Political Correctness and Muslims

October 30, 2006


Borat is the talk of the town nowadays. The biting satire of middle America’s parochialism and its inexplicable, long-cherished, and perfectly healthy tradition of vehement anti-semitism is about to be released this weekend.

I eagerly anticipating to latest of import from glorious nation Kazakhstan.

But I am here not to speak the Borat talk and tell you about movies. There is something more serious at issue here, and thanks to my incisive insight, you are soon going to be privy to it too.
The question at hand is, how did the creator of the character Borat, and its equally popular and imaginative Ali G, get to be so “massiv”?

For context to the discussion below, you may want to watch this documentary on youtube: Ali G Before He Was Massiv. (You can skip to 6:40 to see what has really gotten all up in my kool-aid)

And the answer is, the Western world’s magnanimity and kindness towards Islam. It seems that besides other requisites of the trade (wit and talent, looks and luck, and connections), the comedian Baron Sacha Cohen also has his fictional Muslim identity to thank for his success. Or at least the kindness and condescension that most of the guests in his interviews (that include some high profile names such as the former FBI director, a NASA shuttle commander, Ralph Nader, Jenna Jameson, Gore Vidal, and…) exhibit towards him as a purported Muslim.

These are the words of the show’s producer:

“…I was a bit worried that he’ll be challenged… and I thought that well, if he sounds Muslim people are not going to challenge him. So that’s why he’s called Ali…”

Yes, my friends, you can get away with anything, including stupidity, insult, and offensive behavior nowadays, thanks to the political correctness that is magnanimously showered on Islam. Because (and this is the premise that I think reveals the true genious of the character’s producers), after all, what can a self-respecting person in the West expect from a Muslim?

On the one hand -and this happens to be more common nowadays- a largely medieval and unenlightened mindset, a curious predisposition to wanton violence, and an inexplicable hatred of Americans and their liberties. On the other hand, and diametrically opposite of the first group, are those that have succeeded to cleanse themselves of all vestiges of this medieval cult and are on the road to joining the modern world. In short, those that have been successfully de-Islamified and as “moderate Muslims” (be sure to check out Ali Eteraz’s rendition of this category) constitute the future hope of all currently Muslim peoples around the world. This latter group needs our (the West’s) support, and for that, they should be forgiven minor excursions of behavior such as the character Ali G perpetrates on his respectable interviewees.

Now some might say that this is not true. If anything, there is need for greater political correctness and “tolerance” (which is itself another euphemism for forced acceptance on grounds of political correctness) in the West towards Muslims. What about racial profilings? Suspension of civil liberties? Detensions without trial? Surely hamesha you must have lost your mind to suggest that Muslims in the West suffer from an excess of kindness and tolerance!

To which I say, you are right, and these suggestions do not preclude my earlier categorization of Muslims the West in the aforementioned taxonomic units. The moderates are friends of the West and surely have no qualms about temporary suspension of civil liberties and other breaches of their constitutional rights. After all, they know best that such times call for stringent measures. Everyone else constitutes a grave and present danger to the national security -and in the long term, to our collective human-historical-civilizational security- and should be dealt with accordingly.

But back to Ali G. Ever since discovering the comedy on YouTube a few months back, I was wondering whether he was of Pakistani/South Asian origin. Unbeknownst to me that the obviously Muslim name was given to the character to immunize his obviously outlandish and irrational behavior against logical challenges. Confronted with a Muslim host, many guests chose self-deprecation over rational, critical reasoning and played along, with an attitude that is often blatantly condescending and maddeningly kind. More from the show’s producer:

“You can see some of them (interviewees) going: ‘this guy isnt for real…’ You could see it in their eyes. But they dont dare, they never dare, and I am sure part of that is because he is called Ali…”

I had a political science professor in college who once complained to me that he felt a pressure to be soft on Islam when discussing it in the classroom, partly because of a sizeable number of other Muslim students who may take offense. I told him that to those who get it, there is nothing more offensive than precisely this kind of kindness and tolerance. Intolerance on grounds of ignorance can be offensive and unpleasant, but I have greater hopes that an ignorant Islamophobe will turn around and learn to coexist with Muslims after learning about them, than a politically correct liberal who chooses not to challenge (and hence not learn about) Islam becuase it is not nice or acceptable to do so. And besides, let’s be frank, there are certain things that need to be challenged about Islam, certain things that are medieval about it and should go away, and it is thanks in part to political correctness that they still rest on their hollowed pedestals of dogma.

In fact, I would advise most of my non-Muslim acquaintances to err on the side of political incorrectness (ok, when it is not very costly to do so), because that probably brings up some misunderstanding on their part, or some real inconsistency within Islam -either way a good opportunity to try to discuss and understand it.

And I thought I was in denial…

October 30, 2006

Watch O’Reilly try to debunk the “myth of Taliban resurgence” in Afghanistan in this video courtesy of Think Progress.

While I do think that much of the talk on Afghanistan’s slipping back into chaos is myopically focused on security and the southern parts of the country (at the expense of hearts and minds in the central and northern regions and among other vital constituencies,) only somebody like O’Reilly can have the kind of pig-headed audacity to deny reality as he does.

Here is an excerpt:
SEWALL: Unfortunately, Afghanistan’s going backwards.

O’REILLY: That’s a myth.

SEWALL: — which I think speaks –

O’REILLY: That’s a myth.

SEWALL: — to part of the problem with the focus of effort on Iraq. We risked losing the progress that has been made in Afghanistan.

O’REILLY: Now you’re just – that’s not true. There’s always going to be a Taliban insurrection.

SEWALL: It is true.

O’REILLY: As long as they have mountain – now it’s not. Every military analyst working for our team says most of that country is pacified.

SEWALL: Maybe you should be talking to the people on the ground –

O’REILLY: I talked to everybody.

“How We Might Lose Afghanistan”

October 30, 2006

Bear with my whinery on Afghanistan (previous post.) Admittedly it is agonizing to see things falling apart in your country. Especially when you still have many family and friends and a whole childhood’s worth of happy and sad memories buried there -not to mention a painfully maintained resolve to return there after finishing school. So yes,  I am going to be writing on Afghanistan.
Kevin Newman (blog) is an award-winning Canadian journalist and anchor of Global National TV program there (apparently Canada’s Nightline.) He was recently in Afghanistan covering “Operation Medusa.” This is the joint ANA/ISAF/NATO military offensive in the south that was led by Canadian forces aimed at ousting the Taliban from Panjwayi district and the Arghandab valley area of Kandahar. The operation has been one of the bloodiest both in terms of military (coalition and insurgents) and civilian losses of life. Reports of scores of civilians killed by in the various battles during and after the end of the offensive recently prompted an investigation into the civilian deaths, and later an apology from the NATO commander in Afghanistan. More on this later.

For now, I would like to call your attention to how Mr. Newman thinks “we might lose Afghanistan.”  (Needless to say, I strongly agree with him on this):

“…Which is rampant in Afghanistan. The Afghan police are especially corrupt. To leave Kabul we had to keep paying authorities to make it past impromptu checkpoints without incident. A Westerner I chatted with at the airport says the cost of getting through it is now around US$300 in bribes. Regular Afghans are fed-up. Western money is flowing into corrupt officials and everyday people are not seeing enough change for the better in their lives. That is how we might lose Afghanistan.”

For more insight and anecdotes of his visit to Kandahar, how the military base there is one of the largest in the country and a rather well-kept secret, and thoughts on a “ramp ceremony,” visit his blog.