The World SF Blog

Speculative Fiction from Around the World

Elizabeth Moon on Islam

We do prefer running positive stories than negative ones on this blog. But one of the aims of the World SF Blog is to highlight not just international speculative fiction, but attitudes in the wider world of SF on issues of race and religion.

So check out this rather extraordinary blog post by American science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon, this year’s guest-of-honour at Wiscon, the “world’s leading feminist science fiction convention”, in which she talks about, ostensibly, the building of a new mosque near the site of the Twin Towers (particularly interesting bits highlighted):

I know–I do not dispute–that many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks, did not approve of them, would have stopped them if they could.  I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Muslims, that many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways.  I am totally, 100%, appalled at those who want to burn the Koran (which, by the way, I have read in English translation, with the same attention I’ve given to other holy books) or throw paint on mosques or beat up Muslims.  But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had.  Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Muslim-defined clothing…but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities.  More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting mosques than synagogues–and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism.  What I heard, in my area, after 9/11, was not condemnation by local mosques of the attack–but an immediate cry for protection even before anything happened.   Our church, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a “peace and reconciliation” program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Muslims but the attackers themselves.   It sponsored a talk by a Muslim from a local mosque–but the talk was all about how wonderful Islam was–totally ignoring the historical roots of Islamic violence.

I can easily imagine how Muslims would react to my excusing the Crusades on the basis of Islamic aggression from 600 to 1000 C.E….(for instance, excusing the building of a church on the site of a mosque in Cordoba after the Reconquista by reminding them of the mosque built on the site of an important early Christian church in Antioch.)  So I don’t give that lecture to the innocent Muslims I come in contact with.  I would appreciate the same courtesy in return (and don’t get it.)   The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution…I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom.  It would be helpful to have them understand what they’re demanding of me and others–how much more they’re asking than giving.  It would be helpful for them to show more understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship in a non-Muslim country. – read the full post.

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September 16, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

132 Comments

  1. I must admit that this is the line that gets me :

    “many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons”

    Classy.

    Comment by Jonathan McCalmont | September 16, 2010

    • My favorite is “many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks”.

      What can she be thinking?!!

      Comment by Older | September 18, 2010

      • My favorite line as well, “Many Muslims,” like what a couple hundred? The rest of those Muslims were all in on it?
        What a ridiculous dangerously innocuous post.
        You know what this article reminds me of? The countless times I’ve heard some mouth breather begin a statement “I’m not racist but… (insert racist comment/story/opinion here).” The kicker is they actually believe they’re not racist. Just like I’m sure Moon believes she’s basically a tolerant person.

        Comment by Spundo | September 18, 2010

  2. “many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons”

    I am still in shock.

    0_o

    Comment by Joyce | September 16, 2010

  3. Dammit. I read the first part of that blog post but wasn’t awfully interested and didn’t read further. She makes Muslims seem like faux “persons”.

    Comment by Farah Mendlesohn | September 16, 2010

  4. Indigenous people, members of formerly colonized nations, and historians (particularly those who’ve looked at the era of the Crusades) must be laughing their heads off at Moon.

    Oh wait. There isn’t anything to laugh at.

    Comment by Jha | September 16, 2010

    • Yeah, though I wish I could laugh :(

      Comment by Shweta Narayan | September 17, 2010

  5. This has popped up all over the place. Regardless of the sentiments, it’s the weasel many Muslims right at the head that is particularly insidious.

    Comment by Ian McDonald | September 16, 2010

    • I agree. It is akin to saying that many British people aren’t members of The Beatles. I mean, I guess it’s technically true, but certainly we can all agree it’s more accurate to say “all but a vanishingly tiny percentage” rather than “many.” Equally her use of the phrase “I do not dispute” as though there is any reasonable way, based on the absolutely objective facts, one could dispute it. It’s amazing how insidious that kind of language is.

      Comment by Liz | September 17, 2010

      • “It is akin to saying that many British people aren’t members of The Beatles.”

        I deal with soft-racist screeds that end in “I know lots of Muslims aren’t terrorists, but…” online and in person on a pretty constant basis, and this might be the best one-line retort I’ve ever seen. I shall proceed to steal it shamelessly — thanks!

        Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 18, 2010

      • Like Saladin said, this is a highly effective one-line perspective-restorer! I’m stealing it too!

        Comment by Raya | September 21, 2010

  6. Oh this really is shocking!!!

    “So I don’t give that lecture to the innocent Muslims I come in contact with.”

    Whoa. What does she do to the “guilty” Muslims she comes in contact with?

    I sort of freaked out and didn’t want to follow the link and read MORE.

    Comment by rreugen | September 16, 2010

  7. Elizabeth Moon is actually scheduled to be next year’s WisCon guest of honor (2011). Which means there’s still plenty of time to cancel the invitation. I hope WisCon will do so.

    Comment by Minal Hajratwala | September 16, 2010

  8. In other news, the Ground Zero mosque is neither at Ground Zero, nor a mosque, although if it were a mosque, that would be fine.

    And a hearty second to what Minal said.

    Comment by V.V. (Sugi) Ganeshananthan | September 16, 2010

  9. [debated whether to bother leaving a comment on Moon's journal, finally decided to go with the following]

    “But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had.”

    Yeah, I guess I should thank my lucky crescent and star that the scumbags who burned down our Arab community center in Michigan (this in the 80s without even the ‘9/11 resentment’ pretext to hide behind) only did so TWICE instead of three or four times. That cabbie in New York should be thankful the guy stabbed him instead of shooting him. Those Mosque-goers in fla. should be thankful the guy who brought a pipebomb into their house of worship set it off in the wrong part of the mosque. Jeez, why can’t we appreciate the mercies we’ve been shown, like good little unwanted alien brown people?

    “many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways.”

    Whew! I’d been avoiding looking in the mirror, for fear of seeing a raving, explosives-strapped barbarian waving a scimitar with one swarthy hand while beating his wife with the other. Glad to see I can go back to combing my hair without worry!

    Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 16, 2010

  10. Speechless here.

    Comment by Fabio Fernandes | September 16, 2010

  11. If you change the first paragraph to reflect the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (and make a couple of minor edits for clarity) you get something that highlights the assumptions made in the original post:

    I know–I do not dispute–that many Christians had nothing to do with the attack, did not approve of them, would have stopped them if they could. I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Christians, that many Christians have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways. I am totally, 100%, appalled at those who want to burn the Bible (which, by the way, I have read in English translation, with the same attention I’ve given to other holy books) or throw paint on churches or beat up Christians. But Christians fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had. Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Christian-defined clothing…but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities. More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting churches than synagogues–and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism. What I heard, in my area, after Oklahoma City, was not condemnation by local churches of the attack–but an immediate cry for protection even before anything happened. Our religious group, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a “peace and reconciliation” program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Christians but the attackers themselves. It sponsored a talk by a Christian from a local church–but the talk was all about how wonderful Christianity was–totally ignoring the historical roots of Christian violence.

    Comment by Rick | September 16, 2010

  12. This is appalling. Let’s hope it can lead to a meaningful engagement with the issue that can pull her, and all of us, to a place beyond the insulting rhetoric.

    Comment by Juliette Wade | September 16, 2010

    • Even before she deleted the comments, she was shouting at someone on Twitter, on the basis that the only reason they didn’t agree was because they hadn’t read it carefully enough. If she’s open to the idea that she can make mistakes, she’s not showing it yet.

      Comment by Polenth | September 17, 2010

  13. Yes, total crazy-ass bullshit. And now the 450+ comments have been deleted. jv

    Comment by Jeff VanderMeer | September 17, 2010

    • There were 521. I was reading through them when she deleted everything at 4:40p CT and had checked the total just before.

      Comment by Jennifer | September 17, 2010

    • I was just done the first page too, and was wondering where the other two pages went. How rude!

      Comment by Jha | September 17, 2010

  14. There are by point of fact screencaps:

    Not dialup friendly at ≈3 megabytes each. But they exist. Not all of the comments are expanded.

    Comment by CV | September 17, 2010

    • Is there a screencap for page 1?

      Comment by yama | September 17, 2010

  15. JohnCWright-ism is back. Only now is religion. How many months before we get racism? It seems these people can’t get enough prejudice. Idiots.

    Comment by Jacques Barcia | September 17, 2010

    • I was thinking the same thing. Just like with Wright. Wonder how long before we get a “not apology”?
      Or misogyny and racism?

      Comment by sftheory1 | September 17, 2010

  16. There’s a great post here about how Moon’s GOH status shouldn’t be revoked, but WisCon admins should take this incident as a way to open dialogue, preferrably by making Moon explain herself.

