Tag Archives: Islamic reformation

The Islam debate

The most difficult political and cultural debate since the decision of the Western alliance to destroy fascism in 1939 or the American decision to help resurrect Europe in 1945 has begun.

The discussion will be an intense examination of Islam and its role in the modern world.

It is an argument fraught with danger, not only for Islam, but for the democratic liberties of religion, free speech and economic well being of an increasingly interrelated world.

One could well argue that the debate is well underway, sotto voce. Certainly Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s Cairo speech was, if not the opening, one of the curtain raisers. Obama, in essence, extended the hand of friendship to the Moslem world. As part and parcel of his message, he not only accepted responsibility as he saw it for past American aggression against the Moslem world. But he denigrated, in the eyes of most American and international historians, the unparallel magnanimity of a rich and powerful U.S. since the end of World War II..

Even most Americans are unaware of the vast outpouring of U.S. resources, overwhelmingly private but official as well, which helped rehabilitate post-World War II Europe, and then went on to attempt, however unsuccessfully, the uplifting of what was then called “the third world” of poverty and ignorance in the pre-industrial societies.

But for many reasons – not the least the unrest produced by the beginning stirrings of modernity – the Arab and Moslem world beyond it went into a revolutionary period of upheaval and violence. It is a vast exaggeration to blame this movement from Dakar to Zamboanga on the decision of the Bush Administration to topple one of the most ruthless and cruel dictatorships the world has seen in Iraq’s Sadam Hussein. Likewise, the Obama decision to abandon the Iraqis to their own machinations with the sudden and complete withdrawal of American power only added to the tumult.

What is basic to the argument is the very nature of Islam.

The continued repeating of the cliché that Islam is a religion of peace does not alter the fact that history proves otherwise. The Arab acceptance of Mohammed’s preaching, according to their own and what other accounts we have, led immediately to warfare. Islam, first against Medina Jews who refused to accept Mohammed as the messiah, but thereafter, spread by the sword through the Middle East, crushing ancient Christian and other beliefs,. Tenets from forced conversion to death for those who Moslem believers who reject the faith are still part and parcel of the Moslem ethic and in the hadith, the literature surrounding Mohammed’s life, times and values.

A complicating factor, of course, is that the fundamental Islamic concept that the Koran, the store of Moslem teaching, is the word of Allah, the supreme being. Even though there has been historical research indicating at least some of the Koran predates Islam, that fundamental of the Moslem creed is basically different from both Christianity, Judaism and most other religions which accept even their holy writ as created by others. Thus the cliché that all three religions are “Abrahamic” and based in “the book’ is erroneous as is the Moslem claim that at times sanctifies certain relationships with others ‘of the book”, such as marriage. From almost the beginning of Judaism, and certainly of Christianity, exegeses of sacred texts has continued, although at times considered heresy and punished, It was this tradition which eventually led Martin Luther to success in his Reformation of the medieval Catholic Church and its Catholic Counter-Reformation which produced modern Christianity..

Today no matter how much non-violent Moslems refute the accusations that the Islamic terrorists – a name Obama and his associates refuse to use – have their roots in Islam, there is considerable contradictory evidence. Furthermore, there is also evidence that in recent terrorist episodes in the U.S., family members or other Moslems had information about the preparation for these outrages but either were sympathetic or intimidated into remaining silent. Some traditional concepts continue unreformed; for example, that Moslems who lie to nonbelievers are excused from moral stigma if the deed can be ascribed to fostering the fortunes of Islam..

There are numerous spokesmen today calling for a “ Moslem Reformation”. But they work at the margins of Islamic society and rarely have a foothold in the mosques, the halls of prayer, where inforunately too much of the recent violence has been plotted. Unquestionably, U.S. authorities responsible for the defense of the American people as their first and foremost responsibility, will have to servile domestic Moslem circles for possible terrorists in hiding. They certainly will have to examine as carefully as possible new migrants where agents of the terrorists may well be entering the U.S. as they have Western Europe as they have been publicly instructed to do.

. The bounds of this surveillance will have to be carefully monitored by human rights organizations. But if they are to assume that it is not necessary, as seems to be the case with the venerated but increasingly ideological National Association of Colored People [NAACP], then their role will not only restricted but useless. There are guidelines that might be adduced from the long fight against Communist penetration during The Cold War. But there is no way that the necessary pursuit of terrorism can be avoided unless and until there is an administration in Washington which is willing to declare an all-out war and is successful in destroying their sanctuaries to reduce “the victories” of the Mideast terrorists which unfortunately continue to draw malcontents and deranged adherents.


Arab renaissance?

Arab Rennaisance?

