Islamic Extremism, Islamic Grievances, and America- All or Nothing?

US and Them?

By “us” I mean us in the literal sense, the whole Western Judeo Christian culture and specifically the U.S. of A.  As of now we are still the leaders of that world in politics and culture (for better or worse).  But as events and history have proven we are certainly not a monolith.  The last time we, all of the Western culture, agreed on something,…. will be the first time.  Yes we are quite diverse.  Our roots are similar, but out paths and beliefs vary very widely.  Republicans certainly don’t want to be lumped with some liberals.  The French certainly do not want to be mistaken for the Spaniards.  And Canadians wear stickers on their backpacks on holidays with a maple leaf just to make sure no one will confuse them for Yanks.  The Poles really, really, hate it when they are mistaken for Russians.  And Americans just want to be Americans, no one else.  We are all as different as mice and people really.  We might share 80% of genes with the rodents but you would not want to marry one.

So are Muslims any different from us?  Do they all share 100% of their genes?  Is a modernist American Muslim same as a Saudi Wahhabi Iman?  If no then why do we Americans paint them as the same.  Not all of us of course, but enough for it to be worrying and enough for Muslims to think we do as a people.  Are we at war with Islam, or Islamic extremism and terrorists?  Are the terrorists representative of a whole spectrum of Islamic societies?  Notice I wrote societies in plural.  We as a nation need to know the difference.  And we must, all of us, decide what are we fighting, Islam or the extremists.  President Bush, on a large number of occasions, stressed very strongly that our fight is not with Islam or Muslims of any nation, but with extremists and their supporters.  Yet we have forgotten about that.  Now I understand that in war (and this is a war, make no mistake about that) propaganda takes over, things get oversimplified, as its hard for a whole people to get behind a nuanced explanation, but.  Yes there is a but.

But by out simplistic thinking and actions we are proving the extremists correct in some cases.  And that is the last thing we should be doing.  When is paranoia going to stop and when will sanity prevail?  When we equal Islam to terrorism all we are doing is proving the extremists correct when they call us Crusaders.  They firmly believe that the West is out to destroy they faith and culture.  That not only are we corrupting Muslims, but we really want to destroy them.  And when they see a bunch of idiots wanting to burn their holy book that gives them fuel.  When they see well intentioned, but clueless and misguided idiots protesting a mosque it also gives them fuel. Why do we do this?  Do so many of us really believe that 1.5 billion people are really out to get us?  Do we really think that all of 1.5 billion want to establish the Sharia all over the world?  Even those who listen to hip hop, and love out culture?  Even those serving in our military?  Even those whose family members were killed in terrorist attacks?

Why the hell do we lump them all in the same boat?  Muslims, like all people, have a right to disagree with our policies.  They have a right to disagree with our invasion of Iraq.  They do not have to like Israeli policies toward the Palestinians and out unquestioning support of said policies.  Muslims have a right to dislike the profanity and sex in our culture.  Hell many conservative Christians are not very fond of it either.  Many peace loving people took to the streets and protested our invasion of Iraq, most were not Muslims.  Many more dislike how the Israelis treat the Palestinians.  Those are real grievances.  Yet no one accuses (well no one sane, as I’m sure some have), those people of hating Israel and wanting it destroyed.  Or of being anti-American and supporting the terrorists just because someone thought that war is not such a great idea.

Yet when a Muslim does it we do accuse him of those things.  Why?  Now I get ignorance and lack of nuance in many.  But its not just that.  It goes beyond that.  Just as we don’t want to be accused for the things the French did in Algeria, the Sunni does not want to be accused of what some Shi’a did.  But no, we hear Islam and the red mist falls upon us.  We don’t see anything else.

Just how many really think that?

