Known for her forthright arguments and sense of humour, Roaming Millenial is a popular Youtube personality. She makes the most of a major in political science to bash the media, critique 'third wave feminism', and ask complicated questions such as 'are women and men different'?
Like so many on Youtube, she also critiques the Middle East and talks about the influence of Islam in the western world. We got in touch to call her out on a few things, and to find out just how informed and fair millenials in the United States are when it comes to this part of the world. The result? The kind of conversation you just don't get every day.
In one of your videos, you pointed out the following. “The person who thinks that every Muslim is pro-suicide bombing or pro ISIS is just as ignorant as the person who thinks that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.” You also said, “The last thing I want to see is us turning away potential allies in this fight against extremism because of ignorance.”
What did you mean?
"A growing trend I noticed among my audience - it’s something I don’t agree with - is to conflate Islamic extremism with the entirety of the Islamic world and all Muslims. I mean you have a report, I don’t know if your audience are familiar with her, Laura Looma who I think is a member of the Rebel, an independent media publication, actively saying, i think it was after the New York attack (2017), we should deport all Muslims and stuff like that.
And I think that’s a reactionary feeling that a lot of people have after they see things like terrorist attacks. That can be enforced by the fact they are not familiar with the history and culture of the Islamic world, and that’s something that I studied in University because it was something that I was interested in, yet I knew how ignorant I was about it. Growing up on South-East Asia, Asia Pacific, that wasn’t something i was exposed to but it was always something i was interested in, and I know learning about the history of Islam and the different cultures in different Islamic countries, it really opened up my eyes."
We keep hearing about "Islamic Extremism." Jordan is a Muslim-majority country that has defended Christians in the Holy Land, and has been fighting against ISIS in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Meanwhile in the United States there are two conversations happening: Fox News, and MSNBC. Why is the narrative so limited?
"With MainStream Media I think what we need to realise is that they are in this for views. Its great to sort of believe in this altruistic version of journalism that is only interested in getting the truth out there, but I think to be realistic that’s not actually what ends up happening.
Inflammatory remarks made by leaders in Iran are a lot more interesting than focusing on more moderate leaders who are interested in helping in the fight against terrorism. Honestly, I do think it is about trying to play up to what the American or Western population is interested in right now - and right now I think they are a lot more interested in the conflict behind it than possible reconciliation, or areas where there are agreement.
The idea a lot of Americans have right now - just because they are so unfamiliar with a lot of what is going on in the Middle East - is that any migrant or immigrant from the Middle East is the equivalent of a Syrian refugee that has been found in Sweden, even though there have been huge diaspora’s of Muslim and Arab immigrants in places like Dearborn Michigan for a long time that overall have integrated well into the country. It’s a lot less interesting to focus on stories like that it is to focus on the conflict."
In another video you referenced an “unholy alliance between the Left and Islam”, arguing that “I’m not the first person to suggest we crack down on Islamic fundamentalism in our societies. Why has this not happened yet? Because there is this fear for those on regressive left of appearing intolerant.”
You ended that video as follows: "Funnily enough, these liberal hedonist secular humanists are actually the ones in our societies that the Muslim extremists hate the most.”
Has the Western debate on Islam made it extremely difficult - socially and politically - for American Muslims to integrate?
"I don’t think the issues facing Islam in the United States are just the fault of the West, I think there is a conversation to be had among both sides there.
But when it comes to people who fall onto the more liberal side of things, I think there is the fear of being too much like someone who is just bigoted, ignorant and intolerant that the pendulum actually swings too far the other way and they end up becoming fearful of the perception of bigotry, or not understanding, that they are actually somewhat pulling wool over their own eyes when it comes to issues like wahhabism, Islamic fundamental and things like that.
I think if we look at the narrative that the West is trying to push right now, it’s one of social liberation and social equality. They usually tend to take historically or even currently disenfranchised groups of people like ethnic minorities or members of the LGBT community and try to argue for their rights - for more quality, more visibility in society. So I think when they look at Muslims, especially in the context of American culture, they see that there is a lot of push back against them since 9/11 and the war on Terror began. I think they are now equating them with those groups that have been historically persecuted, and so any criticism of Islam as an ideology or even just the more extremist sects of it, they equate to oppression and persecution. Which is really hard to have a conversation in that case, because you can’t say anything critical or else you end up getting labelled something like a ‘bigot, racist’ or anything like that, and right now I think it’s really getting in the way of a dialogue we really need to have.
