Islam and the Ghost of Patton

Patton and the ghost of IslamSome time ago, I was assaulted by the words of a former American SF soldier who poorly paraphrased Gen. George Patton and his rants against Germans. This former GI used Patton to cast negative insults upon Muslims. (“Millions of these s**** are plotting, as we speak, to destroy our country and our way of life any way they can.”) (first published AUGUST 29, 2010)

It was one of those ridiculous rants which come from no brains, utterly without a thought to be squandered trying to find out something about Muslims. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that far too many Americans have these narrow-minded beliefs deeply embedded in their pursuit of intolerance and xenophobia and that only a vague form of cowardice and “political correctness” keeps it from bubbling to the surface. My response follows…

Gentlemen, rogues, pirates and other assorted scoundrels. Lend me your ears, I come to bury the “Ghost of Patton” not to praise him.

I do not want to start WW III with my comments, however, I have some things I need to say about Muslims and Islam. I hope you will stay with me to the end please, this is a long message.

First, how many of you know that Muslims have the same God as Christians and Jews? Allah, Elohim or Yahweh or simply God, all mean the same thing. Jews and Muslims have different names for what they perceive as different characteristics of God. Muslims, Christians and Jews all share the same “famous guys” (prophets) down through the ages such as Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Noah, Kings Solomon and David, Jesus and others? Do you know that Jesus and Mother Mary are revered among Muslims and that there is a shrine to her in Turkey? Do you know that Muslims believe on the Judgment Day that Jesus, not Muhammad, will rise again and be the person to pull it off?

I have been living in Turkey for almost 10 years and am married to a Turkish woman who takes her Sufi Muslim religion seriously, BUT, she does not wear a burqa, a headscarf or dress all in black, however she occasionally gets her grey hair tinted. She is university educated, is about as “western” as they get (especially in her shopping habits), she speaks three languages fluently (French, Turkish and English, NOT profanity and broken English as do I) and does not hate the USA. Ditto for those in her family and virtually ALL of her friends and many of the Turkish people I have had the good fortune to meet along the way.

I am the ultimate “infidel” (gâvur in Turkish); I am an atheist and a cynic, an old SF guy AND an American. Until I retired from teaching at a university in Istanbul, some of my students thought I was a CIA agent but I told them that I would not work for such an incompetent organization. If Turkish Muslims here are going to hate anyone they should hate me.

During my first visit to the States after 9/11 I saw a lot of material being written about Islam in bookstores. How many of you have seriously tried to find out more about Muslims? There is no such thing as an Islamic “pope.” Islam is not a monolithic world-wide conspiracy as some people would have us believe anymore than is all of Christianity beholden to the Pope.

“Islam” is as difficult to pin down as is Christianity. Which Islam is the writer speaking of? Sunni, Shiite, Ahmaddiya, the “whirling dervishes” of Sufism or the more sober Naqshabandi? Is he speaking of the Alevi from Anatolia or the Kurd residing in Turkey, Iran or Iraq? When you think of a Muslim do you think of an Iranian, a Turkish manager of a F16 fighter plane mfg. plant, an Indonesian, a Saudi, an Afghan mystic, a Pakistani of Indian parents, a Malaysian flight attendant, an Emirates tourism company executive, a Taliban, or perhaps someone other?

Does the writer really believe that all Muslims are out to destroy the “rest of us”? I do not believe in coddling those who would rain terror down on innocent people’s heads and that they should be stopped and/or brought to justice. I also believe I have an obligation to try to find out WHY such people would WANT to do such terrible things and WHY so many people hate and/or fear America. When I first came to Turkey my ignorance showed in every question I asked and in my lack of understanding of everything I saw or experienced. I became determined that I would try to understand the culture in which I currently swim.

