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Are Muslims Nuts?

Probably as many Middle Easterners wonder, ‘why do they hate us?’ as we have wondered of them.

For many Americans, the Muslim world is likewise dangerous. It is a place mired in the thick sludge of the past, peopled by exotic and prickly foreigners who, at any slight however real or perceived, fly off into a mad rage. It is irrationality’s last refuge, a museum shop of medieval horrors that has somehow survived the rest of the planet’s transition to the 21st century.

Recent events might seem to only confirm this assessment. A fair-minded observer might plausibly ask, “Are Muslims nuts?” Although, to be entirely fair-minded, for the thousands who did protest against “The Innocence of Muslims,” well over a billion and a half did not. As Megan Reif’s study notes, our media has dramatically exaggerated the response (withNewsweek’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali piling on with her usual opportunistic silliness).

Still, there were protests, calls for censorship, condemnations of the U.S. government for something it had nothing to do with, and tragic acts of violence, including very early on the death of several American diplomats and staff. Why? We seem to have some trouble applying insights we consume in popular culture—say Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas, or through David Eagleman’sIncognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain—to the world outside the West.

The full article may be found on Religion Dispatches.

Review & Commentary