Monday, July 25, 2011

Bruce Bawer and the Norway Terrorist Attacks; Islamophobia takes a Deadly Turn

For those who are counting, this will be my 4th post about Islamophobia. I think this is an important issue that is not being addressed by our leaders, and some are even exacerbating it. I was originally going to solely focus on the Norway bombings however, in light of a recent op-ed by Bruce Bawer, I am going to talk about both. Strap your seat belts folks, this is going to be one long and bumpy ride.

Over the past weekend of July 22, deadly and tragic attacks took place in Oslo, and Utoya Island in Norway. An estimated 92 people were killed, with a majority being teenagers massacred on Utoya Island. Police have arrested Anders Breivik, the man who confessed to be responsible for the bombings and right-wing Christian extremest. While searching his belongings, police uncovered a 'manifesto', in which Breivik calls for a war against multicultural society, hateful rants against Muslims, and mass killings of "marxists." He writes "The time for dialogue is over. We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come." Breivik writes he was a delegate to a secret meeting to reinstate the Knights Templar in 2002, and he also describes chilling events when he tests the bombs he has made.

The will of a monster, to say the least.

Brevik, in his call for 'resistance', was calling for a resistance in what he thought was a Muslim 'takeover' of Europe. A confessed white supremacist, he disliked the high level of cultural integration going on in Europe and the even higher immigration rate into Europe. He thought that the only way to preserve, what I can speculate, white European identity was through violence. It is no surprise to us now that he chose to bomb central government buildings and massacre youths at a Labour party- the liberal and dominant party - youth retreat. He wanted to kill off all the old and young leaders of the Labour party who did not share his vision.

This leads us to another unsettling fact, the rise of hard-right, jingoistic political parties in Europe in the past year. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders' Freedom Party has routinely been hostile to Islam as well as anything that isn't "Dutch". In Sweden, Norway's neighbor, he Sweden Democrats have won seats in parliament. The Sweden Democrats have adopted a hard-line stance against Sweden's liberal immigration policy. It is evident through the resurgence of the far-right that Europe, as a whole, have not taken enough steps in order to integrate new immigrants into European communities. It is also evident that Europeans are taking frustrations/anti-immigrant sentiment out at the ballot box.

But it goes farther than that.

There has been a failure on the part of integration-ists and leaders in Europe to effectively stand up to these leaders in their often intolerant positions. In Europe, the world's beacon for progressive government, there has been a growing anti-immigrant (most immigrants being Muslims) growing on the continent.

How does this tie into the terrorist attacks?

Well heated rhetoric and irresponsible use of the right of free speech persuaded Brevik to perform the acts he did in order to 'save' Europe from Islam. Just think about it, a man hated a group of people based upon their religion so much, that he was willing to massacre youths and government officials. The fear-mongering of a Muslim-takeover is extremely foolish and irresponsible. Those who espouse these racist and fear tactics fail to think that they're comments can be taken to such a level. On this such occasion, it did.

Now on to Bruce Bawer. Why is he in this post?

Bawer, the author of Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, recently wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. I ask that you read his piece before you continue reading this post.

Did your jaw drop yet? It is also astonishingly disconnected emotionally, almost like an apologoy a 5th grader gives you that they really don't mean.

Lets begin with the subtitle "In his 1,500-page manifesto, Anders Behring Breivik slides alarmingly from a legitimate concern about the rise of Islam in Europe to propose 'terror as a method for waking up the masses." Apparently to Bawer, Islam in Europe is a legitimate concern. He uses this "legitimate concern" later in the piece too. What about Jews in Europe, Christians in Europe? Oh course they're not concerns for him. No, he solely focuses on Islam. In his piece, he goes on to give examples of the strict patrichial nature of Muslim families, and numerous other things which do raise some concern no matter which religion. However, Bawer has skewed his facts, and his views, into focusing only on the small misgivings of a group of people who Bawer defines by their religion and not their individual character.

What really stunned me was the first sentence: "When bombs exploded on Friday in a compound of government office buildings in the heart of Oslo, I assumed, as did pretty much everyone, that the perpetrators were Islamic terrorists." Sir, are you too jaded and Islamophobic that you automatically assume it was a Muslim? There is historical precedent in all religions of terrorism in Europe. Bawer is terribly out of touch in his own world when he says "as pretty much everyone." Religious stereotyping  and prejudice at its finest; and it serves to diminish the authority of an opinion.

