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Monday, April 18, 2011

two approaches to Islam from the outside

There are more than two ways to approach the Mohammedan religion from the outside, but my point is less about the contents of Islam or its virtues or vices and more about a dichotomy of cultural systems.

The way Americans, westerners, and secularists typically approach Islam is as a faith in all ways similar to and equivalent to Christianity. To a man without religion or faith, typically a leftist or politically correct individual, a Muslim's faith is as important, spiritual, correct, and sacred as that of a Christian's.  Politically correct people see all theistic belief as essentially the same, regardless of history or origin.  The politically correct view is that Islam is the same as Christianity in all the ways that count, as they are simply different but equally valid paths to the same God.

That in and of itself assumes that all of Islam is simply a belief system for individuals.

When reading the Bible it seems self-evident that the author is addressing individuals.  I cannot see the Bible as a dogma for driving the collective whole of a nation-state.  It simply is not the moral rudder for that size and class of ship.  Congregations really are intended to be of a size where a single teacher can guide the group.  I wonder if there are people that really do see the Bible as moral guidance for nation-states in term of how we the collective whole treat the poor.

The relevancy of that question lies in the second external approach to Islam.  Most commentators and western politicians never use this approach for fear of public backlash. 

The other sort of Islam is not one of religion at all.  While there are Muslims that hold their beliefs in the way that Mormons and some so-called Christians hold to theirs, as a path to God and heaven for the individual, there are Muslims who live their beliefs as a sociopolitical movement akin to Communism.

This ignores the reality of so-called "Moderates" and "Muslim Extremists" and "Islamofascists" and engages a simple historical reality that many activists in the East do not recognize nation-states as political entities with the discrete border and distinct definitions that were laid down during the anti-colonial movements decades ago.  They recognize the nation-states as political realities for practical purposes up to a point.  Many of these political activists work to re-establish a Caliphate.  They are not terrorists first and foremost; terrorism is the method through which they do away with various political, governmental and even societal obstacles to acheive the over-aching goal.  Part of what causes confusion is that many terrorists are not Muslims seeking to unite the Arab world; they are simply terrorists striking at political enemies.

Due to clumsiness of language and shared use of words and titles it is nearly impossible to divine the distinction between one sort of Muslim and the other.  It is as if the Communists of the 20th Century referred to themselves as Presbyterians.  How does one put forth useful rhetoric decrying the bad guys when everyone refers to the bad guys with the same title as some good guys?

There are also very few Muslims united in any useful way that can agree as to what a 21st century Caliphate is.

On this basis I have two imperatives to elaborate on Tuesday morning:
  1. Ignore anything Glenn Beck-ish regarding caliphates or conspiracy theories.  That is a red herring.
  2. We used to regard "Communist" as a political system as a well as a philosophy.  Apply the same process.

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