I understand where he's coming from -- at least, I think I understand. First, I imagined myself as a bro. Then I surveyed the world. All of the troublemaking countries where terrorists are fomenting anti-Western violence against other countries as well as their own people are Muslim. In the psychological universe of the bro, there is no difference between correlation and causation. Ergo, the Islamic aspect must be a defining cause of the violence. Not rigorous at all, just blanket generalizations about large swathes of people. It's what bros do all the time, right brah?
This scapegoating thing is too similar to what happened in Nazi Germany. The rallying point for Nazi supporters was that the impure elements of German society--Roma, Jews, people with disabilities, and so on--had to be removed in order for the country to live up to its original destiny (whatever that is supposed to mean). So it goes for liberal societies. I think it's a good teachable moment. It goes to show that just because we live in a relatively liberal society--and my friend is certainly a leftist within the context of American politics--doesn't mean we are buttressed against authoritarian ideas about who belongs and who doesn't. Liberal racism happens. It's not just those wacky conservatives screaming their balls and ovaries off on Fox News.
But what's worse about his particular line of reasoning is that it seems to blame Jews for the Holocaust. If they weren't in Germany, nothing would have happened! So anything bad that happens to Muslims is entirely their fault. By living in the US, they have somehow consented (bad social contract theory?) to any and all acts of violence that may be preemptively dished out on them. Murder by parking dispute, illegal police surveillance, extraordinary rendition. All of it. That is quite a threat against Muslims who just wanted to come to the States for class mobility, escape from the chaotic politics of their home countries, or just build a higher quality of life for their kids. Immigrants go where the money, schools, and jobs are, and then they are told to get out.
There was something else messed up about his ideas. His argument also cast aspersions on my personhood. He knew that I was an ex-Muslim in college. Where does that place me? Am I somewhere halfway in between the saved and the fallen? Should I be flattered that I am superior at overcoming my blood-soaked indoctrination? I didn't get to ask. It was kind of fucked up. Here's this guy who says we're college buddies and misses hanging out with me, and he's also saying that the people I came from are bad elements in his nation on a hill? Damn. It can be hard to be friends with white people.
In other words, I felt a bit attacked. I'm not a Muslim and I've cut ties to that community, including my own family. I don't even hate them (anymore), it's just that I feel as though that community never had anything to offer me. Yet most of my extended family in the States are Muslim. I have to accept that they are my flesh and blood and that were it not for their decision to emigrate to American shores, I would not exist. So where does that leave me, college chum? It certainly put me in what I felt was an awkward position: here I was, defending Muslim folks even though I had no attachment to the community. So it goes. I realize with an Islamic name like mine, there is really nothing I can do but become a begrudging perspective on what Islam is and is not. It's something I've dealt with ever since 9/11, when I went to an all-white, mostly Protestant elementary school, where everyone was very kind to me. Yes, those kinds of conversations started that early. "Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?" "How do Muslim people worship?"
I have no desire to change my name. I accept it for what it is. I guess that means I'm choosing to be that person, who has to speak on Islam when it's tossed around. Not as a defender of the faith (but what white person would really believe me, brown-named that I am, for not having an interest in Islam?), but as some general kind of observer who is not impressed with white people's conversations about Islam thus far. Will it ever get better? I heard that the United States' first Islamic university opened its doors recently. I can only hope that they will become a major force for holding people to a higher standard when speaking about Islam.