Thursday, April 26, 2007

Winds of War: Telling Stories of Jihad and Freedom

Every culture has a story or a narrative that it lives by. Throughout history, cultural stories have come into conflict with each other many times resulting in war.

We have three major cultural narratives in conflict today - the secular narrative of freedom loving people, the socialist narrative of Marxism, and the theocratic narrative of Islam. Marxism is hardened in Cuba and North Korea, being slowly diluted in China, and having a comeback in Venezuela. For global impact, neither of these forms of Marxism at this time is overly threatening as a cultural narrative. Outside of the Marxist dictators in Africa and Venezuela, there is no real rush to embrace the Marxist narrative.

Islam, on the other hand, is a different story and the difference between their story and that of ours, the secular narrative of freedom is, well, telling.

But what about the narrative? Why is human freedom to be valued? Why is the rule of law important? Why is representative government a good thing? Why does the individual human being possess such worth? Why should we defend the weak? Why should we care for the orphan, the widow, the sick, and the elderly? When is anything worth dying for? Why do we love? What is our story?

Currently, our story is confused, divided, in disarray and in pieces. Political correctness and the practice of multiculturalism has stymied our efforts to forge a coherent story that we believe and what we show to the world.

And what about Islam?

Islam has one . . . a story, a narrative. In general, Islam's answers to these questions is quite different from the answers given by the West for most of its history. Bernard Lewis may have over-estimated the power of the West's commitment to freedom to overwhelm the attractiveness of the Muslim narrative in what he describes as its "Third Wave."

What’s so attractive about the Muslim narrative? I’m not taking about the militant from of Islam but the socio-political form. The one that’s on the march throughout the world today. And what of this “Third Wave”?

Let’s look at what’s attractive about the socio-political religion called Islam.What makes Islam tick? And what can we learn about it that will help us understand those that adhere to it and learn more about the threat it poses to the civilized world. Muslims claim that Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. If true; why? What attracts so many converts from around the world to this belief system?

The answer can be found in two concepts: Decidophobia and a thirst for a Path to God.

Decidophobia is the morbid dread of making fateful decisions – an ostrich like defense that drives people to seek refuge from decisions in a religious or ideological conformity. The term was created by Walter Kaufman in his book ‘Without Guilt and Justice”.

The objective of the Decidophobic is to make one major decision, and only one major decision, so one does not have to make another major decision in his or her life ever again. One strategy is to join a religion or a movement. One that has a set of finely prescribed behaviors that circumscribe one’s actions and offers an earthly or heavenly reward for the true believer. If a person is adrift without personal bearings and can not function in a chaotic ethical and moral environment that is perceived to have no absolutes – much like we have today – he or she will seek a belief system that offers a safe haven in this storm of relativism.

Islam fills that void.

It is a strict religion that offers paradise and a sense of meaning in life to those who adhere to the simple pillars of its faith. Islam also presents to its followers a person whose life can be imitated and acts as a blue print to achieve the promise of paradise. But there is another form of ‘religion’ that is just as powerful and offers the reward of paradise here on earth. That is the belief in a strong secular ideology also led by a man to emulate – and even worship - and follow in his footsteps. Examples of these ideologies are Nazism with Hitler and Maoism with Mao Zedong.

Both of these belief systems are the answer to one suffering with Decidophobia. There is even an instruction manual for the Decidophobic that relieves him or her of any future personal decisions. The beliefs revealed and the instructions are clear in their ‘bibles’. Mein Kampf, Mao’s Little Red Book, and the Koran. These belief systems are now the Decidophobic’s community, their country that they dwell within surrounded by fellow citizens of their little nation.

And the word nation is not used lightly here.

Take Islam. The nation of Muslims is the nation of Islam – or the Ummah. Ever wonder why the Islamists are so vehement about nationalism as practiced today? Quite simple. It runs counter to the concept of the nation of Islam. A true Muslim can not be a citizen of two nations at once. Mohammed condemned the concept of nationalism in any and all forms. The recent jihadist condemnation of the World Soccer Cup is a case in point.

“Claiming that soccer plants the seeds of nationalism, and is therefore part of a "colonial crusader scheme" to divide Muslims and cause them to stray from the vision of a unified Islamic identity, the Jihadist website told readers: "The sad fact of the matter is that many Muslims have fallen for this new religion and they too carry the national flag.”

This might seem silly to us and we degrade those who hold such a looney idea but it fits nicely into Islam’s goal to stop Muslims from straying from their true nation, that of Islam. Which brings up the concept of the Path to God that dovetails perfectly with the Islamist view that the destruction of the secular world is the necessary first step in creating an Islamic utopia on earth.

Why are the Islamists so concerned with the secular view of the world? Yes, we say it’s because it conflicts with our secular story that promotes freedom and democracy and Islam can not coexist with it, etc. etc. But why? What are the religious grounds for this? That is to say, how can secularism be a threat to the Muslim’s path to God?

The Hindus have recognized for centuries four paths - or ways - to self-development and spiritual growth - the Way of Action, the Way of Love, the Way of Knowledge, and the Way of Mind Control or Meditation. Islam uses primarily the Way of Action. In the book entitled ‘The One Quest’ written by Claudio Naranjo, the two approaches to ‘right action’ are the one of discipline, duty, injunctions and restraint; and the other it’s direct opposite, the one of self-expression, self-trust, and unconstraint. In the latter case, freedom itself can lead to the goal of self-improvement of the spirit by providing the greatest opportunity for experience and choice.

