Monday, July 24, 2006

Middle East: 1

Today is Monday, 24 July 2006.

Somewhere I read recently that ‘Islam is an inherently imperial religion.’ The author seemed to be alluding to the extension of Islam’s early influence by the sword, but I think the point should be more nuanced and the net more widely spread.

Most religions are, by nature and necessity, totalizing ideologies. (By an ideology I mean a system of thought which purports to be the only true description and explanation of “the nature of things”.)

If a religion asserts that it has, uniquely, received the revelation from deity of the nature of things, then it usually believes it is charged by deity with the responsibility to make that revelation known to and accepted by all. The question is whether this responsibility shall be discharged through persuasion, coercion, or both.

“It’s for your own good.”

The historical fact is that adherents of Islam, like adherents of Judaism and Christianity (and many other religions as well), have employed both persuasion and coercion. There is, of course, no single monolithic “Islamic norm of thinking” on this subject, any more than there is a Jewish or Christian norm on this subject.

Violence has been an element in Islamic history, and in Jewish and Christian history as well. There are “Islams”, as there are “Judaisms” and “Christianities”. It is invalid to tar all Muslims with the brush of the violence of some, just as it is invalid to do the same with all Jews and all Christians.

The situation becomes even more complex when nation-states are added to the mix. A “State” may be defined as the entity which has a monopoly of legitimate coercion (violence) within a specific geographic area.

One must reject such categories as an “Islamic State”, a “Jewish State”, a “Christian State”, etc. The proper terminology is “Iran is a nation-state controlled by adherents of a particular brand of Islam”, “the USA/USE/USSA is a nation-state controlled by adherents of a particular brand of Christianity”, etc.

When adherents of one brand of one religion control the machinery of a particular State, we are not surprised when violence is employed to advance the interests of both State and religion. (One might on this point profitably compare, say, the (Christian) Roman emperor Constantine the Great (or GWB) with Mohammed.) It is impossible to functionally disentangle the motivations of a particular act of violence in these cases.

Continues tomorrow.

It's easy for me to say; no one lobbing munitions at me (yet).

The Museum of the Bourgeois memorializes all the dead and suffering:

Not one of us is an island, complete in ourselves. Every last one of us is part of the whole: like it or not, admit it or not, act upon the fact or not. You are harmed --- I am harmed. I am harmed --- you are harmed. Simple as that, like it or not.--- your author, after John Donne


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