By Ismail Royer
Originally published in October 2002 on ATrueWord.com
When I was fourteen I knew a girl who always had some devastating personal issue or another to unload on me. Her brother was always trying to kill himself, or her parents hated her, or she was running away from home or something. Being the nice, bleeding heart guy that I am, I always felt compelled to listen to her endless whining and try to help her in some way. But of course I never really liked her, I never really respected her. How can you respect someone drowning in self-pity? It’s human nature to be repulsed by undignified people.
In America today, folks vie for political influence by assuming a mantle of victimhood. This has its origins in the fact that there are real victims of America’s march through history which this nation has never really faced up to. Some of those victims made imperfect but measurable gains during the civil rights era, so every group jockeying for power these days portrays themselves as similarly victimized. By adopting the language of the civil rights movement, they hope the legitimacy of actual victims rubs off on them, thus allowing them to tap into lingering white guilt as fuel to propel their particular cause.
Don’t think I’m talking just about homosexuals or the handicapped or any of the favorite targets of conservative criticism of victimhood. Considering that Evangelical Christians and their allies among the Jewish community are some of the biggest whiners, it’s amusing that right-wingers have the gall to criticize anyone else for playing the role.
Since victims are all the rage nowadays, it’s hard to blame Muslims in America for having a tendency to whine as well. It’s easy to understand why, because it’s a fact that Muslims have been mistreated in this country to some degree–I myself recently tussled with some neo-Nazis in rural Ohio who had a problem with my wife’s face veil. It’s also understandable that Muslims would adopt the vocabulary of the left, since liberals have been Muslims’ main allies.
But there’s a problem with Muslims making themselves into the victim. First, it’s undignified. Just like I couldn’t stand the girl I felt an obligation to help out, crawling around whimpering and begging isn’t going to foster Muslims’ self-respect, nor is it likely to make other Americans impressed with Islam, even though they might feel guilt-tripped into throwing a few crumbs from the political table.
Second, it’s simply not the case that, relatively speaking, Muslims in America have suffered to any great degree. It’s silly and–as Civil Rights Commissioner Robert Ingram points out–even offensive to even imply that Muslims have been treated as badly as other folks. It would be a mistake to feel safe and secure, but it’s a testimony to the American people’s progress and tolerance that there hasn’t been systematic rioting or lynching of Muslims in the US (so far). After all, in other parts of the world, Muslims are slaughtered for far less significant reasons than 3,000 people dead and several billion dollars worth of damage. That’s not to belittle the 9/11-fueled murders of Muslims that did occur, but overwhelmingly, Americans have maintained relatively tolerant attitudes toward Muslims in America, even though the government has launched what appears to be the beginning of a crackdown that “real Americans” are likely to eventually suffer from.
Finally, though many of the Muslims who have internalized the language of the left and lecture piously about human rights when it comes to how they themselves (read: Palestinians) are treated, they don’t seem quite so moved at the deaths of Jewish children targeted by Muslims who ignore Islamic rules of engagement. This inconsistency doesn’t go unnoticed, and gives the appearance (ahem) of a double standard. (Can’t wait to see the hate mail on this one–I’ll deal with the issue then.) This, of course, applies to Israelis as well, who derive political benefit from the killing of their civilians but will slaughter Arabs at the drop of a hat.
I don’t want to address at this point the question of whether or not, or to what degree, Muslims should be involved in the political process. I’m just suggesting that in whatever arena we find ourselves, let’s conduct ourselves as men and women and not just randomly adopt any strategy that is currently in vogue–even if it seems to be an expedient means of achieving success.