Rant # 1
OK Western World, let’s admit that when it comes to understanding the world of Islam, we suck. We dont get it. And we dont care that we dont get it.
We do, however, have well developed stereotypes and caricatures of Muslim people: the zealot, the women hater, the backward, the terrorist. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Hollywood has resorted to a new standard set of villains: i) rogue Russian guys with nukes and ii) the Jihad-or-Bust Arabs who want to buy them. The only Muslims we see are bad Muslims, crazy people, out to get us.
Imagine for a moment you are a Muslim. You rise early to pray and remember that you have dedicated your life to holiness. You seek to eschew the selfish lusts of this world, like greed, corruption, and our constant desire to satiate our carnal cravings. You have chosen a path that involves commitment and sacrifice, such as fasting, abstaining from alcohol, and learning the passages of your Holy book, the Koran. In spite of its demands, you find peace in the simplicity, order and calm in a way to God born in antiquity that has spawned some of the greatest cultures on earth.
Contrast this lofty self-image with the generally inferior notion of Muslims we have in our minds: poor, illiterate, misguided. They look and act different, making social integration difficult. Will it ever be normal in North America for your co-worker to throw down a prayer mat beside the water cooler, or at Starbucks? Or would we do anything less than a double-take if a woman on the bus had her head and face covered? If I were a Muslim in the west, I would feel pretty awkward a lot of the time.
To dedicate ones self to the Salat (prayer), the Hage, and all the pious devotion of Islam, one would require a deep sense of calling and desire for the world to come to God as you have done. Contrast this posture with our hyper-sexualized, hyper-selfish western culture that has given to the world Larry Flynt and the KKK. The supposedly modern Western worldview has given rise to Nazism, Communism, and weapons of mass destruction, not just good things like democracy and freedom. Freedom is a lofty ideal, but does it free us from our faults and humanity’s propensity to mess everything up? Perhaps a world society whose face is lifted to heaven in obedience to Allah and His laws would be better than following our flawed human constructs? Why do so many in the west dismiss as untenable this holistic and truly integrated worldview? Why does no one listen to me?
If I were a Muslim, I would be disgruntled with the West. My ideas and my identity are dismissed out of hand. I am reduced to nothing. I am not human. I am a cartoon, an animation acting out my part in a bad screenplay. I get nothing but bad reviews.
Rant # 2
OK Islamic World, its time to stop feeling sorry for yourself, emerge from your state of denial, and admit that the world has a legitimate complaint against you. Modern Islam’s utopian ideology and its political manifestations have so far failed to deliver a world of peace and calm. Islamic regimes are not immune to the political problems associated with our flawed human condition. In spite of your good intentions for a world submitted to Allah, you are not in a good position to stand in judgment of the rest of the world.
Imagine for a moment you a Westerner. You look at the Islamic world and see a lot of fighting, a lot of violence, a lot of poverty, a lot of illiteracy, and a lot of prejudice. You think to yourself, why are they so angry and what did I every do to them to make them blame me for their problems? God has blessed the birthplace of Islam and the surrounding region with inherent wealth so vast it defies belief, yet its inhabitants complain with bitterness so profound it casts a pall on the entire planet. When, you ask yourself, with they cheer up, rejoice in their good fortune and be happy?
You see on TV and read in newspapers of a world mired in hatred. Tyrants and dictators pay homage to Islam whilst brutalizing the region and you wonder when they will get their comeuppance. You saw far too many jubilant faces throughout Islam cheering the mass murders of 9/11. You have a hard time understanding why Bin Laden is a folk hero to many who call themselves Muslim.
You admit that the west also has its lunatic fringe. American wackos arm themselves with assault weapons and survival gear in a bid to out-smart a sinister government plot that actually exists only in their own minds. But is it fair to compare western crazies to Islamic militants? Bomber Timothy McVeigh died in an electric chair and his tiny band of henchmen are hunted and watched like animals. You ask yourself, would any town in the USA fly McVeigh banners down Main Street in homage to him as a martyr? The searing condemnation would exhibit a palpable fury. Yet daily you see blessings and praise heaped upon a thousand McVeighs in Muslim countries. Where you ask is the fury, the rage, the utter condemnation and contempt?
If you are one of the more pessimistic westerners, you allow yourself to think that the Islamic world has gone nuts. Thrusting millions back to a worldview that lives and breaths the air of medieval times, you despair that Islam is a regressive force clawing back centuries of progress. You do not understand the real teachings of Islam and the differences between its various factions and strains. All you hear is Muslims of various stripes saying things like ”the West is against Islam” and ”the policies of the West are designed to hurt Muslims.” You really have no idea who is a moderate and who is extreme or who is a fundamentalist. You dont even know what a fundamentalist is, even though it is one of the most common terms used in the media today. All you know is that the Muslims are ticked off and some of them want to hurt you.
Comming soon, Rant #3, a better way…