Between school, working full time, and my quest to find the perfect man, I seldom have the time to sit down and read the paper or watch the news. Plus, every time I take a few moments to indulge in popular journalism, I am bombarded by cranky old men and “mama bear” women pressing me into ultra-conservatism or ultra-liberalism.
So, I’ve turned exclusively to one hour of cable television to get all of my news: Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘The Colbert Report.’ Don’t be too quick to judge me: during my research for a term paper on Jon Stewart’s show, I found that in 2004 some absurd percentage of 18-34 year olds cited ‘The Daily Show’ as their main source of news. (I’d give you the actual statistic and citation here, but hey, this is a blog. And I’ve already read all of my source materials once; I don’t want to do it again. Sorry.)
Last night it was Colbert, however, who made my night with his segment “Muslim Threatdown.” Colbert examines how Islam is “permeating our society” through public schools’ recognition of Muslim holidays, and Kellogg’s and Campbell’s release of Halal cereals and soups, as reported by right-wing blogs. I figured Colbert and his writers at Comedy Central must stalk the right-wing bloggers (who even reads blogs, anyway?) to find this stuff, but it’s surprisingly easily available. Google “blog Halal Campbell’s” and you’ll find such titles as “Creeping Sharia” and “Campbell’s goes Halal to appease terrorist-funded group.” Seriously? How do these people get enough credence to end up on cable TV?
I figure the right-wingers who express these crazy views about the jihadists secretly taking over America are just afraid. And while the fear might stem from experiences, it’s still irrational. Like all phobias. And just because you’re afraid of something doesn’t mean you should be allowed to, and certainly not encouraged to, make public, definitive, and influential statements about it.
For example, I am afraid of frogs. I hate those slimy, bug-eyed, long-legged creatures. Sure, there are some tiny yellow ones off in the rainforest somewhere that could kill me with the toxic oils seeping from their pores, but I know that the frogs I see, that I actually deal with on a day-to-day basis (I’m from New Hampshire, we have frogs) could never hurt me. But that doesn’t mean I’m not terrified of them. It’s a phobia, it’s irrational.
So no one would ever let me write a blog post (at least not on a widely read influential blog) about frogs. Steven Colbert would never put my frog blog on his show. Because I would say utterly absurd things, like, “that frog I found smushed under the bathmat at summer camp? That was just the beginning of the frogs’ takeover of every place I find sacred.” (It’s true, though.)
Certainly no would take my frog blog seriously. In fact, people would ridicule me. My friends do ridicule me. So much so that, quivering and with a sour smile, I force myself to take 12 little frog-loving girls out to catch some. (Little girls always love frogs.) I even carry the bucket in my shaking hand, and smile and nod when they catch one and put it in. “Greeeeeee-eat,” I say, and if you know me you can picture my pursed lips, squinted eyes, and brows raised so high my forehead wrinkles as I say it.
So sure, there are some yellow, rainforest, toxic-oil Muslims out there. We’ve seen it. And some people are afraid of Muslims, and they can’t help it because fear is a feeling, and it’s irrational. But that certainly does not give them the right to suggest that Campbell’s is making Halal soups as a means for the Muslim brotherhood “to eliminate and destroy Western civilization from within.” (I refuse to link to it, but that’s from Pam Geller’s blog).
Is the greater world solution really the same one that my friends use on me? Do we really have to ridicule—I mean personally make fun of—people that fear Muslims? Should I befriend some Islamaphobe bloggers and force them to eat Campbell’s soup or other delicious Halal foods? Will that convince the right-wing bloggers that most Muslims they interact with on a day-to-day basis are not only harmless, but good and kind people who deserve, at the very least, that you try to understand and get to know them? You don’t have to love Islam, but you can’t hate (or slander) its people.
And yes, I did, in fact, just compare Islamophobia to my own ranidaphobia. But that can't possibly be as offensive as Geller.
Check out the segment on Colbert: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/361759/october-11-2010/threatdown---muslim-edition?xrs=share_copy