After the last time he guest blogged for me, I received all sorts of interesting e-mails about how “they” (meaning Muslims) hate “us” (meaning Americans). So I thought I’d let him respond to that idea (Warning: He couldn’t just say “no, we really don’t.” He’s even more long-winded than I am, so this is a multi-part blog). Feel free to parse his pronoun use (I just know this is going to get me on some watch list):

Several of us had a conversation along these lines the other day: the idea that Muslims overseas have a hatred for America and the American way of life, and therefore want to destroy us. This is a commonly used “bogey man” tactic that is played out by certain talking heads in the media. You may recall that just twenty years ago, the Soviet Union and communism was the enemy of choice. The line then, as now, is that the Russians hated our way of life, wanted to destroy us, and dominate the world. I would submit that one should remember he warning of President Eisenhower as he left office: “Beware the military industrial complex.”

The reality, I believe, is that the dissatisfaction that many foreign entities harbor, is centered on US foreign policy and how that policy affects their lives (or at least their perception of its effect). Generally speaking, if US interest did not have some sort of negative consequence in the lives of people in foreign lands, they could care less about what Americans do or how they live.
What we see, more often than not, is a clash of cultures. We have the American way of life, centered around a particular idea for governing and socially indulgent, on the one hand. And on the other, we have a culture that is traditionally conservative and centered/modeled from a religious orientation (speaking about areas that are Islamically dominated).

The dichotomy only becomes an issue beyond a theological/sociological debate when one attempts transposing one ideology over another in a practical sense. With Muslims in America, for the sake of contrast, we observe the constant dilemma of living a life that is at odds with many of the (currently) socially acceptable norms of our society (prevalent sexual immodesty, homosexuality, etc.). Our issues revolve around how we can avoid these things, protect our children from such negative influences, and still progressively/successfully navigate the American landscape as a Muslim. In other words, with the American Muslim, it’s not so much about changing America to fit our needs (any more or less than Christians feel the need to) but rather how we can live as Muslims in the midst of ubiquitous contradictions and still maintain and Islamic equilibrium.

I mean, let’s be real, pit of iniquity allusions aside (which IS an issue), America more than any other place in the world (except maybe Canada), offers people the very real opportunity to practice their religion in a meaningful manner, without the fear (generally speaking) of being persecuted by the government or some group that disagrees with one’s doctrine. A Sunni Muslim in Shia dominated Iran, for example, is not in the most ideal of environs to practice Islam.

America offers a person a viable means of economic prosperity, something that can be a sparse reality in many corners of the globe. So, America for this, and other viable reasons is not necessarily an enemy to Islam or Muslims. And for most indigenous Muslims (and many foreign ones, considering the number that emigrate to the U.S.), this is the perception of America.
The perception of indigenous Muslims of foreign lands, who are on the receiving end of American foreign policy ventures, can be quite different. The best example that I can think of is Saudi Arabia, which has been fairly consistent (though not wholly successful) in warding off some of the less desirable influences of western culture. Saudi Arabia is a Muslim nation, which is to say that its population is predominately Muslim and its government and laws are modeled after the shari’ah (literally “path”, Islamic laws). Islam, to use contemporary vernacular, is conservative in nature. This is to say that Islam is not very tolerant, as aforementioned, of many of the norms that are socially acceptable in the west.

Interestingly, we view this resistance to “American values” as something akin to sacrilege. “How can those people reject our way of life?” Yet if some entity would try to impose an undesirable ideology on America (say, communism), we would literally be up in arms. As if the American way is the standard by which one HAS to live.

[to be continued]

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