Why They Don't Hate Us
Mark LeVine talks about his new book, which offers a way to change how Muslims, Christians, and Jews think about one another.
BY: Interview by Alice Chasan
"Why They Don't Hate Us," the latest book by University of California professorMark LeVine
, is his attempt to "figure out how to get out of the mess the Muslim world and the West have gotten into since 9/11," says the author. LeVine writes that "Why do they hate us?" is the wrong post-9/11 question for the West to ask. He argues that although an "axis of arrogance and ignorance" has produced the violence that defines global politics, there are models for empathy and understanding emerging in youth culture and the world music scene. LeVine recently spoke to Beliefnet senior editor Alice Chasan about his book.
Why does it appear to many Americans that discontented Muslims are violent?
There are two answers. The first is that even if a million Muslims around the world were actively engaged in terroristic violence-which is a fantasy number-that's still one million out of 1.4 billion. So we're talking about an incredibly minuscule percentage of Muslims who are actively using violence to register their discontent. The fact that the media cover the violence as if it's representative of the larger Muslim world is part of the problem, not part of the reality.
We need to understand that most Muslims who are opposed to the way their societies are governed or to the global world order are either passively accepting it and just grumbling, like most people, or trying to work through politics, or trying to emigrate to other countries. They're protesting the same way most of us protest.
Let's turn to two specific examples from the headlines. The first one is the ongoing violence in France. Young Muslims rioted for more than two weeks. What does Islam have to do with their rage, if anything?
In France, Islam is not the problem. The problem is that the people who are "revolting"--the word that President Chirac has used--are doing so because they are Muslim and have been discriminated against because of this for decades. In other words, because they are Muslim and black African, they have been discriminated against. They come from countries all of which were colonized, often brutally, by France. They come to France with the promise of the republican ideal of equality. But instead they are segregated into ghettoes, get the worst jobs, don't get access to good housing, good education, or a chance for a good life
And is this an expression of what you refer to as "ghetto Islam"?
Yes. And this is very important, because while it's a ghetto Islam in the sense that these are Muslims who have been segregated into ghettoes who are rioting, they're not doing so because they're Muslim. In fact, the last time there was a very specifically anti-Muslim event in France, the passage of the anti-head scarf ban in 2004, Muslims responded peacefully. When the organized Muslim community felt a slight by the state, it responded within the system.
This time, these are kids who are Muslim culturally, certainly by heritage. But most are not acting as Muslims. And the only good thing to come out of these riots is the surprising fact to most commentators that it appears that the extremist Muslim groups have not been a presence here. So far, they have not been able to make the inroads everyone was scared that they would make among these poor French kids who would seem to be the natural recruiting ground for them.
Holding up a mirror to each side
Read more on page 2 >>