Sunday, June 23, 2013

What do we do with Paula Deen?

Another elephant in the room             “What else didn’t she know?” As I prepare for this week’s Humanities class, I’ve asked that question countless times. We’re about to study Islam, its ideology and its factions. While doing that, I plan to sit next to my Muslim student, although sitting across from her may be more politic.

I think she understands that rational discussion includes remarks that appear to be critical when, in actuality, those comments are based on facts.

Chances are that I’ll use Chef Paula Deen as an example. In a very fair article about Deen, At Georgia Restaurant, Patrons Jump to Defend a Chef From Her Critics By KIM SEVERSON in the 6/22/13 New York Times, this was reported:

Most of the diners in line on Saturday morning were white and more than ready to defend one of their favorite cooking stars. But at the very front was Nicole T. Green, 36, an African-American who said she had made a detour from a vacation in New Orleans specifically to show up in support of Ms. Deen.
“I get it, believe me,” Ms. Green said. “But what’s hard for people to understand is that she didn’t mean it as racist. It sounds bad, but that’s not what’s in her heart. She’s just from another time.”
Although I applaud Ms. Nicole Green, my reason for mentioning her response is to prompt a discussion that contrasts unseemly remarks with something much more dangerous: an ironclad ideology. What Ms. Green appreciated was that people can become more enlightened; they can change. Even if their expressions stem from a mindset mired in a brutal past, that once culturally dominant attitude has been altered. Now it’s regarded as offensive, evidence of a bigoted perspective.

Deen knows that. In her very unsophisticated way, as the Times reports, she apologized:

“I was wrong, yes, I’ve worked hard, and I have made mistakes,” Ms. Deen said, “but that is no excuse and I offer my sincere apology to those that I have hurt, and I hope that you forgive me because this comes from the deepest part of my heart.”
How do we know this is true? What actions of Ms. Deen might offer proof? To answer that, I looked up the charities Ms. Deen supports. There were too many to list here, but I did choose one:   Cached
Just in time for Thanksgiving, filmmaker Tyler Perry and Food Network personality and author Paula Deen are making sizable gifts to area hunger relief organizations ...
Perhaps that information should have been included in the Times piece. But it wasn’t. Nor was it offered as an example of her transformation.

Should she have been condemned so quickly by the Food Network? That’s debatable. Since I’m always interested in debates for my class, we may begin with that. If so, I’ll progress to one that reasonably follows. Should we forgive a terrorist who truly repents? I’ll focus on Walid Shoebat, may display his website:   Cached
Who is Walid? Biography of Walid Shoebat. For the record, my name is Walid Shoebat. I used to be a radicalized Muslim willing to die for the cause of Jihad until I ...

Following that, I may have the class do an exercise in differentiation. At issue will be this question: How can a peaceful Muslim like my student and a violent Syrian rebel both lay claim to being faithful to Islam’s ideology?

Then I’ll hand out copies of an article from The Telegraph, 6/23/13, with a focus on this excerpt:

Syria: 'I saw rebels execute my boy for no more than a joke’
Nadia Umm Fuad watched her son being shot by Islamist rebels in Syria after the 14-year-old referred to the Prophet Mohammed as he joked with a customer at his coffee stall in Aleppo. She speaks to Richard Spencer.

Mohammed Katta's mother witnessed the execution of her son in three stages.
She was upstairs at home when she first heard the shouting. The people of the neighbourhood were yelling that "they have brought back the kid", so she rushed out of her apartment.
"I went out on my balcony," Nadia Umm Fuad said. "I said to his father, they are going to shoot your son! Come! Come! Come! I was on the stairs when I heard the first shot. I was at the door when I heard the second shot.
"I saw the third shot. I was shouting, 'That's haram, forbidden! Stop! Stop! You are killing a child.' But they just gave me a dirty look and got into their car. As they went, they drove over my son's arm, as he lay there dying."
Mohammed was 14 when he was killed, earlier this month, prompting international condemnation. He has become a symbol of the fears many Syrians have for the future of a country where jihadists are vying with the regime for control.

From that point, I’ll begin my lecture. Chances are that I’ll mention Bill Maher [Bill Maher hammers Islam: ‘It’s the liberals here who don’t quite get it’
Posted By Jeff Poor On 1:34 AM 06/22/2013 In Entertainment ] then ask this question: How should we regard an ideology that claims to be so perfect that it cannot or will not change?

There might be this follow up: Does that suggest that, from its proponents, apologies will never come?

                                    B.Koplen 6/23/13

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