Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Talking Points versus Data Points

I was forwarded the following message from a relative. Under this is my response, which I sent to everyone on the list, including some people I didn't know (I included any email address I could find from the "forward" fields in the body text).

This is very interesting and we all need to read it from start to Finish......... and send it on to anyone who will read it

Maybe this is why our American Muslims are so quiet and not speaking out
about any atrocities.....

Can a good Muslim be a good American?
This question was forwarded to a friend who worked in Saudi Arabia for 20

The following is his reply:

Theologically - no. . . . Because his allegiance is to Allah, The moon God
of Arabia ..

Religiously - no. . . . Because no other religion is accepted by His Allah
except Islam (Quran, 2:256) (Koran)

Scripturally - no. . . Because his allegiance is to the five Pillars of
Islam and the Quran.

Geographically - no . . . Because his allegiance is to Mecca , to which he
turns in prayer five times a day.

Socially - no. . Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him To make
friends with Christians or Jews.

Politically - no. . . Because he must submit to the mullahs (spiritual
leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of America , the
great Satan.

Domestically - no. . . Because he is instructed to marry four Women and
beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34 )

Intellectually - no. . . Because he cannot accept the American
Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the
Bible to be corrupt.

Philosophically - no. . . . Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran does not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

Spiritually - no. . . . Because when we declare "one nation under God," the
Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as
Heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in The Quran's 99 excellent
names. - - - Therefore after much study and deliberation.... Perhaps we
should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country. - - - They
obviously cannot be both "good" Muslims and good Americans.
* * * Call it what you wish..it's still the truth.
* * * You had better believe it.
+ + + The more who understand this, the better it will be for our country
and our future. The religious war is bigger than we know or understand. . ..
And Barack Hussein Obama, a Muslim, wants to be our President? You have GOT to be kidding! Wake up America !

Obama even says if he wins the election, he will be sworn in on the Quran---not a Bible!



I'm not normally big on responding to something as factually sparse and rhetorically misleading as this, but this hits somewhere fairly close to home given the fact that I've lived in Egypt for 7 months and now Malaysia for 5.(providing me a total of 1 year in 2 very different Muslim countries). Additionally, I have several very good friends in the United States who are Muslim.

I'm doing this because emails like this are based on talking points schemed up by political parties to sway voters, when in fact it is data points they should be providing to help voters make informed decisions.

I have a few data points I think might be useful as you consider your vote. I don't care about your vote, I just want to share some information.

Anyway, to begin with, the lines taken from the Koran are obviously put in a position to be taken WAY out of context and some are frankly wrong. For example, consider this line:

Socially - no. . Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him To make friends with Christians or Jews.

What, exactly, is this line based on? I have no idea. You have no idea. This makes it very unhelpful to our individual decision making processes.

Another example that is different but related is the "Al Gore invented the internet" statement. This statement (or talking point) was completely massaged, misconstrued, and taken out of context to make him look like a fool. Here's the data of what he actually said:


As you can see, his actual statement was manipulated for political gain, not social or productive gain.

Items like this are extremely unhealthy for us as empowered citizens to be passing around willy nilly. I think this is something we can all agree on regardless of our own political leanings and affiliations.

I could easily pull out Scripture lines that could be massaged the same way the lines in this email were. Is this helpful? Not at all. Is it hurtful to us all? Definitely.

As our primaries progress and the national election nears, we must discuss relevant issues using facts, and if we don't have the facts we need, we must seek them out.

Let me offer a few more facts from my own experiences with Muslims, of which there are many.

In my 7 months in Egypt, I was invited into the homes of several Muslim families to spend time, share meals, and just get to know each others world perspectives, political views, and life experiences.

Instead of forcing their perspective, as often happens in my conversations with fellow Americans, they were actually very inquisitive and interested in what I thought. I don't get that much from Americans (Democrats or Republicans).

In 4.5 years in Madison (at UW), how many homes was I invited into? Zero.

Does this make Muslim families "stronger" than American families? No. Could it be massaged? Yes. And you'll never hear of such experiences in 3-minute clips on Channel 5 news, which is a bummer.

One of my best friends from Madison, a Muslim originally born in Egypt, will be joining Teach for America this June because she wants to improve the educational system for all our children. I can think of few examples that better exemplify an act of giving and improving our nation.

