Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Conflict between the West and the Middle East: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between Diaspora Muslims and Host Country

First post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 3a

Many people, me included, look at the growing rift between Islam and democracy and see one conflict. But I believe now that there are two conflicts occurring here, and that the two conflicts are not closely linked. Instead, they are merely allies of the loosest form, following the logic that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. In fact, many Muslims that I have read over the past week hate the alliance with terrorism and the militant leaders like Ahmadinejad, considering their allies in violation of the teachings of Islam. But these same people see no alternative to defend their way of life.

I came to this conclusion after reading two very distinct bodies of work describing the two conflicts. Neither side recognized that there were two conflicts, but indeed they were describing very different phenomena. And by understanding the roots of each conflict we can begin to determine causes and, hopefully, solutions. For the first conflict, that between the diaspora Muslims and their host countries (predominantly in Europe), or between Muslims living in countries occupied by the West, let’s begin with a blogger named Benjamin.

Benjamin used to have a blog called “Moderate Musings”, but after further introspection changed it to “Politics, Compassion, and Justice” as he’s not sure he qualifies as a moderate. On January 1st before the whole Mohammed Cartoon incident, before Ahmadinejad has really introduced himself to the world and long before resumption of Iran’s nuclear program, Benjamin wrote about the roots of the present conflict stemming from our own societies and the cartoon conflict bore out his theories.

Benjamin saw rising tensions, particularly in Europe, between the Muslim communities and the Judeo-Christian establishment. As such, Benjamin characterized this first conflict not as one of nations versus nations, but ideologies versus ideologies. As such, Benjamin posits, the combatants live in and amongst the societies that they are fighting, especially in Europe. While the US is generally blamed for their imperialist policies, Europe shares their imperialism with a rampant anti-Islamic sentiment that has done a great deal to enhance the rift between Islam and the West.

Forbidding Muslim girls to wear headscarves in French schools while simultaneously trying to control French Muslims through officially recognized Islamic organizations gets matters exactly backward, as most Americans will easily see. Our constitutional combination of freedom to practice one’s religion coupled with the strong separation of church and state, has worked far better in accommodating religious diversity than anything Europe has yet dreamed up.

Most people tie the actions of the general Muslim population to the actions of extremists, but this is not correct. This is truly a distinct conflict, and addressing terrorism and the Muslim theocracies will not fix the issues surrounding Muslim people in general, issues of inequality and oppression (perceived or actual, that is not for me to determine). Marc Shulman of the American Future blog, points out this dichotomy, and while he believes this is because extremists won’t accept reconciliation, it’s really because this is not the extremists’ conflict, and extremists don’t’ really care if the Muslim community is oppressed or not.

The Muslim reaction to the cartoons depicting Mohammed provides the strongest evidence yet that eliminating the extremists would not bring peace, if by "peace" one means the absence of violence and the presence of tolerance. Freedom of expression—one of the bedrocks of Western secularism—and the sharia are incompatible.

Marc is right that eliminating the extremists would not bring about peace, but his definition of peace is off target. Eliminating the extremist elements will not bring about tolerance from the Muslim communities around the world, because they don’t feel tolerated by the democratic societies in most places around the world. Violence might or might not be the result if extremists were eliminated, but the violence would probably be in a different form than the terrorism we see more and more often today.

Israel has an interesting role in this conflict. The Palestinian people are oppressed by the Israeli government, and terribly, and as a result they fall into this class. While it hasn’t always been the case, I feel that of late Palestinians are now looking for a homeland and a better life, and their goals no longer revolve around the destruction of the state of Israel.

However, Yasser Arafat was one of the militant leaders I will speak of in the next portion of this post, and has often tied the agenda of the Palestinian people to the agenda of other Muslim nations and leaders. That tradition continues today, and because of this the Palestinian people remain in limbo, in a struggle between the needs and hopes of the Palestinian people and the goals of the various leaders in the region.

The Mohammed cartoon protests are clearly a battle in the conflict for the equality of Muslim communities throughout the world. The fact that the majority of the protests took place in Europe or was aimed at European real estate is a testament to the penned-up frustration felt by the Muslim community towards treatment of the European Muslim communities. However, Benjamin probably has been a bit over-compensating on the quality of the US treatment of Muslims; we are definitely starting to feel some of the hatred here regarding the cartoons.

But this conflict is one with an easy solution; if you treat the Muslim community better, and give them more representation, this issue can be eased. Or at least it could be; it’s questionable if these tensions could be eased now, when they have escalated to such a degree. Furthermore, treating the Muslim community better now, when there is such an air of mistrust, and while we do not know where the loyalties of many people lies, would be much more difficult. Finally, there may not be enough time to ease tensions sufficiently before this situation explodes, as it has begun to with the protests over the cartoons of Mohammed.

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10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: The Validity of the Muslim Theocracy
Part 3a: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between Diaspora Muslims and Host Country
Part 3b: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between various Muslim Leaders and Western Imperialism
Part 4: Muslim Compatibility with Western Society
Part 5: Conclusion

Posted by Scottage at 1:13 AM / | |