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Paul Brandeis Raushenbush: Muslims Are Not Savages

26 September 2012 Huffington Post 6 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Muslims Are Not Savages

When did the memo go out that it was okay to call Muslims savages?

A week ago Joe Scarborough responded to the deadly Muslim protests of the anti-Islamic film by calling it “savagery.”

“Think of the savagery, the sheer unrestrained savagery.”

I watch Morning Joe and am a fan of the show. And on that morning It was clear that Scarborogh was processing grief at the killing of American soldiers serving their country in Libya and Afghanistan. He spoke out of anger; I understand that. And if, on that grim Monday morning a week ago, Scarborough had been clear that he was venting his anger at al-Qaida and other Islamic terrorists groups that in fact had carried out the attack on the ambassador I would have regretted the savagery language, but agreed with the sentiment.

But unfortunately Joe went on to talk about Muslims in general:

“You know why they hate us? They hate us because of their religion, they hate us because of their culture, and they hate us because of peer pressure. And you talk to any intelligence person, they will tell you that’s the same thing.”

The horrible irony is that just as he was painting the Muslim world with one brush (which Andrea Mitchell warned him against doing), there were peaceful protests against the killing of the ambassador with Muslim men, women and children holding up signs of apology to America.

Instead of understanding that many of the protests were instigated by factions more concerned with domestic power struggles than offended piety, or acknowledging that every major Muslim organization in America condemned the killing of the ambassador and called for calm in response to the anti-Islam film, or that Muslims are the targets of Islamic terrorist violence more than non-Muslims, Scarborough associated all Muslim with the horrific actions of a few.

More recently you have Pam Geller’s New York subway ads with the message:

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

The New York subway ads pit civilization versus the savages — civilization being with Israel, and savages being presumably the Palestinians. This is a horrible set-up for aiding the extremists on both sides.

Viewing all Palestinians as Muslim savages plays into the worst temptation of settlers to regard a Palestinian life as less valuable than an Israeli. Likewise, instead of providing an antidote to the violent extremism that exists among Israel’s enemies, this only gives the terrorists more talking points for recruitment.

The use of savage to talk about “the other” is, of course, an old trick — just talk to the Native Americans, who were the original “savages” in our country; or the people of Africa for Europeans. Calling someone a savage is a designation of a sub or semi-human status. Savages are threatening because they are like wild animals: unpredictable, unreasonable, and dangerous.

Unfortunately, this “civilization versus savages” is being put forward at a time when need to avoid seeing the world in simplistic “us versus them” terms.

Because the reality is that the struggle is not “us Americans” versus “them Muslims.” The struggle is between those of “us” who want to do the hard work of building peace around the world and “them’ who want to take part in the much easier work of destroying it. It is “us” who want to find a way to resolve the deep suspicion and sense of being wronged that is held on both sides, and “them” who continually infect old wounds with distrust in order to keep fires of burning for a fight to the death.

Even in the midst of such “savage” language thrown at them, Muslims and the wider interfaith community has rallied in support of peace.

Newsweek published a demeaning cover of a group of Muslims practically foaming at the mouth with the title: MUSLIM RAGE. The article, written by an ex-Muslim and Islam critic included a coy invitation to further discuss the article by using the hashtag #MuslimRage, Muslims came up with aresponse full of wit, using humor to combat insult with one saying: “Shawarma with no garlic sause? #MuslimRage. ” And soon #Jewishrage and #ChristianRage were formed in solidarity.

Likewise, in response to the subway ads that call Muslims savages, Muslims and the wider community have started another peaceful online protest with the #MySubwayAd, which included one that said: “In NYC we speak 140 languages and hate isn’t one of them.”

We all need to leave off the “savage” language and the mindset that is behind it. Instead Americans need to double down on the strength of our country which is our commitment to pluralism and respect of the other.

That is what makes us civilized and that is what will save us.


  1. I am sorry but what is that word used over and over by Muslims in various countries to describe the United States? And, what is that word they chant to describe our citizens? Ahh well I will nail them down during the next protest.

  2. As a friend of mine points out, what a difference a few months make. We sure liked Libyan mobs when they were tearing Mohamar Ghadafy apart.

    And the US/NATO “coalition” had nothing against destroying Libya’s infrastructure, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Libya today may not have at its disposal SWAT teams, drones, water cannons, tasers, huge homeland security grants, surveillance cameras, “free speech zones,” and all the amenities that keep *our* citizens in line.

    That said, I personally believe the Libyan explanation that it was a terrorist attack, not spontaneous mob violence. A few Al Qaeda types indeed succeeded in whipping up a crowd which could not be dispersed, and using it as a diversion for a bigger attack. This says nothing about Muslims, Arabs, or Libyans in general.

  3. “When did the memo go out that it was okay to call Muslims savages?” how about after they acted like savages.

    “he was painting the Muslim world with one brush” not another idiot who doesn’t understand that when you say muslims that doesn’t mean every single one of them.


    your friend is an idiot. yes when the rebels fighting our foe, they are our friends. when they kill our people they are going to be our foe. what is he? a proffesor of the obvious?

    “that keep *our* citizens in line.” so your point here is that no muslims rioted in america is because of the vast law enforcement resources available.

    you are funny. you sound like the guy who blamed our government for stevens death because his “embassy” was a rented house. not the fortresses we have for embassies in much of the islamic world. so what does it say about the followers of “the religion of peace” that we feel a need to have fortress.

  4. Stevens left the embassy and went to the consulate for a meeting about a medical student exchange program with Harvard.

    The Libyan gov. I assume got alarmed because several business deals evaporated with the disorder, and helped spur some demo action to get rid of the militants.

    I don’t think most Libyans would make signs for Stevens on their own, esp professional signs.

  5. Do you remember going to school and learning about Sets and Subsets? I think if you place all Muslims in a set you could say that the Set of Muslims is not savage but does contain savagery. However, one could easily make a Subset of Muslims and you could label this Subset as Savage Muslims. Take this link for example: The people involved in this incident could easily be placed in the Savage Subset.

    Yes it is a slow morning.

  6. The problem is not the Muslims its Islam,if Islam means submission and they submit ,they are just slaves of islam.They are being control by what they belief and they try to appease that power(Allah) by acting out that belief. as long as they are carring out the command of Allah ,even if it means blowing up a school, they will do it with zeal.Sometimes they even blow up the same mosque they worship in and shout Allah is great. Do they really know who Allah is?If Allah is so great and powerfull why don’t they pray to him and ask him to help them solve their problems.When the Christians were being persecuted they were never offended because they had that peace of mind that comes from Yaweh GOD, that is the only true peace.

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