Monday, August 9, 2010

Pamphleteering for Peace

I think this story highlights why it remains important that pamphleteers and others who seek access to audiences' personal or embodied spaces be permitted such access.  I don't think that the speakers in the story, who sought to distribute brochures concerning a Muslim sect that preaches non-violence, would have reached their intended audience (Wisonsin fairgoers) on the Web.  This exchange struck me as eminently reasonable and respectful -- in other words, just the sort of dialogue that can unfortunately be quite rare in blog comment sections:

Mr. Rashid continued his efforts beside the carousel, where a local man named William Krumnow responded to the brochure with the question, “How come we can have mosques here, but when you come to the Middle East, you can’t put churches up?”

Rather than go into the factual reality — though Saudi Arabia has such restrictions, many Middle Eastern nations have had churches for centuries — Mr. Rashid solicitously explained that the Koran teaches Muslims to protect Christians and Jews as kindred monotheists.

“If that’s what you guys are believing in,” Mr. Krumnow, who is Lutheran, responded, “then why are things happening the way they are?”

Again, Mr. Rashid listened closely, shutting out the squeals of children and the cries of barkers. “Every religion has its extremists,” he said, “and in Islam, we’ve let our extremists speak too loudly. That’s why we’re here. So you can hear our voice.”
I'm sure that not all of the public exchanges were this cordial.  But the message here was far more difficult to avoid than it is in cyberspace.  And if delivered properly, it might cause at least a few people to second-guess their perceptions and prejudices regarding Islam and its relation to terrorism.        

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