Sunday, November 20, 2011

Suburban Eschatology Part Two - September 12th, 2010: 30 Mosques, 30 Days

Originally posted on: Suburban Eschatology Part Two - September 12th, 2010:

30 Mosques : 30 Days Blog - 30mosques.com/
CNN (Great Videos) - www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/09/10/ramadan.roadtrip.folo/index.html


I found out about this through CNN.com. The videos there are very good. At this point I have only started going through the actual blog, but what I have read is funny, entertaining, and informative. A good antidote to a lot of the anti-Muslim crap out there right now.

What really strikes me about this, though, is that it definitely makes me feel better about America right now. A couple months ago I watched a couple of PBS travel shows on Iran. In these shows, almost every Iranian, especially the younger college students, all talked about how much they liked the United States and Americans in general. They saw the good in our country and were able to separate it from the often anti-U.S. rhetoric spewed by factions within their government.

I compared this to what I perceive as the prevailing attitudes towards Iranians and Muslims in the U.S. these days, and I doubted that Iranians in America would find such goodwill echoed so consistently by our citizens. I cannot picture some middle-American telling a film crew from Tehran about how much he loved Iran, or even students at some liberal U.S. college campus returning the sentiments of these Iranian kids. Probably the best to hope for with the latter would be a bunch of peaceniks saying that no one deserves to be blown up in a war. Here, most see Iran as the enemy, many see Islam as the enemy, and we seem to have a much more difficult time separating the people from the government than most of the Iranians interviewed in these shows. This is not to say that there are not scary factions within the Iranian government, but the same can be said for ours.

The ability to see the differences between the U.S. government and the American people also, to me, suggests that Iranians know a lot more about the United States than we do about Iran. Of course, it is easier for them to learn about us, since we dominate global culture in a way Persia hasn't in millennia. But still, when a country dominates our news as much as Iran has over the last few decades, it seems like we would know more about the people and the culture than we do. But most people don't, and even for those of us who are interested, there are few opportunities for us to learn.

These days, even when there are opportunities to learn more about Islam, one must be very careful about the sources. Yesterday, a local church here in Gresham offered an all day seminar on Islam, and if I was able to, I would have loved to have attended this. But I was concerned and curious. Was this a real, academic look at Islam, or was it hours of bull shit about how Islam wants to take over America and to convert and kill all the Christians? I don't know, but my guess is that it could have gone either way, especially since this event was hosted on September 11th. Is the date because of 9/11, or because it is Eid, the celebration wrapping up Ramadan, or both? Of course such sentiments do exist in the extreme edges of Islam, but, to counter, I offer up Ann Coulter and her spiritual kin. My question is, these days, do most Americans resemble these Iranians that were interviewed, or do they resemble the Rev. Terry Jones, who proposed, and thankfully called off, "International Burn a Quran Day"?

What strikes me the most about the 30 Mosques guys, though, is that their experience was much more like those PBS guys in Iran than I would have imagined. They were generally met with goodwill and good wishes wherever they went, judging from the CNN interviews. While Americans do not, generally, wear their racism on their sleeves, I was still pleasantly surprised by this. Of course, neither of these guys are Iranian and they are U.S. citizens, so the comparison to the PBS guys in Iran is tenuous at best.

Anyway, this blog and the interviews are an excellent resource to learn more about Islam in America, both its history and its current state, and to learn a bit about American attitudes towards Islam these days. A good find, and I really appreciate the time CNN has spent publicizing this, balancing out the screaming headlines about burning bonfires of Al-Quran, Islamic cultural centers in lower Manhattan, attempts to stigmatize the President by linking him to Islam, etc.
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