Friday, March 24, 2006

Radical Islam, Broken Societies

Wow, Andrew Sullivan really blows hot and cold on Islam. A couple of days ago he was practically sneering at the idea of moderate Muslims, as he has done many times before. Then yesterday, in response to the Abdul Rahman case, he writes this:
I know there are moderate Muslims. I know that in Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia and India, for example, these kinds of views are not common. I also know that it wasn't that long ago that Christians held similar views about heretics or Jews, and that today's fundamentalist Christianity is often supportive of the death penalty and torture. But that a religious faith contains this kind of fanatical intolerance and violence anywhere is disturbing. It's barbaric. And it is in the Middle East that this kind of theocratic fascism is ascendant.
First off, I'm glad to see him step back from the precipice. We're not ever going to make progress against militant Islam if we continue to pretend like that's all there is.

I agree with Sullivan's statement that religious faith with fanatical intolerance is disturbing. Of course you find that in any and every religion. There are plenty of hateful Christian groups right here in America, and I just wrote the other day about some particularly distasteful remarks made by a Kabbalist rabbi. The problem is—and it's an indisputable one—there seems to be more of it in Muslim societies.

But, not in every Muslim society, as Sullivan adroitly points out. In fact, Muslim intolerance tends to occur in the most backwards societies—the ones that were colonized to all hell and then left to rot. It's no surprise at all that the horrible case of Abdul Rahman is happening in Afghanistan, a country with arguably the most tragic history of any of the Muslim nations. It's the most stunted society, and it's also the most intolerant. That seems to be pretty fair evidence that Islamic intolerance is a symptom of geo-political influences rather than a flaw within Islam itself.

Let's not forget that if Christian societies took the Bible literally and applied laws based upon it, we'd be no different from Afghanistan. There's nothing special about Islam; there's something special about huge swaths of the Muslim world. We must fight against religious intolerance wherever we find it, but we must not fool ourselves into believing that theology is our only problem in the fight against Islamism.
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