Toward A Balanced View Of Islam and The West

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Toward A Balanced View Of Islam and The West

The ‘save our civilization from Islamification’ – and ‘no surrender to Shariah’ – brigade often proudly speak and write about the societies of the West in glowing terms, and contrast their own ‘advanced’, ‘civilized’, societies and way of life with Islam, and which religion of the Muslims they describe as “one of the great evils of the world” [1], as ‘barbaric, bloodthirsty, primitive, murderous’, and which they claim ‘subjugates women’.

This attitude reveals several things. That those who so pontificate are – instinctively or willfully – extremely biased against Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim way of life [2]; and/or that they have an extremely romanticized view of the societies of the West (and especially of their own society); and/or that they are hatefully speaking/writing propaganda, and inciting prejudice and hate and demonizing Islam and Muslims, in order to promote their views/cause/organization/ideology. And demonizing Islam and Muslims in much the same way as those minority of Muslims who adhere to or believe in a harsh interpretation of Islam demonize the societies of the West and some (or all) of the kuffar.

For such an attitude is unbalanced, irrational, ignorant; ignoring as it does the reality – the truth – of the societies of the West and the reality – the truth – about the varied societies, past and present, of Muslims. [3]

A Balanced View

The balanced view is that both types of societies – the Western and the Muslim – have, and have had, problems and divisions, and governments and individuals who have sanctioned and done barbaric deeds. And people of good, honourable, intentions and people of bad, dishonourable, intentions. And people aware of the misdeeds of the past and the problems of the present – of what is morally necessary in order to offset or solve such problems – and who are trying in their own ways to make their societies better, more moral, in accord with the principles they believe in, whether those principles be described as political, religious, or social.

The anti-Muslim brigade, for instance, claim that ‘Islam subjugates women’ and treats them unfairly, while ignoring – or being in ignorance about – the misogyny that is rife in the West, with nearly 100,000 women per year seeking treatment in the British city of London alone for violent injuries received in their own homes, with, on average, in Britain, two women per week being killed by a male partner or former partner – that is over 100 women a year. Also, in England and Wales alone, in one year, there are around 600,000 recorded incidents of domestic violence, and every minute of every day the British Police are called by a woman who has been subject to violent domestic abuse. [4]

The anti-Muslim brigade, for instance, claim that ‘Islam is barbaric, bloodthirsty, murderous’, while ignoring the fact in the past hundred years Western countries have, through conflict and war, caused or contributed to far more deaths than Muslim societies: well over one hundred million human beings. Over sixty million people in the Second World War – the most brutal and bloody war in human history. Over sixteen million in the First World War. Over twenty million in the Soviet Union. Many millions killed in colonial wars; and in just two days, nearly a quarter of a million people in Japan killed by the dropping of atomic bombs. In the past three years alone, the drone strikes authorized by the Obama administration have killed between 282 and 535 civilians, of which 60 were children [5]. Such attacks have been described, by Western commentators with a legal background, as “violations of international law” [6], as “terrorizing men, women, and children” [7] and as “extra-judicial assassination – accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children” [8].

The anti-Muslim brigade, for instance, make claims about the ‘violence and inhumanity of Jihad’ while (i) ignoring the fact that no Muslim society, in the last hundred years, has invaded and occupied another land, Muslim or kuffar; and (ii) ignoring the recent colonialism of the West, and wars such as those fought in Vietnam, and recent invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, many civilian.

Also ignored by those who pontificate about “the great evil that is Islam” are the many the social problems in Western societies which make the lives of millions of people despairing, and grim; a life which many escape from by turning to drugs or alcohol [9].

But do all the above things – and other things such the torture of Muslims in Abu Ghraib and Bagram, the rendition and torture of Muslims suspected of being terrorists, the death of 290 people on Flight 655 shot down by US missiles – make Western societies barbaric, bloodthirsty, murderous, terrorist, violent, uncaring, full of hate? Do they show that the principles underlying Western society are wrong, evil, immoral, barbaric, oppressive of women?

