Never Again and Again
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Monday, June 11, 2007

300 Spartans versus 10,000 Academics


The motion picture 300 demonstrates the split between Western intellectuals and the public. Released last March, 300 depicts the battle of Thermopylae fought between the Persian host and a handful of Greek hoplites in 480 B.C. The title refers to the 300 Spartans who led the Greeks in this battle and of which all but one was killed. Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller the movie was immensely popular. According to Variety’s online report (May 2, “Ripple effect of '300' hits Cannes”) 300 was a “runaway success” that is “an extremely good omen” due to its box office success. Worldwide the receipts for 300 are approaching half a billion dollars.


While both movie goers and makers have “nothing but love” for the action epic, the same is not true for many reviewers and intellectuals. For example, Variety’s review of March 9 by Todd McCarthy compares the film to gay porn and to Gerald Butler’s Leonidas as a “blowhard.” Dana Stevens writing for Slate online compared 300 to the notorious Nazi propaganda piece The Eternal Jew. Stevens described the movie as a “race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth” that was an “incitement to total war.”


It is the theme of 300 that has the critics hostile not its style. In the opening voice-over that sets the stage for the movie’s action, the narrator states the Greece was the “world’s last hope for reason and justice.” 300’s epilogue dramatizes the battle of Plataea where the combined hoplites of the Greek city states defeated the remnants of the Persian army. Before the battle a Spartan hoplite steps forward and declares: “today we rescue the world from mysticism and tyranny.” For a popular action movie to base its theme on the connection between mysticism and tyranny and that reason is the source of justice and freedom is truly amazing. It is for 300’s unapologetic view that Greek (Western) culture was/is superior to Persian (middle-Eastern) culture that has the intellectuals angered.


One of 300’s most interesting reviews was penned by Mustafa Akyol for the Turkish Daily News: “300: Orientalism for Beginners.” Akyol characterizes the film as “a crude Orientalism and a thinly veiled fascism.” By “Orientalism” Akyol makes clear his agreement with the thesis of Edward Said’s hugely influential book of that title. According to Akyol, and Said, it is this Western portrayal of the Islamic world as “irrational, absurd and stagnant” that is responsible for the hostility between East and West. Said stated the problem as the unenlightened Western masses refusal to follow their academic superiors:



The important point, however, is that a largely unexamined but serious rift has opened in the public consciousness between the old ideas of Western hegemony (of which the system of Orientalism was a part) on the one hand, and newer ideas that have taken hold among subaltern and disadvantaged communities and among a wide sector of intellectuals, academics, and artist, on the other. (p. 348)


The “intellectual affairs” writer for Inside Higher Education, Scott McLemee, although admitting to never having viewed the film, described those who did as “young, impressionable, historically clueless viewers.” McLemee chose to title his non-review "A Fresh Triumph of the Will" indicating his opinion of those who made 300 a huge box office hit. There is a rift between the public and professional intellectuals particularly in the United States. The fault, however, is with the intellectuals who long ago abandoned the Western values of reason and justice for those of mysticism and tyranny.


In 1983 Prof. Leonard Peikoff gave a lecture at the Ford Hall Forum on “Assault from the Ivory Tower: the Professors’ War Against America.” In his opening statement Prof. Peikoff notes that upon his first arriving in the United States in the 1950s to attend New York University he was struck by his American professors’ hostility to their own country. “I do not know another country in which anti-patriotism has ever been the symbol of an ideology on such a scale.” Prof. Peikoff states his belief that this is caused by the fact that America is an ideology. The Founding Fathers' Enlightenment ideals, based largely on classical Greece and Rome, are “anathema to today’s intellectuals.”


In his discussion of postmodernism the historian Mark T. Gilderhus states that, “as the theory holds, Enlightenment ideas about reason, objectivity, and possibilities of progress have no validity….” (History and Historians, pp. 133-4) It is post modern nihilism that explains why in a conflict between east and west, whether 2500 years ago or today, so many Western intellectuals side with the Other. On a positive note, the fissure between the nation and its intellectuals has become apparent to growing numbers of Americans, hopefully new intellectuals will arise to again enshrine reason and justice as America’s, and the West's, basic values.


Crossposted at The Dougout


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posted by Grant Jones at permanent link#

29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Grant,

Just some random thoughts on your piece. Though I think you put some time in to it and I appreciate your desire to clarify what you think is an appropriate use of knowledge. You are off-base.

It is not just academics who think this movie is pure and polluted propaganda designed to feed on the most basic human fears of the ‘other’. When you strip away the cool effects and hyped up glamour, there is a theme of nationalism and hate which is geared to prompt us all to “remember the Alamo” just long enough so we have the ‘courage’ to kill people that look a little different then us.

You are welcome to your views, but you sound more like a rat in a maze (flopping about at the whims of your masters) then the ‘enlightened’ individual you aspire to be.

I agree that many academics in America today take things too far, turning Orientalism into Occidentalism and tearing apart even the productive parts of ‘Western’ society. However, that does not mean the attitudes in movies like this should not be critiqued. It also does not mean the philosophy that inspired the Spartans and in turn the ‘Enlightenment’ is lost in the current state of academic theory. Postmodernism does not destroy the creations of industrialization, progress, truth and reason. It is simply a response to them which should prompt us all to be sceptical of any absolutes…like those propagated by the academics you criticise, along with those you yourself touch upon here. All philosophy from Greece to now was meant to help us understand human ‘truths’ not latch on to one and follow it blindly.

As for ideology is concerned…American and wherever…I think you would be surprised if you were transported back to Sparta and saw how different their views of freedom and justice and individuality were. It was not the ‘enlightenment’ you so blindly support. Neither are the basic notions that most people propagate today in America rooted in ‘enlightenment’ thinking. We all manifest a variety of philosophical approaches to issues depending on the moment and the influence of others (and you prove with your zombie-like comments).

You are using words you don’t understand to say things which support systems of thought that hurt people. Whatever good intentions you may have, you are a part of the problem and not the solution.

Tanner

Thursday, February 21, 2008 7:18:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All of us, every single man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth were born with the same inalienable rights; to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And, if the governments of the world can't get that through their thick skulls, then, regime change will be necessary."


YES, FORCE PEOPLE TO BE FREE. THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

JACKASS!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008 7:32:00 am  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Annoymous,
The proclamation at the top of our sidebar is not made from a desire to "force people to be free." Instead, it is a warning to governments who will not heed the desires of the people they represent.

