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Old 06-26-07, 09:10 AM   #1
NCMojo
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The Dangers of Islamophobia

Good article from Salon:
Quote:
American goodwill, in shackles
How Bush hardliners and even mainstream pundits have hogtied one of our greatest potential strengths in the war on terrorism.

By P.W. Singer

June 26, 2007 | Winning the war on terrorism depends on winning the war of ideas, perhaps even more so than during the Cold War. General David Petraeus, currently the top commander in Iraq, once said that the war of ideas may be as much as 80 percent of the effort against extremists. Unfortunately, by most metrics, the United States is losing this war, in Iraq and beyond. In a few short years, the United States has gone from being seen as the Cold War beacon on the hill of freedom, Coca-Cola and blue jeans to the dark home of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and orange jumpsuits. Part and parcel of this failure has been a rising xenophobia and prejudice at home, undermining our efforts abroad.

This war of ideas has been raised by almost all of the 2008 presidential campaigns. They have rightly discussed revitalizing our public diplomacy and making changes in foreign and security policies to restore American values. There even appears to be growing momentum inside the Bush administration to close down Guantanamo, though the debate is focused on legal issues in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling last year, rather than on the prison's undeniable corrosion of American prestige.

But there is a critical aspect of this debate that no current presidential contender has faced. While leaders like Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ and even Nixon saw that we would never defeat the Soviet bloc in the Cold War battle of ideologies until we openly wrestled our deep problems with racism and civil rights at home, no candidate yet has wrestled with that period's 21st-century parallel. Just as it was hard to win hearts and minds in the Cold War battlegrounds of Africa and Asia as long as Jim Crow stood strong, it'll be impossible to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world as long as a vapid prejudice against Islam continues to grow in our political discourse and on our airwaves.

The deep and rapid deterioration of America's standing in the world is one of the greatest challenges the United States now faces. It took us most of the 20th century to build up a global reputation that melded both power and popularity, and yet we are squandering it away in the first years of the 21st century. The erosion of American credibility and standing in the world is not just some lost popularity contest. It alienates our allies and reinforces the recruiting efforts of our foes, and denies American ideas and policies a fair shake.

Shortly after 9/11, President Bush took the compelling step of visiting the Islamic Center of Washington, the capital's leading mosque, to show Americans and the world that the administration understood that the world's roughly 1.4 billion members of the Muslim faith were not to blame for the attacks carried out by a small set of murderers like bin Laden. This week, he goes back to the center for its rededication ceremony.

Unfortunately, in the time between, the clarity of his message has been lost amid a politics of fear -- a new sort of xenophobia, targeting the entire religion of Islam, as opposed to extremists within it, has become the norm. For example, a series of broad anti-Muslim statements have since been made by various U.S. officials and their close supporters, calling the religion of Islam "violent" and "evil." Rather than being refuted and condemned by senior officials, they were politely ignored. Illustrating the lack of costs that come with such expressions is the story of Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, who in a 2003 speech compared his faith with a Muslim's by stating, "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Boykin has since been promoted; today he is deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

This quietly growing prejudice is not a right-left issue. Indeed, Michael Franc, vice president of government relations for the conservative Heritage Foundation, has warned of the dangers of "a real backlash against Islam" in the United States, noting that congressional leaders are exacerbating the problem by using language that links all Muslims with extremists.

Such discourse isn't only becoming acceptable in the political world, but is also being stoked in the mainstream of our media as well. For example, in 2005, Simon & Schuster published a book called "Sands of Empire," by former Wall Street Journal correspondent Robert W. Merry. It was reviewed by all the major media. In it, Merry straightforwardly argued that "the enemy is Islam." Imagine if he had declared that "the enemy is Judaism" or "the enemy is the Blacks." Would it even have gotten published by a mainstream press, let alone promoted? Moreover, was he saying anything different than what you would hear on just five minutes of talk radio?

Today, a new prejudice undermines our national security, just as Jim Crow and images of police setting dogs upon civil rights protestors undermined our message of freedom some 40 years ago. At the heart of any discussion of the 21st-century war of ideas must be what former U.S. diplomat William Fisher recently warned of as an "uninformed and unreasoning Islamophobia that is rapidly become implanted in our national genetics." Indeed, a Gallup poll in 2006 found that only 49 percent of Americans believed U.S. Muslims are loyal to the United States and 44 percent believed that the entire religion of Islam itself is inherently extreme. Interestingly, six months after 9/11, the numbers were much lower -- meaning that people had less prejudice back then, even while the pain was raw, than they do today. Likewise, in the 2006 poll, 39 percent advocated that all Muslims in the United States be required to carry a special ID.

