Saturday, November 21, 2009

Scary Muslims in Sweden?

This video recently came to my attention through the Jewish grapevine about the threat of Islam in Malmö, Sweden:

Understandably, any Jew watching this clip would feel alarm. But there's more to this clip than the narrative it tells. I'll begin with its source: CBN. The Christian Broadcasting Network was founded by the conservative televangelist Pat Robertson. As a representative of the far-right evangelical Christian community, he is accustomed to inciting controversy for his views. Among other examples, he suggested Ariel Sharon was punished by God after suffering a stroke:

And in case you don't trust MSNBC, here's a clip from CBN two days after 9/11 with Pat Robertson and his ally Jerry Falwell. Not only do they claim God allowed the terrorists to attack us because we haven't pursued their ultra-conservative Christian agenda, but Falwell says we probably deserved it.

That clip was filmed more than a year after Sen. McCain called Robertson and his ally Jerry Falwell intolerant and wrongheaded during the 2000 presidential campaign (though he has since backtracked). The point is Robertson views the world through a religious lens - one most of us would not agree with.

As such, when we watch anything from CBN, we need to filter their narrative to determine what we should accept as fact and what we should evaluate as opinion. Of course, this advice holds true for any news source, but for CBN it is especially important. Unlike other news sources that strive for fair and balanced reporting - or at least claim to do so rhetorically - CBN has no qualms in admitting it adheres to an evangelical Christian perspective.

So let me provide another perspective from a Muslim friend who actually lives in Malmö. As the CBN video claims, there has been a large influx of Muslim immigrants to Sweden, as well as other Scandinavian and European countries. Many have come because of wars in Iraq and the Balkans or because of persecution in their home countries. However, as she told me, "there is no risk that Muslims will take over Sweden, EVER." Even in Malmö, there is only one mosque outside the city "since the people didn't want one and especially not close to the center."

Muslims face many challenges in Sweden. Many immigrants live in slums, not only because they can't afford better, but because "some areas won't accept immigrants." Meanwhile, Muslims in Denmark face special legal difficulty bringing their spouses to Europe. As such, they often live in Sweden while working in Denmark, further adding to the swell of immigrants in Malmö.

Denmark is now "very open" about their racism, as shown by the firebrand anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, who pretended to tear a Qur'an in half in his documentary Fitna. Importantly, Wilders has strong ties with the Swedish Democrats (SD) party and the International Free Press Society quoted in the CBN clip. According to my friend, SD is a racist party and no other Swedish party is "willing to talk to them [and] the newspapers won't publish anything that has to do with them." Importantly, there is a mainstream Christian party called the Christian Democrats.

As for the demonstrations shown in the CBN segment, they occurred during the war in Gaza and tempers were running high. Nonetheless, my friend insists they weren't violent as the clip implies, but were instead just the result of "stupid youth" getting together. Nor do Jews get physically attacked all the time, as CBN claims.

What I find ironic is that, in a clip that seeks to expose discrimination against the Jewish community, discrimination against Islam lurks beneath the surface. As my friend points out, "he clearly thinks all Muslims are bad and that Islam is a threat." The problem is not that the clip identifies some Muslims behaving badly, but that it generalizes that behavior to all Muslims. Bill O'Reilly on Fox News has made that same point several times in light of Robertson's claims that Islam is a violent religion that seeks global domination. For example, see this recent segment below (or this one here).

In an interesting article on YNet, Rabbi Levi Brackman asks whether Israelis should accept the friendship of American Christians. He eschews the Islamophobia of Pat Robertson and others like him who condemn all Muslims as violent: "good people will study their holy books and only see goodness and love within its pages. Evil people, conversely, will see, within the same book, a mandate to hate, murder and terrorize." As such, Rabbi Brackman urges us to "be wary of those intolerant people who use their religion to look down upon and be intolerant of others." Luckily, there are many people "who care for what is good and right no matter which religion they believe in or from what part of the world they come."

Lucky indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment