Friday, September 22, 2006

The Need to Disconnect Islam from Fanaticism

In response to my earlier post on the military coup in Thailand and the rekindling of the Islamist insurgency in that country, Oskar Syahbana, who blogs at, attacked me in the comments as an "Islamophobe." I had commented earlier on his blog, in his post on the Thai coup, leaving a plain, innocuous remark about Thai Premiere Thakin Shinawatra, saying:

Thaksin sounds like a hack who clearly needed to be replaced, through parliamentary forms rather than military. Another implication here not mentioned is that Thailand’s facing an Islamist insurgency which will likely kick-up due to regime instability. The Thai police regularly open fire on protesters during demonstrations, so let’s hope that the coup is indeed “temporary,” that legitimate authority is restored quickly to keep economic and political development on track, and that the Islamist threat is tamped-down before a crackdown darkens the streets there any further.
In response to being called an Islamophobe, I asked Oskar, "does not the Koran advocate the killing of Islam's ememies...?" I never did get a response to this query, though I did get a bunch of blather on how Islamic violence was perpetuated in "self-defense...after being invaded first."

To my knowledge, I've never had a Muslim commentator here, but if this exchange is any indication, with Pope Benedict's hope for interfaith dialogue in mind, and especially his call for Muslim introspection as to the nature of Islamic violence, I won't be holding my breath, waiting for some enlightenment.

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Reuel Marc Gerecht noted that Benedict was right about Islam's struggle with modernity, and the pathologies this struggle creates in contemporary Muslims:

The prophet Muhammad, the model for all Muslims, established the faith through war and conquest. His immediate successors, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, whom traditional and radical Muslims cherish, reinforced Islam's identity as a victorious faith through the rapid creation of a world empire. Christianity was also at times spread by "the sword," and its use of that sword against nonbelievers and heretics was more savage than any Muslim imperialist's. But Christianity was not born to power. Jesus is not a conqueror. The doctrine of the "two swords" always existed in Christian lands--the division of the world between church and state--and created enormous tension. It helped produce Western civic society. And the image of God in Islam, which the pope underscores by talking about the Muslim philosopher Ibn Hazm, is a cleaner expression of unlimited, almighty Will than it is in Christianity. Islam is akin to biblical Judaism in accentuating the unnuanced, transcendent awe of God. When radical Muslims take a hold of this divine fearsomeness, it can untether itself quickly from "conventional" morality, thereby allowing young men to believe that the slaughter of women and children isn't an abomination. In that sense, Muslim jihadism, like fascism, rewrites our ethical DNA, turning sin into virtue.
Note also what the Jerusalem Post had to say about Islamic violence in its Monday editorial:

The best way to disconnect Islam from its fanatic, intolerant, expansionist and exclusionist image is of course to sever the connection with violence. Christians and Jews don't dispatch suicide bombers to martyr themselves in God's name; they don't issue death sentences against nonconformist authors or threaten proponents of alternative views. Only Muslims nowadays practice the ideology of hate and seek to impose a worldwide theocracy.

Muslims who think otherwise need to be heard. They need to be heard, right now, unequivocally rejecting Mahdi Akaf, chief of the World Muslim Brotherhood, who has accused the pope of no less than "deliberately pouring oil on the flames of honorable Muslim fury which he ignited. The pope endangers the peace of the world."
I invite Oskar or any others of the Muslim religion to join in some interfaith dialogue right here. Let's hear you denounce Islamic violence and recognize that no matter how wrong any particular American policy toward Mideast nations may have been, nothing justifies the heinous, indiscriminate, and routine murders of civilians in New York and Washington in 2001, Madrid in 2004, and London in 2005 -- to take just a few cases from fundamentalist Islam's many recent examples of the barbarism.

There it is -- let's let the dialogue begin.

No comments: