Monday, February 13, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 151c: Some balancing thoughts on the threat of IslamISM (as opposed to the religious sensibilities of ordinary people who are of the Muslim faith tradition)

In following up on the breaking news post of yesterday, I ran across a video that we need to watch, "Islam: What the West needs to know."

Having said that, I have a caution that leads me to reframe the context of the video. 

For, in my estimation, it lends itself to a fundamental error: confusing ideologies and radicalised (and perhaps power-wielding) factions on the one hand, with the mass of people under the domination of the ideologues at any given time, or even across history.

To give a case in point, since 1979, the radical Shiite IslamISTS of Iran have ruled that country with an iron hand, and control the organs of power, arms, the economy, the media, education, the Mosques, etc. And yet, at every point where they have been able to make their voices heard, the ordinary Iranian people have made it absolutely clear that they do not accept the radical totalitarian ideologies and agendas of their cruel overlords. 

That is why these overlords have had to resort to snipers shooting protesters, and to draconian hanging judges, to forced sham marriages and rapes of condemned virgin women (God help us, evidently down to 10 or 12 years of age . . . ) on the eve of their hanging [as psycho-spiritual torture as there is a common Islamic belief that virgin women have a guaranteed place in heaven -- a former perpetrator reports that these victims spend the remainder of their last night on earth before they go out to face the hangman in a state of such screaming horror as is indescribable; it finally broke through to his conscience . . . ], much more of the worst sort of secret police methods and the like, to maintain their power over the people. 

Indeed, had it not been for the Guardian Council so-called vetting the candidates for elections, Mr Ahmadinejad would never be the President, announcer and face-card for the radical Mullahs.

Nor is this new. 

If we glance at the story of the Exodus, we will see how the hard-hearted autocrat ruling over Egypt under the pretence that he was a living god, clearly had even among his advisors those who were cautioning moderation. So also, when we look at how the Israelites were able to obtain gifts of jewels etc on the eve of their departure, the not so veiled sub-text is that the ordinary people of Egypt were not exactly in agreement with the overlords who had brought such ruin to the land, by their stubborn defiance of God and the cry of liberty. That is why also, we can see the presence of the so-called mixed multitude who went out with the core Israelites. Voting with their feet.

In short, we are seeing here yet another form of the moral tension that lies in all of our hearts:
(i) We are finite, fallible, morally fallen/struggling, and too often ill-willed; but equally,

(ii) There is in our hearts the in-built voice of conscience that reflects the core morality written into the fabric of our being that tells us in no uncertain terms that we are under moral government and must respect and treat our neighbours as we would wish to be treated by them.
That is why, when Locke set out to ground principles of liberty and justice in the community in Ch 2, Sec. 5 of his second treatise on civil government, he so effectively cited "the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker":

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

Having said this caution, let us be fair.  

There is no doubt that the following video cites accurate facts and texts, and it is fair comment to describe the founder of Islam (who is revered in Islamic tradition as a great example) as a C7 war-lord, caravan raider and oriental despot whose word was law. Indeed, when he felt it so or said it was so, Mohammed's word was regarded as unchangeable divine law.

Yes, Mohammed was also prone to assassinate opponents and critics, and seems to have at minimum personally supervised the beheading of the six or seven hundred members of the third of the three Jewish tribes of Yathrib, the city which took him in as leader when he fled Mecca; and which was re-named Medina. 

Yes, as well he kept a harem; including his favourite wife Aisha, whom -- per his earliest biographers -- he married at six or seven years of age and took from her dolls to his bridal chamber when she was nine or ten. (Apparently, that was how some elite men of Arabia acted at the time, but we should also note that there was no doubt that his affection for her was reciprocated and he literally died in Aisha's lap when she was eighteen, at sixty-two or sixty-three years of age.) 

And, for centuries thereafter, Islam was indeed spread by force of arms through Jihad leading to imposition of the then emerging Sharia [a theocratic law], and reduction of conquered peoples under Apartheid-like Dhimmitude.

