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« Overzealous | Main | Henry Copeland: Dan Okrent discovered »

Dec 30, 2003

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Jim Buie

Interesting analysis, and my comments here are six years belated. "The Lord of the Rings" is very popular here in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, especially among middle school and high school students I teach. I'm afraid the history-retold-as-myth -- the triumph of Crusaders over Muslims -- is lost on my students. Not sure I should bring it up: "It's about my religion beating your religion." ;-)

But then Turkey is a country that tends to shatter Western stereotypes of Muslims. Living here, one begins to see signs not of the ultimate triumph of The West over Islam but of Islam's reformation and modernization, so that we learn from or at least respect them as they learn from and respect us.

Back in 2003 when your post was written -- shortly after the Iraq War was undertaken -- the hope I express would probably have been seen as some kind of naive appeasement. Today, after eight years of war, Obama's election and his outreach to Muslims -- visits to Istanbul and Cairo -- one gets the impression that America would be happy to make its peace with Islam. But there are still so very few positive images of Islam in American culture that understanding will probably be a long time coming.

cheripickr

That's all very sweet and utopian Jim, and I'm sure most Americans would like to make peace with Islam,but in case the news hasn't reached you over in Turkey, Obama's preoccupied with a little security matter at the moment

“The failure to detect the plot out of Yemen is focusing attention on the links between al Qaeda's operations there and the apparently pivotal role in the group played by former Guantanamo Bay detainees. At least 11 Saudis released from Guantanamo have joined militant groups in Yemen in recent years, according to al Qaeda statements and Defense Department documents. The extent of their involvement in the plot is now a focus of the FBI's probe.”

cheripickr

Try again- security matter

Account Deleted

Could we get the Turks to admit the truth about this before we go lionizing them as the vanguard of Islamic reformation and moderation?

Also, Turks are not Arabs so Turks would probably not look at the Crusades as a time of defeat, since they were during that time taking Anatolia from the Byzantines.

Like many, I have been dismayed by our cultural path since 9-11. Ed mentions that a lot of the movies from that time were C over I type storylines, but I have noticed recently some of the movies are much more cynical about any type of victory and end up with ambiguity about the role of Americans in the region (cf. Body of Lies).

The region is much too complex for the American sound-byte mind to absorb. I think we should find a solution to the terrorism-breeding problem that doesn't involve our military being in the region en masse.

The history and culture of that part of the world is more than our military can handle. Their sense of history is measured in centuries while our poor minds can't remember past "the last eight years."

Account Deleted

On a different note, this movie was very good. I saw it the week before Christmas. Gives a great insight into modern Egypt and highlights all the different tensions therein.

Ed Cone

Not just non-Arab, but a member of NATO and a would-be member of the EU.

Previously: "By speaking of Saddam Hussein, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Taliban, the Iranian government, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda in terms of one big war, Administration officials and ideologues have made Osama bin Laden's job much easier."

Even easier when we start lumping our allies in with the bad guys.

Jim Buie

Jeffrey, in case you haven't been paying attention, Turkey and Armenia
resumed diplomatic ties
this fall and progress is being made on the recognition of not only the continuing problems of Armenians within Turkey but recognizing the "great calamity" after World War I. That occurred when Turkey was part of the Ottoman Empire, not during the Turkish Republic.

CP, I really don't see what the "security matter" out of Yemen has to do with the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims, and I certainly don't see what that has to do with Turkey, a long-term U.S. ally. Or are you one of those misguided souls who subscribes to the inevitability of war between Islam and the West, and "bring it on," ie a "new Crusade" so that "The Lord of the Rings" can become the new reality?