We start to deal in absolutes.  Like zealots we run around labeling everyone and everything.  And its wrong.  It is also counter-productive to our cause.  When we go out into the streets and protest a mosque (and no, it was not just one mosque in NY that Americans did not want built so spare me the “holy ground” drivel, I don’t buy it, cause unless you believe all of Islam is responsible then you have no argument, and if you do believe that then you are an idiot, so wrong again) what does some guy in Algeria see?  He sees Americans calling his faith evil and responsible for terrorism.  He sees himself being lumped with the terrorists.  And then we expect him to love us for it?

Are we insane?  We shit on their religion and then are surprised that many don’t like us?  Now don’t get me wrong.  Those who are Muslims and who lump all of the West or all of America in the same basket are just as wrong.  And nothing the terrorists claim, true or made up, excuses their actions, we were not responsible for 9-11 and all these bastards should be killed, the sooner the better.  But we can not run around and act like extremists ourselves and then expect the world to get that we have differences in our society when we see none in theirs.  And many who don’t particularly like us or disagree with our politics and policies do not necessarily want to kill us or establish an Islamic Caliphate of America.  People have different political opinions.  Yet every time some Muslim tries to give a nuanced explanation of 9-11 he is branded as an extremist who hates America.  Every time some Muslim (well most of them really) speaks out against Israel then he apparently supports Hamas and Hezbollah, hates Jews and wants Israel wiped of the map.  Some do, I’m sure.  And screw those, but most do not.  What most Muslims want is to live out their lives in peace, to be able to worship freely.  To cultivate their culture, to support and raise their children.  Sounds familiar?  Its what we want.  Yet we are becoming as paranoid as North Korea and Iran.  Every time someone speaks out with any criticism its “oh shit, they want to destroy us.”

And yes, there are many Muslim idiots out there who would like nothing better than to see the Great Satan destroyed.  Just as there are many idiots who view Muslims are the tools of the devil who will perish in hell unless they convert and accept Jesus Christ and their Lord and Saviour and who would love nothing else but to see Islam perish.  Fuck them.  All of them.  All are extremists, but most are like you and me, sane.  Just because, as some “Muslims” have sadly proven lately, one hides behind the cloak of faith, whether it is Christian, Jewish or Islamic faith, is does not excuse the shit they do.

Muslims or Extremists?

We have to stop letting lunatics speak for all of us.  We have to shut the extremists up.  All of us.  Muslims and Christians and Jews, and Atheists.  I write this to people of the West, but it applies equally to Muslims.  But I know the Westerners more.  I was born in Europe, I live in America.  This is my culture.  However, it makes me sad that while my culture professes to be enlightened and the best in the world it does not live up to its own standards.  We can’t run around claiming to be more open minded and tolerant than the Muslims while we do stupid shit like protesting mosques.  We can’t be running around and comparing ourselves to Saudi Arabia, because everyday we run around and claim we are better than them.  Its that simple.  Now some of the idiots may have forgotten them.  But I still hold American ideals high on my list of ideals.  Just as much as I do not want an Islamic Caliphate in New York, I also do not want a Christian theocracy.  I want to be able to choose about going to church, about which movies to watch, about which books to read.  I don’t want some asshole telling me what to do just because he thinks he knows better.  That is un-American.

I want America to not only claim its the best, but to provide a shining example for all the world, not to be comparing itself to Saudi Arabia or Iran.  And if we are to be the best, we can’t run around calling Islam a religion of evil and extremism.  We certainly would not call Christianity that.  And just because its not ours, it does not make it all that different.  And just because they are not us, it does not make Muslims all that different from us.  We don’t have to love them all, we don’t have to convert, all we have to do is behave like Americans should.  Not as some communist would during the Cold War, because that would be un-American, and quite extremist.

EDIT: BTW all this Mosque controversy I think is artificial.  The plans for it came out about a year ago and no one had a problem with it.  But this year apparently its a bad thing?  Why?  Well I think its because 2010 is an important election year.  And that’s it, stirring controversy for the sake of politics.  Just like the Bush administration used to raise the threat level every couple of weeks when elections were approaching.  But after the elections there was hardly a threat.  And it worked, it scared America.  And this does the same, the religious right will certainly be more stirred up now that they know that Muslims want to build a terror headquarters in Lower Manhattan.  No I am not some conspiracy freak, though I am that cynical.  There were threats all the time during the Bush administration, but they chose to publicize them at only certain times.  The mosque controversy will die down after November.  That’s how politics works sadly.


