Monday, March 10, 2008

The appeal of "radical Islam"

An important article appears today in The Times of India entitled "Young Muslims in UK attracted to radical Islam." The unfortunate reality is described plainly in the headline, but the article fails to unpack the implications of two key elements concealed in the very words of the writer himself.

The first clue appears in paragraph one:

Young Muslims in Britain are increasingly getting inclined towards radical Islam as it presents a more "comprehensive and coherent" ideology than the one advocated by local mosques, a report has suggested.

And the second in paragraph two:

"The growth of monocultural ghettos has led to the radicalisation of young Muslims who see extremism as the only theology available to them," the report, by British home office in 2005 said.

The essence of my commentary is twofold. The first is a call to world, Muslim leadership, especially its theologians, scholars and educators to recognize the implications of this observation. The second is a call to all concerned citizens worldwide to recognize the enduring fact that non-religious elements contribute to this harmful and self-destructive identification with deviant and aberrant "religious" interpretations.

When first reading this Times of India headline, I felt saddened. On balance I tend to admire the UK for its efforts to intuit and implement the all important ideal of religious freedom (as opposed to so many mainland European nations, which for some odd reason are lowbrow in this arena). Thus, why in the UK of all places (as one of the better places to be Muslim) should there be an increase in the trend toward what is called "radical Islam" (a misnomer in my opinion)?

The reasons for this shone through the writer's casual observations. I was not at all surprised to discover that both halves of the equation had little to do with religion per se. Yet even so, the implications for religious leaders and practitioners are great.

The two elements identified in the article as responsible for the rise of "radical Islam" among Muslim youth in the UK are: 1. Monocultural ghettos, and 2. The comprehensiveness and coherence of these evil teachings.

The fact of monocultural ghettoes is a political, economic, cultural, and historical reality, far more than a religious one (if at all). While not a religious reality, it is nevertheless a religious problem, namely something religions (and surely not just Islam) should address and fix. Monocultural ghettos are a problem. These have the potential to lead to anger and violence whether packaged in an ideology or not (for example plain old drug and gang violence), and whether the ideology happens to be the perversion of religious teachings or not (for example Marxism, a religion denying ideology is extremely violent).

The second element that completes the circle in this sad and destructive mix is that the appeal described for "radical Islam" is that it is comprehensive and coherent! Not that it is true, edifying, uplifting, consistent with tradition and historical interpretation, or responsible in anyway to genuinely religious purposes. As with the ghetto problem, comprehensiveness coherence in a thought system are not related necessarily to religion. Any thought system can be comprehensive and coherent, even one claiming to represent a religion despite violating the most important of its basic tenets.

And here with this issue of coherence, (just as it was with the issue of monocultural ghettoes), it is not a matter necessarily related to religious thought, but again it is a religious problem. If Muslim leaders, educators, and parents cannot present a comprehensive and coherent account of the Islam of peace, human equality, social cohesion, and respect for life they leave their precious children vulnerable to villains who can construct a comprehensive and coherent call, even if it is one that defiles all virtue and life itself.

It is not sufficient merely to proof-text or reiterate ad nauseum the incessant declaration that Islam is a religion of peace, and that Islam means peace. It is necessary to compete with the appeal, devotion, and ideological ardor invested in the thought systems generated by militant and violent preachers and recruiters.

The realities sadly happen to be, 1. intolerable and enraging life in monocultural ghettos, combined with 2. selfless (if perverse) devotion and intellectual striving of hateful, violent ideologues. These are the challenges that must be faced and resolved by Muslim intellectuals, leaders and educators. Wherein lies a comprehensive and coherent account of Islam's true beauty that can speak in the midst of this tragedy, this current world of offense, separation, and inequality experienced in Europe's ghettos? This is the most pressing challenge of our time. The lives of a generation of beautiful young men and women depend on our success.


21 comments:

Gordon Anderson said...

Frank, I appreciate your insight and concern about this topic. One thought about why this is happening in a free and pluralistic country is that there is no culture teaches a coherent worldview. Therefore if parents don't teach genuine religious principles to their children, there is no cultural backup in the schools, or wider society. Thus, radical Islam, or radical anything, might be the result of a general value vacuum related to personal morality in England.

David said...

Dr. K.,

You conclude, "This is the most pressing challenge of our time. The lives of a generation of beautiful young men and women depend on our success."

I don't believe it is being overly hyperbolic to suggest that world peace hangs in the balance.

