Al Depman: Dialogue can overcome terror-fueled Islamophobia

"Captain's Log. Stardate ... Armageddon. We must find a way to defeat the alien force of hate that has taken over the Enterprise. Stop the war now or spend eternity in futile, bloody violence."

"Star Trek" in the 1960s offered veiled morality stories. The quote above is from 1968's "Day of the Dove." In the episode, an alien force incites crews of the Enterprise and a Klingon ship to maniacal levels of violence and racial hatred, feeding on an evil energy and trapping them on one ship.

The script used the Cold War and student/police confrontations as source material. In 2015, we have a new interpretation: ISIS is the alien of hatred. Its sole purpose is to feed off the raw hostile energy it's generating by setting up an "us vs. them" between the West and Islam. ISIS is a member of neither. Yet with each attack, it puts the finger of blame on both and flames antagonists on both sides. The strategy is working like a charm.

Looking for answers, I had coffee with Rochester's Regina Mustafa, founder of Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam. CIDI's goal is to promote understanding of the Islamic faith and counter Islamophobia before it gets out of control.

Regina and I ran the gamut of issues in the wake of the Paris attacks. Cutting through the hysteria of sound bites and graphic images, we emerged with five points to ponder:


• Hundreds of Islamic scholars in America and the Middle East are on record calling for an end to the hypocrisy of ISIS calling itself Islamic.

• ISIS is using the schism of hatred it's generating to recruit disaffected young men and provide them with an identity, mission, income and weapons.

• Contrary to media portrayals, Muslims are the majority of victims, more than any other religious group.

• The clear winners are the defense and weaponry industries. The Pentagon is spending $7.5 million a day on the conflict, according to a September 2014 Fortune report. The munitions industry provides weapons, ammunition, gadgets and vehicles to combatants legally and on the black market.

• Middle Eastern countries must step up and do two things: accept refugees and contribute to the destruction of ISIS. Why haven't they? As New York Times Middle East expert Thomas Friedman states: "Turkey cares more about defeating Kurds; Saudi Arabia and its Arab Gulf allies care more about defeating Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Yemen and Syria; Qatar cares more about promoting the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and annoying Saudi Arabia; Iran cares more about protecting Shiites in Iraq and Syria." Aiding refugees would divert attention from these quarrels.

After our three-hour coffee, Regina and I resolved to do our parts trying to diffuse Islamophobia and promote interfaith dialogue. We also hope for a dialogue among presidential candidates about how to deal with this complex mess.

In "Day of the Dove," Kirk asks: "Has a war been staged for us? Complete with weapons and ideology and patriotic drum beating?" Let's recognize that's what's happening.

Al Depman, of Rochester, is a member of the Post-Bulletin's Community Editorial Advisory Board.

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