    Comment by Jha | September 17, 2010

    • Asim made good points there.

      Comment by Joyce | September 17, 2010

    • Hi, I’m that asim guy. :) Thanks for the boost! I’m hoping it was of use.

      I do, however, want to point to some very important and thought-provoking questions/criticisms around my ideas, posed by a Muslim Fen on my journal in response to that post, as well as reposted elsewhere. A critical point that I didn’t think to make in my journal (since most of my readership knows this) I’m not Muslim, so am speaking from a POV of an ally (the quick summary of the username is that it’s been my Belly Dance/SCA Performer for nearly 20 years, now); I don’t want their voices drowned out just because, as I said in that post, I’m a rabble-rouser.

      Comment by Woodrow "asim" Jarvis Hill | September 18, 2010

  17. I hope she doesnt have to go into hiding like Molly Norris or worse end up like Theo van Gogh…

    Comment by RVM | September 17, 2010

    • Um, I hope this is ironic. Because raising the specter of Moon getting stabbed on the street just because a slew of non-bigots decided to go over to her blog and take issue with her comments is preposterous. If you spent any time at all reading about Islam (online and in the mainstream media alike) you’d see that HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people are perfectly happy to disparage Muslims in quite broad and offensive terms. What percentage of these people has actually ever been attacked? ‘These people are prone to violence’ boogeymanery is not helpful here — in fact it’s as offensive as Moon’s post was.

      Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 17, 2010

  18. I got a question, since you guys are on this topic.

    Is it now acceptable policy of failfandom members to go over to Elizabeth’s blog and call her names? I think what is particularly gutless about that behavior is that folks are engaging in such behavior without identifying themselves.

    On the other hand, it seems to me that Elizabeth’s main mistake, aside from giving her honest opinion, was to sign her name to it.

    Further, what about this boycott of her products I keep reading about?

    Just wondering, because if folks in failfandom have a boycott in mind, I think I’ll organize a counter boycott starting with a series of reviews of Elizabeth Moon’s novels. After that I think I’ll read some of Elizabeth Bear’s work and review that as well.

    Steven Francis Murphy
    On the Outer Marches

    Comment by S. F. Murphy | September 17, 2010

    • Could you please post links to whoever is proposing a boycott of her works? I’ve been reading a number of posts and blogs about Moon’s post, and while I’ve seen various individuals state that they won’t read her fiction again, I haven’t seen any indication or mention of an organized, fandom-wide boycott.

      Comment by Livia Llewellyn | September 17, 2010

    • I keep seeing this kind of argument, and I don’t get it. Firstly, this conflate anonymity with pseudonymity; the two are not the same. Secondly, this only comes up when people show up who disagree with a published author. (Y’all seem happy enough to accept psudonymious compliments.) Thirdly, I’ve read through the comments; there is some name-calling, but just as we’re not all the Beatles and all Muslims aren’t terrorists, not all those comments involved name-calling– some seem to be downright anguished that a respected, beloved author turned out to hold these views. And lastly, I’ve seen this argument used, many times, as a derailing tactic, so that we’re no longer talking about the fact that Elizabeth Moon made an ass of herself on the internet, we’re talking about whether or not pseudonyms are acceptable when responding to her, and whether or not everyone was mean to her.

      If you think people don’t get in trouble for spouting idiotic views under pseudonyms, you clearly haven’t been on the internet much.

      Comment by PomperaFirpa | September 17, 2010

    • I understand the impulse, but the counter-boycott idea is as bad as the (dis)organized blogging and tweeting that people have been doing about not buying Ms. Moon’s books. Nalo Hopkinson had the right take in a tweet: “I abhor Elizabeth Moon’s recent post on Islam, yet I still intend 2 read Speed of Dark or anything else by her that I’m moved to.”

      Comment by Will Shetterly | September 18, 2010

  19. What names did people call her? How many people? How many people disagreed without calling her names? It it worse to call someone a bigot, or to write something bigoted?

    Comment by Lydia | September 17, 2010

    • People have called her a racist though she never discussed race; she seems like she would be perfectly comfortable with black Christians and completely uncomfortable with white muslims.

      Comment by Will Shetterly | September 18, 2010

      • Feh. If I could edit that, I would lowercase “Christians” or uppercase “muslims.” It’s a horrible typo.

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 18, 2010

      • The thing is, contemporary anti-Muslim bigotry can’t really be usefully discussed outside the context of white supremacy (we could have a different discussion if we were talking pre-18th c. europe). Race is, of course, a social construction, and religion has been a part of that very complex construction — looking at a history of US immigration one could argue that Catholicism has been regarded as a ‘little bit less white’ of a religion than Protestantism, Judaism a little less than Catholicism, and Islam significantly less than Judaism. This isn’t universal — obviously, Black protestants have never been viewed as white, for example. But Islam is, in the western imagination, a ‘brown people’ religion, and Islamophobia as it is typically articulated in the US and western Europe absolutely partakes of racist tropes. When bigots scrawl things like ‘fuck sand niggers!’ on mosque walls they’re doing it because there is, to their mind, an indeliable link between Islam and non-whiteness.

        Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 18, 2010

      • Saladin, total agreement that some folks use “Muslim” as code for “scary brown people.” But that doesn’t mean it’s always code. It could be argued that John Walker Lindh is a race traitor, but he’s only a race traitor if you ground the argument in terms of racism rather than nativism or bigotry. An awful lot of white, Asian, and Hispanic folks who are scared of Muslims adore Condi Rice, Clarence Thomas, Lloyd Marcus, Alan Keyes, Michelle Malkin… The only way to call them racist is to say they’re prejudiced in favor of an imagined American race that consists of conservative capitalists.

        I’m not saying Elizabeth Moon isn’t racist. I haven’t seen the evidence either way. Maybe she makes the Muslim=Brown connection whenever she uses the word. But for now, why add racism to her sins? Nativism and bigotry are plenty.

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 18, 2010

      • That got me wondering about Muslim Republicans. I found “Conservative Muslim-Americans’ Letter To GOP Leaders: Don’t Bring Mosque Debate Into Elections” here:

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/17/conservative-muslimameric_n_684692.html

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 18, 2010

      • Except that racist doesn’t nec. = ‘equally hateful toward all nonwhite people.’ Back during the LA riots there were white conservatives who were ostensibly worried for the ‘heroic Korean shopkeepers’ who were being victimized by the ‘savage Black rioters,’ and I would argue that white liberals who vociferously defend their beloved Obama from the racist teabaggers’ ‘he’s a Muslim’ ‘disparagement’ are validating one form of racism even as they’re trying to combat another. My main point is that anti-Muslim bigotry is sometimes rationalized via the claim that it’s not racism (which We All Agree Is Bad) but a critique of ideology (which We All Agree Is Acceptable) and that that claim is, given the status of Islam in the western imaginary as a ‘brown people’ religion, bogus.

        Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 18, 2010

      • Saladin, complete agreement about the general observation. Racism in the US has developed some bizarre variants since the ’60s. I was reading a while back about sites like Vdare that are loved by white, Asian, and Hispanic racists who aim all their prejudice at folks of African descent. (Which, logically, means all of us, but apparently it’s Africa + eumelanin that makes the difference.) But where’s the evidence that Moon’s in that camp?

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 18, 2010

      • “where’s the evidence that Moon’s in that camp?”

        Well, that’s where my analysis differs from a lot of internet-ese around these issues. I’m not particularly interested in the question of whether a given person “is a racist” or even “engages in racist behavior.” I’m interested in systems. And my point is that it’s next-to-impossible in the current US political climate, to engage in broad-brush attacks on Islam without (to mix a metaphor) the phonograph needle falling into the grooves of a racist system’s already overplayed record.

        Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 18, 2010

    • “my point is that it’s next-to-impossible in the current US political climate, to engage in broad-brush attacks on Islam without (to mix a metaphor) the phonograph needle falling into the grooves of a racist system’s already overplayed record.”

      Yeah. As Malcolm X said, you can’t have capitalism without racism.

      Huh. How did I leave “capitalism” off her list of sins? :)

      Comment by Will Shetterly | September 18, 2010

  20. You know, I read this thing thinking there might be some reason to it that I had missed, but the more I look at it, the more I find myself in shock. I can understand *some* of what she says, in terms of the context she’s trying to put it in, but it seems to me that most of what she’s saying applies to any religion. Aren’t Christian groups just as eager to protect their religious views and way of life as she’s saying Muslims are? Aren’t most religions that way? Or am I naive.

