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Passions in Poetry

Us" and "Them

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Member Rara Avis
since 07-17-99
Posts 8273

0 posted 09-24-2001 04:19 AM       View Profile for Severn   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Severn

To add to AnonymousFemale's post - I'm incredibly concerned about the amount of Muslim-hating, and ignorance that comes with this, in light of the terrorist attacks. In the last few months I've had the opportunity to know quite a few muslims - young adults like myself whose families have fled Iraq and Saddam Hussein's cruel reign - relatively well, and they are all lovely people. That's the key word - they're people.

Which is something many other non-muslim people around the globe seem to be forgetting. Over here - a mosque has received threats of a bomb-attack - then had paint bombs of all things thrown at it. Indian and Arabic people have been far as I know there has even been a murder here. It's disgusting.

What I am interested in is why. Where does this terrible propensity to blame an entire culture/ethnic group or affiliation/religion come from?

Due to my curiosity I decided to do an essay on why the West fears Islam..and thought I'd share a little bit out of a book I'm reading for research..I find these excerpts quite enlightening. I hope you will too.

From 'The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?' by John L. Esposito. (1995 edition).

' Identification in terms of religion and ethnicity can contribute to an 'us' and 'them' outlook. The tendency to view the world in bipolar terms is a human propensity which has always utilized any difference in identity in the process of self-definition, social relations, and international affairs - I belong to this family or village versus that family or village; I am secular versus religious...First World versus Third World. It is fed by a past tendency in our educational systems to ignore other religious traditions and cultures or to treat them as mysterious, strange, foreign, inferior. As a result, both illiterate and highly educated people for different reasons are often ignorant of other traditions. more prone to view them in an 'us' and 'them' context, more likely to compare the ideals of their country, religion or civilisation with the negative realities of anothe. Moreover, a world of clashing civilisations is a world of double standards: people apply one standard to their kin-countries and a different standard to others.'

'Negative images of Islam...correspond not with what Islam 'is'...but to what prominent sectors of a particular society take it to be.Those sectors have the power and the will to propogate that particular image of Islam and this image therefore becomes more prevalent, more present, than all others. The tendency of governments and the media to equate Islam...with radicalism, terrorism, and anti-Westernism seriously hampers our understanding and conditions our responses.'

As far as popular culture goes, here is a quote I think is very astute:

'Muslims are attired in 'traditional' dress, bearded and turbaned despite the fact that most Muslims do not dress or look like this [my friends surely don't]. The result reinforces the image of Islamic activists as medieval in life-style and mentality.'

On the nature of terrorism:

'But what of the domestic threat of violence and terrorism by Islamic fundamentalism? The demonstrations, violence and death threats that accompanied the Salman Rushdie affair, charges that Muslim citizens in Britain, France and America have formed radical networks with international connections...have raised questions about national security and immigration policies. Concerns are reflected in headline stories: 'Holy War Comes To America' [please remember this is written in a revised edition of this text 6 years ago], 'Islam Under Seige,' 'The New Dawn For Islam: The Global Campaign.' For some the question 'Can they accommodate' is often joined to another: 'Can they be loyal and trusted citizens?' While these are legitimate questions, this approach risks painting all Muslims, and indeed Islam itself, as violent, rather than carefully distinguishing between a radical fringe, and the mainstream, those who manipulate and distort religion to justify their actions and the Islamic tradition itself.'

I'll finish this with something I find sadly profound:

Fear often issues in the demonisation of an enemy or threat.

It does doesn't it?

Hugs to all, K

[This message has been edited by Severn (edited 09-24-2001).]

Member Elite
since 08-29-2001
Posts 3003
where insanity meets breeding

1 posted 09-24-2001 07:07 AM       View Profile for Tracey   Email Tracey   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tracey

I totally agree with all that you say. I have an e-mail at the office that was written by an Afghani who has been living in America for 30 years, which I found very enlightening and moving. I will post it here later.

On another thread, I posted the following, which are my feelings on the subject you have raised:

I feel outrage when I hear of ignorant people in America, Canada and elsewhere who are harming and killing innocent muslims in our communities just because they have the same skin and dress as the terrorists. Anyone who has an ounce of intelligence should realize the Muslim religion is one of peace. Just because a sick faction of people have become terrorists, does not give anyone the right to take it out on others. I saw a woman on the news say "Timothy McVeigh was a white American, but no one went chasing innocent white Americans in the street in payback for the bombing in Oklahoma". I thought that was very well put. Another interesting comment came from the husband of a woman killed in the Trade Centre. He said that if people persecute innocent people over this, then her death will have been in vain. I nearly cried when I read that.

I know it is idealistic, but why can't we get rid of prejudism and hate in our world. What a beautiful place this would be.
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea

2 posted 09-24-2001 11:36 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I liked this line:

"As a result, both illiterate and highly educated people for different reasons are often ignorant of other traditions"

Although I'd probably argue that it's the same reason.

When learning another language or another culture, you're in a very real sense inferior to those who speak the language and those who live the culture.

Far easier to live in a sound bite world, avoid understanding difference, and make false generalizations about yourself and others than actually deal with the complexities of living people.

Far easier to be dependent on sound bite theory to justify your own mistakes, "Well, at least I'm not like them."

Far easier to look for validation of your own beliefs than to try to understand someone else's.

Because then you don't have to question yourself and the way you see the world.

Doesn't it all come down to one's own identity?

Member Elite
since 05-23-99
Posts 4277
Coastal Texas

3 posted 09-24-2001 11:39 AM       View Profile for Alicat   Email Alicat   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Alicat

Howdy  K

One thing I've heard repeatedly from the Middle East, from 79 to present, is a jyhad, or holy war, on American and Americans. But I gotta wonder how these people know an American when they see them? Is it based on skin color? We got all shades. Is it based on religion? We got all flavors. Is it based on clothing? We got all styles...including that horrible stuff from the 70's.

