Two Rants on The West and Islam

Rant # 1

OK Western World, let’s admit that when it comes to understanding the world of Islam, we suck. We don’t get it. And we don’t care that we don’t 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 one’s 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 don’t 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…

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17 Responses to Two Rants on The West and Islam

  1. One need not look at Hollywood to get an accurate picture of Islam.

    Instead, take a look at life in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and other Muslim nations. See for yourself freedom of speech, women’s rights, holiness, and lack of corruption in these nations.

    Perhaps you would volunteer to live in any of the aforementioned nations to see what Islamic law is about when put into practice?

    Read the Q’ran sometime. It is not a book of peace, but a book filled with hatred, particularly directed at both the Jewish people and the Christians. It’s time bleeding-heart liberals read the “holy book” of the “peaceful” religion of Islam to see what it really teaches.

  2. dbrett says:

    Thank you Cambodia for your comment. Regarding the Koran, I don’t think it is wise to make sweeping generalizations about any religious text.

    Keep in mind that it is the atheist’s favorite pastime to remind those in the Judeo/Christian tradition that the Bible itself is an extremely violent document, recounting the incredible brutality of nations and people locked in bitter conflict. God Himself opened up the earth and swallowed up thousands of Israelites who worshiped idols, and at Moses’ command God drowned in the Red Sea a multitude of Egyptians. You get my point. Jesus Himself said “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

    The Koran did not come to us out of a vacuum, but flows out of the Biblical context.

    Let’s not puff ourselves up comparing our western world to other cultures, such as the Arab world. Perhaps when comparing one culture to another we should heed the words of Jesus:

    Matthew 7:2:
    “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

  3. deleted user says:

    Live a life of tolerance and understanding.. that is the message of Christ.

    Kill all infidels..[non Muslims] is the message of the Koran.

    I beleive the difference is clear in the two ideals.

    K.

  4. dbrett says:

    Thanks K for your comment.

    A tolerant “live and let live” credo is often wrongly ascribed to Christ. On the contrary, Christ was highly divisive in his ministry.

    He railed against clerics:

    Matthew 23:33: “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

    He harshly criticized his own community:

    Matthew 17:17: “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”

    He warned people that following Him would result in division:

    Matthew 10:34-37: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”

    My point is that it is naive to say that Christians are “tolerant” of Islam or that Islam is “tolerant” of Christianity. Each faith takes a position that its view is correct, and argues its point fervently. True adherents to Islam and Christianity in my opinion will work hard to convert the other through the power of their respective messages and their persuasive abilities in a spirited but civil manner.

    Fanatics on the other hand do not even attempt to persuade. They dismiss their detractors out of hand and relegate them to a lower form of life that they can discard. This de-humanizing process is also common with fascism, communism and other errant world-views.

    So the point is that “tolerance” is a matter of degrees. In our current culture, the common view is that if you hold to any absolute view, you are “intolerant,” and lumped in with those who hold errant, fanatical worldviews. The fact is we all hold to some views steadfastly, even if it is simply taking the position that we all should be tolerant.

    So perhaps what we have is “tolerable intolerance” and “intolerable intolerance.” Yes, repeating that word is becoming intolerable, I agree…;-).

    • Biblical Christianity does not convert by the sword, nor condemns one who converts to another faith to be put to death as does the Q’ran. Herein lies one of the numerous contradictions within the Q’ran. It says that no one leaves Islam, yet in another Sura prescribes the death penalty for anyone who leaves Islam. Huh?!

      As for “tolerance”, when was the last time riots broke out amongst Christians when Jesus was mocked, maligned, or lampooned?

      The words of Christ are indeed devisive. Truth works that way. If something is true, then it is divided from that which is false. Light and dark do not exist together. What has truth to do with lies?

      Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day for their failure to “practice what they preach”.

      His criticism of the disciples (Matthew, Peter, Luke, etc) which you quoted above from Matthew 17:17 is, in its context a rebuke for their lack of faith in God, and for relying on their own abilities instead.

      As Christians, we don’t suppress other’s freedom of speech. Muslims are allowed to write or broadcast their views openly here. They have their mosques where they pray in peace each week. This is tolerance.

