Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Don't Say Moderate Muslims

I had planned to write about the string of events that made up my weekend.  An Iftar dinner on Friday night, where I shared a table with an Evangelical pastor and a Mormon family and the President of Al Salem, a mosque community in Carmel, IN.  An interfaith community sharing the breaking of the daily fast with 300 people in a school gymnasium that for the evening served as an Islamic community center.  Our Congressman, Andre Carson came and spoke briefly about his continued commitment to diversity and prophetically mentioned the LGBT community as an expanded view of how Muslims in America should strive to continue to embrace diversity.  On Saturday night my 10th grade performed their cantata on diversity in the microcosm of their class with a variety of differences that can both be seen and not directly in the class.  Part of our Shavuot celebration the students rose as one but expressed their joy of being individuals among the oneness of their class, their Judaism and their country.  So Sunday morning came as a kick in the head.

Sunday was our anniversary and so I made breakfast for Dianne.  I take my time with it and so I didn't even check my phone until later when I expected to watch the Sunday morning news shows. (a guilty pleasure for me when I don't have Religious School).  I was shocked at what I saw and continued to be shocked by as I processed the fact the so many had been killed by a lone gunman, attacking people at their most vulnerable and at a place of fun and joy.  But that was the start of it all.

From the jump there was a clear attempt to get political gain from this tragedy and I watched as people like Donald Trump seemed to wish it was a Muslim who did this.  When it turned out it was he took a virtual victory lap.  Now that is sickening in and of itself but since he has lied about the gunman saying he was a foreigner, (he was born in New York) that he was sent by ISIS, (he wasn't even on their radar though they claimed him in hindsight) and he went so far as to suggest that the President of the United States was somehow involved.  His despicable rhetoric is terrible and rightfully attacked but that wasn't the worst of it.  He is a foul-mouthed bigot who while the leader of the GOP for the next few weeks, (Cleveland will be interesting) it is the others who try appearing anti-terrorist and say ridiculous things out loud, in front of people.

So a little tutorial.  The fundamental nature of ISIS or ISIL or DEISH is not religious but political and it is not Islamic.  Let me be clear, they use Islam in the same way that the kings of the middle ages in Europe, Slavers in the Americas and the Apartheid governments of South Africa used Christianity. Twisted and turned to the point where it is believable that it comes from a place of faith but we all know that they are simply deranged by the lust of power and control.  Actions they take do not adhere to the teaching of Islam though often fit the cartoon notions of the uninformed masses who fear the other.

Now, days after the attack in Orlando, we are finding out more about this supposed militant Muslim. It turns out he may have been struggling with his own inner demons as a closeted gay man.  He may well have been more motivated by his own self-hate and saw the last minute allegiance to the ISIS ideology as a way to give his life meaning.  We don't really know but he was certainly not a trained fighter for the cause.  But that won't stop the nonsense that will fill our Facebook feeds and  Twitter streams and more and more the daily news.

So let's start pushing back.  Let's hold people fully accountable for what they post, say and do online. Let's call, write and respond to news people who pass along nonsense as fact and give forums to the conspiracy nuts, even if they are a major party's nominee.  Let's start with putting to bed the term MODERATE MUSLIM.  There are Muslims, and there are Muslims who act out in non-Islamic ways that pervert the culture and religion of Islamic people today.  Much like there are Christians who kill and applaud killing of certain people, and Jews and probably Hindus and Wiccans etc. etc etc.  No one I know calls the local pastor a moderate Christian because he isn't part of the Christian Identity movement so why should we call the local Imam a moderate simply because he isn't a terrorist.  It is unacceptable for that to be the narrative.  It presupposes that any Muslim you meet is a terrorist unless they prove otherwise.  That, by definition, is bigotry.  Yet there it is.  Language defines culture, it always has.  When we name something then it gives it the power of the name. By the way, that is why President Obama chooses carefully how he refers to terrorist organizations but that if for another time.  We will not solve the problems of those using Islam as a sword unless we have Muslim help and we won't get that if we live in an us/them culture.  One of my good friends is a devote Muslim and another is a man whose practice of Islam means giving up alcohol during Ramadan.  Neither is a terrorist and both are funny, wise, family men and on opposite ends of the political spectrum.  I would never say the way they walk in this world is moderate.  They are truly part of the many faces of Muslim Americans who cannot and will never be part of any organization that thinks killing is the answer to differences.  Though both have sharp tongues when needed and one makes a living off of his.