We need to remember that we live in an increasingly media-connected world, and demonstrations of prejudice at home resonate globally. Last year, the Brookings Institution (where I am a senior fellow), the Pew Forum and American University sponsored a student research team that went to nine countries and surveyed Muslim youth attitudes, drawing from more than 2,000 interviews. Whether it was in Turkey or Indonesia, the study found a consensus about how youth in the Muslim world -- our key target audience in this war of ideas -- think America regards them and their faith.

As one student researcher described of the interview results, "They think Americans just don't care and think all Muslims are evil or terrorists. They say, 'We get your media and see how you view Islam.'" Added another, "Wherever the group traveled, Fox News was on, and you'd see Ann Coulter calling people 'ragheads' over and over, or Glenn Beck on CNN."

Beck is the same cable news "personality" who in a television interview asked Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in Congress, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies." Ellison equally was welcomed to the House of Representatives by Rep. Virgil Goode, a Republican from Virginia, who warned his constituents that Ellison's decision to use the Quran for his swearing-in was a threat to "the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America."

Ellison illustrated the flaw in that sort of thinking by swearing his oath of office on a copy of the Quran that was originally owned by Thomas Jefferson. But the damage was done. While the attack on his patriotism echoed the same sort of questions about personal faith that plagued leaders like JFK and now Mitt Romney, it extends beyond mere electoral politics. What should have been a story to the Muslim world about the greatness and inclusiveness of American democracy instead became an illustration of how prejudice against Islam has become allowable in American discourse.

The saddest irony in all of this is that this trend is turning what should be our greatest strength into a weakness. The success of the Muslim and Arab-American communities is a remarkable demonstration of the opportunities afforded by the United States of America. The average income and education levels among Muslim and Arab Americans are higher than the national rates, a fact we should be announcing with fanfare in our public diplomacy -- that is, if we had any. This is definitive proof that the United States is not anti-Islam, something that violent extremists like bin Laden often accuse us of being in their propaganda.

America provides a model of what citizenship and integration are all about, presenting an example that shines brightly compared with the autocratic regimes of the greater Middle East. The same is true with regard to the substandard treatment that many Muslims and Arabs face in Europe, which may be the future hub of homegrown terrorism. That America has a history of being the beacon on the hill is not merely something we should be proud of; its use is a strategic imperative. Yet we seem to be on a path to repeating the worst of our periods of prejudice of the 1960s, or even the 1940s.

We all know that hatemongering is un-American. But even more worrisome, it undermines our national security, endangering our ability to win the crucial war of ideas. Those wishing to become the next president must be asked how they will reverse this perilous trend.
I don't want to try and deny that there are elements of Islam that are at odds with Western philosophy, or that many passages of the Koran can be easily interpreted as advocating war or bloodshed. But the author raises a good point -- the so-called "war on terrorism" cannot be fought by dropping more bombs, or by sending in more troops, or by any conventional military means. It is above anything else a war of ideas -- and ultimately, I think the message that we can promote, one of acceptance and liberty and opportunity and inequality, can and will win out against extremists of all types. But at the moment, our current politics and policies are working against us, and we are losing this war, not just today, but for generations to come.
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Old 06-26-07, 09:13 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
Good article from Salon:

I don't want to try and deny that there are elements of Islam that are at odds with Western philosophy, or that many passages of the Koran can be easily interpreted as advocating war or bloodshed. But the author raises a good point -- the so-called "war on terrorism" cannot be fought by dropping more bombs, or by sending in more troops, or by any conventional military means. It is above anything else a war of ideas -- and ultimately, I think the message that we can promote, one of acceptance and liberty and opportunity and inequality, can and will win out against extremists of all types. But at the moment, our current politics and policies are working against us, and we are losing this war, not just today, but for generations to come.
How do you reconcile that view with what has happened in France and England (and the other areas where Muslims are on the socio political offensive) ?
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Old 06-26-07, 09:17 AM   #3
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Not used to seeing these kinds of threads - instead of ending in 'phobia,' they usually end in 'ization.'

I'm not sure I agree with the premise that to defeat Soviet-style communism, it was necessary for minority groups to acheive equal status in the US.
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Old 06-26-07, 09:20 AM   #4
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It is a nice idea, but i don't think it'll work..atleast currently.

