Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Asking for readers' insights on this issue . . .

What's up with Islam ?

I came across an article in City-Journal by Ibn Warraq on the use of a highly inaccurate history of the Crusades as a meme for contemporary militant Islam to justify itself.  That's my characterization of his article.  (Ibn Warraq (son of Warraq) is a pseudonym, referring to Muhammad al Warraq, a 9th c. skeptic of Islam.)  He has published several books and is active in defense of Western Civilization.

I have lived nearly two decades of my life in Turkey.  I have seen many faces of Islam.  I have seen fervor and I have seen casual disregard.  I have occasionally seen quiet certainty that Islam will take over the world, but I have never seen anger.  Whatever the peculiarities and extremes of the Turkish national experience since 1922, there has been an accommodation between Islam and the West.  The Turks may welcome or not welcome XXIst Century Consumer Culture, but they do not fall back upon the rationalizations of the rioting, righteous fringe in the process.

Why that should be so is a question for another day - historical and psychological and political, at the very least.  However, without going into a lot of details that could get me fatwa'd, I will make my point:

There seems to exist no mechanism to control the anger and violence of the rioting, righteous fringe.  The entire Muslim world lives in fear of that fringe.  Their imams will not say "no."  Their governments will not say "no."  The western governments have repeatedly refused to say "no."

And, then, pundits pose the question, "Why are there so few voices of moderation in Islam?"  The answer is that they are intimidated into silence.

The al Warraq article mentions, in passing, the excesses of Christian zealotry as an inadequate rationalization for militant Islam.  This prompted the question, "What moderated Christian zealotry?"  I don't know the answer and I wonder whether there is a prospect for some similar moderating influence on contemporary militant Islam.

My initial thought about contemporary Turkey is that there is a long tradition of political control of extremist factions.  The Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliph, the titular head of Islam.  Kemal Ataturk, who founded the Turkish Republic in 1923, placed severe political controls on Islam and set the Turkish military as the guarantee of that secularism.  Readers' views on this are welcome.

Will readers also, please, suggest what moderated Christian zealotry, in the form of The Inquisition, and other forms – in both Catholicism and Protestantism.

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