Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Terrorists, America, and Generalizations

I've gotten the impression that, for many, a "terrorist" is someone with darkish skin, very dark hair, a prominent nose, a name that just simply isn't 'American' - like Smith or Jones - and who lives in some far-off place.

From the looks of it, federal authorities broke up a small terrorist organization here in America. Seven men have been accused so far:
"A father, his two sons and four other men living in North Carolina are accused of military-style training at home and plotting 'violent jihad' abroad, federal authorities said.

"Officials said Monday the men were led by Daniel Patrick Boyd, a married 39-year-old who lived in an unassuming lakeside home in a rural area south of Raleigh, where he and his family walked their dog and operated a drywall business...."

"...'These charges hammer home the point that terrorists and their supporters are not confined to the remote regions of some far-away land but can grow and fester right here at home,' U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding said...."

"...Boyd's faith was so brash that, this year, he stopped attending worship services in the Raleigh area and instead began meeting for Friday prayers in his home."

" 'This is not an indictment of the entire Muslim community,' Holding said. "These people had broken away because their local mosque did not follow their vision of being a good Muslim."..."



Of course: This must be one of those radical right-wing extremist white supremacists we hear about. You know: white people, who go around killing blacks (and other people who aren't sufficiently American - remember Oklahoma City?).

Nope. Mr. Boyd is a Muslim.

Then, using an all-too-common generalization, Daniel Patrick Boyd must be like all the other Muslims: a fanatic killer, just waiting to go off. They're all Muslims" and other sweeping generalizations are not, I think, at all helpful. Not in today's world, where people you meet don't all have the same ancestors, don't all eat the same food, and don't all believe exactly the same things that you do.

Intolerance, as well as over-generalizations, go both - make that all - ways:
"...The wives of the men told The Associated Press in an interview at the time they were glad the truth about their husbands had finally become known. The wives said the couples had U.S. roots but the United States was a country of 'kafirs' — Arabic for heathens...."
I'm aware that there's some debate about what "kafirs" is supposed to mean - but remember:
  • The Associated Press was quoting someone
  • That was a select group's attitude
Just the same, I'm pretty sure that quite a few other people around the world see America as a nation of "kafirs." Although some use other terms.

Last December, I wrote about a case which involved someone with a rather familiar attitude toward America and Americans: court documents dated November 4, 2008, and provided by Wired magazine, show a fellow who seemed oddly familiar:
  1. Dedicated to a cause
    1. He meant the technical how-2 in his post " '...to be used against those who fight for the United States' since he considered them and their allies fighting in Arab countries to be 'invaders'."
  2. Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed's opinion of
    1. Law enforcement officers
      1. "Dogs"
      2. "Christians"
      3. "Infidels"
      4. "Racists"
      5. "Enemies of G-D'"
    2. Americans
      1. A "stupid people"
      2. "One of the most stupid creations of G-D"
    3. America
      1. A "vile nation"
        (In a conversation with his parents on December 20, 2007)
    (December 18, 2008)
Terms like "infidel" and "dog" used as a derogatory term identify the person as a Muslim with cultural roots in the Middle East. What I found interesting about Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed's opinion of America and Americans was the set of generalizations about this country shared by Ahmed, many Islamic terrorists, and some of America's self-described best and brightest.

I put the shared opinions in bold. I didn't include the characterization of law enforcement officers as "Christian," but there's a lively antipathy toward Christianity in America's higher echelons. (August 5, 2008)

Beware Generalizations

Generalizations are handy. They allow thoughtful consideration of events to be replaced with associations of the 'all [noun] are [adjective]' variety. Once a set of generalizations is built around personal preferences and the peer group's prejudices, a person can sail through life with many of the higher brain functions offline.

It's not a particularly good idea, in many ways, but it can be done.

Back in the fifties and sixties, the KKK did Christianity no favors by 'protecting' 'Christian' American against blacks (as well as Jews and Catholics): and making the burning cross into a sort of cultural icon.

The War on Terror is, to a great extent, a matter of fanatic Muslims who feel that they and they alone know what Islam is, and echo what much of American academia has claimed about 'racist' and 'oppressive' America.

The problem is that, where the more 'sophisticated' American academics usually stop with teaching America's youth that America is an icky place - and indulging in academic pursuits like trashing the Quran and Eucharist - The Islamic fanatics are taking active steps to set up their version of Islamic nations.

But, just as all American academics aren't like Professor Ward Churchill, and not all Ron Paul supporters are potential terrorists, not all Muslims are terrorists. And, as Timothy McVeigh and company demonstrated, not all terrorists are Muslims.

But I don't expect people who are accustomed to the luxury of generalizing their way through life to believe that.

More-or-less related posts: In the news:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.