As long as wahbism (forgot the name) is preached in SA and spread from there, it doesn't matter what we do. They don't care about the avg income of Muslims in the U.S. The Al Qada want to be groups in Palestine are attacking internet cafes because they don't like the western influence. The American values of money don't matter to them. They see that as a negative thing. Inclusiveness and acceptance from the west isn't what they are seeking. You want to win the heart of that group of Muslims? You need "sanctification" of America. You need to become more "moral." Moral values mean much more to them (at least they say) than inclusiveness.


There is a growing part of the population in the U.S. that is hostile to all religions. Citing polls that say Americans don't trust Muslims doesn't mean much unless you compare it to polls that say the same about other religions
 
Old 06-26-07, 09:24 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Venusian
There is a growing part of the population in the U.S. that is hostile to all religions. Citing polls that say Americans don't trust Muslims doesn't mean much unless you compare it to polls that say the same about other religions

Most of the polls I've seen on that subject (where they ask people whether they trust members of a variety of religious groups) show that the only group less trusted than Muslims are atheists. I think it was a pretty sizeable jump btwn Muslims and the next one up.

Regardless, the most important factor is what the American government does rather than what the American people think, although the latter can have an effect on the former no doubt.
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Old 06-26-07, 09:31 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Venusian
There is a growing part of the population in the U.S. that is hostile to all religions. Citing polls that say Americans don't trust Muslims doesn't mean much unless you compare it to polls that say the same about other religions
I'm not sure I agree with this. If this is supposed to be a representative poll of "Americans", and the poll is done well, then the vast majority of the respondents should be Christians.

Now, if you want to see a poll that compares the level of distrust of Muslims amongst different religious groups, that might be interesting. Would atheists distrust Muslims more or less than Christians?
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Old 06-26-07, 09:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
Good article from Salon:

I don't want to try and deny that there are elements of Islam that are at odds with Western philosophy, or that many passages of the Koran can be easily interpreted as advocating war or bloodshed. But the author raises a good point -- the so-called "war on terrorism" cannot be fought by dropping more bombs, or by sending in more troops, or by any conventional military means. It is above anything else a war of ideas -- and ultimately, I think the message that we can promote, one of acceptance and liberty and opportunity and inequality, can and will win out against extremists of all types. But at the moment, our current politics and policies are working against us, and we are losing this war, not just today, but for generations to come.
Let me start off by saying that I agree with you that it is a war of ideas and I'll also agree that we are losing that war with our policies in Iraq. That being said though, we need to use some military action (specifically paramilitary action) against small cells wherever they exist. The majority of the action against these groups should be intelligence gathering, then hopefully penetrating them with agents or turning one of their members, then some sort of paramilitary action against them (hope to capture, but if not kill them). Large conventional invasions are going to do more harm than good to our cause as it turns the average Muslim who has no beef with the US against us. They should really only be used as a response to aggression, not in a pre-emptive way.
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Old 06-26-07, 10:03 AM   #8
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Nice idea

Practical ???

btw: How do you win a war of ideas with people who believe your are Satan & are hell-bent on your destruction?

I was in Vietnam - I never put much stock in the 'you have win the hearts and minds of the people' idea.
 
Old 06-26-07, 10:17 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by classicman2
Nice idea

Practical ???

btw: How do you win a war of ideas with people who believe your are Satan & are hell-bent on your destruction?

I was in Vietnam - I never put much stock in the 'you have win the hearts and minds of the people' idea.
You're not winning the war of ideas against people who have already turned against you, and are "hell-bent on your destruction". You're winning the war of ideas against the vast majority of people in the middle. You're winning the war of ideas against the fifteen year-old Muslim who hasn't yet chosen a path for the future, whose mind hasn't yet been twisted by hate. You're winning the war of ideas against the middle-class workers in Egypt who send in money to groups that fund the insurgency in Iraq, and the upper class who send in money to al Qaeda.

I agree -- you can't fight an active insurgency with the "hearts and minds" technique. Then again, you also can't defeat an active insurgency with more troops, more guns, more bombs. So what do you do?
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Old 06-26-07, 10:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sracer
How do you reconcile that view with what has happened in France and England (and the other areas where Muslims are on the socio political offensive) ?
But don't you see that as a natural progression of this kind of bigotry against Muslims? The conditions for Arab immigrants in France and England lead to the rioting -- it didn't spring up out of plain air. Shouldn't the approach be to encourage more integration, fewer barriers, more open-mindedness?
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Old 06-26-07, 10:22 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
You're not winning the war of ideas against people who have already turned against you, and are "hell-bent on your destruction". You're winning the war of ideas against the vast majority of people in the middle. You're winning the war of ideas against the fifteen year-old Muslim who hasn't yet chosen a path for the future, whose mind hasn't yet been twisted by hate. You're winning the war of ideas against the middle-class workers in Egypt who send in money to groups that fund the insurgency in Iraq, and the upper class who send in money to al Qaeda.

