Detribalization Without Tribalization
A guest post by Reza Ziai.
Detribalization Without Tribalization
By Reza Ziai, M.A. Psychology
If you were born in the US you are likely a Christian. If you were born in Iran you are likely a Muslim. If you were born to parents of the Bantu tribe in South Africa you likely ended up worshipping the galaxy vomiting god, Bumba. And if you were born in 800 AD in North Europe you likely would have worshiped Thor and his Father in Heaven, Odin.
Similarly, if you are white and were born in the deep South you are likely Christian, love guns, beer, classic rock songs with lyrics about going against authority, NASCAR, and racism. If you are white and born in the Northeast, you are more likely a liberal, identify as a Social Justice Warrior, and love Stephen Colbert.
I’m writing this blog today because for myself, identifying with a tribe has never come easy to me. In fact being a naturally born US citizen to Muslim parents who came to America from a place like Iran, I’ve never fully embraced the values of my parent’s culture nor have I fully embraced (or been embraced by) members of the dominant U.S. “host” culture that my parents immigrated to. This (admittedly, self-described) marginalized status of mine has manifested itself in my life in the form of me struggling to see which sandbox I fit in best…these series of life-long psychosocial crises are the bread and butter of my diaspora.
When my liberal friends, colleagues, and students learn that I am for women’s rights, gay rights, that I accept the facts of evolution, that I am for government funded stem cell research, am pro choice, in favor of separation of church and state, and that I accept the facts of climate change they give me hearty slaps on the back coupled with rounds of “Atta’ boy’s” (not literally, but you get the idea).
However, when I tell them, for example, that the line of evidence showing a biological connection in homosexuality and trans-gender issues is the same line of evidence that supports a biological basis for “traditional” gender norms in heterosexual people they tell me, “settle down there, young lad” (again, not literally). When I tell my liberal friends and colleagues that although there is a gender wage gap there is more evidence that this gap is the result of choices women make and zero evidence that it is the result of discrimination, they tell me I am insensitive to the needs of the oppressed. When I tell them that the WHO, the CDC, the National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society (not to mention Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye) have all declared GMO’s safe, they hurl ad hominem attacks at me and call me a Monsanto shill. When I tell them that Andrew Wakefield is a fraud and the MMR vaccine does not cause autism they will go to great lengths to not hold the metaphorical door open for me. And when I tell them that the very things that ISIS does (the execution of homosexuals, the hanging of apostates, the beheading of infidels, the stoning of women, forced child marriage, honor killing, martyrdom, etc.) were the exact things that their prophet did after he invented a deity in the desert during an epileptic seizure, they call me Islamophobic.
I feel a sense of social pressure to hold the attitude that people with a North European ancestry and a liberal arts degree in sociology know more about Islam than Muslims with PhDs in Islam do. What will these liberal arts degree holders do next? Find a group of a African Americans and tell them what it is really like to be the descendants of slaves. Or maybe they will find a group of Mexicans and tell them how offended they should be because a restaurant gave out free sombreros.
This problem works on the other end of the spectrum as well.
Similarly, when my conservative friends, colleagues, and students learn that I am a huge proponent of personal and fiscal responsibility, the Bill of Rights, increasing funding to NASA, for tighter immigration policy, and for the separation of mosque and state, they give me hearty metaphorical slaps on the back and the aforementioned solid round of “Atta’ boy’s”.
But when I tell my conservative friends and colleagues that scientific consensus shows we have evolved from a common organism and humans and dinosaurs did not live together, they cast me dirty looks. When I tell my conservative friends that there is no archaeological evidence that Moses crossed the land of Cannan or that the Jews were ever even in Egypt they call me a “rag head liberal.” When I tell them that there is no evidence that Mount Arrarat is the epicenter of all life and that the legitimacy of the Christian Bible as the true word of the god is suspect at best, they stop inviting me to social functions. And when I tell them that the scientific literature is replete with evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change they start yelling about how Obama is a Muslim.
In short, I can’t tribalize with American Conservatives because most of them are xenophobic bigots who will come to conclusions about me based on my name and my face. But I can’t tribalize with American Liberals either because they are offended that I am an Ex-Muslim, that I am an atheist…that I have rejected the sky-god called Allah. (<Just today I read that a bakery refused to bake a cake for Ex-Muslims of North America’s third anniversary on the grounds that their very existence was offensive>).
When a white Christian shoots up an abortion clinic, my liberal friends and colleagues will taut the phrase “Christian fundamentalism”, but won’t exclaim “Islamic terrorism” when someone pledges allegiance to ISIS and shoots 50 people in the name of Allah. In light of recent events (San Bernadino and Orlando) Liberals, instead of looking at the ideology as a possible cause for Islamic terrorism will point their fingers at any one or more of the following: 1. Republicans for not closing the gun show loophole; 2. revenge; and/or 3. for not increasing funding for social welfare programs and community outreach for mental health services.
When someone says that there is a connection between eating a cracker believed to be the body of a 1st century carpenter and verses in the Bible few would doubt this. But when someone says that there is a connection between beheading infidels, killing homosexuals, stoning women, etc. and the Quran people will brandish you as being culturally insensitive (even if the person making this claim is from a Muslim background).
The complexity of this issue is not just about determining whether or whether not a person’s beliefs about the world effect their behaviors (spoiler alert: they do), it’s also about examining the philosophical and ethical dilemmas inherent in cultural and moral relativism.
If your neighbor in Springfield Illinois were to hold down an 11 year old girl with the help of his drug addled friends and smash her clitoris off with blunt rocks you would be horrified and nauseated. But when millions of people do it instead of it becoming a million times worse, many regressives (a term coined by Maajid Nawaz to describe the backward policies of liberals) will give it a pass under the pretense and aegis of “multiculturalism”. Even the best trained professionals are confused.
President Obama, President Bush, and President Clinton have all shied away from using the term “Islamic terrorism” under the false belief that these acts are not committed by “true” Muslims and are rather the acts of people who have “hijacked” the religion. Most recently, President Obama made a speech regarding how using the term “radical Islam” itself wouldn’t be effective in curbing terrorism. To any educated listener of his speech, this is was nothing but a straw man argument. Nobody who is a proponent of using that term is saying that terrorism will end simply by using that term. Despite this, sadly, many regressives ate this up. This attempt to justify not using this term was pathetic and ultimately dangerous.
It is dangerous when liberals refuse to use phrases like”Islamic terrorism”, “Islamic fundamentalism” or refuse to associate these acts of terror with the religion of Islam because it compounds the problem. The reason why is simple: when liberals refuse to call the problem by its name a vacuum is created. When a vacuum is created, anything that can rush into it often will. Instead of the intelligent, sane part of society levying respectful and nuanced criticisms of barbaric practices in Islam xenophobic bigots like Trump and Cruz will rally Americans who think all Muslims are terrorists to make these critiques instead…and as we have all seen these arguments are significantly less than nuanced.