The Declaration of Independence says,

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government ..."

Thursday, February 21, 2008 2:03:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are using words you don’t understand to say things which support systems of thought that hurt people. Whatever good intentions you may have, you are a part of the problem and not the solution.

Thursday, February 21, 2008 5:33:00 pm  
Blogger Pastorius said...

What makes you think I don't understand the words I use? Did you check my IQ and my education history?

If there is something specific you object to, let me know, and I will answer it, as I have done thus far. I'm being fair with you. Try being fair with me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008 7:03:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Grant,

You said, "What makes you think I don't understand the words I use? Did you check my IQ and my education history? If there is something specific you object to, let me know, and I will answer it, as I have done thus far. I'm being fair with you. Try being fair with me."

I already wrote a number of things into my first response to your lopsided column here. If you can not get 'specifics' out of that first message then I suppose I am not off-base with my criticism…

If your 'IQ and educational level' are sufficient to lay siege to the Ivory Tower, then they should be suitable to understand and respond to what I wrote there.

Tanner

Sunday, February 24, 2008 7:32:00 am  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Tanner,
My name is Pastorius. I am not Grant. Grant wrote the piece, not I.

You commented on the proclamation on our sidebar, which I wrote. I am asking you about that. You said:

"All of us, every single man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth were born with the same inalienable rights; to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And, if the governments of the world can't get that through their thick skulls, then, regime change will be necessary."


YES, FORCE PEOPLE TO BE FREE. THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

JACKASS!!!"

I responded by pointing out that my statement was a restatement of the Declaration of Independence.

Your response to me was that I am using words I don't understand.

What words do you think I don't understand. Make your point. Why is the statement on the sidebar a statement that we should "force people to be free"?

You are, in my opinion, cariacaturizing us.

Sunday, February 24, 2008 1:38:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Pastorius,

First, my comments are under the post by grant and the words about your sidebar actually come from my first initial long comment. If you are not Grant they only partially apply to you and the sidebar quote…though the essence of all my comments is the same…

With that said, and in combination with my reaction to Grants views on ‘enlightenment’ thinking as applied to your and his version of ‘American Democracy’, I am annoyed simply because you obviously think there is a Universal Truth and everyone should accept it and move on. Your site is an insult to Islam. That goes beyond saying. That in itself is childish and short-sited. However, even more narrow-minded is your view that in its place (and in the place of all the diverse cultures/thoughts/philosophies/ideas/beliefs that exist in the world) their should be one version of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ that you for some reason think you can define.

What makes American Democracy so interesting and long-lasting is that it has changed with the times and the voice of the people. Our vision of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ has adjusted to define ‘freedom’ in ways which the people find satisfying. It is not the same as it was when the Declaration of Independence was written (thank god since those people felt it was alright to have slaves, degrade women and steal other peoples land—to say the least) and it will not be the same in 10 years (Hopefully even in one year when a new president takes over and turns the Republican vision of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ around so that it actually applies to most people again and not just to corporations and right-wing fanatics).

I too believe that everyone is entitled to the words penned in the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson and others had some good ideas about the direction human’s should go. However, I also believe that Thomas Jefferson was also right when he said, “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know” and “Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.”

In other words, for ‘life. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ to work, we have to also accept that people are given limits to their freedoms based on the rights of others…No one ideology can or should trump others…no one truth can or should preside…no tyranny of thought should provide room for the sort of discrimination you propagate on your site. You are a destroyer of freedom. Not a supporter. Thus your sidebar quote attesting to support the Declaration of Independence is actually just a sad perversion of what Jefferson and the rest were trying to establish.

Just because you do not agree with Islam does not mean you have the right to attack it. And just because you love your country does not mean you have a monopoly on what that country is supposed to look like.

Tanner

P.S. I am sorry if this is a little offensive. I am a veteran and I have struggled to protect peoples freedoms. It makes me mad when people play around with the Declaration of Independence--using it as a tool of hate and not of emancipation. I look forward to your reaction to my words. Please let me know if I am off-base with what I say here...Are you a hate-monger or have I mis-read?

Monday, February 25, 2008 6:45:00 am  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Anonymous,

I'll treat each point you make seperately:

1) You said: "I am annoyed simply because you obviously think there is a Universal Truth and everyone should accept it and move on."

I, personally, think there is a Universal Truth. However, I don't believe that individual human beings are going to agree on said truth. That being said, we can agree that we have the right to to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. From that foundation, we built the Constitution. When we have arguments over nuances we go to court. That is as it should be, in my opinion.

2) You said: "Your site is an insult to Islam. That goes beyond saying. That in itself is childish and short-sited."

I say: Our site is insulting to Islam. Islam is a religion. Religions are among the powerful institutions which help mediate our society (some others being business and government). As such, it is imperative that religion be open to criticism, including mockery. We would never even consider the idea that we ought not mock government or business. However, somehow, in the past few years, we have begun to take seriously the idea that ought not mock Islam. I think that is a mistake.

You said: "I also believe that Thomas Jefferson was also right when he said, “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know” and “Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.”


I say: I love the Jefferson quote and I agree. Islamofascism does not agree. To the extent that the governments of the world decide to cave into Islamofascism, I would support regime change. Islamofascism is Islam which enacts the protocols of Sharia (as it is in the Koran) as the law of the land. Sharia stipulates that people be executed for the "crimes" of being adulterers, apostates, and homosexuals. I think that as human beings who believe that we all have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happines, we can agree that those ideas are abhorrent, and we do not want our governments to even begin to entertain such ideas. That being said, the Archbishop of Canterbury (hiding behind the mantle of nuanced discussion) the other day, proclaimed that the introduction of Sharia into British society is "inevitable." Even Muslim organizations cried foul. British law is sufficient. Sharia courts ought not be needed to mediate even domestic laws (having to do with marriage and divorce) because Sharia considers women to be worth half that of what men are worth. I'm guessing that you have been paying attention to the world's news well enough to know about the Archbishop's proposal. It is with people like him in mind that we proclaim that "if the governments of the world can not get this through their thick heads, then regime change will be necessary." The Archbishop is a representative of the government of the UK. His words were treasonous, in my opinion. Sharia is the law of the land (the constitution) of the state of Saudi Arabia. If a man in high government position were to have said, during the Cold War, that we the introduction of the Soviet Constitution into the British system was inevitable, he would have been considered treasonous. The same goes with Sharia, in my opinion.

