Down with America (The sexist parts)

Cultural pluralism does not excuse chauvinist Muslims.

by Ross Anderson

I live in the Seward neighborhood, which is almost certainly MinnesotaâÄôs most racially and religiously diverse locality. Most days I bask in racial harmony and am inspired by such different peoples cohabitating peacefully. But my peace of mind is routinely disrupted by certain elements of the Muslim faith, particularly the sexist ones. âÄúYou got a lot of nerve.âÄù I thought while waiting behind a diminutive old African (If youâÄôre the type that finds accurate description offensive, know that the AP stylebook suggests using the word âÄúblackâÄù). I watched with contained anger as he degraded my dear friend the barista. âÄúHere you go.âÄù She said, smiling as she offered him his coffee. But the African man didnâÄôt even look at her in exchange. He took his coffee without a word, forwarding only an insolent sneer as he tossed his money across the counter. My indignation was again stirred upon hearing of a female friend being denied service at a local Islamic meat market. âÄúThey wouldnâÄôt even acknowledge me.âÄù She said, âÄúI felt so disrespected.âÄù In 21st century America âÄî right here in Minneapolis âÄî we still contend with blatant, empty bigotry. There is a clear minority who perpetuates this brand of chauvinism: East African Muslims unwilling to accept the American Ideal that all people, including women, are created equal. To men like the crusty old African and all others who pollute our fair city with their radical interpretation of Islam, this column states clearly: you are not welcome here, not by me or any other decent person, including the women you degrade. This sentiment is not born in racism (a black girl slept over at my house days ago) or Islamo-phobia (IâÄôve read and appreciate the QuâÄôran and keep Muslim friends) but in a belief that all people, of all faiths, of either gender or any color, deserve respect. ItâÄôs a progressive thought, but I sure feel conservative when targeting my usually brown extremist neighbors. (We can call it Congressative. In academia itâÄôs okay to make up new words without asking Webster.) This country has made great efforts to see that gender and racial discrimination are a shamed part of our past. But immigration patterns have brought a reemergence of a discriminatory specter of our past. While this country has always welcomed âÄúyour tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,âÄù respecting the religious or cultural traditions of the newly immigrated should not include the acceptance of gender discrimination. Any tradition, Islamic or otherwise, that prevents womenâÄôs ability to âÄúbreathe freeâÄù will and should be rejected. This bigotry is not surprising really; you can always count on bitter old men to misinterpret good poetry. âÄúGood ChristiansâÄù and âÄúGood MuslimsâÄù have been using the Bible or the QuâÄôran as justification for bad behavior for centuries. On the topic of gender discrimination, Christianity definitely has a rich and disgraceful past, but historyâÄôs egalitarian wave has washed away most of the prejudiced elements remaining in the Christian faith. Today, this column feels that some Muslims (fortunately they seem to be a shrinking minority) use Islam as a tool of division and discrimination, most readily observed by the beekeeper suits that some Muslim men require their wives to adorn in public. I personally prefer the tastefully worn Hajab to the shameless flesh show that is American pop fashion, but I always cringe at the sight the full-on, eyes-only, black burqa; something about it just seems unfair and un-American. A less palpable demonstration of Islamic divisiveness comes by the way some of them completely ignore white or non-Muslim people on the streets. ItâÄôs a pretty minor occurrence, and I would never condemn a person for bad manners, but blatant disregard, and outright hostility in the case of the bitter old African, infringes on the sense of community that defines the Seward neighborhood. The above words are sure to inspire a backlash from devout Muslims. ItâÄôs an instinctual thing really, some trite defense about maintaining old-honored culture or traditions probably. I think I get it. What the offended fail to understand is that this column is merely accentuating a time-honored American tradition: the Americanization of minority cultures. Or more aptly put, the weeding-out of divisive prejudices from any cultural background. Decent Americans look forward to and actively pursue the death of disharmonious dogmas. To sexist old men of any color or creed, please change or quietly pass on. If this column has offended, I apologize. My obligation to the truth is higher than to political correctness. I do not address my Muslim neighbors with scorn, though I know it might seem that way. I only wish to highlight the gross offenses committed by those crusty old fools who interpret their Scripture as divine justification to be an ass. I intend to discredit these types whenever possible; I would face Christian, Hindu and Buddhist extremism with equal animosity, but these present themselves less frequently. This column represents the beliefs of an extreme moderate, which involves the passionate rejection of extremism. Sixteen months in Iraq and seven in Bosnia taught me, acutely, the destructiveness of radical religion, particularly Islam; hence the strength of my opinion. IâÄôm sure there are readers out there who might write this column off as media hype or crass sensationalism. With the nature of todayâÄôs media I understand the suspicion. But if you wonâÄôt take my word for it, just ask the aforementioned barista. When asked to comment about the above-mentioned incident, she replied that she was too familiar and too numbed by ubiquity to recall which old Muslim I was referring to. Ross Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected].