Bullying a Bully

So, I intellectually bullied a friend (or ex-friend, not sure anymore) today. It wasn’t my proudest moments but part of me feel that it had to be done.

An old highschool and family friend who entered the military right after highschool, messaged me today with the following:

Six Muslims Indicted in Terror Funding Plot. Federal authorities charged three members of a South Florida family, including one arrested in Los Angeles, in a conspiracy to raise money for weapons to “murder, maim and kidnap” people overseas and bolster the Pakistani Taliban. Authorities say the ringleader of the group is Hafiz Khan, a 76-year-old imam, or religious leader, of a mosque in Miami

I asked him what he wanted me to say, and he responded with “Don’t say anything. Sit back and watch them kill each and every one of us.” By “them,” he meant Muslims.

After this message, I had had enough of him. The previous week, he had responded to an article on my facebook wall in the most aggressive of ways–directly attacking me and others who agreed that violence should never be celebrated–no matter how evil the dead person may have been.

In short, he contacted me again today. Apparently, he expected me to answer for the actions of the indicted Muslims. This is when I decided to get a little nasty:

Johnathan, read books. Seriously. I am not trying to be condescending, but you have been immersed in violence from a very young age. It is critical for you to think about the way you are lashing out against me–and on what grounds?

From the comments on my page (the day after Laden’s death), you weren’t even understanding the conversation that was going on. I think the image I’ve attached serves as a reminder of some of the absurd and irrelevant comments you were making. You were responding to things that weren’t said and were attacking an ideology that you think I represent. A complete lack of reading comprehension skills, sorry to say it.

Again, I am down to discuss things with you (or anyone) with different opinions that my own. The only thing I require is respect–not impulsive responses that misconstrue or reflect assumptions about my position–or even worse, attack me personally! So “anti-American”? How dare you! Just because you own a badge and take a million of ridiculous pictures in front of your mirror with guns does not give you a right to dictate how others should think and who others are.

He responded with “books don’t show reality. My friends are dead because of this religion and their radical goal to kill infidels in the name of their Allah”.

I responded with, “John, did you know Christians who speak Arabic call God “Allah” and “Rab” also? They are Arabic words for ‘God’ and ‘Lord’. The God in Islam is the same God in Christianity. Read Quran and Bible and then we can continue.”

He responded with, “I don’t have time to read. Besides, while you were reading my friends were getting killed in Afghanistan and Iraq”

And I said, “You are right, books do not solve immediate problems, but remaining ignorant by refusing to seek information remove hope.”

I felt like an intellectual bully on many levels. I know that my friend joined the military directly after high school. He was raised in a low social-economic neighborhood and joined the military to escape a lot of road blocks. He has been immersed in violence since a very young age. On the one hand, I felt that pointing out his insecurities (in regards to literacy) was a cruel move. On the other hand, he has the potential to read and arrive at his own opinions about the world–ideas independent from military politics and those of Fox news.

In many ways, I feel sorry for him. He is right on many levels. Books do not solve immediate problems. Many people like him have been raised to be practical. To attack problems as they come–not with their minds, but with their bodies. Many individuals like him have had to fight their way through the streets, through school, through family situations. John, like many people I know, are survivors. John, like many people I know, do not have time nor the opportunity to get an education. For these reasons, I felt like an elitist bully.

On the same token, should I stay silent and let him bully me around? Should I stay silent while he spews hate with which he has been indoctrinated? Should I be afraid to shake his narrow-minded worldview by challenging him to seek information?

He sent another message that said, “You know I care for you. It is my mission to protect others. I just want to open your eyes to what is going on with that religion…” and I responded with, “You did it again, John. You vilified an entire religion that you haven’t taken the time to read,” and he responded with, “How about we don’t take about this anymore?”

I think that my going back to the reading cornered him. It wasn’t like him to drop a subject. In many ways, I think I exposed him to his own “shortcomings”. I did this knowingly–which may have be unethical. I, however, feel even more irresponsible staying silent while a friend loses himself neglectfully to the rhetoric of violence.


5 thoughts on “Bullying a Bully

  1. Ignorance is a two way street. Or better yet, it’s a huge multi-lane expressway replete with spaghetti junctions, annoying toll booths, and asphalt tributaries going every which-a-way. There’s of it enough go around – perhaps too much – and some seem to feel the brunt of it from all sides, from Muslims and non-Muslim, more so than others.

    I know this may only be loosely related, but I recently had a conversation with an educated Muslim friend mine along the same lines as the one you wrote about, except the circumstances of the conversation were the reverse of the one you had with your “friend.” (Not sure what to call him since you’re not sure).