What I often find troubling is what appears to be a strange taciturnity among Muslim clerics to condemn the purveyors of the radicalism that leads to the situation that you cite; a situation that fosters the kind of mindset that in turn leads to the kind of attack that transpired in Jerusalem just last week.

Where is the cleric's outcry against the "hijacking" of their religion by the radicals who perpetrated that heinous deed? Where? Many are listening.

Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that the first thing necessary in any non-violent approach to ending injustice and hate is courage. Given the violent nature that is endemic to Islamic radicalism (or whatever we choose to call it) one can understand a certain trepidation on the part of Muslim's clerics to confront it.

Still, it seems that a significant reason why the radical recruiters seem to recruit in a seemingly unabated fashion is a distinct lack of courage on the part of those who may be in the best position to do actually do something about it.

A strong dose of public outrage would be welcome.

David Eaton
NYC

Frank Kaufmann said...

Hi David

I do not agree with your comment. I believe that moderate Muslim leaders extend themselves far more than they are given credit for. My call is for forging a compelling account of Islam that is comprehensive and coherent, especially one that speaks effectively to Muslims living in their angering environs and circumstances in Europe.

I do not fault moderate Muslims for not caring or lack of outrage. Rather I call for commitment and investment in an Islam that is compelling, comprehensive, and coherent in the moment and in the social, economic, and international reality of our time.

Thank you of course for your vibrant intellectual engagement, and for your personal example sacrifice for the sake of peace.

Frank

Frank K

Anonymous said...

First of all, you apparently take this comment at face value: "The growth of monocultural ghettos has led to the radicalisation of young Muslims who see extremism as the only theology available to them," the report, by British home office in 2005 said."
This makes little sense, when you consider that many cultures exist separate, happy and quite non-violent. Jews, Greeks, Hindus, whatever -- none of them exhibit the radical and often hateful tendencies that certain Muslims do. I would put forward that it has much more to do with the nature of the thinking than the proximity. Peoples will congregate to enable their progress in society and share resources, but in this case we see people who unite to destroy and conquer, as much as anything else. It is inherent in the thinking.
Islam like Marxism has a virulent and intense hatred driving them to act: for Islamists, it is often the Jews, whatever that means, but even anyone who doesn't accept their beliefs, as Hindus will do quite well; for Marxists it is capitalism and its sins, real and exaggerated. It is endemic to the belief system.
I'm one who believes that spirit creates reality, not the other way around. As one thinks, so shall one act. - observer

Peter Duveen said...

Well, the explanation that greater logical consistency and ideological cohesiveness draws people to radical islam is a slap in the face to religion in general. No system, not even mathematics, is logically cohesive, although it may seem so. People like Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead tried to enforce such a superstructure upon mathematics and failed. What our Indian friends appear to be saying is that the only logically consistent religion is one that breeds violence; other religious believers are merely unaware of the implications of their beliefs.

Just John said...

Frank, you have again chosen a rather controversial article to analyze. The author tries to tie the problem onto two specific circumstances. And while there may be some correlation of the phenomenon with the named circumstances, there does not seem to be sufficient evidence to show that the tendency for extremism is derived specifically from either of those two potential causes. In fact, as 'anonymous' pointed out, many national or ethnic or religious cultures have congregated in ghetto fashion without becoming violent or even extreme.

While I understand and even sympathize with your desire to dismiss David's remarks for the benefit of the few clerics who are actively working for peaceful co-existence, the reality is that the number of their voices and their volume is small as perceived by the world. This is especially true when contrasted with the fact that over 90% of the armed conflicts taking place all over the world, involve Muslim factions on one side or both. There simply needs to be far more denunciation of the violence from peaceful Islamists. In addition, there needs to be much more willing and active cooperation with legal authorities where the violence occurs in civil society.

In contrast with the conclusion of the article's author, a recently completed surveillance study, carried out by multiple intelligence agencies in the United States over the last three years, came to a more definitive correlation. Information gathered by intelligence moles who infiltrated over half the mosques in the US, found, not simply a correlation, but a perfect correlation with a completely different factor. Acceptance and even promotion of jihad and violent extremism was universally found in mosques that advocated strict adherence to Sharia, the body of Islamic religious law (regardless of the sect). While, simultaneously, in those mosques that did not emphasize strict adherence to Sharia, extremism was not found. I would not advocate a rush to judgment based on this study alone, but its perfect correlation certainly precludes any arbitrary dismissal of its findings.

