Saturday, October 09, 2010
Age of Ignorance
The Clash of Ignorance
There is no clash of civilization or culture ---there is a clash of ignorance. This is the age of Ignorance, this is the Jahiliya.
Many like to believe that the Jahiliya is a period that is bygone. Not so, the Jahiliya is ever present - every where. It is present in the West and it is present in the East. So are the idols that characterize this period.
There is Belief - you inherit that stuff from your family, environment, school, society and there is Faith.
Faith is not Belief. Faith is something that one works on, cultivates, infused with much Grace. Grace is not tied to any race, sect, culture or civilization...Grace is above and beyond...like Rain, it falls on everyone...
It is with this in mind, that I want to approach the subject of Islam and the Other. And it is with this in mind that I want to tackle the West and Islam.
I am not sure I want to use the current terminology that one often comes across in today's literature on this topic - words like -- tolerance, acceptance have been overused and have lost their meaning...
We are definitely at a crossroad - we Muslims and non Muslims alike. I feel this with urgency. I fear also that this snowball will become an avalanche that no one will be able to stop - an avalanche that will swallow all of us, not just the Muslims. And it is also with this in mind that I am attempting to broach the subject.
What is being sown today shall be reaped tomorrow - this is a universal law, a law that knows no borders, no passports and no nationalities...of that I am sure. And from what has been taking place in the last decade or so, or let's say the acceleration of an already existing process, in the last 10 years -- I can already tell you that the fruits of this harvest are going to be very bitter. Unless the tide is turned....
There is a war being waged on Islam and Muslims. Whichever way you care to look at it, and by whichever theory you want to causally ascribe to it --it is here and can no longer be ignored.
This in turn feeds on the ghetto spirit that Muslims find themselves in and gives birth to more extremism. It is a vicious circle...a very dangerous one.
This is not about Niqabs, Veils, Burqas, Cartoons, Minarets or Koran burnings -- this is about directly ATTACKING a Belief system and a Faith -- simply because it looks and feels different, thus enhancing, exacerbating and radicalizing the very elements that the West deems to be not secular enough for its taste.
This is the bind and this is the lethal bind that the West finds itself in.
The Question to ask - is why is this group of people - the Muslims - that have been particularly targeted ? Why not the Jews or Hindus or the Buddhists for example ?
Each one will conveniently point to 9/11 as the starting point of this witch hunt. This is where I disagree.
9/11 whoever the culprits were - was not the starting point. It was yet another peak point, from which after much massacres took place - notably in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan (and it will not stop at these countries.)
The West in fact has never been at ease (short of a better word) with Islam as a concept. This is not something new. However the events of 9/11 gave the perfect alibi for it to engage in an all out war. I repeat an all out war - meaning a war on many fronts - physical, geographic, political, economic, cultural and ideological...
Some will argue that this is not necessarily true - pointing to the following : The West's support for Bosnia, Kosovo and the Afghans during their fight against the Russians. And there is truth in that. However this is not the full picture. Their support for these Muslims was only done with the aim of enhancing the West's hegemony. Hegemony in the largest sense of the word and not merely reduced to economic interests.
Another factor that cannot be overlooked besides the West being ill at ease with Islam ever since this latter's inception - is the silent war that is taking place between two poles of "Islam" - Saudi Arabia and Iran.
This war is political, geographic but also ideological and precedes both the establishment of Saudi Arabia or Iran as nation states. This "war" started in Iraq many centuries ago. It was a war of Khilafa - i.e of Governance between two clans/sects (political sects) of who will monopolize and rule the Ummah.
This war has not died...it was latent and flared up again in the 20th century with the advent of Khomeinism - the political ideology of Shia revivalism and started in the late 70's. This period also coincided with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Salafist/Jihadist ideology. The counterpart if you wish, to Shiite Revivalism.
This is also the period where from a purely sociological observation - I started noticing more and more people "reverting" to a "pure" Islam (whether of Sunni or Shia ) - falling back on a belief system from which people hoped to extract Faith.
In parallel, the Western concept of Globalization which really means political, economic, cultural, ideological Homogeneity (Uniformity of Identity) greatly fed this "reverting" process/attachment and refusal of Muslims to accept this new movement (Globalization) which they perceive to be threatening not only to their belief system but also to their Faith. And with good reason - because Globalization has absolutely nothing sacred or holistic about it.
In other words this impetus towards Globalization accompanied with the historic "discomfort" that the West has nourished vis à vis Islam produced a backlash or as some people would like to call it -Fundamentalism- now called Terrorism. As I read today, someone said - Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims. In other words all fundamentalists are Muslims and are therefore terrorists.
In the "fight" to RETAIN the semblance of a belief system and of a Faith -- dogma was necessary. The Muslim law/jurisprudence was no longer a contextual law i.e a law issued in a specific historical context but became a dogma - taking on all the allures of a unequivocal Truth over which both the State and the Clergy have absolute authority. This in itself is very contradictory to the Spirit and even Law of Islam since in Islam no one, absolutely no one holds absolute power over the Truth. This is the essence of Shirk - ie of associating someone/something to the Divine. Futhermore, in Islam there is NO Clergy, except maybe in Shi'ism. Traditionally the Ulemas or the men of Learning are not considered a Clergy as such (as in the Christian sense) and therefore their powers (derived of learning Fiqh -religious studies) was always limited and Ulemas were easily replaced should they issue a Fatwa that was not too pleasing to the ruler...and by the same token some Ulemas worked for the Ruler and issued Fatwas that ensured his rule. Which is to say that even the Muslim religious body historically speaking had nothing of permanence to it - neither the Koranic interpretations. Since the Ulemas could be removed so did their particular interpretation of the Text.
This is very important to note because it means that the Text can be/ is open to be interpreted differently...depending on context - context being historical, political, economic, ideological, cultural...
This in itself already negates the whole conceptual idea of an Islamic "Fundamentalism." and also by correlation negates the whole notion of Islamic "Moderates".
What does that mean ? It means that the same terminology should be used as when addressing the various groups in Judaism for instance --- as in Orthodox, Liberal/ Reformist.
Do you see the nuance ? I see it very clearly. For the discourse that is held towards Islam is not the same discourse that is held toward Judaism for instance. There are no fundamentalists and moderates in Israel, there are orthodox and liberals.
It is assumed that an Islamic moderate belongs to an Islam that is essentially Fundamentalist but by addressing his "reason" he can remain a moderate and hopefully stay that way- this is the inherent message. An orthodox or a Liberal Jew belongs to Judaism full stop.
And it is of no coincidence,that Muslims, in particular in the West, find themselves in either an apologetic or defensive position. They try to explain, describe, justify, communicate, that they are not fundamentalists, that even though their attire (which like the Orthodox Jew) may look traditional/conservative/religious, they are not inherently terrorists...and whilst doing all these justification of trying to prove their good intentions, their inherent moderateness they get stuck even deeper in that ghetto that has been laid out for them --like a prefab house -- all ready to be inhabited...
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