Agreed, which is why I said I'm not so worried about what Americans say but rather how the US government acts (or doesn't act).
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Old 06-26-07, 10:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
I agree -- you can't fight an active insurgency with the "hearts and minds" technique. Then again, you also can't defeat an active insurgency with more troops, more guns, more bombs. So what do you do?
Follow my advice and you'll lessen the American footprint militarily and lessen the hate against you.

You should promote democracy and moderate values (things like secularism) through diplomacy and aid programs, etc.
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Old 06-26-07, 10:27 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
Good article from Salon:

I don't want to try and deny that there are elements of Islam that are at odds with Western philosophy, or that many passages of the Koran can be easily interpreted as advocating war or bloodshed. But the author raises a good point -- the so-called "war on terrorism" cannot be fought by dropping more bombs, or by sending in more troops, or by any conventional military means. It is above anything else a war of ideas -- and ultimately, I think the message that we can promote, one of acceptance and liberty and opportunity and inequality, can and will win out against extremists of all types. But at the moment, our current politics and policies are working against us, and we are losing this war, not just today, but for generations to come.
At odds? That's a colossal understatement.

It's hard to fight a "war of ideas" when the enemy is cutting off your head. It's hard to promote acceptance, liberty and opportunity when the enemy believes in religious totalitarianism, suppression and dominance.

I wouldn't go to an Islamic country if you paid me a billion dollars.
 
Old 06-26-07, 10:31 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by classicman2
Nice idea

Practical ???

btw: How do you win a war of ideas with people who believe your are Satan & are hell-bent on your destruction?

I was in Vietnam - I never put much stock in the 'you have win the hearts and minds of the people' idea.
Immediately reminded me of this segment from Red Dawn:

Quote:
Colonel Ernesto Bella: [in the now-occupied Calumet, Colorado] It would seem necessary to win the support of the people. As our opponents used to say in Vietnam: "Win their hearts and minds."

General Bratchenko: And they lost, Ernesto... Morale is crucial right now. Keep the men in the secured areas. You'll see how they forget about these "Wolverines."

Colonel Ernesto Bella: [Toni blows up a nearby "Soviet-American Friendship Center."] You were saying, Comrade?

General Bratchenko: Oh, shut up!
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Old 06-26-07, 10:56 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Altimus Prime
At odds? That's a colossal understatement.

It's hard to fight a "war of ideas" when the enemy is cutting off your head. It's hard to promote acceptance, liberty and opportunity when the enemy believes in religious totalitarianism, suppression and dominance.

I wouldn't go to an Islamic country if you paid me a billion dollars.
You can recognize that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims in this world -- the vast, vast majority -- that don't believe in religious totalitarianism, suppression and dominance? You do understand that thousands of people live in Muslim countries without getting their heads cut off?

See, this is a perfect illustration of what we're up against. As long as we continually associate all Muslims with the actions of the fundamentalist minority -- imagine someone interpreting Christianity by looking at the preachings of Fred Phelps -- we're going to lose this war of ideas. And ultimately, that is a far greater danger than the terrorist threat that we face today.
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Old 06-26-07, 11:03 AM   #16
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You can recognize that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims in this world -- the vast, vast majority -- that don't believe in religious totalitarianism, suppression and dominance? You do understand that thousands of people live in Muslim countries without getting their heads cut off?
No. You never hear from them. You never hear them speak out against that. You never hear them say it's wrong. They are silently condoning it.

If one Muslim will kill me on sight, while 50 others stand by and watch, does it matter what the other 50 think?

Quote:
See, this is a perfect illustration of what we're up against. As long as we continually associate all Muslims with the actions of the fundamentalist minority -- imagine someone interpreting Christianity by looking at the preachings of Fred Phelps -- we're going to lose this war of ideas. And ultimately, that is a far greater danger than the terrorist threat that we face today.
Oh, so now I'm the enemy? A peaceful, law-abiding, non-religious person, who has never harmed a single human being. Gee, thanks.

And who is/are "we?" The ones with their heads in the sand, oblivious to the threat?

I don't see it as a war of "ideas." Islam is fighting for far more than ideas. With your point of view, they'll win.
 
Old 06-26-07, 11:26 AM   #17
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I don't buy the whole "they never speak out" crap. Of course they do. After every attack, every leader comes out and denounces it. what do you call that?


