Elephant in the room: a really horrible thing happened yesterday. A lot of innocent people got really badly hurt or killed for no reason, and that’s really, really fucking awful, and whoever did it deserves every available variety of justice served up on a platter. On fire. No sympathy from me.
But the thing that I found doubly horrible was that, just a few hours after the news broke, before any kind of investigation was launched or any evidence collected, “Muslims” started trending on twitter. Ah, yes, Islam–America’s favorite scapegoat. If you follow me on twitter, you probably already know that I consider that to be 50 shades of bullshit.
Guys. This is not okay. And because this is primarily a media-related blog and not a political one, I’m going to use a TV show to tell you why. Let’s talk about Little Mosque on the Prairie.
Now bear with me, because this is going to take some exposition. Little Mosque on the Prairie was a Canadian TV show that aired from 2007 until 2012 (it was recently picked up by Hulu plus, where it is just called Little Mosque). It centers on a Mosque in the middle of a rural, conservative Canadian town called Mercy, and it explores all different aspects of life as a Muslim in a Western country. It’s also a sit com–a hilarious, intelligent sit com. While it still has all the absurdity of most comedies, the characters are well-rounded, diverse and lovable, and they interact in recognizably human ways. There’s Amaar, the over-eager Imam desperate to prove himself; Rayyan, the (sometimes too) outspoken political activist and feminist; Baber, the fundamentalist who gives them all a bad name, and his rebellious daughter Layla; Yasir, whose commitment to Islam waxes and wanes based on its usefulness to him; Sarah, who converted out of love for her husband Yasir and never really fully adapted; and Fatima, who treads the line between fundamentalist and feminist, but ultimately serves as the heart of the community. All of these characters are the same sorts of people you might find in any other kind of church, with the fundamentalists and the casual participants all thrown in together, trying to find a common understanding. They bicker, they tease, they get into heated spiritual discussions–and sometimes they just hang out. Ultimately, the message is that Muslims are just like anyone else.
These are the people you are talking about when you blame “Muslims” for acts of terrorism. Little Mosque might be a TV show, but the characters in it are a much more accurate representation of Islam than the bullshit media portrayals that label them “terrorists.” They aren’t lurking in a cave somewhere, plotting the downfall of Western society. They’re living their lives, raising their families, and trying to fit in with a culture that’s making it unnecessarily difficult. Blaming them for these sorts of horrific events (completely without evidence, I might add!) is the same sort of thinking that ultimately lead to Japanese internment during World War II. It was stupid, racist bigotry then, and it’s stupid, racist bigotry now.
Little Mosque also provides a few outside perspectives on the Mosque and its community. First, there’s Reverend Magee, the Anglican priest who rented space in his church to them, despite community protest. McGee is accepting and understanding about Islam, and actually serves as a mentor to Amaar (which results in some truly hysterical philosophical conversations). Then there’s the Mayor, Ann Popowicz, who is also Sarah’s boss. Her interest in the Muslim community is purely political–they are only as good as they are useful. She often treats the Islamic community like a joke, but ultimately doesn’t have a problem with it so long as it doesn’t create problems for her. And finally, of course, there’s Fred Tupper, the local alarmist radio DJ, who takes every opportunity to cast aspersions upon the Mosque no matter how little sense it makes. Fred Tupper is an idiot.
Yes, it’s easier to process horrible things like what happened yesterday when you have someone to blame, and “Muslims” are an easy scapegoat. And yes, there are some extremists among Muslims who do terrible things–nobody is denying that. But guess what? There are extremists everywhere, in every community, and though they can be vocal, they do not speak for the majority. Imagine if all of Christianity was judged based on the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. That would be pretty stupid, wouldn’t it? Well, this is equally stupid. Blaming “Muslims” is only going to further divide us when we ought to be supporting one another. After all, plenty of those Muslims you’re talking about are also Americans, and they’re just as upset about this as the rest of us.
Don’t be Fred Tupper, guys. Be Reverend McGee.
Your friendly neighborhood scapegoat,
“Can’t a Muslim book a one-way flight these days without someone having to call their supervisor?” -Amaar, Little Mosque on the Prairie