Handicapping Islamophobia

Israel/PalestineMiddle East
on 7 Comments

All of sudden two of the usually completely distinct spheres of my life are on the same highway, merging into the same lane. Two days ago my new golf friend Stephanie Wei posted this on her golf blog, calling out a woman golf luminary for posting Islamophobic comments on her facebook page. As I know her, Stephanie is not political, but no fan of bigots either. In the golf world her post was widely picked up. I wasn’t surprised, for there is no American sport whose top players are more Republican, and self-consciously Christian than the PGA tour. At the same time, golf has a (pretty well-deserved) self image as being a realm of fair play and decency in a fallen world. The issue of Islamophobia cuts right into that, teasing out all the contradictions and spinning them about.

As it happened, I was playing yesterday with Stephanie, my wife, and an old friend. Somewhere late in the round, Stephanie and I began talking about the mosque, and I was expounding on my own view that whatever I might have thought about the idea of an Islamic cultural center in that spot, the issue had morphed into the much bigger one of whether the United States would be “officially” anti-Muslim or not, and the world was watching.

Walking up the fairway, my old friend overheard us talking. He said, I don’t know how anyone could say that the United States is anti-Muslim, or what basis any Muslims have for thinking that. Wow, I thought. I replied that we had killed several hundred thousand Iraqis and made refugees of several million more. I added that we had given more aid to Israel than we had to all the countries of the world combined. (That’s a slight exaggeration, I think).

Are you saying we shouldn’t, he asked. Not if they keep preventing a Palestinian state, I said.

We fell silent. It seemed better to drop the subject and think about the approach shots we faced, and the next three holes.

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.

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7 Responses

  1. Citizen
    August 30, 2010, 10:24 am

    Scott, interesting post. I’m not a golfer but I have some friends who are and they are all very clean-cut, intelligent and generally morally and ethically astute people. They too would ask the same question: Are you saying we shouldn’t (so heavily support Israel right or wrong)? And the result is the same: silence, on to the next three holes (or whatever). And you didn’t even mention Petraeus’s acknowledgement that our Israel First policy endangers our troops; nor did you mention the original 9/11 Commission’s specific findings on 9/11 terrorists motivation that were redacted for public consumption to the banality that all foreign policy assumes counterblast. Seems the American “golfer’s” naivety regarding our foreign policy is deep-set despite the axiom that all politics is local. Hard not to conclude the all-American golfers’ are at heart Islamophobic and anti-Arab and/or their noble Christian heritage feels no harm to its heart in continuing the status quo when it comes to the “Israels and the Palestinians,” who are viewed as Hatfields and McCoys. Goes almost without saying they know nothing of the history of the region and what their tax dollars have purchased for so long now. They’d be more upset by
    somebody abusing his dog. And there’s no tie-in whatsoever with any tea party or libertarian sentiments they may sometimes harbor.

  2. Oscar
    August 30, 2010, 11:09 am

    We can’t remain silent, even on the back nine during a beautiful August weekend.

  3. Avi
    August 30, 2010, 11:49 am

    Deep inside, I find it convenient to make a smart alecky comment about weekend warriors and Intifadas on the Golf course, but I won’t.

    Instead, I’d like to point out that the current national “debate” — if one can call it that — has been long overdue. It took 9 years for Islam/Muslims to gain legitimacy in the eyes of many Americans. Nine years ago, one would have been hard pressed to find entire groups of Americans who condemned anti-Muslim hate speech or stereotypes. But, today things are slightly different. Those who deplore bigotry of all kinds have taken on the bigots and have spoken firmly against such phobias.

    This is the time to delve into a sober and reasoned discussion about Muslims in America and their civil rights. This is the time to counter all the bigotry and rumors those which both the media and public figures are propagating.

    The discussion regarding Muslim Americans is no longer confined to Us vs. Them. It has transformed the national discourse to the level where minorities, and especially gays and Muslims, are accepted into the mainstream.

