Reshaping the Contemporary Muslim Mind

Jonathan Brown


Channel: Jonathan Brown

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So I wanted to come

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on Oh, Jesus Madoff manner him

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had this huge clock here. That's great. My watch. I, this is a very important question how Muslims can kind of configure their minds for dealing with the challenges they face that we face today. When I talk to Muslim students or Muslim audiences, one of my main the main point I try to get across to them

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as they, you know, as we all confront, and deal with the endless stream of media, news reports about Muslim does this, this horrible thing happens in Muslim country, no Muslim does this attack Muslims says that thing. It's kind of overwhelming, just constant constant, constant expression of how Islam is a problematic religion, how Muslims are problematic community, the thing that I always tell Muslim students is, you are not the problem.

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Muslims are not the problem. Islam is not the problem. And it's hard to believe this considering the amount of attention that Muslims and Islam get negative attention.

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But Muslims and Islam are not the problem. I want to explain why that is.

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And I'll do it by referring to an excellent book. I really urge you all to read this book. It's it's well written, it's relatively short. It's fascinating. It's called on the Muslim question on the Muslim question, by Anne Norton, on the Muslim question by Anne Norton, I really urge you to read this book.

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What she demonstrates in the book,

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is that the Muslim problem, the problem of Islam, the problem of Muslims, is not really about Muslims at all. It's not about Islam at all. It's about the western inability to deal with the internal contradictions of Western civilization. It's about people in the West's anxiety over their own identity. So Muslims are the screen on which those identity those anxieties are projected, Muslims are the vehicle by which this internal concern over contradiction is voiced.

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And before it was Muslims, well, actually, it's been Muslim since the beginning of Islam, but it's also especially Europe and Jews. So, you may have heard of the book on the on the Jewish question. It was written by Karl Marx. Well, Norton's book is showing that just like Jews, Muslims are a problem for the West, because they show the West its own internal contradictions, the contradictions between its ideals and its reality.

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Just give a couple of examples. For example, the obsession over freedom of speech when it comes to Muslims and Islam, the idea that Muslims somehow don't understand freedom of speech, we, we saw this, we continue to see this constantly expressed in the media in the West. This isn't really about

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what Muslims think about freedom of speech. This isn't really about Islam, and whether Islam can handle freedom of speech or not. This is about the fact that in the West,

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freedom of speech isn't offered equally to all communities. Freedom of speech becomes a shield,

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or a rubric, under which the majority

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denies the rights of minorities to the same level of respect in the public space. And I'll just give you some examples of this. When the Charlie Hebdo attacks happened a few years ago in Paris, the next day, the days after that there are all these images of legions of French people standing out holding up pen saying just to be sharlee freedom of speech. You know, there are cartoons where you know, pens were were breaking terrorist bullets and terrorist missiles and things like that. Just a few days after that, just a few days after the attack, a French comedian Judo named Bala Bala was arrested for hate speech and was prevented from performing his comedic his comic act, because to

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quote the French court, his his words were going to prove a grave threat to public order, a grave threat to public order. I'll tell you something else. It was a grave threat to public order, Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

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But were they prevented from publishing? No, absolutely not. But when a minority when a Muslim member of a minority is saying things that are considered

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controversial, then he has to be silenced. And in the weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, over 50, Muslims in France were arrested 50 French citizens were arrested, because they had expressed understanding of why the attacks have taken place. They didn't do anything, they had just expressed their understanding of the anger of the of the, the the motivations of the terrorists.

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So you see here, right, just if people are out there saying this, we surely freedom of speech, people in their own country, Muslims in their own country, citizens of their own country are being arrested for expression for only the freedom of expression, an example of this in the United States, which by the way, has a much stronger rule of law protection for freedom of speech than European countries. Thank God. Okay. But think about all the we hear constantly now of Republicans proposing that Muslims coming into the country should be asked to, you know, what are their views on Sharia law? Are they going to denounce Sharia law? You know, try being a Muslim. You are, you know, try

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being a Muslim and saying something positive about Sharia law, try going out in front of people saying, I embrace Sharia law, think about what think about the kind of abuse you'll get, think about the kind of threats that will put you under in terms of your employment in terms of your reputation. But if you go, you know, if you go online, just Google does the Constitution,

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which is, does the Constitution, overrule the Bible? Just Google that. And you find all these websites of American Christians saying, absolutely not. It's unacceptable for any manmade document to overrule the Bible. Even Ben Carson, the former presidential candidate, now he's going to be the secretary of I don't know what Okay, he's, he was asked on meet the press by Chuck Todd about a year and a half ago. Does the Constitution does the constitution overrule the Bible? He said, Well, really depends. You know, it depends certain parts of the Bible, certain parts of constitution, try being a Muslim, and getting up there and, and and asking for that amount of time and your

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explanation about whether the Sharia law overrule the Constitution.

