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September 15, 2005 6:07 AM   Subscribe

6 views of the Islamic world What is at the the root of the clash between Islam and the West? And what do your answers say about your own beliefs? (via the Guardian)
posted by MadOwl (72 comments total)

 
Number 6 pretty much nails it on the head for my experience.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:31 AM on September 15, 2005


fixed link?
posted by gsb at 6:37 AM on September 15, 2005


(any chance we can change the link to actually point to the story?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1570236,00.html)
posted by NinjaPirate at 6:38 AM on September 15, 2005


(yeah, not to stress the matter, but this post could use all the help it can get)
posted by NinjaPirate at 6:40 AM on September 15, 2005


Pollomacho:

I'm sorry, but it's just completely insane to think that decades of violence and oppression and the disposition of the billions of dollars generated by oil revenue don't have at least as much impact on the political situation in the middle east as a 20 year old Iranian's encounter with a a DVD player. I mean, what if we were talking about the Huns sacking Rome or the break up of the Ottoman Empire and I insisted that the most significant causes of these events were the cultural differences twixt the various involved groups? What if I said that neither wealth, nor the desire for freedom, nor the pursuit of political and military power had anything to do with them? Wouldn't you think I was disconnected from reality?
posted by Clay201 at 6:48 AM on September 15, 2005


Huns.. Vandals. Visigoths. Whatever. It's been, like, 13 years since I had Roman history. Jesus I feel old.
posted by Clay201 at 6:52 AM on September 15, 2005


Hooray, I live in the fantasy world of #1!
posted by patgas at 6:55 AM on September 15, 2005


1+5= close approximation of my thoughts on the matter.
posted by twistedonion at 6:59 AM on September 15, 2005


6 is a nice idea, but its focused only on terrorism, which is a fairly unimportant issue. 6 is also specifically tailor made to justify overly idealistic socialist/Marxist solutions---read Peter Singer's A Darwinian Left.

1 is the real answer. The author is foolish to imagine that 1 requires convertions. 1 just requires supporting the social forced which errode religion: social mobility, women's rights, gay rights, public respect for atheists beliefs, scientific research in psychology and biology, etc. No heavy hand is needed. Speed is not required.. as terrorism is not a threat.

BTW, western society treats gays and atheists about equally badly, its just harder to pass anti-atheist laws. Why are conservative politicians afraid of offending muslims but not afraid of making overtly anti-gay or anti-atheist statments?
posted by jeffburdges at 7:07 AM on September 15, 2005


Like many here on MeFi, #1 is pretty much it. There's nothing wrong with Islam that isn't wrong with any other major, institutionalized religion. I realize the unlikelihood of solving this problem, though, so #3 looks like the best bet. But not, I should stress, the way Bush, Blair, et al. have ostensibly been going about it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:07 AM on September 15, 2005


Like many here on MeFi, #1 is pretty much it.

That's a heck of a dangling participle. Try Like many here on MeFi, I find #1 to be pretty much it. Sorry about that.

posted by Faint of Butt at 7:11 AM on September 15, 2005


I had long ago discarded religioon and god stuff along with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, but don't see hundreds upon hundres of Christians or Jews or Buddhists etc going about blowing themselves up and killing children, the elderly etc because of their religious beliefs. There is a difference, even among religions.

As for the "test." Why is it necessary to choose one of the items given? Can not there be a mix in what is clearly a complicated issue?
posted by Postroad at 7:18 AM on September 15, 2005


What is at the the root of the clash between Islam and the West?

I always thought it was in 1181 when Reynald and his men attacked a caravan of Muslim pilgrims travelling to Mecca in direct violation of a truce.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:19 AM on September 15, 2005


I guess i am a 2, but i guess this is also a fantasy to think that the rest of the world would believe in reason, history shows that this is not the case. The reality seems to be about 6. how do we reform both our way of thinking, while bringing reforms that are actually wanted by those who need them. It is hard to say what the right course of action is for both sides. When the U.S military or world bank or some other "investor" tries to help with reforms in these areas it just turns into a empire building/profiteering, furthing entrenching both sides into the status quo. And no matter how much we say we care about the less fortunate. We seem to live in a world were no one wants the truth because it hurts. We suck, they suck and we all are under the direction of a bunch of leaders who serve only the few who stand to gain. I would say education is our only savior but even that has it's inherent biases. I am increasingly turning to a subject i once found very dull for answers: economics. Can bean counting save the day? At the end of the day it is all about accountablility, for corporations, for political and religeous leaders. but then who decides the rules? who gets to write the history? is a world filled with 6 billion people doomed to suck? or has it always sucked? or is it just relative?
In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
- Douglas Adams
"There are two kinds of people in this world; those who think there are two kinds of people and those who are smart enough to know better"
- Tom Robbins
Maybe we just need an new Ipod featuring a green body and an cresent moon logo, welcome aboard next stop complacency! (of course these must be made at the expense of a less fortunate people) oh and sorry this was not very concise but hey free real estate
posted by los pijamas del gato at 7:25 AM on September 15, 2005