      In Saudi Arabia, the reverse is not true. Owning a Bible is enough to be put to death. Churches simply don’t exist. Even a Muslim questioning the Q’ran leads to having your tongue cut out or being put to death. Where is the tolerance? Where is the freedom?

      Your initial post is enough to warrant your execution in most Islamic nations. The Lord help us all if Islam EVER becomes the dominant religion and political power in our nation!

  5. Anonymous says:

    “It says that no one leaves Islam, yet in another Sura prescribes the death penalty for anyone who leaves Islam. Huh?!”

    Let us not forget that christianity is not without it’s own inherent contradictions, most noticably those which occur within the body of the church. The disparity between the promise to live by christian morals and the manner in which many supposed christians carry out their lives is staggering. Examples of this disparity are so rampant and easy to spot they become redundant, ie. Catholic preists and the molestation of young boys. This however does not only occur in the public eye, but is carried out, if to a lesser extent by many, christians, who “sing on sunday to save their soul, but sin till saturday.”

    This may appear to be a tangent because it does not deal directly with ‘christianity.’ However it is completly relevant as Christianity is presented to the islamic world principally through the actions of the christian community.

    Christian society, I BELEIVE, is viewed as corrupt by the islamic people because we stand by and are inactive as the christian faith is slandered and humiliated by hypocracy and sarcasm. This inactivity may be considered a form of acceptance.

    Further more, regarding the Koran; it is stated that you are to bear arms against someone only if they have born arms against you or if you feel your life is threatened. It also states that the actions of a man weigh upon his own neck. These sentiments seem to me to be peaceful.

  6. dbrett says:

    Thank you Anonymous and Cambodia for your contributions to this debate. My intention in writing the above “Two Rants” was to set out in honest language two viewpoints in the voice of an average person in each community. Let’s admit there is a lot of “ranting” going on out there on this subject but my intention was to engage people in a civil and fruitful debate, without resorting to sweeping generalizations and name-calling.

    I agree with Anonymous that juxtaposing the Christian Church against Muslim religious organizations is a dubious form of rhetoric, as it will always be possible to find in history examples of bad behavior in any organized faith group. Take anti-Semitism for example. Right now, we seek open anti-Semitism in Iran, but if we look only to the last century, we can see anti-Semitic rhetoric in the West stoked by supposedly Christian ideas, and a Church that did very little to stop Hitler.

    So the key in any debate of this nature is humility. No one on this planet is better than the other. We all are limited by our flawed human nature and require God’s grace to do any good at all. No Christian, Muslim, Jew or otherwise has any basis on which to boast.

    As the Prophet Isaiah spoke:

    “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6

  7. The Bible defines the Church as those who by faith have repented of their sins and trusted the blood atonement of Jesus Christ to pay for those sins. “Not by works of righteousness that we have done…”

    There are many religious organizations under the banner of Christianity which are far from a Biblical definition of The Church. The Biblical Church stands juxatpositioned to any religious organization that teaches salvation by works whether that organization is called Islam, Catholicism, Shintoism, Hindusim, or any other “ism”.

    Bearing arms in retaliation is a far cry from the New Testament teaching on turning the other cheek, “avenge not thyself”, etc. taught in the Bible.

    Again, I challenge anyone to take their next vacation in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Sudan or any other Muslim dominated nation. See what Islam is like in real life. Go and express your views on their streets and see what happens. See how many people wish to engage you in philospohical discussions. I’d love to read your blog after your return! 🙂

  8. dbrett says:

    Thanks Cambodia. Regarding the need to travel here or there to have a debate, isn’t it nice that we have the Internet. Philosophical discussion can happen in the virtual world. It’s a lot cheaper! 🙂

    Regarding the matter of “arms,” I think you would find a lot of people in the USA who believe their constitutional right to bear arms is God given. Canadians like their guns too! True Christian pacifists are few and far between, and fighting for “what is right” is not so far removed from a kind of religious zeal. Again, we in the West have to be careful about crafting a self-image that does not fit with the view from afar.

