A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, February 24, 2006

Some Thoughts on Islam and the West

As Iraq, one of the more secular Islamic states believe it or not, teeters on the edge of civil war, riots continue over something as minor as "blasphemous cartoons" and the Port security/UAE issue continues to be debated, it is interesting to take a look at Islam, Muslims, and our own perspectives. Given the horrendous behavior of many Muslims in recent weeks, it would be easy, and appealing, to lump all Muslims together and castigate the entire lot.

But that would be much like a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Buddhist looking at the atrocities of the KKK and saying all Christians are racist arsonists and killers. Now, the analogy is far from perfect as significant differences exists in things like the fact that members of the KKK have been marginalized by the mainstream of Christianity in a way that Wahabbist and other fundamentalist Islam traditions have not been marginalized in the Muslim world, but if the internal strife in Iraq is good for anything, it is to illustrate that Muslims are not one homogenous group of 1 billion believers. To expect that they would be is ludicrous and self-defeating.

So, do we dismiss all Muslims as intolerant, reactionary, xenophobic religious fanatics and make the struggle of the 21st century Our God vs. Their God, or do we attempt to work with the secular forces and the moderate Islamic forces to bring Islam through the sort of transformative process Christianity went through over the last few centuries? A third option, I suppose, is to just hole up in our little USA stronghold, close the borders as best we can, and hope for the best. 'Course, that didn't work so well back in September of 2001.

No easy answers, then, but for a way of looking at things that I think is probably both proactive and effective, read this post. The guy likes Monty Python, so he's already got cred in my book, and he makes a very good case for avoiding knee-jerk hatred of Muslims. I don't agree with everything he says, but I agree with most of it, and I definitely agree that folks like Ann C., Roger Simon and LGF/Charles Johnson have become far too strident of late-- becoming a right-wing version of Howard Dean. Which helps the situation not at all.

The bottom line-- we are all people. We naturally coalesce into various groups because of our ancestry, our environment, and our reactions to the world around us, but we are all people. It is important, I think, to remember that groups are made up of other people who share similar ideas or interests, but who are still distinct.

I have a feeling history may look back at the first ten years of the 21st century and judge that decade to be an incredibly impactful and transformative period in human history. The jury is still out on whether the impact and transformation will be good or bad. To help it be good, thoughtful, perspective and influential people need to be thoughtful, persceptive and influential. Knee-jerk reactionism is none of those things.

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So, do we dismiss all Muslims as intolerant, reactionary, xenophobic religious fanatics and make the struggle of the 21st century Our God vs. Their God,

Only the ones named “Mohammed.”

or do we attempt to work with the secular forces and the moderate Islamic forces to bring Islam through the sort of transformative process Christianity went through over the last few centuries?

Did you really say that? You might as well have said ‘sit on our hands and wait until they slice our throats, or they all calm down.”
I don't think so. I hope not. If there truly is no way to marginalize the radical wing of Islam, then it will come down to Us vs. Them. It will have to-- because they (the jihadists) won't quit until we're all dead or Muslim.


If the moderate and progressive religious and secular forces in Arab and Muslim society can work with the existing desire in the youth of those societies for things Western....

Hey, look at it this way, the Catholic Church used to find it acceptable to torture and kill heretics with absolutely no compunction. The Dark Ages were, well, dark-- even the Church admits that now. It stymied the advance of science and civilization for centuries, but eventually it was forced to concede, and it changed. Restricted itself to the spiritual well-being of the flock, with only limited interaction with politics and world events.

That's what Islam needs to do-- marganilize their radical wing and find a way to accept the infidel and work with him.
you are right Nick I agree 100%.. but how long did that whole dark ages thingy take??? and did they have nuclear weapons to use on the heretics and did they have a huge world wide propaganda machine at their disposal???
The world is very different now and the same human qualities manifested today are much more dangerous.

