Tuesday, January 31st | 10 Shevat 5783

May 16, 2011 11:18 am

The Culture of Victimhood

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avatar by Morgan P. Muchnick


The Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the United States, located in Warrendale, Detroit. Photo: Dane Hillard.

The United States of America is a nation that, to most, represents individual freedom and liberty but, unfortunately, most of us fail to appreciate how unique the US experiment has been. Even the most cursory look at the history of man on earth will lead one to believe freedom is the exception to the story of humankind, and a nation built upon this concept is a true aberration. However, following the 1960s a disturbing trend took hold in the US that runs counter to this idea, a worldview that stands strong today, namely a growing and persistent movement to define everyone except Caucasian, Christian males as victims.  The most recent entry to this trend seems to be the Muslim community in America.

In many ways, it makes perfect sense that Muslims are drifting toward this path.  The collective desire to define oneself as a victim seems to be born of the intellectual movement that believes the majority of US history is marked by successive bouts of oppression.  This thought process was the genesis of the ethnic studies movement, such as African-American studies, Women’s studies, Jewish Studies and the like.  These academic movements all have a shared raison d’être, namely to supply the academic underpinning of collective victimization.

That brings us to the Muslim American experience. Recently the United States Senate held a hearing intended to highlight Muslim victimhood in America.  The self-described purpose of the hearing was to counter-act the perceived bigotry of a House of Representatives hearing, led by Representative King only just weeks before, on the threat of radical Islam in the United States. In addition, CNN currently aired an expose entitled: “Unwanted, the Muslims Next Door” with the overt purpose of illustrating the intolerance of the American people toward the Arab and Muslim population.  Unfortunately, self-described spokespeople for the Muslim population, such as CAIR and others, also cultivate the image of the Muslim victim through media outlets eager to help any Muslim-American describe his or her grievances with the US.

However, as someone who is a student and observer of the modern Middle East, I am keenly aware of the intolerance in Muslim nations. One should look at how Muslim majorities treat their minorities, such as Coptic Christians, Christian Arabs in the Palestinian Territories, women in almost all Muslim counties, and many others.

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In fact, there are well over 1 billion Muslims in the world, with a sizeable percentage living in a majority Arab/Muslim nation.  Interestingly, the freest Muslims unquestionably live in a nation governed by either a secular, Hindu, Christian or Jewish majority. Muslims in the United States, Europe, India and Israel, live the most freely of any Muslim group in the world.  While there are individual Americans who happen to be racist, these individual cases are not representative of an overwhelmingly tolerant nation, such as America.  To label Muslim Americans as victims of collective oppression in the United States is Orwellian language, defining a beneficiary of freedom as a victim of oppression.

Furthermore, the United States Department of Justice keeps methodical records relating to hate crimes.  If one were to take the media and intellectual class at its word, Muslims would surely be the overwhelming leader in ethnic-inspired violence.  Surprisingly, the 2009 statistics regarding hate crimes based on religious motivation shows that 70.1% of such crimes were anti-Jewish while 9.3% were anti-Islamic and almost 7.5% were either anti-Catholic or anti-Protestant.  http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2009/incidents.html. These numbers simply do not reflect the rabid anti-Muslim sentiment that the media and some Muslim leaders would like us to believe permeates American culture.

Instead of cultivating the victim status, I sincerely hope the leaders of the American Muslim community seize control of their religion and begin to publically shame the radicals among them.  As others have pointed out, after 10 years since the horrific events of 9/11, there has never been a large scale movement among Muslim Americans to denounce the use of political violence in America or around the world.  Why wouldn’t leaders from this community organize something akin to the “Million Man March” with the purpose to thank the United States for offering unparalleled freedom and to further offer its condolences for the violence conducted in their name? Cleary no ethnic group is required to thank the US for the freedom they enjoy; it is a gift to all Americans.  However, the US is engaged in an active war against radical elements within Islam.  The US military cannot win this war alone; we need moderate Muslims to join the fight. A move in this direction would be good for America and the Muslims that live within her borders.

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