In all my time living in these Muslim countries, I've never met anyone (Muslim or otherwise) who wouldn't LOVE to visit the United States and find out once and for all what it's really like. I met a ton of Egyptians who even wanted to go to Israel. The sad truth is that they will never be able to do so; to go and see the country and meet the people face to face, because of the implications it would have back in Egypt.

And just the same, while in Israel, I met Israelis who wanted to travel to Egypt to see the country and meet the people, but they too were worried about the implications they may invoke from their government.

When I went to Israel, I had to take special measures to appease the Egyptian government before my voyage. One of my best friends went to Israel (while he was living in Egypt) and later had his phone tapped by the Egyptian government. Is this fair? No. Our government does the same sort of nonsensical phone tapping to non-citizens and even our own citizens as well.

It is important to separate the distinction between governments, extremist groups, and normal, average Muslim humans, just as you are a normal, average American human who doesn't always approve of what your government or national extremest groups do.

I could provide more data and perspective, but in light of brevity I'll finish here. I have one last thought.

Currently, everyday a primary ends, I am bombarded with questions from foreigners here interested in OUR results. Did you see it? What do you think? they ask. Our vote is impacting the world, yet it is often us who don't realize it. Often times, our government has a bigger impact on their lives than their own government. A Finnish friend asked if I was voting because if I wasn't, he wanted me to cast a vote in my stead - because the US policy decisions impact his life so much.

And finally, the constitution calls for the separation of "Church" (or Religion, which is what our Founding Fathers (where's the Founding Mothers?) meant) and State. If we are to remain the nation of equality, regardless of religion (religious freedom is why our first settlers came here), it is critical that we apply this idea not selectively, but completely.

Just as our Pledge of Allegiance says "under God," it also calls for "liberty and justice for all." Let's keep it that way.

Your vote is extremely important and has implications all over the world, so please take the time to do it carefully. And please give your fellow American citizens the respect they deserve.

And now, I'm off to the Philippines to visit Grace and get some much needed R & R,


PS - Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, has a democracy. Here's an article from the Christian Science Monitor:



And now I'm off to the Philippines. Grace called a few hours ago to make sure I shaved. Great to have people looking out for me.

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Blogger Connie Mia said...

good stuff, mikey.

i'm often in awe of things you do.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Mix said...

Needed something to help me stay up all night so I don't miss this flight. Grace would be pissed.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Ariane said...

thank you


2:10 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Nicely done.

Have you gotten any replies off the email thanking you??

4:15 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Thank you Williams. Once again, you've made me shed a tear. Or two.

PS. I was born in Saudi. I forget that sometimes too.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Katy said...

give grace a great big hug for me por favor

4:34 PM  
Blogger Jenna V said...

1. I am so jealous of you visiting Grace, Say a big hey to her and her family and friends for me. And drink a green mango smoothie...and eat all the food they put in front of you, haha.
2. Loved that you asked where the founding mothers were.
3. can't wait to hear about the replies if there are any.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

Thank you for doing that.

8:13 PM  
Blogger SarahEliz said...

give grace a huge hug for me too.

9:38 AM  
Blogger syd said...

i just sent your post to my parents bc my mom has the same mentality. maybe your words will knock some sense into her.

give grace a huge hug from the cornell crew :)

12:02 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

It's amazing sometimes how stark the contrast is between the power of the perception of reality versus reality itself. It really speaks to just how much we need to overcome in order to win "hearts and minds", to borrow a turn of phrase. In the end, I subscribe to the belief that people are just afraid: afraid of that which is unknown, afraid of that which challenges all that they've been told, and afraid of that which is contradicts what they've rationalized as true. It takes a staggering amount to convince people that they should question their spiritual and social leaders.

And on a lighter note, holla from the ATL!

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Diyana said...

Hi, saw your blog from Preblog.
Welcome back.

I'd like to quote :
"Socially - no. . Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him To make friends with Christians or Jews."

I am a Muslim. Not a very religious one, but enough to respond.

I beg to differ on the quote above. Islam does not forbid any Muslim to make friends with other non-Muslims. Such thing has never been told, not to my acknowledge.

Just like what Jesus has told his follower, "Spread the word."

Islam expects Muslims to do the same, but not by avoiding friendship nor to force.

My two cents.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Mix said...

That is part of what I was trying to illuminate with this post; that many of those statements are misconstrued.

9:10 AM  

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