Right now we are at war with terrorists, but I fear it will not be long before we are at war with Islam, people are reactionary sheep and the polorization that is worsening throughout the world is very very troubling.

the only way to win the war we are fighting now and prevent it's escalation to something far worse is to choke them economically. the Technology that exists today is close enough.. it is very conceivable that oil free energy generation could be perfected with a real effort and investment to do so... do this and give it away..just give it away to the enitre world on the condition they buy no oil ... if the middle east has no oil they have no power and the radical wing will lose the hold on the masses that it seems to be gaining. no money means no allies and no weapons and no following..
True, it isn't all Muslims who are intolerant, reactionary, head-lopping, religious fanatics. Unfortunately, however, it is a lot of them.

Rallies took place in Karachi on 26 Feb 2006. Thousands turned out to protest. I think that it was only the few who have hijacked the Muslim faith, though. Also important to note, Karachi, and apparently the rest of Pakistan as well, is no place for Bush (no word yet as to how this will affect Reggie in the upcoming NFL Draft). This is truly a burning issue to them.

It's not just cartoons that had everyone worked up on Sunday, though. Apparently, when Muslims bomb mosques, it's America's fault.

Palestinian children were also out to protest cartoons and to express the depth of their devotion to their prophet.

Iran wasn't the only place where Muslims didn't want to be left out of the festivities this past weekend. Hong Kong, Berlin, Bombay, Barcelona, Ankara, Bethlehem, Delhi, Dhaka, New Delhi, and Kuala Lumpur also had rallies.

On 27 Feb 2006, in Multan, Pakistan, some protesters had a suggestion as to how forgiveness could be shown to the cartoonists. It appears that some feelings have been hurt. In Karachi, others also expressed their concern over the publication of the cartoons. It appears that we in the West have been guilty of extremism. You see, to people in Lahore, drawings push them to their limit. Won't somebody think of what our callousness is doing to the children?

Indonesia also had protests over line drawings on 27 Feb 2006. They would like to remind us that we can't have freedom of press without moral responsibility, and that cartoons of their prophet are a human rights abuse.

Here are some Pakistani protesters on 28 Feb 2006, placards and all, including some children who have been undoubtedly scarred by the portrayal of their beloved prophet. It is nice to see that some of the protesters were kind enough to carry the American flag in a show of unity. The protesters also held a roast for the Danish prime minister (I don't believe that it was Friar's Club endorsed, however).

These Muslim youths in the Kashmiri region, also on 28 Feb 2006, are expressing their displeasure at a magazine whose publishers had the audacity to print a picture of a playing card which displayed an image of Mecca (that's the rather-holy-to-Islam Mecca, not the now renamed Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena).

All of those linked images are from 24 Feb 2006 through 27 Feb 2006. That's just this past weekend and Monday.

If more people around the globe, like those in southern Nigeria, retaliate against Muslims because they are fed up with the violence being perpetrated by the alleged minority of Muslims who have hijacked Islam, we will all remember that those individuals retaliating are just a minority themselves, correct?

The self-control of most non-Muslims has prevented major retaliatory attacks against Islamic or Arabic targets so far. If moderate Islam doesn't rein in their radicals, though, we eventually will not be able to restrain our radicals from attacking any and all of them.
Interesting theory, Rodney. I am not sure I agree-- no oil means even less money which gives the fundamentalist Imams a much either appeal to the disaffected youth of Islamic countries.

What might help signficantly is if the free market is allowed to exist and blossom in the Middle East. Ideally, Iraq d/n sink into civil war, the Iraqis get fed up with the terrorists blowing things up, and a reasonably free market republic is established. Wouldn't really matter if it were entirely secular or somewhat religious, as long as it owed obesiance to the laws of supply and demand.

Once the citizens are invested in the wealth and well-being of the country-- once they see first hand that capitalism, for all its inequities, is without doubt the best economic system out there... well, then we're on to something.

But, hey-- I'm all for energy independence. Indeed, the only Kyoto argument that resonates with me at all is the one that claims the accors would force us to be more creative and inventive in dealing with our energy needs.

As to the differences between now and the Dark Ages-- yes, they took centuries. But the same agencies that make the one side of the equation scarier (world-wide PR, nuke weapons, etc.) should slipstream the reformation process significantly.

Everything took a long time in the 11th century. Nothing does in the 21st. So, we'll see. It's a scary time, but it's also a potentially wondrous time. So it goes-- and so it always shall, I suspect.
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Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!
I have a 2006 calendar holiday site.
Come and check it out if you get time :-)
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