    • Citizen
      August 30, 2010, 1:25 pm

      Many new age Christians in the heartland view Islam as a religion dead set on killing “infidels,” which those Christains define as Christians like themselves. If you give them the Muslim definition of “infidel,” which is not “Christian,” they ignore you.

      • Avi
        August 30, 2010, 2:43 pm

        If you give them the Muslim definition of “infidel,” which is not “Christian,” they ignore you.

        Why shatter an illusion, right?

        I went and saw Inception the other day. The symbolism in that movie is fantastic and it reminds me of the dream-like world in which these “Christians” you mention live.

  4. traintosiberia
    August 30, 2010, 1:31 pm

    One reason of absence of any public smearing of muslim in US in the early part of this decade was the robust integrated attempt by US/UK not to allow to develop any connection between antimuslim hatred and Iraq war. The sheer antimuslim attitude was evident in constant talk of attack on iraq/Iran/somalia/Libya/Saudi Arab and total submission to Israel by the administration. An uprising of public hatred against Islam by media,clergy,and by Newt-Bolton-TV anchors would have brought that connection out in the open. With war in iraq out of public memory and Afghanistan getting nasty for soldiers and economy going south, it is reasonable that multiple forces looking for status quo or prevention of any worsening of their entrenched interest would look for a scapegoat.

    The silence over the fact that the airport securiy in Boston and in Amesterdam are managed by Israeli firms in the media despite two robust lapses ( 911 nad 25th Dec 09) is as defeaning as was the cacophany and muslim smearing over Dubai and US Port Authority deal.Like mosque ,it served the purpose.

  5. PilgrimSoul
    August 31, 2010, 2:11 pm

    “We fell silent.” Indeed.

    A fine, scary bit of Chekhovian writing. Not to make too much out of the conversation itself, I still felt the numbing pain, the way in which the complexity of the issue overwhelms everything. There will be other conversations like that. And in the background, always there, the trauma of the Holocaust–Christian guilt, Jewish trauma and incomprehension, what to do?

    The old duffer on the golf course, no doubt the financial officer of some floundering corporation, I see him as some practical low-church Episcopalian from an earlier world, would say, “Isn’t the easiest way just to give the damn Israelis what they want?” But the Israelis want to torment the Jews of the Jews, who are the unlucky Palestinians. And that means war, this time worldwide religious war.

    I can’t get over the immensity of the change of Jewish values. A hundred years ago Jews had thoroughly internalized democracy and socialism as encompassing their public values–the twin languages of the Left were German and Yiddish. Now, a hundred years later, so much of Jewish culture has been freighted down with the power-worship of the neo-cons, the EXACT opposite of the aspirations of the Left that the Jews of a hundred years ago felt in their bones.

    Does the average neo-con feel in his bones today the same intensity for ethnically cleansing Palestinians that a Jewish socialist a hundred years ago felt for universal human values? I don’t think so. Something has been lost. But it can be gotten back. No progressive movement in history is completely lost.

    As for the Christians, the Realist approach is best, to say in effect, “Okay, put your precious Christian guilt on the shelf for a moment, let’s just try to forget about it for a time, and together we can look at what’s best for everyone. And really, what are America’s interests in the Middle East at this time?”

    If Christians really want to find out where the Holocaust came from, they need only look at their own theology and practices. They’d find out plenty if they looked at these things critically. But they won’t, because it’s too painful. So the ability of Christianity to redeem anything in their lives grows weaker by the day. Pity the old duffer, with his sad freight of unredeemed adulteries and petty thefts…

    Finkelstein has broken the code: Judaism and Christianity can only redeem themselves by understanding the importance of Palestinian human rights–THAT’S the only way out of the hall of mirrors in which the two faiths find themselves. That’s the key, friends–the Palestinian in the mirror.

    And that means confronting Islamophobia, seeing as human the “cruel Turk” who has been hiding under the bed all these centuries right next to the Jew, the two of them waiting to jump out and scare the Apocalypse out of all good Christians–

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