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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Understanding Arabian Islam

For the past few weeks, I've been using all the resources at my disposal to understand exactly how recent activities in Islamic nations fit into history and culture. Including a friend's expert insight (in quotes), I summarized my findings below. It's a complex situation; I hope that I've done justice to it.

A person on welfare is essentially unproductive. They may sincerely need that check, but in receiving that check there is no sense of pride in their hard work. Payday reveals their personal failure instead of a reward from productivity. Pride is noticeably absent for the person who has nothing to show for their life.

OPEC nations are generally based upon unproductive economies because oil generates most of the profit that comes into the Muslim nations. Thus, income in OPEC nations is unproductive; meaning, it is not the innovation, hard work, and creativity of the people that produce its riches. They suck the oil, put it in barrels, and ship it around the world, and wait for their check to come in the mail. The disposition of the average Muslim is remarkably similar to the person on welfare.

But, in addition, it is significant to look at the beneficiary of the oil. The citizens of these countries do not benefit; the ruling dictators and monarchs are the primary beneficiaries of the oil-driven economy. The people have no influence in how the government uses that money. Thus, they experience a frustration with government and are powerless to effect change except through overthrowing the governments.

International respect relies exclusively upon the power of OPEC. From the perspective of the people, nations use them like a cheap whore; get the goods, submit the payment to the pimp dictator, and leave without a sense of responsibility. It’s a crude metaphor, but seems to be accurate.

“In general, Muslims see themselves as a vast brotherhood, or family. There is a collective mindset behind all of this that seems to be intimately connected with relational cultures. We in the West, even we Christians who are united by Christ, have a hard time understanding this because individualism is a top value in our culture.”

The best example that I can use to relate this is a drop of water in a pool speaking to all the other drops saying, “We are pool.” Not, ‘we are individuals that collectively make a pool of water’. Not, ‘there are different parts of the pool that make one pool’. No. Instead, “We are pool; we are one, we are connected, and we are of the same.”

Cultural Paradox
Muslims are very honor driven. Thus, they take great pride in their history. From their perspective, the path to greatness was through religion in the 9th to 14th centuries.

While Islam has increased in numbers, it has decreased in influence from its prime. During the days of the 12th imam (supernatural religious leader) its influence was felt from Spain and Africa through the Middle East to India and in Indonesia. Al-gebra and Al-gorithims have their root in Arabian (Islamic) science and math. They have long since departed from this path and now they are being used like a cheap whore.

Being very honor driven, they respect their roots, families, neighbors. But, in the absence of national pride, what is there to place their honor in? Chiefly, Islam. Increasing the influence of Islam is the goal for all Muslim nations. The remaining debate within Islam is whether the Islam of the 14th century or the 21st century will return them to their previously known influence.

In Islam, there is no separation of church and state. They are one. The influence of Islam is openly felt within the influence of the government. [To exemplify this, even under the America’s guidance, Islam was written into Iraq’s Constitution.] Thus, religion and government are the same tool for achieving this remembered greatness.

How does the church/state“we” interact to achieve greatness? This “we” identity complicates the two visions of the path to influence, the 14th and the 21st century paths. “We are Islam. How can the ‘we’ achieve greatness through differing visions of the path to greatness?”

To the “extremists”, pursuing the 14th century, Western culture is evil. “We” must eradicate its influence and become independent of it. Osama and his buddies believe that the quickest route to increased influence for Islam is by reverting culture backwards. Extremists hate “Western” values, music, food, clothes, language. The path to greatness involves complete independence from the “West.” The ‘we’ must be the root of our own culture. Using the history of Islam, the haddith (traditions), and the Qu'ran, their violent acts are easily justifiable. I have written more about it here.

To the moderates, that pursue the goal via 21st century means, Western culture is not good, but necessary, to achieving greatness. They are pragmatists. “We must use what works to achieve the “we” vision of the future greatness of Islam.”

The differences between extremist and moderate Islam is that of means, not ends.

The Iranian dictator, a proponent of the extremist philosophy carried to its logical conclusion, is attempting to produce chaos. Why? It is said that when chaos rules, the 12th imam will return to unite the divided people of Islam and restore Islam to its previously known glory. This perspective is a minority among Muslims but obviously concerning.

Inflammatory Cartoons
To summarize the the current socio-economic environment: an honor driven people, embarrassed, used for their oil, surpassed in modernity, and angry because of their lack of influence. Is a Danish cartoon the symptom of a greater frustration? Is it the fuse that released the potential energy?

Couple this with their very relational, Muslim brotherhood. “When you offend one Muslim by drawing a cartoon, you offend every Muslim. I think there is also offensive synergism (ya, I just made that up, so do with it what you will!) in a collective culture. Because he is offended, then I should be offended too.”

Always remember, the goal is to increase the influence of Islam; the only object of debate is the means to acheive this goal. Violence is one option for accomplishing this goal. Thus, the recent demostrations regarding the Danish cartoons and France's riots late 2005, are justified. Islamicists conquer by force.

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