Thursday, July 15, 2010

A decade on, the bigots triumph

I was on my way to deliver some newspapers to a classroom on September 11, 2001, when I walked through the newsroom and saw everyone focused on the TV reports. At that point, the news was that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. It was, of course, a tragedy, but a plane had hit the Empire State Building in 1945. These things happen.

I was in the car and about to pull out when the second plane hit and it became clear that Something Else was going on. My first thought was to help kids understand what had happened, and my second thought was "Dear God, anyone who wears a turban or hijab in the USA is in some deep shit right now."

We had just introduced a new educational feature, "Around the World with Nellie Bly," with a cartoon dog doing geography-in-the-news. It was normally a mid-sized feature, but I also had a full page feature that ran Mondays. I pulled that full page, and a version of this piece ran on September 17, less than a week after the attacks.

Then I made this version available to papers around the country, and around the world, and a little over a dozen took up the offer. I thought it was important that people realize that Islam is a very widespread and diverse religion. I wanted them to realize that there are Muslims who have never seen a camel, and who read Harry Potter and who drive Hondas.

Alas, nearly a decade later, the bigots and idiots have dominated the discussion. There is a debate over the construction of a mosque in New York City because it is near the WTC site. Fair enough, but the arguments against it are the arguments of morons. These people are idiots, with no understanding of a world beyond "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars."

This is a jpg but that's what the blogspot interface allows. If you'd like a higher res PDF, let me know. I'm not sure you can battle against what Aquinas called "Invincible Ignorance," but what choice do we have?


Ronnie said...

One of my favorite maps in the world. Recently, however, I wanted the facts and figures on Thailand, which I couldn't find here. Maybe I'm not looking in the right place?

Mike said...

Only countries that are 10 percent or more Muslim are listed here. For Thailand, the numbers are : Buddhist 94.6%, Muslim 4.6%, Christian 0.7%, other 0.1% (2000 census)

Dann said...

Hey Mike,

I agree with the general intent of that edition of Nellie Bly.

But man.....sorry.....but there are just way too many questions about the Imam that is trying to get that Mosque built at ground zero and his support of Sharia law being imposed on the US. There is also reason to doubt his funding sources.

Just selecting that as the site for a Mosque is in simply bad taste.


ronnie said...

Really? All of the area around Ground Zero is a "no-Muslim zone"? No mosques? For how many blocks? How is this not punishing all Muslims for the crimes of a handful?

But Mike, the bigots haven't triumphed. In spite of all the sound and fury indicating nothing, authorities granted permission for the location of the mosque and information centre by an impressive majority if I remember correctly. The morons just get more press.

Dann said...

Oh c'mon, Ronnie. You are better than that. I never said that and I never implied it.

Having re-examined the site map, I've got less of a problem with location.

But the problem with the Imam remains. And their planning committee wants the dedication/opening to occur on 9/11/11.

They are creating a linkage between their proposed mosque and 9/11/01. Absent that linkage, I think no one would have had any comment on the project.

And the problem is that I'm not terribly sure that their project is not free of a different sort of bigotry. Bigotry against pluralism, democracy, and tolerance for people of other faiths.

Were this being presented as a refutation of the extremist ideology that was behind 9/11, I'd think differently of the project. But the Imam appears to be one who says one thing in English and another in Arabic when it comes to important issues; like pluralism, democracy, tolerance, etc.

Mike said...

Explain why some guy in New York who may say or do something intemperate justifies hatred against a religion that includes, for example, the Malaysian artist who designed the Nellie Bly mascot, or people in South America. Why does one small group get to be the default for such a large, diverse nation? You say you agree with the general intent but have a problem with this one group. I said I thought the debate was fair but the bigotry of many commentators was uncalled for. I know you travel the blogosphere. Are you genuinely unaware of the level of discourse out there?

(And watch your capitalization. Don't be yellin' at my mom for stuff that Canadian lady said.)

Dann said...

Sorry Ronnie....I really did mean ronnie.

No Mike, I don't think that the acts of a few ought to justify hatred against hundreds of millions of people. And yes Mike, some of the debate did go well beyond what was needed and/or what should be considered appropriate.

However, the problem, IMHO, [beyond the excessive use of commas] is that Islam has not undergone their version of the Reformation and Enlightenment. For a sizable portion of those hundred of millions of people, imposing Sharia is a fine and dandy cause. They see no need for tolerance of other religions...or worse the a-religious. They see no need to tolerate any criticism of their faith. They see no need to tolerate the idea of women as independent individuals capable of making their own life choices.

Were this project being developed as a demonstration of acceptance of pluralism and tolerance, I think I'd be unconcerned. But I suspect...with good reason...that it will be described one way in English and in quite another way in Arabic.