Islam and the West

PART ONE

OVERVIEW  

This is the Fall of 2007.  A trip to the library led me to see a book by a Dutch legislator who was black, female and Muslim.  So I checked it out.  I read it and reviewed it and was disturbed, a bit, so thought I should get a second opinion.  

That second opinion was a book so flagrantly negative about the prospect of there ever being peace in a world where Islam coexists with any other religion that it would have depressed me if I had swallowed it whole.  But I had seen this sort of propaganda before during the anti-Communism hysteria I allowed myself to get sucked into the mid-1960s.  It is full of facts, but every fact is shaved and shaped to support one viewpoint and dismiss any other viewpoint.  

Besides, he made fun of and caricatured people who like Rumi.  I took that personally.  He also caused me to check with a fourth book, one I did not read all of but just hunted and pecked through.  It supported my point of view, Sufism was an important part of Muslim history.

So I got a third opinion and really, really liked this one.  It showed the situation is serious, but the patient (peace) is not dead and there are things that can still be done to bring about healing.  This book too is a call to action, a call by a Muslim woman and directed at Muslims.  

While reading all this material I listened to lots of music, but I think it very fitting that when writing the last few pages I had in my ear Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light,” the opera that memorializes the passion of Joan of Arc.  While writing about one tradition’s issues with free inquiry and women’s rights, I am listening to something commemorating the intolerance of politico-religious deviation, especially on the part of women, from my ancestors’ pasts (they were Catholics some generations ago in the Netherlands and Belgium).  

I always have the nagging suspicion that had it not been for some seriously Deist Founders, we might still be fighting for religious tolerance in the U.S. where I live.

Keeping the division between religion and government a very sharp and clean line is imperative to preserving freedom.  Those people in those bad days in the past were not evil, those doing oppressive things in the name of religion today are not bad people (well, some are bad, of course, then and now), but they are generally just sincere true and literal believers who fear God enough to do dastardly things in the hopes of showing God that they are on God’s side against all heresy and other evils.  That can happen in any age or place.

These religious vigilantes must be kept within the law.  They must especially be kept from inflicting those beliefs as requirements on others through law and the use of the very real coercive powers of the executive branch of the civil state.  

Long live religious liberty!  To me that means both freedom of --and from– religion!  

I believe that religion is most meaningful when practiced in a non-coerced state; that spirituality can only flourish when a believer is acting on his or her own internal guidance; and that morality is something we learn as children and then grow within ourselves.  For a mature person it is not something imposed externally or found in books of rules for living except in cases where there is emotional maladjustment or another internal mental or behavioral deficiency.  (Thoroughly immoral people are mentally ill, in my view, not simply bad practitioners of some faith.)

ON TO THE THREE BOOK REVIEWS

If you read them in the order given it will make more sense since the first book is mentioned in the reviews of the second and third books.

Ayaan Hirshi Ali's "The Caged Virgin"

Serge Trifkovic's "The Sword of the Prophet"

Asra Nomadi's "Standing Alone in Mecca"

Go back to Thematic Reviews Page

Go back to 2007 Yearbook

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