aNewDomain — So the U.S. President Barack Obama orders the Army to respect Ramadan rules. It’s not so mindblowing. You’d think that US personel try to respect local custom whereever they are, whenever possible, right?
So why are so many media outets so outraged about this seemingly mundane news? Conservative blogs are running headlines like: Barack Obama Orders U.S. Military To Sharia Law During Ramadan, Christians Express Disdain” and fostering memes like “US Military Bows to Islam.”
Are conservatives making a big deal over nothing?
So I took a closer look.
Are we visitors or occupiers?
The order from the Commander-in-Chief to military personnel was explicit. As The Weekly Standard wrote:
A top commander in southwest Asia reminded U.S. military personnel stationed in Muslim countries in the Middle East of the restrictions placed on them during Ramadan … Brig. Gen Jon Quintas … added that soldiers should … remember we are guests here and that the host nation is our shoulder-to-shoulder, brothers and sisters in arms, risking their lives for our common cause to defeat terrorism.'”
Sounds reasonable on first glance. So why the divide?
In my view, the issue lies in a conservative viewpoint that we are occupiers rather than visitors in Muslim lands. In this view, Americans are never visitors. The US must be forever be “shock and awe” occupiers, a presence to be reckoned with and feared. And obeyed.
But Obama is to be praised for his progressive attitude. He’s absolutely right that, to win friends and influence people in the Mideast, and in the shadow of ISIS, the ugly American thing isn’t wise. It never was, but now Obama and his commanders seem to get it. It’s Ramadan. You don’t drink alcohol in public during the month that Muslims observe it. Why engender more hate? There is quite enough already.
Pamela Geller wrote, “If the U.S. is submitting to Islam, then what the heck are they doing over there, anyway?” She doesn’t get it.
And neither does anyone else who believes the US is better served by having its Mideast-based servicemen acting like ignorant, insensitive occupiers. Why sow more hate and do ISIS’ work for it?
It’s that the tribal Middle East is complex. The great majority of Westerners don’t understand the area or the culture, and they don’t try to.
As my partner Jamal Dajani says, “CNN’s Falafel Experts on the Islamic State and Syria … (are there) any Syrians? No. Any Arabs? No. Any women? No. Any people of color? No.” On CNN news debate shows seen widely in the Mideast you’ll see a lot of middle-aged white guys, many of whom are debating whether the US should show other cultures the barest modicum of respect.
Can’t we be patriots and support of Islamic culture at the same time?
For aNewDomain, I’m David Michaelis.
Images in order: Ramadan in Thailand screenshot via Egypt Independent; Iraq Market by U.S. Army via Flickr; Beckel and Thomas via Fair.org