Bawer is "stunned" it wasn't a Muslim terrorist. I mean with such a narrow viewpoint and author of the book mentioned above, who wouldn't be stunned. I cannot even begin to describe the atrocious stereotyping and false view he has of the European-Muslim population. To make things worse for Bawer, he mentions that Brevik mentioned Bawer's name/works 22 times (so unfortunate because that is one of my two lucky numbers.) I don't know about you, but if anyone used any of my writings or work to legitimize violence or killings, I'd be ashamed of myself for not being responsible enough in the use of my freedom of speech. And that is what it really comes down to; being responsible in what you say and write. It is obvious that Bawer is to naive to see this point.

His cause, he writes, has been "seriously damaged" by Brevik. Well I am not sure what your cause is Bawer, but judging by your book title antithesis you make, it has to do with the '"threats" of Muslim-Europeans and their rights as individuals. I am sure I have to be close to it.

At the last paragraph, he tries to protect himself by saying that many will falsely accuse him of being Islamophobic, which I am currently doing. However this being my first time hearing about him ever in my life, its pretty clear he is Islamophobic. I can accuse religions and minorities too, but oh no, don't dare say I am racist; its not like that. But that's exactly what it is. Take responsibility for what you write Bawer, because its unmistakeably Islamophobic.

A parody piece was done on Bawers op-ed, essentially using extremely minor diction changes to make a point on how poor (in my opinion, to put it nicely) Bawer's op-ed actually was. When you can use so minor diction changes have it relate to another terrorist attack, you know something has to be wrong with an op-ed.

In conclusion, it is deeply saddening and my heart goes out to the victim's families in Norway. However, we see that a larger problem of extreme rhetoric, extreme fear-mongering, and extremely prejudice views. Brevik was motivated out of insane fear of a cultural takeover, no doubt exacerbated by the irresponsible works of Bawer and many others. Be responsible in your use of freedom of speech. Looking towards the future, more must be done in order to address these problems which caused Brevik to do what he did, and singling out the Muslim population is not the right place to start. We must come together and spread tolerance among each other because in the end,  "Why can't we see/ That when we bleed we bleed the same?"

P.S. A fantastic piece on what I have stated in past posts about tolerance and to look on the bigger problem of radicalization, and not just Muslims (*cough* Rep. Peter King).

Update: A 9 part piece on the attacks came out on Spiegal Online. This 9 part piece is amazingly detailed and takes the ideas presented in this post to form a fuller, more professional argument.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Response to Mr. Weigel; in what Logic can you Compare Gay Rights and Equality to Totalitarianism?

Instead of talking about the the debt limit debate happening (which I have choice words), I am instead going to respond to Mr. George Weigel's article posted on the National Review's website. Before reading my post, I encourage you to read his article, or you may not know what I am referring to.

In an article titled "No Homophobia", Mr. Weigel goes on to argue that the state changing the nature of marriage in order to include gay couples, since marriage existed before the state, is a characteristic of totalitarian government. He uses examples to demonstrate that couples in the Soviet Union had to have two ceremonies (one civil and one religious) in order to be married in the eyes of the state; thus giving the state leverage in one's personal life. He goes on to say that the state is redefining reality in order to accommodate new communist principles into social life. Lastly, he states that since the state has the power to change marriage, it can change other personal relationships as well; bringing totalitarianism into everyday life. The only reason his title was"No Homophobia" was to shield himself from being called homophobic. He wanted to show that he was making an argument on opposition to gay marriage on the basis of being homophobic (then why write an article in the first place?), but to show the state has too much power to change personal relationships and the meaning of marriage.

Mr. Weigel, in what bizarre logic can you compare the quest for equal rights under the law to totalitarianism? This is not a subject where relativity rules, its plain objective fact. The United States is a country of laws, where everyone should have equal rights under the law; regardless of who they are. This principle, folks, is in the Constitution and other founding documents. By not allowing citizens to get married based upon moral preference, not law, you have actully increasing the size of government in daily life; something conservatives and libertarians rally against. Rather, Mr. Weigel bypasses that fact and views states legalizing gay marriage as changing the essence of marriage itself. Ill get back to this point.