    As to S. F. Murphy, who said:
    “Is it now acceptable policy of failfandom members to go over to Elizabeth’s blog and call her names? I think what is particularly gutless about that behavior is that folks are engaging in such behavior without identifying themselves.”

    And:

    “Further, what about this boycott of her products I keep reading about?”

    I don’t think it’s acceptable to resort to name calling. I think taking her to task for what she said is perfectly appropriate. But the one thing people seem to forget on the Interwebs is that we get nothing done by treating rude people with equally rude behavior–or even treating less-than-rude, or unintentionally-rude, or misguided, or whatever in the same manner. Ignore it, debate it, or rant about it, but ad hominem has never been an appropriate tactic outside of the courtroom. It’s lazy and often cowardly–I’d even go so far as to say it exposes the vacuousness of one’s thoughts on the matter at hand.

    To the second point: boycotting is acceptable. There are consequences for what we do and say. A reasonable consequence for saying something awful like what Moon has said is to have people swear off your work for however long one feels reasonable (a year, until an apology, forever, whatever). I’ve done the same to a number of authors. We often vote with our money, and should, since we now live in a country that allows corporations to use profits to support political campaigns. The same logic works for authors, since our money goes to making sure they can keep writing, which gives them a voice through which to say what they will. You’re free to that voice, but people in a particular fandom do not have to give you money for it.

    But that’s how I see it. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Comment by SMD | September 17, 2010

    • I agree with your opinion on ad hominem attacks. However, I feel I should note that relatively few people engaged in them (there are screenshots upthread where you can see for yourself), and I don’t think those few should be used to dismiss all criticism of Moon, as S. F. Murphy seemed to be doing.

      Comment by Lydia | September 17, 2010

      • Oh, I hope I wasn’t implying that there were a lot of attacks in the now-deleted thread. I was simply responding to Murphy’s question. I didn’t actually look at the comments. But I will just to get an impression of what was said in the thread.

        And I agree absolutely that you shouldn’t dismiss criticism based on what a few people have done. That’s the same mentality it seems like we’re fighting here in terms of Moon and others: the idea that we can hold the whole accountable for the part. I do, however, think it’s perfectly fine to dismiss anyone who does resort to ad hominem, though. If that’s your modus operandi for argumentation, then you should probably rethink your argumentative style.

        Anyway. We’re in agreement, I think (hope).

        Comment by SMD | September 17, 2010

  21. SMD, we agree, I just wanted to make sure that got said. :)

    Comment by Lydia | September 17, 2010

    • Oh, okay. Phew.

      Comment by SMD | September 17, 2010

  22. Whose is dismissing the concerns? I am not.

    As for boycotts, Shweta implied one by stating that she was unrecommending Speed of Dark. This in addition to others demanding that Moon be uninvited as Goh at Wiscon, that a walkout might be initiated if she did appear and the comments where nameless people said Moon was a disgusting human being.

    As for screencaps? Seriously? Folks are punching the delete key in this event as fast as they punch the post and screen caps key. I suppose you are not taking my word for it, which is your business but know this.

    I generally keep the fictional stuff in my published fiction. I have no incentive to generate controversy.

    Finally, boycotts, my advise would be to consider that most of Moon’s fiction, along with a heavy portion of her fan base, are military SF readers. This type of boycott is just the sort of thing to inspire them to purchase more books by her, not less.

    There is also the fact that a boycott may backfire.

    Steven Francis Murphy
    On the Outer Marches

    Comment by sfmurphy1971 | September 17, 2010

    • And boycotts are something she’s going to have to deal with based on what she’s said. It might help her sell more books, or it might not. It might also lead to her removal from certain parts of the community. There are consequences. Some of them are unethical (name calling, for example) are some of them are not (boycotting her work, etc.). If she didn’t want to face the consequences, she should have rethought what she wrote.

      The point isn’t whether the boycott works. The point is that those of us with a conscience don’t have to support her with our money. That might be a problem for her if she’s not interested in a community of readers who are, by definition, bigoted.

      Comment by SMD | September 17, 2010

    • “Whose is dismissing the concerns? I am not.”

      You see nothing wrong with what Moon wrote, and all of your comments here are geared at painting her critics as bad people or gloating about counter-boycotts. So yes, you are.

      Comment by Lydia | September 17, 2010

  23. Fair enough, SMD.

    Let’s call it what it really is.

    Moon has been blacklisted.

    Would you say that is accurate?

    Comment by sfmurphy1971 | September 17, 2010

    • No.

      Comment by Anna Feruglio Dal Dan | September 17, 2010

    • That sort of depends on your definition of blacklisted. You seem to be under the definition that an entire community of SF readers are going to ignore her works now because of what she said. Correct me if I’m wrong here.

      But assuming I’m right, as time has shown again and again, the SF fen community is wide and varied. Some individuals are going to blacklist her work. Are you saying they shouldn’t do that, based on the hurt she has doled out to them? Are you saying there should be no response to what she has said? Or are you saying that if people are going to start ignoring her work, they should do it without telling others to do the same? Or what?

      Pray illuminate.

      Comment by Jha | September 18, 2010

      • I certainly think that these people would do everything they could to get her blacklisted if they could. A boycott is a step towards that designed to punish her for speaking her mind.

        As for saying or doing, that isn’t the point. If you are going to boycott or blacklist someone simply because you disagree with them then it should be worth pointing out that this caters to the worst human tendencies with regard to censorship.

        There was a book about a world like that once. Taking to the logical conclusion, these folks would see to it that you wouldn’t be able to articulate an opinion that was contrary to theirs.

        In other words, the proposed remedy is worse than the perceived disease.

        Comment by sfmurphy1971 | September 18, 2010

    • No. ‘Blacklist’ is a very particular term with a particular history. In all contexts, from the Restoration to the McCarthy era, it is a top-down action by those in power — institutional power, not ‘consumer power’, BTW. A boycott (which I haven’t even seen widespread calls for in this case anyway) is, conversely, generally a bottom-up affair arranged by those who are not in institutional power, a la the Montgomery bus boycott. They’re actually different totally things, which is why there are different words for them.

      Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 18, 2010

      • Also, positing CONJECTURE like ‘these people WOULD get her blacklisted if they COULD’ as being worse than an ACTUAL hateful screed which is tossing fuel on the US’s already blazing anti-Islam fire is a bit silly. Unless, of course, one basically doesn’t care that we’re in a particularly ugly national moment re: hatred toward Muslims, which seems to be the case for you, given your posts here.

        Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 18, 2010

  24. SMD wrote: “That might be a problem for her if she’s not interested in a community of readers who are, by definition, bigoted.”

    This line is pretty interesting. I’m guessing this community of readers is referencing military science fiction readers. Am I right?

    So you are prepared to generalize an entire community of readers away by saying they are bigoted simply because they like mil SF?

    Hmm, I wonder what Scalzi’s fan base might make of that.

    Comment by sfmurphy1971 | September 17, 2010

    • Not what I said at all. There are bigoted people in most communities, but it would be a gross generalization to say that military SF readers are bigots, and so I would not say that. In fact, since I don’t really know who makes up that genre’s core readers in terms of the demographics, I can’t say with any credibility what the politics of said readership is, let alone whether Moon writers fiction that all of them identify with.

      I am saying that her comments could very well limit her potential audience to people who share her views (based on what she’s written, rather than on what she might have been trying to say in her head, which I can’t see now since she’s deleted the comments), which will most likely be a predominately bigoted bunch.

      And I don’t think she’s been blacklisted, simply because the implications of that word are far above what seems to be happening here (but I leave that answer open enough to further evidence to the contrary). I think she’s just lost a lot of fans, and a lot of potential fans will probably avoid her by her association with an ideology they do not subscribe to, in much the same way that Card has lost fans for his anti-LGBT articles. She’ll likely still sell books, and keep many fans, but a lot of people won’t have to feel bad about helping her do that.

      Comment by SMD | September 17, 2010

      • It would be a gross generalization, would it? Funny, that is not how I read your comment and I think I’ve decided that I am not satisfied with your clarification. If you MEANT what you added in your clarification then you would have put it in your initial post.

        In fact I think your first comment is probably an accurate description of your opinion with regard to military science fiction readers.

        You think they are bigots. You definitely seem to imply that anyone who continues to read Elizabeth Moon is probably a bigot as well.

        Or do you need another clarification post?

        Comment by sfmurphy1971 | September 19, 2010

      • Your comment reads like confirmation bias. You’ll read whatever you want into it, even if the evidence for your reading is nearly nonexistent. To assume that because I didn’t say one thing, that I must have said another is more or less evidence of such a bias.

