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Culture

Muslims are not Islam is not Muslims

Muslims Not Islam
(from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II42IpzskRI)

From an article at the Zwemer Center, written by a philosopher fed up with popular coverage of Muslim issues:

One philosophical distinction that may help navigate this discussion is between essentialism and nominalism.

Don’t stop reading, he makes it simpler, distinguishing between Islamic religiosity and Muslim religiosity. Ok, that still sounds complicated, but here is the test to see if a pundit weighs forth well on Islam:

  1. Give an account of what the authoritative texts seem to say about a given issue. Quote them as they are without resorting to interpretation.

  2. Describe the various interpretations offered by individual Muslims and groups of Muslims through time.

Failing to take step #1 results in ignoring the authoritative primary sources of authority for Muslims. Failing to take step #2 results in ignoring the history of interpretation of those primary sources of authority and the rich diversity among Muslims on issues.

Still hard for the non-specialist? Yes, I presume so. So here are the crib notes on how each side of the US media spectrum fails (with a special shout-out to you-can-guess-who):

Failing to take step #1 results in understanding Muslim thought as a mere form of individual or cultural relativism, which it isn’t. Now when MSNBC ignores step #1, you can fault them.

Failing to take step #2 results in forming gross generalizations that perpetuate ignorance and prejudice. Now when FOX News or Donald Trump ignore step #2, you can fault them.

Actually, both MSNBC and FOX News fail on both counts, as do many, if not most, of our politicians.

Allow me to take the issue from media analysis to personal kindness and broadminded generosity. Grant Muslims the dignity of belonging to an ancient tradition they strive to navigate in diverse ways. And grant Islam the dignity of diverse followers who cannot be reduced to a single interpretation.

Criticize both freely, as necessary. But do not reduce one to the other. Our identities are true, but they do not define us. Our religions posit truth, but we do not define them. This is as true of Muslims as anyone else.

Should this last thought grow too philosophical, the author reminds us even the professional ones know how to make fun of themselves:

If the distinction doesn’t help you, then chalk it up to another example of confusion about what a philosopher does and still one more example of wondering why anyone in the world would want to do what we do.

Have a wonderful day, once you have set forth the necessary and sufficient conditions for what it means to ‘have a day’ and what could possibly be the conditions for it to be ‘wonderful’.

Smile, but take his words seriously. America, hopefully in correctable ignorance, is taking a dangerous path.

 

Categories
Current Events Jayson

Fox News: Were Christians Tortured in a Cairo Mosque?

Fox News

From my recent report on Arab West Report:

On March 28, 2013 Fox News broadcast an incendiary video report entitled, ‘US Silent as Christians are Persecuted in Egypt?’ It is understood that media relies on a level of sensationalism in order to attract the viewer or reader to a story. Yet this report moves beyond sensationalism to distortion, in which elements of truth are stretched to create an impression far removed from reality.

I watched this report after friends and family brought it to my attention. I’m sorry to say it made my blood boil. Several months ago I published a report on AWR examining if the Muslim Brotherhood was crucifying its opponents, but this alleged incident was reported only by fringe and internet-based sources. Here, we’re talking Fox News! Certainly it is known that the station has a conservative bent, but this video makes it seem as if they are pushing an agenda.

Egyptian news coverage is generally of poor quality, un-sourced, and designed to shape opinion rather than inform. Here, Fox News does its best impression. I have heard similar descriptions of US stations MSNBC, and to a lesser degree, CNN, only from the liberal side. I am fearful the American public has entered an era in which news is meant to entertain and confirm opinions, rather than to educate and challenge them.

I am also dreading this aspect of being back in America for an upcoming visit.

Of course, something very terrible appears to have taken place in this mosque in Cairo, and to a Christian in particular. From al-Monitor:

During the clashes that erupted last Friday [March 22] between the Muslim Brotherhood and protesters in Mokattam, the Brotherhood arrested left-wing activist Kamal Khalil and detained him inside a mosque. He saw a number of demonstrators stripped of their clothes and brutally flogged in the mosque, to the point that most of them lost consciousness. Brotherhood members were using a big whip to strike their victims. Khalil asked the flogger [about it], who replied: “It’s a Sudanese whip. I soaked it in oil a while ago. … A single strike can cut through skin.”