Or do they show that the peoples and governments of the West have done some bad things, made mistakes, but have admitted (or are beginning to admit) their errors, have learnt from them – and are still learning – and thus are not prefect and should not be idealized? Do they also show that claims of perfection, that such idealizations of the West as the anti-Muslim brigade make, are themselves wrong, mistakes worthy of reproval just as the demonization of the West by those Muslims who adhere to or believe in a harsh interpretation of Islam is wrong?

A Force For Good

My personal view now of Western societies – based on experience, a life of extremisms and subversions, and deriving from much reflexion, an acknowledgement of my own mistakes, and much pathei-mathos – is that they are a force for good, and that, for all their problems and flaws,

“…there is, within them, a certain tolerance; a certain respect for the individual; a certain duty of care; and certainly still a freedom of life, of expression, as well as a standard of living which, for perhaps the majority, is better than elsewhere in the world and most certainly better than existed there and elsewhere in the past.

In addition, there are within their structures – such as their police forces, their governments, their social and governmental institutions – people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, who strive to do what is good, right. Indeed, far more good people in such places than bad people, so that a certain balance, the balance of goodness, is maintained even though occasionally (but not for long) that balance may seem to waver somewhat.

Furthermore, many or most of the flaws, the problems, within such societies are recognized and openly discussed, with a multitude of people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, dedicating themselves to helping those affected by such flaws, such problems. In addition, there are many others trying to improve those societies, and to trying find or implement solutions to such problems, in tolerant ways which do not cause conflict or involve the harshness, the violence, the hatred, of extremism.” [10]

Furthermore, also based on experience and much reflexion, my personal view of diverse Muslim societies (Sunni and Shia, and from North Africa, to Egypt, the Sudan, the Middle East, to Asia), is that – on balance – they are also a force for good, full of people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, who strive to do what is good and avoid what is dishonourable – Amr bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkar.

Thus both ways of living, that of West and that of the Muslims, can profitably learn from the other, because reasoned dialogue, an acceptance, celebration, and tolerance, of diversity, is the moral, the virtuous, thing to do. From Islam we in the societies of the West might, for instance, re-learn the virtue of a personal humility, dignity, and respect for the sacred over and above the material and the profane, things which the way of Jesus of Nazareth, and the prophets before him, taught us – or saught to teach us – but which many of us somehow and for some reason seem to have forgotten (I know I forget them for decades).

Furthermore, claims of perfection about, and idealizations of, one’s own society/nation/country/religion – and the demonization of others – are not only irresponsible, unwise, but also hubris, perpetuating as such hubris does the reprehensible suffering that has so blighted and which still blights this one small planet orbiting one ordinary star in one galaxy among a cosmos of billions of such star-filled galaxies.

The solution to such suffering, such mistakes, is simple, for it begins with each one of us, internally. With a rejection of extremism, and a discovery and an appreciation of (or a rediscovery of) the numinous and of our shared humanity; an appreciation that predisposes us feel and know our limitations and faults, as fallible mortals, and which feeling and knowing forms the essence of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and of the humanism that has motivated and inspired so many in the West for two centuries or more.

David Myatt
2012

Acknowledgements: This article is based on – and expands upon/summarizes and/or quotes from – several replies sent to various correspondents between February and November of 2012, many of whom enquired about or asked specific questions concerning my views in relation to Islam, the societies of the West, and anti-Muslim groups.  It presents only my personal, fallible, opinion, and which opinion reflects the weltanschauung and the morality of my philosophy of pathei-mathos, as outlined in Recuyle of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos and texts such as Pathei-Mathos – A Path To Humility.

It thus compliments recent articles of mine such as Prejudice, Extremism, Islamophobia, and Culture, and Concerning Islamophobia.


Notes

[1] Richard Dawkins, speaking in Stornoway, as reported in The Scotsman newspaper, dated November 2, 2012.