#7 -- Religion by nature breeds crazy fanatics, which then causes them to kill other people.
posted by eas98 at 7:27 AM on September 15, 2005


wait I meant I am 1 not a 2, damn! 1 is the way
posted by los pijamas del gato at 7:28 AM on September 15, 2005


I long ago discarded the fallacies of #1 when I realized that all the atheists I knew were even more combative, reactionary, holier-than-thou bigots than the Christians, and that humanity would far worse off with "humanists" in charge.
posted by brownpau at 7:48 AM on September 15, 2005


#7 Monotheism

creates competitive chains-of-command and a total athropocentric worldview.
posted by Substrata at 8:00 AM on September 15, 2005


BTW, western society treats gays and atheists about equally badly, its just harder to pass anti-atheist laws. Why are conservative politicians afraid of offending muslims but not afraid of making overtly anti-gay or anti-atheist statments?

Are you by any chance conflating 'American' and 'Western' in this sentence? I'm an atheist and while there are a few things that bother me about the role of religion in British and European society I don't really feel that my rights are impinged as a result of my worldview. I believe the rights of gay people are impinged on in comparison with heterosexuals, atheists or otherwise.
posted by biffa at 8:15 AM on September 15, 2005


There is no single reason. People are like onions, we operate on different levels at the same time, you have to peel back the layers and look at each answer in context.
posted by stbalbach at 8:15 AM on September 15, 2005


what twistedonion said
posted by scarabic at 8:16 AM on September 15, 2005


I'm out of practice, but I'm going to take a swing anyway.

#1 seems to come from a very Marxist or Trotskyist view of the world and of religion as a whole. Something I'm sure Paul Wolfowitz can educate many of us on in detail, I'm sure. This view is a rather pompous "intellectual" over indulgence in being foolish as far as I'm concerned. My best answer to this (but also to religion as well) would be "The fool thinks he knows something, the wise man knows he knows nothing."

#2 Fuck the Paulians.

#3 Fuck the politically correct.

#4 Fuck the anti-semetic (remember, Semites are not just Jews, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semite).

#5 Fuck the 'Libruls, who hate Amurica'. I've met people who think this way. Usually all it take is a good swift Ro-Sham-Bo to get them to realize they are making much the same mistake as those in #1, however, this would be the case where a little more practicality and a little less naivety would be useful.

#6 Culture shock at it's finest. I get the impression that the writer of the article leans towards this view point more than anything else. It's a great theory, but fails to account for the possibility of just plain old bad wiring on the parts of some of these 'militants'. Some of the possibly solutions that have been offered to this view unfortunately smack heavily of isolationism and segregation more than any useful tact. It also has the same flavor of Cold War era divisionism, or the wish to exclude those who do not come from "our side" and embrace our ways. It's like the alcoholic who hates you because you tell them if they keep drinking like that they're going to destroy their liver. We (Westerners) enjoy our drugs, our booze, our sex, our titilating television, our loud music, our "freedom" to destroy ourselves and others too much. The idea of temperance comes as a bit too restrictive to our Culture of Me.


I'll close by saying I enjoyred this article and think more people should try and explore other peoples points of view, even if it makes their head hurt and gives them a belly-ache.
posted by daq at 8:20 AM on September 15, 2005


BTW, western society treats gays and atheists about equally badly

The only atheist-bashing I've ever noticed is purely verbal.
posted by alumshubby at 8:28 AM on September 15, 2005


The only atheist-bashing I've ever noticed is purely verbal.

How many avowed athiests are in Congress? Above dogcatcher? Dogcatchers?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:36 AM on September 15, 2005


Only 6 options?
None of those really express my thoughts on this. I'd have to vote for a #7 that has something to do with history and economics...
posted by Jon-o at 8:37 AM on September 15, 2005


How many avowed athiests are in Congress?

Possibly one fewer than the number of avowed homosexuals, I'll concede. Now, how many atheists are harassed or beaten to death for their religious orientation? How many are prevented from marrying?
posted by alumshubby at 8:48 AM on September 15, 2005


If translated directly into a political prescription, it has the minor drawback of requiring that some 3 billion to 5 billion men and women abandon their fundamental beliefs.