Luckily, Khalil recognized his neighbor from among the Brotherhood members, who intervened and prevented him from being tortured. Yet, Khalil posted his testimony about the Brotherhood’s slaughterhouse on the website of Al-Bedaiah newspaper. Soon after, the testimonies from victims published in newspapers confirmed that they had been brutally tortured. Amir Ayad, a demonstrator, revealed that when the Brotherhood found out that he was a Copt, they increased the severity of his torture, pushing him to the brink of death as they called him a “Christian dog.”

But excerpting from my report:

0:50

Broadcaster leads with words, ‘We were not able to independently confirm this reporting by Mideast Christian News’ which claims ‘Islamic hardliners stormed a mosque in suburban Cairo and turned it into a torture chamber for Christians’

If news is not able to be confirmed by a reputable news agency, it should not be repeated, and certainly not the lead story. At least they mention this detail up front.

Mideast Christian News did not report about a torture chamber for Christians, however, as best I could research following their newsfeed. On March 23 they ran an article featuring testimony from Amir Ayad, a Coptic activist. He related how he was ambushed by the Muslim Brotherhood during the clashes and tortured in a mosque in Muqattam.

Muqattam is the suburban Cairo neighborhood mentioned by Fox News. It hosts the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood and as such was the site of an anti-Brotherhood protest. The administration of the mosque in question publically confirmed that Islamist activists took over the facilities and turned it into a detention center.

A similar incident took place during the clashes at the presidential palace in protest of President Mursī’s declaration immunizing his decisions from judicial review during the controversy over the drafting of Egypt’s constitution. Muslim Brotherhood members attacked a small but peaceful sit-in at the palace, which led into large-scale confrontations between the two sides. During the clashes the Muslim Brotherhood also created detention centers in adjacent facilities, though not in a mosque.

Details and testimony about what happened at both events is contradictory, but it appears likely the Brotherhood or supporting Islamists assumed police-like prerogative to apprehend protestors – perhaps rioters – on the opposing side. Furthermore, there is no reason to dismiss the testimony of Ayad that he was tortured; the article includes a picture of him in the hospital suffering from multiple wounds.

The protest at the Brotherhood headquarters, however, was not a Christian protest, it was political. Ayad, as a Christian, was detained, perhaps along with other Christian protesters. The great majority of protestors, and therefore detainees, however, were Muslim, consistent with the makeup of Egyptian society.

For Fox News to report this incident as a mosque transformed into a torture center for Christians – with none of the context of these recent clashes – is an egregious distortion of a story terrible in its own right.

And finally, showing an element of the Fox News report which is absolutely contrary to reality, and would be known by anyone who spent any time in Egypt at all apart from the pyramids:

3:15

Peters continues, saying Miller went to the Coptic quarter where the Christians live. It’s a shabby slum where they are third-class – not second-class – citizens

It is fair to ask what Miller believes is the difference between a second- and third-class citizen. Clearly this is only a rhetorical device. But it is in service either of wanton ignorance or clear distortion. There is no ‘Christian quarter’ in Egypt or any of its cities. Christians are spread everywhere throughout the country.

Perhaps he was referring to the district of Shubra in Cairo, which has a large percentage of Coptic residents. Shubra is a lower- to lower-middle-class neighborhood, but it is hardly a slum. If it is, it is equally populated by Christians and Muslims together.

Or perhaps he had in mind Heliopolis, which also has a large percentage of Coptic residents, but is one of the wealthier districts of the city. In either case, these areas are characterized by the best relations between Muslims and Christians, as they grew up together in an integrated community. They are far from second-class citizens. They are neighbors.

Please click here to watch the original video, and here to read the rest of my point-by-enraged-point rebuttal (and occasional agreement).