As someone who is pretty firmly on the right I’m not going to say “you know, it’s just Islam,” because I recognise that without that Leftist influence Islam perhaps wouldn’t be that much of an issue because we could actively have that discussion about how to combat it. We could talk more openly about who is and who is not an extremist, who can and who cannot adapt to our culture."
On the American Right, we have racism and sometimes just general chauvenism towards minorities. On the Left, we have social values that often directly conflict with the values of Muslim minorities. A lot of Arab Millenials seem to be stuck in the middle: they are socially conservative, but will vote for the Democrat Party.
Do policy makers understand this?
"As someone who grew up in a very conservative household, was Christian, who grew up in Asia - when I first came to the United States and lived there is was for University. I was thrust into a culture where people were having casual Sexual relations every other day with people they didn’t know. Everyone was doing drugs. Everyone was drinking. So that form of culture shock was very intense, and frankly it did cause a little bit of resentment that perhaps I still have toward Youth Culture in the West. And this is coming from someone who is by no means a religious fundamentalist. I think in a lot of ways the culture that I grew up on in Hong Kong is a lot more similar to that of the United States.
So when you think about someone who has grown up in a very traditional upbringing in the Middle East, and then come to the United States or places in Europe and then seen the culture that so many people, usually young people who experience this, are living in - I can very easily see, why with their world-view, they would think that the West needs condemnation."
The United States seems confused about what future it wants to take. What are Western or American Values?
"I’ve started to come to the realisation that in a lot of ways, there are no western values. A lot of what I see as western values are actually American values - I was, for a time, under the impression that freedom of speech was a western value but I think the more we have seen of how Europe is going, the more we can say freedom of speech is not a western value: freedom of speech is an American value.
When I’m talking about Western values, what I really mean are American values. Something of freedom of religion is perhaps more widespread in the West, but even so when we see how places in Europe are starting to have things like dress codes that ban certain types of religious garments, then it brings into question whether that is even universal in the West.
The idea, when it comes to American values specifically - yes you can criticise whatever religion you want, and should be totally legally acceptable. The idea you can’t persecute someone based on their religion or their sexuality."
Are ‘American Values’ in conflict with Islam? You mentioned the LGBT example - is that confined to Islam? Don't some American and Middle Eastern Christians follow similar religious teachings?
"The Left often brings up the point “Oh well, what about conservative Christians? We didn’t have Gay marriage until fairly recently.”
At no point in US history were they actively stoned, thrown from rooftops, things like that. I think that is something that is conflated by the Left a little bit right. We still have conservative American Christians who are - by American standards - very anti-Gay. But American anti-Gay and Middle Eastern anti-Gay are two completely different levels of persecution, so I don’t think it’s really fair to honestly compare the two.
… I’m completely fine with someone saying ‘hey these are my social values that I uphold in my religion and therefore practice in my social life.” That’s fine. You’re allowed to do that. But i think where the issue really comes from, is when Islamism starts to seep into the realm of government versus just personal religious practice. This is where the biggest conflict between Islam and American values comes into."
One hundred and thirty kids a day are dying in Yemen right now. The West has been at war in the region for 16 years. Is the West extreme?
“As someone who is pretty libertarian in terms of what the government can and cannot do, things like speech codes preventing criticism of Islamic immigration - to me that is extreme.
When we look at what is happening in North Korea or even China where I have also lived, it brings things a little bit into perspective. That’s not to say that “we’re not extreme as long as we are better than places like North Korea,” that’s not fair it’s a scale.
When we look at the history of aggression especially in the Middle East around the past 16 years, I don’t support foreign intervention except for perhaps a handful of reasons. I am very anti-interventionist. But i guess to compare the United States to a more extreme aggressor like Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime, I think that brings it into perspective. That is not to say the West is perfect, or great. But when we use the label of extremism I think there is a much bigger picture, a spectrum, and overall the West in general is not that far.
I think most people in the West, despite what our politicians are arguing for, are actually pretty moderate.”
Interview by John Lillywhite. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.
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