23 September 2010

Will the Real Islam Please Stand Up

In a previous post (What is Moderate Islam?) I claimed that Islamofascism will eventually be overcome by real Islam. This raises the question of just what is real Islam?

The easy answer, attempted by the Salafists, is  that real Islam was what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Companions (the Salafs, may God be pleased with them) practiced. But even those Salafists who live on the Arabian peninsula are separated from the Salafs by 1400 years of time. Even though there are records from that time (the Qur'an and the Sunnah - deeds - and Hadith - sayings of the Prophet) and a continuous living practice of Islam, not everything from that time can be recorded, and traditions change subtly or not so subtly over time. If they did not, the Salafists would not be calling for a return the Islam of the past.

The Salafists consider the past 1400 years of change to be contrary to the Will of God. But God created Time, and God ordained that the Prophet and his Companions should die after living ordinary lifespans. It is apparently God's Will that these people should be no longer with us, and that traditions should evolve.

Given that, the accident of geography seems insignificant. After 1400 years, why should Arabian Islam be considered superior to the Islam of Malaysia, or Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion? Indeed, the saddling of religion with the baggage of culture has always been an impediment to the adoption of religion. Christianity did not become widespread in China, India, or Japan because Christian missionaries for the most part insisted that converts to Christianity practice European Christianity, with European cultural values. Had they been flexible enough to let Christianity take on the cultural accoutrements of Asia, world history might have been different.

Islam on the other hand, has taken on the styles and interpretations of the cultures in which it has become widespread. There are many Islams, and all of them are authentic, including American Islam.

As Paul Johnson notes in his History of Christianity, American religions may differ on matters of faith, but all agree to minimum standards of public moral behavior. This consensus has become strained as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered lifestyles are accepted into the mainstream, and as premarital sex and abortion have become common. But there is still wide consensus that there should be a consensus. American Muslims participate in and help shape this consensus along side American Christians, Jews, atheists, and all other Americans.

In other words, the battle lines are drawn up around a minimal rule set (an idea taken over by Thomas P. M. Barnett in The Pentagon's New Map). Matters of religion itself are not part of the fight - they are in the realm of persuasion, or dawa, as Muslims call it. Living under the more numerous and stricter rules of a particular religion (e.g., Sharia for Muslims, Halacha for Jews) is voluntary for the members of that religion, and simply does not apply to members of other religions.

It is the willingness to coexist, neither dominating other religions nor being dominated by them, that American Muslims can take to the world. This, it seems to me, is what Imam Faisal Rauf is trying to promulgate, despite his unfortunate choice of location for the finger he wishes to stick in the eye of the Islamofascists.

There is a great deal of talk about peace in Islam. Muslims greet one another with "Peace be with you." American Muslims have an idea of how to make that peace a reality.

21 September 2010

Revive the Pillory

Pillory, courtesy of Florida Center
for Instructional Technology
I'm disgusted with the meaningless squabbling between Democrats and Republicans. Perhaps I should be more tolerant, given that this is an election year. But election years only turn up the volume without adding any depth to the content.

Both parties believe that multi-thousand page laws aren't a kind of tyranny as long as they're written by unelected technocrats, and that throwing away money won't bankrupt the country as long as the amounts are in the billions.

Both parties believe that whatever the issue, they must somehow differentiate themselves from (in other words fight against) each other. The Republicans position themselves as the Party of Law, and the Democrats position themselves as the Party of License. Neither is the Party of Liberty.

Liberty demands a strong society, with a strong economy, made up of people who can understand the laws by which they consent to be governed. "It's too complicated for the public," is an idea that the would-be ruling classes use to bamboozle the ruled into abdicating their citizenship in favor of technology-enhanced serfdom.

I think Henry Kissenger's remark about the Iran-Iraq war applies to the Republicans and the Democrats. He said, "It's a pity that both sides can't lose."

I would like to see a successful third party. But the Tea Party is so far pushing the Republicans rightward with unelectable candidates. The New Whigs don't know what they stand for. The Greens are really the Watermelons (green on the outside, red, i.e., Communist on the inside), and the Libertarians take libertarianism too far toward an ideal that could only have been realized before the Industrial Revolution. How about a New Federalist Party that simply wants to delegate more money, power, authority, and autonomy from the Federal Government back to the States? I don't want the old-fashioned "States' Rights that gave us the Civil War, and subsequent segregation. I just want a sharing of responsibility so that the system can function without thousand-page laws.

I'd also like to get rid of gerrymandering and the term limits that gerrymandering has made necessary.

But none of these reforms has a chance without willing legislatures, both state and federal. Maybe we should gin up a ten-million citizen march, yank our so-called legislators out of their seats, and put them in pillories. Then tell them, "Y'all are going to learn to get along, and make the system work better. Get on your cell-phones and talk to each other nicely. We'll wait."

Until then, here's my slogan: "Revive the Pillory!"

11 September 2010

What is moderate Islam?

THe Wall Street Journal ran a "symposium" on this question last week. Several writers contributed, but the closest thing to a sensible answer came from Ed Husain, who had once been seduced by Islamofacism, but has since reconverted to Islam. There is no such thing as "moderate" Islam. There is just Islam. So-called "radical Islam," or "political Islam" are misnomers for the ideology believed by Osama Bin Laden and his followers, wannabes, and hangers-on. The most accurately descriptive name I have heard for it is Francis Fukuyama's term: Islamofascism.

Islamofascism denotes an unholy union between one strand of Islamic Salafist thought and Western European Fascist thought. Ed Husain describes this in some detail in his memoir, The Islamist, which I have reviewed here.

Now, if you're wondering what will eventually defeat Islamofascism, the answer is Islam. Or if you must have an adjective, authentic Islam.

The use of the words "moderate" and "radical" connote that Islamofascism is simply a more intensely believed version of Islam. Nothing could be further from the truth.

10 September 2010

Exploding Marriages

Along our short street, one marriage is ended, three are in crisis, and one house has an intact marriage because its previous owners sold it during their divorce. Statistically, that's about average for the country. Which means that a lot of drama and pain are part of life for an awful lot of people. Some psychologists think that divorce is as traumatic as a death in the family. But, in the game of life, you don't receive a "Get out of death free" card if the next roll of the dice lands you on the "divorce" square.

For those of you who might benefit from it, one neighbor recommends this site: Runaway Husbands.

There is also: Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, by John Gottman, PhD.

07 September 2010

Quick Bites

As we slouch toward this fall's elections, I urge you to vote for individuals rather than parties. Here is why: America's Ruling Class.

As for Imam Faisal Rauf, who wants to build a super-mosque two blocks away from the 9/11 "Ground Zero" site in New York City, and the Reverend Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville FL, who wants to hold a public Qur'an burning on September 11: You both have a perfect right to do what you are doing, and the Constitution of the United States was adopted to protect your right. But what you are doing is in bad taste, and in most of corporate America, would get you assigned to sensitivity or diversity training classes.

And finally, for Harry Reid, senator from Nevada who claimed he had not read the health care bill he helped push through the US Senate, because he left the drafting of the bill up to "experts": Your experts are not empowered by the Constitution to draft legislation. You are. Your dereliction of duty in advocating and voting for a bill you had not read and did not understand, is tantamount to treason in that it undermines our process of representative democracy. You shouldn't be re-elected. You should be on trial.