Friday, November 05, 2010

intolerance marches on

The 2010 election results were depressing but not remotely surprising. Once again, the Democrats did a terrible job of selling themselves because of timidity and stupidity, and if they keep this up Sarah Palin could be president in a couple of years. Pretty scary.

But for me, the scariest election result was Oklahoma's passage of an anti-Sharia law measure.

The law itself isn't important; there are barely any Muslims in Oklahoma and no one is using Sharia (Islamic) law there anyway. What is important is that, like the recent controversy over the Muslim center a few blocks from ground zero (as well as controversies over Mosques hundreds of miles from ground zero), this is a straightforward slap in the face of Muslims and a clear statement that they are considered, as a group, criminals with no rights.

The increasing oppression of Muslims terrifies me, because it could mean we are entering a dark phase in American history along the lines of putting Japanese-Americans in concentration camps or blacklisting suspected communists and communist "sympathizers." There are people in this country who are devoting themselves to crushing Muslims, and I will not be surprised if we soon start seeing the passage of laws prohibiting Muslims from teaching in public schools and joining the army.

This cannot end well. If you tell a group of Americans that they are not American and that they do not have the rights of Americans, they tend to object. The Watts and Stonewall riots were both cases of disenfranchised groups expressing their outrage.

But while American Muslims may riot at some future point, if this oppression continues, they're not the ones I'm scared of. I am afraid rather of what happens when anti-Muslim attitudes reach that tipping point where it becomes dangerous to speak out against them.

I recently read a book on the 1950 Communist blacklist. What I found interesting was that, when the witch hunts first started, there were many people who spoke out forcefully against them. There were newspaper editorials and political speeches saying, this is wrong, this is un-American. But after a few years, few people were no longer speaking out, because it had become too dangerous; defending constitutional rights made you as much of a criminal as reading Marx. Right now, someone like Michael Bloomberg can take a principled stand in favor of sanity and tolerance, but if anti-Muslim hatred in this country keeps getting stronger and stronger, eventually everyone will be afraid to speak out. And once that happens, American Muslims are fucked.

Right now anti-Muslim sentiment is mainly coming from hardcore red state nut jobs, the same people who blathered on about Obama being a Muslim, but the idea that Muslims are dangerous lunatics is becoming a part of the philosophy of this country that extends beyond midwest Republicans.

So right now, I'm scared for American Muslims, and scared for this country, and, if we really entering yet another dark age of extreme intolerance, scared for people like me who speak out about it.

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