I am a “liberal” in the same vein as Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin and that “good ole boy” Sam Adams and I believe in the American dream and that the US Constitution is the finest political document ever written. So if you are going to hate liberals, don’t forget those “pointy headed” intellectual academics who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

I believe that the United States Constitution guaranteeing freedom, in writing, and the words written at the base of the Statue of Liberty are the reason so many people have chosen to make America their home. I do not believe that most immigrants are the enemy; immigrants are almost all of us! The only non-immigrants are the indigenous people, those who are called American Indians. All you “papist micks, limeys, wops, krauts, kikes, japs, chinks, slopes” and other assorted ingredients of the American stew, were at first immigrants, seeking a new life. AND, you were not welcome by those who came before you and certainly not welcome by the original indigenous people.

LeMonde HeadlineAfter 9/11, even LeMonde in France, a newspaper usually very critical of US policies, wrote in bold headlines “Nous sommes tous Américains” (We are all Americans). Here, in Turkey, there was an outpouring of personal grief to me by my neighbors and Turkish friends and in public demonstrations. And in the media there were many condolences written to the American people. Turkish people seemed to feel the pain that Americans were feeling. The subsequent overthrow of the Taliban (a bunch of seriously “bad guys”), was cheered and supported among what seemed to be most of the Turkish population and media; all Muslims.

The first Gulf War in Kuwait to push Saddam out was almost unanimously supported around the world, including Muslim countries AND in Turkey. Turkey took a huge financial hit by stopping trade with Saddam and for supporting that war but they hoped that the end of Saddam would make for a better neighbor. Sadly, the US let the Kurds and the Turks down and left.

Later and unfortunately, the 2003 invasion and take over of Iraq culminated in a big loss of respect for the US and fear and anger about what might happen next. It seems that almost no one outside of the US believed the reasons for the “regime change” in Iraq. There have never been any Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Iraq.

I believe that the US is and should be “the good guys.” I believe that if we do send troops into harms way we should have good reasons for doing so. However, I do NOT believe the rest of the world are “the bad guys.” Since the end of WW II and the start of the Cold War, the US has gotten itself in a lot of trouble with “regime changes“, especially the Middle East and especially Iran. (Do a Google for Mossadeq 1953) Oil figured prominently in that “regime change” not the threat of Communism.

Looking back from a comfortable arm-chair, it seems many mistakes were made while trying to contain Communism. Somewhere along the way, the rest of the world stopped seeing America as the “good guys.” That is the perception of HUGE numbers of Europeans, Asians and Middle Easterners (unfortunately for the United States). In much of the rest of the world, it seems the USA has a seriously negative image problem. After “shock and awe” even Canadian tourists started wearing t-shirts saying they were Canadians and not Americans. Maybe we should ask some of the “best and brightest” psyops guys to be brought in to fix this image problem?

Turkish protestsTurkey is NOT a “Muslim country” but a secular democracy which struggles with its democratic and secular prospects. It has been a Republic only since 1923, a very young country, born out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire and founded under the worst of conditions. Yet it struggles to maintain its Republican and democratic status. Turkey has a Muslim population teetering around 95% ±. The government has its roots in Islam much as the Christian Democrats have theirs seated in Christianity. It is not perfect and the country is going through many changes because of the religious “tint” of the AKP government.

I taught in Turkish universities for 7 out of my more than 13 years. Were they hot beds of radicalism? no more so than US schools today. Although I received many questions about Bush and his regime and the second Iraqi war, I never ran across anyone spouting Islamist slogans or hatred. In my many years here I never had anyone confront me violently because I am an American. The Turkish people are as “westernized” as any people you will see on the planet, Nikes, Reeboks, Levis, Abercrombie and Fitch and Gucci are seen everywhere.

Isn’t it possible that most Muslims just want to have a decent income, a good education, raise their families in peace and live comfortably among their Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors? Jihad, to most Islamic scholars, writers, thinkers and religious leaders is not a fight with non-Muslims, rather it is a fight within one’s self to be a better Muslim, a better person. To the majority of the rest of the population it is a word you will seldom, if ever, heard.

The United States was founded upon the separation of state and religion for good reason AND upon the freedom to practice or not practice whatever brand of religion one wishes. That is a right! No other country guarantees that right so boldly as the US Constitution.

Let us condemn those who would take away what makes us the “good guys” in the eyes of the rest of the world and be careful of making enemies where there are none, let us strive to continue to be “the good guys.”

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