Why Islam and Western Ideology is Like Mixing Oil and Water
First, I must explain that I am not racist. I am not anti-Muslim nor anti-Christian. I see myself as an impartial observer of the events of our times. These are what I interpret to be the fundamentals of the controversy so that you can comprehend that we have quite a aways to go. This is a religious war!
Islam is about 600 years younger than Christianity. Christ was born in the year 0, more or less. Muhammad was born in 570 CE. Christianity has gone through some very violent times. The first few Centuries were blood-soaked with martyrs, crucifixions, and executions mostly directed at Christians. Galerius, a Roman Emperor stopped the persecutions that were finalized by the Edict of Milan of Constantine that liberated all religions. But it was Theodosian another Roman Emperor, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. That did not end the bloodshed, however. Paganism was outlawed, and it was the pagans’ turn to be massacred. Christianity turned the tables and now became the aggressor. The Crusades and then the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, as well as the various Catholic and Protestant conflicts, continued unabated, killing millions of people. The treaty of Westphalia in 1648 ended the 30 and 80-year war that finally made it so a Protestant could pass a Catholic in the street without the two engaging in mortal combat. It took one and one half of a millennium (1500 years) to reach that stalemate!
Islam is not there yet. Six hundred-plus 1,500 makes it 2,100 years. We have at least another 80 years to go! Islam is still in its violent era fighting each other and us, busy with beheadings and emulations of humans in cages. Muhammad was a General with a large army that subjugated the Arabian Peninsula when he marched into Mecca with 10,000 men. The Quran was revealed to Muhammad over a 23 year period by the Archangel Gabriel, by listening to the Angel’s words and transmitting them to his scribes, as he was illiterate, much of it happening in a cave north of Mecca. This is not debatable because, after all, this is the actual word of God! There are, however, subsequent holy writings after the death of Muhammad that also dictate the law of the religion, especially the Hadith, which, unlike the Quran, the direct revelation, expounds on what Muhammad said and did. Some groups add not only what Muhammad said but what his companions said. Although the Quran is the principal source of Islamic law, the Sharia, many of the controversial interpretations come from the Hadith, which is not Quranic. Islam is not one united block. There is considerable conflict among their own. There are two main factions, the Sunni (1.3 billion) and the Shi’a (200 million). But there are at least three more that have a significant following: Ahmadiyya (15million), Ibadi (3million), Sufism (exact numbers are not known). Some adhere to a more strict interpretation of the holy writings, while others adhere less to the actual writings and are more interpretive. Afghanistan has almost 40 million people. Less than 10% are over 50 years of age. This is the second “go-at-it” for the Taliban. They ran the country from 1996 to 2001. In the last 20 years we, the West, have made a significant impact on Afghanistan in culture, politics, economy, liberty, women’s rights, education, etc. It will be interesting to see how 70,000 hillbilly-like, mostly young men, with only religious indoctrination from the Madrassas (which essentially means memorizing passages from the Quran) with no other education and no understanding of a worldview will be affected by mixing into a sophisticated society. Who will have the greater effect on whom? I would be surprised if the next 9/11 would not come out of Afghanistan with the able help of the Taliban, which have already shown themselves to be ideologically 1000 years back in the dark ages.
So where are all the water and oil issues between Western thought and Islamic thought? Much of it involves sex and women. First, women are not equal to men. It says so right in the Quran 4.34 (as it does in the Bible, but Muslims believe it much more than Christians, and Christianity has had the benefit of a few more years of exposure to enlightenment): “Men stand superior to women in that God hath preferred some of them over others…” From that flows a whole host of bristling dictates. Sharia Law allows wives to be beaten. Pre-pubescent marriages are permitted. And necrophilia is acceptable … really! Furthermore, art may not depict the human figure, especially not that of Muhammad, that is why the Paris newspaper’s 17 employees of Charlie Hebdo were wiped out by terrorists, and Lars Vilks, the artist that drew cartoons of Muhammad, was shot to death in Copenhagen. It makes it difficult to deal with behavior that is rooted in the first millennium. The radicals have a thing for esthetics, especially graphic art depicting living things like humans. Music is also haram (forbidden) because it could lead to sin, drinking alcohol, and illicit sex. The Taliban would have an orgastic experience with the paintings of the Louvre or the concert halls of Vienna and Prague. One of their first victims in Afghanistan was a popular folksinger, Fawad Andarabi. A couple of days after the bright bulbs (claiming new enlightenment) of the Taliban insurgency announced that music was forbidden, they stormed the home of Fawad, dragged him out, and in front of his family shot him in the head. It will be a while before you will hear the strummings of Elvis, or the harmony of the Eagles played in Islamic circles.
A more subtle issue is religious pluralism. Ever since our Revolutionary War and the writing of the Bill of Rights, the right to religious freedom is part of our fabric, which is, however, not acceptable to radical Islam. “There is but one God, and he is Allah!” By the way, that is just Islam’s name for Jehova. That leaves out all the Hindi gods, Buddha, the deity of the Sikhs, and of course, all those that have no God. That would be a major confrontational issue with the rest of the world, including Asia, Africa, India, Europe, North and South America. How the radical Islamists deal with homosexuality is a side issue that has religious overtones as they stone gays and lesbians or bury them alive, a horrific and uncivilized thing by our standards! It also denotes a serious provincial, un-worldly manner that puts Islamists in opposition to the majority of the rest of world opinion, which creates a significant obstacle for the newly reformed Taliban to join the family of nations.
It will take more to reform Islam than we think. These kinds of fanatic aberrations will not clear up overnight. I hope I am wrong, but I am afraid that we are in for another few decades of medieval thinking and behavior. It took Christianity a while to stop burning people alive for the sin of claiming the earth revolved around the sun. That was just 300 years ago and almost killed the greatest mind of our times, Galileo Galilei, before he recanted his heresy. Although his predecessor, Bruno Giordano, at the University of Padua, was not so lucky. He was burned alive at the stake in 1600 at the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome for multiple heretical views, including heliocentrism, despite the fact that great mathematicians and thinkers like Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Tycho Brahe had convincing supporting evidence already published, but ignored by the wise theologians. Sort of what the Mullahs and Imams do now.
Interestingly, it was also Cardinal Bellarmine who prosecuted Galileo 30 years later. So we can’t pretend that we are so much more civilized. We went through a similar violent phase. They are just a few hundred years behind us in their evolution out of the darkness. Christianity clawed its way out of the insanity and bloody encounters. Islam has the ethical, logical, and intellectual basis to do the same.
The Quran, unlike the second most venerated book, the Hadith, is more philosophical. The moderate Muslims need to focus on that point! That should be the emphasis of the potential reformers of Islam. But my burning question is, “Where are the moderate Muslims?” There is a deafening silence from them.