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Behind the Temper Tantrum

Reader comment on item: Cartoons and Islamic Imperialism

Submitted by Chris (United States), Feb 7, 2006 at 11:15

I agree whole-heartedly with your assessment of the hysteria over the 12 Danish cartoons -- from the perspective of geo-politics. Clear-thinking governments must stand up against the Muslim imperative to subjugate non-Muslim peoples.

But the poor dirt farmer in Afghanistan has no imperial motives and the frustrated publisher in Denmark did not want to insult 1.2 billion Muslims. So in addition to the macro view of this clash of civilizations, we must continue to understand the debate on a personal level.

Muslims and non-Muslims are equally uninformed about the tenants of Islam. Over 80 percent of Muslims do not understand the classical Arabic of the Koran, and so they believe what they are told by the Imams and Mullahs. Living in protected worlds where competing religious views and religious criticism are forbidden, most Moslems are unequipped to use reason or to think critically about their religion or any other religion, for that matter. This is why slogans and stereotypes abound. "Allah is the greatest." "Islam is superior to all other religious beliefs." When they see what they perceive as attacks on their religion, they go ballistic.

Meanwhile, Westerners are comfortable with debate and "the marketplace of ideas." Enlightenment is rooted in critical thinking and in challenging old assumptions. Facts and data have precedence over slogans and stereotypes. Even when we nurture our children, we emphasize the objective reasons for not touching a hot stove rather than saying, "Don't touch the stove because I am your father." And in the case of the cartoon saga, any obstacle to enlightenment or progress is, by its very nature, open to attack. Sadly, however, Westerners forget that their counterparts in the Islamic world don't (and probably can't) think and reason the same way.

When Muslims raised in those protected environments described above see that the real world does not align with their built-in concepts, they experience what is called "cognitive dissonance." Rather than using reason and enlightenment to adjust their self concepts with reality, they lash out -- and often violently. Yes, their governments and religious leaders often promote and encourage this cathartic release to divert the hostilities from their own mismanagement, but it is clear that the most down-trodden and oppressed are the most volatile in their rage.

The pervasiveness of information through the internet and satellite communications will only continue to eat away at the sheltered lives of Muslims in closed societies. If Islam cannot stand toe-to-toe with other religious or political views in an honest exchange of facts and data (tempered with sarcasm and cartoons) , then it will suffer the fate of other world-wide credos -- including Communism and Fascism. The only reason Communism has persisted in China is that it has adapted itself to a system that includes many elements of Capitalism -- and this may not be possible for Islam since its tenants came unalterable, straight from Allah himself.

So, is there any hope for civilizations to live at peace, side by side or as integrated societies?

I trust the ultimate triumph of right over wrong. We all know what is right without having to be told. When a religious belief insists that something which is intuitively wrong is actually right, that view cannot be sustained without force (e.g. mutawas and public beatings). The Koran insists, "Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. But you may hate a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. Allah knows, but you know not." (Surah 2:216). The handbook, "Reliance of the Traveler," which is the classic manual of Islamic sacred law, states, "The basic premise of this school of thought is that the good of the acts of those morally responsible is what the Lawgiver (syn. Allah or His messenger) has indicated is good by permitting it or asking it be done. And the bad is what the Lawgiver has indicated is bad by asking it not be done. The good is not what reason considers good, nor the bad what reason considers bad. The measure of good and bad, according to this school of thought, is the Sacred Law, not reason." (para. a1.4)

These two statements, central to Islam, deny and defy the rational sense of right and wrong which all humans possess. Such statements cannot prevail in an open society.
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