Many religions are associated with scriptures, traditions and doctrines which easily lend themselves to abuse. There have been atrocities committed in the name of religion by Old Testament Jews, Hindus via the caste system, and Catholics of the Middle Ages, just to name a few. It would seem obvious that Islam's scriptures and practices also lend themselves far too easily to this type of fanatical abuse.

It is no secret that the goal of radical Islam is absolute, totalitarian world domination, to the exclusion of all other religious traditions, and the inflammatory text of scripture is being used to justify these aims. The time has come for the peaceful adherents of each sect of Islam to clearly and publicly define the meanings of those scriptural passages which are fueling the international jihad. Not only must they denounce the violence, they must define why it is wrong – in the context of their own religion. Without this strong public effort, Islam as a whole will find itself to be perceived as the enemy of the rest of the world. Their voices must become loud and clear, because to the world, the silence is deafening.

~ John B.

John said...

Dear Frank,

When it comes to the youthful mind it is eager to give everything for the sake of a cause. Most of my experience from ghetto areas is that there is nothing but extreme violent behavior all around. Therefore maybe the extremist leaders find these areas as 'lands of opportunity' where young people can give their life to radical Islam and can easily get accustomed to the tradition. I agree with your calls to the muslim leaders, and would add that they should separate completely from violent, suicidal radicalists. They should keep the good values and tradition of their religion and start to adamantly protest (nonviolently) against those who give Muslims a bad name. Exploit the preying of the young mind by these recruiters and clearly state why it is wrong to follow such an ideology in every medium available to Muslims.

Just some thoughts,
John Prevost

Shrivatsa Goswami said...

Thoughtful analysis of a global crisis which puts us all the social, political and religious leaders under focus of responsibility and encourages us to make an honest attempt to remove the gap between words and actions. I have always subscribed to the view that many ills in this world are due to the inaction, if not failure on the part of leadership--especially the religious and spiritual kind.

Shrivatsa Goswami

David said...

Frank,

I fully appreciate your "call for commitment and investment in an Islam that is compelling, comprehensive, and coherent..."

In the days immediately after 9/11 there were many articles that had similar tones, often referring to the need for a "Muslim Reformation" of sorts. But these "calls" seemed to be coming predominately from outside the Muslim sphere, not from within. Now, six and half years later the problem of radical Islam seems worse, not better. Maybe it was always there and 9/11 just brought it home, so to speak.

I believe there has been a great deal of equivocation within the Muslim sphere. Though I see it more abroad than in the U.S., there may be a growing problem here as well.

Case in point: PBS aired a discussion a while back (I can provide a link) in which a prominent Imam who heads a large Mosque in Maryland, Imam Shaker Elsayed, refused to denounce the use of terror in Israel when pressed on the issue by a Muslim student from Georgetown University.

When leaders of our Muslim communities in the U.S. equivocate on such matters, I have to wonder if the calls that you or others on the "outside" are making really matter to those on the "inside" who actually have the power to influence their devotees.

As others here have suggested inaction, equivocation and silence can be construed as being complicit in the radicalization phenomenon.

I believe many of us hope that there will be a swelling chorus of voices raised in the name of a compelling and peaceful rendition of Islam. But it's got to be piu forte e con forza!

(I feel like composing.)

David Eaton

Gary L Jarmin said...

Thanks. I did read your analysis and am in total agreement. Just want to add a few thoughts:

These young radical Muslims sort of reminds me of the Black Panthers and other radical types of the 60's. When one feels oppressed and alienated from society, this creates a sense of anger and hopelessness. Thus, such people are easy prey for an "ideology" that enables people to vent their anger and hate through violent means as an ennobled, higher calling. In other words, violence is elevated to a sacred duty. It clears one conscience from having any guilt because they are doing Allah's work of eliminating the enemies of Islam--killing "infidels" becomes a moral and spiritual imperative.

Not all but many of the Back Panther types I fought in the 60's were no more than your typical street thugs who would have been engaged in doing violence no matter what...they were disposed in that direction anyway. Huey Newton was a classic example of this. But Marxism and the "revolution" now gave them a legitimacy/justification for expressing their anger and alienation through violent means. It also enhanced their self esteem; they were now a somebody with a cause and no longer an irrelevant nobody from the ghetto.

