Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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As the civil war in Iraq intensifies (and don't try any of that semantic shit with me about what defines civil war), one must wonder if Islam has any interest at all in bettering and helping human beings. Shiites, who believe that the religion's authority is invested in its clerics by lines of succession, and the Sunni, who believe that the authority is invested in the Koran and the customs of the sect, are killing each other over that ostensible difference. But we saw the same violence, although not in the same magnitude, between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
There is an understandable and growing cynicism among people about whether religion has any role or relevance in the quality of human life and human affairs. It seems to be the issue over which people find more occasions these days to vilify and harm each other than to extend understanding, good will, and peace.
Christianity has its divisions. Some put priority on the Old Testament which records wars and demonstrates the eye-for-an-eye principle. Others see the New Law in the New Testament as specified in the Beatitudes as the essential characteristics of Christianity. Damned few Christians actually believe or practice the instructions of Jesus Christ. But professing Christianity and a belief in the teachings of Christ are customary facades behind which lurk all manner of wicked and evil motives.
At least most Christians profess the message of good will to all people and peace on earth. At least on their Christmas cards, and increasingly in those gaudy light displays they put up in their yards. It is a nice pretense. And in this age, pretense is about all we have that we can depend on.
Islam makes no pretense to good will and peace. While some sectarian spokespeople insist that the Muslim religion advocates good will toward humankind and peace on earth, events of the 21st century make that terribly hard to take seriously. 9/11 when suicide bombers shouted "God is great" as they crashed jet plans into the World Trade Center are hardly examples of beneficence. Neither is Iran's constant threats against Israel and the U.S. And most plots by Muslims against the rest of word, whether successfully completed or in the planning process, take place with mosques as central in their instigation and planning. The first attack on the World Trade Center is a case in point.
This is a bit frightening because 20 percent of the world's population claims to be Muslim. And we have still to witness evidence that the religion has any restraints, let alone any prohibitions, against committing mass atrocities on the rest of the world.
Those of us in democratic countries are reluctant to suggest that Islam is the vector of the mass atrocities. Ironically, if the fact that Islam seems to have the franchise on the violence and atrocities committed on the world is pointed out, the Muslims go into a frenzied rage that their religion is being disrespected. But Islam has proven to be both the motive and means for atrocities committed in the name of Allah.
The Muslim clerics who were removed from a plane because other passengers, who have been told to report any suspicious activity, became alarmed have protested that they are victims of profiling and stereotyping. It has been the relentless string of atrocities committed in the name of Islam, not indoctrination by the American government, that has earned the distrust not only of Americans, but much of the world. It is regrettable that they may have been falsely suspected, but rather than railing at American society, they had better work at restoring some credibility of decency to their sect. The world has been given good and sufficient cause to be wary of the goings-on within Islam.
Humans tend toward factionalism. Madison noted this in the 10th Federalist Paper:
So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.
Madison recommends our republican form of democracy as the means to moderate the passions that cause human strife. As we have seen in Iraq, that form of moderation does not have much of chance where people kill each other for reasons of exercising power and imposing their wills on other people.
We Americans, in particular, tend strongly to let people have their own religious beliefs. This causes a predicament when Islamic religious doctrine is given as the basis for the terrorist war being waged on our country. But there is a semantic way out of this dilemma that does not violate the Constitutional principles most of us revere.
It lies in the doctrine of separation of church and state, as orginally and most eloquently outlined by Roger Williams. He said:
But if a Man hold forth or profess any Error or false way, with a boisterous and arrogant spirit, to the disturbance of Civil peace, he may be justly punished according to the quality and measure of the disturbance caused by him...
The semantic problem is that poltical powers are being exercised under the cloak of Muslim religion. At this point in the atrocities committed, it may be time to remove the designation of "religion" from Islam and recognize it as a subversive political force, just as we have treated other subversive plots against our country in the past.
If Islam in general is not bent on carrying out a jihad against the western world, it has a formidable task in the face of 21st century history in establishing that it is a religion, not a political movement bent upon dominating or destroying the rest of the world.
We have bodies killed in the act of atrocities strewn throughout the world that speak to the ill will and violence committed in the name of a religion. Who is to blame but the people who commit and condone such violence if the rest of the world looks at Islam as a political force bent on domination and violence, not as a religion bent on uplifting humankind?