Jim Buie

BTW, Jeffrey, thanks for the tip re "The_Yacoubian_Building" movie. I'd like to see it. I must say I came away from 48 hours in Egypt recently with a pretty negative impression, which from the link you provide it sounds like the movie reinforces. I saw men fishing in stagnant waters in Cairo, and that pretty much symbolized the whole society for me: culturally stagnant. I don't know how many millions or billions of aid the U.S. gives to Egypt, but I suspect we are helping to prop up a very corrupt regime. That said, if we withdraw our support and the government falls to Islamic extremists, that is also an extremely dangerous development.

cheripickr

Nor does it have anything to do with the notion that because of "Obama's election and his outreach to Muslims -- visits to Istanbul and Cairo -- one gets the impression that America would be happy to make its peace with Islam". America has not BEEN at war with Islam, but with Islamic-based terrorism, (and then only after several years of them being unilaterally at war with us). And it is naive, if if not laudable, to hope that Obama's diplomacy and our "allied" Islamic nations failure to roundly condemn Islam-based indiscriminant slaughter of civilians on our soil will appease that enemy. Nor will "more positive images of Islam in our culture" be an effective strategy for defeating that enemy.

Not trying to pick a fight with you Jim, just thought it was reasonably possible you hadn't heard about the terrorist attack from your current locale, and because of this fresh reminder of who IS still at war with us, that many Americans likely aren't as focused on improving our image among Muslims whom we are NOT at war with as you are understandably are, given that you are living among them. I hope you are having a fulfilling experience and wish you a safe return.

Nosepickr

"just thought it was reasonably possible you hadn't heard about the terrorist attack from your current locale."

Right. He can read blogs, but the camel that delivers the newspaper is sick.

What a maroon.

Fec

I love a proper mocking.

cheripickr

Proud of our own daring are we? A little incognito when stalking the booger-eaters is probably wise for the time being.

Fec

Wrong, chyme boy.

Jim Buie

LOL. I don't think I've seen a single camel in Turkey yet -- aren't many in the cities, as far as I can tell -- though I'm eager to go to a camel wrestling match.

It's legitimate of CP to bring up America's obsession with potential terrorist events, even thwarted attacks. I just hope that in our obsessive fear, we don't drive our allies away.

It is interesting that so many Americans keep repeating to me, "stay safe OVER THERE" (implied -- among all those violent Muslims). The city of nearly one million I live in I daresay feels far safer than American cities, including Greensboro, Raleigh, and DC. Crime seems to be virtually non-existent, in part I must say because there are so many devout Muslims and such a strong sense of community among them. Also maybe because the police aren't noted for respecting Miranda rights. I would describe the citizens of Kayseri as very friendly, family-minded, conformist and obedient. Yet entrepreneurial, strongly capitalist and eager to stretch a dollar, or actually a lira. They aren't "allies"; they are allies; they love Americans. But most of them hated the U.S. war in Iraq and didn't think much of George W. Bush.

(However, last week in the elevator a colleague and I met a Kurd who declared that America "is wonderful (because) it is the home of George W. Bush, a hero to the Kurdish people." He thanked my African American colleague for giving the world G.W. Bush. That went over real well.)

cheripickr

Yes, it is legitimate to be as concerned with "potential, even thwarted" attacks as spectacularly successful ones, especially when the line between the two was as thin as a failed spark between two charges on flight 253. I hope the current administration remains equally "obsessed" regarding the distinction between the two.

Jim Buie

Equally obsessed as the previous administration? Their obsession led to an eight-year (and counting) highly questionable war in Iraq, in which by our actions we probably recruited far more potential terrorists and Al Qaeda operatives than were there previously; torture of suspects; Guantanamo; and the Patriot Act. I'm all in favor of obsessions that save lives; not in favor of half-blind hysteria that doesn't accomplish our long-term objectives.

Was it really possible for a 23-year-old Nigerian to put explosive powder in a condom, stuff it in his underwear, and with a plastic syringe and a spark from a match blow up an airplane? If so, the frisking at airport security is going to get a lot more intimate.

cheripickr

"Equally obsessed as the previous administration?" No, as I thought I made clear, equally obsessed with thwarted, or "potential" acts of terror, as compared to successful ones. You want to frame how we respond to terrorism in terms of past administrations? Have at it. You're in good company.

