Radical Prejudice

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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