[2] In Concerning Islamophobia, I wrote:

“The ‘indiscriminate negative attitudes or emotions’ that Islamophobics have for Islam and Muslims is the result, in my fallible view and in my experience, of a lack of knowledge – an ignorance – about both Islam and the Muslim way of life, and of the propensity we humans seem to have to express opinions about, or pass judgement on something we have little or no personal experience of, and/ or on someone or some many we do not personally know. This personal ignorance concerning something, or someone or some many, we express an opinion or views about is also something we seldom admit to others, and often do not admit even to ourselves.”

One propaganda ploy used by the ‘save our civilization from Islamification’ brigade – redolent of their ignorance, of their lack of knowledge about Islam and their lack of practical in-depth experience of the Muslim way of life – is to quote English interpretations of a particular hadith and English interpretations of ayat from the Quran, thus ignoring (i) that a particular hadith or ayat (and Ahadith and Ayah in general) should be studied in Arabic and must be considered in the context of the whole Quran and the Sunnah and Ijmah combined; and (ii) the truth that to know, fully understand, and appreciate, the religion of Islam – the Muslim way of life – one must have extensive practical experience of how those texts, the Quran, the Sunnah, and Ijmah, are manifested by and in the daily and the social lives of those who use them as guides to living and as guides to the sacred, the divine. And a practical experience that is diverse: not of only one locale, but of many. In the case of Islam, this means understanding Adab, and appreciating, from experience, the diversity within Islam – for example, the Sufism of North Africa; the way of life of the fellaheen of Egypt, Turkey, Morocco; the way of life of Punjabi Muslims in places like Leicester, and of Muslims in Somali and Dar-es-Salaam. And it is such diverse practical experience that will enable a person to appreciate just what Shariah is, what it means, and what it does not mean nor imply. Anything other than this is, in my view, ignorance of Islam.

[3] Among the ignoble propaganda ploys used by the ‘save our civilization from Islamification’ brigade is to report some crime or ignoble deed if and only if the religion (or the presumed religion) of the perpetrator is Muslim, or if the perceived ethnicity of the perpetrator is Asian/Arab/African, to thus ‘prove/show’ how horrid, bad, brutal, barbaric, those ‘muzzies’/Arabs/Asians/foreigners are. These propagandists thus ignore similar deeds done by Europeans/Whites/Christians.

Another ignoble propaganda ploy they use is to report some crime or ignoble deed done by, or words spoken by, some Muslim or Muslims who adhere to or believe in a harsh interpretation of Islam and then claim that that deed or those words ‘prove how horrid, bad, brutal, barbaric, terroristic, Islam is’. These propagandists thus ignore similar extremist deeds done, or similar harsh words spoken, by Europeans/Whites/Christians, past and present.

[4] Sources: (a) Punching Judy, BBC TV Documentary; (b) Crime in England and Wales (Home Office annual publication); (c) Women’s Aid Federation of England.

[5] Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Covert Strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, 2012

[6] Living Under Drones, Report by New York University School of Law and Stanford University Law School, 2012

[7] Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian, September 25, 2012

[8] Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian, November 15, 2012.

[9] For instance, cocaine use in England and Wales is the highest in Europe, indulged in by over four million people – and Scotland’s rate of cocaine use is among the highest in the whole world. [Source:  European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction]

For instance, America has the highest number of people in prison, per capita, in the whole world – over 1.7 million people, with well over half of all prisoners in America there for drug related offences [Source: (a) Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse (White House Office of National Drug Control Policy); (b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (The Department of Health and Human Services).]. In addition nearly 22 million Americans aged 12 or older are illicit drug users [Source: (a) Foundation for Social Improvement; (b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Department of Health and Human Services ].

In respect of alcohol, an estimated 15 to 20 million Americans are addicted to alcohol or regularly abuse alcohol for personal or social reasons. Furthermore, in America, alcohol use is involved in: (a) one-half of all murders, accidental deaths, and suicides; (b) one-third of all drowning, boating and aviation deaths; (c) one-half of all crimes; and (d) almost half of all fatal automobile accidents. [Source:  (a) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; (b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Department of Health and Human Services]

[10] David Myatt, Notes on The Politics and Ideology of Hate, April 2012