First of all, Weigel asserts that "a reality that existed before the state, for marriage as the union of a man and a woman ordered to mutual love and procreation is a human reality that existed before the state." Isn't that technically false? The Christian tradition of being married didn't start until the CE (common era). Marriage, of alternate kinds, were around in the BCE (before common era), where guess what - states - existed. Marriage happened pagan empires, and if we're going to go further, basic civilization - a state - needed to exist to create this union. If you count nomadic hunter-gatherers as deeming woman to be their property as marriage, then ok, have fun with that. If we're continuing on this point, if marriage really existed pre-state, then so did men loving men (and it most certainly did)! Thus, depending on the nature of state; they are allowed to deem what legitimate marriage is; for good or for bad. The United States, founded on equality and laws, does not have this same privilege. Therefore, the state does not have to "just" recognize a union between a man and a woman; they are free to define it between same sex couples too. Essentially, Mr. Weigel, your point has been proven false. With this point proven false, the logic of the state changing an institution that was pre-state (essentially the growing power of the state)  and having to recognize as pre-state, is null.

Moreover, I am still not completely sure what bringing in Soviet Union communism does to the validity or seriousness of his argument. He uses the examples of the Soviet state to show how the they stifled individual action and used totalitarianism to change the nature of marriage. However, with his previous point of marriage being a pre-state institution being false, these comparisons are just a reflection of Weigel's old view of the world. Mr. Weigel, as evident of using his comparisons to Soviet Union, still lives in a world where it is us vs. them. The bipolar world he grew up with is still in his head, and he has carried that over to draw a sharp line with same sex marriage. It begs the question, why would he bring up Soviet references at all? Does relating the Soviet Union with the state allowing same sex marriage (in his eyes totalitarianism) make gay marriage un-American? One can only guess using the old and outdated United States-is-opposite-and-morally-correcter-than-the-Soviet-Union anthesis is his way of saying gay marriage is un-American. If the Soviets did it a certain way, no way are we! Or rather, does he use the Soviet Union to illustrate to unfounded-in-fact possible dangers that go along with leftward ideology? Anything to scare people, right?? That view is not appropriate for the globalized world, and more importantly gay marriage. Obviously, these have no place in his article and just serves to further diminish the legitimacy of his argument.

Weigel states "moreover, marriage and the families that are built around marriage constitute one of the basic elements of civil society, that free space of free associations whose boundaries the just state must respect." So if a same sex couple wants to be marriage, then the state shouldn't be prohibiting it, right? Though Weigel is only seeing his view of pre-state-man-and-woman-only marriage, he consequentially argues against himself due to his narrow minded thinking. I can't really say more, he does it for me!

I would just like to point out, before my final points, that you can replace many of his examples and words and make it an argument against civil rights of all kinds. Just replace his title with "No Racism" and his examples illustrate things against inter-racial marriage, or civil rights for minorities. I am not calling Mr. Weigel a racist so please do not take my comments the wrong way, however, there is a major problem when your argument and logic pattern, with minor diction switches, mirror racist remarks used to go against inter-racial marriages and greater civil rights for minorities. I am just calling it how I see it.

In a concession, I do see his viewpoint in that states artificially making all reality equal is inherently more state intrusiveness in daily life and more totalitarian. However, we aren't talking about making the world "equal". We are talking about a right that should be entitled to a segment of the population but haven't because they have been discriminated against. I am not arguing to make the world equal, I am saying that gay marriage is a right gays should already have due to our legal system and founding documents.

My final points against Mr. Weigel is that he seems to forget that the United States is a nation of laws, where citizens get equality under the law no matter who they are. It is as simple as that. The further where I think his real argument lies is the state legitimizing marriage in general. In the modern world, one gets certain benefits from being recognized as 'married' by the state. Due to the United States recognizing marriage, we also must give all the same civil benefits and equality chance for everyone to get married to achieve those benefits. Thus, since the state gives these benefits to married couples, the cannot discriminate who can get marriages and thus this is where we get into the whole "totalitarian" view. Mr. Weigel, if you don't want the state 'changing' marriage at all then your real argument is that the United States shouldn't give benefits to married couples of any kind. Simple as that.

Mr. Weigel's article hints at a point he doesn't make. The arugement he does make is filled with inconsistencies and irrelevant support. The only way to get the state out of marriage is to stop entwining marriage and benefits together. Even then what you stop same sex marriage? Nothing. The claims of totalitarianism are vastly unfounded as with you examples of the Soviet Union.  I would really like to know if Mr. Weigel has any friends or family members that are gay, maybe then he would be more clear on his real point instead of embarrassing himself as an educator. The United States is a nation of equality under the law, and marriage should not be an exception.