The problem is when the "extremists" run the country, like the Taliban or Iran.
 
Old 06-26-07, 11:26 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Altimus Prime
No. You never hear from them. You never hear them speak out against that. You never hear them say it's wrong. They are silently condoning it.

If one Muslim will kill me on sight, while 50 others stand by and watch, does it matter what the other 50 think?
I think that's the biggest problem in this war of ideas. Maybe it's just the media we get in the states but I suspect that's not the real problem. Yes you can find Muslims out there who are willing to speak out against the extremists. There aren't enough of them though and they aren't vocal enough. When the stir about the cartoons happened the majority of what we heard was about the Muslims who were upset/rioting, and very little from these moderates who are supposed to be out there. In the grand scheme of things that was a relatively minor incident. If Muslims want to "clean up" the reputation of Islam they are going to have to work at it/stand up for it more so than they seem to be willing to do now.
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Old 06-26-07, 11:30 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Venusian
I don't buy the whole "they never speak out" crap. Of course they do. After every attack, every leader comes out and denounces it. what do you call that?


The problem is when the "extremists" run the country, like the Taliban or Iran.

IMHO it's not nearly vocal or stringent enough. Part of that is the way Islam is organized. There are very few recognized leaders in the world and the majority of those are on the extremist's side. So far we've seen very little IMHO of the Islamic world out protesting what the extremists are doing. Sure there's some lip service occasionally, but if the extremists can organize tens of thousands of people to protest cartoons why is it so hard for the moderates to organize hundreds of thousands to protest the actions of the extremists (if it is as we are being lead to believe the majority of Muslims are moderates)?
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Old 06-26-07, 11:31 AM   #20
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Indeed, a Gallup poll in 2006 found that only 49 percent of Americans believed U.S. Muslims are loyal to the United States
http://www.galluppoll.com/content/default.aspx?ci=27946

46% of Americans have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in "Church/organized religion".


Not the same question obviously, but similar sentiments
 
Old 06-26-07, 11:33 AM   #21
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IMHO it's not nearly vocal or stringent enough. Part of that is the way Islam is organized. There are very few recognized leaders in the world and the majority of those are on the extremist's side. So far we've seen very little IMHO of the Islamic world out protesting what the extremists are doing. Sure there's some lip service occasionally, but if the extremists can organize tens of thousands of people to protest cartoons why is it so hard for the moderates to organize hundreds of thousands to protest the actions of the extremists (if it is as we are being lead to believe the majority of Muslims are moderates)?
why would they protest? do we as Americans organize to protest the actions of American serial killers? do we as Christians organize to protest the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda?


Some Muslims do organize. I'd say look at the protests in Turkey to keep it secular.
 
Old 06-26-07, 11:42 AM   #22
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Why would they protest?
Why shouldn't they? They say we have it wrong and their religion is being hi-jacked, so why don't they get out there and take a stand against those who are hi-jacking it? WRT the other comparisons it's apples and oranges. The scale of damage done by serial killers and the recognition factor of the Lord's Resistance Army is no where near what's going on wrt Muslim extremists.


Quote:
Some Muslims do organize. I'd say look at the protests in Turkey to keep it secular.
There should be more examples like this IMHO.

All I'm saying is there is a balance that seems to be missing wrt how Islam/Muslims are being presented to the world. Again in part this could be due to the coverage, but I don't think that's wholly it. I agree there is an element of Islamophobia in the country. I don't think it's entirely unwarranted though when all we see is the negative aspects of Islam. It's like those countries that are anti-American because all they see are the "colonial" aspects of it, so we have other programs out there like USAID and Voice of America that attempt to show the US also does a lot of good in the world.
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Old 06-26-07, 11:52 AM   #23
Venusian
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I rarely saw any coverage of the Turkey protest in MSM. Granted, I don't follow MSM very well but any time Fox News is on at the gym, all they show is Paris Hilton or the latest pregnant lady missing
 
Old 06-26-07, 11:55 AM   #24
classicman2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Venusian
all they show is Paris Hilton or the latest pregnant lady missing
Unfortunately - that's what the public wants to see.
 
Old 06-26-07, 11:57 AM   #25
Red Dog
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Venusian
I rarely saw any coverage of the Turkey protest in MSM. Granted, I don't follow MSM very well but any time Fox News is on at the gym, all they show is Paris Hilton or the latest pregnant lady missing

I've often said why would the MSM show protesters when you can show war or Paris or something more interesting to the carbon blobs.
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