Thursday, March 1, 2007

Fundamentalism and the Circle of Death


Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In her book Infidel deconstructs fundamentalist Islam but you could in many ways Replace Islam with any number of Christianist fundamentalists and achieve the same result.

Quotes from

"when you meet the unbelievers, strike them in the neck" -- were direct quotations. "I hated to do it," she wrote, "because I knew that I would find bin Laden's quotations in there." And there were consequences: "The little shutter at the back of my mind, where I pushed all my dissonant thoughts, snapped open after the 9/11 attacks, and it refused to close again.
I found myself thinking that the Quran is not a holy document. It is a historical record, written by humans. . . . And it is a very tribal and Arab version of events. It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war."
That moment led Hirsi Ali to her most profound conclusion: that the mistreatment of women is not an incidental problem in the Muslim world, a side issue that can be dealt with once the more important political problems are out of the way. Rather, she believes that the enslavement of women lies at the heart of all of the most fanatical interpretations of Islam, creating "a culture that generates more backwardness with every generation."

We in the West should be clear about what we believe.

Infidel a word that has been used by Muslim and Christian to denote someone who is outside the community- in Christian the Koinonia, in Islam the Umma. Since the Hejira and the birth of Islam the Greco-Christian and Semito-Islamic worlds have been at odds.

It is intellectually dishonest to call one community better or smarter or more advanced than the other. While my ancestors were tattooing their skins blue and living in Feudalism the Islamic cities of Cordoba, Baghdad and Cairo were the centers of world culture. But later when Europe was developing the Enlightenment Islam went into decline. The debate between the Islamic and Christian worlds is long and bitter. Despite the best efforts of well meaning liberals Muslims and Christians have never lived together in peace and mutual respect. Not in Spain, not in Sicily and not in Anatolia in all of these places one ruled over the other with bare toleration never equality.

In Islamic nations Christians and Jews are treated as Djimmi’s and Christian nations like Armenia were eradicated in Christian ones like Spain Islamic culture was destroyed and the Muslims forced to immigrate or convert our history is long and acrimonious. It is not helpful to pretend that either group is better or worse both are equally guilty.

The fact is however that in one part of the world-until recently- Muslims, Christians and Jews and other groups did live in harmony; Europe and North America. The fact is that Liberal Democracies with a strong separation between Religion and State have proven good ways to keep Islamists and Christianist extremists at bay and allow for dialogue.

This sense of separation has been challenged of late by religionists on the Left and the Right. Be it Liberation Theology, Islamic Fundamentalism, Christian Fundamentalism or Hindu Fundamentalism the great Liberal secular consensus that was established in the American and French Revolutions and confirmed by men like Gandhi and many others has become a challenged doctrine.

There have been many reactions to reform movements that Ali wants so much for Islam.
In fact today’s fundamentalisms are responses to reform. Wahabi Islam began its life as a reaction to Sufism with its emphasis on tolerance. In fact before Wahabism was born the Sufis were quite powerful in Mecca and around the Islamic world. Wahabism made sure that this tolerance ended.

The same is true in Christianity. The Pentacostals and Fundamentalists that arose out of Reverend Darby and his group were created in reaction to the Social Gospel. Fundamentalism is born of intolerance.
In the middle of this century a Christian consensus developed with Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox working towards shared goals. This was best embodied by the Second Vatican Council and after words. The fact is however that quaint notions of peace and justice embodied by thinkers like Martin Buber, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Oscar Romero, and Dorothy Day are repugnant to the strain of religious believers embodied today by Islamic Fundamentalists and Christianist Fundamentalists who are in fact two sides of the same coin.

Questioning fundamentalism is not bigotry.
This is what all Fundamentalists do they demonize others saying if you disagree with them you are a bigot. If you want a dose of this turn on Fox News. The red herring that bigotry against ‘christians’ or ‘muslims’ comes from questioning particular beliefs or societal rules disarms those of us who believe in tolerance.
I think that it is important to say that I am a religious person but if I try to impose my particular religious beliefs as a national practice, if I demand that my particular views are embraces by society then I should be discriminated against because I am asking for something unreasonable.

This is the issue is it not? Tolerance is a fine value but Freedom is a better value. People should not have the right to oppress others even if the majority feel that their views are Godly whether they are Osama Bin Laden or Focus on the Family.

1 comment:

johnbo said...

thank you for this good account. Tolerance is in short supply these days. We can live together in peace or we can die together in is our choice.