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I received an email from a family member entitled “A German’s View on Islam”. It’s a hoax email, but I didn’t know that until I did further research. If anyone is interested in the contents of the email that was sent to me, those contents can be found here:
I put a lot of thought into the response I emailed to my family members, however, and thought I should post my thoughts here because the topic and subsequent discussions still seem relevant.
This is a slightly edited version of the email response I sent to my family members:
I, too, was disappointed when I read this email. I wouldn’t say I was “shocked” because I’ve heard a lot of this before. The “no go zones” stirred up a lot of controversy when Bobby Jindal talked about them, and then defended his statements on CNN. At the risk of getting into an all-out war with everyone, I’d like to share my thoughts. Please remain civil. Attacking each other is not going to help anything.
I read this a few minutes after it was sent out, and had an immediate reaction, but I was watching the State of the Union address, so I thought I’d wait to respond. Then I thought it might be best not to respond, but since I see others have already done so, I will.
I was immediately intrigued by a sociological examination of current Muslim terrorism. (To be clear, I’m in no way saying all Muslims are terrorists or that we should “kill” Muslims–or terrorists. Extrajudicial killing, though usually done for practical purposes, adds to the problem.) My first thought was that the timeline must be off. An aristocrat pre-Nazi power? The fact that this person would still be alive and writing articles is not impossible, but surprising. I understood this man as saying he was a well-established businessman by the 1930s. I would think this would make him at least 100 years old today. I didn’t do the research Robin did, so I can’t tell you who Emmanuel Tanya [as it appeared in the email–his real name was Emanuel Tanay] is, or who this story/email originates from.
[I later did do the research.]
I have no reason to doubt the idea that many Germans rallied behind a renewed German nationalism or that much of the population didn’t follow as close attention to politics as it should have. My issue comes with comparison of Nazi Germany to not only today’s situation of global terrorism, but to situations unrelated to either in recent history. It’s very sexy to compare any situation to Nazism. Heads of majority Muslim countries that support terrorist organizations within their own borders (and without) are not Hitler, just as terrorist cells are not comparable to the early Nazi party. I think it does a tremendous disservice to all of the victims of extreme violence, tribal warfare, ethnic cleansing, and genocide to lump them all together. There are unique causes and conditions that occurred in Rwanda, the Balkans, China, Japan, etc. The barest of similarities can be made with the rise of Nazism and the subsequent genocide that occurred in Germany. Yes, ethnic and religious hatreds exist around the world, unfathomable acts of barbarism are practiced in an effort to gain and maintain power, and runaway ideology used as a justification for almost anything did not end in Germany in 1945. If we conflate every conflict, we misunderstand history and have even less chance of effectively mitigating the worst situations. It is pure ignorance to say ISIS or Al Qaeda or Boko Haram or any large terrorist organization of the moment is tantamount to the Nazi party. I’m not trying to diminish their threat or barbarism, but there are so many differences that I don’t think it’s a useful or proper comparison.
That those who scream the loudest or instill the most fear often get the most attention is not something I will dispute. Have terrorists overwhelmed the “silent majority”? I would say this is not true in every case, but yes, they pose significant threats to the very lives of those who live near (or more unfortunately, under) them. Ask anyone who has escaped from ISIS-controlled territory. The idea that those around them, the “moderate Muslims”, or, in this case, “peace-loving Muslims” should call out the poisonous apples in their ranks is an attractive one. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if everyone said “not in my name” to the point that their civil views drowned out the hatred and suicide bombings and maiming and beheading and stoning executed by the extremists? 1. Try doing this in a country where blogging your dissent can get you 1,000 lashes. (This happens in Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, that practices its own form of extremism.) The new head of “Charlie Hebdo” was asked how he felt about the cartoons of Mohammed drawn by his magazine staff not being shown in much of Western media. He said that he very much understood the threat posed by those living under authoritarian regimes and in places where free speech is hindered and “insulting the Prophet” can result in death. He did not encourage people to “stand up” in the face of such retribution. He did say, however, that he believed those who live in so-called “democratic” countries with stronger free speech protections were cowards for not showing the cartoons. I mention this because whatever your view on this, the point I’m making is that we tend to assume it’s just as easy for people around the world to openly “stand up for what is right”. It’s not. Perhaps the author is arguing that those who were silent let things get to this point. I’m not sure that’s entirely fair either. 2. It’s a nice idea, but will the terrorists just decide that violent jihad is no longer a good idea because most people wag their fingers at them? It’s a nice sentiment, but I doubt there’s significant merit to it. 3. Why should every member of a group be responsible for the actions of every other member of that group? Are we not all individuals? (“The Daily Show” made this point very well about 2 weeks ago.)
I’m not a proponent of any religion. I think passages from the Qu’ran as well as passages from the New and Old Testaments are despicable. There are extremists who will follow these tomes to the letter, including many Muslims. This is real and it is dangerous. I don’t have a solution that will address all of the root causes of the upswell in Muslim terrorism and extremism.
I do not agree that this email calls for the killing of all Muslims. I know there have been several instances of controversy regarding the Lord’s Prayer being shafted in favor of Muslim prayers at major institutions. I can’t speak to the validity of this claim. While I would like separation of church and state to actually exist, religious freedom should be extended to all. No group should be favored and allowed to practice if another is not.
The email mentions the dangers of labeling food as halal. Does anyone care if it’s labeled kosher? These labels mean nearly the same thing. (Muslims shopped at the Jewish market that was recently attacked in Paris!) I suppose this is an attempt to warn Western nations of the infiltration of their societies by especially motivated and mobilized outsiders. Instead of looking at this development as one toward greater unity and understanding, there are those who see it as a threat to their very existence. I do not condone any system that treats women and minorities as lesser, that puts religion above the safety and wellbeing of others, whether this is a perversion of the religion by some or not. Ooh, an imam supervised the baking of a chocolate bar. That’s really symbolic. Forget real terrorism. Now we should all be cowed.