Friday, June 20, 2014

About that rant...

I shared a link to a post on on Facebook recently. The title: Brigitte Gabriel gives FANTASTIC answer to Muslim woman claiming all Muslims are portrayed badly.

The headline editor should be spanked. Or severely chastised. Or frowned at. Or whatever it is you do to lousy headline editors. Yes, the woman claims that all Muslims are portrayed as "bad". But that's not the main thrust of her question. She wants to know how we can fight an ideological war with weapons. First, here's the question
Salaam-Alaikum. Peace to you all. My name is Saba Ahmed. I am a law student at American University. I am here to ask you a simple question. I know that we portray Islam and all Muslims as bad. But there is 1.8 billion Muslim followers of Islam. We have 8 million plus Muslim Americans in this country, and I don't see them represented here. But my question is how can we fight an ideological war with weapons? How can we ever end this war? The jihadist ideology that you talk about, it's an ideology. How can you ever win this thing if you don't address it ideologically?
And here's the question followed by answers from the panel:

A friend takes exception to the responses, particularly that given by Bridgitte Gabriel. I won't reproduce the entire post (it's long, and you'll get the gist of it here), But I do want to address these points:
  • That the panel bullies the woman in response to a reasonable question.
  • That the response was "not respectful" and "completely illogical"
  • That the woman was "blamed" for Muslims not speaking out. 
  • That her question about ideology wasn't answered.
He concludes that "This is one of the most illogical rants I've seen lately. Deplorable in my opinion."

I linked to the long version of the video on purpose. Prior to the Gabriel's response, on which we'll focus, there was a lengthy response by Frank Gaffney. I'll leave it to you to decide whether the woman's question was received respectfully. I also assume below that you've watched the whole thing.

My thoughts:

The panel is correct. We are not at war with Islam. If we were, then most obviously we would not be selective in choosing our targets in the Middle East. Gabriel thanked Ahmed for good reason. It gave her an outlet for some important points that could only be delivered in a particular way, as I'll explain.

A war is not fought either with weapons or with ideology. Both are necessary. But there is a clear difference between knowing an ideology and agreeing with it. For example, Nazism most certainly represented an ideology. The Nazis knew full well that their ideology differed from their neighbors', and how. They didn't give a rat's ass. Nothing came of appeasement. Nothing came of diplomacy. The ideological front was lost when Hitler came to power, and the world went on to successfully fight an ideology with weapons. And that's how it's done. That, by the way, fully answers the woman's literal question. You win an ideological war with weapons by demonstrating forcefully and with united purpose that holding the ideology will get you killed. And you keep the peace after the war by demonstrating that continuing to hold the ideology will get you imprisoned. That's how it has been done in the past, and it does factually work.

That doesn't mean we could win such a war against this ideology in this region of the world today. In fact, I believe we could not.

Now for context, this is a Heritage Foundation-sponsored event about Benghazi. To ask the question that she did she had to ignore the proceedings to that point. And she did it in such a way as to divert the focus of her question away from the focus of the proceedings. They do not portray "Islam and all Muslims as bad", but that's her intro, directly quoted. The juxtaposition of an extended depiction of peaceful Islam in general with the word "ideology" leads one to initially associate "the ideology" with "Islam". That is misleading, and a law student should know this. Her later use of the term "jihadist" is softened by an opening that focuses on Muslims in general. (For the record, I don't believe she was intentionally misleading. But in her zeal to pre-emptively defend herself she missed the point. The panel discussion was NOT focused on Muslims in general, but on violent radical jihadists.

They do not ignore ideology... These guys talk ideology in their sleep. You may indeed fight an ideology with and without weapons, but you don't get to count yourself as fighting the ideology by pretending that the battle against it is instead a completely different battle... against you. Example:
Imagine if you would a white guy standing up in front of a panel that is denouncing the KKK and who takes pains to point out that most white guys aren't in the KKK. The appropriate response would be exactly what this woman got for her similar observations. "This isn't about 'white guys'... it's about the KKK. And we're not going to ignore the KKK because you as a white guy feel put out by the guilt by association. And by the way, Skippy, if you're so damned kumbaya then why aren't you and all those friends you talk about denouncing the KKK along with us?" 
Ahmed got exactly what a white man would have gotten in similar circumstances, by a Lebanese woman who who pointedly does not have to "check her privilege" at the door. Gabriel's response cannot be appreciated in a vaccuum, but should be taken in a broader context, as expressed by someone who grew up in war-torn Lebanon; as well as by someone who has heard the same question over and over again in multiple venues. Often in these venues the end result is to shift the discussion into the defensive... and if you watched the longer clip you'd have seen exactly that happening before Gabriel's response.

Regarding the "illogic" you perceive, there are a number of declamatory methods of getting a point across, one of which is to use some variation of "put your money where your mouth is". In this particular case it's to communicate quite bluntly that the 75% of Muslims who are peaceful need to become the vocal, not silent, majority. If they were motivated to do this of their own accord, the point would not need to be made. "Loving peace" alone isn't terribly effective. Sitting around doing nothing hasn't worked either, and if this point is to be made, it must be made directly to that silent majority. This Muslim woman is the face of that audience. For better or worse she put herself in the right place and the right time to stand as proxy for millions of peaceful Muslims.

And you can't effectively communicate your profound disappointment in the inaction of that majority by pretending to respect their right to sit idly by. Rather, they must feel your displeasure. That message was not addressed to her alone; but to the larger audience that received it. It is an emotional message. Intentionally so. And in that, you may miss the genius of the response. She answered "how can we fight an ideological war" with a demonstration. The answer itself is an ideological salvo.
You say you are peaceful. Prove it. Stand up for peace. Do not leave it for others to do alone. Do not say "what are YOU doing?" without being able to answer the same question for yourself. Do not distract attention away from the problem, from the terrorists. Do not expect to walk out of here with both your hypocrisy and your dignity intact. Make a choice. Be embarrassed today, so tomorrow when you're asked this question, you have an answer. 
Being challenged with the truth, however blunt it may be, is not bullying. Being of minority opinion in a room may be embarrassing and even intimidating, but it does not equate with being bullied. The initial response, from Frank Gaffney, was extremely respectful.

If you didn't stick around for the follow-up question, you go back and view it at timestamp 8:26.

Was that "illogical", "disrespectful", "deplorable" "rant" effective? When asked by the moderator, "Can you tell me who the head of the Muslim peace movement is," Ahmed's response was,
"I guess that's me right now"
One down. 1.8 billion to go.

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