        Comment by SMD | September 19, 2010

  25. Murphy: Slippery slope. Fun.

    You’re arguing that by exerting my freedom to not purchase products by an individual and to tell others not to do so, I am effectively censoring someone else, or leading to a world in which that would be possible. If slippery slope arguments actually worked (in the sense that they are logical), then I’d give credence to your argument, but since they rarely do work, your argument falls short, particularly since nobody is suggesting she should not be able to say whatever she wants (at least nobody I’m seeing, though I imagine someone thinks that somewhere). Nobody is suggesting she can’t self-publish future books, or that she can’t have her livejournal, or that she’s not allowed to exert her freedom of speech, or release her books online, or whatever. They’re saying that they will not support her (and some go even so far as to extend to anyone who associates with her) so long as the statements she made define her opinions on Muslims.

    It’s almost as if you’re trying to argue that if I don’t vote for a Republican, and if all my friends don’t, because we believe the same things, that we’re somehow trying to censor Republicans. What we’re actually doing is what the elective process was meant for: voting for who you think represents your interests and who will be best for the country (in your opinion, obviously). There is certainly potential for abuse, such as when a reining political ideology overrides the minority (i.e. racism and sexism in the U.S.), but this is an economic problem more than a political issue (though the two are certainly related).

    You’re also conflating “boycott” with “blacklist.” Boycotting someone’s work seems to be the primary response. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, since I am not required to buy books made by people who I do not agree with just as I do not have to shop at Target if they support candidates who are anti-LGBT. That is my right.

    Blacklisting would imply that people, organizations, and/or publishers are actively, attempting to prevent her from being able to express her opinion in a public forum (specifically, as a published author) by denying her access to those spaces. In some cases, this is clearly wrong, such as when an industry conspires against an individual, but in other cases, it’s not, because it’s equally an expression of political and spoken freedom. WisCon is under no obligation, as far as I can tell, to allow her to remain guest of honor, particularly if her views conflict with the mission of the convention, let alone to allow her to be on their panels or be a major part of the con. They can’t, legally, deny her access to the convention (unless she’s violated a law, which clearly she hasn’t); if they did so, then you’ve have an argument, but I find that highly unlikely (though animosity towards her does seem probable, which I think is unnecessary).

    I remain hesitant, however, to say “blacklisting” here, simply because of its association, in this country, with things like the Communist blacklistings during McCarthyism, and so on.

    So, no. Slippery slope isn’t going to work as a logical argument.

    Comment by SMD | September 18, 2010

    • Plenty that McCarthy and likeminded folks did during the 1950s that were illegal but that didn’t stop them from doing it.

      You, and your likeminded folks, are doing the exact same thing. You can whitewash it if you want but there it is.

      Comment by sfmurphy1971 | September 19, 2010

      • You must know something about McCarthy that I don’t, because the connection is not as obvious as you seem to think it is. So, please, clarify for those of us who are not so enlightened.

        Comment by SMD | September 19, 2010

  26. [...] Elizabeth Moon on Islam We do prefer running positive stories than negative ones on this blog. But one of the aims of the World SF Blog is to [...] [...]

    Pingback by Top Posts — WordPress.com | September 18, 2010

  27. How would such a boycott work?

    Are no publishers going to work with her, or are the individual buyers going to receive threatening letters (or even visits) after buying her stuff?

    I am sorry for the stupid jokes, but this boycott thing seems like a joke. That writer wrote some personal opinion, unenlightened and uncivilized. This discussion goes towards “but look how others reacted” and “ze conspiracy is forming against Her now,” is this normal?

    You can’t forgive or ignore a shitty action because of the reaction at it, right?

    Comment by rreugen | September 18, 2010

  28. Wow! 27 against 0 for! Well, Elizabeth, put me in the for column. Yes you used some infelicitous words but I agree the imam and his followers knew exactly what reaction they were going to get and exploited our laws to get it. This imam himself on the day the twin towers went down said all Americans were accessories. I think the commentaries above are extremely naive. Even Obama the Mandator didn’t vouch for the wisdom of placing the site two blocks from ground zero.

    Comment by Honey | September 18, 2010

    • How do you exploit laws that explicitly protect one’s religious freedom? It’s not like there was loophole in the Constitution that they weaseled their way through. It’s right there in the first bloody Amendment: freedom of religion.

      I had more to say, but that point says it well enough.

      Comment by SMD | September 18, 2010

      • Someone want to show me the EXACT quote from Moon’s entry where she said explicitly that the folks in NYC do not have a right to build a mosque near Ground Zero?

        Or more to the point, does someone want to show me where she denies the contents of the First Amendment to the Constitution?

        In fact, while you are at it, find me ANYONE who has said that the First Amendment does not apply to those folks in NYC.

        Comment by sfmurphy1971 | September 19, 2010

      • Can you show me where someone in this particular section of the comments said anything to that effect? Seems to me that if you read attentively, you’ll see that all the responses on Honey’s comment are to Honey’s comment.

        Comment by SMD | September 19, 2010

    • Nope. Rauf didn’t say anything about ‘all Americans’ — he said things about the American government’s pre-9/11 policies that lots of other people (including the US government’s own 9/11 commission) have said.

      Rauf’s a citizen, so he didn’t exploit ‘our’ laws — he just expects the same constitutional right as any citizen. Freedom of Religion isn’t something he ‘exploited.’ It’s one of the pillars of the constitution, not a loophole.

      Finally, ‘infelicitous’ is a bit of an understatement — Moon’s words were bigoted, plain and simple.

      Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 18, 2010

    • I agree the imam and his followers knew exactly what reaction they were going to get and exploited our laws to get it.

      Given that his wife went on Fox news, and was told by… I think it was Greta Van Susteren, that they were doing the right thing, the early reaction was quite welcoming. But that was before Pam Geller, a notorious anti-Muslim crusader got wind of the project and labeled it the “ground zero mosque”. If you’ve been following anti-Islamic hysteria in the US, you’d know that Geller was responsible for halting construction on at least one actual Mosque that was no where near ground zero.

      Knowing anything about the (very short and googlable) history of the protests against Park 51 would have been smart, rather than going over to some right wing talking heads and regurgitating whatever idiocy they spewed down your throat.

      PS. Exploited our laws? By the amazing exploit of getting a large lease on the property, getting legal permits to build just like any citizen? Passing through the community board and getting approval? THAT SNAKE! How dare he do exactly what anyone else would have to do to get the right to build on the premises!

      Seriously, do you have any idea how wrong that sounded? Exploited? You’re making yourself look really uninformed there.

      Comment by Josh Jasper | September 18, 2010

    • How do you feel about the First Amendment? I’m an old-fashioned American; I take the Bill of Rights very seriously.

      If you’re a capitalist, you might also be concerned about the freedom to develop your property under legal guidelines within a commercial district. Even commies like me think you should be able to build what you like if there’s no law against it.

      Comment by Will Shetterly | September 18, 2010

  29. Murphy follows the new tactic of his team: His side is allowed to say whatever they like. Anyone who objects to what has been said, however mildly, is trying to destroy the First Amendment Rights of his side.

    In this new world they imagine, the haters spout whatever bigoted nonsense they please, and the rest of us are supposed to not just listen, but — apparently — buy their books and pay their speaker fees. Otherwise *we’re* the intolerant bigots.

    1984, indeed.

    Comment by delagar | September 18, 2010

    • Tis funny you should say it is new for whatever team I’m supposed to be on.

      Because I learned the tactic from the fail community.

      Comment by sfmurphy1971 | September 19, 2010

  30. So, directly under this post, Ahmed Khan posts about Islamic SF and gets 2 comments. An American writer opines about Islam –and a (largely but by no means universally) American commentariat post 52 (and counting) comments. More World SF please, Lavie! Back to what’s important.

    Comment by Ian McDonald | September 18, 2010

    • I think that both sides of the coin are ‘important’ — decrying ugliness is not mutually exclusive of appreciating beauty. But this is a good point. When I realized that, while I’ve enjoyed loads of stuff on this site, it was *this* post that made me de-lurk here, it made me a little sad.

      Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 18, 2010

    • Though debates can be painful, they do tend to interest people. I’m sure many people have found this blog from all the linking in the last few days. In many ways, it’s using E. Moon’s post against her… because it’s bringing more people to this blog. I’m sure a fair few clicked the link for Islamic SF too, as it’s right there at the top and related.

      That doesn’t mean it’s ideal to have negative debates all the time, but a few here and there will bring the blog to a wider audience.