How will bin Laden distinguish an American from a Brit, Frenchman, German, Swede, Kiwi, Aussie, Afrikaaner, Spainard, Slovak, Magyar, Austrian, Belgian, Flemish, Belorus, Russian, Croat, Yugoslav? I mean, until I hear someone speak, I have no clue where they're from...and even after they speak, I may still be clueless...and that's OK. But how does he tell? Were all the representatives from over 50 countries killed in the WTC blast Americans by default? Guilt by association?

Now, I ain't saying that all people who look 'Eastern' or 'Arabic' should be singled out. Far from it. If you check Philosophy, you'll see my viewpoints a bit further. It would be nice and wonderful if all this could have been resolved by peaceful means (whatever that is) and encouraging talks. But there is always a time and place for is the time for action, which speaks louder than words, but is harder to understand.

Just some thoughts for now...more possibly later.

Local Rebel
Member Ascendant
since 12-21-1999
Posts 5742
Southern Abstentia

4 posted 09-24-2001 12:47 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Good thoughts here Severn.. and I know you are not an American -- but -- one thing everyone needs to consider is that Afghanastan is one of the few (if only) Central Asian countries where the rank and file (about 80%) of the population has a very strong pro-American/West sentiment.

Our enemy is not Islam or the people of Afghanistan.
Member Rara Avis
since 06-15-99
Posts 7276
Mobile, AL

5 posted 09-24-2001 05:38 PM       View Profile for Temptress   Email Temptress   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Temptress

I have read through this, and although it is much too overwhelming to comment on at this time, I do have this to say.

I was talking to my husband the other night how most people hate in such a general way is because they don't realize that ALL religions have their hipocrits. It seems like some only associate that word with the Christian religion, but really all religions have them don't they? Muslims are not a harmful group, but there are those who are the hipocrits of that religion who don't follow the right path? Maybe my understanding is too basic for this, so I hope I don't bore anyone with my thoughts. Does anyone agree or disagree? LOL! or even understand what I'm saying?  

Sometimes the heart needs the solace of solitude and silence.

Titia Geertman
Member Ascendant
since 05-07-2001
Posts 5297

6 posted 09-24-2001 05:51 PM       View Profile for Titia Geertman   Email Titia Geertman   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Titia Geertman's Home Page   View IP for Titia Geertman

No one should judge a whole group on the deeds of some mad individuals.
In my opinion someone who does that is just as bad as those mad individuals.

So, this horrible deed, done by some insane Muslims, doesn't make all the Muslims bad.

People who think this way should honestly be deeply ashamed and I despice them as much as I do those mad individuals.


A rose is a rose is a rose...I guess...
Feel free to use the pictures on my website.

Member Elite
since 02-29-2000
Posts 3797

7 posted 09-24-2001 10:47 PM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

I'm just a person. I am not afraid...nor ashamed to say that I have no Idea what origin or race runs through my blood.

It could be Irish, Portuguese, French, Malaysian, Arabic, Italian, African, German, Cherokee Indian, Chinese...etc. ???? Your guess is as good as mine.

I cannot tell you how I arrived at this color. Milk White and Red Headed. My parents are both Black headed, with my father seeming of a very dark indian/middle eastern olive skin. I am as white as snow and when I stand next to my sister....She is as dark as the night. But yet we look alike! And I find it very confusing what difference it makes that I tell people what my known origins are. Or what exact religion I am.

I am intelligent enough to know I cannot pinpoint my exact origin without lying about it. And I feel that a very high percentage of the rest of us can't either. Oh.. you might trace back into an ancestrial lineage that relates you to some Emperor or Ruler. But what about when the history stops? Then where or what are you?

But really....Who are you now? (A Person ???) who would like to eat their favorite snack, read a great book, learn an not a career...or lay around like a lizard! Celebrate an event...have an argument with your spouse..and Make UP!!!Have a family for goodness sakes! Play a game....kiss your child's sleeping head...Count the stars...sing a song...bow your head in prayer to whatever faith you have! Have a chance to say you're sorry for being meet someone grow old with someone...I know I could go on forever!

I cry for the people killed in hatred that will never get the chance to do any of those things anymore. No matter what color or faith or creed!

Because whether you are Muslim or A back woods Snake Handler....No body has the right to single you out! Or else we'd all have to pack up and join the ranks of whatever race you think you are and whatever religion that Accepts your interpretation of its faith and go live ON ANOTHER PLANET. And make sure you find the planet that most closely resembles what your God created.
Okay who's first?
There has got to be one rocket scientist among the redheaded, freckle faced, God Loving, OREO fanatical folks on this planet. Oh... that also means I can't take my Children...Because Neither of them look like Me! And they are free and able to choose their own belief. And God help my husband...He Looks like Bill Clinton! Sarcasm folks... but I'm sure you get the picture.

All the rationalization and intellect in the world boils down to one simple thing. THE POT! And we all have to live in it.

I believe violence of any kind has roots. Inferiority. Inferiority can be twisted up into great hurricanes of hate. All things then spin out of control.

[quote]"In Germany, they first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic. Then they came for me -- and by that time there was nobody left to speak up."
-Martin Niemöller [quote]

Someone that believes that they are inferior, believes everyone should be. And will go to any length to prove it.

Thank you for posting this Severn. You are a good person.

[This message has been edited by rwood (edited 09-24-2001).]

Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea

8 posted 09-24-2001 11:18 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad


You can tell an American by the way they move and the facial expressions they make.

It's not perfect but it does work remarkably often.

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