Divrei ben Abuya

In the Babylonian Talmud, Elisha ben Abuya was a great sage who lost his faith in God. So great was he that his and subsequent generations continued learning from him - to the extent that the authors of the Talmud needed to create a story that would serve to legitimise his teachings despite his apostasy. His lesson is a lesson for us all: that great stature is not contingent upon blind faith, nor high learning upon the observation of Torah precepts.

September 14, 2006

Speaking For Myself...

I can understand where Muslims are coming from when they insist that not all Muslims are terrorists, but until they take responsibility for the fact that all terrorists are Muslims and actually speak out against the hijacking of their religion then they have no right to mourn the necessity of racial profiling.


At 3:20 PM , Blogger Flyingcowman said...

No, You can't.

Yes, they do.

At 3:29 PM , Blogger Simon Holloway said...

You have a way with words, Sean, but I think I missed your point. I can't what? Imagine anything more degrading for an American/Australian citizen? Or empathise with innocent Muslims? And what do they do? Do they speak out against the hijacking of their religion? Or do they have a right to mourn the necessity of racial profiling?

I'm forced to assume that you're speaking of "their" right to mourn. We all have a right to mourn, even when our woes are of our own devising. You cannot be speaking of the manner in which Muslims have spoken out against Islamic fundamentalism because, well, they haven't yet.

At 1:19 AM , Blogger bulbul said...

but until they take responsibility for the fact that all terrorists are Muslims
All terrorists? Including, say, Irish Loyalists, the Tamil Tigers, Maoist insurgents in Nepal, Kurdistan Workers Party...?

At 5:45 AM , Anonymous Joel said...

I think an important part of the argument is that such groups are all very localised, while we find Islamist terrorism in many parts of the world.

At 9:26 AM , Blogger Flyingcowman said...

Simon, you of all people should realise how recent a development our perception of "Muslim Terrorists" is, historically speaking. As mentioned in an earlier comment, there are a great many fundamentalist groups from all walks of life, unfortunately Islamic fundamentalism has been fixated upon by western media over the past two decades to create the perception that we have today.

A great deal of this stems from a vast difference in fundamental ideology; westerners can no more understand the concept of killing onesself as a sign of faith than we can understand how to fly like a bird or breathe underwater. This cultural "difference" has been a point of fascination and horror by the west, and so we become engrossed whenever we see or hear of it in practice.

That said, there has been a recent rise in the proliferation of a certain brand of Islamic fundamentalism. I personally believe that - like any ideology - it will eventually wane.

As an example, take your original post and replace "Muslims" with "Russians", replace "terrorists" with "communists", and replace "religion" with "nation". Certainly the analogy is not complete, but there are parallels to be drawn between rigid, unpragmatic ideologies.

All this aside, the key issues is one of providing platforms. Here in the west we tend to celebrate an event based on how disastrous it is, or how lowly we perceive the perpetrator to be. This celebrity is a part of the success of any terrorist group, and needs to be managed just as much as any military response. I'm not talking about censorship, I'm just talking about the difference between Fox News and CBC Canada.

There are a great deal of muslims that are simply normal people who want to live a normal life, however our media tends only to focus on the nutcases. Every few days on radio national I hear an interview with Ameer Ali, the president of the Australian federation of Islamic councils (AFIC). He is reasonable, well spoken, and his comments are always well thought out and well presented. But you'll never hear him on Fox news.

I'm not saying there isn't a problem; Clearly there is. Clearly, there is an issue that needs to be addressed. But the wrong way to do it is by pointing fingers and screaming "Terrorist!" every time you see someone wearing a kefiah. The best solution is, and has always been, engagement. The so-called "cold peace" movement of the early nineties was misguided. Like a dance, the right attitude and a concerted effort is required by both sides.

