Friday, December 7, 2007

Wasted opportunity

Well, the speech by Walid Shoebat at the UW-Milwaukee went off without anyone's head exploding. Unfortunately, during the Q&A session that followed, an opportunity to engage Shoebat in a meaningful discussion about his controversial views was squandered in favor of shouting and insult-hurling. Which is a shame, because many of this man's ideas about Islam and fundamentalism and how we deal with it really, really need to be questioned.

I understand the passion and anger that these sorts of issues can stir up in a person, I really do. But throwing insults and ranting incoherently aren't going to do anything to further your point or your cause. They're just going to make you look foolish, and they're going to strengthen the views of those people who oppose you. This applies to people on all sides: right, left, middle, whatever. We should all take a deep breath and be willing to actually listen and engage in meaningful debate on a more regular basis. This kind of crap gets us nowhere.

On the other hand, Shoebat wasn't contributing to that cause when he repeatedly made the none-to-subtle reference to the angry questioners "hijacking" the event. Yes, many of them were being disruptive. But to use a loaded term like "hijacking" when referring to the Muslim students in attendance? That's just fucking rude.

Sadly, that seems to be the predominant tone of discussion about Islam (and religion in general) in America. It's all us-against-them, with no room of thoughtful, reasoned debate. But then, windbaggery and fiery rhetoric get better ratings and higher hit-counts, so why would anyone want to, y'know, actually engage in a real conversation about such an important issue?

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The Lost Albatross