Monday, 12 April 2010

10 Things Muslims Secretly Celebrate




Amidst the flurry of news reports recently that a group of American “extremists” were plotting terrorism on American soil, I felt that familiar rise of fear (of what might happen if such a group is not caught), disbelief (that such groups still abound), and shame (that the group would likely be made up of Muslims). That perfect storm of emotions was partially quelled by the unexpected mixture of (secret) relief: the terrorists were not Muslim. They were Christian.

The Christian extremists - even the phrase sounds strange, and conjures up images of The Crusades. I wondered at this clandestine feeling of relief. But I knew I wasn’t alone in experiencing it.

I’ve heard comedians like Chris Rock joke about how the happiest people after 9/11 were black people, because now when they look on the news, it’s a bunch of brown people being criminalized.

So, in the spirit of being straight about the fears (and relief) we share beneath our low-profile-seeking exteriors, here are 10 things Muslims (secretly) celebrate:

1. As mentioned above: When a terrorist is not Muslim. We don’t shout it from the rooftops, and we certainly aren’t less scared of Christian fundamentalists than of Muslim fundamentalists. But it’s basically like getting a night off. And we celebrate by watching more “Family Guy” and having an extra serving at dinner. Sort of the way we celebrate Thanksgiving.

2. When a Bin Laden publicly defects from Al Qaeda. One of Osama bin Laden’s sons got permission to leave Al Qaeda, was quoted in his interview with CNN as saying to his father: “Find another way.” This gives us faith that even people most exposed to brainwashing still have a strong conscience, and the will and courage to act.

3. When President Obama pronounces “Pakistan” correctly. Maybe it was his Pakistani college roommates who corrected him, but the fact that Obama can say “Pakistan” correctly (and other key words like “nuclear") is one sign that he is simply more aware of his audience, and more interested in connecting with the Muslim world.

4. When the Dixie Chicks make a whole album about speaking out against former President Bush. To be booed out of your own concert for saying “We are ashamed he’s from our state,” and then come back with banjos blazing, belting “I’m not ready to make nice/ I’m not ready to back down” takes courage, chutzpah, and conviction. And it reminds those of us who normally choose not to speak out that it’s our right and duty to do so.

5. When certain (alleged) passport-stealing nations get their wrists publicly slapped. Don’t deny it. Muslims secretly celebrated the dismissal of the Israeli diplomat from the UK following the nation’s alleged involvement in the assassination of a founding leader of Hamas in Dubai. The celebration was about ACCOUNTABILITY. No one is above the law. And it was done in secret because Muslims don’t want to ever publicly show that they are happy about something negative happening to the Israeli government, from fear of being called anti-Semitic. What was your reaction?

6. When their Muslim cab driver is more informed on every possible issue than Keith Olberman. I had the pleasure of taking a ride with a Persian cab driver in New York last week. He had lived on three continents, spoke four languages, had a graduate degree, and told me more about the markets, global healthcare, and national education systems than any hour-long show on CNN. I secretly celebrated because the hundreds of other people he conversed with would have their preconceptions about Muslims/immigrants/cab drivers thoroughly challenged - just as I did.

7. When Ramadan is in the dead of winter. It’s time to come clean. Every Muslim has contemplated moving to Sweden and having a 3 hour fast. You haven’t yet? Just wait until August…

8. When a mosque opens in the middle of a big, heterogenous city, and minarets ARE allowed. I love the 96th Street mosque in Manhattan. It big and green. And it has a minaret. And loudspeakers. Take that Switzerland.

9. When western news is able to distinguish the Black Widows of Chechnya from Al-Qaeda-type bombers. Violent acts against civilians are always deplorable, whether in Moscow, New York, London, or Iraq. But Muslims who read yesterday’s analysis of the Black Widows group of Chechnya secretly celebrated the small victory of CNN being able (and informed enough) to distinguish between the Al-Qaeda-type suicide bomber (informed by “religious” extremism) and the Black Widow suicide bomber (informed by political struggle; the article even likened their violence to that used by IRA widows). It means not every suicide bomber is the same, not every Muslim is the same. While this is a VERY small victory, maybe we in the West are closer to differentiating Muslims from one another...Now if we could just see some more non-violent ones....

10. Christmas. I do it. And not that secretly.

What else do you secretly celebrate?

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