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My friend and political polar opposite (hey, it happens) Darth Vadum posed an interesting question on his blog the other day: “Is it Islamic ‘extremism’ — or is it Islam itself?” Much of my thoughts below are informed by his post and by that of a blogger he linked to.
To many of us, even posing this question has racist implications. After all, much of the pro-war crowd seems incapable of distinguishing between the unconcerned one billion people of Islamic faith and the handful who bombed New York and London. Judging a whole by the actions of a few is the hallmark of racism. However, it would be foolish and counterproductive for us to dismiss the question as disingenuous racist ramblings since, to be clear, a large proportion of reasonable but underinformed Westerners have asked themselves the same question without malicious intent.
Much of this “large proportion” is motivated by what they see as a lack of movement on the part of moderate Muslims to denounce the actions of the militant few. What the pro-war types need to realize is that such an expectation is innately racist and unrealistic. Only racist fools blame the Jewish people for the actions of the Israeli government; do we insist that our Jewish friends regularly denounce the grievous actions of Netanyahu, Sharon et al?
When the IRA was wreaking its terror in the 1970s and 80s, were all Catholic Irishmen painted with their actions? Occasionally yes, and that was a racist characterisation. But were non-militant Irish Catholics required to denounce the clearly marginal activities of the IRA?
When Christian fundamentalists bomb abortion clinics or hole up in Waco, Texas, or join militias or bomb government buildings in Oklahoma, are Christians worldwide fingered for these actions? Surely, these miscreants cite Jesus with as much Zeal as the 9/11 bombers evoke the name of Allah!
It is true that many in the dispossessed Muslim world may see Osama bin Laden as a bit of a champion, but does that make them fundamentalists, too? I would argue no, just as it does not necessarily mean that they approve of his methods. Irish Catholics probably secretly cheer the IRA, because at least someone is addressing their interests, but they don’t necessarily support the IRA’s murderous adventures. Similarly, the downtrodden of Chechnya and Palestine have no champions but those who would kill in their name, though I’m sure they’d prefer someone less polarizing but equally as effective; a strong politician, perhaps? The occasional cheer does not make the masses fundamentalist, rather it highlights their political suffering and desperation.
Part of the problem is the (media and Bush driven) myth of the global terrorism conspiracy. How many times have commentators lumped together the terror attacks in Moscow, Madrid, London and New York, and the on-going uprising in Israel? But the Moscow attacks had to do with a justified desire for Chechen independence; the Palestinian struggle is a for a homeland; London and Madrid appear to have been in response to the invasion of Iraq; and 9/11 was, according to bin Laden, a response to US military presence in Saudi Arabia, its support of Israel and other perceived insults.
One billion people –a sixth of humanity– follow Mohammed. Are they all innately fundamentalist? Do they all harbour secret destructive plans for the collapse of the American hegemon? Please, get a grip.
In other news, a new study by the Saudi government and an Israeli think tank has concluded, unsurprisingly, that the so-called foreign insurgents fighting US/UK troops in Iraq were previously unmotivated to act violently prior to the invasion of Iraq. One of the many rationalizations the pro-war types used to justify the Ira war after it was shown that there are no WMDs there was that “it’s better to fight terrorists over there rather than here at home.” Well, it seems “we” are creating the ones we fight “over there”, while the original ones are still around to bomb us at home. Yes, Virginia, there really is a monkey-brained president.
Meanwhile, fundamentalist Christians take note. Here’s more strong evidence of evolution in action.