Let me know if I failed to answer any of the points you made.

Monday, February 25, 2008 1:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PASTORIUS,

Thanks for getting back so quickly. My name is Tanner by the way, not ‘anonymous’. It is a the bottom of my last post.

I can tell you believe in one Truth. That much is obvious. It is also clear that you say you would like for everyone to enjoy ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. Since when does that include degrading other people’s faith? Do you think your site increases the liberty and happiness of Muslims? If not, maybe you should consider that what you do is not in line with the Declaration of Independence at all…but some other agenda entirely.

Along these lines…

You say: “Our site is insulting to Islam. Islam is a religion. Religions are among the powerful institutions which help mediate our society (some others being business and government). As such, it is imperative that religion be open to criticism, including mockery. We would never even consider the idea that we ought not mock government or business. However, somehow, in the past few years, we have begun to take seriously the idea that ought not mock Islam. I think that is a mistake.”

I say: Yours is a ‘straw man’ argument designed to set up Islam as a Monolith which you can then knock down. This sort of thing makes sense to someone who believes in ONE TRUTH—with life then becoming white and black (which basically means that everyone who believes different then you is the black). However, it does not represent reality. Islam can and should be critiqued, but in so doing you must consider that this is not only a powerful institution (which it is of course in some diverse cases), it is also a very personal belief system for many people. If you are truly interested in the “liberty and happiness” of others you would not be so abusive about their beliefs…

As far as the rest of your post you are right to elaborate on how the political dimensions of Islam in the West are complicated and our Western vision of a separation between church and state should not be compromised…However, your sidebar quote next to the article about those 300 fighting off the armies of the East hints to a different objective. Not just keeping our countries the way they are, but also pushing the rest of the world to be the same. Although I agree that Islam is sometimes used for many bad things and horrible ways of governance. I still also believe that only people can choose themselves to be free. History has shown us that democracy can never be forced with any positive outcome. Not in Iraq and not anywhere else. That is why I commented on your sidebar in as I did in the first place.

Tanner

Monday, February 25, 2008 3:46:00 pm  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Tanner,

You say: "Islam as a Monolith ..."

I say: No, I don't believe Islam is a monolith. I believe that there are very dangerous aspects to Islam as it is practiced by many people around the world. We make fun of those who believe such things. I believe that those don't practice Islam in a dangerous manner will benefit by our tearing down of the danger. It is true that many Muslims will not be able to see the distinction we are making between Islamofascism and Islam as it is practiced by moderates. Well, still, they live in a Democratic Republic, and they have to learn to respect the fact that we have the right to mock their religion. Certainly, I respect the fact that people have the right to mock my religion.


You say: Islam can and should be critiqued, but in so doing you must consider that this is not only a powerful institution (which it is of course in some diverse cases), it is also a very personal belief system for many people.

I say: Yes, that is true. I recognize that it is part of the family structure of life for people and as such when I mock Islam it is a mockery of that which people hold most sacred (family and religion). However, that is the price we pay for free speech. All freedom comes with responsibilities. If people want to live in a free society, then they have to accept the responsibility of not being violent when someone mocks their belief. It would be one thing for you to say that what we do here is in bad taste. Sure, it is. It's mean. But, Free Speech is sometimes mean. That's part of the gig. What does free speech mean if it doesn't mean that we accept abhorrent speech?


You say: "your sidebar quote next to the article about those 300 fighting off the armies of the East hints to a different objective. Not just keeping our countries the way they are, but also pushing the rest of the world to be the same. Although I agree that Islam is sometimes used for many bad things and horrible ways of governance. I still also believe that only people can choose themselves to be free. History has shown us that democracy can never be forced with any positive outcome. Not in Iraq and not anywhere else. That is why I commented on your sidebar in as I did in the first place. "


I say: 1) No, I don't think we can make the rest of the world be the same as us. However, I think the Western world is pretty uniform in our vision of Freedom. I think the Western governments need to be held accountable to their repsonsibilities to the people. The sidebar is mostly directed at Western governments. However, it is also meant to give heart to reformers in other parts of the world, who are, perhaps, working within socieities where the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a new idea. In other words, it is the right of people to live the way we do, if that is what they want. Actually, if you think about it, were you, personally, to witness a Sharia-inspired execution of an apostate, you would be inspired to put a stop to it, even though it was the law of the land. Right? Would you be "forcing people to be free?"

The idea that history has shown us that we can not force democracy on a people with any positive outcome is open to debate.

What do you think we did to the Japanese after WWII? What did we do to the Germans after WWII? What did we do to the American South after the American Civil War?

Monday, February 25, 2008 4:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

River I s l a m
¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
The ‘Geographical’ Significance Surrounding a ‘Geological’ Illusion




It has been proposed that Islam is a theological and cultural ‘monolith’; that—like some massive metamorphic stone—it rises above the social landscape as one dominating and inseparable entity; that its shadow spills forth in the form of a unified “fighting creed”, bringing the “Islamic World under the banner of Iranian-style fundamentalism in existential struggle with the infidel West”; and that the result is an inevitable “clash of civilizations” (Hunter 1998: 1-2).
This view of Islam is correct if and only if one perceives the world strictly in the terms of binary oppositions—them/us, white/black, good/evil—and if Christianity and other world religions are set in similarly oppressive stances. If self/other constructs do take center stage; if dichotomous ideologies preside; and if those who have power and privilege are able to rigidly control the information we process—then such a ‘geological’ illusion is certainly possible (Hunter 1998: 20-21).
Fortunately, the ‘geographical’ realities surrounding Islam are far more interesting and intricate then this (Hunter 1998: 17). Though the existence of issues like Islamophobia and Islamic fundamentalism can not be ignored, there are also historical, compositional and theological aspects that must be considered when attempting to understand the changing and complicated nature of the world’s second largest religion.
a ‘Geological’ Illusion
‘Islam’ as a ‘monolith’ is an illusion. Yet, it is an illusion that finds its ways into discourses that influence our daily lives. Rather it is used by Western interests to ‘other’ Muslims, or by fundamentalists within Islam to create a strong ‘self’ by ‘othering’ the ‘West’—the results are similar. Such a stance over-simplifies reality with the explicit intention of furthering a group’s goals—be they philosophically motivated or geared toward political mobilization and/or social control (Tétreault 2004: 3).
Due to the prevalence of such discourse, and the fact that ‘religion’ and ‘ideology’ do play a specific (and often dominating) role in how humans define communities and deal with ‘others’ (Tétreault 2004: 4), it is no wonder that ‘theories’ like Samuel Huntington/Bernard Lewis’ “Clash of Civilizations” tend to attract attention (Hunter 1993: 5). As Mary Ann Tétreault showed, “religion and ideologies” often overlap to form “a total system or overall hegemonic pattern designed to shape a material reality to conform to a society’s beliefs about the origin of authority and the proper structure of power” (2004: 7).
Given such influence, it may be rational to conclude—as Huntington has—that future conflicts will arise due to differences in language, history, culture, tradition and religion; and that those conflicts will be most exaggerated where ‘peoples’ are the most different (Huntington 1993: 25). However, to divide the world into six very specific civilizations, and then to partition those off by “fault lines” (Huntington 1993: 25, 29) results in the same overly-general (and often dangerous) conclusions/illusions that appear when we declare that Islam is a ‘monolith’.