"Was it really possible for a 23-year-old Nigerian to put explosive powder in a condom, stuff it in his underwear, and with a plastic syringe and a spark from a match blow up an airplane?"
Hard to know. Ditto Richard Reid. Maybe we should give them another try, so in the future, we'll know whether or not to obsess over such things.

Ed Cone

I don't see the point of minimizing the Detroit incident, which posed a real threat of disaster, and without a doubt exposed significant problems in the screening process. We need to learn from failed attempts to keep successful attacks from happening.

That said, one of the lessons I'd hope we've learned is that lumping together all Muslims, or even all Muslims who want to fight us, is a bad idea.

cheripickr

Ed, did you get an unrelated email I recently tried to send you? (Sorry to spam here in case you did)

Spag

Maybe if you would write a post on it Ed as you surely would have if it were Bush, it wouldn't be quite as "minimized". I notice fewer postings these days. Not much to write about I guess until someone comes along and makes a cogent post on how it's all George W. Bush's fault that you can link to.

To bad "Heckuva Job Brownie" wasn't still in charge. I'm sure you'd have something to say then.

Ed Cone

CP -- got it, and meant to reply earlier. Much appreciated.

David Boyd

How does getting 'unbanned' work? Is there an application process?

Ed Cone

A regular Sherlock Holmes you are, Sam, to "notice fewer postings these days." Ask Watson if there's anything special about the last week or so of December that might account for such scarcity.

DB, reinstatement of commenting privileges is at the discretion of the host. Banned commenters tend to try to keep commenting; after a while, if their comments are not overly reminiscent of the sort that got them banned in the first place, I let them rejoin the group.

Spag

I guess I'm not trying hard enough.

Ed, your position would makes sense if you weren't posting at all, but rings hollow when ignoring the biggest story for the past week other than to write a blurb about the new security measures going forward. Not one word from you about "heckuva job Nappy" or any other accountability for a colossal intelligence failure. I strongly suspect you wouldn't employ the "last week of December" excuse had this occurred under George W. Bush. I doubt seriously that any of your fans here could honestly disagree with me on that either.

Ed Cone

The only position I suggested was recumbent.

Happy new year, all.

Steve Harrison

"He thanked my African American colleague for giving the world G.W. Bush. That went over real well."

I know you already know this, Jim, but it bears repeating. Kurds suffered greatly at the hands of Saddam (they haven't done too well in Turkey, either). The al Anfal campaign and sustained Arabization efforts did more than just rack up body counts and displace villages. Kurdish sons were slaughtered and Kurdish daughters were considered part of the government-granted "property" for Arab settlers. It really should come as no surprise this man lionized Bush. I probably would too.

There seems to be some genuine efforts by AKP to normalize relations with Kurds (in both countries), which I think is fantastic. Are you seeing any examples of this?

Jim Buie

Steve, I haven't been an eyewitness to anything re Kurds yet, except for that little encounter in the elevator. I certainly don't blame the Kurds for lionizing Bush. Rumblings of Kurdish independence, carving up parts of Iraq, Iran and Turkey for their own independent state, do make most Turks insecure and nervous -- they fear their country would dissolve into factions, or at the least they'd lose a chunk of valuable real estate. If the U.S. advocated a Kurdish state, we might lose Turkey as an ally. For now the Turkish hope is to give the Kurdish region a bit more autonomy within Turkey, allow its language to be spoken and taught, and account for abuse of Kurds by the police. The Republic of Turkey, a relatively young country, seems to be emerging from the insecure nationalist requirement that everyone must think of themselves as Turks first, foremost and only. Minorities -- Kurds, Armenians, various Muslim sects -- are gaining rights and democratic respect.