    The key issue in my opinion is the manner in which a religion is integrated or not integrated with a political system. The ideal of Islam is to see a theocracy established on earth that supplants man-made political systems. This is no different than the Christian believe in the return of the Messiah to reign as the King of the earth. Jews similarly await God’s direct rule on earth ushered in by the Messiah.

    This is where theological discussion has incredible relevance to our current geopolitical unrest. In Islam it seems the manner in which the direct rule of Allah on earth is to be brought about is not agreed on. Apparently, some streams believe the divine timetable can be helped along through human effort. To me, the idea of intervening in history to somehow speed divine justice coming to earth is one of the main problems in the world today.

    Jesus words were quite clear when it comes to predicting the time of the end:

    Matthew 24:36-44

    “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

    Clearly Jesus taught that no human knows when the end will come, or when His divine rule will commence. I believe this is the majority view of Muslims regarding what will come about at the end of the Koranic eschatology, although I would invite Muslims to enlighten us on this theological point.

  9. Yes, we can sit in our comfortable homes having a chit-chat about things we have no practical experience with may save a few dollars, that is true.

    But to get out on the streets in these areas and put our faith in action while at the same time learning about other cultures, particularly in areas where our lives are at risk is a price few are willing to pay.

    Those who hold philosophical debates on communism in its varied forms while sitting in classrooms or coffee shops or beer halls are many. Those who have travelled to or lived in the USSR, Cuba, Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge), North Korea, China, Vietnam, etc will give you a very different picture than you will get from western philosophers who know nothing from experience.

    While the world sat back and philosophised during the late 1970’s millions of Cambodians died under a brutal dictatorship. Vietnam finally ousted the Pol Pot regime. The greatest tragedy occurred AFTER Pol Pot was ousted, when the only countries that would help Cambodia were Vietnam (itself on the brink of a massive famine), the USSR and East Germany. USA, Canada, UK, and others sat back with their philosophies while 2 million more people almost starved to death. In fact, Pol Pot was NEVER brought to trial because good old USA used their Veto in the UN every time motions were brought forward to try Pol Pot for crimes against humanity. America backed the Khmer Rouge and kept the civil war going an extra decade because after all, the Khmer Rouge weren’t really that bad. They were mostly peaceful folks who were just misunderstood (sic).

    So too with Islam. How many that have fled these regimes have you talked with? How many have been massacred by the sword? How many have had their tongues cut out for blasphemy?

    Those who preach about Islam being such a wonderful religion need to wake up. They need to walk the streets of their countries, live in their homes for awhile. Eat in their cafes, shop in their markets, work alongside them if possible. Then talk about Islam from a realistic and informed perspective, whether positive or negative.

    Contrasting the Q’ran with the Bible as you have done here would cost you your life in almost every Muslim country. Take the challenge – educate yourself and go visit. Walk and talk carefully. Listen. Learn. Then decide your views on Islam.

    Education comes in two parts: theory and practice. One without the other is an incomplete education. That is why co-op programmmes are so successful. You have only half of your education so far. Why not complete it? With your scholarly degrees (I checked your bio), you could travel and learn and write a wonderful book afterwards. I’d be the first to buy it! -Cheers!

  10. dbrett says:

    Cambodia,

    A trip to an Islamic country would indeed be a rich experience I’m sure. But given your strong views on what I could expect on such a trip, it would seem that an extremely negative reaction on my part is a forgone conclusion, begging the question: why bother?

    Perhaps Cambodia you are missing the point of my admittedly “armchair” pontifications and philosophizing on the subject of Islam vs. the West. I do not seek to “sugar coat” what abuses may be taking place under the banner of Islam. On the contrary, I am trying to engender an honest discussion on the topic without resorting to the kind of rhetorical invective you have chosen to use.

    I believe a key to lowering the hostile Islam/West temperature that currently sweeps the planet is for the West to humble itself and admit that we have committed sins that are much worse than the examples you have outlined. Take Nazism for example, which arose in a “Christian” country. The Cambodian crisis you speak of, for example, was the underlying philosophy driving that insanity not born in the West, that is, Communism and Marxism? How about slavery in the USA? That was pretty bad.

