Friday, February 9, 2007


I've been reading "Islam Unveiled" by Robert Spencer.  As I stated in one of my previous posts, I purchased this book in an effort to learn more about Islam, and hopefully, to reduce the fear I have of the religion and its adherents.  Unfortunately, the knowledge is having the opposite effect: it is increasing my fear rather than diminishing it.  Islam, when looked at coolly, non-rhetorically, and without apology, is as bellicose as the terrorists (Al Qaeda, Hamas, PLO, Hizbollah, Mujahedin, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, et. al.) suggest it is; that far from being Islamic "fundamentalists" i.e., marginalized on the fringe, they are far closer to mainstream Islamic belief and practice than leaders in the West want to accept. 

Fear is the motivating factor here.  We are Ostriches.  We may not be involved in a war with Islam, but Spencer makes a case that Islam is engaged in a war with us.  He cites numerous statements by Imams and clerics both in the West and in the Middle East which support this thesis, some of them sufficiently highly placed that they are invited to prayer meetings at the White House.  We want to believe that the terrorists (see the above list) are abberations, that they do not reflect true Islam, that the majority of Muslims accept the Koran as poetic metaphor and not the literal Word of God, and have an enlightened disregard for the Koran's constant, insistent calls for violence against the infidel.

But that does not seem to be the case, proven by even a cursory reading of the Koran.  Full disclosure: I have not read the Koran, nor do I anticipate doing so.  But Spencer quotes liberally from the book and I am convinced of his scholarship.  To call Osama Bin Laden an Islamic Fundamentalist is to infer that violence and terrorism are "fundamental" values to Islam.  And that may be true, uncomfortably for the Western rationalist.  More to follow.

1 comment:

phasvold said...

Good points. My comment would be that our goal should be to let go of fear, because we hate what we fear, and hate will consume our life. But we can't let go of fear simply by disciplining the mind, as much as by living in such a way that fear is no longer the logical response.

In our confrontation of terrorism, we seem to have two choices: neutralize it by force, or neutralize it by alliance and understanding. The current administration has been more comfortable taking the force approach, and we have seen that it is not likely to be effective, so that we will continue to live in fear as long as such people are in power. We need to insist on an administration that takes an approach of diplomacy, building alliances with the "axis of evil".

As far-fetched as it seems, if we think back to the Cold War, it would have seemed just as far-fetched to imagine how popular some Russians, especially sports personalities such as tennis star Maria Sharapova, are now in the US. It can work, but only with an administration that truly embraces the need to build accord. The result will eventually be that we no longer have to fear (and thus hate) Iran, Iraq and North Korea, because they will no longer have to fear and hate us.

But that depends on the American people being willing to elect someone who plans to seek diplomacy with Al Qaeda, an approach for which the American people do not seem to be ready. The solution may be that life will need to imitate art, with art leading the way. The creative media will need to create movies and TV with characters from those cultures, with whom people can relate sympathetically, and only then will the American people be able to accept the approach of diplomacy, rather than force, with those whom we hate and fear.