Of all the grand facets of humanity worthy of daily expression, we seem to have found ourselves ubiquitously occupied by one of the most base and depraved of the lot: blame. ‘Blame the cops’, ‘blame the rich’, ‘blame the Jews’, and ‘blame the Liberals’. But mostly, blame the Muslims.
Blame is an easy slope to slip down—it’s sheer as all hell, and treacherous by nature. When we feel threatened, the most natural reaction is to find the source and strike back. This is a wise and adaptive trait. It once kept us wary of lions, a good quality to be certain, because those mangy bastards will tear you to bloody shreds without a second thought.
But as we’ve made our way out of the savannah and into a more complex society, we have accordingly found our threats growing broader—more difficult to define. The threats are similar enough in nature, and the fear is certainly no different, but the struggle becomes, in such an interconnected and nuanced world; where to place the blame.
It’s an issue that touches most every other—blame, and the need for it, permeates our society as deeply as hunger, equality, freedom…terror.
But of all the fears and all the culprits, none are as commonplace these days as the fear of and blame of Islam. Herein lays an important distinction. There can be no doubt whatsoever that some Muslim people have committed horrendous acts. This by necessity makes them potential objects of fear, and hence, blame.
The mistake here, and the especially slippery nature of this particular slope, is the inherent risk of conflating trait with cause. Certain Muslims have committed atrocities. But is Islam to blame?
A growing consensus among even the intellectual elite seems to support this notion. Recently—and as an ongoing tenet—the otherwise venerable Bill Maher has thrown his hat into the ring, landing unequivocally in the ‘Islam is an inherent evil’ corner (Link).
To my mind, this is an abhorrent mistake. More fundamentally—if you’ll excuse the term—it’s a misunderstanding of both human nature, and the true root of the problem here.
Just as fear leads to a drive for blame, so frustration leads to a compulsion towards anger. As humans, it is our natural inclination to construct narratives which provide meaning—or more pertinent to the case at hand—to latch onto narratives which fit our circumstances and needs.
When we are driven to find context in the wide and mysterious world around us, we construct belief systems. When we feel lost or uncertain, we take comfort in platitudes and homilies. When we are driven mad with fear of explosions and beheadings, we latch onto narratives of ‘the other’—the turban wearing madman with a mad lust for blood and unquenchable thirst to desecrate all we hold dear.
But the pendulum swings both ways, and when humans find themselves desperate, or afraid, so too do they grasp for and hold tightly to whatever narrative may give justification to their feelings.
At present, for a small portion of disenfranchised and rueful Muslims, this narrative need is met in the form of Islam. It is unfortunate, but it is reality. This is not to say there is anything inherent to Islam which makes it a violent or reactive belief system—at least any more than so many other belief systems—only that it may suffice as such in time of need.
The role has been filled by many other narratives before it. As President Obama pointed out (Link)—much to the chagrin of his electorate—Christianity filled this vile role during the crusades, and in many other periods of history.
Looking back to more recent events, we can find a fine parallel in the tragic shootings at Columbine High School. When these disenfranchised and deranged youth decided to commit a massacre at their school, many media outlets were quick to jump on their favourite artists as the ultimate culprit—primary among them the singer Marilyn Manson (Link).
Looking back on this farce, it’s clear to all but the most troglodytic amongst us that Marilyn Manson was no more responsible for this travesty than you or I. But his was, perhaps, the soundtrack playing in the maligned brains of the killers. His may have been the narrative they latched on to in their rage, but this is hardly a sufficient link to establish any sort of causal relation between the two.
The same is true, of course, with Islam. Even though we are witness now to a group of misled Muslims (some of whom may or may not have justifiable cause for anger) who use Islam as the marching banner of their holy war, there is little doubt their actions would be no less reprehensible under a different narrative. Their anger and their actions are products of their environment and their ability to process it. If we can imagine for a moment—as farcical as it seems—a world with no Islam, but in which all other social and economic factors in the middle-east were entirely comparable, I believe there is little doubt these militants would quickly find some other name to pin their hatred upon.
All action and belief needs a narrative. In this instance, the religion of Islam is being used to fill a terribly dark void—one that has arisen and been filled in people by different means throughout the sad duration of our existence. Still, that very same religion is followed by countless virtuous and just men and women the world over. It is a fallacy therefore to assign blame to the narrative. It belongs rather with the actors, and moreover, the circumstances which drive a nation to such desperate straits (Link). It is not the nature of the narrative which must give us cause for concern and rebuttal, but rather the source of need which this narrative is used to fill.
Fear is a rational reaction to a threatening stimulus. Not so blame. Blame is an atavistic and base reaction; one that provides comfort and perhaps unity among the maligned, but does nothing to move towards resolution. If we want to solve the problems afflicting our society, we must address the social and political situations from which they arise. Otherwise, we are doing scarce better than our detractors—joyfully burning the effigies of our fear while suffocating on the fumes of its intolerance.
-Brad OH Inc.