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Reply to Ianus - Opiate of the masses

Reader comment on item: Bolstering Moderate Muslims
in response to reader comment: Religion is like drugs ...

Submitted by Farid H. (Germany), May 1, 2007 at 22:27

Ianus, thanks for pointing to Marx's famous "religion is the opiate of the masses" quote. Of course I knew this, but the focus of Marx is different here. It's about rulers using religion to steer people, and to deflect their anger, funneling it into the spiritual. This indeed happens all the time in Muslim countries. It's a disgrace, but that's how politics work here. Not very different from what happened in Europe no so long ago; while Church and State were still strongly intertwined.

However, this collective use was not what I'm talking about. It's about the (mis-?)use of religion by individuals as a way to cope with life, a.k.a. as personal psych-drug. This is much more pernicious than what Marx is hinting at.

Putting this aside, I get your message. Is Islam really the crack cocaine of the masses? I don't know, but it's definitely not crack cocaine for most individuals. For there are a lot of moderate muslims who are not practicing; or who take all this with a big dose of humor. I personally know many muslims who are not at all addicted to Islam - they just happen to have been born into it. If Islam was as addictive as crack cocaine, they wouldn't be able to view it from a distance. They'd seek more and more of it; and this simply doesn't happen on a large scale. It does happen with fanatics though, but not with the mainstream.

I know it's hard to believe though; especially considering the current wave of radical islamism even in muslim countries that used to be very liberal w.r.t. religious freedoms - including my own country just south of Spain. Yes, it's hard to believe, seeing how those islamists, most of them moderately dangerous, but some of them (salafists) extremely dangerous (they bred terrorists among them) are gaining traction. It's a shame, BUT this is temporary phenomenon, just like communism has been.

Once it calms down (and it WILL eventually die out like every other political (!) fad - because that's what it is, despite all appearances from the outside), things will go back to normal. And normal is what I've grown up with in a country open to many cultural currents: most people there don't really care about all this. They take some pride in the time when Islam was ahead of the pack in Andalusia, while Europe was stuck in the deepest obscurantism; and they feel ashamed about their current miserable situation. That's normal: a down to earth realism; reluctantly expressed to outsiders, but widely acknowledged within.

I know nothing of your background Ianus, so I wouldn't like to hastily jump to conclusions (as you did in your reply, based solely on my name assuming that I was moslem), but I'd assume that you're writing from outside a muslim country; or that you've lived in one of those who are very repressive (Iran? Saudi Arabia?...). If that's true, your views seem very natural and are a logical way to see things. But the world isn't black and white; it's full of shades of grey. Still assuming that you're not very familiar with the muslim world (please correct me if I'm wrong), may I suggest that you just look more closely to it? You'll discover things that are far worse than what you may have expected; but also things that are not as evil or black and white as you might think.


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