Leaders keeping the masses uneducated works everywhere, even in America.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:50 AM on September 15, 2005


The most seductive system known to humankind, with its polychromatic consumer images of health, wealth, excitement, sex and power, is hugely attractive to young people from often poor, conservative, Muslim backgrounds. But, repelled by its hedonistic excesses or perhaps disappointed in their secret hopes, alienated by the reality of their nationalized lives in the west or feeling themselves rejected by it, a few - a tiny minority - embrace a fierce, extreme, warlike new version of the faith of their fathers

Maybe if there were Muslim rappers that made it ok to be poor and from the ghetto the youth wouldn't feel so bad. You'll notice when the street angst that propelled the black panthers was eventually commercialized into rap and hip hop, the panthers gradually faded.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:01 AM on September 15, 2005


I'm a 4, with a bit of 3.
posted by bullitt 5 at 9:27 AM on September 15, 2005


I realized that all the atheists I knew were even more combative, reactionary, holier-than-thou bigots than the Christians

I hate all people who stereotype.
posted by meehawl at 9:31 AM on September 15, 2005


Maybe if there were Muslim rappers that made it ok to be poor and from the ghetto the youth wouldn't feel so bad. You'll notice when the street angst that propelled the black panthers was eventually commercialized into rap and hip hop, the panthers gradually faded. - The Jesse Helms

commercialize Islamic Angst? Into what, a Mr. / Miss Muslim Universe pageant?

Categories:
Faith recital
Destructive / Combat Arts
Talent show??

*shudder* I feel dirty even trying to make that sound halfway funny... Interesting concept though.

-Duff
posted by DuffStone at 9:33 AM on September 15, 2005


commercialize Islamic Angst?

Easy-burn US flags.
posted by biffa at 9:40 AM on September 15, 2005


#7
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:43 AM on September 15, 2005


What is at the the root of the clash between Islam and the West?

uncanny hengeman - I always thought it was in 1181 when Reynald and his men attacked a caravan of Muslim pilgrims travelling to Mecca in direct violation of a truce.

Oh, Muslims and Christians have been visiting evil on each other much longer than that. The Muslim conquest of Alexandria, as an example, dates from 642.

On the up side, fanaticism tends to burn itself out over time. My chief hope is that it does so before someone decides that WMD is the way to go.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:43 AM on September 15, 2005


In sum:

#1: I believe strongly that belief is bad for people!

#2: I don't know anything about them Moslems, but they smell funny.

#3: Muslims are okay, but those bad Muslims, they smell funny.

#4. Brown people don't wash as often as we do, that's the problem. Hence the smell.

#5. WE SUCK. If we'd just left these damn people alone or for ONE MOMENT respected their right to live as they please and govern themselves as they had been, we wouldn't be in this pickle. Oh yeah, and pitting them against each other for our own personal gain? Bad idea.

#6. Our shit smells like roses, doesn't it? You're impressed, aren't you! Our world is so much prettier than yours. So impressed you want to live with us, huh? Yeah. We r0x0rs.

I'm going to have to go with #5.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:45 AM on September 15, 2005


The "#7" that many here seem to want to adopt is aptly expressed by Jon-o: "something to do with history and economics..." Go get 'em!

The danger here is in believing that conflict between Muslims and the West just kind of emerges of a vague haze of causality, ever outside of the grasp of those who would ask us to commit to any actual ideas. This is the haze from which we can continually announce that other people are "simplistic."

The program becomes one of leaning on that "discovery," beloved of college students, that "things are complicated," but we can't be arsed to dig deep into those complications to discover their underlying unity. Why bother? "Things are complicated."

I'd rather rally behind those who at least attempt to build coherent arguments, rather than the sophists who lie in the weeds waiting to pronounce that they're just too sophisticated for anyone else's scheme or framework.
posted by argybarg at 9:48 AM on September 15, 2005


The Jesse Helms - I always thought the decline of the Black Panthers was due to their leaders being arrested or driven underground and by the fact that the heroin wave in the 70s messed a lot of the rank & file up...

Or no, it was just MC Hammer and LL Cool J who killed the Panthers.
posted by huskerdont at 9:58 AM on September 15, 2005


1 is a silly caricature of the principle of secularism.

There's a little bit of truth in all 6 answers though.
posted by funambulist at 9:58 AM on September 15, 2005


I realized that all the atheists I knew were even more combative, reactionary, holier-than-thou bigots than the Christians

I'm not what what you mean by reactionary here. ' relating to, marked by, or favoring reaction; especially :ultraconservative in politics'

An atheist cant be politically 'ultraconsertative' based on what that means these days. I dont know if favoring reaction makes sense in this context.

