Show 179: Lawrence Pintak

From the preface of Reflections in a Bloodshot Lens: America, Islam, and the War of Ideas

Audio here!

“For Americans, Islam has emerged as the quintessential “Other,” replacing the Soviet Union as the touchstone against which U.S. citizens measure their collective sense of Self. It has become a cliché to say that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 “changed everything.” On one level, that is true. The nation’s illusion of security was shattered; its relationship with terror as something that happened somewhere else was unalterably transformed. But on another level, 9/11 simply made overt a worldview that had long been present but little acknowledged.

“Since a keffiah-clad Rudolph Valentino first strode across the silent screen, Arabs and Muslims have been Othered in U.S. society, the subject of stereotype and differentiation. Blinded by their view of Self, most Americans knew – or cared – little about what the rest of the world thought of them. Meanwhile, Arabs and non-Arab Muslims harbored a host of clichés and preconceived notions that shaped their view of the U.S., set against the overarching perception that the U.S. is intrinsically linked to, and responsible for, the policies of Israel, the ultimate Other.

“The years since 9/11 have only confirmed the stereotypes on both sides. This book sets out several intersecting arguments about the relationship between the U.S. and the world’s Muslims – particularly focusing on those living in Muslim-majority countries – in the post-9/11 era:

* That the conflicting worldviews of Americans and Muslims led each to perceive events in fundamentally different ways;

* That the polarizing rhetoric of leaders on each side was shaped by, and reinforced, those fundamentally different worldviews;

* That the prevailing worldview in the Bush White House – and the country-at-large – produced a failure to understand the impact that U.S. policy statements and actions had among Arabs and non-Arab Muslims;

* That the media on each side framed coverage in a manner that reinforced the dichotomy and inflamed opinion;

* That this impact was dramatically enhanced by the growth of satellite television and non-traditional media outlets in the Muslim world; and,

* That the above factors led to the enhancement of a global community of Muslims, or ummah, that is far more cohesive than ever before. “

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