Joe De Matteo

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Condemned to Violence?
By Joseph De Matteo

While watching the recently aired “Muslims” on Frontline (PBS), many facts, which had been relegated to “assist” status to my visceral response mechanism, were brought back to the position of readily available data.  The many interviews covered a wide variety of educated people from a number of countries and professions.  The interviewees spoke frankly, sharing both their thoughts and feelings. The only aspect lacking is the thoughts and feelings of working people, and of the poor. 

The program contained some welcome news, but it also presented some very frightening realities.

US and BBC Media coverage of the just held elections in France and Holland (spring 2002) reports on the fear factor with such a lack of insight that one would think it is not fear at all but bigotry that has many citizens of those two old nations screaming for help and assurance.  One could ask, “what is really going on there?”

Muslims shows us an American and a Malaysian who articulate how Muslims are willing to live with, and respect, non-Muslims. 

It also shows us that many Muslim not only refuse to live in a secular society, but are totally intolerant of non-Muslims.  What’s worse, Dr. Akbar Muhammad, an associate professor of history and Africana studies at New York’s Binghamton University, tells us that there are large numbers of Muslims that believe a Jihad against all non-Muslims is called for when Muslims anywhere are under attack by non-Muslims.  Muslims are “…saying that what they did (attack on the World Trade Center), and what they do (continued attacks), is justified in Islam.”  May I also add that as a non-Muslim, a New York City born and bread man in his fifties, I could not tell if Dr. Muhammad was, at this point, speaking as one of them or one of us.

Dr. Muhammad goes on to say that this attitude, this interpretation of the Koran, is not widely accepted among the general population of Muslims.  This is good news, but isn’t it understandable that some people (non-Muslims) are afraid? 

In the European countries mentioned above, the fear of many in the electorate was flamed because many Muslim immigrants refuse to assimilate.

As a factual aside: In the early 1970s I belonged to the Sons of Italy in America.  This is an old organization (established on June 22, 1905) of Italian Americans and Americans of Italian descent.  Each meeting started with a ceremony that included a highlight of the by-laws.  One of which was a statements proclaimed that it was the responsibility of every member to assimilate, or to help newly arrived Italians to assimilate into America.  This was in line with the attitude of both of the immigrant families that I am a descendent of.

Continuing, this well-done documentary presented us with a Nigerian attorney Sani Hanga Muzzammil, who ends his statements with the sentence, “People should be allowed to believe what they want to believe.”  This after telling us that the conflict with Western culture is because westerners believe in Human Freedom (individual freedom) and that Islam believes in Communal Harmony instead.  He shows us the proactive measures they took in the northern states of Nigeria.  With the downfall of one regime and the start of another, the majority Muslim population was able to replace civil law with Shiria law (Muslim law), and civil courts with Muslim courts. 

Therefore, “allowing people to believe in what they want to believe in”, translates in reality to allowing Muslims to practice their beliefs to the exclusion of the beliefs of non-Muslims.

I have a friend, an African, who is a priest in Kenya.  He works (building and managing hospitals and clinics) in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.  This gentle, tolerant man told me what happened when some Muslims moved into a location that had a Christian majority.  On their arrival they asked for help and tolerance.  However, once their mosque was built and more of them arrived in the town, they became militant and very intolerant.  At our last conversation, the relationship between the two groups is one of pure conflict.  The fact is that most of the Christian community is intimidated by the aggressive behavior of the Muslims; they don’t want to live side by side as good neighbors, they want to dominate.

To be sure, religious intolerance and extremism are not limited to Muslims, but one cannot shrug off a people who at the very least turn a blind eye to the militants among their numbers who, after they blend into an area, murderously attack civilians, including women and even the innocent, the children; doing so with complete disregard for even their own lives. 

Is this not something to fear, to prepare against? 

What is bothersome to many Americans it the fact that there has been no hue and cry, no outrage against Muslim terrorism coming from official Muslims Americadom.  When they do condemn, they condemn the outcome, not actions, and they do so with what we perceive as reserve; it’s as if they are leaving open a backdoor.  With only one exception I saw this throughout the program Muslims. 

