Are moderate Muslims vocal enough?

Question: Are moderate Muslims vocal enough?

Barrett: I’m not sure what “enough” would ever be. You know my view of it is, as my view of most of these things, that it is very complicated. Muslims in this country are not responsible for what Muslims in the streets of Cairo or Damascus say, or Baghdad say or do. At the same time it would be reasonable for them as people who have some connections, even if only through shared belief systems, to have something to say about it. So you know to what degree should Muslims live in good, honest, mainstream lives in this country? They might be secular Muslims. They might be devout Muslims who go to the mosque every single Friday for Juma prayer. But what should they be saying or doing about horrible events elsewhere? What should they be saying or doing about the rare occasions when horrible events are visited upon this country – say 9/11? Well I mean there’s no one clear answer. I mean certainly they should be addressing that. They should be asking questions about whether there are sub movements within their religion that are troubling. They should be asking questions about whether those movements are present in this country – probably more as an intellectual matter than as a source of action and immediate danger, but they need to be aware of it. They need to discuss it. They need to debate it. They need to answer people’s questions from the outside in a way that’s not reflexively defensive, and sort of like, “How dare you ask a question that has any critical edge to it about my religion?” Because at a time when people are fighting over religion, such questions are going to be asked. At the same time, as I say, it’s critical for non-Muslims not to assume that a doctor in Cleveland, or a business man in Los Angeles who happens to be Muslim is gonna have all the answers for, you know, the chaos in the Middle East or in the, you know . . . or in South Asia. I mean because people are blowing themselves up in Islamabad, what do you want the guy, you know, who’s selling cars in Los Angeles to do about that? He’s being an American who happens to be Muslim. So it’s very complicated, and the stories that I tell in my book are designed to bring some of those tensions to the surface and explain them. So you have an African-American preacher who . . . in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, who preaches about kind of the old time religion – about why it’s a good thing that Islam punishes certain infractions with very extreme, ancient sounding punishments – cutting off of hands, stoning, that kind of thing – who preaches against Israel; who talks about conspiracies against Islam and Muslims and so forth. And I try to explain why is this man doing this? Where did he get these ideas? And is he . . . Because he preaches these very unsettling, troubling ideas, is he an entirely good guy? An entirely bad guy? Where did the ideas come from? How did his experience in the Nation of Islam shape this? How did his experiences in Saudi Arabia where he went for training give him some of this vocabulary? And I try to show you that this is a unique American mixture of ideas; that the guy, when pressed, will actually . . . This imam will back off and say, “Well I don’t mean a lot of that literally. When I talk about Islamic values and Islamic law coming to rule in this country, I mean it the same way my Christian brothers do when they preach about the coming of the kingdom of God.” Oh okay. So suddenly it sounds very different. Still you have the question, “Imam, why are you preaching that way on Friday? And does it really help your poor and not very sophisticated inner city congregation to hear you preaching that way?” But the answer is not so simple.

Recorded on: 12/4/07

A mechanic in LA who happens to be Muslim can’t answer for flag-burning protestors in the streets of Islamabad.

A map of America’s most famous – and infamous

The 'People Map of the United States' zooms in on America's obsession with celebrity

Image: The Pudding
Strange Maps
  • Replace city names with those of their most famous residents
  • And you get a peculiar map of America's obsession with celebrity
  • If you seek fame, become an actor, musician or athlete rather than a politician, entrepreneur or scientist

Chicagoland is Obamaland

Image: The Pudding

Chicagoland's celebrity constellation: dominated by Barack, but with plenty of room for the Belushis, Brandos and Capones of this world.

Seen from among the satellites, this map of the United States is populated by a remarkably diverse bunch of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and other persons of repute (and disrepute).

The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast. Right down the middle, we find actors Chris Pratt and Jason Momoa, singer Elvis Presley and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The East Coast crew include wrestler John Cena, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, mass murderer Ted Bundy… and Dwayne Johnson, again.

The Rock pops up in both Hayward, CA and Southwest Ranches, FL, but he's not the only one to appear twice on the map. Wild West legend Wyatt Earp makes an appearance in both Deadwood, SD and Dodge City, KS.

How is that? This 'People's Map of the United States' replaces the names of cities with those of "their most Wikipedia'ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place."

‘Cincinnati, Birthplace of Charles Manson'

Image: The Pudding

Keys to the city, or lock 'em up and throw away the key? A city's most famous sons and daughters of a city aren't always the most favoured ones.

That definition allows people to appear in more than one locality. Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, has one of his houses in Southwest Ranches, and is famous enough to be the 'most Wikipedia'ed resident' for both localities.

Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, IL, but his reputation is closely associated with both Deadwood and Dodge City – although he's most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which took place in Tombstone, AZ. And yes, if you zoom in on that town in southern Arizona, there's Mr Earp again.

The data for this map was collected via the Wikipedia API (application programming interface) from the English-language Wikipedia for the period from July 2015 to May 2019.

The thousands of 'Notable People' sections in Wikipedia entries for cities and other places in the U.S. were scrubbed for the person with the most pageviews. No distinction was made between places of birth, residence or death. As the developers note, "people can 'be from' multiple places".

Pageviews are an impartial indicator of interest – it doesn't matter whether your claim to fame is horrific or honorific. As a result, this map provides a non-judgmental overview of America's obsession with celebrity.

Royals and (other) mortals

Image: The Pudding

There's also a UK version of the People Map – filled with last names like Neeson, Sheeran, Darwin and Churchill – and a few first names of monarchs.

Celebrity, it is often argued, is our age's version of the Greek pantheon, populated by dozens of major gods and thousands of minor ones, each an example of behaviours to emulate or avoid. This constellation of stars, famous and infamous, is more than a map of names. It's a window into America's soul.

But don't let that put you off. Zooming in on the map is entertaining enough: celebrities floating around in the ether are suddenly tied down to a pedestrian level, and to real geography. And it's fun to see the famous and the infamous rub shoulders, as it were.

Barack Obama owns Chicago, but the suburbs to the west of the city are dotted with a panoply of personalities, ranging from the criminal (Al Capone, Cicero) and the musical (John Prine, Maywood) to figures literary (Jonathan Franzen, Western Springs) and painterly (Ivan Albright, Warrenville), actorial (Harrison Ford, Park Ridge) and political (Eugene V. Debs, Elmhurst).

Freaks and angels

Image: Dorothy

The People Map of the U.S. was inspired by the U.S.A. Song Map, substituting song titles for place names.

It would be interesting to compare 'the most Wikipedia'ed' sons and daughters of America's cities with the ones advertised at the city limits. When you're entering Aberdeen, WA, a sign invites you to 'come as you are', in homage to its most famous son, Kurt Cobain. It's a safe bet that Indian Hill, OH will make sure you know Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, was one of theirs. But it's highly unlikely that Cincinnati, a bit further south, will make any noise about Charles Manson, local boy done bad.

Inevitably, the map also reveals some bitterly ironic neighbours, such as Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, captured near Oroville, CA. He died in 1916 as "the last wild Indian in North America". The most 'pageviewed' resident of nearby Colusa, CA is Byron de la Beckwith, Jr., the white supremacist convicted for the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.

As a sampling of America's interests, this map teaches that those aiming for fame would do better to become actors, musicians or athletes rather than politicians, entrepreneurs or scientists. But also that celebrity is not limited to the big city lights of LA or New York. Even in deepest Dakota or flattest Kansas, the footlights of fame will find you. Whether that's good or bad? The pageviews don't judge...

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Image: Abel Suyok
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