Now what i can tell you is that I personally find theists a little quaint in their self reinforcing delusions, and yes i do have a lower level of respect for them when they use their belief system to justify things.

Frankly few people ever manage to break out of their childhood religious indoctrination. Those that do so in a way that not out of grief or anger, tend to be be very smart indeed.
posted by MrLint at 10:02 AM on September 15, 2005


alumshubby, I already said it was harder to pass anti-atheist laws: that completely covers the marriage issue. Your right, that gays are attacked by Christians quite frequently, but you'd see a lot more attacks on atheists if it wasn't so easy to hide your atheism.

Atheists, Wiccans, and homosexuals both fundamentally suffer from a lack of visibility. The best long term strategy for both is to maximize their own visiblity, as well as the visibility of other religion erroding ideas: women's rights, human sexuality research, value of stem cells in creating new drugs, etc. In particular, atheists should seriously consider going to gay pride events, if just to show moral support.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:11 AM on September 15, 2005


In defense of #1 being described as pompous "intellectual" I think relying is reason is not near as pompous as relying on divine intervention. Why are people so opposed to reason as a way to explain the world? Do we really think that the progress we have made in understanding the way the world works owes anything to religion, when i get into trouble i put my money on science. Science is constantly evolving in order to keep pace with the modern world if not set the pace, religion seems essentially dogmatic and unchanging which is a big part of the problem since most of the popular modern religions have origins in a very different pre-modern world and are suited to only that world view. In terms of solving the worlds problems I would rely on science much more than the power of prayer. I for one, welcome our new robot overlords. HAL-9000 2008 lets get reason back on the ticket
posted by los pijamas del gato at 10:28 AM on September 15, 2005


I'm sorry, but it's just completely insane to think that decades of violence and oppression and the disposition of the billions of dollars generated by oil revenue don't have at least as much impact on the political situation in the middle east as a 20 year old Iranian's encounter with a a DVD player.

Why are those mutually exclusive. We're talking about the power of wealth here. The political situations of the Islamic world are a result of wealth, just as much as the DVD player. Ayatollah Khomeini called the US the "Great Satan" but we analyze this statement from our Protestant Christian worldview. In Islam Satan is not the root of all evil, he is one who tempts you away from god through the worldly items he offers. In that context, for Khomeini America was exactly the greatest Satan for the Iranian world.

I mean, what if we were talking about the Huns sacking Rome or the break up of the Ottoman Empire and I insisted that the most significant causes of these events were the cultural differences twixt the various involved groups? What if I said that neither wealth, nor the desire for freedom, nor the pursuit of political and military power had anything to do with them? Wouldn't you think I was disconnected from reality?

I actually think you are disconnected from reading what #6 said. #6 says that the cause of the unrest is the struggle between the acceptance and rejection of wealth and freedom.

#6. Our shit smells like roses, doesn't it? You're impressed, aren't you! Our world is so much prettier than yours. So impressed you want to live with us, huh? Yeah. We r0x0rs.

You seen any advertising in the last 100 or so years? This pretty much is the line they spew, not to mention what comes out of Paris, London and Washington suits. What people, anywhere, not just in the Middle East (where a portion of Muslims live), does not want tv, cars, washing machines, coca cola. It takes a person with serious convictions to turn away from these desires in 2005.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:30 AM on September 15, 2005


7: Some men just want to kill.

Koran 4.92: And it does not behoove a believer to kill a believer except by mistake, [...] Allah is Knowing, Wise.
Exodus 20.13: Thou shalt not kill .
posted by DrDoberman at 10:34 AM on September 15, 2005


#1: Don't waste your time trying to imagine a utopia without religion, it won't happen. Convincing everyone to give up spirituality, which can always be exploited by opportunists, is about as difficult as convincing people to not have sex.

#2: Too broad. Not insightful.

#3: The few bad apples theory. Always true but not insightful.

#4: The many bad oranges theory. Still too broad... and racist.

#5: Blame America. True to some extent but consider the source and the agenda. Also consider that for most people in the middle east is it not safe to criticize their local authorities so in what other direction can they safely vent their frustrations? Westward ho!

#6: Back to the few bad apples theory.

Here's another to consider:

#7: The media hypes the "clash of civilizations" and sells fear mongering as a product thus giving everyone a disproportionate view of the world.
posted by StarForce5 at 10:41 AM on September 15, 2005


I like Timothy Garton Ash's writings, but my own view is somewhat different from all six. To me, the issue is national pride. I was talking to a woman from the Middle East shortly after 9/11; she was horrified by the attacks, of course, but I also remember her saying bitterly, "We are nothing to them. The only reason they care about the region is that they need the oil."