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So here, think about just this freedom of speech isn't just about what you say it's also your right to remain silent. Freedom of speech is also the freedom not to speak. But we Muslims know that Muslims don't get that right. Because they're always demand. It's always demanded of them to condemn this to condemn that to speak out against this speak out against that.

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Don't do I don't even need to tell him what this audience that Do you know, do the white people have to condemn crazy lone gunman who shoot up schools, the white people out there condemn racists like who shoot up churches in North Carolina? No, they don't. But Muslims, if they don't, if they don't speak out and condemn things, they're assumed to be supportive of them. So this refusal to deny the same freedom of speech to Muslims,

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is because freedom of speech really functions to protect the majority.

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Other issues in which the Muslim problem really masks or even expresses internal anxieties over the fault lines in western civilization and Western identity is the issue of women and sexuality, the obsession, the absolute obsession in western history with Muslim sexuality. It's, it is outsourcing Western anxiety over our own inability to deal with issues of gender.

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For example, if a Muslim man kills a Muslim woman, it's automatically an honor killing automatically

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over that, just until someone proves otherwise. Have you ever heard of one when a woman gets killed? The United States we ever heard this talked about as an issue of violence against women? No, it's just it's a crime. It's a murder. It's a you know, it's a specific crime is discussed. It's never discussed as part of an issue of violence against women.

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But when Muslims do things, not only is it an issue of violence against women of oppression of women, it's an issue specific to Islam, that Muslims and Islam have a particular problem with violence against women. And, for me, I was so stunned. I went to India in 2012. Okay, I have a PhD, I'm a professor. So I'm decently educated person.

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I went to India in 2012. I read about something called dowry killings.

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I didn't even know this existed. So every year in India, there are between four and 8000 dowry killings, that means a wife is killed by her husband or hubbs husband's family because of some shortcoming in her being a wife,

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basically, and it's very rarely investigated by the police.

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The number of doubt Remember last summer there was a woman who was killed in Pakistan by her brother. Tragically, she was murdered by her brother in Boston. There was a full whole article on this any economist that week. I checked, I just googled that, you know, recent dowry killings in India, there were three dowry killings in India just that month. No one even never never came up in the meat never given the media outside of India, period.

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So there's this obsession with Muslim violence against women. And the assumption is that it's because of Islam, or because of something wrong with Muslim culture. But when you put all the attention on Muslims, what it means is that the actual problem goes unaddressed that problem of violence against women as a human problem as a problem that all human communities suffer with. By the way, what are the places in the world with the highest rate of violence against women?

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Central America, Guatemala, El Salvador, these are the countries in the world with the highest rates of fat, what's called femicide, or murder of women because they're women. Does anyone talk about that? Does anyone know that? No, because this is obsession with Muslims. The Muslims become the scapegoat, so that no one else has to look at their own problems.

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Of course, there's the obsession with Muslim violence. And again, when you think of when, when Muslims become the violent people, when Islam is the cause of violence, no one has to look at the violence that they reach. So, you know, if you

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you don't have to even you don't even think Google, I'm sure if you just go to some random web page, there'll be a story of some terrorist attack or of some Muslim killing somebody.

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Since the beginning of the war on terror, in 2001, in 2015, an organization called physicians for corporate

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social responsibility, physicians for social responsibility, issued a report 2015 looking at how many people have been killed in the war on terror in just three countries, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan.

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They calculated conservatively that 1.5 million people had been killed by the United States and its allies in the war on terror. 1.5 million people, the vast, vast majority of them are civilians.

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Do Americans even think about that? No. They don't even you know, you go and watch movies like American Sniper, which is a really terrible movie. I saw it in the airplane. That is the dumbest movie I've seen in my whole life. I have to say, I couldn't believe when I was watching it. I was like, this is this is like some guy grunting about. He doesn't even talk he just grunts it's a really weird movie. I don't mean that people watch this movie. It doesn't. You know, every once in a while, there's Oh, he's kind of sad. He had to kill a kid. But he only had to kill the kid because the kid was a terrorist. So the idea of Americans have is that, you know, sometimes Yeah, we kill

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civilians, but we have to have to. But Muslims are the ones who engage in go to go to this violence. They're the ones who really just kill innocent people for no reason.

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So this obsession with aided Muslims are violent, that inherently something's wrong with their religion that causes them to be violent. It allows it gives us a free pass on coming to terms with our own violence and the death that we cause in the United States, which is, by the way, numerically, vastly superior vastly higher number than any deaths caused by Muslim organizations today.

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Think about the issue of violence and Muslim youth.

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teenage boys are well known to be the stupidest group of people in the world. I say this as a former teenage boy and a teenage boys out there. It's okay. It's not your fault. You grow out of it.

