Ignorance and Religious Bigotry

The University of Houston student newspaper reported last week that a customer confronted a husband and wife who wanted to dine at a Houston restaurant recently, calling them “terrorists” and demanding that management not serve them. The couple had committed no crime. They were simply Arab-Americans. Sadly, the newspaper reports, neither customers nor management came to their defense.

On the heels of the controversy over a proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York City, there has been a notable growing surge of anti-Muslim bigotry (including reports of violence and vandalism) around the country. Muslim community leaders have pleaded that fellow Americans learn true information about Islam rather than rely on stereotypes and smears promoted by irresponsible politicians and pressure groups that use faith as a weapon to divide us.

At the very least, this is a worthwhile suggestion in a global society and economy. According to  Pew study last year, there were nearly 1.6 billion Muslims around the world in 2009 — almost a quarter of the world’s population. Estimates of the Muslim population in the United States vary greatly. The Pew report put the number at 2.5 million. (See other estimates of the U.S. Muslim population here.) It would seem helpful, then, if Americans knew more about Islam.

But apparently many Americans have even more basic religious homework to do. Another recent Pew study reports that many Americans are remarkably uninformed about religion generally, including the teachings of their own faith. (You can take a Pew quiz about your religious knowledge here.)

This widespread ignorance of the basic traditions and beliefs of major religions certainly may contribute to religious intolerance in many forms. Unfortunately, the Texas State Board of Education isn’t helping here. Last month’s state board resolution attacking Islam is a case in point.

The resolution charged, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that social studies textbooks have an anti-Christian/pro-Islamic bias. In addition, the measure claimed that wealthy Muslim investors are buying into publishing companies in an attempt to spread pro-Muslim propaganda to American students. The resolution’s backers offered an appendix of supporting materials that claimed the Dubai royal family was a major shareholder in one textbook publishing company.

Yet about an hour after passing the resolution, embarrassed board members (or are they really capable of embarrassment?) had to pass an amended version of it. A San Antonio Express-News editorial reports that “the board had to vote later on a revised resolution when it became clear that a Dubai-based investment firm, not the royal family, no longer had a stake in the controlling group of the publisher.”

Board member Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, had argued against the resolution’s passage in the first place, explaining that it included a variety of inaccurate information. He asked: shouldn’t a resolution calling on textbooks to be accurate actually be accurate itself? Seems reasonable, to say the least. Yet the board’s far-right faction insisted on passing it anyway. Why? Because far-right board members were more interested in promoting fear, ignorance and religious bigotry than in educating Texas schoolchildren — par for the course with that gang.

10 thoughts on “Ignorance and Religious Bigotry

  1. I dine often at La Madeleine. It’s cuisine is sort of French, and caters to customers not ordinarly associated with overt buffoonery. I have, however, seen a number of sn*t kickers stomp out of the restaurant muttering about candy ice, fancipanz, and other grunts denoting the superiority of the stupid, banal, and vapid.

    It would be appropriate for students in the area to make one’s displeasure known, or inversely, Muslims should gather in numbers sufficient to be noted as such.

  2. Dan Quinn may delete this post, but I have to try this anyway because this is a true story, and it somehow seems apropos to the original TFN story in this thread as well as to the extremely conservative Republican Bubba boys in the area of the nation where I live.

    I am just trying to remember whether I heard this on a local conservative talk radio show or some other venue. It also dovetails with the fact that I am a stamp collector who has long-appreciated African colonial postage stamps from the early 20th century, including those from the country of Niger. The river there is called the Niger River. And I don’t care what the news media or dictionary says, it is not pronounced “kneejehr.” Stamp collectors know it is pronounced “Nyjer.” You need to know just one more piece of background information before we get started. The local boys in my area have their own perpetually repeated overture statement to anything that TRULY surprises them. That overture is always spoken through the nose, with the eyes squinched tightly around it, rather than through the mouth. You can practice some yourself before we really get started if you like. Here is the overture:

    “Do you mean to tell me…?” Try it!!! Through the nose. “Do you men to tell me…?”

