Fleeing Mecca

Logo of the network

Logo of the network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Islamophobia in America is not new. It was not even new right after the events of 9/11. It could be easy enough to trace it back to the sixties and the birth of the PLO, and it is accurate enough to do so, but if the truth were to be told, the western world has had a problem with Islam since before the Crusades. We have demonized a faith not too terribly different from that a majority of us are part of for so very long. That othering, however, has taken particular flight over the last twelve years. No where is this most evident than in some of the reactions that Al-Jazeera is starting a news network here in the United States.

When I learned that this news outlet was coming to our country I was overjoyed. Despite the pathetic attempts to tie Al-Jazeera to terrorism, they have proven themselves a dependable source of real news. All news outlets in the US tend toward sensationalism, but AJ has had a bare bones, just the facts, sort of reporting for as long as they have been around. They do not beat around the bush, and unlike CNN, MSNBC, and certainly FOX News, they are willing to challenge assumptions about American exceptionalism. We need a station here that will hold a real mirror up to our lives.  Unfortunately there are some who do not want that.

Twitter feeds and online forums are abuzz with the doomsday prophecies. This is just another nail in the coffin of the American way of life, they tell us. We are conceding to the will of militant Islam, others will claim. They tell us we would not be welcome in the Islamic world, despite the fact that both CNN and McDonald’s are there. Their hatred of this terrible other from the Middle East is self-perpetuating, sad, and more than a little frightening. When we accept that someone is not us, wholly and without question, it is easier to not value their lives. It is easier to not care if they are harmed.

We regularly dismiss the worth of our Muslim brothers and sisters, and even the so-called “liberal” media outlets do little, if anything, to combat this. When two young Muslims injure hundreds and kill four in Boston, we have a month of outrage and continue talking about it in major magazines long after. If a Mosque is bombed, or a shooter kills an equal number of people in an attack on a Sikh temple (because after all, they all look the same) our larger, public awareness quickly forgets.

The attacks on Al-Jazeera are just the latest examples of our culture’s xenophobia. We don’t like it when different ideas, or ways of life, are presented to us. We take it not as an opportunity to learn something new, but as a challenge to our ideas or way of life. This is most evident in our reaction to Islam. I could write a book on why this happens, but is more important to discourage it from happening, and that can be done simply, by taking the time to be open to one another, because sooner or later, all this hate and fear are going to catch up with us again, and the day that happens will be another day of blood and tears, and we have had too many of those.

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