9-11 Attacks, Memorial and the New Tower

How New York looked and how it should look.

I’m a New Yorker.  And as a New Yorker let me tell you nothing hurt as much as losing the Twin Towers during the 9-11 attacks 9 years ago.  As a human being the lives lost were of course much bigger.  And today of all days I should be writing about the attacks and how I was affected by them and the lives lost and how the nation coped with the shock.  But aside from my insignificant personal experience which interests no one, what could I write that others have not written much better than me?  There are and will be much better posts written on the attacks and the commemorations.  I on the other hand want to write about the future of Ground Zero.  And the future is mighty bleak.  The present I should say, the future will be a matter of opinion.

The Memorial

Future memorial

The Memorial itself is not without controversy.  But that’s not the controversy I want to talk about.  The way its made and will look is up to personal taste.  The same can be said of what it will include and exclude.   It will open next September 11.  Ten years after the attacks.  Yes, 10 fucking years!  And it gets better, most of the other towers that we destroyed in 2001 will not be finished till 2013 or 2014 including the newly renamed One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower).  And I find this pathetic.  We are the richest nation in the world.  Its richest city is New York, yet it takes us 10 years to build a museum?  A dozen years to build a few buildings?  Seriously?  How pathetic.

All these years the politicians come out and say how resilient we are, how strong we are as a people, how great we are.  Yet 9 years after the attacks nothing stands.  Its not a hole in the ground anymore as construction has finally begun, but seriously.  In Dubai the Arabs were able to break ground and finish a 165 story tower (and its simply stunning) in under 6 years.  That’s right, they started in 2004 and its open already.  Yet we can not finish a museum, let alone some buildings.  Certainly make one proud to be an American.

Just compare the two.  One looks like a fucking ice pick.  The lower floors look like a bunker.  No style or grace.  Just something thrown up.  The design itself is unimaginative.  Its been done before.  Its not particularly pretty.  And the hexagonal walls will be lost in the sky line.  The Arabs on the other hand built a gorgeous building far taller than anything else standing.  And for much less.  Go figure.  Yet the politicians who tell us what a great country we are did not stop the bullshit that went on for years.  They were a part of it in fact.  For two years, two years after the corner stone was put in, construction of the tower was stopped because of politics.  Ansolutely pathetic.

I loved the old World Trade Center.  The Twin Towers were magnificent.  They were able to replace the Empire State Building as the signature of New York City.  Will this?  Hardly.  Just another tall building, nothing more.  And it can’t even be finished on time.   Pataki (former NY governor) and his cronies will give us a heartless tall bunker.  Yet apparently we are not afraid.  No, we’re not.  We’re fucking paranoid.  When that idiot Trump, along with many others, suggested we put up two towers similar to the destroyed Twin Towers, but even taller, as a fuck you to the terrorists, he was laughed at.  Now as I mentioned he’s an idiot, I can’t stand him.  But he was right.  World trade Center is not just office space.  Its a symbol.  And what better symbol than to build two towers, even taller than the ones that were destroyed.  But no, instead we get this heartless shit because we are afraid.

And its nothing but fear.  And guess what.  Despite the rhetoric, its how the terrorists win.  Their aim, as their name would suggest, is to spread terror into a society.  The politicians told us we do not fear them.  But really now.  We are scared shitless.  No, I am not proposing going back to pre 9/11 ways.  But come on.  All this controversy, all this politicking, meanwhile we hear slogans about us being the greatest and not afraid.  Anything near Ground Zero is now apparently holy ground.  If the Europeans thought like this they would have to move whole cities seeing as many were almost completely destroyed.  Yet Warsaw, London, Berlin, Leningrad, Rotterdam and many others were simply rebuild.  And that did not stop the Europeans from commemorating and remembering their dead.  Even in America the pentagon was not abandoned  but rebuilt.  But in NYC no.   Aesthetically speaking many of the other new towers will be quite nice, but Lower Manhattan wont have the same feel and look as it did prior to 2001.  Post 9-11 New York is and will be a much different place.  And that is yet another tragedy.

