Saturday, September 16, 2006

More On Islam

I used to think that comments like this weren't really that inflammatory:

There was a time in the recent past when I would have nodded and said to myself, "Of course the pope is just saying things that are politically incorrect but honest. No one wants to say this, but Muslims do have a concept of jihad and there are parts in the Quran that do recommend conversion by the sword."

Not that I'd ever read the Quran, you understand -- just bits and pieces of it. My status as a citizen of the most powerful nation on Earth made it eminently acceptable for me to pass easy armchair judgment on the entire Islamic world without ever having visited a Muslim community or knowing much of anything about the religion and culture of Islam.
I'm not ashamed of that; I'm just another dumb, arrogant American. No shame in that unless you adamantly stay dumb.

I am beginning to see, however, that my smug Western assessment of Islam -- which came with a kind of pursed-lip liberal gee-whizzery, as in "Gee whiz, I hate to say this about a major world religion, but Islam is kind of extra violent, isn't it?" is just as inexcusably ignorant, racist and dangerous in its own way as the Christian militant who wants to imprison all the "towel-heads."

I have to admit now that a lot of my own reaction to Islam was/is the visceral reaction I get to the visual images and sounds of the Muslim world: thousands of people wearing clothes I can't relate to, jammed in tushy to tushy in a mosque prostrating themselves in prayer, women covering their heads with scarves, wailing ululations that sound nothing like the hymns that are so comforting to my own soul. Visceral anxiety = You People Are Weird. Not an acceptable way to approach fellowship and understanding.

I think the Pope made a big, dumb mistake. I don't think the Pope knows doody about Islam. He has fallen into the same trap most of us have fallen into, but since he's probably the most important religious leader in the world, he ought to be ashamed of himself. He should get out there and fix what he did. And the next time he hires a Unitarian Christian woman of Jewish descent who dabbles in witchcraft as one of his personal advisors, I will be sure to tell him that!

I am beginning to think that the religion of Islam and the hideous infection of Islamic terrorism bear practically no useful relation to one another. I think that looking to the Muslim religion to understand why men were willing to fly planes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center is an exercise in futility.

I believe now that we should look to other factors, such as deep cultural assumptions and influences, and stop trying to understand Islam through the lens of the question, "Why are all these terrorists Muslims?" Those who seek to understand Islam have the difficult but necessary job, I think, of exorcising the question of terrorism from their initial exploration. To set about understanding Islam from an initial assumption that it breeds terrorists can never give us a fair or responsible conceptual foundation for learning. Religious people should protest this when they see it happening. Pope Ben, I'm looking at you.

Say a group of Martians descend on our planet. They set up a university to try to understand human beings, and they decide to study human nature using Hitler, Stalin, Vlad the Impaler, Pol Pot, and John Wayne Gacy as case studies. They put a pile of the world's sacred scriptures in a pile and begin to comb through them, looking for the answer to the question, "How do the many religiouis beliefs of these creatures incite them to such heinous crimes against one another?" Say we give the Martians some yellow highlighters in order to help them find the passages in all the scriptures that support their initial assumption. Think they would find lots and lots of things to highlight? Think that the Holy Bible would be full of yellow? Yea, me too.

Now I've got to go do my day.

muslim women


Blogger Bill Baar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger Bill Baar said...

I don't think there is anything Islam that predispouses them to violence. I think Bush made the case about what's wrong,

"I would remind the critics of the freedom agenda that the policy prior to September 11th was stability for the sake of stability: Let us not worry about the form of government. Let us simply worry about whether or not the world appears stable, whether or not we achieve short-term geopolitical gain," he says. "And it looked like that policy was working, and, frankly, it made some sense when it came to dealing with the Middle East vis-à-vis the Communists.

"The problem with that philosophy, or that foreign policy, was that beneath the surface boiled resentment and hatred, and that resentment and hatred helped fuel this radical Islam, and the radical Islam is what ended up causing the attacks that killed 3,000 of our citizens. So I vowed, and made the decision that not only would we stay on the offense and . . . get these people before they could attack us again. But in the long run the only way to make sure your grandchildren are protected, Paul, is to win the battle of ideas, is to defeat the ideology of hatred and resentment."

That muslims fight as allies with us today means we started to defeat that ideology. It's the lack of stability now that spooks people but I think it's something we'll have to learn to live with for a long time.

Blogger Khanoum said...

There is an interesting take on the Pope's comments in a letter to the NY Times today:

Maybe too apologetic, but it makes it sound like the Pope's big mistake was not knowing that the popular media would have no clue about Byzantine history. Hmmm...

Blogger jean said...

You might look at

Link on my sidebar.


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