December 11, 2005

Clash of Cultures

With all the strife between the West and the Muslim East today, we hear
Muslims who complain about being misunderstood by the world. Islam is a religion of peace, they say, it can never condone violence and yet on account of a handful of bad people, the world labels all Muslims terrorists.

Generally, this leads to someone or other saying that the problem is that the jehadis have distorted the message of the Prophet of Islam and the world chooses to use this as an excuse to hate all Muslims. Why is this happening? Why should Islam be blamed for the activities of a handful of fanatics? Conclusion? It must be because of the ‘evil’ propaganda of Jews, Hindus and Christians.

The problem, alas, is more complicated. It is not just suicide bombers and mad mullahs who are giving Islam a bad name, it is the fact that in so many ways the religion seems out of touch with the world as it is today.

What most of us see as barbaric behaviour Muslims are ordered to accept as justice because that is how it was when the Prophet was still with us. It goes beyond criminal justice to culture, education, social behaviour and the attire of, and in the social status of, women. Islam is inextricably bound to the Arab culture of the 7th century. It has held itself to be the "pure" religion, and doesn't accept any form of adaptation to modern conditions or mores. "It should be done as it was in the days of the Prophet" is held as one of it's core belief system. Many Progressive will scoff at this and say that it is not so...but then ask them to explain the fact that a "modern" state such as Iran still imprisons women should they be so bold as to reveal too much of their anatomy, or in some cases, still stones women for adultery. Or that a woman in India could be forced to leave her husband and go to live with his father when the father raped her. Or when Muslim youths in France can set a woman ablaze with the justification " because she was traveling in public without benefit of a male companion".

The problem with Islam is that it has remained unchanged for centuries and continues to try and impose an Arab idea of religion, social behaviour and culture on the world. This causes alienation, and the strife we are now experiencing between Islam and the other major belief systems of the world.
Respecting others that hold a different belief is just not a part of the Muslim belief system, indeed, it is antithetical to the core of Islamic beliefs.

Those that refuse to conform to the precepts of Mohammed are Infidel and are not to be treated with as equals. This is esconced within the Holy texts of Islam, and really cannot be gone around without a serious amount of reform of the religion, and as I noted above, Islam is profoundly resistant to any form of reform.

V.S. Naipaul described it this way. ‘‘Islam is in its origins an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert’s world view alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his sacred language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story.’’

In Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and in India you see signs of Muslims becoming part of the ‘Arab story’ in recent years in a way that they were not before and therein lies the problem. In times past, there has been an uneasy truce that allowed members of all religions to, at the least, co-exist by tactful ignorance of each other. It seems that in the present however, there has reached a critical mass point of Muslim holy fervor where this is no longer possible, and the inevitable conflicts between belief systems has boiled up into a seething cauldron of terrorism and open war.

This is not to say that all the other belief systems have been innocent in the past either, there are horrific account of Christian perfidity almost as bad, the difference is that those are all in the past, and Christianity has reformed itself to make such actions unthinkable. There are elements of almost every religion that could be considered barbaric by todays standards, the practice of Sutee and the cast sytrem in Hinduism, and the "inactive" stance against injustice in Buddism as examples. (and no, I'm NOT saying that Buddists condoned injustice, it was just that they accepted it far more readily as "cosmic Karma" and didn't fight against it as most Western religions do.) These belief systems have changed with more enlightened approachs in modern times, something that Islam has failed to do, for the most part, as of yet. These barbarities were more a product of culture rather than the religious systems themselves; the systems didn't enforce these barbarities with the force of religious belief as Islam does.

The most recent example of this came last week when a court in Saudi Arabia ordered that the eye of an Indian worker, Abdul Lateef Naushad, be gouged out in the interests of justice because in a physical fight with a Saudi he caused him to lose the vision in one of his eyes. This was three years ago and Naushad has been in prison ever since, which would be punishment enough (for a fight) in most countries, but not in Saudi Arabia which, as the crucible of the Islamic faith, believes that justice means ‘an eye for an eye’ just as it did in the days of the Prophet.

Islamic justice also ordains that thieves pay by having their hands chopped off and adulterous couples be stoned to death. These may have been progressive measures 1,400 years ago but in today’s world they are acts of barbarism and this is where the disconnect begins between Islam and the rest of us.

Unless and until Islam can reform itself from this outmoded view of thought, there will be strife between our peoples.

Posted by Delftsman3 at December 11, 2005 12:22 AM | TrackBack

They desperately need a reformation, but the Koran leaves them almost no wiggle room. You'd think it was written by rule-bound Germans.

Posted by: George Turner at December 11, 2005 12:44 AM

Well, there IS a reason we call them IslamoFACISTS George! LOL

Posted by: delftsman3 at December 11, 2005 01:19 AM

Very good points, delfts.

I think the need for a reformation is definitely apparant, but it will need to come from within. And with them beheading every "heretic" I don't know when that'll happen....

Posted by: Alli at December 11, 2005 01:28 AM
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