Despite the misinterpretation here of my remarks above about George W. Bush, that somehow I was making a partisan jab, saying terrorism is all his fault, I know that history is full of ironies. He could turn out to be right on a number of issues.

As Newsweek recently noted, Bush's reputation could be redeemed if Iraq turns out far better than predicted: "Iraq could still turn out to be an extraordinary model for the Arab world. Its people are negotiating their differences for the most part peacefully; its politics is becoming more pluralistic and democratic; its press is free; its provinces have autonomy; its focus has shifted to business and wealth creation, not religion and jihad. The Obama administration has a window of opportunity to cement these gains in 2010."

Meanwhile, going back to the original focus of this post, Crusaders vs. Muslims, I learn from Andrew Sullivan's blog that the conservative National Review has the audacity this week to defend the Crusades.

Spag

Wow. Maybe we will all have a more reasonable and balanced approach to the issues in the coming new year.

Bubba

".....the conservative National Review has the audacity this week to defend the Crusades."

As opposed to the usual liberal sources' pusillanimity that always sees the Crusades as Christian European imperialism?

It's about time.

Steve Harrison

Sam, I hope so. I think there's a hell of a lot more things we could agree on, if we gave it a chance.

cheripickr

"Wow. Maybe we will all have a more reasonable and balanced approach to the issues in the coming new year."

Top 10 responses:
Do we have to?
I’ll drink to that. NOT!
Won’t that hurt our ratings?
Agreement is for wimps
Won’t that get old real fast?
I’d rather fight than switch.
Will you still hate me in the morning?
Would I have to cancel my Rush Premium membership ?
Don’t construe this to mean I’m not still smarter than you.
Can we still have a “blind partisan ideologue day” once or twice a month?

Jim Buie

We'll leave it to Bubba to defend the Crusades -- the good old days of raping, pillaging, stealing and killing infidels such as Muslims and Jews, since he describes himself as a "practicing Christian and defender of the faith" and at the same time "follower of the leadership principles of Atila (sic) the Hun." Go figure.

Bubba

Buie proves, once again, he has no sense of humor and no sense of historical perspective and balance. We've known this to be true ever since he supported the politically correct fictional re-write of 20th century Southeast Asia history.

Now he's supporting a similar process that portrays the Christian Crusades as evil, wicked, mean, and nasty, while ignoring the reality that this era was motivated in part as a reaction to Islam's own Crusades:

"Westerners—even academics—accept the notion that the West alone was aggressive. It seems that Islam is always innocent and passive. It is difficult to uncover the source of this Western self—loathing. It is, however, a pathology that seems to strike Westerners more than other people around the globe. This anti—West pathology shows up in Westerners' hatred for the European Crusades in the Medieval Age."

Ed Cone

Does anyone with enough wit to grasp the contradictions of the phrase "Islamic Crusade" actually question the historical record of expansionist Islam, from Mecca to the gates of Vienna?

That record is no more in doubt than the Crusaders' own brutality and venality (Constantinople, sack of; Jews, massacres of; etc, etc) or the temporal politics that helped doom their fractious kingdoms.

Numerous and sometimes contradictory meanings and conclusions can be drawn from study of this centuries-long era, but the who-did-what-to-whom stuff is pretty clear.

Bubba

"Does anyone with enough wit to grasp the contradictions of the phrase 'Islamic Crusade'...."

From Dictionary.com:

cru⋅sade

–noun

1. (often initial capital letter) any of the military expeditions undertaken by the Christians of Europe in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries for the recovery of the Holy Land from the Muslims.

2. any war carried on under papal sanction.

3. any vigorous, aggressive movement for the defense or advancement of an idea, cause, etc.: a crusade against child abuse.

So according to Ed, the default definition of "Crusade" when used in an discussion of that particular era of warfare has to be number 1 or 2, as listed above, and it's improper to even consider number 3 when discussing the Islamic contribution.

