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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Islamic passion

The Times of London mentions:
MARTYRDOM videos found by police investigating the alleged airline terrorist plot contain chilling statements made by young men who are apparently willing to die as suicide bombers.

In one of the films, recorded shortly before a spate of arrests on August 10, a man is seen talking to the camera and stating: “As you bomb, you will be bombed; as you kill, you will be killed.”

The would-be martyr said he hoped that Allah would be “pleased with us and accept our deed”. He continued, reading from a script, citing verses from the Koran and listing his reasons for “action that I am going to undertake”.

In another search, police found a last will and testament that concluded: “What should I worry when I die a Muslim in the manner in which I am to die? I go to my death for the sake of my maker, whom if wishes can bless limbs torn away.”

I've seen people argue that Islam is inherently evil, and I've seen people argue that we shouldn't blame an entire group based on their fanatics and that Islam is a religion of peace. I've read opinions and articles from the gamut of opinion from the pro-jihadists to the most right-wingers. As a pure religion (as opposed to a political ideology), I admire Islam in many ways. I try very hard to give all people the benefit of the doubt, even as I read about polls where a large percentage of ordinary Muslims condone terror.

But the quotes above crystallized for me what has been bothering me since 9/11.

We have not yet seen a visceral, passionate outrage from the Muslim world against terror.

We have seen many examples of Islamic passion over the past five years. We've seen deadly riots and peaceful demonstrations over cartoons they deem blasphemous. Muslims pour into the streets over any perceived slight to their faith.

Their faith itself inspires passion, and in general this is an admirable thing. I wish that Jews would become much more passionate in the defense of their people and religion.

But, if Islam is truly as it represents itself to the Western world, how come there are not spontaneous demonstrations happening right now as a reaction to the quotes above? If Islam is a peaceful religion, Muslims should be far more insulted at the perversity shown above than Westerners.

Why is a cartoon comparing Mohammed to terrorists more objectionable than terrorists invoking Mohammed and Allah to justify mass murder?

By any reasonable standard, assuming that the peaceful definition of Islam is accurate, the terrorists are treating Islam far more insultingly than any non-Muslim could. They are quoting the Koran to justify what can only be termed a gross perversion of the faith. How can a people who are so keenly attuned to any slight be suddenly so deaf?

Since 9/11, every condemnation of terror that I've seen from the Muslim world has been devoid of passion. The words might be there but the feeling of true outrage at the hijacking of their very faith has been absent.

It just doesn't jive that a people so emotional in their defense of their faith from blasphemy can become so rational when condemning those who are supposedly hijacking that same faith to justify murder. Where is the visceral condemnation of terror?

I can think of two possible reasons:
  • Muslims are so paranoid and perceive themselves as so embattled that they will close ranks around their own against the outside world, no matter how disgusting the terrorists are.
  • The Islamic faith itself is not really nearly as peaceful as it pretends to be. (In this case, I mean the reality of Islam today, not the theoretical academic version. I am not qualified to critique Islam purely as a religion.)
I am reluctant to believe the latter one, but either option does not bode well for a true solution to Islamic terror. Daniel Pipes likes to say that "Radical Islam is the problem; moderate Islam is the solution." I would like to believe that, but if moderate Islam truly exists - and if it is truly Islam - its adherents need to show at least the same passion for life that the Islamists do regularly for death.

The lack of the visceral disgust of terror in the name of Islam, the failure of the "Muslim street" to rise up against those who are supposedly perverting their faith, means that these moderates do not exist in any meaningful way.