The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
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America ought to strive toward a more inclusive, informed culture

American culture is animated by the idea of an “enemy”. For almost nine years, the main “threat” to democracy has been Muslim extremism. However, American fixation on ideological enemies has marked most of our history.

During the middle part of the 20th century, the “Red Scare” and the fear of communist plots against the fundamentals of American society plagued the cultural psyche.

A culture in which most citizens could hardly locate Korea, Vietnam or Laos geographically suddenly became inundated with information suggesting that security in those countries was intimately linked with American security.

The enemy – communism – threatened the fabric of American values, and all Americans were obliged to go to any necessary means to protect their homeland from this ideological invasion. 

Communism became an absolute enemy: an irredeemable, dangerous ideology that from its very core terrorized the absolute “truth” of America. Hence, anything associated with communism – socialism, communal life, even social justice (a la Glen Beck) – was readily dismissed and feared.

Similarly, America currently touts the ideological enemy of Muslim extremism.

Don’t get me wrong; I strongly disapprove of terrorism and of violent acts towards other human beings. Yet, I propose that American politics and culture are again blinded by its fixation on this ideological enemy.

On September 10, 2001, most Americans could hardly spell Afghanistan or Iraq, much less locate either of the two on a map.

Now, we have all come to agree that our so-called military success in these countries is indubitably tied to American national security. At least, the exorbitant amount of money we’ve spent in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars suggests that we think so.

Moreover, our manic obsession with the enemy has left a smeared imprint in the mind of the average person. Just like any ideology briefly related to communism was marked with a virtual bulls-eye, so too have we allowed our aversion to Muslim extremism to infect our opinion of Islam.

Intrinsic within the creation of an absolute cultural enemy is an infectiousness of such adversarial sentiments. The reality is that many American citizens and institutions unapologetically consider Islam a threat to American values. They do not distinguish Islamic extremism.

Sadly, many Americans don’t believe that all Muslims aren’t terrorists. In fact, one in five Americans thinks our president is a Muslim largely because his middle name is “Husein”.

Even religious freedom, a tenet so dear to American history and the Constitution, is brushed aside when dealing with such an over-extended, polemic cultural enemy.

Most Americans think that there should not be a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. Even SMU’s Tower Center and the SMU Inter-Faith Dialogue Student Association recommended that the building not be built or be relocated “if it causes polarization” and in order to “respect the strong feelings people have regarding this.”

Pardon me, liberty is not contingent on convenience or on comfort, and our Constitution has strong feelings about the freedom of religion. This addiction to subjecting our culture to adversarial fixation has caused us to lose sight of some of the true fundamental American values.

Furthermore, the broadening of Islam as a cultural enemy highlights the fundamental flaw in creating such enemies. This obsessive cultural fixation with the “enemy” is hardly ever based on actual experiences or relationships.

Of course, such an effort would require a degree of humility and trust. Not to mention, it would require that we relax our pointed fingers and allow our hands to be free: free to heal, to love and to share.

 

Drew Konow is a senior religious studies, foreign languages and literatures triple major. He can be reached for comments or questions at [email protected].

 

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