All things considered, it's pretty funny when the blogger in question posts an opinion that says Lord of the Rings is an allegory of an epic Christian vs Islam conflict, and said blogger then complains about another author's metaphorical use of the term "Crusade".

It's apparent that figurative use of the word is not allowed when it conflicts with the meme being promoted.

We all understand how things like that work here.

Spag

You have to admit that was kind of a Roch-type analysis of the word "crusade" Ed as it was used by Bubba.

Back when I was a little kid in Cleveland, there was a professional hockey team, the "Cleveland Crusaders". They only lasted two years, but I don't think they were playing hockey for the Pope the entire time.

Ed Cone

I talk the English pretty good, and I'm familiar with the vernacular usages of "crusade."

It's the pairing of the word with "Islamic" that strikes me as funny.

There's a perfectly good word for Islamic holy war, one with which we've all become painfully well acquainted -- jihad.

The existence of that word underscores the point that Bob was trying to make -- a point I'm not sure he understands I was agreeing with -- that there is in fact a long tradition of Islamic holy war.

Jim Buie

Ok, Bubba. Do you think it would be well-received if I try to start a chapter of "Campus Crusade for Christ" at the Turkish school I teach at? I'll just tell them I'm using the third definition.

How would you feel if some Muslims set up "Muslim jihad" groups at American schools -- after all, they could say they are only using the second definition of the word, "any vigorous, emotional crusade for an idea or principle" ?

Jim Buie

I've already dispensed with the wacky, retro "fictional rewrite of Southeast Asia history" that Bubba and his cohorts hold onto. They are not unlike the neo-Confederates who maintain a belief in the "war of Northern Aggression" and that traitor Abraham Lincoln.

Now he says the Crusades were not really mean and nasty, denying established facts.

As modern people, do we not have an obligation to view history through a more balanced perspective -- recognizing the excesses on each side, including our own -- rather than "rooting for the home team" -- "civilized" Western Christianity vs. "uncivilized" Eastern Islam?

Surely, continuing religious hatred needs no fomenting -- it is still far too present in places like the Middle East and Nigeria, where suspected airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab could easily have learned to hate Christians, just as many Christians are taught to hate Muslims. It seems to me we should speak out against religious war, easy stereotyping and prejudices, rather than perpetuating them. One way to start is not defending or continuing to romanticize the Crusades.

Ian McDowell

I am on the record as a self-proclaimed Islamaphobe, and while I agree it's usually unhelpful to divide the world into "good guys" and "bad guys," I think Islamic Fundamentalism is the most dangerous and "evil" force in the world today (while Christian Fundamentalism is just as potentially dangerous, it currently doesn't kill as many people worldwide nor oppress women or even gays as effectively).

Having said that, I think anyone who sees the Crusaders of Medieval Europe as the "good" guys is an idiot. Someone like Richard Coeur De Leon has his virtues, as a warrior and a man, but compared to Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb he was a vicious, ignorant barbarian, and so were most of the other Europeans who went to war in the Middle East. To compare our modern soldiers in the Middle East to "crusaders" is to villify them.

Brandon Burgess

You hold an interesting view on this subject Ian.

Jim, I have never heard anyone romanticize the Crusades, at least in person, though I am aware it does take place. The social environment in which I have grown up has always pushed me towards the notion that the Crusades are just one of many examples of how "white" people have ruined civilization. I also think this is an unfair view, just as much so as romanticising the Crusades.

Bubba

"It's the pairing of the word with 'Islamic' that strikes me as funny."

Let's see now.....

A writer who interprets a work of fiction as an allegory: No problem,because it reinforces a stereotype much favored by a particular worldview.

A writer who interprets historical events by using a (accurate) metaphor to describe a documented series of historical events: Horrors! How dare you use that word with the evil connotation to describe a favored victim group!

As far as Buie's usual over the top absurd nonsense in response to what I've said, it's best ignored.

