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Clash of Civilizations -or- A Battle for the Soul of Islam ?

Reader comment on item: Daily Illini Bias Against My USIP Appointment

Submitted by D. Peterson (United States), Dec 11, 2003 at 18:18

Dr. Pipes does not wholeheartedly agree with the "clash of civilizations" thesis put forward by Samuel Huntington (see, "Militant Islam Reaches America" pp. xiii - xiv). Perhaps what we see instead is indeed a "battle for the soul of Islam" as he suggests. But while there is an obvious internal struggle within Islam -- between a core group of "moderates" and the extremists who have fragmented the religion -- the battle does seem broader and more encompassing, more epic in nature.

One way to look at this is to identify those actions and beliefs which are adopted by the Islamists but vehemently and vocally rejected
by the core; in this case it is the world versus the extremists. But what about those beliefs which might have been adopted by the Islamists and are likewise endorsed and support (perhaps tacitly) by the core. Now it is the world versus Islam.

I confess to being a novice in this area. Perhaps there was a time of prosperity and ascension, a "glory days" period, in Islam history. A time when freedom of thought and inquiry were accepted and encouraged. But what I see now in the Islamic civilization -- composed of countries scattered across the globe, but centered largely in the Middle East -- is a set of traditions and practices which
IN AND OF THEMSELVES conflict with the West. While perhaps not a leading front in the enemy's battle plan (that is, not involving the use of terror, bombs, suicide planes, and God knows what else), these practices and notions which seem to imbue Islam do -- if left unchecked and unchallenged -- represent a more subtle threat to the West.

Here is a question. If I were to ask a "moderate" arab muslim about the Koran and its authenticity, what would he say ? What would his response be (and his community's response) if I suggested that large parts of the Koran were perhaps incomprehensible and not authentic ? What would this moderate's reaction be if I suggested that a complete historcial and scientific analysis be carried out on the Koran (just as has been done with the texts of other religions, including Christianity) ? I would humbly suggest that the reaction of this moderate would NOT be "Yeah, that sounds like a fair idea to me" in a spirit of open inquiry. Rather -- depending upon the individual and circumstances -- I might be taking a risk with my health.

Freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry, a basis in fact, pursuit of the truth. This thread -- which we can almost take for granted in the West -- is clearly not a part of (modern ?) Islam. Instead we find suppression, repression, intimidation, ignorance, and propaganda.
So within a reasonably civilized society, which of these two approaches is the preferred way to deal with conflicting ideas and views ? While we in the US might side with the former, it seems that many pushing the later approach are now active within our culture.

This brings me to the article. This case of extreme onesidedness, bias, inaccuracy, ignorance, and even intimidation as a technique for dealing with competing ideas is not new with this university. Dr. Pipes has, along with others, experienced this at other universities. We also have journalists being threatened, assasinations being ordered, and now even censorship and the perversion of politics over Islamic sensibilities (I am thinking about the recent report by the EUMC which was completed, then quashed, then tentatively released). Are any of these examples to be recommended and agreed with, at least from a purist's view of Western Civilization. NO !

If this repressive and anti-Western tact were only to be carried out and only endorsed by the militant Islamists, then I could agree that it is a battle for the soul of Islam. But if it is carried out by militant Islamists AND more broadly endorsed among the "moderate" faithful, then I would lean more towards the clash of civilizations view.

The issue of freedom of speech and an objective, open debate of ideas may not seem as riveting and sensational as a mangled bus or a dead solider. But I hope that it gathers the same attention and analysis, especially as Europe and North America gain in muslim population and influence. There is a good reason why our founders made freedom of speech Amendment number one.
Submitting....

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