It promotes a meta-physical concept of cultural unity and an ahistorical notion of fixed civilisational blocs. Such a vision cannot plausibly be sustained against recent scholarship offering a nuanced account of the interaction among the Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions in the Mediterranean contact zone. (Beinen & Stork 1997: 20)

The negative effects of ‘monolithic’ thinking are clearly illustrated when we consider how the discourse of ‘Orientalism’—which as Edward Said (1978) notably demonstrated has pushed and supported projects like Colonialism over the years—now seems especially focused on Arab-Muslims in the Middle East (Richardson 2004: 11). The result is a spread of ‘Islamophobia’ throughout Western countries which consequently further ‘others’ Muslims, and on the flip side encourages new forms of Islamic fundamentalism (Richardson 2004: 20-21). Because of extensive media coverage of terrorism, invasive political decisions and economic/immigration concerns, a small faction of Islam—fundamentalists—have come to dominate the Western public’s perception of Islam as a whole (Richardson 2004: 12). In turn, some of these same fundamentalist groups have created an ‘other’—particularly in the form of the USA—which they see as the “primary source of injustice afflicting Muslims worldwide” (Tétreault 2004: 15).
Both these issues, Islamophobia and Islamic fundamentalism, do not represent or
even involve the majority of people inside or outside of the Islamic community (Richardson 2004: 23; Tétreault 2004: 20-21). Yet—as the Runneymede Trust’s (1997) report on Islamophobia indicates—they seem to often take precedence and overwhelm the more intricate realities that surround us (Richardson 2004: 20-22). In the absence of further knowledge, they create ‘monoliths’ out of ‘others’ and that perspective becomes truth (Richardson 2004: 22)(Moallem 2003: 198-199). For this reason, it is important to take a step back and consider the bigger picture.
The ‘Geographical’ Reality
With over 20% of those who practice religion in the world belonging to the Islamic faith, it is clear that it is a large and important part of the human social landscape. Yet, it should not be seen as an extension of difference; a concrete and unmoving ‘monolith’ which lives within the confines of strict self/relationships. Instead, like the meandering thalweg of a river on a flood plain—which constantly pushes and changes the earth it traverses—Islam should be seen as a fluid thing. To understand why, it is necessary to look at three areas: Islam’s history, its current composition and its teachings.
Historical Complexity
James Clifford has stressed the necessity—when studying a people, culture, concept, etc.—to focus not on its supposed homogeneous appearance, but instead on the “flow of history” which surrounds it (1997: 13, 338). This approach was pioneered by Eric Wolf in his influential work, Europe and the People Without a History in which he declared that…
…the world of humankind constitutes a manifold. A totality of interconnected processes, and inquiries that disassemble this totality into bits and then fail to reassemble it falsify reality. Concepts like “nation,” “society,” and “culture” name bits and threaten to turn names into things. Only by understanding these names as bundles of relationships, and by placing them back into the field from which they were abstracted, can we hope to avoid misleading inferences and increase our share of understanding.(Wolf 1982: 3)

Such a cautious approach should be considered when approaching Islam. Not only is it inter-connected with other aspects of human existence, its own ‘bits’ are
intricately inter-related as well.
A traditional ‘text book’ vision of Islamic genesis places its founder Mohammed in many roles: as the prophetic mouthpiece of Allah, the political leader of Islam and also as the general of its armies (Hitti 1964: 113-117). The same versatility can be said for Islam’s holy book—the Koran. As the world’s most widely read book, it is referred to by Muslims for more then just spiritual guidance:
The religious influence it exercises as the basis of Islam and the final authority in matters spiritual and ethical is only one side of the story. Theology. Jurisprudence and science being considered by Muslims as different aspects of one and the same thing, the Koran becomes the scientific manual and the text book for acquiring a liberal education. (Hitti 1964: 127)