The West is riding a wave of optimism, despite the unresolved bloody mess in Libya, prophesying a resurgent Arab/Muslim world. Led by cheerleading media – including such unexpected participants as Fox News – there’s lyrical reporting of anti-authoritarian signboards printed in English for Western audiences.

The enthusiasm may be misplaced.

For while the Arabs’ demography dictates the restlessness of a growing youth cohort, these vast numbers of young people are as much a challenge as they are an engine for modernity. They need jobs in a new and rapidly growing economy to move out of a thousand years of cultural stagnation. Virtually leaderless except for occasional Muslim fanatics, hopefully still on the sidelines, there are few concrete ideas about how to produce them.

Too often frustrated anti-regime spokesmen fall back on old lame excuses – colonialism, the usual scapegoat. European exploitation was real, of course. But so was its introduction of modernity. Years ago a famous, charming Communist Pakistani Urdu poet friend, in a tour of Lahore, pointed out to me how, like Calcutta, the city had been up to a certain point “typically” Edwardian. With his Marxist bent, his explanation for why it froze [we were speaking in the 1960s] was because European exploitation “didn’t pay any more”.

However valid that explanation, the truth is there is little fundamental about the rebels’ so-called current reform program. Their calls for eliminating corruption and inefficiency are unassailable. But efforts to remold economic facts of life in impoverished Muslim societies flies in the face of the continuing traditional religiously inspired cultural fatalism. Unfortunately, the Islamic orthodox have a virtual monopoly on moral regeneration. But their interpretation of Islam excludes individualism which is at the heart of modern freedom and democratic governance – and economic development.

Applying so-called sharia concepts – Islamic law – to the economy has been catastrophic. Quietly, Western and even indigenous banks which pandered in attempting to replace conventional banking with “Muslim concepts”, quietly are dumping them because they simply did not work. Dubai is an example: getting out of entanglements of a collapsed real estate bubble is virtually impossible despite neighboring oil despots coming to the rescue because purported Muslim “rules of the road” eschewed Western legal concepts of equity and interest. Malaysia, which lucked out in the 1997 East Asia Financial Crisis when it rejected the International Monetary Fund’s proffered bitter medicine, now trumpets Islamic capitalism. But it is built on the backs of its minority ethnic Chinese and Indians who follow a pragmatic work ethic paying “rents” to their Malay overlords.

It’s easy to fall into stereotypes and even racism discussing these issues. Only a few years ago some were bantering around the phrase “Hindu rate of growth” to describe Indian stagnation. Then along came a determined, charismatic, non-expert prime minister – unfortunately short-lived — who shucked off Soviet planning and threatened the babu [clerk] government culture. And the economy took off chasing the Chinese. Alas! under the current prime minister, who has falsely been given credit, New Delhi sinks back into the old morass.

True enough, in virtually all great religious literatures, old fiery exhortations exist unacceptable alongside professed contemporary universal ethical standards. But Europe’s long cultural wars over “that which is Caesar’s” long ago threw off most primitive calls for tribal vengeance now still prolific in Muslim cultures.

In searching to avoid a dangerous confrontation between large parts of the civilized world, Western public intellectuals look for commonality. It may not exist. Presenting Islam as just another Abrahamic religion [with Christianity and Judaism] obfuscates important differences. Often Western politicians who hope to bridge the gap with Islam with rhetoric are simply compounding the problem. The latest is a leftwing Swedish government coalition’s decision to provide massive” humanitarian” assistance to illegal immigrants who have turned to ethnic and classwarfare in Scandinavia.

Were it not difficult enough, through happenstance in underpopulated parts of the Arab/Muslim world fossil fuels resources critical to the world economy provide astronomical “rents”. You can count on the feudal elites in these countries always to misuse them. Just now oil-rich members of the Persian Gulf community are attempting to stem ethnic and civil violence in their neighbors, Oman and Bahrain, by setting up a $10 billion “Marshal Plan” to buy off the locals. Using that nomenclature shows utter lack of understanding of post-World War II Europe where refinancing the world’s most important manufacturing machine was the order of the day. This announcement follows a recent across the board increased stipend for Saudi Arabia’s potentially explosive natives [particularly its Shia minority which sits on most of its current producing oil].

These transfers – and one has to ask how much actually will reached its intended target given the levels of corruption — will not solve basic problems. These countries have made little progress establishing economies parallel to their oil wealth. They have imported South Asian slave labor to keep the petroleum boom going at full blast. But there has been no integration, and, in fact, migrants are often so shabbily treated as to further endanger artificial states.

That Arab spring may be long in coming for it awaits an Islamic reformation.