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When Nobody Knows Your Holiday Songs
Partially in an effort to wean myself off caffeine, I’ve made it a habit to listen to Democracy Now!. It wakes me up in a way Elliot in the Morning doesn’t. This is an age where we can think about sex toys and 50-ton monster whales in our sleep guilt-free, after all. Amy Goodman, meanwhile, delivers the kind of global news too difficult to find on other stations during my daily commute. (WRIR represent!) Often show topics relate to the Middle East, such as today’s story on the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian regime’s treatment of journalists. Though these stories are meant to dust the glitter off Americans’ political (mis)conceptions, they don’t exactly surprise the show’s main audience; NPR listeners tend to be the best-informed of all American media consumers. The United States is flawed, just like the rest of the world--shocker.
But in a Judeo-Christian, post-9/11 society around Christmas, American patriotism tends to soar. This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. I’m proud to be an American, current and historical injustices aside. American patriotism to the point of fundamentalism in the form of, say, Muslim hate crimes, though? Very bad. To quote the FBI: “Hate crimes add an element of bias to traditional crimes—and a mixture that is toxic to our communities.”
Right now Islamophobia is burning across Great Britain, with a 50 percent increase in Muslim hate crimes between 2012 and 2013. That, of course, doesn’t mean that the U.S. is innocent. Even if meanness alone doesn’t technically qualify as a hate crime, it’s still wrong. Take a local example. In September, some Virginia Beach residents complained about the opening of the city’s first mosque, Crescent Community Center. According to YellowPages.com, Virginia Beach already has over 700 churches and other places of worship—yet a group still opposed Muslims getting their one. Luckily the Muslim non-profit will be getting their mosque, anyway. How’s that for “Christian charity”?
Back in high school, my Bengali friend said that, though he appreciated winter break, he sort of felt like he was getting two weeks off from class for no good reason. He didn’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukah or Kwanza. The Islamic New Year didn’t even match up to Jan. 1. He and his siblings pretty much did nothing but watch cartoons and action movies for a fortnight.
To this day, despite having Muslim friends throughout my childhood in “Northern Virginiastan,” I do not know a single line to any Muslim holiday song. Instead, I know the nasty things certain Americans say about Muslims and the Middle East. What amazes me is how someone can utter “Merry Christmas” and “raghead” almost in the same breath. It’s hypocritical to say Jesus is the reason for the season, and then act completely counter to Jesus’ teachings by insulting Muslim neighbors or giving them the cold shoulder in times of need. Many Americans may not be aware of the special circumstances homeless Muslim women face, for instance. It’s a lot easier to dismiss a homeless Muslim woman as “deserving” of her situation because she chose an “oppressive religion,” which is obviously why her husband beat her. But, as Dickens wrote, “A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”
Remember growing up singing “A Whole New World” and wanting to be Princess Jasmine on a magic carpet? Whatever happened to those days?