Yes, genuine and respected Muslim leaders need to step up to the plate and counter this radical Jihadist perversion of Islam. But they are afraid to do so; not only for their own lives but out of fear of ostracism within their communities and being perceived as an "Uncle Tom" or sell-out to the "Crusaders."

The question is how do we empower the good guys? I don't really have an answer but suspect, for starters, they need to understand how enormously destructive these radicals are to the image of Muslims and their religion. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has lost a lot of support not only from Muslims there but also from throughout the Muslim world because they overplayed their hand through too much violence directed at many thousands of innocent Muslims. They have turned Islam into a perverse, murderous and nihilistic religion and most Muslims are now rejecting this...they understand now how destructive the Jihadists have become. The only way to overcome bad theology is with good theology.

If the US can also help broker a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis, that may help neutralize some of the anger, But that, as well as our relations with Iran and Syria, the chief sponsors of Hamas and Hezbollah, need more creative engagement. It's a complicated mess. Ultimately it comes down to bringing the Abrahamic faiths together or getting them to agree to coexist in a mutually respectful way. Obviously, we have a long way to go to achieve this end...we just have to keep trying.

Gary

Gunnard said...

The problem of "radicalized Islamic youth in the U.K." is not just one of "too strong, too radical" Islam in the U.K. as much as it is a "too weak, too watered-down" is Christianity in the U.K.

I get the BBC where I live in eastern Europe, and in a edgy comedy series some months back -- about a Machiavellian Public Relations director of a PR firm -- the question regarding who should become the new Archbishop of Canterbury (a purely "fictional" event for the TV program) came from an African clergy member of the Anglican communion: "Are there no heterosexuals left in the Church of England?"

The steady watering-down of the basic, fundamental Christian faith and precepts has dumbed down the Church of England -- and indeed most of Christianity practiced in England -- to the point where no self-respecting Muslim, Jew, or any other religious practitioner would even *want* to follow these "spiritual leaders" of the British Realm.

Sad, sad, sad. Until the Church of England cleans up its own house, the attraction of other religions, particularly the most militant ones, will continue to rocket upward, even as the traditional Christianity of England falls down deeper into irrelevance.

This is particularly troublesome among the young, sincere members of faiths other than Christianity because it makes the Christian faith seem weak, corrupt, and even passe.

This is a wake-up call if there ever was one.

Gunnard Johnston
Vilnius, Lithuania

Virendra Verma said...

Dear Frank,
I would like to add need for liberal Islamic institutions which are well versed in traditions in Britain. The young men and women are likely to be influenced more by these credible instituions which care for Islamic culture.

The examples of Aligarh Muslim University and Deoband in India. In Feb 2008 end an anti terrorism convention was organised by Darul Uloom Deoband attended by all major clerics. It passed a resolution noting," Islam sternly condemns all kinds of oppression, violence and terrorism."

The youth look for credible directions not by 'secular' individuals but by those who are deeply ingrained in their traditions. It takes time to develop but start should be made for such institutions in Uk and USA.

Virendra Verma
New Delhi

David said...

To Gary,

I agree with your perspective to a point. Yes, many of these young, disenfranchised people are reacting to injustices and have found "legitimized" channels to vent their anger though organizations like Hamas or the Taliban. Being engaged in jihad against the infidels is obviously a heady trip.

However, the Black Panthers, SDS, etc. directed their rage against their government's policies and injustices. Radical Islam directs its rage at everyone (including moderates of their own faith tradition) because the purveyors of the jihad sell their young recruits on the idea that the West, America and the Jews are the causes of their suffering when in fact it's often the failures of their own leaders (Arafat, Saddam) that prolongs their agony and hopelessness.

And, the Panthers and SDS were not using religion as a justification for their revolutionary tactics.

Empowering the good guys is obviously an important aspect of this struggle and more of that is needed. Not tolerating intolerable behavior in the name of one's religion remains a key issue for me, thus giving greater support to moderate, progressive types in Islam is a good starting point.

David Eaton

Professor Mumtaz Ahmad said...