In some ways the situation of the Arab world today strikes me as similar to that of China 100 years ago (think of the Boxer Rebellion): their world has been turned upside down. After centuries of being a center of civilization and power, they find themselves in a position of weakness and humiliation. In the case of China, it's taken decades of civil war and chaos to recover to something like normality.

More here.

ihath: As a kid growing up in Kuwait, I was taught in school that we the Arabs are the best nation that god has created on planet earth. For we have spread our fair religion all over the world out of the goodness of our hearts. “Futuhaat”, they were called in our text books, liberations. We liberated the Persians, Turks and many other nations, we salvaged them from darkness. And who can revile our strong family values, beautiful language and our plain goodness. I used lay in bed at night feeling sorry for all the people that were born non Arabs. How unlucky for them.
posted by russilwvong at 11:01 AM on September 15, 2005


Well, russilwvong, that would be an interesting theory if the Ottomans hadn't already crushed the Arab world some 500 years ago.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:12 AM on September 15, 2005


As many here have said, I wish there was a choice that was a combination of all of them. But I think that even listing choices like this illustrates what the actual "problem" in the Middle East is. At least in the US, the problem is too many people trying to reduce complexity to bullet points. Americans like the black-and-white: liberal vs conservative, good vs evil, what have you. And we like to have an easily recognizable "other", like Communism, so we have something to define ourselves against or to fight.
Which is how you look at an ancient, complex civilization comprised of a whole spectrum of political and personal philosophy, affected internally and externally by a thousand different factors, and what you come up with is "they hate us for our freedoms."
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2005


Attitude #1 is one of my pet peeves. World Wars I and II were not about religion. Vietnam wasn't about religion. Korea wasn't about religion. The Cold War wasn't about religion.

The Iraq war (and previous Desert Storm, and the beating of Afghanistan into a pulp) isn't about religion either. What it boils down to is the U.S. wants to keep that region under its thumb, and they're not real happy about it.

Guess I'm a combination of #3 (fanaticism sucks, but from any quarter, whether it's Muslims or Christians or Jews or atheists or patriots) and #5 (could we please give some thought to just not fucking with them anymore?)
posted by Foosnark at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2005


spirituality != religion.

I dont feel either of them but others claim to have one and not the other.
posted by MrLint at 12:13 PM on September 15, 2005


Wow, always fun to see the Atheist Brigade seize upon any world view that demonstrates how smart they are. Thanks guys! Hey, here's a fun one: Do you think more social justice movements have been successful with religion or without religion?
Oh, and those progressive European countries all us liberal Americans like to talk about? Good thing none of them have state religions. That'd be embarrassing to point to political Islam and then find out that, say, Germany had an official church. Wait a minute, they do!

Ok. Let's look at what the greivances are, and what the similarities are to other experiences in history.
The Muslim world is generally under-developed, internally oppressed, with a large gap between rich and poor. The Bin Laden style of rhetoric is totalitarian. What makes people accept totalitarian rhetoric? Well, a need to belong, a feeling of powerlessness, a common nationalism, and a reaction against modernity. If you look at Hitler's speeches versus Bin Laden's epistles, the same themes are repeated over and over. The Versailles treaty crippled Germany, the fault was "the West" for forcing it on them, the Germans were the "one true people," Hitler promised to restore them to their former glory... The "West" is seen to have systematically crippled the Arab world (ironically, most of these more recent claims also stem from the aftermath of WWI), Islam is the one true religion, Bin Laden will restore them to their former glory...
And the real difference is the level of penetration. Hitler was popular in the '20s, but it was mostly cranks on the edges that supported him. Bin Laden doesn't even have that level of penetration now. (And we'll leave aside Mussolini, because Italy doesn't track as well with the Islamic extremism).
Look, this form of Islam is a totalitarian system, much like some forms of Christianity or Judeasm (or Hinduism... I can't think of any totalitarian Buddhists, but I'm sure they exist), or National Socialism or Maoism. It's well-funded, but probably isn't over 30% in public approval. A lot of the suicide bombers do come from the paradigm laid out in option #6, but that's not the sole point of the greivance and that's not the whole of the attraction to the totalizing doctrine. But it's a lot closer than the rest of the options given.
But man, the self-serving rationales that some of you folks are tossing up here...
posted by klangklangston at 12:19 PM on September 15, 2005


Well, russilwvong, that would be an interesting theory if the Ottomans hadn't already crushed the Arab world some 500 years ago.