Guess which ‘right action’ is the choice of Islam and why it’s current choice of the path to spiritual development will be extremely difficult to integrate into a world filled with the thirst for freedom? Yep – the approach of discipline, duty, injunctions and restraint – the direct opposite of what modern western style culture exhibits today.

Our modern day culture believes that self-improvement – at least in the physical realm - can only be achieved by the greatest opportunity for experience and personal choice, unrestricted by any discipline, duty, injunction or restraint. Taken to extremes, one approach leads to the restriction of everything, the other, the permissiveness of everything.

Clash of civilizations? You bet. Clash of paths to self-improvement? You bet.

The outlook is not good for any kind of integration of the two ‘approaches’. Take the way of action that demands discipline, duty, injunctions and restraint – that is, the removal of any and all physical world distractions (including the female body) and entities (nationalism) that would hinder the true believer’s goal of reaching paradise - and we have the Taliban. Allow freedom to disintegrate into license and we are left with the nihilism of Nietzsche.

One approach leads to a constipated, restricted, dead culture – Islam. The other to the chaos of relativism where moral equivalency, political correctness and multiculturalism prevent the perception of what’s right and what’s wrong. Neither extreme assists both the individual or society’s spirit reach its fullest potential.

Finally, both extreme belief systems, theocratic and secular, are two sides of the same coin. Islam sees religion and the state as one and the same. Their book of beliefs dictates how society should function. Secular extremism like Nazi Germany and Maoist China operated the same way. The leader’s belief and the function of the state were direct results of the ‘bibles’ of Mein Kampf and the Little Red Book.

Now what about the Third Wave of Islam? Bernard Lewis writes:

The first wave dates from the very beginning of Islam, when the new faith spilled out of the Arabian Peninsula, where it was born, into the Middle East and beyond. It was then that Muslims conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa — all at that time part of the Christian world — and went beyond into Europe. There, they conquered a sizable part of southwestern Europe, including Spain, Portugal and southern Italy, all of which became part of the Islamic world, and even crossed the Pyrenees and occupied for a while parts of France.

The second wave was conducted not by Arabs and Moors but by Turks and Tartars. In the mid-13th century, the Mongol conquerors of Russia were converted to Islam. The Turks, who had already conquered Anatolia, advanced into Europe and in 1453 they captured the ancient Christian citadel of Constantinople. They conquered a large part of the Balkans, and for a while ruled half of Hungary. Twice they reached as far as Vienna, to which they laid siege in 1529 and again in 1683. Barbary corsairs from North Africa went to Iceland — the uttermost limit — and to several places in Western Europe, including notably a raid on Baltimore (the original one, in Ireland) in 1631.

The third wave is taking a different form: terror and migration. The subject of terror has been discussed frequently and in great detail. What I want to address here is the other aspect, which is of more particular relevance to Europe today — the question of migration.

Where do we stand now? Is it third time lucky? It is not impossible. Muslim immigrants have certain clear advantages. They have fervor and conviction, which in most Western countries are either weak or lacking.


It’s not that our story is weak, but how we practicing it.

[Muslims] are self-assured of the rightness of their cause, whereas we spend most of our time in self-denigration and self-abasement. They have loyalty and discipline, and perhaps most important of all, they have demography. The combination of natural increase and migration that is producing major population changes could lead within the foreseeable future to significant majorities in at least some European cities or even countries.

Our challenge today is to reach back in time and tell the coherent beneficial story that freedom loving people have fought for and attained over the last several centuries.

But we also have some advantages, the most important of which are knowledge and freedom. The appeal of genuine modern knowledge in a society that, in the more distant past, had a long record of scientific and scholarly achievement is obvious. They are keenly and painfully aware of their relative backwardness and welcome the opportunity to rectify it.

Less obvious but also powerful is the appeal of freedom. In the past, in the Islamic world the word freedom was not used in a political sense. Freedom was a legal concept. You were free if you were not a slave. They did not use freedom and slavery as a metaphor for good and bad government, as we have done for a long time in the Western world.

But the idea of freedom in its Western interpretation is making headway. It is becoming more and more understood, more and more appreciated and more and more desired. It is perhaps in the long run our best hope, perhaps even our only hope, of surviving this developing struggle.

The one place where we can most definitely lose the war on terror is on the battlefield of ideas. Who would believe that a combination of pure hatred and medieval superstition would provide the most appealing ideology of the 21st century?

What is our counter? The ideology of freedom, obviously. But do we really believe in it anymore? That is hard to believe on a continent which in the previous century was ravaged by the deadly poisons fascism and socialism, where everybody now seems to know what they are against (America, Jews, capitalism, immigrants, whatever), but there is little left to unite us when we are forced to decide what we are fighting for.

We need to affirm what we are fighting for and just against.


Secular Blasphemy writes:

The one place where we can most definitely lose the war on terror is on the battlefield of ideas. Who would believe that a combination of pure hatred and medieval superstition would provide the most appealing ideology of the 21st century? What is our counter? The ideology of freedom, obviously. But do we really believe in it anymore?

Or do we believe in what Janis Joplin said, “Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Before we get to that point, I hope we can tell our story in ways that will halt and push back the strong global story of the Islamists.

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