Mohammed and the Koran can be said to be the ‘center’ of Islam (along with the Five Pillars of Islam) (Esposito et al 1995: 244, 246). Yet, reducing Islam to these elements; especially outside of their original context, is like focusing only on one verse of the Koran, or one element of the complicated nature of Mohammed’s life. Though it is evident that the latter was viewed as both a prophet and political leader who commanded armies in physical battle; he also notably led a simple and open life, and proved compassionate to his enemies (Hitti 1964: 120). To ignore the latter characteristics while highlighting the former is to forget simple (yet crucial) facts; like that ‘Islam’ means ‘submission’ or ‘peace’ and that the first Muslims (mostly composed of slaves and the lower classes) were persecuted immensely for their beliefs before they created the “religio-political community” which exists today (Esposito et al 1995: 245; Hitti 1964: 113).
These concepts, when taken in coordination with the knowledge that Islam came into being as a reaction to two other major world religions—Judaism and Christianity—and that it still shares much in common with them (Hitti 1964: 124-125), helps to clarify its position in the world today. Especially considering that, like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has formed and been formed by the societies it has been a part of (Moallem 2003: 197; Gilsenan 1982: 19-21).
This is especially telling by the fact that Islam has reformed and reinterpreted past ideas to fit its teachings—including certain concepts like ‘pilgrimage’ and ‘prayer’ along with certain ‘historic’ stories and figures like The Garden of Eden or Abraham (Esposito et al 1995: 245; Hitti 1964: 126); and that Islam itself has been reformed, adapted and divided over time—sometimes as a result of internal factors like the Sunni/Shī‘a split shortly after Mohammed’s death; but also often in response to external pressures such as colonialism or the Cold War (Esposito et al 1995: 242, 247-248, 286-287). Lastly, Islam has not only changed itself, but has also affected change in the societies it has entered. This can be seen in the increased influence of Islam on African nations in the last three decades—not just politically, but also with architecture, sculpture, the performing arts, etc. (Esposito et al 1995: 269-270).
The historical complexity inherent in the structure of the Islamic faith (and its influence) is enough to suggest it is not wise to call Islam a ‘monolith’, and that its presence is indeed more like a river which has wound its way through history—affecting and being affected by its surroundings (Moallem 2003: 201).
Geographic and Demographic Diversity
Yet, like a river, Islam has not just threaded through time, but also space. What started as a small quiet stream of believers migrating from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 CE, has now traversed geographic and demographic boundaries; swelling to become a prominent feature in the world, and attracting over 1 billion diverse followers to its banks (Esposito et al 1995: 243). Though the basic beliefs that the members of this group follows are often similar, its composition is far from homogenous or easily predicted. Quite the opposite, Islam is as complex as the lands it passes through.
The (Orientalist) manifestation that many perceive of Islam may involve—as it did with the anthropologist Michael Gilsenan—a preconceived ‘romantic’ notion of “enchantment, a desert, an oasis, a holy town, an age-old tradition”—probably located somewhere in the Middle East (1982: 10)). Or, on the other hand—some may place Islam as “archaic, backward, militaristic and barbaric” and “the anti-modern ‘other’” (Moallem 2003: 197). Some of the contributions made by Muslims to fields like science, math, chemistry, and astronomy over the years might support the former view. While, certain fundamentalist reactions to Wahhabism and the notion of ‘Jihad’ have certainly sparked actions which support the former view (Delong-Bas 2004: 243). Nevertheless, they are both inaccurate and limiting portrayals when compared with reality. In fact, as Gilsenan found out during his experiences with different Muslim communities, “Muslims have always been aware of differences and variations in the way traditions were viewed and actions demanded” and “practical readiness is far closer to a simple characterization of… [Islam]...than is any image of either passive resignation or fanatical impulse” (1982: 17).
In areas like Central Asia and the Caucasus, where Islam has existed almost since its creation, one can find conservative and traditional, as well as modern and liberal characteristics (Esposito et al 1995: 271). This mix is also true in areas where Muslims are minorities, like Western Europe or the Americas. There, as in most corners of the world, Islam is not “a total and threatening mysterious presence” or “single, rigidly bounded set of structures determining or interacting with other total structures” (Gilsenan 1982: 19).
However, despite the obvious merits of this last statement, it would be naïve to not consider how issues of ‘power’ enter in here (Hunter 1998: 21-22). This comes in the form of external pressures. For instance, in many areas—especially the West—religion is molded/monitored/controlled to some degree by the State, and debates over practices—like the wearing of head scarves in public schools—often create tension between the minority and majority populations (Esposito et al 1995: 294). Unfortunately, this has been illustrated in recent years by a number of conflicts throughout Europe (terrorist attacks in the UK and Spain, riots in France, increased popularity of extreme right-wing groups in Germany). Furthermore, it can come in the form of internal riffs (conflicting power relationships within the religion); which can tragically be seen in the civil war that is now taking place in Iraq between various sects of Islam.
However horrible this may be, it does actually support the fluid and unsure nature of Islam, and it testifies to the ethnic and cultural differences within its ranks (Esposito et al 1995: 299). Far from being united in what they believe and how they deal with issues, the various Muslim groups, organizations and scholars seem to have numerous wide-ranging approaches to how they organize their communities and how they handle problems (Esposito et al 1995: 254-300)( Gilsenan 1982: 14). Classifying Islam as a ‘monolith’ not only ignores the divides and struggles going on within the religion, it also lumps the fractured ideologies that result into one all-encompassing perspective.
Theological Motivations
The Koranic slogan, “Truly God does not change the situation of people if they do not change it themselves” has been used to call “Muslims to participate in a project of religious revival” (Moallem 2003: 202). Yet, it also teaches a broader lesson—one which is echoed in the popular Christian slogan “God helps those who help themselves”. Both seem to imply that people are involved in the process of their own faith, and it is up to them how they use it.
When one considers Islam in this light, its fractures and complications start to make more sense. We still see the over-arching teachings that unify Muslims around the world—the five daily prayers toward Mecca, the universal devotion to Allah, the sacred Koran and Mohammed the Prophet. Yet, we see these things with the understanding that—as Gilsenan learned in Yemen—different people view/interpret/use religion in different ways; much in the same way that people who speak the same language still can and do see signs and codes very differently (1982: 11). Therefore, when we consider Islam’s history and composition, we must concede that the diversity inherent in both weighs heavy upon how its teachings are interpreted by its followers.
Many examples can be explored to validate this claim. However, one is sufficient—given that it pertains directly to much of the debate in Western countries over the validity of the Islamic faith, and since it has a specific, multi-layered and varied role in Muslim society—the wearing of the veil by women.
Since the Koran is considered infallible by Muslims, and since the ‘head-scarf’ issue is always given a ‘women’s rights’ spin in Western societies, it is first necessary to clarify that Islam—as a faith devoted to the words of Allah as they are explicitly set forth in the Koran (Hitti 1964: 123-124) —is clear about the fact that women are equal to men in Allah’s eyes:

[33:35] For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.

[4:124] If any do deeds of righteousness - be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter Paradise, and not the least injustice will be done to them.

With this in mind, it is interesting that Islam as a whole is often accused of ‘female exploitation’ because of the practice of wearing the veil. Yet, the practice seems to vary from place to place and time to time. As Rana Kabbani has explained, Muslims actually adopted the veil from Christians in the 7th century and there are different methods for veiling as well as fluctuating standards for modesty among Muslims (1989: 22). . As the following verses from the Koran show, this practice seems to have more to do with honoring women and their virtue rather then subjecting them:

[33:59] O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better in order that they may be known (to be Muslims) and not be annoyed...

