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COMMENTARY: CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS

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Debate on Islam conclusion: So What?

October 12, 2010

Yes, there are Muslims who adhere to a fundamentalist Islam, and there are Muslims who still believe in death to apostates. Some Muslims also believe in kidnapping their brides-to-be, forcing females in marriages in connivance with the imam who presides over the wedding. Yes, some Muslim women are treated less than equal with males, and there are instances of violence against women and honor killings. Yes, there is the Taliban, and al-Qaeda still has a following. And there are clerics in Iran who support violence and oppression to protect their authoritarian rule.

In the debate on October 6, 2010, the question was: Is Islam a religion of peace? Those arguing against the motion are said to have won the debate. But so what? Ayaan Hirsi Ali was right to characterize the debate as having other than an academic significance. Ayaan's experience in the US, not to mention Europe, must have made the motion seem to her to be a little more than a stretch. (See an April, 2007 news article about her appearance at the University of Pittburgh.)

Hirsi Ali's debating partner, Douglas Murray, was right that we should look at reality with honesty rather than wishful thinking. And Murray was right to speak of the insignificance of any concept of "war against Islam."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali left her devotion to Samuel Huntington's idea of a clash of civilization unmentioned and irrelevant. The concept of contextualization in interpreting sacred writings, raised by those who supported the motion, was interesting but unproductive.

Where does all this leave the two who argued that most Muslims are peaceful people and hostile to extremists? Zeba Khan and millions more will continue to practice their religion and to believe in peace, democracy and pluralism. Zeba Khan's partner in the debate, Maajid Nawaz went outside the argument of what is to the issue to what could be. Let us hope that he continues with what he has been doing: speaking to Muslims outside the United States.

Hirsi Ali and Murray said nothing that should encourage those in the United States who would deny Muslims their full rights as citizens or who would abuse or disrespect Muslim as persons.

Despite the vote against Islam being "a religion of peace," we are left with the Maajid Nawaz option. The best we can do is give support to Muslims who like the rest of us obey the law. The best we can do is to continue policies against terrorism without the hysteria and other over-reactions that are common among an aroused people.

The legal option, by the way, includes moving against persons having expressed threats of violence. Those of us in the United States, let us hope that the FBI does a good job.

We can, moreover, give support to the Hirsi Ali's foundation, which is dedicated "to help protect and defend the rights of women in the West against militant Islam."

October 20, 2010: Zachary Adam Chesser, age 20, pleads guilty to two counts of communicating threats and socliciting crimes of violence. Chesser was outraged by cartoons that mocked the prophet Muhammad.

October 26, 2010: I would like to make a comment that spins off a point that Ms. Hersi Ali made during the debate:

But a religion is born in a culture, and if that culture is not peaceful, then that religion is not peaceful.

A part of the culture that Ayaan's grandmother knew in Somalia derived from a habit of warfare among desert tribal people. In Arabia before Muhammad's rise there was tribal rule, and in the place of political organization there was anarchy with conflicts settled by warfare, and warfare increased when Muhammad began his raiding out of Yathrib (Medina) and his warring to unite the Arabian peninsula under his rule. Islam grew in this atmosphere of warfare, but it originally came to Arabia not born from Mecca or Yathrib. It was somewhat of an importation, like the Cult of Dionysus into Homeric Athens and Christianity into pagan Rome, with Muhammad as an agent of that importation. Then, as Ayaan contends, Muhammad melded his product of diffusion, Islam, with dominant cultural circumstances.

Copyright © 2010-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.