A View From The Handbasket

Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Picking up the brick
Posted by neros_fiddle at 12:17 PM

One of the more ignorant observations I've heard several times in the wake of the Muhammad cartoon riots goes something like: "Those darn Muslims are so violent. We can't possibly have peace with them. Not like Christians. Christians are peaceful, they don't riot or kill people when they get offended. Which they do all the time in this country because people in Wal-Mart won't say 'Merry Christmas' blah blah bloviate..."

Leaving aside the issue of Christianity's rich history of violence (including the Crusades, which have a little something to do with current state of relations between the two religions), what's missing from this analysis is any recognition of the relationship between mob violence and standard of living. Your typical American Christian fundamentalist has a house and two cars and a good job -- he's got too much to lose by throwing a Molotov cocktail at a building, and not much to gain. His complaint is completely theoretical, not practical.

For the typical Third World Muslim, however, the stakes are completely different. For many, their lives are spent under grim conditions with nothing to lose, all the while being fed a steady stream of anti-Western propaganda by professional shit-stirrers. The cartoons are just an excuse to let those simmering resentments fly, resentments that consume the whole of their lives, not just "getting a little steamed while watching Fox News."

So what happens when you put the Muslims and Christians on a level playing field? This:

Religious riots sparked by the publishing of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad continued into their fifth day in Nigeria as Christian mobs in this southern city attacked Muslim motorists, leaving at least 22 dead. Nationwide, the toll was at least 65 dead and likely to rise.

Thousands of refugees also huddled at police stations and army barracks near here to avoid hordes of angry young men bent on avenging days of killings in northern Nigeria cities.

"They've been killing our brothers and sisters in the north," men shouted Wednesday morning, according to motorist Afoma Clara Adigwe, 40, shortly after driving through Onitsha. She escaped the mobs, she said, only by speaking the Ibo language dominant in this heavily Christian section of Nigeria.

Not to get all Marxist, but the problem isn't Christianity vs. Islam, the problem is class. It's the same fundamental mistake people make when they claim that blacks are inherently less "civilized" because their crime rates are higher. Clearly, it's easier on one's conscience to assume that things like crime and violence and terrorism are because of things like race and religion (which we can't address) and not economic imbalances (which we can).

Does any of this excuse crime and violence? Of course not -- the poor aren't above the law any more than George W. Bush is (or should be). But the reasons behind the violence are a little more complex than "brown Muslims are little better than animals."

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