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Nobody on earth thinks that teenage boys make good decisions.

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And when a young white guy gets a tattoo, oh, he's just making bad decision. When it young you know, when when a college student starts wearing Che Guevara t shirts and talking about how he's against the system and things like that. Everyone's like, that's okay. If a Muslim of the young Muslim talks about how they're upset about injustices around the world, or they're upset about what's happening in Palestine, their federal what's happening in Burma, suddenly this is a security concern. And CVE programs countering violent extremism after start looking into this person, because it might be a terrorist. So even the the political awakening of a young Muslim person, usually a male, in this

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case, looking out at the world and saying, There's things I don't like there's things that are wrong. There's things that go against my values seems to go against American values. I want to speak

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out against these things for for any other minority, or any other person, especially a majority white person. This is simply expected

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from for a Muslim, it's a security concern.

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It's important that Muslims recognize this, it's important that Muslims recognize that they are not the problem that Islam is not the problem for two reasons. One, because it helps them It removes this massive burden from your back. Okay, you are not this this evil force that's portrayed on television in the media, of Muslims in Islam. That's not that's not Muslims. That's not us. We're not the problem. The Islam is not the problem. I have no problem saying that as a Muslim, I have absolutely no problem saying, I am not the problem. Muslims aren't the problem, Islam is not the problem.

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I have no problem saying that. So first of all, it frees us from that burden. And the second thing, it really helps us, help other people. It helps us help the majority in this country.

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Because Muslims in Islam have been made the mirror has been made the mirror in which others see

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their discolorations their flaws.

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And that makes them hate Islam that makes them hate Muslims. Muslims are the lens through which the West expresses its own anxieties about itself.

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instead of allowing people to blame us use us to kind of exercise these anxieties. We need to hold these this mirror up to them and say, Look, look at look at the contradictions here. Look at the contradictions here. Why is it that my rights as a Muslim freedom of speech aren't the same as yours? Why is it that my rights to believe in a certain vision of God and God's law aren't the same as yours? Why is it my rights to have political opinions aren't the same as yours?

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Not only does that

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if people believe in the ideals of democracy and constitutional rights, or freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, which I believe Americans do, not only do we help them achieve those ideals, or at least a better approach those ideals. But we also

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help this country and especially in Europe, which has a much more serious problem, we help West come to terms with its single most enduring problem, which is its inability to deal with real internal diversity, its inability to deal with real internal diversity.

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the French public, or a large portion of the French public says,

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we think it's important to draw insulting pictures of the Prophet, because we want to insist on the right of freedom of speech, and we want and we think people should accept that other people have the right to insult them, because that's part of freedom of speech. That's part of the West.

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And when Muslims say, look, we know you have that right. When Muslim people in France most French Muslim say, Well, you know, you have that right. But this hurts us. Why do you want to hurt us? We're fellow French people, we're fellow French citizens, why do you want to hurt us?

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And when that public says, we have to hurt you, we have to hurt you, because it's freedom of speech.

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That's not

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really standing up for freedom of speech. It's not, it's not a courageous stand for freedom of speech to say, I I'm going to protect my right to insult a beleaguered tiny minority.

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It's not courageous for like Bill Maher to say, he's standing up for liberalism, because he's standing up for his right to insult Muslims. It's something Muslims, it's really easy. You can do it on TV all day and nothing will happen to you. For God's sake, the President of the United States, future president united states, salted Muslims constantly, he felt that all these minorities constantly in his campaign, and nothing happened when he was still elected.

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It is not courageous, to say that insulting people who are unempowered who are besieged, that is not courageous to insult them. It's courageous to stand up for

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the unempowered It's a courageous stand up for the week, and does tell the majority of powerful majority that it can't say these things.

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That's courage.

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Muslims can help this country and also other Western countries by not giving in to demand to assimilate.

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There is nothing in the American Constitution. There's nothing in the values of the United States that I know of

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It says that people have to give up their religious beliefs. It says that people have to give up their cultural markers that they have to give up the ways of dress. If they had to give up their their food, they have to give up their political values. There's nothing I know that says you have to do that in order to become American.

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So if we give in if we give into pressure and assimilate, you know, start calling yourself Mark instead of Mohammed. You know, if we start doing that, we're not doing anybody any favors. We're not standing up for any value, we're gonna lose our own identity. And we're gonna lose the chance to remind others around us that being American doesn't mean dressing like a preppy white guy.

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It means standing up for freedom of religion, freedom of expression, accountable government, transparent government, freedom of association.

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We have the chance to remind people of that we need to, we need to stop thinking of ourselves as a problem and start seeing ourselves as a reflection of problems in our society that actually have nothing to do with us Docomo