OPINION –Talk radio is to nuance what an atomic bomb is to a fly swatter.
Many talk radio listeners have been conditioned to adore those personalities that supply them with demons to wrestle. Talk radio has proven remarkably successful in persuading listeners that Muslims are murderous, deceptive religious fanatics with worldwide conquest in mind.
Fear is the prime mover in promoting this concept; fear of what may happen, fear of the unknown, fear of those who are different. Let’s face it, fear works when it comes to shaping public perceptions. With few exceptions, it is the coin of the realm in talk radio.
A quote from George Gerbner of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania explains why fear works so well:
“Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hardline postures. They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities.”
The global war on terror has served as proof for many talk radio listeners that our government’s attempts to project imperial power globally are all that is preventing Islam from reducing the world to either converts or slaves. Hollywood typecasting tends to reinforce this stereotype.
But there is a side to Islam that remains unknown to too many Americans; including those who don’t listen to talk radio.
Two years ago, I attended a presentation at Southern Utah University where Dr. Brad Cook taught about the history of Islam that we seldom hear. Brad has spent roughly 12 years living and teaching among Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
In his presentation, Cook introduced us to some of the contributions of Islamic culture that have had positive influence upon our Western culture. When we are taught history, too often, the version we are taught fails to acknowledge how as European culture was descending into the Dark Ages; Islamic culture was entering a thriving golden age.
From approximately 750 AD until the Renaissance of the early 16th Century, Islamic societies were contributing greatly to the betterment of mankind. Among the contributions were advancements in art, philosophy, medicine, mathematics, engineering, architecture, commerce, and travel.
But perhaps the greatest debt that Western Civilization owes to Islam is the preservation of the classical knowledge of the Greeks and Romans upon which the canon of Western thought is based. This would include the highly influential works of Aristotle, which were translated from Greek into Arabic and then back into Latin during this time.
We would not have these texts if not for Islamic culture preserving them.
This reverence for knowledge was due, in part, to Islamic customs that taught that even in times of war, libraries and other depositories of knowledge were to be preserved. Likewise, Muslim warriors were also expected to spare trees, wells, and the young and the elderly.
In Islamic societies, great emphasis was placed upon caring for the poor and downtrodden. Even an enemy who asked his host for protection was to be safeguarded under Muslim tradition. But the only people who are likely to appreciate these truths are those who get their information from sources other than our mass media and Hollywood.
Bumper sticker slogans like “Everything I need to know about Muslims I learned on 9/11” do nothing to contribute to real understanding.
One of the key points of Cook’s presentation was his reminder that Islam is not a monolithic faith. Unlike Catholics, for whom the Pope is their world leader, or Mormons, for whom Thomas S. Monson is their prophet, Muslims rely primarily upon local Imams to set the tone for the faithful.
Islam has no central authority other than the Koran and even with that there are still Sunnis, Shia and Sufi sects among whom there is disagreement. Even if all 1.4 billion Muslims were on the same page doctrinally, should all Islamic people be equated with the handful of marginalized radicals who hide behind their religion to commit atrocities?
Would a reasonable person hold all Catholics responsible for child sex abuse or blame all Mormons for the Mountain Meadow Massacre?
Those individuals who thrive on fear would likely answer “Yes.” But the best antidote for fear has always been found in knowledge.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2012, all rights reserved.