      Comment by Polenth | September 19, 2010

    • Did you think there was anything missing from Ahmed Khan’s post? Few comments can simply mean everyone agrees.

      Also, man, did the American writer opine ignorantly.

      Comment by Will Shetterly | September 19, 2010

      • I know I didn’t. I saw the post, I just didn’t have anything to say. I’m not familiar with Islamic SF, so all I would have been able to say was “well, that’s neat, and now I know.” It seemed hollow to post that there. But I found it useful and interesting, so…

        But that’s me, and I don’t think what applies to me somehow negates what Mr. McDonald has said. I agree with Polenth, though. If this were on another subject, such as LGBT, or women, or *insert minority group or controversial issue here*, the same likely would have happened. We’re drawn to the negative. An example of this is a study they did in the UK where they discovered that adults were more interested in hearing about how teenagers were raging lunatics running around in gangs and doing illegal stuff than they were in hearing about all the great things teenagers do (charity/volunteer work, for example). The result of that is, sadly, a shift in public perception of teenagers in the UK, since what sells is what is bad, and what sells is what floods the shelves (or racks, or what have you). The same is true here. What draws our attention to a topic tends to be the negative. It shouldn’t be that way, per se, but there it is.

        Comment by SMD | September 19, 2010

  31. I just linked this and commented on it (in German).

    Comment by Anubis | September 18, 2010

  32. “In other words, the proposed remedy is worse than the perceived disease.”

    In other words, un-recommending her works, refusing to acknowledge bigotry as valid, and wishing to not have anything else to do with bigots as much as possible is worse than racism.

    Gotcha.

    Comment by Jha | September 18, 2010

    • Apparently. I very glad someone told me, or I would have never known. I guess we never got the memo.

      Comment by SMD | September 18, 2010

    • Hmm, you know, once in this country, certain parts of the populace felt there was another very dangerous threat to society. It was one they too very seriously because they felt it would destroy the very fabric of American culture.

      It was called Communism. And you know, it was pretty threatening, this idea that communists would get rid of religion, private property rights, and tie everything in with the state. So threatening that a Senator spent a lot of his time trying to find communists in leadership positions and others would go out of their way to take real and imagined advocates of communism in Hollywood and put them on blacklists.

      Was Communism a real danger? Sure it was, at least the variant that Stalin and his types seemed to be pushing forward.

      But was is so dangerous that the country had to destroy the careers of many a talented writer, producer, director, actor, etc?

      Leaving aside the fact that Islam is a religion that crosses racial boundaries, we can narrow the problem down from racism (which is what this has been continously mislabeled as) and redefine it as a concern about some of the doctrines expressed by the more radical elements of the Islamic community.

      Moon expressed her opinion about those elements. She was pretty candid in her opinion, which seems to have been her greatest error. Her second greatest error is that she didn’t come to the self appointed folks within the American Fail Community who possess the Rubric for what constitutes right thinking.

      However, did she engage in behavior so dangerous as to require this level of response? Some of you apparently seem to think that she has.

      Which is really unfortunate. It demonstrates to my satisfaction that there is a significant level of willful disacknowledgement of a deeper failing in this general argument that the community continues to have.

      That said, call what you are doing exactly what it is.

      You’ve blacklisted her in an effort to use an economic lever to generate a punitive effect on your target. Let’s say you are actually successful with your effort, let’s say Moon writes an entry and recants at length to the satisfaction of most in the fail community.

      I wonder, would that recantation under this type of pressure be anymore accurate, honest and authentic than an individual who confessed to crimes they did not commit while wearing a rat cage over their head?

      I have my severe doubts.

      Comment by sfmurphy1971 | September 19, 2010

      • Moon expressed her opinion about those elements.

        No. She expressed her opinion about people who have the gall to not cringe in constant apology for happening to share a religion with those elements.

        As for the rest of your comment — could you please stop conflating individuals making book-buying decisions, or even a con deciding whom to honor, with the kind of ruinous power wielded by Congress and the movie industry? It’s ridiculous, and proves nothing except that you lack any sense of proportion.

        Comment by Lydia | September 20, 2010

      • sfmurphy1971 wrote:

        “Leaving aside the fact that Islam is a religion that crosses racial boundaries, we can narrow the problem down from racism (which is what this has been continously mislabeled as)…”

        Moon claims that by their very nature people are determined to behave in a tribalistic way. And she says that some are even more determined to behave thus than others. There is no mislabeling at all in calling these ideas racist.

        Moreover, Moon constantly equals muslims with immigrants. The possibility of anglo-looking muslims or muslims whose families lived in the US for generations apparently doesn’t come to her mind. It seems that you are adressing the wrong audience when you here point to the fact that Islam is a multi-racial religion.

        Comment by Anubis | September 20, 2010

      • Lydia said:

        “could you please stop conflating individuals making book-buying decisions, or even a con deciding whom to honor, with the kind of ruinous power wielded by Congress and the movie industry? It’s ridiculous, and proves nothing except that you lack any sense of proportion.”

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

        Also, ‘racism’ is absolutely at work in this sort of sentiment. The scorn against Islam in this country is inextricably linked to its status as a ‘mostly brown people’ religion. What else do you call it when chucklehead scumbags scrawl stuff about ‘sand niggers’ on mosque walls?

        Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 20, 2010

      • Anubis and Saladin, though I object to Ms. Moon’s views, I object to calling them racist, too. The problem here may be that you’re using racism in a very general sense, and we’re using it in a precise one. Tribalism is not racism. You can join a tribe, but you can’t join a race. Is there any evidence that Moon has a prejudice against brown-skinned Christians?

        One of the clues to the nativism of folks like her is the desire for newcomers to speak English and to convert to Christianity in order to have the full benefit of the First Amendment.

        Now, if you’re saying her statements will feed the beliefs of people who are racist against brown folks, I could prob’ly agree with that. But I must note a lot of brown-skinned folks agree with her. Last I saw, the Tea Party was polling at 5% black.

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 20, 2010

      • Will, we’ve gone back and forth on this elsewhere on this thread, but: just because someone ‘isn’t racist’ against one group doesn’t preclude them ‘being racist’ against another. On the other hand Black Tea Partiers (whom I’m skeptical as clocking in at 5%, BTW) are just as capable of participating in racist discourses about Muslims as, say, Arab Americans are of participating in racist discourses about Black people.

        More to the point, as my scare quotes indicate, this isn’t to my mind a matter of whether an individual ‘is racist’ — rather it’s about the fact that the bigoted ‘critiques’ of Islam that enjoy currency right now in the US and Western Europe are inextricably linked to racist discourses. To regurgitate them is to participate in a racist narrative. And while these statements are ALSO about nativism, that’s not mutually exclusive to racism. In NYC, for example, there are tons of immigrants from Poland. There are even a surprising number (many ‘illegals’) from Ireland. People just plain don’t get as up in arms about these immigrants as they do about immigrants from Pakistan and Egypt.

        Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 20, 2010

      • I misremembered; according to Gallup in April, it’s 6% non-Hispanic Black. I dunno if the number’s gone up or down since then.

        We agree that people can be racist against one group and not against another.

        But this is about an individual, not a group. Elizabeth Moon said things that many of us have called her on. Using your terms, is there any way she could have expressed her religious and cultural prejudice without participating in a racist narrative?

        And one more question that I mean respectfully, though I know some people might read it as sarcastic: Are you saying that brown-skinned Muslims and brown-skinned Christians should be thought of as different races? The definition of “race” has changed enormously in the last thirty years, so much so that few dictionaries have caught up with it. The word’s almost returned to it’s pre-17th century meaning of “a group.” Because if you’re using it in that sense, I can agree that she’s racist.

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 20, 2010

      • A) “But this is about an individual, not a group. Elizabeth Moon said things that many of us have called her on. Using your terms, is there any way she could have expressed her religious and cultural prejudice without participating in a racist narrative?”

        B)”And one more question that I mean respectfully, though I know some people might read it as sarcastic: Are you saying that brown-skinned Muslims and brown-skinned Christians should be thought of as different races? ”

        A) It’s about the way an individual’s remarks partake of a society’s at-hand racist narrative. So no, I don’t think she could express that prejudice without participating in that narrative.

        B) Race isn’t biological, it’s a societal construct, as you know. And I’m saying that “Muslim,” in our current societal moment, connotes a racialized group.

        Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 20, 2010

      • For example, I’m Jewish for no reason other than my heritage. I celebrate my ancestors, and like the traditions, but I’m an atheist anyhow. Despite that, I’m still a Jew. Judaism is as much a racial group (or set of racial groups) as Islam. Perhaps if I never participated, or was separated form my culture, I’d be like Madeline Albright, who identified as a Christian for most of her life, only to discover that she was descended from secret Jews who had to hide from persecution.

        Obama, on the other hand, made a personal choice to be a Christian. Outside of that, he was raised by a mostly nonobservant Christian mother, and observant Christian grandparents. His personal experience of his heritage is Christian. Mine is Jewish.

        Despite that, right wingers try to paint him as Muslim because of his father’s heritage, despite the fact that his father was (a) an atheist, and (b) totally absent in his life. So for the purpose of the right wing anti-Muslim conversation, Obama’s race is tied to them identifying him as a secret Muslim.

        Comment by Josh Jasper | September 20, 2010

      • A. Fair enough.

        B. Race is a societal construct, but what fascinates me is the way the societal construct has changed. To people of my generation, the civil rights and affirmative action generation, race is a bogus concept, but it’s a bogus concept that based its claim to validity on Euro, Afro, American Indian, or Asian features, not culture. We couldn’t have anticipated developments like 40% of African Americans believe African Americans can no longer be thought of as a single race, which we would call a class difference, not a race difference. (I think the language of class has been so discredited in the US that “race” is beginning to fill the gap, or that we’re seeing the evolution of morlocks and eloi in the African-American community, but I digress.)

        Would you say that Muslim and Black are distinct racialized groups, perhaps with some overlap?

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 20, 2010

      • Josh, Lincoln was accused of being a Catholic and FDR was accused of being a Jew. Religious bigotry has a fine old tradition in the US of A. The whole “son of X” attack isn’t necessarily racial; the implication is that the father taught the son his ways.

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 20, 2010

      • “Would you say that Muslim and Black are distinct racialized groups, perhaps with some overlap?”

        Yes, though I think ‘Black’ obviously has a longer history and more tenacious staying power than ‘Muslim’ as an indicator of ‘racial group.’ I think few Americans of any race really understand that ‘Black’ and ‘white’ are, rather than biological realities, invented terms with histories that wouldn’t have made any sense to people a few hundred years ago. To be clear, though, I’m not arguing that racial terms don’t ‘mean anything’ just b/c (not saying you think I’m saying this, but one sees this argument all the time) they’re socially constructed. As we’ve discussed elsewhere I think they’re social constructs which have *profoundly* affected history and which continue to *profoundly* affect people’s lives.

        Comment by Saladin Ahmed | September 20, 2010

      • Saladin, given that definition of racialized groups, full agreement.

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 20, 2010

      • @Will Shetterly:

        I didn’t mean to equal tribalism to racism. Rather I say that Moon naturalizes the behaviour of groups (or what she defines as group behaviour), when she states that it is ‘natural’ to behave tribalistic AND that some groups are more akin to this ‘natural’ condition than others. She hints that white christian US Americans have been able to move beyond nature, while others, determined by their history (she might as well say culture, or blood) still cling to tribalist behaviour.

        Reminds me a bit of 19th century theorists who put women in with nature, while men were to be closer to the mind or intellect.

        Comment by Anubis | September 20, 2010

      • Anubis, do you mean that she’s not hinting that black christian US Americans are in the same camp? I can accept the idea that Muslims are racialized, at least in that vague way some people racialize Jews. But I can’t see the step to thinking the racializing of Muslims means she doesn’t like blacks who aren’t Muslims.

        I did a quick google to see if I could learn anything more about her take on Christianity. There’s a bit here. She says, “There have been changes in the Episcopal church, making it to my mind more fundamentalist. Which is not the tradition I grew up in, or one that I can handle. If everybody’s not welcome, then I’m not welcome either.”

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 20, 2010

      • I think it’s more the underlying idea of ‘natural’ group behaviour (expressis verbis identified with muslims, of course), that disturbs me. I don’t see she’s relating to Black Americans in the same way, but I definitely see a structural analogy to how other groups are racialized, and Moon herself all but uses ‘muslim’ and ‘immigrant’ as equivalents. One step further (not yet taken by Moon), and the chain of equivalents is expanded to include “non-western people” and “rapists”.

        Comment by Anubis | September 20, 2010

  33. [...] other news, award-winning science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon has enraged some of the usual suspects (including one deploying the classic “but-but-but Pope Alexander II” fallacy) by [...]

    Pingback by Everyone Draw Mohammed Day Creator Molly Norris Goes Into Hiding « Lawrence Person's BattleSwarm Blog | September 19, 2010

  34. [...] panels (taken up more seriously by CoffeeandInk on Dreamwidth: Brainstorming panels for Wiscon 35). The World SF Blog: Elizabeth Moon on Islam Chrononaut: Many writers have all the virtues of civilized persons Livejournal Link: KateOrman: For [...]

    Pingback by On reading Vatta’s War in the light from Park 51 at Feminist SF – The Blog! | September 19, 2010

  35. Having read Ms. Moon’s post, I am at a loss to explain why it has elicited this latest outburst of FaceRailing. So far as I can tell, Ms. Moon is just expressing the same concern most average Americans have in their hearts: that among the versions of Islam which have taken root on American soil, some of them are malignant. And that by averting our eyes and adopting a ‘say no evil, speak no evil, see no evil’ approach, we do not help the problem. We allow it to persist, and grow, until something like 9/11/2001 happens.

    Moon is right. Those who come to the United States to stay, work, go to school, raise families, etc, need to understand that as accomodating as the U.S. is — and it is remarkably accomodating — there are reasonable and practical limits to that accomodation. There are aspects of certain strains of Islam which are in direct opposition to the United States as a liberal democracy, and most Americans know this. It is not an act of racism to point this out. It is an acknowledgement of the truth. Denying this would be the same as denying what happened on 9/11/2001.

    For all those defending the construction of an Islamic center at Ground Zero, I ask: would you be as equally comfortable and supportive of someone, say a Hassidic organization from NYC, or an Evangelist Christian organization from Alabama, seeking to build a sister Judaic or Christian center at or near, say, the Kabbah in Saudi Arabia?

    Because like it or not, Ground Zero in New York is a kind of national ‘holy ground’ for many Americans. It is an open wound in the national U.S. psyche. Building an Islamic anything anywhere near Ground Zero, and doing it in such a public fashion, displays colossal cultural hubris on the part of the people who want to build the center. And I am quite sure they would *NOT* be overjoyed if such hubris were returned in kind. (see me example about a Jewish or Christian center near the Kabbah.)

    I am quite sure the Islamic center will be built. And I am also quite sure that the bulk of Americans will remain unconvinced that the Islamic center is anything other than a slap in the face. Beyond a clique of intellectuals and progressives, the Islamic center will be viewed as an affront, and there will be no good will generated on behalf of Muslims by the builders. Naturally, Muslims don’t have to give a damn if people like the center or not. But then, Muslims shouldn’t be shocked when people express hostility as a result of the center’s construction.

    Cultural understanding, awareness, and accomodation are not a one-way street. I suspect too many in this conversation forget that.

    Comment by Brad R. Torgersen | September 20, 2010

    • You are misinformed about several aspects both of the Park51 project, and of the objection to Elizabeth Moon’s post.

      The bottom line is this: when peaceful, moderate Muslims cannot expect to build a community center in their own community (by the way, that is one aspect on which you are misinformed — these aren’t outsiders parachuting in, unlike most of the opposition) because of the actions of other people who happen to share their religion, that is bigotry.

      Comment by Lydia | September 20, 2010

    • Brad, it’s a shame Ms. Moon hid the comments, because almost all the replies would help you.

      I highly recommend this: The Ground Zero Synagogue—Lebanon Becoming More American than America

      Also, while I really don’t like Wahhabbism, bringing Saudi Arabia into this discussion is kind of sloppy: the folks who want the cultural center are Sufis. Mind you, I would support them if they were Wahhabbists. That’s what the First Amendment requires.

      According to this, support for the center continues to grow. Which, as an old-fashioned American who believes in liberty, pleases me.

      Comment by Will Shetterly | September 20, 2010

    • Notice, I never said they can’t build the center. I just said they can’t be surprised when people get pissed off about it. Just as nobody should be surprised that Muslims get outraged when some Evangelist promises to burn a Qran. It would be nice if Muslims turned the other cheek on that one, but many of them won’t. And Americans are expected to understand this, and this is why tons of people have rushed to deride and even stop the Qran-burning. Even though burning a Qran is also within someone’s 1st Ammendment rights. The message appears to be: when Muslims say they will do something offensive to many Americans, Americans are supposed to just understand and let it go, and when Americans say they will do something offensive to Muslims, again Americans are supposed to just understand and let it go. At no time in that dialogue is there ever an expressed desire for the Muslim quotient to make any effort to be the “understanding” party. And that’s what gets under the skin of a lot of us, myself included. Especially when silly or wrong-headed accusations of racism start getting thrown.

