Radical Prejudice

In the midst of our 'War on Terror,' can we tell the hype from reality?
Suzanne Lindgren Utne.com
November 23, 2006


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We often can't detect the persuasive nature of messages that envelop us in times of war. But watch a 1980s American documentary about the Soviet lifestyle and you'll likely snicker at the seemingly transparent Cold War ideology. World War II era artists and filmmakers like Leni Riefenstahl are now notorious for their uncanny knack of making regressive politics seductive to their contemporaries. And since 9/11, fear of the terrorist -- as embodied by the image of a devout Muslim -- haunts many Americans' daily existence.

The repercussions of this radical-Muslim stereotype were evident on Nov. 20, when six Muslim imams were removed from a US Airways flight at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. According to a BBC News report, the Islamic religious leaders were forced to de-board the plane after a passenger reported 'suspicious activity.' Several news outlets have reported the speculation that the men's performance of evening prayers is what caught the passenger's eye -- an assessment that spurred the Council on American-Islamic Relations to worry that the episode was a product of 'anti-Muslim hysteria.'

Perhaps such reactions are predictable, given the political climate, but they are also under-informed. A recent Gallup World Poll has concluded that Muslims who thought the Sept. 11 attacks were justified are no more religious than those who did not, write John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed in Foreign Policy. Nor are they poorer, less educated, or less optimistic about the future. In fact, 'radicals' make more money, have attained higher levels of education, and harbor more hope for the future than do 'moderates.' And though President Bush alleged that terrorists hate freedom, the poll shows that '[b]oth moderates and radicals in the Muslim world admire the West, in particular its technology, democratic system, and freedom of speech,' claim Esposito and Mogahed. The authors reason that instead of Islam breeding radicals, terrorists threatened by a sense of Western imposition on their culture probably 'hijack Islamic precepts for their own ends.'

Go there >> Six Imams Ejected from US Flight

Go there too >> What Makes a Muslim Radical?

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