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Backwards

Religious scholar Karen Armstrong is offended by ignorance of Islam:

RELIGIOUS scholar Karen Armstrong says she is defending Islam as it has been portrayed inaccurately in many ways, particularly in western countries.

She said when Islam, a religion professed throughout the world, is portrayed inaccurately and misrepresented, it offended her intellectually.

“When Islam is projected incorrectly, inaccurately and distorted, it also gives rise to fundamentalism among certain people.

Let’s just back up here. Islamic fundamentalism was quite strong before 9/11, which was before Islam became an issue to most people. After 9/11, our fuck up in Iraq has done a solid job of keeping fundamentalism strong. Inaccurate criticism of Islam is hardly something to worry about with regard to creating fundamentalists.

Armstrong, a well-known author on world religions, said owing to prejudice and hatred, millions of Jews were killed due to Germany’s Nazi atrocities during the Second World War.

This dark history happened in Germany, a western country which prides itself as being very enlightened.

“But we (the western world) seem to learn nothing (from this) as after that there were concentration camps in Yugoslavia. We seem to be heading for greater darkness,” she said.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think we’re particularly close to tossing Muslims in ovens. In fact, it looks to me like Islamic regimes are far closer to that point. Of course, it would be unfair of me to conflate radical Islamic fundamentalists and your average Muslim.

On the other hand, Armstrong has her priorities out of whack here. The fundamental barrier to a good relationship between the West and Islam is Islamic fundamentalism. What does Armstrong’s hand-wringing do to help that situation? Absolutely nothing. She’s whining about the symptoms when she should be working on defeating the cause.

Categories: Foreign Policy, Religion
  1. June 18, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    I think you’re a bit harsh on this point. I don’t think there’s any question that ignorance of Islam by Westerners drives people towards fundamentalism. I suspect that, for example, London’s bombers got increasingly radicalized by living among people who had strong prejudice against Muslims. Just as any group uses its victimhood to radicalize and attract angry yound adherents, so does Islamic fundamenalism.

    And while Westerners aren’t gassing Muslims, there are shallow graves in Bosnia full of them. And while folks like Michelle Malkin haven’t advocated the mass extermination of Muslims, she has advocated rounding them up and putting them in concentration camps. And while Malkin’s a bit extreme to say the least, mainstream newspapers, like the Missoulian, advocated using religious and racial profiling to isolate Muslim travellers of Mideaster descent for extra scrutiny, thus creating a separate, untrusted class of Americans. Oh, and we are torturing Muslims suspected of terrorist activities, using techniques that the Gestapo rejected as too harsh.

    So while she may have resorted to hyperbole to make her point, Muslims have every reason to distrust Westerners, and Americans specifically.

    Now the point that Islamic fundamentalism is the “fundamenal” barrier to good relations with Islam…well…yes…and no. But that’s sort of arrogant, and assumes that we in the US and the West don’t carry our own cultural, political, and historical baggage into the discussion. Personally I don’t thimk Americans, as a body, are capable of self-instrospection. I think people genuinely believe that everybody in the world wants to be just like us. So there’s that, too.

  2. June 18, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    Her books are excellent, btw. Read A History of God.

  3. June 19, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    I think you’re a bit harsh on this point. I don’t think there’s any question that ignorance of Islam by Westerners drives people towards fundamentalism. I suspect that, for example, London’s bombers got increasingly radicalized by living among people who had strong prejudice against Muslims. Just as any group uses its victimhood to radicalize and attract angry yound adherents, so does Islamic fundamenalism.

    I don’t think that’s correct. As far as I know, Muslims are not particularly well integrated into any European society. They live among other Muslims. Radicalization would primarily be at the hands of living around other radical Muslims.

    And while Westerners aren’t gassing Muslims, there are shallow graves in Bosnia full of them. And while folks like Michelle Malkin haven’t advocated the mass extermination of Muslims, she has advocated rounding them up and putting them in concentration camps. And while Malkin’s a bit extreme to say the least, mainstream newspapers, like the Missoulian, advocated using religious and racial profiling to isolate Muslim travellers of Mideaster descent for extra scrutiny, thus creating a separate, untrusted class of Americans. Oh, and we are torturing Muslims suspected of terrorist activities, using techniques that the Gestapo rejected as too harsh.

    As you said, the craziest people on the edge of the mainstream aren’t even there yet. Our policies are wrong-headed, but racial profiling is a very long way from a holocaust. Even torture is a big leap away. Slippery slope arguments are generally sketchy and I’m not particularly inclined to think this one is useful. We’d need at least one more terrorist attack to get to a point where we should start to worry about that happening (that would also support the point I’m making). So I don’t think her hyperbole is the least bit useful.

    Now the point that Islamic fundamentalism is the “fundamenal” barrier to good relations with Islam…well…yes…and no. But that’s sort of arrogant, and assumes that we in the US and the West don’t carry our own cultural, political, and historical baggage into the discussion. Personally I don’t thimk Americans, as a body, are capable of self-instrospection. I think people genuinely believe that everybody in the world wants to be just like us. So there’s that, too.

    I don’t think it assumes that at all. I’m not saying that everything would be peachy if Islamists weren’t trying to kill us and anyone who believes differently in the Middle East. I’m saying that the stumbling block to acceptable relations would be removed. The remaining issues that you mention would still be there, but the hate that exists now would be minimized (just like with most other religions Americans deal with).

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