The Chinese were conquered several times -- by the Mongols and later the Manchus -- but it doesn't seem to have diminished the strength of modern Chinese nationalism. In fact I would guess that nationalist feeling can be fuelled by the number of historical grievances you've accumulated. (The grievances of the Serbs against the Ottomans, for example.)
posted by russilwvong at 12:42 PM on September 15, 2005


After centuries of being a center of civilization and power, they find themselves in a position of weakness and humiliation.

I'm confused. These two statements are contradictory. How could a people be a center of civilization for centuries and suddenly find themselves humiliated, yet at the same time have been a conquered, humiliated people for centuries?

As for nationalism, other than the occasional stand out, such as Persia, there has been little to cause the tribal peoples that have formed the bulk of the Islamic world with a unified history or consciousness. The Chinese peoples on the other hand have been in essentially the same Empire for thousands of years. The Chinese as a nation has existed in history since before Europeans moved out of caves. The Bedouins of Arabia, the Turks of Turkey, the Berber of Morocco, and the Malays have no such collective consciousness.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:03 PM on September 15, 2005


DrDoberman, your comment would have made a worthy FPP. Thanks for the links.
posted by maryh at 1:06 PM on September 15, 2005


Six views of the west's problems with the Muslim world

what problems? could someone please define the problems to me? is it 9/11-Madrid-London? then what does that have to do with the Muslim world?

most people living in what we still loosely call the west would agree that we do have troubles with Islam

um, then I guess I'm not one of them "most people".

seriously, do all you people discussing the solution to these apparently horrible problems go around clashing with muslims on daily basis? 'cause I sure don't.

The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but most of the terrorists who threaten us claim to be Muslims.

that's it?

Most countries with a Muslim majority show a resistance to what Europeans and Americans generally view as desirable modernity, including the essentials of liberal democracy.

so let them. what's the problem?
posted by mr.marx at 1:12 PM on September 15, 2005


Mr. Marx, I have seen people discussing the problems (or at least what they seem to think the problems are), I have yet to find people discussing solutions... until your post:

so let them. what's the problem?

The only viable solution I've ever heard.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:24 PM on September 15, 2005


Mr. Marx, I have seen people discussing the problems (or at least what they seem to think the problems are), I have yet to find people discussing solutions... until your post:

so let them. what's the problem?

The only viable solution I've ever heard.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:24 PM PST on September 15 [!]>/small>

Now, you see, that goes against the proscribed treatment for liberal democracy and the ideals of freedom, to steal a phrase from our loving Dear Leader.

The problem is that Western Democracy cannot withstand having people living in tyranny. Supposedly. Or at least it sounds nice on paper. Ask Karl Marx about that one. Or Trotsky. Or better, ask Leo Strauss. Man, that guy had answers for everything. Of course, I'm of the opinion that Leo just had his head stuck up his ass because he thinks government should be about power and conquest, versus the idea that government is simply management of systems to perpetuate itself (which is a good thing if you subscribe to the collective commons theory of democracy). Of course, during the Cold War era, this was blasphemy, because government was about weapons and confronting the tyranny of the Communists. Or something like that. Amazing what kind of psychosis can develop when you put people under the pressure of nuclear annihilation.

Anyway, back to my point. According to the tenets of progressive reform, we can't leave people to themselves because all they'll do is wank-off and do their own thing, or they'll provide a fertile ground for the likes of Sadam Hussein, or Lenin, or some other evil bad cult of personality to take control and cause problems. Or, as #6 from the article points out, they'll end up being backwards podunks who can't deal with modern life and will snap when exposed to too much porn in their cornflakes. Either way, the progressive stance is to address the problem by engagement and "education". So far we've got the engagement part down, but the education part, well, we're still trying to find someone educated whose willing to waste their time arguing with fanatics, retards, tyrants, and well, anyone who isn't like us. Then we can "solve" this problem.


Or as Hicks said, "blast off and nuke'em from orbit, it's the only way to be sure".

Essentially we are in the same state of the world as early proto-human tribes, in pre-history. Groups of people, banding together, throwing rocks at each other because we feel threatened by those who aren't part of our group. Welcome to the human cycle, abstracted through too many drugs.

posted by daq at 1:45 PM on September 15, 2005


I can't format for crap it seems.
posted by daq at 1:46 PM on September 15, 2005


Or, as #6 from the article points out, they'll end up being backwards podunks who can't deal with modern life and will snap when exposed to too much porn in their cornflakes.

