Friday, December 24, 2010

WaPo shrieks "AIEEEE! Muslims!"

I've been a bit skeptical of Washington Post's "On Faith" section for a bit. It's a "conversation on religion and politics" written by and for mainstream Christian thought. Their front page on Dec. 24 may be misleading, sure...but yeah. We're not dealing with a lot of different thought processes here. Not even black churches, which are pretty darn Christian.

So God help us all when they deign to talk about the Muslim world.

The beginning of the piece based in Tatarstan starts warmly. It's the trope about the lost young man who has left a life of trouble to find God. We all know it.
Rustam Sarachev should have had a hangover the first time he set foot in the central mosque here. He had wanted to throw a raucous party the night before, a send-off for himself on his way to Islam. But the guys he was with had mocked him for even thinking about the mosque, and had gone off drinking on their own. 
Of course, Sarachev made the mistake of going to a mosque, not a church.
They learn at the mosque that Allah is punishing Iraqis for their heresies. They learn that 9/11 was carried out by American agents, or maybe agents from somewhere else, to provoke a war against Muslims. But they learn, too, that those who want to go and join the fight in Afghanistan, or Pakistan - and young men who aimed to do precisely that have passed through Almetyevsk - are in error. This is not the time. Islam needs them here, in Russia. 
Sigh. There's also plenty of Life-in-Russia sketches that are less Dostoyevsky - or even LeCarre's attempts - and more like this particular gem.

Tatar Islam is a fascinating thing, and one completely ignored by this piece. No mention of Jadidism, the late 19th century Islamic revival that was cut down by Communism.No mention of Ismail Gaspirali, the Crimean intellectual who spread the printed word among Muslims and did more for them then these oh-so-scary Saudi-backed Imams ever could. We're certainly not going to mention the quixotical, fascinating, quest of Ismail Enver and his journey through exile into an impossible new world order. And certainly not the powerful force and the steely gaze of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, who was part Johnny Appleseed, part Cotton Mather. You could at LEAST give a shout-out to the most Tatar of all Tatars, one Charles Bronson.

This is all on wikipedia, too. I'm not requesting more than a few hours of reading before this story is written. Maybe Mr. Englund could also look up the article on Jihad.

Being a Muslim in Russia is no fun. Grozny is enough of a disaster, but thousands of migrant workers and you know, people who are in their hometowns, get persecuted all the damned time.

And the maps, no context. Just..."Geeyah! Muslims!"

I don't understand the fear of some teenager turning from a life of crime to one of, what seems, just kinda chilling at the mosque all day.

The piece objectifies Islam, objectifies Tatars, and just basically paints them all as a bunch of weirdos we could never understand. There's no context of what Sarachev now believes, how he goes through life, or anything like that. Oh, and we have our standard "Ewwww, Kurban Bayram" bit too with the sacrificed goats. And no mention of Ibrahim/Ishmael = Abraham/Isaac.

It's just another missed opportunity to try and draw a picture of Islam that American can understand and be sympathetic towards. Instead, it's something different and scary. "On Faith" is, pretty much, "On Our Faith" to the exclusions of those out their whose last names are not Meacham or Quinn.

It's too damned bad that this counts for a puff-piece in one of the biggest newspapers out there.

Merry Christmas.

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