Muslims are NOT ‘the enemy’

I will concede that I am not a typical Westerner, so when I talk about relations with the Muslim World, one must keep in mind that this is the third Muslim country I have visited and that I have dated not one but TWO Muslim women in the past. This is atypical for someone who was raised Christian and taught that Muslims were violent and misguided by nature.

I can still recall my uncle’s mindless responses to the news reports of the Second Intifada when I was half the age that I am now: “Kill ’em all!” I remember questioning the logic of that statement even then, but it was not until a couple of years later that, after being excoriated by older friends far more knowledgeable than I was about the Middle East and Islam, I came to realize the poisonous bigotry that had overtaken me. While it was rather humiliating to receive The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions in the aftermath of that exchange,  I swallowed my pride, started thinking for myself, and realized they had made a good point. They were two of the best and brightest to ever matriculate from my high school, and they remain my friends to this day. 

I certainly owe them a great deal of thanks. It would have been a tragedy if I had continued down that path and cut myself off from 2 billion of the world’s citizens whom I had never bothered to know and understand. I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I had remained brainwashed. I sure as hell would not be studying peace and conflict in Turkey. 

I also want to make it clear to anyone listening who is not as familiar with U.S. policy as it relates to the Muslim community: Do not be so brainwashed as to think this recent wave of violence (namely the regrettable killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya) was caused by some third-rate propaganda film against Islam. That view in and of itself reflects the arrogance of the West, whose concept of free speech extends far and wide when Muslims are the subject of derision but has little to say about this precious liberal value when its own crimes are exposed by the likes of Julian Assange. Has the West honestly forgotten the plethora of reasons that Muslims would have to be angry and, perhaps, murderous? I might attempt to list them here, but I would like to sleep tonight.

Yet, if I allowed myself even to think about these crimes against humanity committed in crusader fashion against an undeserving people, I would not be able to sleep. Whatever enemies the West has in the Muslim World it has made through its own doing. It will not be redeemed until it takes responsibility for its actions, drops the arrogance (coupled with ignorance) that I myself fell victim to as an adolescent, and recognizes that the real enemy is the fear of the unknown — which could be known if one only dared to try — and the guilt and shame that accompanies privilege. True freedom comes by acknowledging the latter and facing the former — it cannot and will not be achieved by hiding behind a flag or a Bible. 


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