Um, I didn't see that in #6 at all. Where did you get that impression? The snapping doesn't come from folks being podunks, it comes from people dealing with conservative dogma vs. libertine society. It happens to fundy raised in the West too, thus we get folks like Eric Rudolph or the OK City boys.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:53 PM on September 15, 2005


I'm reading an interesting book right now, The End of Faith by Sam Harris, which basically pretty much hews to #1 as far as Islam, but also criticizes Christianity as well. I think his argument is a bit simplistic, since he just goes on epistemological grounds rather than bringing in a more nuanced inclusion of social and political history, but the general thrust that "believing in things that don't exist and that are incompatible with what other people believe fucks up the world" is a pretty tempting one to me.
posted by matildaben at 2:27 PM on September 15, 2005


Cool. An article that asks you to choose your reductionist explanation of a complex issue posted at the world headquarters of reductionism. The answer is of course obvious: bad Bush, bad Christians, bad America. I can name that tune in ANY number of notes, Alex, because it’s always the same tune.
posted by offmylawn at 2:32 PM on September 15, 2005


I could be wrong, but a lot of the drama in the middle east isn't... or wasn't originally about oil. It was over the creation of a Jewish state post WWII, and the "West's" involvement in that process.

I'm not trying to turn this into a Semitic war or words, I'm just pointing out that the original distrust came from our manipulations 70 years ago, not the much later discoveries of oil. Tensions with Saudi Arabia can specifically be tracked back to the Jewish state issue.

-Duff
posted by DuffStone at 2:52 PM on September 15, 2005


I could be wrong, but a lot of the drama in the middle east isn't... or wasn't originally about oil. It was over the creation of a Jewish state post WWII, and the "West's" involvement in that process.

A little before that, actually. The Balfour Declaration (WWI) promised to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Arab-Jewish relations in the 1920s weren't too bad, but things got really bad in the 1930s once the Nazis came to power in Germany and there was a flood of Jewish immigration into Palestine.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is certainly a major grievance. But my theory is that in some ways, this is just a symptom. That is, the fact that the Arabs have been defeated so many times by Israel, a tiny country, shows how weak they are; and it's this weakness with respect to the West which is humiliating. Resolving this specific grievance (by establishing a viable Palestinian state) isn't going to make their weakness go away.

Pollomacho: How could a people be a center of civilization for centuries and suddenly find themselves humiliated, yet at the same time have been a conquered, humiliated people for centuries?

Short answer: under the Ottomans, the Arabs identified with the Ottoman Empire; they felt that they were part of a civilized and powerful collective entity. That's no longer available to them.

Longer answer:

One major reason for nationalism is that it gives people who lack power and security as individuals a way of feeling powerful, by identifying with a collective entity larger than themselves. (Nationalism, particularly ethnic nationalism, is strengthened in times of rapid social change or disorder.) Under the Ottomans, Arabs could identify with the Ottoman Empire itself, which was ruled by fellow Muslims.

But that's no longer available to them. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the independent Arab states, none of the individual Arab states are particularly strong. You're not going to get much emotional satisfaction from identifying with Jordan, or even Egypt, which are weak states; it's more satisfying to identify with the Arab people as a whole, or the Muslim world as a whole.

Arab nationalism may not be as old as Chinese nationalism, but the Arab people do have a very long and glorious history to draw upon (the Arab conquest dates back to the 600s, when Europe wasn't far removed from barbarism). I've quoted ihath above. Here's a similar expression of Arab national pride from helmy, an Egyptian blogger.
posted by russilwvong at 3:35 PM on September 15, 2005


Eric Rudolph is a bit different from, e.g., the London bombers or the killers of Theo Van Gogh. The latter are second- or third-generation immigrants who feel a disconnect between their lives in modern society and an imagined, but largely remote, cultural heritage from "the old country." It is not news that these young radicals are more militant and reactionary than their first-generation parents. It's because they're reacting against a Western (not just modern) society where they don't feel they fit in or entirely belong, by grasping at an ancestral culture that they only half-know, or only know secondhand. It becomes a way to forge an identity that stands in contrast to a culture and society that they live in and are confronted with every day, but don't feel they really belong to. This New Yorker article about the Iranian immigrant community in Los Angeles illustrates what I'm talking about. The dislocation of the second generation should not be discounted.

Personally, I'm a 3-5-6-1 person (in that order). There are a lot of parts to an elephant.
posted by skoosh at 3:37 PM on September 15, 2005


but don't see hundreds upon hundres of Christians or Jews or Buddhists etc going about blowing themselves up and killing children, the elderly etc because of their religious beliefs.

What about pro-life folks killing abortion clinic doctors? Just sayin'.

The only atheist-bashing I've ever noticed is purely verbal.

If you're an athiest kid in grade or high school and other kids notice you don't say "under god" during the pledge, you'll probably get beat up. Or if you're sitting in a bar populated by relatively unfriendly religious zealot types, and proudly announce your lack of faith.