[24:30-31] Say to the believing man that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands...

This view is supported today by the fact that, far from being compelled to cover themselves. “The wearing of Islamic dress gives these women greater rather than less freedom and mobility” and it “can be a liberation, freeing women from being sexual objects, releasing them from the traps of Western dress and Western fashion” (Kabbani 1989: 27).
Given these teachings, it is illogical to assume Islam is some sort of planetary presence which dominates the female sex. Rather—that certain groups interpret the teachings of Islam in ways which support cultural (often non-Islamic) trends and practices which are unfavorable to women. Just as fundamentalist violence is not some “natural consequence of Islamic beliefs and practices” so to is disrespect towards women not universal—or even commonplace (Tétreault 2004: 21).
Though Muslims are united in their allegiance to monotheism and in their belief in some basic rites like prayer, Islam is understood as a total way of life in accordance with the Koran and Sunnah (Hitti 1964: 129-130). This way of life—like all ways—is open to interpretation and subject to enculturation and change. It is not logical or fair to reduce every believer in Islam to the traits found in one particular group.

Conclusion
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, US president George W. Bush made the statement that “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” (Coe 2004: 234). This ‘them and us’ mentality might have been understandable, maybe even valid, if it were applied strictly to the small group responsible for that specific attack—if the focus of those words was truly Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and if American foreign policy had reflected such. Unfortunately, such a phrase fit nicely into a binary discourse which the West has used effectively in the past, and which Bush relentlessly continued to push after making his first statement (Coe 2004: 238); which was done not only to pursue “terrorists” but also to justify war in Iraq on the grounds of “democracy promotion” (Chomsky 102). It is the same dichotomous discourse which pushes ideas like Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ and which have placed Christianity in epic struggle against Islam throughout the years; and it is basically summed up by the “Social Darwanist” ideology that: Western thinking is somehow culturally superior and should not only be defended, but also extended throughout the world (Richardson 2004: 14-15).
To accomplish this, it is necessary to have a West and something to compare it to—in this case Islam. This rationalizes binary thinking and justifies the inevitable hierarchies of power it creates‘(Coe 2004: 235). Yet, it also demands a suspension of belief; a perversion of ‘reality’; a magic trick which deceives human perception—even life itself; forcing us to analogously categorize and control a belief/concept/religion which is innately complicated and changing.
Islam is not a ‘monolith’. This geological analogy does not fit. It is a river. Its history, composition and theological teachings bare witness—both to its winding course, and (like all human social phenomenon) to the fact that it can be both beneficial and dangerous to humankind. It is necessary to consider all this if humans are to interact peacefully in the future.















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Kabbani, Rana: “Veiled Threats” in: Rana Kabbani, Letter to Christendom (Virago Press
Ltd 2001 [1989]), 22-30.

Minoo Moallem: “Cultural Nationalism and Islamic Fundamentalism: the Case of Iran”
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Tétreault, Mary Ann: “Contending Fundamentalisms: Religious Revivalism and the
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California Press 1982).

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Summer 1993, 22-49.

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(London: Lawrence & Wishart 2003)

Richardson, John E.: “Islam, Orientalism and (Racist) Social Exclusion” (excerpt) in:
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Hitti, Philip K.: “Muhammad the Prophet of Allah”, “the Koran the Book of Allah” and
“Islam the Religion of Submission to the Will of Allah” in: Phillip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs. From the Earliest Times to the Present (London/New York: MacMillan & Co LTD and St. Martin’s Press 1964), 111-138.

Esposito, John L./ von Silvers, Peter/ Ali A. Mazrui/ Wimbush, S. Enders/ Glandney, Dru
C./ Lawrence, Bruce B./ Hooker, M.B./ van Koningsveld, P.S./ Denny, Frederick Mathewson: “Islam. An Overview” in: John L. Esposito (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, Vol. 2 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press 1995), 243-300.

Gilsenan, Michael: “An Anthroplogist’s Introduction” in: Michael Gilsenan, Recognizing
Islam. An Anthropologist’s Introduction (London/ Canberra: Croom Helm 1982), 9-26, 275-281.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 1:00:00 pm  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Was this most recent post put up by Tanner?

If so, Tanner, do you know what the chronological order of the Koran is? And, do you know about the concept of abrogation by chronology?

We can talk about nuance all we want, and certainly, it does exist. However, there are whole countries run with very litle nuance in their understanding of the Koran (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Sudan, etc.). Instead, these countries run by the understanding that the later verses in the Koran abrogate the earlier verses.

That causes a few problems, if you haven't noticed.

For instance, why do Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Theo Van Gogh, and Geert Wilders have to live in hiding?

What other religion causes these kinds of problems?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 1:33:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually theo van gogh was murdered

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 5:18:00 pm  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Good point.

:)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 6:02:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Pastorius there are countries run using strict Sharia law, abrogation by chronology and worse. As I said in the conclusion to my long post…”Islam is not a ‘monolith’. This geological analogy does not fit. It is a river. Its history, composition and theological teachings bare witness—both to its winding course, and (like all human social phenomenon) to the fact that it can be both beneficial and dangerous to humankind. It is necessary to consider all this if humans are to interact peacefully in the future.”

The capacity is there to use Islam for evil purposes and Human Rights are certainly not seen as ‘universal’ every where in the world.

However, I think it is naïve and callous to attack the religion rather then the negative issues it might foster. The answer is not to magically replace a system you don’t agree with your own. That sort of ethnocentric behavior is what feeds ‘colonialism’ and the worst parts of ‘globalization’. If you disagree with how women are treated in Iran then you attack Iranian politics (and in turn their version of ‘Islam’). You don’t use that as an excuse to attack Muslims in general.

You would not say all white men are assholes simply because some do not recognize the privilege they have over other groups. Instead you would ay that those ignorant idiots who feel the need to be racist, sexist and so on are the assholes. So, why would you criticize Islam in general for negative beliefs which in fact only some Muslims share?

Tanner

Thursday, February 28, 2008 7:22:00 am  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Tanner,
You stopped answering my points and questions, but I will answer one more of yours.

Islam is the source of many of the bad laws in many of these countries. In fact, the Koran (Sharia) is the law of the land (the Constitution) of the state of Saudi Arabia.

There is no book on what it is to be a white man, which teaches white men to be assholes.

