Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Goose-Steppers of the Enlightenment

In the great Clash of CivilizationsTM that pits the Western world against the Muslim world, we can always count on the West, bastion of Enlightenment values that we surely are, to be on the side of tolerance and freedom. In that spirit, it's worth noting an AFP report that quotes an article in the Italian daily Repubblica about how soccer hooligans and neo-Nazis are gearing up for a bloodbath during this summer's World Cup. Their target? Muslims.

According to "ultras" hooligans associated with AS Roma, "neo-Nazis across Europe met in Braunau in Austria to plan attacks against supporters from Islamic countries during the World Cup in Germany from June 9 to July 9."
"We are united. For the first time we are talking and planning together, with the English, the Germans, the Dutch, the Spanish, everyone with the same objective. At the World Cup there will be a massacre," said the Italian ultra. "We will all be in Germany and there will be Turks, Algerians and Tunisians. The Turks, we can't stand them. In [Italy] there are not many, but in Germany, there are many of those guys there. They are Islamic terrorists. We will attack them. They are all enemies that need to be eliminated, just like the police."
Charming. If nothing else, this illustrates the myth of "Western culture." These European neo-Nazis are heirs to the same Western tradition of tolerance and openness that I am, but do I have anything in common with them at all? I sure hope not. There's no such thing as a single "Western culture." Instead, there are a multiplicity of cultures under the umbrella of Western civilization, and some of them, as our European friends have shown us, are unspeakably evil. Perhaps our culture warriors should remember this the next time they ascribe a monolithic, evil culture to the entire Muslim world.

If we want moderate Muslims to denounce the very real and troubling extremism of some of their co-religionists, it's every bit as important that we don't forget to denounce the no-less-real extremism produced by our own societies. It's not about equivalency. It's about common decency. Ultimately, we're all on the same side, here. Right?
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