Remember, the attack in Orlando, tragic, worst of its kind in our history and devastating because the attack was on a community that regularly suffers the bigotry of many was not the only attacks even in Orlando.  A man shot and killed Christina Grimlee a few days before in Orlando and was armed to take out others but was stopped and killed himself.  Another man was traveling with explosives and guns from Indiana and when arrested said he was going to LA's Gay Pride parade.  Hate comes in many stripes so we should be aware that when we choose to look at only one kind of hate, we choose not to see all the others.

The world is more connected than ever before in history and with the power to reach out we must push back against the perpetual rage machine that promotes the bigotry that has become mainstream. So let's start by challenging those that seem to think that if you are Muslim and not a terrorist then your Islam's description must some how be modified.  Let's start calling those Muslims who pervert the faith with a moniker that steals away the Islamic title they so desperately want to own as the only form of Islam.  I am open to suggestions but for me they are simply bloodthirsty thugs.  And Friday night, as people welcomed me, thanked me for joining them, fed me and acknowledged my presence from the stage I was with the real Muslims.  The Muslims who matter and make up the vast majority of the world's Muslim population.  That is what matters.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Are We Finally Going To Be Able to Talk About Rape

Brock Turner, a former Stanford student and athlete, was convicted of felony sexual assault.  A possible prison sentence turned into a sentence of six months of jail time and three years probation because the judge thought prison would be too difficult and screw up the rapist's life.  The rapist's father referred to the assault as "20 minutes of action" as opposed to the rest of his life when he wasn't raping unconscious women.  This has sparked, rightfully so, outrage.

Let me be clear, 30 years ago as a peer sexuality educator I did workshops on campus rape.  This has been an on-going problem.  Young men will tell you that it is difficult to know sometimes when a woman means no, that they send confusing signals, that they appear to be asking for it.  Men are also taught it is their job to get her ready and to convince her to have sex. (think about how society teaches men about their role in sexuality or listen to Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke) But here is a simple rule. If the person you are having sex with can't respond to simple questions, open their eyes, or enjoy it because he or she is unconscious it is rape.  What this rapist did is not something that can be mitigated by circumstance, he was in the middle of raping a woman behind a dumpster and was caught.  His so-called 20 minutes of action was crime, a terrible crime, and the judge in this case basically said to the world and especially to women that men are gonna rape you and you should get over it.

You can argue that alcohol was involved and the rapist's judgement was impaired.  In college the drinking age was not yet 21 and there was a lax attitude toward drinking on campus.  My first job was pouring beers as campus events.  I, and none of my friends, ever were drunk enough to not see a passed out girl as someone who was consenting and if we were the alcohol would be an inhibitor to actually being able to engage in sexual intercourse.  Frankly the few times that rumors came up that a guy was trying to get with a drunk girl my friends clearly saw it as wrong. But for others, it is part of the college life that we have come to expect.

So why don't we talk about it more?  I think because we don't want to acknowledge or give energy to the fact that young people, living together, unsupervised will find each other attractive and engage in sexual behavior that is often outside the context of a relationship.  Should they or not is not for this discussion.  They do.  How they interact with each other and respect each other in the process is what is key.  But when we talk about rape prevention so often we talk about it in the context of women learning self-defense, not walking alone at night, even not drinking alcohol at a party.  We have to start talking about the fact that women are not the problem here.  This rapist took advantage of a woman who was doing exactly the same thing he was, having fun at a party.  Did she drink too much?  I don't know.  Was she dosed with something?  I don't know.  What I do know is that I want to live in a society where a person can make a mistake and get drunk and that doesn't make him or her available to anyone who wants to sexually assault him or her.

Every time a rapist, like this guy, is treated like the victim of his own actions or I hear someone say that he has suffered enough doesn't understand the situation.  The judge and his father sound like monsters to most of the world.  As well they should.  I find the judge to be an accomplice after-the-fact, running cover for this rapist.  But maybe it sparks a better conversation, Maybe we can now see that we have to talk about this in a more holistic context.  Maybe we won't be so quick to judge women who drink, wear thongs, dance suggestively, or simply have a foul mouth when they are raped.  Maybe we won't try to prevent rape by simply trying to lock up women or forcing them to take on the responsibility of the actions and maybe we can see that the justice system has been so devastating toward women so often in rape cases.  Maybe we can have a national discussion.  Thirty years ago we did workshops to show this.  I fear we wasted a generation.  I am moved by the outrage over this miscarriage of justice and mercy.  But outrage feels good, action does good.  Talk to your children about appropriate behavior.  Talk to your schools, houses of worship, sports coaches, anyone to help change the narrative.  Women should not have to wear chastity belts to avoid being raped when they want to have fun at a party.  And men should know that if the woman can't talk she didn't say yes.


The Current Has Been Torn Away

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