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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cultural immaturity of Islam

Muslims for a Safer America took a survey of American Muslims at an Islamic Society of North America convention in September. While this is not a scientific survey, it is probably a good representation of the thoughts of the more committed Muslims of America who are likely to attend these sorts of conventions.

The conclusion one can draw from this survey is that educated, Western Muslims are living in a complete fantasy world, where they are the perpetual victims and have no responsibility for any problems. In their twisted universe, Muslims didn't do any terror attacks, except maybe London; the US routinely lies and goes to extreme lengths to make Muslims look bad, and in fact the US is at war with Islam itself.

These paranoid fantasies do not come out of a vacuum. They are a direct result of the mindset of Islam, where the ascendancy of the West since the Middle Ages is a direct contradiction to the Islamic assumption that its philosophy was inherently superior. The fact that Islam descended into third-world status and irrelevance for centuries is a source of deep anguish and embarrassment. The more recent reinvigoration of Islam due to petrodollars has not seeped into this collective shame, where Andalusia is still mourned. Muslims are thirsty for relevance and evidence that their beliefs are superior to others'.

The US is everything that Islam is not. This is not a completely good thing - there are definite problems in American society, and some aspects of Islam are praiseworthy. But in real terms, the US dominance of the world scene, militarily and culturally and economically, is a focus for Muslim anger (which is simply a manifestation of embarrassment.)

Today's Muslims would rather react with fear, denial and paranoia to the challenges of the modern world symbolized by the US, rather than introspection about how modern Muslims can evolve Islam to meet today's challenges.

In many ways, it is a cultural immaturity. A mature culture is one that is secure in its own beliefs and confident enough that it can hold its own in the marketplace of ideas. An immature culture is fearful of other beliefs and standards and not certain of the validity of its own. The denial, projection and paranoia are all logical outcomes of this core insecurity.

Immature cultures crave relevance. Lately, the Arabic WAFA website has been filled with articles about Mahmoud Abbas taking telephone calls from leaders of some nations, like Spain or Jordan or Zambia. These press releases are a way to shout to the world that Abbas himself is a world leader, in that he can speak to other world leaders as equals. In reality, he looks more like an autograph seeker, basking in the reflected glory of a Tom Cruise. But this obsession is an indication of his desperate quest for relevance, and ironically it is a true indication of his irrelevance.

Terror is just a manifestation of this quest for relevance. It is the equivalent of a temper tantrum from a two-year old with deadly weapons. If you have insulted me, if you have disrespected me, if you have ignored me - then I will make you pay.

Another example of this immaturity: Muslims are rightly concerned with the saturation of sex in American culture. One cannot look at a sitcom nowadays without being barraged with fairly explicit sexual messages. They are offended by this part of American culture, and they have a right to be.

Now, it just so happens that a large number of Christians are equally offended by the same problem. There are far more Christians in the US than Muslims. Why doesn't organized Islam try to reach out to other groups and deal with what is clearly a core issue for them? Mature groups would work together to reach a common goal. But one gets the impression from Muslims that they would never work with others - whether the reason is xenophobia or an unwillingness to compromise on small issues to gain a greater victory, either way it is a result of immaturity.

There is no more pluralistic society than America. People from countless cultures, religions and nations manage to live here and thrive. America doesn't just tolerate diversity, it celebrates it. It isn't perfect but in American culture, success and hard work are rewarded. To think that the US is targeting Islam is the height of delusion. This delusion is not just psychotic but it is dangerous, and ultimately it is more dangerous to Islam than to the West. The unspoken American contract is that you can do your own thing as long as you are one of us, and American Muslims do not consider themselves American nearly as much as they consider themselves Muslim.

Islam needs to grow up, and one way or another it will have to. The question is how many innocent people will die as it struggles through adolescence.