I like your comments in the Leaves on the British Muslims and radicalization. I have visited some of the cities in UK where many of these radical youth come from; economic conditions are not as bad as those of the North African Muslim communities in France, but the sense of alienation from both the "back-home" culture of their parents as well as from the host culture and society is strikingly pervasive. They cannot identify with the religio-cultural baggage that their parents brought with them from Pakistan and Bangladesh, for example, and the host society is not yet ready to accept them as equal and "British." Hence, they tend to universalize their identity with the "E-Umma," the world-wide Islamic community that exists on the internet and is willing to accept them as virtual brothers. Many of them jobless -- or doing low-paid, part-time jobs -- have ample time to surf the net and be influenced by radical websites and also become aware of what is happening to Muslims in Ghaza, Iraq and Afghanistan. These are dangerous combinations. The British authorities seem to have responded to these issues by contacting the Muslim community leaders to "re-educate" these youth and re-make them into "moderate" Muslims. There are two problems with this approach to remedy the situation: one, it frames the issue as purely religious and ignores the socio-economic factors that create conditions of alienation; and, second, it relies on the Muslim community leaders for their re-education, ignoring the fact that it is precisely the community leadership against which is one of the targets of their rebellion.

Mumtaz

Imam Haitham Bundakji said...

Your reply to the article of The Times of India was very effective, complete and excellent, you have answered as well as any great Muslim scholar especially when you identified the difference between Islam as a religion and Muslims as individuals supposedly following the religion of Islam.

I greet you and greet your true understanding of true Islam and Muslims and your love for peace and humanity. I conclude by sending you best regards and that of my Muslim community you are a true friend of Muslims, Christians and Jews and of all peace loving in the world. Keep up the good work! May God bless you.

Imam Haitham Bundakji

Sara Horsfall said...

Frank,

It didn't seem to me that either the Times of India (very short) comment or your response really had a grasp of the situation.

1. There is resentment (somewhat justifiable) of western (US and Europe) dominance on the world scene - from economics to culture to politics. There is very little place for contribution from other parts of the world, or other views of life in our growing world culture. One reason for acts of terrorism is to bring the world's attention to the existence of another way of life, another culture with different values. Wrong way to do it, but good point.

2. According to Nooni Darwish ("Now They Call Me Infidel"), a former Muslim from Egypt, most of the Muslims that she grew up with didn't know a whole lot about Islam. They didn't even know that Judaism and Islam had similar roots. Nor did they know that Jews once inhabited Jerusalem and built their temple there. Hard to believe, until you remember that our level of education is not the same as in many other countries.

3. Again according to Nooni Darwish (she gives the most compelling arguments and supporting facts that I have run across so far) Mosques in the US are dominated by radical Muslims, so that more moderate Muslims either become swept into their web, or cease going to Mosque. After a brief experience, Ms Darwish not only didn't go to Mosque, she eventually converted to Christianity. There is no compromising position available. I wouldn't be surprised if the same is true of Mosques in England.

4. The so-called "moderate" Muslims don't speak up out of fear. Even in the US or Europe.

When these items are combined, it makes sense that impressionable young people, with anger and resentment, find the radical views satisfying. All they know about Islam, about Christianity and about world politics they learn from their radical mentors. And whatever youthful anger they have is fanned into political action.

There is one more factor.

Fundamentalism -whether Christian or Muslim - speaks to a more personal side. It offers greater meaning, often some kind of spiritual experiences, and gives a personal place and way to participate in something larger. Traditional religions - whether Christianity or Islam - tend to focus on institutional things, which becomes laced with power, position, status, and other non-religious factors, and the little person often has no place or way to participate.

So what is the solution? Difficult to say.
Education is essential.
Time is important - it is always a great healer.
And perhaps a few laws to prevent violence.
Beyond that, what can I say?

Cheers!
Sara

Cynthia Mahjoub said...

Hi Frank,

I believe there are several big issues. When Stalin took over, he handed out bread and pencils. The older people still talk of those pencils. He handed out sustenance for the physical body and for the mind. Because the greater part of the old Soviet population was Muslim, the west could learn a great deal by studying history.

The mono-cultural ghettos in Britain came about because the society at large could not assimilate individual families into it's society. It has not been able to follow through on the offer of bread and pencils to individuals or individual families.

I don't believe holding Muslim clerics responsible will make much difference. Christian ministers don't all teach the same thing. Some are quite radical. And Christian ministers can't control the behavior of their congregations either.

Europeans see Muslims as a tribal people and inferior; So the best thing would be to educate people about Islam and Muslim culture through the churches and schools and open educational events to the public. Even showing videos about the positive aspects of Muslim culture would be beneficial. Only after attitudes change and there is even a legal sense of equality, can Muslim people have hope for a good future in a western society. (One time my husband was in Belgium and there was a sign on a storefront: "No dogs or Tunisians.")

