Thursday, May 04, 2006

Who speaks for the religion of peace?

The MJS editorial board thinks folks should go to the open house at the Islamic Center and there's nothing wrong with that. I am sure that it will provide an opportunity to learn about Islam and how it is interpreted and practiced by the people who run the Islamic Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

What it won't do is tell us much about the Islamofascism that is the single largest threat to global security and individual freedom. The editors are concerned that the public "misunderstands" Islam, citing the following poll results:

A Washington Post-ABC News poll in early March showed negative views of Islam have grown and that many Americans believe that Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims. An independent poll by the Council on American-Islamic Relations last month had one in four Americans believing that Islam is a religion of hatred and violence ...."

This, according to the editors, amounts to "misperception" and "ignorance." I wish it were that simple.

The fact of the matter is that, for a very large number of Muslims in the world, Islam does call for infidels to be violently subdued and brought under Islamic rule. Perhaps they are distorting "true" Islam. Certainly there have been plenty of distortions of Christianity.

Of course, there is also reason to believe that Islam lends itself more readily to violent "distortions." Jesus preached nonviolence and died on a cross. Muhammed preached the spread of the faith by the sword and practiced what he preached. Islam, moreover, does not have the same tradition of nonliteral interpretation of its foundational text. Christians have, for most of their history, generally believed that the Bible is inspired, but is not God's dictation. (It is the "Word of God" in the "words of men.") Islam believes the Koran is an unmediated message from God. And there is a lot in the Koran that seemingly advocates violent spread of the faith.

(You can read a brief discussion of some of that here.)

But let's assume that a proper understanding of all that really does leave us with a "Religion of Peace." I hope it does. My perception is that for a majority of Muslims in the United States, this is precisely what Islam is. We didn't have cartoon riots.

But the fact remains that a large part of the Muslim word doesn't see it that way and recognizing that is not a "misperception" or "misunderstanding." What is "ignorant" is the refusal to see things as they are.

As I have blogged before, the left is half right when it criticizes the term "War in Terror." Terrorism is a tactic, not an objective. But while they think the term is a non sequitur, it is actually a circumlocution.

It has always seemed to me that many of us are perilously close to saying that we ought to deny the obvious nature of the enemy in the "War on Terror" because it would encourage antipathy toward many Muslims who have nothing to do with terror. I sympathize with that.

But here's a good rule for life. Denying the self-evident never works. Trying to pretend that terror is not about Islam relieves (actually, if you think about it, tends to prevent) moderate Muslims from the aggressive disavowal of Islamofascism that is necessary.

The MJS editiorial board cites an author who thinks that equating terror with Islam leads to bad policies like the invasion of Iraq, when all we really need to do is "catch" whoever was involved in 9-11 or other terrorist acts.

He's got it exactly backward. Equating terrorism with a certain type of Islam allows us to understand its "root causes" and move to eliminate them. The invasion of Iraq was an attempt to remove a regime that everyone agrees was involved (perhaps cynically) with encouraging Islamofascist terrorism (which is not limited to the 9-11 attack) and to introduce an alternative type of society in the Middle East. The apparent existence of WMDs and Saddam's record of aggression was part of that, but it wasn't all of that. We probably won't know whether this attempt worked for a number of years.

But when the "enemy" is a movement, merely catching the perpetrators doesn't win the war. For everyone we catch, five more will walk out of the desert. Whatever his shortcomings, Bush understands that. Pity that more of us don't.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It appears you have something of an open mind about the local Islamic Center's open house. That's a good thing. You are a teacher and a writer, so it's good to see that you are at least comfortable with the center's outreach.

I notice that you sometimes link to the conservative blogger Jessica McBride. She is also a teacher and a writer, but she posted on her site an item about the open house that showed her to be closed-minded.

And ignorant of the community she lives in, let alone about Islam, about which she engaged in some easy generalization.

Are all Catholics blood-thirsty because of the Inquisition? Are all southerners bigoted because of the Civil War and racism?

Was Timothy McVeigh or Lt. Calley typical of all US soldiers?

Does she know that Grover Norquist is married to a muslim?

Perhaps there are shades of grey to the world that McBride sees only as black and white. And about which she tells us she really knows very little.

Since one cannot post on her site, maybe she will see this.