Fortunately, I'm not the only one that feels this way, nor am I the first. Vist the site for the World Conference of Religions for Peace (www.wcrp.org) and find out about their work. Thye'll be assembling this year in Kyoto with over 500 representatives from nearly every religion, and every continent. There's a special focus on having representatives from regions of conflict such as Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Sudan. They've led the world in the past by mediating conflicts in the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, they've used their collective influence to activate a rapid response to the AIDS pandemic, and they have fought for women's rights throughout the world. And this isn't a small, unnoticed, local "chat" group either; have a read of who is involved: http://www.religionsforpeace-2006-kyoto.net/testimonials/testimonials.html

Great stuff, you'll agree. But, again, you'll never hear it on Fox News.

At 9:49 AM , Blogger Simon Holloway said...

Thanks for your comment: I'd like you to know that I agree with you wholeheartedly, but must still stick to my initial point. While I had previously been a strong advocate for Islam as a religion of peace I have come around to the conclusion that a religion is more than just the simpering excuses offered by its leaders. Simpering, for their necks are exposed to the angry populace that threatens to depose them; excuses because they are always so little and so late.

Islam is a popular religion, presently being driven by the flag-burning men and women on the streets. Your analogy to Communism was a good one, for Communism was likewise a people's movement that required harnessing by political leaders moreso than steering. I realise that the analogy extends beyond that too: just as petrified Westerners of yesteryear feared a "red under every bed", so too do many today fear a terrorist in every city. The difference, however, is that the previous fear turned out to be a spook while the present one is proving time and again to be a genuine concern.

Think of my sentiments, Sean, as being more pragmatic than anything else. From an administrative perspective you would have to be seriously deluded to drop your guard and ignore what may be a palpable threat, simply in the interests of being politically correct. Better a few red faces than a dozen dead bodies.

And as for angry Muslims burning effigies and delivering incendiary hate-speeches as a means of proving to the world that they are not a religion of war: wouldn't they be better off directing their ire against those amongst them who created this stereotype in the first place?

At 11:12 AM , Blogger Flyingcowman said...

I think, perhaps, we need to draw a distinction between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism. The former is a valid religion and belief system that has coexisted with others for hundreds of years. The latter, however, has been drawn upon as a cause for fanatics to influence and steer governmental policy in all the wrong places. We do indeed find ourselves in a sticky situation, but we must first ask ourselves a few important questions;

First, how did we get to where we are today?
- How did fundamentalists rise to power in so many places so rapidly?
- How did fundamentalists shape popular belief so rapidly?
- Why have the populace of these places been so willingly led?

I'm sure much of the answer is related to the general malaise of any populace, and the overt willingness of any starving group of people to be a part of any "cause" if it puts food on their plate. I'm sure the hijacking of religious mantra also plays a large part. But I'm not quite sure that's the whole story. Most people, of course, believe what they are taught as children, but the answer cannot be as simple as "He who controls the school system, controls the future."

Now, the hard part. How do we move forward?
- How can we engage both the leadership and the people of these countries?
- How can we, if necessary, remove those people with which we cannot coexist without polarising the situation?
- How have we done this before?

That last point, of course, was a red herring.. :)

Personally, I maintain that the answer lies in engagement. The current, US-led bastardised form of capitalist colonialism leads to the economic exploitation of any country that "switches sides", and certainly isn't helping the situation. Of course, no country (least of all the US) has any incentive to create a wholly humanitarian foreign policy, it would just be nice if we could return to some post-WW2 era US politics, where the economic success of a few ravaged nations in Europe was seen (and felt) as a success of US economic policy. Who knows, perhaps it worked back then because everyone wore a suit and tie, or was white, or spoke english, or believed in Jesus..

Almost every society has a few nutcases waiting in the wings, looking for an opportunity to leap out when things are going bad. The trick is to make sure that everyone is comfortable enough that fanaticism doesn't feel like "the only way out". And this isn't just about the US; every country should be held to task (possibly in the UN, or perhaps even somewhere effective) for allowing their population to starve and become disenfrachised. This recipe for disaster can be prevented by any honest, responsible government. Get a few community leaders on board and a country can turn on a dime.

Of course, you are right; we have a more immediate problem. This is all fine and academic, but what are we to do about the current crop of nutcases?

As I mentioned earlier, perhaps we wouldn't have this problem if everyone wore a suit and tie, was white, spoke english, and believed in Jesus...


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