Faith and globalisation: Islam

Over in the side bar you’ll see that I have been there and done that with posting on Islam, and a search of any of my blogs will show just how often. Today at least I have something new for you all to think about. First, let me make clear I am not a Muslim. Second, you will note there are a number of people on my Google Reader who are Muslims; I prefer to let them speak for themselves. Third, my own views have been coloured by many things, two being several years working closely with Muslim students post-2001, and the Bali experience of my former colleague Russell Darnley. He recently wrote a very moving post which I absolutely recommend: My First Visit to #Bali Since the October 2002 #Bombing.

…The Bali Bombing was an horrific event that touched me personally, yet for me it’s difficult to distinguish between the madness of the suicide bomber and the madness that suffuses the actions of a nation state that, while understanding the imprecision of its technology, still persists with actions that euphemistically result in collateral damage, the death of innocents and destruction of their homes and infrastructure. When I see images of white phosphorous raining down as people scatter in terror, I’m reminded that we live in a world where love for our fellow humans is held in scant regard by many…

Moving on to the site of the Sari Club in Kuta, I was struck by the size of Kuta’s new developments. I still remembered much of it as ladang, as open spaces with small huts, coconut palms, grassy fields with Banteng cattle and water buffalo grazing. Landmarks were difficult to spot. The road was overshadowed by multistorey buildings now. Finally the unmistakable monument to the victims of the bombing.

Ignoring the sign that said entry forbidden, I walked up to the stones panels displaying all the victims’ names. I read the Indonesian names, moving on to the Australian names then systematically all the other names. Once completed I came back and read some of the names that were of particular importance to me.

Joshua Kevin Deegan son of the Magistrate from South Australia, Brian Deegan

Jonathon Ellwood who’s body I helped identify from his hotel room key

Kathy Sarvatori nee Hackett who’s father Noel coached me in Rugby on Coogee oval, many years ago.

Dimitra and Elizabeth Kotronakis, the friends of a colleague

I read the same prayers then stood in contemplation, stepping back so that I could view the monument from the opposite corner. I was in a state of walking meditation.

“Transport, transport, boss?”

The silence was broken. It was time to go and have breakfast.

In that Yale course I downloaded some time back are several relevant sessions. “Muna Abu Sulayman of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Kingdom Foundation presents a faith-based perspective on gender in the context of globalization, and specifically the head scarf debate.”

Then a few days back Arts & Letters Daily featured John R. Bowen, “Nothing To Fear: Misreading Muslim immigration in Europe” from The Boston Review January-February 2010.

If you want to read a European book decrying Islam and Muslims, you have many to choose from. The dominant style on the continent is memoir, recounting the horrific experiences of a Muslim (or formerly Muslim) woman in her Islamic milieu. Infidel and The Caged Virgin, by former Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, are the most familiar in this genre. The best-selling French titles speak for themselves: Dishonored; Mutilated; The Sold Ones and The Fatiha (both on forced marriages); Disfigured; Souad, Burned Alive; and Latya, Her Face Stolen.

Europe’s anti-Islam sentiment may be expressed most visibly in memoirs because Europeans have been reticent to condemn Islam—or religion more generally—outright. Americans, however, seem to prefer a less subtle approach. In the United States, alongside the autobiographies, we find two kinds of direct attack on Islam: as a “gutter religion” (as Louis Farrakhan once described Judaism) and as a threat to our fundamental values—a threat that has already overrun Europe and is now heading this way.

Robert Spencer’s The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran illustrates the first style of attack. I am interested in the second style. They’re asleep; we’re next—so we are warned in Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within. We hear a similar message in his Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom; in Brigitte Gabriel’s They Must Be Stopped; and Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.

Perhaps these books are innocent, less about an animus against Islam than an expression of Americans’ secret delight in knocking weak-kneed French and English politicians. Or maybe we simply prefer displacing our anxiety about Islam from the nice Pakistani surgeon next-door onto jihadists invading European cities.

But these cheerful readings do not do justice to the books’ somber tone or their striking thematic consistency (shared with many like-minded Web sites). Islam, they argue, has shocked Europeans, the shock comes from Islamic values, and the clash is unlikely to subside. These three themes—Islamic shock, value conflict, and unending struggle—evoke Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations,” but with added urgency: Muslims are now on the wrong side of the Huntingtonian line.

We need to take this argument seriously and understand what is wrong with it. And—to cut right to the chase—it is wrong on every detail that matters…

That’s enough for one day!

  • Just in case it disappears, here is Boston Review — John R. Bowen.
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