Tuesday, October 03, 2006

more on Islam

The Courtyard of the Lions in the Alhambra, Granada, Spain.

I have to admit, I'm somewhat tired of insisting on the fact that the one billion + Muslims in the world are not all bloodthirsty fanatic savages bent on our destruction, so I'm just passing on a couple of links in honor of the holy month of Ramadan.

Via Chris at Even the Devils Believe, a beliefnet story on how a Florida Muslim organization collected funds to help rebuild Palestinian churches that were damaged after the pope's remarks. The leader of the group said "these churches were protected under Islam. We were upset to see them attacked."

Beliefnet.com has a number of good articles for people who want to learn about Islam. Here's one about the concept of jihad.

Speaking of Faith has done a great program that includes interviews with several Muslims since 9/11:
Mr. Omid Safi: You still hear from a lot of people, why aren't the moderate Muslims speaking out? And, you know, at some level, you just — you feel like, you know, I've lost my voice from speaking out.

Ms. Leila Ahmed (from "Muslim Women and Other Misunderstandings"): I get constantly called and asked to explain why Islam oppresses women. I have never yet been asked, why is it that Islam has produced seven women prime ministers or heads of state, and Europe only two or three or whatever it is?

Mr. Vincent Cornell (from "Violence and Crisis in Islam"): We're faced with this crisis where we have now become the problem, you know, capital T, capital P. The microscope is focused on us, and we are now forced to take stock of what we as a community have done to ourselves.
The current Speaking of Faith, by the way, is very good, although off-topic for this post. I recommend checking it out as well. Have a blessed Ramadan, everyone.


Babbler said...

The majority of Muslims are regular, practicing and moderate individuals. In every society, there are individuals who are educated and affluent and others who belong to low socio-economic backgrounds. With low levels of education, comes narrow-mindedness and prejudice. Unfortunately what the media portrays as "Muslim" are mainly individuals who are easily brain-washed in our societies. What I am trying to say in simple words is that the participants on the Jerry Springer are not representatives of the American society, and so are the "terrorists" of the Muslim world.
Islam at its core is a religion of peace, love and tolerance. However, it is unfairly misinterpreted by many.

Happy Ramadan to you too!

Liam said...

Thanks for stopping by, Babbler. I think the Jerry Springer comparison is very apt.

cowboyangel said...

Liam, though you may be tired of it, it's good to keep insisting that most Muslims are not terrorists or even violent. Thanks for the post.

Blabber, good to point out that "The majority of Muslims are regular, practicing and moderate individuals." But it's not really true that the terrorists have low levels of education or come from impoverished backgrounds. The most thorough study on the subject reveals quite the opposite:

Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer in Afghanistan and now a forensic psychiatrist with the Foreign Policy Research Institute studied 400 terrorists and found that 75% "came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority—90 percent—came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college. . . . These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways."
75% were "professionals or semi- professionals. They are engineers, architects, and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion. The natural sciences predominate. Bin Laden himself is a civil engineer, Zawahiri is a physician, Mohammed Atta was, of course, an architect. . . . 73 percent were married and the vast majority had children."

What's most interesting is that 70% "joined the jihad while they were living in another country from where they grew up." So they tended to be isolated in a strange environment. More surprising, perhaps, was that most "were not very religious. They only became religious once they joined the jihad."

His most interesting point may be: "It's very much a war of ideas. . . . Preaching democracy around the world is ineffectual. . . . What you have to do is stick to core American values , justice and fairness."

Unfortunately, more and more throughout the world, "democracy" isn't equated with justice; it's equated with free market policies that may have nothing to do with justice. This applies to globalization as well as terrorism. We've let our leaders distort and pervert true democracy for a long time, and now we're paying the price.

For more information on Sageman's study, see his book, Understanding Terror Networks (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

cowboyangel said...

Just want to emphasize this line: "Very few humanities are represented" among the terrorists. I think that poets and artists question things too much to be good little robots of either political or religious dogma.

Sandalstraps said...


Today, it seems, we share a topic. I, too, wrote on some recent positive developments in Islam. While there is much in Islam that disturbs me - not least the unwillingness of many or even most moderate Muslims to condemn acts of violence done in the name of their God and their faith (though Karen Armstrong, who knows more about this than I do, says that wouldn't do any good, anyway) - I've been focusing on what attracts me to Islam. The only way we can emerge from this "clash of civilizations" is if we focus on the enormous common ground between the monotheistic faiths, and work forward from there.

As I type that, I realize that isn't enough. The common ground can't just be between the monotheistic faiths (and in my post today I found a point of common ground between Muslim piety and a passage from the Diamond Sutra, the quintessential prajnaparamita ("perfection of wisdom") sutras of Mahayana Buddhism.) The common ground, in fact, can't just be between faiths. The common ground must be found between all reasonable people who wish to live in peace, and the notion so shamefully prevalent in the West that most Muslims are neither reasonable nor peace-loving is just about as helpful as the Muslim notions about Western corruption.

crystal said...

Good post and nice picture. I once heard something on tv (the West Wing?) ... Islamic terrorists are to the average Muslim, what the Klu Klux Klan is to the average Christian ... to see terrorists as an example of Isalm is to be mistaken.

Liam said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Sandalstraps, I think the idea that moderate Muslims do not condemn acts of violence is often exaggerated. In my post in fact I mentioned two examples of condemnation of violence by moderate Muslims. Juan Cole has a section on his blog in which he shows how many important Muslim religious leaders condemn Al Queda and its interpretation of jihad. Unfortunately, these condmenations never get the press they deserve.

Crystal -- that's how I see things. I will not bin Laden define Islam any more than I will let Pat Robertson define Christianity.

Sandalstraps said...


Yes, that was from the West Wing. It was the first show of Season 3, Isaac and Ishmael, the show's response to 9-11. In it, a group of students are touring the White House when a terrorist threat puts the White House on lock down. Stuck in the cafeteria, they are entertained by West Wing staffers who engage them in a geo-political discussion. Josh Lyman compares "radical Muslims," that is, Muslims who are likely to become terrorists, to groups like the KKK.

Not that I like the West Wing or anything.

The one problem with that analogy is that, both in terms of raw numbers and as a percentage of the population, radical Muslims (or, as I call them, jihadists - though I recognize that no terms are perfect, or perhaps even good) are a much larger and more significant group than the KKK. However, they serve much the same function.

What are some other violent, reactionary Christian groups they could be compared to? Liam, are there any connections we can make in history?

crystal said...

Chris, now that you mention it, I do remember that episode. Maybe the catholic medieval military religious orders were somewhat like the modern day teerorists?

crystal said...

Liam, what's up?

Anonymous said...

This is Liam, commenting on my own blog as anonymous because of some technical problem...

Crystal -- Hi! Very busy, will be back to blogdom in a day or two. Thanks for checking in.

Liam said...

Okay everyone, it is very hard to get banned from my blog. But if you are, don't try posting with another pseudonym, you'll get deleted anyway.

Liam said...

The anonymous comment above is mine, by the way -- the comment I deleted was from our friend the belligerent and ill-informed ROP.