Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Muslim, the Bacon Sandwich and the rest of us


Delicious bacon sandwich. Please do not eat if it is proscribed by your religion. But leave my bacon sandwich alone. Thank you. (Wiki commons photo)


About a month ago, we decided to eat in a Moroccan restaurant in Exeter. It was very much Moroccan-owned and Moroccan-staffed. Mainly, the clientele appeared to be regular old Brits.

Until recently, I would have thought nothing of dining in a Middle Eastern restaurant, nothing at all. One of my favorite restaurants in New York was a Turkish restaurant, and there were a few other Middle Eastern restaurants in NYC I really liked.

But that day, I was sort of put off. The staff was polite and friendly, like any UK restaurant staff. But I realized I was just not relaxed. As if I were being judged for my summer clothes...that sort of thing. I decided to avoid Middle Eastern restaurants in future. Not that I think every person from the Middle East or who had ancestors there is a terrorist.

BUT...one never knows. A regular British person of Middle Eastern heritage apparently committed one of the most heinous acts of terrorism in recent history.

I don't want to punish innocent Muslims for that. On the other hand, we seem to have gone way too far in our attempts to be egalitarian and accepting. That works if the people with whom one is dealing are like-minded. For example, the French handle their cutlery differently while eating; so what? They don't demand that Brits knife-switch (as the French and Americans do), and Brits (generally speaking) do not refuse to share a meal with French people or Americans.

The French also love organ meat; generally speaking, Brits and Yanks don't. Neither forces their views of organ meat on the other; neither would demand a restaurateur refrain from advertising his/her meals designed around organ meats to attract those customers as well as those who like plain old chicken that's also on the menu.

And yet, in Winooski, VT, a college town, a Muslim woman demanded that a restaurant owner remove a sign about bacon because it offended her. Muslims don't eat pork; neither do observant Jews. It was not, please note, a Jewish resident who was offended by a Christian's logical advertising of the pork product that they served. Jews do not expect the world to revolve around them...generally speaking. Christians don't either, unless they are named Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter.

But Muslims, it appears—despite their mandate to kill all infidels, that is, you and me—are very thin-skinned, unable to even tolerate the word signifying something they do not eat.

On the other hand, they are, in their home nations, impervious to western culture and imperious about keeping any vestige of it out of their nations.

Would any of us dare to go around in shorts and a halter top in, for instance, Afghanistan?

Would we ask a Muslim man in Yemen to get a cinder out of our eye? Would a Muslim man in Syria have a friendly conversation with a woman who was not his wife, mother or sister?

The Muslim world completely rejects western cultural norms. And yet, when Muslims arrive in the west, they have no problem demanding we honour theirs, not only respect theirs, but actually alter our own way of life to accommodate them.

That is, if nothing else, arrogance in the extreme.

One could say, in fact, that beheading people is arrogance in the extreme. Famous beheaders include Henry VIII, a syphilitic excuse for a ruler with about as much humility as George W. Bush. Bush, recall, masterminded water boarding. OK, that's not beheading. But in a western society, I would contend that it is as close as one can get without going over the line.

In western thought, there is no room for arrogance in the same place as spirituality. Indeed, humility, service and acceptance are keywords in all western religions...and even more so in far eastern religions.

It is only in the middle—in the Middle East—where it all falls apart, a reign of spiritual and temporal terror riding on the steed of a prophet some believe never existed, and whose holy book is full of viciousness toward anyone except men who believe without question everything written in that book.

OK. It's fine with me, and with most westerners I should think, if people want to voluntarily follow such a model. In their own country. I'll just choose to stay away. Should I happen to go there, I would be careful to follow their customs so I wouldn't get my throat cut. Probably. The rule of law as understood in the west is not operative in the Middle East...generally speaking.

But it isn't fine when Middle Eastern zealots—by which I mean any non-westernized Middle Eastern followers of Islam--want to use our own accepting western attitude to force their very unaccepting attitudes upon us.

It is time we stopped bending over backwards to accommodate cultural norms that are at odds with our own, that, in fact, are being used to fragment and destroy our own.

Or possibly we are bending over forwards;or certain, the woman who lodged the bacon complaint screwed over a bunch of other people because she was offended. She screwed over the restaurant owners, his customer and the town itself.

And for what? She didn't have go eat there; it was not the only restaurant in town. If it offended her, she could have crossed the street and not looked at it. But she imposed her Middle Eastern beliefs on a western town, which one might reasonably assume to be full of accommodating Christians, Jews, a few Buddhists (I said it was a college town) and atheists.

But taking offense at what someone else does in all innocence that harms no one is, in fact, arrogant. It is proclaiming that your concept of how the world should be is more important than theirs, and you will do whatever it takes—whining, complaining, beheading—to ensure that everyone....EVERYONE...
knows just exactly how offended you are.

I say screw that.