Beyond that, if you read this site (particularly my posts) you will see that when we attack the problems which Islam causes, we usually do not use the term Islam, but instead use terms like Islamofascism, Islamism, etc.

You are not being fair. And, I am bothered that I spent so much time answering your questions and points, only to have you dump that essay on me, which I doubt you wrote.

Thursday, February 28, 2008 2:08:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doubt what you want, I did write the essy. I am now writing a 25,000word thesis on Islamophobia, which is how I stumbled upon your self-gratifying attempt to make the world a better place through hate...

As far as wasting time. I feel the same. By the way, you waste alot of your time just doing this site and that silly radio show I could only stand to listen to for 5 minutes. Why dont you do something constructive with your inteligence and emotions man? You way of fighting terrorists just makes more...karma buddy...cause and effect...your hate breeds hate...

As I said before, you are a part of the problem and not the solution.

Thursday, February 28, 2008 2:56:00 pm  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Ok, you wrote it. Why did you write it? Did you write it for an academic journal, or a magazine, or for a blog, or what?

Now, why do you think it is that wherever Muslim cultures back up on the land of another culture there is violence?

Phillipines, Kosovo, Kashmir, Sudan, etc.

Certainly, you are aware that the Koran is used to justify the violence in all cases. And, that the violence is called Jihad (striving to establish Dar al-Islam).

You can write 25,000 words about how there are many different Islams, and that can be true, but it does not negate the fact that Islam is a thorn in the side of humanity, especially in an era where Muslim governments will get a hold of Nuclear weapons.

Thursday, February 28, 2008 3:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some thoughts:

Actually my paper is about how humanity tends to misdirect its fear and emotions—continuously slotting our perceptions of reality into sugar-coated (and power-hungry) binary oppositions that tend to escalate conflicts. You are right that Islam is engaged in that conversation. However, by serving as a confederate in the anti-Islam camp you just serve to make Islam stronger. You define yourself by seeing your opposite in them. In turn you give them power they never had before. The only Clash of Civilizations that exists is one we gradually build day after day. You can chose to pick up your gun like a good soldier and run off to war, but you will have to wait a little longer until you finish creating the enemy…

As far as the violence of the Koran and Islam…that is mute if the majority of Islam does not agree with you…which they prove day after day…both Jews and Christians have violent examples in their holy books and bloody trails through history to prove their faiths…

It is also not trite to add that the only country invading other countries is a supposedly Christian one. Islamic fundamentalists have committed terrorism. True and disgusting. But the cure for that is not dropping bombs and building walls. The more we build Islam into the monster the more fuel those within that religion have to brain-wash the youth into doing horrible things…

Tanner

Saturday, March 01, 2008 4:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I appreciate your respectful tone and am sorry if I have insulted you previously. I have read alot of really nasty and hateful stuff on these blogs (not from you though) and I tend to add that emotion to my arguments with you...my fault...

I wrote the paper as a graduate student. I posted it as a counter-weight to the article that started our conversation. Feel free to include links, article etc. that help highlight your position as well.

Tanner

Saturday, March 01, 2008 4:37:00 pm  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Tanner,
You said: You can chose to pick up your gun like a good soldier and run off to war, but you will have to wait a little longer until you finish creating the enemy…


I say: That is an interesting idea. In fact, I was pondering that idea this very morning. I was praying the serenity prayer, and I thought (I was thinking about a business problem) that if I hadn't added anger and despair to a certain issue, business, as it is effected by that issue, would be better.

So then I thought to my self, is this true with our conflict with Islam? Would it be better to add joy instead of despair, would it be better to add hope instead of sadness? No, I don't think so. The problem is, our enemy is real. Our enemy is not every Muslim. That is clear. However, there are a very large number of Muslims who support the implementation of Sharia law. These people would, I believe, back any attempt at the increase of Islam in the Western world. They are, ostensibly, enemies.

It is a hard thing to come to grips with.

Germany likewise was not a monolith of Hitlerian thought. Germans had many different opinions. Many opposed Hitler. Hitler was elected with only 35% of the vote. But, Hitler was a real enemy. And those who espouse Islamism are real enemies.

We need not fight every country which espouses Islamism. For instance, why bother fighting Nigeria? Peacekeeping troops in the Sudan would do just fine to stop the problems there. Beyond that, Sudan is not a threat. The Muslims in the Phillipines are not a threat to us, however I can see no reason for the Filipino government to have ceded territory to the Islamists on Mindanao.

Iran is, very likely, a real threat. Were they to conduct a test of a nuclear weapon (a la North Korea), then we would know that we had a real problem on our hands. Until then, we can only speculate, just as people could only speculate about Hitler in the years leading up to Germany's invasion of Poland.

(By the way, whether Iran is a threat to us or not, they are a real threat to Israel, as they help bankroll Hamas and Hizbollah.)

Pakistan is also a huge threat to us, though they have worked, to some extent, as an ally in the war.

My opinion is, we have big problems on our hands. We did not make up the problem. Islamism has been a threat for centuries, but when it is united with wealth and the structure of a modern nation state, and now WMD, then it becomes a threat to be reckoned with.

Not all problems are created in the mind of man, Milton's great quote notwithstanding. We do not actually live in an purely Humian solipsism. The billiard balls on the table are real, and they really hit each other, and when they do, it has real consequences.

David Hume said, "Let's go get a beer." I say, that's a good idea, but when the billiard balls are atomic particles primed to create a chain reaction, then let's put down the beer and do something about the problem.


You said: It is also not trite to add that the only country invading other countries is a supposedly Christian one. Islamic fundamentalists have committed terrorism. True and disgusting. But the cure for that is not dropping bombs and building walls.


I say: I understand the argument that we did not need to invade Iraq. That is debatable. I understand. I don't get the idea that we ought not have invaded Afghanistan. And, I don't understand the idea that we ought not take our Iran's nuclear facilities.

Saturday, March 01, 2008 5:54:00 pm  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Tanner,
Apology accepted. I understand. It is very hard to discuss, or merely think on, these issues without getting upset.