And today, such IslamISM -- or as the Algerian moderates called it, Islamo-FASCISM -- is a global threat, in both Sunni and Shiite forms. Let us clip Spencer and Horowitz on this, from their online article, Why “Islamo-Fascism”?, to help clear the air:
When President Bush used the term “Islamo-Fascism” to describe the jihadists who have attacked us, many complained that it reflected prejudice against Muslims. The Council on American Islamic Relations, a “civil rights” organization with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, protested that the term “feeds the perception that the war on terror is actually a war on Islam.” In fact, the opposite is the truth. As the Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas explains, the term “Islamo-Fascism” was “initially coined by Algerian people struggling for democracy, against armed fundamentalist forces decimating people in our country, then later operating in Europe, where a number of us had taken refuge.” In other words, the term “Islamo-Fascism” originates with moderate Muslims under attack from Muslim radicals, who murdered more than 150,000 Muslims whom they regarded as infidels in Algeria in the 1990s.
Helie Lucas is the founder of the group Women Living Under Muslim Laws, which resists the oppression of women by these fanatics. The term Islamo-Fascism, as she explains, refers to “political forces working under the cover of religion in order to gain political power and to impose a theocracy (‘The Law’ -- singular -- of God, unchangeable, ahistorical, interpreted by self appointed old men) over democracy (i.e. the laws -- plural -- voted by the people and changeable by the will of the people).”
The term “Islamo-Fascism” does not refer to a generalized “war on Islam,” but to a defensive war against the attacks of radicals who have murdered hundreds of thousands of moderate Muslims, Jews, Christians, gays, women and infidels since the first radical Islamic state was formed in Iran in 1979, and the modern global jihad was launched in earnest.
Moderate Muslims who hold to Islam as a religion but reject its political ambitions are happy to live in pluralistic societies that separate religion from the state. Moderate Muslims are willing to live with non-Muslims as equals. It is these Muslims who are the victims of the Islamo-Fascists and the natural allies of the West, which is also the target of the jihad.
The jihadists, who are waging this war, are exponents of political – rather than religious – Islam. They are indeed fascists, sharing crucial ideological convictions with historical fascist movements. [Cf also Horowitz's rebuttal to IslamIST push-back rhetoric, here.]
That should be clear enough to those willing to listen, on the dangers of IslamIST ideology, ideologues and the street-level muscle that gives such ideologues power to kill with the poison in their tongues and pens. 

Let's put it a bit more directly: if you will not listen to the ghosts of 150,000 Algerian victims of such bloody-minded fanaticism, you have patently closed your mind and hardened your heart to the truth you should heed.

As also, Boko Haram is now showing any and all willing to listen in Nigeria.

But, I have no doubt -- there are hate sites out there that target this blog [and after over 100 poisonous comments clogging up my in-box from one of their operators, I have felt it wise to for now close off comments in this blog . . . ] -- that there are many who will seek to twist such words of warning into strawman caricatures to their rhetorical advantage, and that there are many who will be naively taken in by such willful disregard for truth or fairness. 

Let us recognise that such hoggish and willfully deceitful behaviour on the part of the manipulators simply exposes what spirit they are of. (And, yes, I just linked Matt 7:6 from the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not give that which is holy (the sacred thing) to the dogs, and do not throw your pearls before hogs, lest they trample upon them with their feet and turn and tear you in pieces." [AMP])

And, I have long since laid out principles and steps we can take in response to such malicious spin tactics.

All of this means that we should indeed heed the cautions in the video just below, as they tell us what can happen if we were to fall under ruthless IslamIST rule:

But on the other hand, we should not fall into the error of projecting unto ordinary people who are Muslims that they are necessarily like this, or are particularly prone to become like this. That is where the Tony Blairs, George Bushes and Condi Rices of this world do have a point: there are many moderate Muslim people and leaders, who simply are not, nor are they particularly prone to become, fanatics.

Where the Walid Shoebats and Robert Spencers of the world do have a point that we had better heed, is that the history of Islam is that, too often, radical factions and autocrats seize power in Islam, and appeal to the disturbing elements of Islamic history and tradition. Such are dangerous, just as those factions that seized power in Germany in the 1930s and set out to even subvert the Christian faith in support of their fanaticism, were. 

And for that matter, in the Middle Ages, popes and elites were able to exploit popular feelings to "justify" going to war in defence of Christendom and to retaliate for massacres of pilgrims, but all too soon this turned into the usual rapacity and organised theft and slaughter that wars are so notorious for becoming. 

So also, we must not forget how Christian theologians and elites in the days of the reformation said and did the indefensible. Nor, should we forget how it took centuries of struggle to reach a point where our civilisation was able to repudiate the African slave trade based on kidnapping -- something explicitly put under a sentence of death in the OT scriptures, and just as directly condemned in the NT as being utterly incompatible with eternal life. Then, it took the better part of a century and at least one bloody civil war to legally eradicate the actual institution of slavery itself.

In short, if we want to poke at real or imagined splinters in the despised other's eyes, we can sit around all day at it, and will in the end do little or no good to anyone. Indeed, we will only deepen the polarisation and the mutual rage that stabilises it. Instead, let us mutually acknowledge our finitude, proneness to error and to moral struggle, and see how we can work together to do better. let us determine to love neighbour, but recognise the destructive nature of sin and the reality that we all face it. 

Then, let us pledge to build bridges not walls and to thus work together for good even across the most profound differences and disagreements.

But a legitimate part of this is what his video does well: we do have to expose problems and deal with fanatical factions and power elites, including resisting their aggression and propaganda efforts, not sweep them under the carpet.

So, now, let us watch and let us understand in a wider context, then let us act with grim resolve. END