Friday, September 07, 2007

The pragmatic argument

From an article by Mona Charen.

We’ve seen very few Muslim leaders brave enough to denounce the jihadists, and a cottage industry has sprung up in the West to supply books and articles arguing that Islam is by nature violent, cruel, and hopelessly rigid. This interpretation has always seemed shallow to me. I simply cannot imagine that a religion based only on hatred and bloodshed could gain and hold more than a billion adherents over 14 centuries.
I highlight this because of the last sentence. As is obvious to anyone who has read a few of my posts, I am not knowledgible about Islam and have had very little direct contact with it. I am concerned with it, for reasons that are even more obvious - people trying to kill you do gain your attention.

I have read a lot of articles and a few books about Islam for just this reason. Many of them argue, with a persuasiveness reinforced by vivid images of death and destruction, that the problem is Islam itself. While it is evident that there is certainly a problem within Islam, there are two very pragmatic reasons for not condemning the whole, quite apart from the value it must have to those who practice it.

Both are mentioned in Charen's last sentence. More than a billion people, many of them in the neighbourhood, mean that, if the problem is Islam itself, then it is not a problem with a solution. Secondly, those 14 centuries. My materialist reading of history tells me that if anything lasts that long, it must have something going for it. Maybe I can't see that something, but that is my problem.

I agree that this approach is a purely instrumental one in that it doesn't consider the essence of the object of concern, but only what we are capable of doing with it. However, I can't see any way around it. Islam is there; it's not going away; therefore, we must deal with it as if it has a future. Our response to certain of its claims and demands is something I do feel qualified to speak on, and have done so. But that is a problem within Western society (and the topic of the post below is an excellent example of it).

By the way, the article is about an Indonesian singer, Ahmad Dhani, who writes and sings explicitly anti-Jihadi songs and Gus Dur, the leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization.


Hazar Nesimi said...

Well, you are speaking to representative of this religion. There is a problem now, with us. However I do not feel that I have to explain my personal Universe, to everyone and why, and how, and what I am going to do fight the radicals etc (and millions are like me). These people do not represent me, nor do I represent them. I am as far removed from them as Brazilian is from Vietnamese. There is nothing I could do, but live my life. This is your dilemma here, for you are required to dissect us understand us and isolate threats. With my rational head on I would do the same. On the other hand I cannot deny these murderers the right to be Muslim. Who am I to "excommunicate" them? For God is The Ultimate Judge..and this is truth of Monoteistic Islam, which leaves all to God!

NoolaBeulah said...

I perfectly respect what you say. What is the situation in Azerbaijan? Are 'secular' Muslims like you seen as bad Muslims? Is a dress code enforced on females? If that were the situation, how would you deal with it on an ideological level?

Hazar Nesimi said...

Good question. Azerbaijan is a secular country run by secular laws (as All post-soviet states), Fundamentalism still occupies a very marginal part of political discourse and issues are opposite of what they are in, say Iran, we have restrictions on hijabs in schools and restriction of rights to worship, but really not that severe. Main problems are those of corruption and cleptocratic elites.
What I would do... probably be opposed to it on a moral level, as I am against any compulsion. Also a religious state in conditions of Azerbaijan will exacerbate currently non-existent sectarian tensions (we are 60% Shia, 30% Sunni) and highly undesirable.