Islam, Part III
Well, it''s time to get my plane ticket out of here.....
Actually, in his press conference of 12/8, President Clinton was
asked for his opinion of the WTO fiasco in Seattle and he gave his
usual defense of free trade (which I agree with him on, up to an
extent). He said that clearly a large reason for the prosperity we
are currently experiencing is due to the opening up of markets to
our products and vice versa. He then went on to say that one of
the reasons why many of the nations of the Middle East and
Africa are behind the more developed nations is because of their
attitude towards free trade. He might as well just have said that
Islam has been a major reason why these nations continue to lag.
Now, before I continue, when one speaks of Islam today you
invariably think of Islamic Fundamentalists. And, to paraphrase
Jack Wheeler from the 11/25 chapter, it''s these adherents who
seem bent on destroying that which they can not achieve for
Look around the world and take a roll.
Libya - Loser
Algeria - Loser
Egypt - Loser
Sudan - Brutal Loser
Iran - Loser (but has potential...if they don''t kill us first)
Iraq - Loser (see Iran)
Syria - Loser
Saudi Arabia - Material wealth but little freedom
Kuwait - (see Saudi Arabia)
Jordan - Heroic Loser (I did admire King Hussein)
Afghanistan - Brutal Loser
Pakistan - Loser
Indonesia - Loser (Had potential...then lost it)
...just to name a few.
And it''s not as if there are positive developments taking place
Kuwait - The parliament just rejected a bill giving women the
right to vote and seek office. It is the only Muslim democratic
(use term loosely) country where women can not vote. And
American''s risked their lives for them?!
Iran - In 1997 they elect a moderate, President Khatami. Now
Khatami''s good friend, and fellow reformer, Abdollah Nouri, has
been jailed for speaking out against the true power in Iran, the
Clerics. In addition, the Clinton administration has learned that
Iran''s support of terrorism is on the rise again.
Afghanistan - The ruling Taliban government is a brutal,
totalitarian regime that is harboring the terrorist, Osama bin
Laden. Plus they are the leading exporter of heroin in the world.
(As much as 90% of the heroin used in Europe comes from here).
The Taliban severely subjugates women, including forbidding
them from working and attending school. The fact that only 3
governments in the world recognize this regime speaks volumes.
And the names of the three speak volumes as well; Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
The Holy Book of Islam is the Koran (correct spelling is Qur''an),
the book of revelations as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by
the angel Gabriel. The interpretation shouldn''t be left to chance.
Most of the historians I have referred to also acknowledge that
the Koran is as intact as any of the holy works. [See 11/25 for
the Five Basic Pillars]. The problem in interpreting the religion
also lies in ones interpretation of the role of Muhammad.
Historian Arnold Toynbee (I always heard about this guy in
college, now I know why I didn''t read him) says that the public
career of Muhammad falls into two sharply distinct and seemingly
contradictory chapters. "In the first he is occupied in preaching a
religious revelation by methods of pacific evangelization (this was
when he was mostly in Mecca per my previous articles); in the
second chapter he is occupied in building up a political and
military power and in using this power in the very way which, in
other cases, has turned out disastrous for a religion that takes to
What is troubling in any discussion of modern-day Islamic
thought is the fact that Islam''s founder, Muhammad, was a
successful businessman. So why do so many of the leaders reject
this? Toynbee, who wrote his treatises over 40 years ago, puts it
"(Once Muhammad reached Medina after the "hejira" from
Mecca) he used his new-found material power for the purpose of
enforcing conformity with at any rate the outward observances of
the religion which he had founded in the previous chapter of his
career. On this showing, the hejira ought to mark the date of the
ruin of Islam and not the date consecrated as that of its
foundation. How are we to explain the hard fact that a religion
which was launched on the world as the militant faith of a
barbarian war-band should have succeeded in becoming a
Toynbee calls the revelations "crude and casual assertions of the
Prophet." "God is all-powerful. Man should respond to God''s
Will by acts as well as faith. God is the direct cause of all that
happens in the universe."
"Fundamentalism" refers to the idea that Muslims should try to
return to the teaching and practice of the Prophet or to the idea
that the Koran alone provided the norm of human life. Of course
the militant Islamic Fundamentalists of today feel they have the
right to interpret the Koran freely.
Author Albert Hourani writes that it is only recently that Islam
has strayed from its basic precepts.
"There had always existed a sense of common destiny among
those who had inherited the religion of Islam - a belief that the
Koran, the Tradition of the Prophet and the shari''a (the law)
could provide the principles according to which a virtuous life in
common should be organized. By the 1980s the Islamic language
had become more prominent in political discourse than it had
been a decade or two earlier. (There was a vast migration into
the cities) which led to a sense of alienation (since the rural
migrants could no longer carry forward their local traditions).
But this sense of alienation could be counterbalanced by that of
belonging to a universal community of Islam, in which certain
moral values were implicit, and this provided a language in terms
of which they could express their grievances and aspirations."
"Those who wished to arouse them to action had to use the same
language. Islam could provide an effective language of
opposition: to western power and influence, and they appealed to
those who were shut out of the power and prosperity of the new
societies; and in response regimes began to use the language of
religion more than before."
The Proud...The Weak. They can''t compete on the economic
playing field so the outlaw Islamic regimes tout weapons of mass
destruction as the great equalizer. Or as Toynbee puts is, "The
least inhuman form of inhumanity is apt to be displayed by
representatives of a successfully aggressive civilization in whose
culture-pattern religion is the governing and orienting
element....The underdogs inferiority can be cured by religious
conversion, and in many cases the top-dogs have exerted
themselves to effect this cure, perhaps even against their own
Too bad that President Clinton didn''t have this quote at his
fingertips during his press conference.
Next week we wrap this up with some quotes from Islamic texts.
"A Study of History," by Arnold Toynbee
"A History of the Arab Peoples," by Albert Hourani