I was a proud new Yorker.  Proud how we coped, and how we dealt with the attacks.  But not long after something happened.  And now we are no longer proud.  We are simply afraid, despite the slogans and speeches.  And we forget what it is to be Americans and New Yorkers.  No Americans should be scared of some fanatical bastards.  No proper New Yorkers would protest a cultural center and a Mosque, yet they do because they became paranoid.  And the New World Trade Center is a reflection of that paranoia.  We suffered one major attack in the last decade, yet we are more paranoid than the Brits, Germans, Russians or Poles who were being killed on a daily basis.  Yet we hear talk of resilience.  Well where is it?  When do we stand up and say in a proper New York way “Go fuck yourselves you fanatical bastards, you don’t scare us!”

The politicians and pundits keep telling us that by doing this or that the terrorists win.  Well no one ever said anything about fear.  The terrorist’s aim is to scare us enough.  To scare us enough so we’ll give up our ways.  They hate us for what we are, what we were actually.  And the most inclusive of cities in America runs around scared protesting a place of worship.  The most resilient of  American cities, one known worldwide for its skyscrapers is too afraid to build proper tall towers.  Greatest country in the world.  Greatest city in the world.  Are we really?

Hawai’i, Smoking and Drinking- vacation in a Communist State

Yet Another Beautiful Sunset

Now most of you will say good.  You don’t want to smell my cigarette smoke.  Anti smoking laws are good.   And surprisingly I agree.  To a point.  To a point when laws make sense and are logical.  Smoking in hotel rooms, no.  Same goes for restaurants and enclosed bars.  But if a place is open, or its a terrace of my room, then why the hell not?  Well Hawai’i says no.  Not anywhere.  I always joke that smokers are the lepers of the 21st century.  We certainly are treated as such.  Well here is my little rant, see if any of this make sense.

After a long flight I finally got off the plane and went outside to have a smoke as I would in any airport.  As I was lighting up (outside) I was told I can not smoke where I was.  I had to cross the street to the parking lot where there is a designated space for “people” like me.  Really?  My smoking bothers everyone, but minibuses and cars do that pull up by the curb do not?  I need to cross the street?  We went to Maui but coming back home had to go through the Honolulu airport.  When I was there in 2004 there was a little park (a couple actually) that smoking was allowed in.  Nice green area, benches, ashtrays, great set up.  Unfortunately in 2006 the laws got even stricter, no more smoking in that little airport park, even though it was empty.  Even though just 50 yards from it there were planes and support vehicles polluting the air more than I ever could.  The worst part of this was that this outside park was inside the airport grounds.  Meaning 6 years ago I could just step outside have a smoke and then go back to my gate, bar, store, whatever.  This time however I had to walk outside the security area.  Wasting my time, the TSA’s time and the time of my fellow travelers.  Being checked several times within a couple of hours it just pointless.  There were two of those parks in that airport.  Could we not have one for people like me?  I had a 7 hour flight ahead of me.  Plus I had to be at the gate 45 minutes before, add the time it takes to disembark from an aircraft and its well over 8 hours of no smoking.  Now I don’t mind really.

Green Demarcation Line. Smoking Nyet!!!

I am old enough to remember smoking being allowed on flights, and it was a stupid idea.  Especially with the way the plane seating was set up.  Row 20 was non-smoking, while the person behind you puffed away.  It was idiotic.  But really now.  A small area can not be designated for travelers to have a smoke inside the security zone?  At LAX our plane to Maui was delayed by 2 hours.  I went out three times.  And the worst part was that I was smoking by a glass door within view of the security personnel (designated smoking area that was filthy the cigarette butts were overflowing) and the security gates.  Yet three times I had to go through the same thing of taking off my shoes and emptying my pockets, etc, etc.  The funny thing is that the third time my friend was going though the security (we went in shifts as one person was watching the carry on luggage inside, no point in taking that laptop out 3 times), she was searched.

But at LAX and in Dallas it was not necessary to cross the street, nor is it in New York.  Yet in Hawai’i I will give everyone cancer if I do not, apparently.  Just does not make any sense.  I do realize that the laws are not just there to protect everyone from second hand smoke, but also to make my life as difficult as possible so I would stop smoking, in NYC taxes do that.  But come on.  However our resort took the cake.

It was a condo resort, so perhaps they have special rules, but none of this made any sense.  No smoking in rooms.  Fine, no problems.  I did not want to smoke inside the room anyway.  But the terraces?  When there are no other people around even?  One morning I woke up at 5 AM local time to watch a football match.  Of course no tv in Hawai’i was showing it, so it was streaming time on my laptop.  To avoid waking my wife I went out to our ground floor terrace.  No a soul around.  Yet I was weary, if I smoked and someone caught me it could have meant a $450 fine, something to which I had to agree before checking in.  But seriously now.  Now I do not litter.  Any cigarette butts would have been safely and properly disposed.  I do not even throw my ciggie butts on the ground when hiking, I always carry a small plastic container for them (used to be camera film containers, now its usually gum packaging).

We could not smoke by the outdoor, uncovered bar.  Nor by the pool.  Nor by the tanning chairs inside the grounds.  The public beach separated by some bushes (all beaches in Hawai’i are public) however was fine, smoke your lungs out, even while renting the hotel cabanas.  Go figure.  There was a designated smoking spot, about 20 yards from the pool, and 10 yards from the bar.  Other areas where one could smoke were parking lots.  And when I was checking in the man wanted to give me a room on the 4th floor.  I had to argue for a ground floor one, near the parking lot.  The outside malls were the same.  Nice areas to rest, lovely chairs or benches to relax on, all outside, smoking however, in the parking lot, no bench for me.

And drinking at our hotel was even stranger.  We had a blender in the room, so of course drinks were mixed and taken to the beach, which was fine.  But if you wanted to buy a drink from the hotel bar you could drink it right then and there, or take it by the pool.  However it was forbidden to take your drink to the beach just 5 yards further, or to your room.  What?  Someone from the staff made my wife put away the drink she just bought from the bar because she took it to the forbidden zone, the smoking place 10 yards from the bar as she wanted a smoke before she went back by the pool.  So the drink had to wait 3 yards away on a table while she smoked.  Absolute fucking nonsense.

Nanny State gone wild.  Again, I do not mind most smoking restrictions.  No smoking in restaurants means spending less time in them these days.  I used to love to go out, eat well, have a few drinks and talk for hours, a meal could last 3 or even 4 hours.  But now I just eat and leave.  For drinks I go to a bar and drink there, while every so ofter stepping out.  No biggie.  Planes too, great idea.  Many places actually.  But fucking outside?  On an open terrace with no one around?  The trade winds make it constantly breezy in Hawai’i, the smoke would not linger, nor would it bother anyone.  I am considerate, once on a plane I was sat next to an older couple (in the smoking section), after I lit up I noticed that smoking bothered them, obviously they did not pick those seats on purpose.  So I got up, asked the stewardess if i can smoke in the back where it wont bother them as much.  Its not that big a deal.  I do not want to blow smoke in your face.  I do not want to pollute your lungs.  But an empty open terrace, an empty pool area?  Or a nice beach chair with no one around inside the hotel grounds?  Those are verbotten? I would be hurting who exactly?

To the smokers out there, do check on the internet for resorts that do allow smoking in certain areas, not just parking lots.  And do avoid the Maui Ka’anapali Villas.  A nice hotel, but I felt like I was back under communism not in the United States of America.

Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm  Comments (4)  
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