Personally, when I was younger (14-ish) and still trying to figure out what I was, I said to another kid "I think I'm an athiest". He promptly stooped down and threw a rock at me. No joke. It was like a reflex, and it was a kid I knew well and we had just been having a conversation. He didn't talk to me after that, either.
posted by davejay at 3:49 PM on September 15, 2005


Thanks for the link to the New Yorker article, skoosh. Reminds me of a comment by Orwell about transferred nationalism: it's possible to have a much greater attachment to a country that you don't know anything about, because you don't know about any of its flaws.

It makes it possible for him to be much more nationalistic ... than he could ever be on behalf of his native country, or any unit of which he had real knowledge. When one sees the slavish or boastful rubbish that is written about Stalin, the Red Army, etc. by fairly intelligent and sensitive people, one realizes that this is only possible because some kind of dislocation has taken place. In societies such as ours, it is unusual for anyone describable as an intellectual to feel a very deep attachment to his own country. ... He still feels the need for a Fatherland, and it is natural to look for one somewhere abroad. Having found it, he can wallow unrestrainedly in exactly those emotions from which he believes that he has emancipated himself.
posted by russilwvong at 4:08 PM on September 15, 2005


“The situation facing us is not a war of Islam against Christianity but...more like a conflict of stupid people against stupid people”. Terry Prachett
posted by dangerousdan at 9:09 PM on September 15, 2005


#1 is just so much wishful thinking.

#2 doesn't make a lot of sense in historical terms. Islam was an asterisk on the league table of actual or asserted sources of discord before the last few years. Catholic vs. Protestant battles killed vastly more people, over a much longer time frame, and nobody's saying Jesuits and Lutherans are an inherent source of global terrorism...

My own views aside, and whether or not Bush or Blair feels that way, pretty much every Muslim I know goes with #3 or a variant thereof as the core problem, although they generally argue that militant Islamists make clever, and effective, use of Arab nationalism (a combination of #4 and #5) and culture-shocked youth (#6) to pursue their goals.
posted by MattD at 6:55 AM on September 16, 2005


Just chiming in to let people know that the comment above this one was written in a genial voice by a conservative that may disagree with you on many core beliefs, yet managed to discuss the issue in a conversational and informed tone...
I figured that would be a good one to point to the next "Conservatives are from Mars, Liberals are from Venus" MeTa thread there is...
posted by klangklangston at 9:07 AM on September 16, 2005


To put Mr. Marx's point a slightly different way: If the IRA started a new bombing campaign in the UK (and other places it perceived to be supportive of the UK), what would you think of an article talking about "six views of the Catholic (or the Irish) world"? Would people here be seriously debating whether Catholics (or the Irish) are naturally violent people, etc.? I hope not. Of course, the Guardian would probably not publish such an article. (Apologies to Mr. Marx if I misunderstood what he wrote.) To be sure, the IRA hasn't engaged to suicide bombing, but I expect you can see my point.
posted by bluffy at 2:15 PM on September 16, 2005


hundres of Christians or Jews or Buddhists etc going about blowing themselves up and killing children, the elderly etc because of their religious beliefs. There is a difference, even among religions.

As MattD noted, the Thirty Years War. Went on for Thirty Years - many children, elderly killed. That's just one of the many, many wars of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

St Bartholomew Day's Massacre, 1572. Catholics kill Protestants, dragging them out of their houses.

Cromwell's invasion of Ireland: Protestants slaughter Catholics.

More recently, children have been attacked in Belfast - I don't even remember which side, nor does it matter to me.

And before anyone blames monotheistic thunder god religions, I will remind them that in 20th century India, Hindus kill Muslims, and Muslims kill Hindus - elderly and children, too.

But, of course, people don't even need religion to kill each other. The Chinese Civil Wars between the GMD were fought between communists and fascists. The Japanese slaughtered innocent civilians without religious cause. How many civilians died in the French and Indian wars, over land and furs?

I think Terry Pratchett gets the closest to the truth. He is a very smart man. I'm going to go read Jingo again.
posted by jb at 11:25 PM on September 16, 2005


Wars are always about money and power, yes. But religion makes them infinitely easier. Religion needs to go as a method of policy choice, as has happened in Germany, but not in the U.S. What Germany & Britian prove is that you should not outlaw religion, you should inundate it with good useful progrssive ideas which are diametrically opposed to it: like gay rights.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:42 AM on September 17, 2005


bluffy: no apologies needed, you're spot on.
posted by mr.marx at 12:43 PM on September 17, 2005


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