A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, December 21, 2015

Race for the Bottom: Latest "The Muslims Are Coming" Hysterias

The United States, in part due to the Donald Trump provocations and the San Bernardino attacks, is approaching hysterical levels of Islamophobia not seen since the 9/11 aftermath and arguably worse. The reaction to the idea of allowing any Syrian refugees into this country is still fresh, with governors barring them from their states (which they have no constitutional authority to do), but the Descent Into Stupid seems to be accelerating.

Just last week, Augusta  County, Virginia, a beautiful place in the Shenandoah Valley that I know well, closed its school system on Friday because parents were up in arms over one high school teacher's assignment, as part of a unit in world religions, of an example of Arabic calligraphy and asking the students to try to reproduce it. It happened to be the shahada, seemingly appropriate in a course attempting to explain (not proselytize) Islam. They were not asked to translate it, recite it, or affirm it. But many parents saw it as an attempt to convert their children, or brainwash them in Islam. Apparently the calligraphy alone is magical and can turn young minds into Muslims. (The area is overwhelmingly Christian, but I wonder if the unit on Judaism mentioned the Shema‘ and whether anyone objected.)

I suppose I can see how some religious folk might have qualms about how other religions are taught, but simply seeing the calligraphy of a creed, untranslated, seems unlikely to lead to a wave of conversions, Augusta County has been called the most Scotch-Irish county in the US, and those Ulster Presbyterians may be Baptists or Methodists today, but I wouldn't be afraid of some calligraphy.

Now, there's an arguably even sillier issue. The rightwing Islamophobic folks now are riding this horse:
What, you didn't know the Muslim Grinches stole Christmas Eve? Obviously the Mainstream Media is hiding this at the order of the Kenyan Muslim Obama, right?

Snopes.com has already taken this one apart pretty well, but let me pile on as well.

The Prophet Muhammad's birthday according to the Islamic Sira tradition of the Prophet's biography has been reported since the earliest Islamic traditions as the 12h day of the Islamic month of Rabi‘ al-Awwal. It is not a "new" holiday but instead has been celebrated since the early Islamic world.

As I mentioned in passing in my immediately previous post, the fact that the Prophet's Birthday, Mawlid al-Nabi, falls this week is a rare calendrical coincidence, not a plot. The Islamic calendar is purely lunar, with no intercalary days or months, and is thus 354 days long, while the solar Gregorian calendar is 365 (or 366) days long. So Muslim dates generally fall about 11 days earlier in each solar year and there are 103 Muslim years for each Gregorian century. Muslim holidays rotate backwards through the Western calendar. By pure chance, Mawlid al-Nabi this year falls on December 23 (not December 24 as claimed above).

Strictly speaking if "this year" means 2015, this will be the year's second Mawlid al-Nabi, since 12 Rabi‘ al-Awwal 1436 occurred on January 3, 2015, and 12 Rabi‘ al-Awwal 1437 falls Wednesday.

Christmas Eve is safe.


David Mack said...

Don't be naive, Mike. This is a prelude to coordinated terrorist attacks on the Vatican and the White House Christmas tree. Barak Hussein has been tipped off by his secret imam, which is why he has evacuated his family to Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

Is it?

Orthodox Christmas in 2015 was 7 January.

Coincidence or chilling proof of a conspiracy.

It's worse than the War on Football!