of your enemies?

When you look at only one side of an issue, it's easy to justify your beliefs. I'm baffled as to how she can say she's read to Qur'an but cannot see that it's got some good stuff in it about peace and love and tolerance too. Has she read the bible and looked at the history of Christianity too? Or is this just another case of blindness to that which is different. Willful ignorance, paying attention only to the parts that fit her worldview and discarding the rest.

Hmm, doesn't that also sound familiar?

I can easily imagine how Muslims would react to my excusing the Crusades on the basis of Islamic aggression from 600 to 1000 C.E....(for instance, excusing the building of a church on the site of a mosque in Cordoba after the Reconquista by reminding them of the mosque built on the site of an important early Christian church in Antioch.) So I don't give that lecture to the innocent Muslims I come in contact with. I would appreciate the same courtesy in return (and don't get it.)

Might help if you weren't calling Muslims bad citizens by virtue of the fact that they share a religion with a bunch of violent extremists... Besides, you're not just talking about one long-along historical incident. You're talking about something very recent, a sore spot to a lot of people, and essentially saying that all Muslims now should hide that part of themselves so that you can feel more comfortable. You're saying you won't give that lecture, but you will give this one. You'd appreciate people not giving you a lecture in return.

...Are you about to leave the Internets forevar, too?

The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...

Many people have wondered how she feels about white Americans who convert to Islam because they feel it's right for them. I, too, wonder this. It seems like she thinks the two things are antithetical. That a free woman of the West would never dream of even thinking that Islam might be the religion for her.

That no free woman of the west would ever subjugate herself to a man. Oh right, there are a lot of Christian American women who practice modesty and humility and obedience to men because they feel it's right. Is that as reprehensible? Or is that okay because it's Christian. Or American.

I ask because I honestly want to know. But I can't ask her directly, because she deleted all comments on her post and locked it down so that nobody else can say a word on it. I found out about this too late to read the comments, so if she addressed that, I don't know about it.

(Funny, she said that one of the signs of an unsuccessful citizen was somebody who doesn't accept the consequences for their actions...)

I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom.

She says it outright. Muslims believe things that make them unfit for citizenship. It's not just about association with extremist groups. It's not just about being different and not quite fitting it. It comes down to their kooky beliefs. Their unAmerican beliefs. Which, I'm inferring by that statement, ought to be removed from them to make them fit to be citizens, even if it takes away from their personal freedom.

Daniel, are you back in the lion's den again?
sarasvati: Itsuki, from Fatal Frame 2 (thoughtful)
It seems like I spent a good portion of yesterday defending Islam from another of Christianity's ignorants.

This is a shame for many reasons. Mostly, because both religions have a lot of merit, and neither should have so many stupid vocal people in it making a bad name for the rest. I know some wonderful Christians, and some wonderful Muslims, and it drives me nuts when I see either side being violently and gleefully ignorant about the other.

(And for those who think I'm just picking on the JCI side of things, I've known some profoundly stupid pagans, too, who give paganism a bad name through willful ignorance also. No, stupidity comes in all flavours.)

I found one of the countless articles yesterday that claimed that Islam was trying to take over the world through population growth, that Muslim women have more babies than Christian women and so will eventually overrun Christianity through need for living space. The good Christian response to this, of course, is to have more babies to drive to Muslims out. (Commencing headdesk is 3... 2... 1...)

I replied that for one thing, the world is already overpopulated and that having more babies isn't going to reduce that burden. Also, "my kid's religion can beat up your kid's religion" is an appalling reason to want to have and raise children.

I replied to comments made on that article, comments saying that Muslims force kids to learn how to kill Christians and go on suicide missions and preach a doctrine of hate and war (complete with links to YouTube videos, so of course it must have involved meticulous research...) and that the Quran teaches that violence is the right way to live.

One such rebuttal to comments like that went as follows:

Me - I seem to recall that the bible also says a few things about stoning heretics, and has plenty of violence in the beginning when early leaders of the religion went on a genocide spree in the name of God.
Person 1 - Yeah, well, Mohammad was a terrible person because he married a 6 year old!
Person 2 - [Me], you're just ignorant. Look at the videos, they prove everything!
Person 3 - People who compare Islam to Christianity just don't know their facts, and dragging up ancient history is wrong because today is today and Muslims are violent. What doctrine of Christianity teaches that you should be violent, anyway? None!
Me - Christians aren't violent in the name of God? Guess this article must be completely wrong, then. Also, if the past is the past and today is today, then people shouldn't "prove" Islam is wrong by bringing up Mohammad's marriage to a very young girl. I seem to recall that the bible also has a few poignant things to say about liars and deceivers. Also has a thing or two about loving they neighbour.

People see what they want to see. It drives me batty when people ignore the facts and revel in rolling around in an ignorant little mudhole. I could cite a thousand examples of peaceful Muslims and violent Christians and tell people that they shouldn't see a violent religion because of some fucktarded extremists, and those people would say that yeah, well, I shouldn't see Christianity as bad because of some violent extremists (who, because they aren't peaceful are not following Christ as much as they like to think they are), but Islam is still bad bad bad!


I normally try to stay out of religious debates. But sometimes staying quiet just becomes too difficult. If I can counter hate, then shouldn't I? Even if it doesn't sway opinions in the end, am I not a better person for speaking up against ignorance and blind hatred? Is staying quiet as bad as joining in the hate speech when I know that speech to be wrong?

I'm going to read through the Quran, so that I can pull out plenty of quotes about love and peace and tolerance to counter those who pull out bible quotes about the same while simultaneously trying to raise hate against innocents who have no say in what extremists morons do with their time. (I somehow doubt bringing history into it, like mentioning all the times that Christians and Muslims have used the same temples for prayer, will mean much to some people, since scripture means more to some than real events.) Maybe it's not fair to cherry-pick there, because I know there are some passages in the Quran that advocate violence and tit-for-tat. But the bible has similar messages in its pages at times. The passages about love and peace are just more common, and more fitting with the overall theme. (At least in some places. You know, not the ones talking about all the religious genocide.)


sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)

August 2011

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