      Comment by Brad R. Torgersen | September 20, 2010

      • Huh. There was a time when Americans were supposed to take the moral high ground. At least, that was how our public discourse went. Now it’s all “But he did it first! Or was thinking about doing it first!”

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 20, 2010

      • Notice, I never said they can’t build the center. I just said they can’t be surprised when people get pissed off about it. Just as nobody should be surprised that Muslims get outraged when some Evangelist promises to burn a Qran.

        Your implication that the two things are comparable is false. In the case of Mosques, it doesn’t matter how close to ground zero they are. The crowd that started the demonstrations is out to stop ALL of them. They’ve even had success on Staten Island.

        The problem is not that Muslims are “doing something offensive”, the problem is that plenty of Americans, especially the ones who started the protest, are offended by the very existence of Muslims. It’s pretty clear that Moon finds Muslims offensive too. She conflates every Muslim with the actions of terrorist Muslims. Which is as stupid as me conflating every Christian with a genocidal anti-Muslim child killer because Serbians killed innocent Muslim children in Bosnia.

        If you can’t tell the difference between a Sufi and a member of Al-Qaeda, but can tell the difference between a Jesuit and a member of a Serbian death squad, your problem isn’t that you lack a moral compass, it’s that you’re a bigot who’s offended by Muslims in general.

        There *is* an actual Mosque just as close as Park 51 will be to ground zero. The community center hit the radar of Pam Geller, who’s a vicious anti-Muslim bigot with a track record of protesting anything Islamic anywhere in the country, and shutting it down as fast as she can by promoting the idea that all Muslims are terrorists. People like you and Moon are her dupes or willing accomplices. Before Geller and her neo-nazi pals dropped in, There. Was. No. Controversy.

        How could there have been? There was already an actual Mosque built nearby, and no one cared. And people were using the Burlington Coat Factory building as overflow prayer space. Still no one cared. But threaten to build a better site with an open access theater, basketball court, swimming pool, and the same pre-existing prayer space and suddenly everyone goes crazy. They go so crazy that Carl Paladino, the Republican gubernatorial candidate is using the idea that he’ll shut down Park 51 as a major campaign plank. All of the protests came out of Pam Geller’s campaign. Before Geller was on site, no one involved with the project has much of an idea of the problems it would cause. After her, we have a major party candidate saying that he’ll ignore the first amendment to the US constitution in order to prevent Muslims from worshiping near ground zero. That’s how far this mess has gone for the anti-park 51 crowd. The heads of the movement are all serious bigots.

        Before all, of that, however, Fox news congratulated Imam Rauf’s wife on the outreach the community center was doing, and agreed that it was a good way to heal wounds made by 9/11. How is it that they “should have known” when Fox news told them they were doing the right thing? When there was no real protest. When an interfaith group helped them with the plans? Imam Rauf speaks regularly to Jewish groups in the US, and in New York City, specifically lower Manhattan. He’s a known member of the community. Are you? If you’re not, how do you know what Rauf should have expected as a community response? Rauf had every reason to think there would be no real controversy.

        Before Geller and her crew of outrage zombies came to town, no one really cared at all. The “should have known” argument is pure BS, as well as the idea that building the center is the moral equivalent of burning the Koran. Your outrage is based on nonsense and false equivalency. The idea that American hatred and fear of Muslims is limited to Park 51 is likewise nonsense.

        Comment by Josh Jasper | September 20, 2010

      • Will, I look at it like a marriage. When one person in the marriage does most of the taking and little of the giving, the marriage can’t last very long before it breaks apart. No matter how high-minded the giver might fancy themselves. Sooner or later they’re going to get sick of being taken advantage of, and either walk out, or evict the taker.

        The public perception by many Americans, is that Muslims do a hell of a lot of taking, and very little — if any — giving. Whether or not that perception is deserved or not, whether it’s fair or not, that is the perception just the same. Mainly because the American public sees death written across the globe in the name of Allah, yet is bombarded endlessly by home-spun state department bromides and other intellectual ammunition designed to make them feel bad about having uneasy feelings about the religion held by those nice fellows who flew American airliners into two of the nation’s tallest skyscrapers, as well as the nation’s defense hub.

        Until this doublethink messaging can be disentangled — until we can have an honest conversation about Islam in the U.S., to include its good, its bad, and its ugly — I am not sure efforts to get the average American to cool down on the subject are going to do much good.

        So far, attempts to discuss the reality of Islam are uniformly greeted in the self-styled intellectual sector with the usual response: knee-jerk shouts of racism, Islamophobia, etc. — accusations not designed to foster discussion, but to silence it.

        I am pretty sure there will come a day when Islam, like Catholicism, doesn’t get much notice from the average WASP. Unfortunately, that day is not this day. Because the psychic wound of 9/11 is still too deep for too many, and Islam itself is still too fractured and chaotic and entity to grapple with. How many Muslims around the globe died at the hands of other Muslims in the last year? Which “brand” of Islam should Americans trust as benign, and which “brand” should they fear? Not even Muslims themselves seem to be able to adequately answer this dilemma.

        Comment by Brad R. Torgersen | September 20, 2010

      • Josh, regardless of which “nazi” brought the microscope, once the news broke, it became a national issue. Just as it became a national issue when that guy wanted to burn the Qran. Apparently it was okay for everyone — up to and including the President — to have heartburn over a guy burning the Qran. But nobody is supposed to have even a little bit of a problem with the Islamic center near Ground Zero? Yet again, the cultural dialogue of “understanding” proves one-sided. And I think that’s about all that can be said on this latest iteration of “fail” on the InterToob.

        Comment by Brad R. Torgersen | September 20, 2010

      • Brad, a point I made to Ms. Moon: There was a mosque on the 17th floor of the World Trade Towers. If that ground is sacred, it’s sacred to Muslims also.

        As for what many Americans think, yes, Fox News seriously tests my belief in freedom of the press. So far, Fox has not won.

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 21, 2010

      • Brad, the “they should have known” argument is nonsense. They had no real reason to know.

        The idea that we’re oversensitive to Muslims? Also nonsense. How many Mosques, prayer rooms, community centers and Muslim jobs in the public eye should Geller get to chalk up, all in the name of “sensitivity” to people like Moon, who think Muslims are being shown too much understanding and tolerance? Where was Moon when Geller was shutting down actual Mosques? Did she complain about arson attacks in Tennessee? Idiots trying to protest an existing center in Temecula CA?

        She says she’s bent over backwards. What evidence is there she cares at all about serious anti-Muslim bigotry that’s already overturned the rights for Muslims to build a Mosque where they want?

        Regular every day Muslims are offended over a Koran being burned in protest. The people who’re offended over Park 51 are doing so because they’d mistake a Sufi for a Wahabi, while at the same time understanding the difference between Tim McVeigh and Desmond Tutu.

        There *is* a current legal threat to the Park 51 project. If Republicans elect Paladino as governor, he’ll use eminent domain to block construction of anything Islamic, not 2 blocks from ground zero, but wherever “ash” from ground zero settled. I’m not making that up.

        People think Muslims are shown too much tolerance? A major party candidate in New York state just declared that the first Amendment doesn’t apply to Muslims. That’s too much tolerance? I’d have to see what just enough tolerance looks like.

        Comment by Josh Jasper | September 21, 2010

      • No, Josh, it’s not nonsense at all.

        Let me explain.

        9/11/2001 was a seminal event in American history. This event was carried out by 19 Muslim men perpetrating mass murder in the name of their prophet and their version of God. In America, the words “Islam” and “9/11″ are as inexorably linked in the public mind as peanut butter and jelly. Muslims seeking cultural awareness and understanding cannot blithely wave away this event, passing it off as some kind of wild aberration, when it is just the latest in a long series of events — all committed by Muslims and in the name of their prophet and their version of God — going back to the Beirut bombing. If not earlier.

        Whether the peaceful Muslims in the U.S. like it or not, men acting in the name of their faith — often with full blessing from their religious leaders, the mullah and the imam — have waged literal war on America and Americans. Thousands of innocents have been killed and billions of dollars in economic damage have been done.

        Any American Muslim who is ignorant of all this — this gargantuan, overwhelming context — is either being deliberately obtuse, or acting without regard, knowing fully well that a chorus of apologists will rise to blame the questioner and excuse the questioned.

