Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Conflict between the West and the Middle East: Muslim Compatibility with Western Society

First post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 4

Many Westerners have an image of Muslims that is unrealistic, and this translates into the type of oppression that causes the first conflict mentioned above. Muslims are seen as evil, full of hatred, or just plain immoral. In the eyes of your average person from a Western nation, everything that we believe in as just, righteous, or fair must be against Islam. Members of Islam are seen to be simultaneously a puppet of the Islamic will and evil in and of his own right, down deep in the soul. Look at a couple paragraphs from a post by Fjordman in Norway:

It should be done by giving Islam its proper name: Slavery and apartheid. Women are the slaves in the cult of Islam (submission = slavery). One peculiar thing about male supremacy or any form of slavery, is that it enslaves both parties. Muslim men should realise, that the emancipation of women also emancipates and frees men. This has been the lesson in the West. And so it has continued. Thus Muslim men should not be frightened in letting go - they will also be freeing themselves from the chains of islam. This inevitably leads us to ask, can we somehow re-define Islam, in particular for a Western audience, not as a religion but as a political ideology, and one whose tenets are sufficiently evil, so that it merits destruction, much as Nazism. This construct has to take place so that the Western populace sees it as justifiable to actually give the physical and moral support that is required for such a large undertaking. In passing it is worth noting the political difficulty that Bush and Blair are having in Iraq in sustaining political support for the war, once they had proclaimed that Islam is a RoP - they had conceded the moral ground.

Islam is institutionalised slavery, and the Jihad's main purpose is to garner slaves, both men and women, from the lands of the Free. Muslims, both men and women, then become the first slaves of Islam. Two points come to mind immediately. 1. The institution of slavery crushes the spirit of slaves. They were unable to think for themselves as a consequence. A striking feature of Islamic societies. 2. Runaway slaves used to be beaten, and oft executed, as a lesson to other would be runaway slaves. The same punishment is Islamically sanctioned for the Muslim apostate.

To me it’s clear that Islam is not some evil religion, and that the Islamic people are not all bent on destruction. However, after doing all this reading on the conflict, it’s also very apparent to me that a large portion of the Muslim community is very frustrated with their current lot in life, and that they hold the Western nations responsible for these frustrations.

John Esposito, of Islamica Magazine agrees that what we are experiencing is two separate conflicts, but points out that the West is attacking the members of the first conflict by denigrating Islam as a religion, and as such attacking the victim of the whole cycle. As such, he believes the present violence is a fight against oppression, as opposed to a cultural war.

What we are witnessing today has little to do with Western democratic values and everything to do with a European media that reflects and plays to an increasingly xenophobic and Islamaphobic society. The cartoons seek to test and provoke; they are not ridiculing Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but mocking Muslims’ most sacred symbols and values as they hide behind the façade of freedom of expression. The win-win for the media is that explosive headline events, reporting them or creating them, also boosts sales. The rush to reprint the Danish cartoons has been as much about profits as about the prophet of Islam. Respected European newspapers have acted more like tabloids.

Esposito is correct in saying that we are attacking the wrong enemy, and the Muslim perception of oppression is growing. However, it appears that most Muslims really do not favor a violent resolution to the conflict. Esposito sites a Gallup World Poll of Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia, which had some very interesting results about where the priorities of the majority of the Muslim world lie.

When asked to describe what Western societies could do to improve relations with the Arab/Muslim world, by far the most frequent reply (47% in Iran, 46% in Saudi Arabia, 43% in Egypt, 41% in Turkey, etc.) was that they should demonstrate more understanding and respect for Islam, show less prejudice, and not denigrate what Islam stands for. At the same time, large numbers of Muslims cite the West’s technological success and its liberty and freedom of speech as what they most admire. When asked if they would include a provision for Freedom of Speech, defined as allowing all citizens to express their opinion on political, social and economic issues of the day if they were drafting a constitution for a new country, overwhelming majorities (94% in Egypt, 97% in Bangladesh, 98% in Lebanon etc.) in every country surveyed responded yes, they would.

Similar studies have come out of Palestine, Egypt, and Muslim communities in France and the Netherlands. In a response to a post sited earlier in this paper by Marc Shulman, Jim Ellsworth, a war college professor and national security advisor to the Bush administration, is strongly supportive of Bush’s policies for dealing with the growing rift between Islam and democracy. I suppose it’s no surprise that Mr. Ellsworth believes that the US should leave the situation in the negotiating hands of the government, and that no one should speak out against them.

At the end of the day, though, what may matter most to our servicemembers fighting this war is that—as I have said before—those among our countrymen who choose to agitate for a clash of civilizations are directly supporting the strategy of America’s adversaries in the information battlespace in which it will largely be decided. America’s forces, facing those adversaries to the front, are flanked on one side by the anti-war crowd among us, who want to see us lose what they see as an immoral war. On the other flank, we face a media enterprise that doesn’t especially care one way or the other as long as it sells copy—and bad news sells more than good, and what we don’t expect to see (like alleged American atrocities) sells more than what we do expect to see (like al-Qa’ida atrocities).

But Ellsworth makes an excellent point, and a point that really defines why the US has had much better relations with the Muslim communities in this country than has other Western nations. It’s because of our separation of church and state that the Muslim communities feel more welcome in our society, which is a great start. He also goes on to point out that, in actuality, Islamic laws are not always as prohibitive of the values of the West; it is the values of extremists that are prohibitive.

It is also not correct to claim that Sharia law is inherently incompatible with free expression, any more than is Mosaic law. What is incompatible with freedom of expression is the unification of church and state, regardless of the faith involved. In Muslim societies like Indonesia, where there is tacit, though incomplete separation, Sharia courts adjudicate matters of faith without interference with the general tolerance that Indonesia is known for. Nor does Islam equate to Sharia law: take Turkey, an Islamic nation with a fiercely secular system of government.

In reality, the Islamic people I know are not so different from the Western people I know; the values are similar, the wants are similar, the needs are similar. The differences are a matter of a slightly different value system, but only the extremists really differ greatly from Western values. And I believe that to say that the Western and Islam cultures can’t live side-by-side is naïve; Islamic communities have existed amongst Western communities for hundreds of years, and most of that time has been peaceful. Perhaps we need to remember that.

One of the keys to successfully dealing with the increasing tension between the two people is to realize that the people are not as different as we speak. If we try to understand each other a bit better, and work towards a better tomorrow for both sides, respective of both sets of values, perhaps we can find a better solution. That is, if we have not passed a point of no return in the conflict.

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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 12:59 AM / | |