Monday, December 14, 2015

Our Muslim Problem


I generally try to limit political commentary here. Instead, I prefer to provoke thought with glances at the past balanced with views of theory and philosophy, rather than promote a thought with opinion and conjecture. My sense in the past many months is that a current of conjecture is shaping a dangerous narrative that has many parallels in history. The negative rhetoric surrounding Islam in general and Muslims in America in particular demonstrate a disturbing banality of evil. In a previous post on this blog, which was later published on e-International Relations, I talked about the absurdity of this banality. Here is the summary of what Hannah Arendt portrays in her provocative work, Eichmann in Jerusalem a Report on the Banality of Evil:
The title holds Arendt’s thesis, as Amos Elon, suggests: that evil, at some level, exists in a banal form. However, Arendt does not actually mean that evil, of the Nazi sort, is commonplace. Rather, she clarifies her intention by suggesting instead that the horrible characteristic of evil, as demonstrated by Eichmann, is in the thoughtlessness with which he administered the Final Solution. Her point is that Eichmann and other Nazi party members were neither predisposed to commit such atrocities nor were they altogether mentally twisted. Their systematic and mechanistic approach to murder, to the extent of considering it “liquidation,” removed a human element from the act of killing, replacing it with legalistic procedure. This procedural aspect of the way Eichmann went about his job, as if he took more satisfaction in the accomplishment of process than in the outcome of those processes, defines Eichmann’s evil as banal, and, therefore, beyond thoughtful horror. One could interpret Arendt’s view of the “banality of evil” as exceeding what is “normal” evil, which is to say something inhuman and far worse than evil itself.[1]
We may ask, what is happening in America with an evolving narrative that fears Muslims? I ask, what is happening that a swelling current of people are further shaping that narrative toward hate? People are shaping it, either deep in their roots of belief, or in some banal fashion, as Arendt implies. I worry it is the latter.
There is a counter narrative to ignorant banality, and that is humanity. I want to commend an insightful and personal illustration of the human aspect surrounding this ongoing discussion. Here is a great piece – well written, thoughtful, and human – by a good friend and pastor. While he describes his experience as “My Muslim Problem,” his lessons are really a call for us to recognize that what we face within ourselves is our Muslim problem.



[1] Royo, Joseph. "Review - Eichmann in Jerusalem." e-International Relations . November 14, 2013. http://www.e-ir.info/2013/11/14/review-eichmann-in-jerusalem/ (accessed December 14, 2015).