        I’ll say it again: we’ve not had an honest conversation in the U.S. about Islam or Muslims. It’s not permitted. It’s not permitted because even very, very, very mild comments — like Ms. Moon’s — elicit the most apoplectic responses. We are terrified to have this conversation because it will force us to question our bedrock belief in cultural relativity: that all cultures are equally “good” and equally “valid” and anyone who says otherwise is several different flavors of moral cretin.

        I said it before, I fully expect the Islamic center to be built, objections notwithstanding. And I find protestations of criticism of the plan — the upright aghastness of the progressively proper, when confronted with the rather natural reactions of a majority of Americans who all said, “Islamic whatever at Ground Zero? WTF?!” — to be bleakly amusing.

        Apparently, we’re willing to commit any sort of laughable doublethink in pursuit an “open mind?”

        Comment by Brad R. Torgersen | September 21, 2010

      • Brad, the Nazis acted in the name of Christianity. The Pope did not oppose them. Shall we continue this discussion after you apologize for what they did? Also, please apologize for Timothy McVeigh.

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 21, 2010

      • It’s not about apologies, Will. It’s about digging down to the root of why too many 21st century Muslims — many of them with money and resources — believe they have a duty to God to kill other human beings. You’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, as a rhetorical device. I’m talking about the next time a Muslim (or Muslims) shed American blood for religious sport. Because there will be a next time. Shetterly, because I respect you I am not going to belabor this point further on this thread. Suffice to say that the burden on truly progressive Muslims is very great. Because every time a Muslim sheds innocent blood in the name of Allah, every other Muslim is left explaining how it is that their brethren in religious belief see murder as a sacrament of the faith. This is the religion of peace, we are lectured. Yet, there is a global epidemic of Muslims slaughtering other Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, all in the name of misguided faith. The Muslim community seems largely unwilling or unable to address this, and we don’t help them — or us — by turning a blind eye and not asking the really, really uncomfortable questions that demand asking.

        Comment by Brad R. Torgersen | September 21, 2010

      • Brad, you need to do some reading about Islam. I suggest starting with Reza Aslan’s No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. It’s not a polemic, and it’s not an attempt to convert anyone. Maybe you’ll still think Islam is a danger. But at least you’ll sound knowledgable when you discuss this with people who know a little about Islam. If you were to rant about the Wahhabis, I might agree with you. The US habit of funding princes who fund repressive religious teachers is insane…which actually makes me agree with Bin Laden: the US should withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi rulers pervert Islam by refusing to allow churches to be built on their soil, and their refusal to let women drive is pulled out of their asses–the stories about Muhammad and the early women-warriors of Arabia show women traditionally had great freedom. The Wahhabi approach to the Qur’an and the hadith is every bit as loopy as any fundamentalist Christian’s approach to the Bible you care to point to.

        But then, there are modernist factions in Saudi Arabia too. Perhaps they’ll reform themselves. It’s hard to ignore the examples of women like Marwa al-Eifa.

        So, seriously, stop talking about this until you know the difference between a Sufi and a Wahhabi. Sufis are great. And their poetry rules.

        Comment by Will Shetterly | September 21, 2010

  36. Ok guys,

    Comments section’s going to get locked in the morning (my morning, at any rate) so feel free to have your last say. Also feel free to comment on – or even look at – some of the other hundreds of articles on this blog.

    Comment by lavietidhar | September 20, 2010

  37. Brad Torgerson: “Because like it or not, Ground Zero in New York is a kind of national ‘holy ground’ for many Americans. It is an open wound in the national U.S. psyche. Building an Islamic anything anywhere near Ground Zero, and doing it in such a public fashion, displays colossal cultural hubris on the part of the people who want to build the center. And I am quite sure they would *NOT* be overjoyed if such hubris were returned in kind. (see me example about a Jewish or Christian center near the Kabbah.)

    I don’t understand.

    I’m a lefty European; but I try to think myself into a right-wing American patriotic frame of mind — I try this genuinely, without snark or satire, humbly — and this is what I hear in my head:

    ‘Ground Zero in New York is a kind of national “holy ground” for many Americans. Because it is a kind of holy ground, it focuses what America truly is. America was a nation founded upon the fundamental principle of religious freedom and toleration. This is absolutely at the heart of what America means; this is at the core of what makes America truly great: not monetary wealth, nor military might, but freedom to worship God as your conscience dictates. Some people do not want this Islamic Centre built within a few blocks of Ground Zero, and I agree: I agree that it should not be an Islamic Centre, it should be a Mosque; and it should not be built blocks away, but at Ground Zero itself. Because that way we show that America still means America, that no matter what the provocation Americans will not abandon this central, founding, national freedom. To those who say “let Muslims build their Mosques, but not here” I say: this amounts to ‘let them build their Mosques, but not in this intensely American place’ (for where is more American than Ground Zero?) It amounts to saying ‘let them build their mosques, but not in America'; or more exactly it amounts to saying ‘let them build their mosques in some other part of geographical America, but not in the spiritual heart of America. But the spiritual heart of America is precisely freedom to worship. How can anybody who truly believes in that immensely noble truth want to deny the devout of any religion their right to worship here? For that would be to say: American is no longer a place defined by freedom of religious observation. It is a place where freedom of religious worship is secondary to the anger of the outraged, and the pressure of the mass.’

    I don’t understand how an American patriot, who genuinely believes in the founding principles of their nation, could want to block the building of an Islamic holy building near or in Ground Zero. I really, genuinely don’t understand.

    ‘What about a Hassidic organization from NYC, or an Evangelist Christian organization from Alabama, seeking to build a sister Judaic or Christian center at or near, say, the Kabbah in Saudi Arabia?’

    That Saudi Arabia does not permit freedom of religious worship is a thing to deplore about that country. That Saudia Arabia was not founded upon the very principle of freedom of worship is one of things that makes it, morally and spiritually speaking, a lesser nation than the USA.

    Comment by Adam Roberts | September 20, 2010

    • I never said I wanted to block it, just that I think people are idiots for being surprised or offended that many Americans are less-than-pleased about its construction. In a conversation of cultural “understanding” it can’t just be one side expected to do all of the work.

      Comment by Brad R. Torgersen | September 20, 2010

      • I am in complete agreement that one side should not be expected to do all the work on the tolerance front. Imam Rauf has been working to promote tolerance and understanding for many years; for the past eight (almost nine), he’s been doing so at the behest of the U.S. government. Somebody on the opposing side should be pulling his/her weight too. Unfortunately, the “opposing side” to Imam Rauf’s is, by definition, the side that wants to see “The West” and “Islam” as being at war: i.e. the people who share Pam Geller’s and Osama bin Laden’s world view. They’re just not going to help out.

        A case could be made, I guess that another opposing side is represented by the movement atheists, who want all religious discourse purged from the public sphere now and are unhappy with Rauf’s attempts to use religious rhetoric in persuading the Muslim world to liberalize. Again, I’d say that view is at odds with a project of peace and tolerance.

        Comment by Josh | September 21, 2010

  38. Ok, comments closed.

    Comment by lavietidhar | September 21, 2010

  39. [...] rant about Islam in the US. For those of you who aren’t, I’d heartily recommend reading this article about it, as well as following Lavie Tidhar’s Twitter [...]

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  40. [...] matters September 23, 2010 | Posted by Julaybib Ayoub Following the extraordinary Islamophobic outburst by American science fiction and fantasy author Elizabeth Moon, in the run up to her appearance at [...]

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  41. [...] “But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had” said Elizabeth Moon. [...]

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  42. [...] by adameterno I’m a latecomer to this post by US SF&F author Elizabeth Moon and the furore surrounding it; and while I think Moon’s post is unfortunately phrased in parts, and wrong on a number of [...]

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  44. [...] contingent dedicated to the far-left agenda of political correctness and identity politics demanded her head. Sadly, the cowards running Wiscon decided to offer it up to appease the PC [...]

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  45. [...] you to your screen and makes you twenty minutes late for the marketing meeting. (Highlights at the World SF Blog and Wiscon News blog, among many [...]

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  46. [...] creating massive change as of the moment (as Lavie laments, of all the posts in the blog, the Elizabeth Moon issue is still the most popular, and that’s despite all the other content that’s been posted [...]

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  47. [...] Signal: The World… on Announcing the World SF Travel…Plug: The World SF T… on Elizabeth Moon on Islamlinks for 2011-08-01… on Monday Original Content: (Glob…links for 2011-08-01… [...]

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