    The truth is that although the West has become a largely secular and godless world, it is still viewed by those who are not from the West as “Christendom.” And lets face it, when you look at the foundations of the West, they have much to do with the Church and the Bible, but also Greek, Roman and other cultures.

    I am trying hard to empathies with Muslims. You decry the lack of freedom on the streets of an Islamic country, but they might respond by saying “Well, you won’t see a strip-bar on the corner, or a porn outlet, or images of some Rapper/Pimp/Drug Dealer abusing women, or a rock star on television making a living calling himself “the price of darkness” and stumbling around in a drug induced haze.” You get my point. Once you get into this kind of criticism/counter criticism, it’s an endless debate.

    A better posture is not to judge.

    I personally believe that the Western democratic model is the best alternative going. But let’s not get too carried away with our own accomplishments and virtues. We have much to repent over.

  11. Well, you won’t see a strip-bar on the corner, or a porn outlet, or images of some Rapper/Pimp/Drug Dealer abusing women, or a rock star on television making a living calling himself “the price of darkness” and stumbling around in a drug induced haze.”

    In Indonesia, there are strip-clubs. In Bangladesh, prostitution is legal. Both are Islamic countries.

    Pakistan is one of the stricter regimes, becoming more Islamicized each year. Officially, prostitution does not exist.

    However, there are many woemn in Karachi prisons who have a very different story to tell. Most of the women are charged under the Zina Ordinance, IE having sex outside of marriage. Some are victims of rape, and many are prostitutes.

    How does this work? Muslim law requires 4 pious men as witnesses to a rape before the case will be heard. Since this is rare, the women are charged with fornication.

    Prostitutes are charged with fornication as well. Sadly, a large proportion of these prostitutes are Bangladeshi women trafficked into Pakistan. Not only are they charged with fornication, they are also charged under the Foreigners Act prohibiting illegal entry. Rather than being victims, they are considered perpetrators.

    Through all this, the Muslim MEN WHO TRAFFICK THEM and the Muslim MEN WHO USE THEIR SERVICES are rarely ever charged. After all, it might tarnish their piuous image.

    Maybe the images don’t appear on TV screens, but it happens all too often in real life. And unlike TV, they aren’t actors and actresses. They are real people. And there is no help for these women. After all, officially they don’t exist.

    Judge not? Easy to say from our comfortable perch where we don’t face it on a daily basis. But when you see their ruined lives, when you look into their eyes, you can’t ignore it.

    Covering our eyes and philosophying doesn’t resolve the problem. Ignoring it doesn’t make it disappear.

    PEEK-A-BOO!! It’s still there!

    🙂

  12. PS – I’ll refrain from adding any more comments here to allow you to focus on Part #3 instead.

  13. dbrett says:

    Thank you Cambodia. More articles coming.

    In the meantime…

    Very interesting discussion from the BBC web site:

    Is Islam compatible with the West?

    Two Britons, both born into the Muslim faith, explain why they have ended up following different paths as far as their religion is concerned.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4204820.stm

  14. Thanks for the link. I found it interesting that the one who left was a woman, while the one who joined was male.

    Did you see the demonstrations in Toronto this past summer when local Muslim clerics were pushing to have Sharia Law recognized officially? Not surprisingly, the lines were pretty clearly drawn. In favour – predominantly male. Opposed – predominantly female. I wonder why? :0)

  15. deleted user says:

    Wow! What a conversation! Kudos to both for such passionate and well written ideas and opinions.

    Mine is simple.

    The human being – regardless of race, creed or relgion.. MUST.. learn to become a better entity, and understand and recognize that intolerance will only lead to the demise of this particular species.

    We must understand that if we were all ‘called to the carpet’ tomorrow so to speak – there isn’t one nation or religion that would not or could not be shamed by the behavious and beliefs followed.

    It is time to stop killing each other in the name of God and Country. We as a collective race can surely agree upon that can we not?

    Be Well.
    K.

  16. dbrett says:

    Thank you K. I appreciate your kind words and thoughtful comments!

    I also believe tolerance is vital, but with the caveat that we need to understand that tolerance does not mean “believe the same thing.” I will be posting sometime (soon I hope) a piece I am working on about the new Pope’s crusade against relativism and how that impacts on the current global clash of religions.

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