Here is a brief Facebook and e-mail exchange I had recently with a young Muslim. I hope it speaks for itself but still, I can’t kill the professor in me, try as I might so, I will explain nevertheless.
This is a big update from an earlier posting. I apologize for the poor layout of the update below. I am too ignorant to fix it.
Anonymous Muslim #1 (“AM1”) is a young Muslim born in France, from West African parents, I am pretty sure (90% sure). He lives in California. I have never met him. I just know that he is easily bi-lingual. I can surmise a little more about him from his picture on Facebook and from the person who is probably our common Facebook “friend,” Anonymous Muslim #2 (AM2). I know AM2 well. She is an immigrant from West Africa with superior intellectual endowments and a rare energy level. She is a very well-educated young Muslim woman. She writes with ease in both English and French. She frequently uses a third language, an African language that is probably her native tongue. There is little not to like about AM2. AM1’s picture on Facebook shows a determinedly middle-class mien and an intelligent face. I can see how AM1 and AM2 belong in the same social and mental world, superiors worlds both.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I don’t want you to think I pick on kindergartners.
On 7/7/10, AM1 posts a link to a small video on Facebook. It’s dedicated to a sally by comedian John Stewart. (His show puzzles me. I have never, never heard belly-laughs in his audience. All I hear is superior snickering.) Here is AM1’s Facebook message.
AM1 : Christians don’t want mosques popping up all over America because it’s competition. Airdate – 07/07/2010
I am a dedicated social scientist (now of the “pop” variety). Facebook is a useful venue for small, inexpensive experiments. My heart half filled with curiosity, half with mischief, I send AM1 a message:
JD : Many American Christians, and others like me who are religiously indifferent, don’t want a mosque at the site of 9/11. That’s because blood-thirsty morons who proclaimed they were Muslims murdered nearly three thousand people there – including some Muslims. It’s also because Muslims who are not morons did not make enough noise on that occasion and they still don’t. A week ago, Muslims killed dozens of Muslims in Pakistan by fire-bombing their mosque during prayer. Where were the Facebook comments then? What did the great comedian have to say about this?
AM1 : “okay…so your saying do not built mosque? I don’t see why? this is a free country, we’re not in France. ”
The comment about not being in France is a little bit of bitchiness. It’s easy to find on the Net that I was born and raised in France (like AM1 himself). It’s also true that it’s not hard to find that I am not especially pro-France and that I left that country 40 years ago. Below is my very substantive reply to AM1’s response.
JD : Mosques are being built everywhere in America. I was trying to remind you of why there is hostility in many places. In particular, as you may know, there is a request to build a mosque very close to the location of the 9/11 mass murder by terrorists who sure as hell called themselves Muslims. The lack of reaction, or the muted reaction, of people like you to the slaughter of innocent people explains much of the underlying hostility. We are still waiting for the 100,000 Muslims march in Washington to denounce jihadist terrorism here and elsewhere.
The dig about France is silly. It has nothing to do with me. And, by the way, you should know that Muslims keep flocking to France, often at great risk and discomfort to themselves. They are voting with their feet.
Did you hear about the new cabinet ministers of Christian background in Senegal and in Saudi Arabia? OK, I got confused. It’s France that has several Muslim cabinet members!
Why don’t you want this exchange on Facebook where it might be useful to others?
Here is AM1’s email response (not on Facebook) : Jacques, I feel like we going to have agree to disagree, which is why I deleted my response.
I wish you have a good Sunday.
AM1 was given a clear chance by a stranger to denounce terrorism by people who present themselves as his co-religionists, or to correct my mis-apprehension of the facts. He could have done either through the medium of his choice, Facebook. Instead, he chose to break off communications. Why do you think that is?
I have Muslim friends. I have always had Muslim friends. I find much to love in the culture of Islamic societies (as I have stated repeatedly on this blog). The mere fact of friendship matters of course. I am unable to think as I would if I had never had a Muslim friend. Yet, I have never been able to draw one out on the subject of terrorism. I did not succeed more when I treaded more softly than I just did with AM1. I haven’t done any better face-to-face than at a distance.
I think there are circumstances when silence is immoral. This is one.
PS I am letting AM1 know of the existence of this posting out of Internet courtesy. Perhaps, he will correct me or reply in some other way.
H sent this comment by email. I am posting it on her behalf. I have met her, I guarantee she is a real person.
H commented on your link:
“First let me tell you that I had a similar experience with a French born Algerian a few weeks ago, here, on Facebook, in regards to illegal immigrants. He used the same expression as your interlocutor, “agree to disagree” to terminate all arguments, choosing to break off discussion after telling me to stop “raving and ranting” (very macho, the guy, whom I happen to know personally) . For what it is worth, I find Muslims and Arabs born in France far more intransigent and far less tolerant and congenial than their counterparts in North Africa, for instance. It is as if some sort of propaganda has instilled a number of hostile sentiments in them. They no longer have the deep roots provided by those born and raised in Africa and it shows in their everyday behavior.
Second: I am so behind you on the question of mosque building near the 9/11 site, as well as the silence of the Muslim community in America and elsewhere, in general, about the violence carried on by a number of fundamentalists of their faith…. Not enough outrage. it gives the impression that there is a tacit approval of such acts, i.e. silent agreement? That is because, unfortunately, the extremist propaganda has long bombarded the streets and the majority of people – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – have become the victims of such propaganda. ”
As often happens with mediocre fishermen, I had baited the hook for a particular kind of fish and I got another kind instead, a bigger one. Here is my exchange with Anonymous Muslim #3 (AM3) who inserted himself in my Facebook exchange with AM1. I don’t know anything about him except what I reproduce below.
AM3 We are all human beings, our blood is red, and our normals are all the same. Peace begins within each of us. Let us hope that one religion does not assume that it speaks for all. The intention of religion is to instill sensibility and oneness amongst all people in the name of Love and Understanding. All religions have extremists. Take a look at what happened to Native Americans on this land in the name of Christianity. How do you think they feel about having us on their land ? Understanding comes from within each of us. Indeed we are all different, thank god we are all different. Christianity is only 2000 years old, other religions have been here a lot longer
AM3 to AM1 My brother, you are an honorable man who has learnt many things in this life. I have always respected you and will contiinue to do so as I know that you are a man of genuine character and good will. Peace be with you brother. Some people profess to know it all and do not open their ears to listen to others.
JD to AM3. I am glad someone takes the trouble to respond. It’s honorable. First a historical point: If “this land” means the United States, not much happened to the Indians ” in the name of Christianity,” as you say. They were simply robbed of their ancestral property. Hardly anyone tried to put a religious face on the multiple acts of robbery nor on the massacres and other atrocities that accompanied the robberies. Yours is an exceedingly interesting mi-perception of simple historical facts.