Friday, July 23, 2004

Continuing the conversation

Jennifer raises interesting questions about my post on the Hamtramck, Mich., decision to ratify the amplified Islamic call to prayer:
Church bells generally ring once a week? Are you sure? Doesn't that vary widely?

Does it vary? Yes. Widely? I doubt it. My parish has some of the most disturbing bells I know of. At Pascha, we ring them late at night--the funeral tone on the Vigil of Holy Friday, a joyous peal at Pascha--but that's one week out of a year. We get our neighbors' permission and get a noise variance from the city. We also ring them on Sunday morning.

The bells are nonverbal. They are not amplified; they can't be heard outside the immediate vicinity. Some churches have fake bells, but they aren't any louder than real ones. Also, two universities that I've attended had bells. They were not religious; they simply tolled the hour and quarter-hour. No one living off campus could be bothered by those bells.

What the mosques in Hamtramck have received is the right to blanket the whole community in a two-minute Arabic call to worship, five times a day, beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. every day. It's a quality-of-life issue before it's anything else.

But it is something else.

Jennifer writes:
Church bells ring in the context of religion freedom - religious freedom is exactly what we have in America. How can we only have religious freedom for certain groups and not others? Are you assuming all Muslim immigrants are dangerous and want to take over the U.S. somehow? I don't, and I guess that's a basic different worldview. I'm not saying Muslim terrorists aren't dangerous, but I don't believe the majority of Muslims, especially those coming to the U.S. are dangerous or hostile.

I agree entirely that the majority of Muslims, either in America or elsewhere, are not dangerous people. On 9/11, we saw what a minority of 19 out of 1 billion can accomplish. We also saw a larger group, who did not fly planes into buildings, dancing in the streets, in New Jersey as well as elsewhere. We have also seen anti-Semitic violence rising in Europe, a British imam who has recruited terrorists and is accused of trying to start a terrorist training camp in Oregon, movement toward Sharia in Scandinavia, and many similar events.

I've also seen too much evidence to quote of the second- or third-class status of non-Muslims (or Muslim women) in predominantly Muslim societies (for starters, look up Bat Yeor and the ongoing collection at Dhimmi Watch).
I can sympathize with not wanting one's community to change, but haven't we seen this before in the 60's and 70's? Isn't it called white flight?

Which brings us back to my original point: A person in a changing community may be torn between leaving and staying, may not know how to gauge the presence of danger. By the time the danger is apparent, it may be too late to leave.

If I lived in Hamtramck, Mich., I would be looking around for someplace else to live. Another non-Muslim might enjoy the wake-up calls. At the end of 20 years, we might compare our results and see who was right. The process of that decision and the conflict it arouses is what interested me at the beginning of this.

UPDATE: Get Religion has an analysis of the built-in imbalance in "evangelization" methods between Christians and Muslims.

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