Political Correctness and Muslims

YagShemash!

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.

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8 Responses to Political Correctness and Muslims

  1. Ahmad says:

    Great post indeed. Am glad to see you keep on updating your blog. I thought you’d stopped. Will check again soon. Peace!

  2. SE says:

    I don’t like Ali G’s comedy much, but I don’t see how you could point a finger at people whom he interviews and demand that they engage in rational discourse. You go along with it. And it can also be a sign of civility that people suffer through his buffonery rather than wave the bull shit flag. It could be read either way, though one can potentially spit out a thesis or disertation by nit-picking at this sort of stuff.

  3. safrang says:

    Thanks Ahmad and SE for the comments. Ahmad, seems like the link to your blog (afghanistanonline) is broken.
    SE, I thought that the part of documentary that talked about how Ali G came to be named Ali pretty much spat it out and left little room for scavenging for theses where they might not be. I was frankly taken aback at how forthright the producer was with how they decided on the name because of it’s suggestion of a Muslim background. That, to me, adds a whole new layer to the behavior of those being interviewed. As you know, I am given to reading too much into things at times, but I definitely see traces of orientalism in there.

  4. safrang says:

    Nevermind that broken link comment Ahmad -it works fine. Glad to see you’ve been writing. I have to catch up on unread posts. Yes, I am back and determined to hold back very little. There is this Farsi poem that I really like:
    هرچه می خواهد دل تنگت بگو
    هیچ ترتیبی و آدابی مجو
    Blogging seems like the perfect medium to do exactly that.

  5. Q says:

    So I spent, or wasted, much too much time on youtube watching Ali G clips. There seems to be a fair amount of difference in reactions and interactions with his charecter, but they can be divided into several camps. What first struck me was the difference between how brits vs. americans took to him. The brits seemed more deferential and willing to indulge (in a patronizing manner) his bufoonery. Whereas some of the Americans either seemed to play along (indulging in a different way) or just kept engaging him at the same level, despite his complete idiocy. I imagine the brits have a much different way of engaging w/ Muslims, and especially brit muslims. You can see this most starkly when he does the same bit with a brit and an american, such as the one where he interviewed a US DEA agent and, I’m assuming, the Brit equivalent. Though some of the most amusing bits were when he interviewed Pat Buchanan and Noam Chomsky (well that one didn’t have any great moments, just completely hilarious for it’s absurdity).

  6. Kris says:

    When I saw Borat in a Polish cinema I was quite surprised to hear several Polish-language expressions used in the movie. This clearly proves somebody’s geographical and linguistic ignorance because:
    1) Poland is located in Europe and Kazakhstan is in Asia.
    2) The two languages have absolutely nothing in common.
    3) Both cultures have nothing in common because Poland is a Christian country with almost no Islam minority (the smalles number of Muslims among all European countries).
    4) Poland is a Europan Union country with no links to Asia whatsoever.

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