    Okay. Here is the story:

    This redneck from out in the country was listening to a conservative talk radio call-in show when the conversation turned to the African continent. The subject for discussion was a news event that had just happened in the African nation of Niger. The redneck suddenly freezes in his chair and feels compelled to call in to the show. The radio host takes his call, and the redneck on the phone asks the announcer a question, “That country you are talking about—that there Niger—can you tell me how that’s spelled?” The announcer said, “Why sure. It’s spelled N-i-g-e-r. They have a big river there by the same name.” Then you encounter a rather long period of stunned silence on the call-in line, and the redneck conservative decides to speak his mind through his nose—with the classic overture of course. Here it is, and I actually heard this:

    “Do you mean to tell me there’s a country in Africa inhabited by black people, and they named it Niger. They even have a river by the same name. I am absolutely amazed!!! Don’t you see it??!!! Even they know what they are!!!!”

    Of course, even on conservative talk radio, there was a quick hang up by the announcer and an even quicker pause for a commercial message from their sponsor. However, odd as this story sounds, I think it does give some clear insight into the audience that is magnetically attracted to conservative talk radio—an audience that would feel right at home voting for the conservative bloc on the Texas SBOE.

    Now, back to the Texas SBOE and Islam:

    DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME—said straight through my nose—after all that Texas SBOE hullabaloo about Arabs plotting to take over American textbook companies to push Islam over Christianity in K-12 textbooks, it turned out that there actually were no Arab owners in the specified textbook company???!!! I gotta tell ya pardners. If this were the Old West and something like that had happened, somebody would be findin’ some rope and be puttin’ together a “necktie party.” As my dearly departed aunt used to say, “Why!!!! The very idea!!!!” Throw all seven of them in a wood chipper and make the biggest fruitcake this world has ever seen.

  3. The Texas SBOE is desperately looking for demons when all they have to do is look in the mirror.

  4. How terrible! If I knew the name of that restaurant, I would tell everyone I know to boycott it. I would write a letter of complaint telling them in no uncertain terms what a hateful and unnecessary thing they did. They should be ashamed of themselves, the management as well as the customers.

    I guess I shouldn’t be too hard though. This is, after all, TEXAS!

  5. Here’s a popular Christian praise updated for today’s world.

    And they’ll know we are Christians by our hate, by our hate.
    They will know we are Christians by our hate.

    I’ve been trying to come up with verses. So far I just have a partial one.

    We will judge one another, we will scream face to face.
    We will judge one another, we will scream face to face.
    And we’ll loath each one’s differences and hate each one’s race.

    That last little bit is very new and I’m no songwriter.

  6. Here is my problem with Muslims and “Islam.” It is the Koran. Have any of you read it? It is perhaps the most hateful book I’ve had the misfortune of reading. Although there is nothing about the way to treat women, their women are treated worse than animals. Recently, a wife ran away from her husband. She was caught and returned to the miserable cad. She was held down and both off her ears were cut off and then her nose was cut off. Wonderful people, wonderful Sharia law PERMITS THIS! Sharia law was dreamed up by vicious, hate filled Muslim men. A woman who is raped is stoned to death while the man gets off Scot free.

    Make no mistake, we are at war with the Muslims. Actually, the Muslims are at war with the world. I have previously stated that I thought that the community center the Muslims wanted to build should be built; I have changed my mind.

    Just as funny-mentalist Christians have managed to get themselves elected to office with the intent of attempting to make everyone a Christian, so the Muslims are doing exactly the same thing. They want their revolting Sharia law to replace our Constitution and convert every man, woman and child to Islam. This is what the Muslims are saying, not what I am making up.

    Why is it that dictatorships in Arab countries who violate human rights every moment of every day are praised by us stupid Americans, yet we vilify Israel, the ONLY democracy in the Middle East.

    We call terrorists, “freedom fighters” instead of what they really are, mad, vicious murderers. Does anyone remember what happened to two Israeli soldiers who accidentally stepped into Arab territory? They had their throats cut, their abdomens sliced open and the most vile things were done to their intestines were eaten by the “freedom fighters” as others washed their hands in the blood of the soldiers.

