UI – Part 556 – Acknowledging Differences in Religions/Ideology
More from Shadi Hamid (‘SH’), senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Project on US Relations with the Islamic World in the Center for Middle East Policy and the author of Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World, spoke with Robert Nicholson, Providence editor (9/25/2018). He provided the inspiration and insight into this article.
Is it difficult or uncomfortable for secular thinking persons to discuss religion, or ideologies? So thinks Hamid, “I think many on the American left and center-left are uncomfortable talking about religious differences, in part because they tend to be quite secular….”
There are differences and they need to discussed, debated, even criticized, without violent reactions or squeals of ‘persecution.’ That is more possible in the free world than the Middle East or Muslim dominated countries in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. In much of the Muslim world Christianity cannot be discussed, even taught, and Bibles are not permitted. And we all know or sense Jews are hated and Muslim children are taught to hate Jews.
We are informed by SH not to assume the “Muslim level of religious observance will ‘naturally’ decrease” in free nations to which emigrants migrate. He suggests expectations need to change, knowing “huge gaps in religious identification and practice are likely to persist between Muslim and non-Muslim citizens.”
I look at this differently. There are Muslims that come to Europe and America for the opportunity that the free world provides. Others immigrate from poor countries with similar hopes. They are willing to adopt their host countries ways as that is the pathway to achieve the dream. But for Muslims, financed with dollars from the likes of Saudi Arabia and Iran, and through organizations like the OIC, C.A.I.R. and the Muslim Brotherhood (and affiliates, such as the Muslim Student Association (MSA) on college campuses), pressure to resist assimilation is significant. Muslims in foreign lands are encouraged to maintain their faith, often their ideology. Religious purity of areas, localities, states and nations is an objective, that is for Islam alone! Through mosques and madrassas constructed with pertro-money, Muslims are exposed to Imams and others from cultures opposed to free nation practices who seek to encourage legacy Muslims, cultural Muslims, to learn more about their faith. This can lead to students that progress up the pyramid of Muslim identities from cultural, to ritualistic, to theocratic, to political or radical Islamists and at the top, jihadists.
Thus there is a battle waged from the organization of Arab nations, the Arab League, to promote Islam anywhere they can. It is interesting that SH makes clear, “I don’t have a particular problem with radicalization.” Well, many of us do!
Fully Muslim – Fully American
I made note of a statement SH made (from his article: “From birkinis to the Koran – Why Islam isn’t like other faiths” (9-9-2016)), “It is possible to be fully Muslim and fully American.” That begs a concern I have about America’s Constitution. Also in America and in secular societies, civilized and advanced societies, there is a tendency to separate the State and religions as much as possible. The hurdle that SH must overcome is from his own words, “Differences between Christianity and Islam also are evident in each faith’s central figure. Unlike Jesus, who was a dissident, Muhammad was both prophet and politician. And more than just any politician, he was a state-builder as well as a head of state. Not only were the religious and political functions intertwined in the person of Muhammad, they were meant to be intertwined. To argue for the separation of religion from politics, then, is to argue against the model of the very man Muslims most admire and seek to emulate.” Teaching this as a foundational tenet of Islam insures Muslims, as an ideology, will be incompatible with the foundational principle that guides America, the Constitution of the United States. Thus, it is not possible to be fully both!
But Americans, the liberal set, opens our doors to Muslims, even the organizations that ply extremist views. The liberal set especially, in spite of differences that exist as to acceptance of gays, alcohol, gambling and woman’s rights, are door holders. There are those that suggest ‘reform of Islam.’ In America, even the Islamic reformists seek the acceptance of pluralism by Muslims. Secularism too. They insist they must be objective and less sensitive when criticism towards Islam arises, or is heard. They themselves find resistance in their mosques as well as from Islamic fundamentalist maintainer organizations, some previously mentioned. Their goal is to have Islam, as a religion, more compatible with the American framework. I feel this is an honorable objective, although facing an Everest, but helps the narrative of accepting Islam into free societies. It could be a con, enabling Islam immigration to grow and increase as a percentage of the population until the extremists, the fundamentalists and political Islamists, having a larger base from which to launch their platform, can implement the more strident basis and tenets of Islam, in conjunction with making an All for Allah world. Changes to the Constitution and the Law of the land would be petitioned.
SH referred to Jesus as a ‘dissident.’ He never referred to him as the Son of God or God incarnate. Mike Ion wrote (Christ the Dissident, The Guardian, 12-4-2007), “The child who was born in Bethlehem represented a drastic political challenge to the imperial power of Rome.” He also noted, “in modern times, religion and politics are too often seen as occupying separate spheres.” Jesus noted that religion and government can be and should be separate. From Luke 20:25, often quoted, when asked about paying taxes to Rome (to Caesar), coinage at the time having the image of Caesar, “…give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Jesus, and thus Christian followers, separate the kingdom of this world in which they live and that of the heavenly world, of which Jesus is King. Honor those who govern that are of this world, be they Christian or not. Such a statement would be most difficult for political Islamists. The material world is one thing, while the etherial world is another. Muhammad managed to keep them together.
There are differences in religions and ideologies. They need to be understood. Become educated in the variety, or as SH puts it, “The pluriformity of faiths.” There is diversity and variety in the forms, the foundations and the tenets of religions.
Can you separate what is God inspired and what is not. Only with knowledge can you discern the differences, not just via emotion; it requires rational faculties. For instance the Bible is the ‘inspired’ word of God, as written and as accepted by Christians. The Quran, according to the fundamentalist Islamists, is God’s (Allah’s) words. SH clarifies this, “Muslims believe the Koran is not only God’s word, but God’s actual speech —- in other words every single letter and word in the Koran comes directly from God.” History makes this a challenge to grasp as Muhammad received what is recorded in the Quran, which is not complete, from an intermediary. It was not Allah that spoke to him. It was Allah that spoke to a spirit, the angel Gabriel, that somehow spoke to Muhammad and he memorized what he was told.
Over the years subsequent to revelations received Muhammad shared the words with Companions who were to also memorize; but when the self proclaimed Prophet died there was a hasty attempt to gather the statements into one book, or what became the scripture of Islam. The Jews use the Bible too, the Old Testament, having documentation supported by a great deal of historical, to include architectural, evidence. There are other scriptures out there, such as that used by the Mormons, found at the base of a tree in Rochester, NY. Read them all, study the ones mentioned and others and see where you land. Muslims, all of them, should be encouraged and allowed to do the same. For a Muslim it would require living in a democracy to be able to have the freedom of choice, just to read openly about other religions let alone consider a path other than Islam.
Islam is political. Christians can be political, but only to insure society abides by what is proper, fair and what is equal for everyone, men and women, human rights accorded all people on the same basis. Christians can live in a plural society. They know they will be surrounded by temptation. Other religions and ideologies can also. Certainly secularists. There are restrictive ideologies, such as communism, which limits dissent and controls its populations according to the rules of man, those in charge at the time. Putin is a fine example. We are seeing similar constraints imposed by Erdogan, Turkey’s President, to prevent a groundswell against him and his programs. But also there is Islam, a restrictive ideology, having Allah at the top of the pyramid, to which obedience is to be enforced from the bottom of the ladder to the top, with those on the rung above having authority, religious and political, over those below.
The modern world is not ready for Islam. There will be a future blog entitled, Islam – An Assault on Civilization. Continue to visit this site to become better informed.
Grace and Peace