Let him do his little victory dance routine again, complete with the requisite histrionics .


cheripickr

I admire your candor, Ian. Kind of "here's what I think, warts and all". Doesn't require a lot of reading between the lines.

Steve Harrison

Ian, have you read "What Befell Sultan Yusuf" by Beha Ed Din? Kind of a tough read until you adapt, but it's a jewel.

Ed Cone

Ian, you say you fear fundamentalist violence, and that Islamic extremism presents itself as the most dangerous example of religious extremism at this moment in history.

That would seem to allow for the existence of moderate and non-violent Muslims, and to invoke a fairly narrow definition of Islamophobia - one which would include many people who would not consider themselves Islamophobes.

Jim Buie

Ian,

It's easy to be an Islamaphobe from afar, and to believe that religious "fundamentalism," of the Muslim or Christian kind, is the enemy. Up close, it's more difficult. How does one define "fundamentalism"? In Turkey and certainly Egypt, you won't find many people who believe in or have thought much about evolution, for example, and who are disdainful of the idea that man descended from apes. But you can at least engage them in dialogue, and maybe at the end of the conversation they will say, "I never thought of it that way."

You will find many people in Turkey who pray five times a day, and take time out of their work day to engage in religious ritual. You will find many women -- at least half in the city I live in -- who wear head scarves. Is that fundamentalist?

I tend to agree with Turkish Nobel Laureate Orham Pamuk, who told Charlie Rose recently that militant Turkish secularists in the government and bureaucracy do not have enough respect for religion, religious liberty, individual and human rights. Click.

By the same token, there are militant American secularists who do not have enough respect for religion, and politically active Christian fundamentalists who would impose their religion on the rest of society. But we've done a pretty good job of reining in both extremes.

I wonder if Ian approves of the recent Swiss ban on construction of Islamic minarets, the equivalent of Christian steeples, of which there are many in Switzerland? Seems to me it is a clear violation of religious liberty, and the political campaign against minarets in Switzerland was based on religious bigotry.

Brandon Burgess

Jim, should America impose it's views of religious tolerance on Switzerland? I'm not sure that's our place.

Jim Buie

Brandon, I said nothing about imposing anything on Switzerland. They are free to make their own decisions.

It does seem to me that their decision to ban minarets was made out of fear and ignorance of a religion they know very little about. There are few Muslims in Switzerland.

I'm not confident that Americans, if given the chance, might vote to ban Islamic minarets if they could, out of fear and ignorance of a religion that they know very little about. A recent Pew survey showed that only 38% of Americans have a favorable view of Islam, compared to two thirds of Americans saying they have favorable views of Catholics and Jews.

Fortunately, the U.S. Constitution would clearly prohibit a discriminatory ban on minarets.

There is a lot of discrimination against Muslims in the U.S., 58% of Americans agree. (Pew survey)

Last weekend I was talking to a Turkish woman who wears a head scarf, who did so when she lived in America, and she was questioned severely at her children's school in U.S. Her children were asked to report on parents' attitudes and statements about America and about religion.

Brandon Burgess

Jim, you say there is "a lot" of discrimination against Muslims in the US, right after you admit that they are free to practice their religion, even build social/religious centers here in America. They are free to address the public and teach us about their religion, though every muslim (I used to work for a company owned by muslims and worked with many) I've engaged in discussion about religion seems apprehensive about teaching others about Islam. One common response I get is "You have yours(religion) and I have mine, we don't need to talk about it."

I think there is a lot of fear and misunderstanding of Islam here in America, but discrimination? Is profiling in the airports discrimination? I know at the depot, I've seen this person on more than one occassion who is clad from head to toe in black, with just a little slot for the eyes. I don't like that. In my neighborhood, when you see someone clad in all black and a face mask, it means you are about to be robbed.

cheripickr

I'm an ArabIslamoterrorphobe.
That's my story and I'm stickin to it.

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