The one thing that will never be acceptable to a Muslim is the sexually loose way Europeans and Americans live. Western society at large is a big threat to Muslim culture. Yes, there are many Muslims that live loosely, but by that definition there are not Muslim. Muslims associate even the benefits of western society with moral laxity. There have to be western people who stand for moral purity and thereby reduce the fear that adopting to western ways leads to immorality.

Benazir Bhutto said that the west should have been the ones to set up food and medical programs in places where radical Islam sprang up, because no matter what was taught, if the local people had the personal experience of being helped by western people, by being fed or given medical care, they would have formed their own conclusions about the west, and radical Islam could not have grown.

There is also the issue of women's rights. If Muslim women were educated and had independent financial means, after their children were a certain age, they could be involved with society on a larger level. All women want peace and a safe environment for their children and grandchildren. The same could be said for western women. Financial support has to be given to organizations of women throughout the world. But, not organizations of women run by men.

The western world is in a perilous time.

Best,

Cynthia

Lloyd Eby said...

Dear Frank,

Your response to the piece in the Times of India seems to me to be mostly a good one. Your point that this is an outgrowth of political, economic, cultural, and historical factors is true.

But I do think, however, that more attention needs to be given to the question whether this radicalism is a genuine outgrowth of central points in Islam – in other words, whether it is a religious expression of Central Islamic tenets – or whether this is just an aberration. In order to investigate that question adequately one would need, I think, to examine thoroughly the writings and work of such figures as Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, Sayyid Qutb, and others like them and those following in their wake, to see whether they are correct in their (radical and militant) understanding of Islam, or whether this expression of Islam is a perverse distortion of the religion. Of course, this raises the question of just what is authentic Islam and who has the right or authority to say or pronounce on that topic.

Whether we like it or not, Islam today is mostly a harmful and poisonous thing in its relationship to and action on the non-Islamic world. Why is that happening?

It is true that at one time in human history, say from perhaps about 800 c.e. to perhaps about 1400 c.e., Islam and Islamic culture and civilization were ahead in every way of the West or what is now called Christendom – in mathematics, the sciences, bookmaking and publication, the arts, architecture, philosophy, treatment of Jews, etc. But then Islam and the Islamic world fell behind, never to re-emerge. Why did it fall behind? It can’t be simply because of wars and conquests on the Muslim world by the West and Christendom, although that is undoubtedly part of the answer, but there must be something within Islam itself, or at least within the minds and culture of the majority of Muslims, that caused this to occur. What was it? Why is the Muslim world still behind in all those ways and more?

At least one additional factor seems to me to be of paramount importance: the Islamic/Muslim world’s perception of and treatment of women. There is something about women and especially female sexuality that frightened and unhinged Qutb and – seemingly anyway – most of the Islamic/Muslim world to this day. Why cannot male Muslims accept freedom of women, with its accompanying display, at least to some extent, of female sexuality? Why is this so threatening to them?

You write, “It is not sufficient merely to proof-text or reiterate ad nauseum the incessant declaration that Islam is a religion of peace, and that Islam means peace. It is necessary to compete with the appeal, devotion, and ideological ardor invested in the thought systems generated by militant and violent preachers and recruiters.”

I think that is correct. But can Muslim leaders, educators, and parents really supply a good and sufficient answer to the threats coming from the radical fringe – but a growing fringe that is increasingly powerful and militant and destructive – or is there something within their own religious/cultural/ideological/social structure and situation that mitigates against their being able to do this? I admit that I don’t know, but the fact that these non-radical Muslims – who are in the great majority today – have not done this suggests to me that the answer to my question is yes.

Can Islam become a blessing and a boon to the world? Or is it fated only to become more and more of a menace to the non-Muslim world? That question may seem too simple, and too quick to present this issue in stark either/or terms. But that’s the way it mostly plays out today in the streets and salons of the non-Muslim world.

It seems to me that those are the questions that need to be asked and answered by the non-radical mainstream of Islam, and that it won’t do for the Muslim world to minimize or dismiss these questions or to blame them on the non-Muslim world.

For hundreds and even a thousand years or more, Christianity and Christendom behaved horribly toward Muslims, Jews, native peoples, and even other Christians. But after a long period of this evil behavior, culminating in the Holocaust, Christianity and Christendom finally changed, repented of the evil, and developed notions of tolerance, mutual respect, and separation of religious and civil (state) authority.