    My younger brother, whose name is Kamal, and I were in his company when my friend brought up the fact that Kamal is a Muslim serving in the military. I’m sure I don’t have to elucidate my friend’s arguments as to why a Muslim shouldn’t be in the service because I’m pretty sure you must have heard them ad nauseam. My brother tried to defend himself, saying that not everyone who serves in the military gets deployed to combat zones, i.e. Muslim countries. Moreover, he also said that he’s intent before God wasn’t to kill other Muslims or even Afghanis; he said such prejudices don’t exist when you’re taking bullet fire: fight or flight mechanism is all there is at that point. He rather appealed to his sense of duty and realism: gotta do what ya gotta do.

    I tried to defend my brother, saying essentially what you said about your friend: socio-economic conditions constrain and limit the choices available for some people, like my younger brother. The road to scholarship and bookish knowledge is often barred for poor folks. In either case, my friend wouldn’t be deterred from his position. He saw the issue as being Black and White. The Grey, he said, should be avoided, but then, most of life is Grey isn’t it?

    After hearing some of my brother’s war stories, I could understand (not agree) your friend’s mentality, even though I’m a Muslim. It’s much easier to frame things as Us versus Them, especially when you just saw your friend get shot up by one of Them or get his arms blow off by of Them. Intellectualism goes out the window, but there’s still a wisdom to it. And it’s much easier for those outside of violent environments in the cushioned confines of academia or an engineering cubicle to have these rationalize discourses on war, terrorism, etc.

    …such a difficult balance…

  2. This is the way I see it: If we zoom-in too much on a computer image, all we will see are the black and white micro-pixels. If we zoom-out too much, the image becomes so tiny and distant, that we can hardly discern the objects in the picture. In both cases, the image becomes distorted.

    The same goes with a myopic view where one does not step back from the situation to analyze it. On the same token, getting lost in “intellectualism” (or theory) also makes us blind to the material reality.

    You are right, it is a difficult balance…

  3. You know the Prophet Salallahu alayhi wa Salam always spoke with others at their level of intellect,it would have been better from an Islamic perspective if you had not “Intellectually bullied him as it may have pushed him further away from knowing or seeking the truth, but again just because of his social background we should not assume he is more intellectually impaired than those who are from a higher social economic background, we can’t think like this, the Scholars if Islam say that even those who have a phd does not mean that they are more knowledegable than those without one depending on their natural intellect and understanding of things, when talking with such people that you have a window of opportunity to make Daw’ah with, never make them feel that you are more clever than them they may feel intimidated and scared to approach you or even ask you questions about Islam. Also these people need to know at the end of the day that it was their goverment that put them there and not the choice of the Muslims, if he has a problem then it should be with them and not us and that is what needs to be taught to them first and foremost .

    He is only attacking you because he is ignorant like this at the time of the Jahiliayah, and he feels he is probably fighting a war that really has no cause and feels he has no control over, you know when the Prophet Salallahu alayhi used to send the Sahabah out to call te people to Allah he warned them to have mercy with them , so they would not run away and to talk with them at a level of their understanding if it was an individual then they would always speak at their level as not to confuse them, so we should always take from their example as they are the best of examples and Allah knows best ukhti Filla!

  4. @UmmHammam,

    You are completely right. It’s really hard sometimes, though, to deal with bullies who want to subjugate you to their ignorance. I agree with you that we always need to find a better way to express ourselves and educate others.

  5. Salam.

    This is the first post I’ve read from your blog so far. As you said, your friend is obviously ignorant about Islam and it’s teachings. Ignorance usually breeds fear and fear breeds hate. Like most combatant in the U.S military, he is constantly hearing that the new “enemy” of the USA is the “dangerous and evil” followers of war-loving cult called Islam. Since the current wars and invasions are done in Muslim countries, it isn’t a surprise to see the fear and paranoia about Muslims and Islam within the military. Soldiers went through the same indoctrination during the Vietnam War as well. Like he said, he feels like he needs to “protect” you and show you the possible danger of Islam. Maybe one-day you and him can properly talk about this issue. Show him that there are Muslim in the Military as well. Tell him that Islam does not support murder and killing and that Muslims in places in Iraq and Afghanistan see themselves fighting against invaders and occupiers, not killing infidels for the sake of Allah. Tell him that you chose Islam as you reilgion and that you still care for him and see him as your friend (unless he doesn’t know that you are a Muslim :s)

    Anyways, I hope you and you friend sort out this problem, Inshallah.

    Salam 🙂

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