    I am posting two sites: http://www.itisyour.biz/no that shows the Republicans in all of their glory and http://www.itisyour.biz/war by Atlanta Rabbi Schlomo Lewis.

    IGNORANCE?????? No, my friends, FACTS! I was for the building of the center until I read what Rabbi Lewis wrote.

    We Americans are STUPID! We are welcoming the latter day Adolph Hitler onto our shores, complete with Storm Troopers.

    Yes, there are probably good Muslims, but any Muslim who holds to the horrors of the Koran (which I am currently reading even though it turns my stomach) and finding out about their vicious man-made laws.

    Today, the Muslim who tried to blow up Times Square smiled when he was sentenced to life in prison in a federal prison which means NO PAROLE. He said that he was happy with what his sick god had given him. Although the name Allah simply means G-d it is NOT the same deity that most Americans believe in. Their god is a sick piece of garbage who condones rape, murder and other atrocities. That is not MY G-d.

  7. Beverly, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian culture comes from the same root culture. We have several centuries if not millenia of social development on top of our root “religious” heritage that other societies do not have. They are closer, historically to the root.
    It’s based on livestock agriculture. It’s a brutal culture which must be indifferent to the shedding of blood. We have industrial processes which separate us emotionally from the spilling of blood.
    The treatment of women as cattle is part and parcel of that culture.
    We are becoming a crowded planet. Societies are rubbing elbows, tripping over one another, picking pockets, shoving one another out of the way.
    Most humans, including most Muslims, will live in peace if given the chance. They will observe the traditions, view other humans as equals, etc. They just want to live their lives, raise their children, etc.
    Radical modern Islamic fundamentalism is a response to the abuses of the imperial powers towards the people of Islam. Most notable is the chicanery of the “seven sisters” oil corporations, especially the Anglo-Iranian oil co. in Iran, which was involved in the CIA orchestrated coup of the democratically elected leader, and the installation of the Shah of Iran. The Iranian Revolution was a response to this.
    It is a substitute for Marxism, which was not viable in the Muslim world, and which died of its own un-sustainability in any case.
    Yes, there is Muslim brutality. There is American brutality. There is Israeli brutality. In 100 years we will have gone through this period of “growing pains”. We will live in peace. Knowing that, why wait?

  8. Marvin Harris is dead now. However, I think the great anthropologist was on to something. Harris believed that human cultural traditions have their roots in long-past and often long forgotten adaptations to the environment, be it the natural or human environment. Why does Islam treat women the way it does? Who knows. I suspect they do not even know. However, if he were alive, Marvin would be spinning hypotheses to test. Knowing him as I do, I can almost bet what one of his hypotheses would be.

    Islam originated with ancient Arabic peoples who were living in a harsh and very unforgiving desert land. Deserts have an extremely low carrying capacity for human beings. Obtaining and keeping enough food and water to support a population was very hard and had to be done consciously and carefully. Just a few extra mouths to feed could lead to disaster. Therefore, controlling population growth and keeping it within the carrying capacity of the land was paramount. One way to acquire control over the population was to acquire control over women and their bodies to ensure against unwanted births that could push the population beyond its carrying capacity, resulting in numerous deaths. Thus, as you can see, women were viewed simultaneously as the primary source of new life but also as the source of death to the community. That candle burning at both ends was perceived to be very dangerous, and men had to find a way to control and regulate these dangerous women to ensure survival of the group as a whole.

    I think Marvin Harris would have gone at the problem something like that. Here. Read about Marvin:


  9. Islam is a religion of the same “book” as Judaism and Christianity. Jesus is the sixth of seven “prophets” of Islam.
    Much of what people find in the Koran as hateful is likely to found also in the Bible in either or both the testaments. It didn’t just “pop” out of the desert unless you recall that Jesus spent a lot of time unaccounted for in the desert.

    As for women as chattel, it hasn’t been all that long since the same applied to women in Christendom, even unto Massachusetts.