Can Islam make that change? Can Muslims realize that this change is necessary and move toward making the necessary changes instead of being reactionary and insisting on its way? What will be required for it to do so?

I think the non-Muslim world cannot answer or solve those problems. Instead, they must be faced and solved within Islam and the Islamic world itself. That can’t happen so long as people within Islam and/or the Islamic world who raise difficult questions and/or propound difficult or unpopular answers and theories – including Salman Rushdie – have fatwas issued against them, and so long as true freedom of speech and publication (of even what many people think are the most vile or offensive things) and true freedom of religion (including conversion from Islam to anything else) are denied or suppressed within the Muslim world and Muslim/Islamic culture.

Lloyd Eby

Anonymous said...

My Brother Frank,

Again, thanks for your well reasoned arguments.
Having missed this article for a spell my response is tardy.
At the end of the age we know confusion reigns, endemic in this time are messages to those who are awake. It's true a multitude of factors play a role in the current world Islamic dilemma but one view we may overlook is that a seedbed exists for confusion and revolt against the lack of values perceived in the West. Good men must respond with in and with out of Islam. Truth transcends all and should be a primary tool used to address radicalism in all it's derivations. We, as Unificationists, must look inside ourselves and use the Messianic Thought given to humanity and utilize it's power of persuasive heart to establish a base for cooperation and the necessary collaboration to guide the way, as it were, in concert with peace loving people everywhere. The moment we have been prepared for has come.
I know this sounds overly idealistic but I do not think we have hit the level of our incompetence but need to reassess our calling and continue our sincere and diligent effort to find others much like our selves who resonate with the crying out for the sensibility and efficacy of universally held values espoused by many, none the least those who espouse the religion of peace and our own spiritual leadership.
This is the age also of attendance through recognition. What is more coherent than the application of principled living by ever increasing families of True Love?
Let us put things in proper perspective, if you live in the Kingdom it much easier to exemplify it and expand it.
We need to grow spiritually and share the True Glory of the God with in. Certainly this is a process not an event but transformation within the heart and the home is the only sure way to change the fallen world. Until we have ownership of this basic yet most challenging reality we will ever search for other answers. We have the core teaching and we should use it everyday to bring the great power of heavenly love to others, little by little transformation will take place. Not naively going forward but with confidence as many are prepared to aid in the journey in both worlds. Critical mass is coming, lets keep the faith and live the ideal.
In the interim, keep writing your articles and we'll keep reading..
Blessings, Steve

Anonymous said...

My Brother Frank,

Again, thanks for your well reasoned arguments.
Having missed this article for a spell my response is tardy.
At the end of the age we know confusion reigns, endemic in this time are messages to those who are awake. It's true a multitude of factors play a role in the current world Islamic dilemma but one view we may overlook is that a seedbed exists for confusion and revolt against the lack of values perceived in the West. Good men must respond with in and with out of Islam. Truth transcends all and should be a primary tool used to address radicalism in all it's derivations. We, as Unificationists, must look inside ourselves and use the Messianic Thought given to humanity and utilize it's power of persuasive heart to establish a base for cooperation and the necessary collaboration to guide the way, as it were, in concert with peace loving people everywhere. The moment we have been prepared for has come.
I know this sounds overly idealistic but I do not think we have hit the level of our incompetence but need to reassess our calling and continue our sincere and diligent effort to find others much like our selves who resonate with the crying out for the sensibility and efficacy of universally held values espoused by many, none the least those who espouse the religion of peace and our own spiritual leadership.
This is the age also of attendance through recognition. What is more coherent than the application of principled living by ever increasing families of True Love?
Let us put things in proper perspective, if you live in the Kingdom it much easier to exemplify it and expand it.
We need to grow spiritually and share the True Glory of the God with in. Certainly this is a process not an event but transformation within the heart and the home is the only sure way to change the fallen world. Until we have ownership of this basic yet most challenging reality we will ever search for other answers. We have the core teaching and we should use it everyday to bring the great power of heavenly love to others, little by little transformation will take place. Not naively going forward but with confidence as many are prepared to aid in the journey in both worlds. Critical mass is coming, lets keep the faith and live the ideal.
In the interim, keep writing your articles and we'll keep reading..
Blessings, Steve

Tom Heneghan said...

You might be interested in Henry Kissinger's new domino theory about Iraq and radical Islam in India. On the FaithWorld blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2008/05/27/kissinger-iraq-and-indias-muslims-a-new-domino-theory/