Saturday, March 01, 2008 5:55:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say: The problem is, our enemy is real. Our enemy is not every Muslim. That is clear. However, there are a very large number of Muslims who support the implementation of Sharia law. These people would, I believe, back any attempt at the increase of Islam in the Western world. They are, ostensibly, enemies. Germany likewise was not a monolith of Hitlerian thought. Germans had many different opinions. Many opposed Hitler. Hitler was elected with only 35% of the vote. But, Hitler was a real enemy. And those who espouse Islamism are real enemies.
I say: Straw man arguments involving Nazis aside, the essence of what you are trying to say here is acceptable. If any of the nations you mention (or any nation at all for that matter) commits genocide or begins to invade other countries then the US and the rest of the world community should get involved. That said, we have no right to wage ‘preventitive’ war—which is what you seem to hint at with some of your examples. That is inhumane, against the Geneva convention and for the most part stupid—given the glaring and immediate example of Iraq which shows you what happens when you are wrong about your assumptions.
It is nice that you at least narrow down the list of countries it is acceptable in your eyes to bomb (it seems more out of a lack of bombs then a desire to avoid war). However, until they do commit atrocities/invade other countries we have no right to push our beliefs on them—as I said in the first place you can’t force people to be free. That is an oxymoron. And as far as nucleur weapons in Iran and Germany in Poland. Well if we would have entered the war when Germany invaded Poland it would have been over much quicker. We drug our feet too long and spread ourselves too thin…the point is that we would not have (and should not have) fought them before that, but had every right to after—it is the difference between being a bully and a hero. The latter knows when and how to use his power to help (not intimidate people)—and the former uses his power for personal gain.
You said: (By the way, whether Iran is a threat to us or not, they are a real threat to Israel, as they help bankroll Hamas and Hizbollah.)
I say: Yes and Israel is a huge threat to everyone around them as they prove with their actions do by day—Jews and Muslims have proven themselves to be equally evil in that conflict—no one is justified. If you can honestly take a side and say one side has been noble in that exchange then you are looking at it in a very biased way indeed. And if you think Iran should be bombed for supporting their side then you should bomb DC too. Weapons have come from all over the world and been given to both sides to help to escalate what many people hope is the coming Armageddon. It was written once a long time ago and many people can’t wait to make it true now.

You said: My opinion is, we have big problems on our hands. We did not make up the problem. Islamism has been a threat for centuries, but when it is united with wealth and the structure of a modern nation state, and now WMD, then it becomes a threat to be reckoned with. Not all problems are created in the mind of man, Milton's great quote notwithstanding. We do not actually live in an purely Humian solipsism. The billiard balls on the table are real, and they really hit each other, and when they do, it has real consequences.

I say: You are wrong. We did play a role in making the problem what it is today. It is not only the fault of Islam. It is true that there has always been a part of Islam that has been intensely Occidentalist and the existence of globalization and nasty weapons does make them more dangerous. However our actions feed their argument. For centuries they have used our quest for global economic and political hegemony as proof of our evil intentions. Now that our foreign policy has gone to the extreme edge, “you are either for us or against us” they just have more excuse to recruit within Islam. I agree that in some cases Sharia run countries pose a threat to US interests. Yet. It is a threat that is not escalated when we do not interfere in their lives. They fear us as much as we fear them. Yet all around the the majority of Muslims get along with everybody else. It is not the teachings that make them hate us. It is the politics. Your billard balls only exist because of the ‘realist’ strategy some prefer to follow with international relations. If we continue to follow it there will be more wars. Yet, if we look for other options, which include working with Muslims and not against them, we might just ovoid some violence… (which of course is the only answer when you deal with nuclear threats and terrorism…you can not shoot those things away…they can only be avoided through intelligence…that only works through cooperation…if we ‘other’ whole countries as a matter of foreign policy it will be harder to gain the inteligence we need…as the extremists have proven time and again, they are willing to kill Muslims just as quickly as anybody else…Most Muslim countries know that means some level of care needs to be taken…the few that might harbor terrorists in the future and also possess nuclear bombs will then be even more of a minority…setting themselves up as very small billard balls on a table full of bowling balls…we are stronger when we isolate extremism and support Islam at the same time…)
You said: I understand the argument that we did not need to invade Iraq. That is debatable. I understand. I don't get the idea that we ought not have invaded Afghanistan. And, I don't understand the idea that we ought not take our Iran's nuclear facilities.

I say: I only brought this up because you kept going back to the violence inherent in Islam and I wanted to mention the fact that though Sharia law prompts some countries to practice an extreme form of Islam which violates some human rights—something we have to be working against daily, hand in hand with the larger more moderate Muslim world—the real violent aggression practiced by countries against other countries has been in many ways mostly Western. There are examples of Islam bringing about nation on nation violence, but not many. Most of that is internal within countries. However, there are endless examples of non-Muslim interests using power to get their way….The justifications for that are varied and sometimes necessary. However, in your zeal to label Islamism as the threat to world peace don’t forget that the US is the only country in the world that feels that military force is the most viable option for solving our problems….Even though the long-term loses for our actions will be greater then the short-term gains. The school-yard bully only gets kids lunch money in grade school. After that kids grow up and find ways to avoid that guy. In some rare cases some of those kids fight back. If our actions make us look like the bully then we are basically justifying the actions of those that would hurt us (in their eyes and those they would recruit). It would be nice if we, as the most powerful nation/military/economy in the world would find creative ways to deal with our problems that take into account the full scale of these issues:
‘“…the world of humankind constitutes a manifold. A totality of interconnected processes, and inquiries that disassemble this totality into bits and then fail to reassemble it falsify reality. Concepts like “nation,” “society,” and “culture” name bits and threaten to turn names into things. Only by understanding these names as bundles of relationships, and by placing them back into the field from which they were abstracted, can we hope to avoid misleading inferences and increase our share of understanding.”’ (Wolf 1982: 3)

Sunday, March 02, 2008 6:53:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080302/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_iran

Sunday, March 02, 2008 7:57:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pasrorius,

Are we through with this discussion? Or are you just busy?

Tanner

Thursday, March 06, 2008 6:39:00 am  
Blogger Pastorius said...

I've been travelling, and I have to head out early again today.

I will get back to you.

Sorry about the delay.

Thursday, March 06, 2008 1:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please watch this:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4611504150219340313&q=obama+speech+on+race&total=154&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 6:43:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christianity will be end when Prophet Isaa(pbu) will come again to this world and will accept Prophet Mohammed(pbu) a True Leader of True Relgion.
And He (Isaa) will break the cross and will kill all Pigs.That will be the day of end of Christianity.

Friday, August 29, 2008 11:20:00 am  

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