I also heard, many times, that the West does not understand the Muslim world.  Okay, maybe that’s so, but it’s obvious that (generally speaking) there are quite a few Muslims that don’t understand America or Americans.  This fact seems to have escaped everyone.  Or is it that old double standard, which, if taken to its logical end, paints us Westerners as superior intellects who have to make allowances for our mentally handicapped neighbors. 

The program also showed a group of Illinois (I believe) suburban locals, Muslims and non-Muslims, who have gotten together, at the insistence of a judge, for the purpose of “getting to know each other,” and thereby finding a common ground. 

The problem is that none of the people at the meeting we were shown were the fanatics we fear. (With the exception of some jerk, a Christian who couldn’t grasp the elementary fact that the three major religions believed in and worshipped the same God.)   These were just people of good will who happened to belong to different religions talking about their religious beliefs with each other.  These folks certainly got to know each other, but these were not people in a mortal conflict. The fanatics, the intelligent and the ignorant, the planners of terror and the drones that carry out the attacks were missing.  But this feel good solution, even if it included the fanatics was doomed to failure.  How can one reason with a man who is cut from the same cloth as the man who went into the bedroom of a 5-year-old Israeli child and shot it, and the man who, while holding an airline stewardess from behind, runs a razor blade across the width of her neck in order to cower the passengers in the planed destined to be flown into a building in America on September 11th?

I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the answer.  And if I did, you wouldn’t want to hear it; I’m a hothead by nature.  God forgive me, an unforgiving hot head.

My personal characteristics not withstanding, we cannot sit back and hope for the best.  We must act.  Certainly the war on terrorism is valid, but what of the minds that are being polluted by the evil ones who hate?  What of the children who’s futures are being cast by hate filled people?

Over the years since the formation of Israel those Palestinian “politicians” in power kept their people in refugee camps.  Their only economy was based on the economy of the country their leaders told them must be destroyed.  Murder and destruction was the path to “Utopia” was taught to every child.  God forgive us all, they brainwashed their children into being bombers, murderous suicide bombers.  Which of these children could have found the cure for cancer?  Which of the ones who blew themselves up in a murderous blast could have be the parent of a child whose hug could make all the suffering disappear? 

What chance does a real peace have with two generations of people who have been taught to hate so deeply?  Something drastic must be done to introduce the rewards of a peaceful life building a family and a nation with a good economy into the minds of these people who have been used as pawns by so many.

The solution I recommend would start with the aggressive intervention of the United States into the Palestinian territories and would include:

·     Help and guidance with building of a local economy

·     Have Arab American businessmen help existing and want-to-be local businessmen make connections in the US and Europe for markets or sources of goods.

·     Guidance with putting together the government bureaucracies needed to do business.

·     A program which would bring Palestinian families to the US for 6 month periods in an effort to let them see America and its people living, working and going to school.  Let their children attend our schools and make friends.  Let the parents shop in our stores and see the way we work and do business, and get along with each other.  Let them see our hospitals and neighborhoods, our parks, cities, suburbs and farmlands.  Then bring their knowledge back to their homeland and implement what they have learned.

 This program would exclude our forcing our culture on them, rather we would let them decide to what parts of our culture they want to adopt.  Let’s not have the first thing they see of us be scantily clad people selling everything from soda to cars.  Let Coca Cola or Pepsi or Nabisco or any of a hundred other products go there and set up a group to operate a bottling plant or bakery.  Let’s get Hollywood involved and have some of these caring people go there and help them put together a small movie industry.  And for goodness sake, let’s let them design their own ad campaigns.

This is how we can export peace, and get modern health care and infer-structure to Third World counties.  Now we’d be doing something instead of just using people or ignoring them.  And we’ve got the perfect place to start.  We can insure that the new nation of Palestine gets started on the right foot.


Joseph De Matteo

Copyright March 2002 Joseph De Matteo all rights reserved.

Joseph De Matteo, FalconRun, Inc., 31 Walnut St, New Windsor, NY 12553

Joseph De Matteo


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