Saturday, February 4, 2006

Has World War IV begun?

The streets are capsizing in the Muslim world tonight. Destroying an embassy is a cause to declare war on a country. Who knew something as stupid as a cartoon could potentially lead to war? Westerners are being kidnapped and there are calls for blood from the Muslim world, and the governments are sitting back and doing nothing about it.

The easy, emotional response would be to say bomb the hell out of them, wouldn't it? Yet rationality tells us to be calm, to use reason in our decisions, to not let emotion rule. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Anger, my friends and enemies, is an emotion to which we cannot let ourselves succumb. It's a shame that we seem to be destined to forever live the same day over and over again. (9/11- To say "never forget" goes against the integral principles of Christianity, for the most paramount tenet of Christ's message is unconditional forgiveness.)

What we have here is a fundamental misunderstanding of democracy by the Muslim world. The very heart of the issue is free and independent media, which is vital to a healthy, stable democracy. The rioters can't seem to grasp the fact that governments are not supposed to intervene in media affairs (nor can bushie, for that matter.) I suppose when you've let yourself live under a thousand years of authoritarian rule, you tend to lose your sense of control over your own life, and democracy is an abstract concept too difficult to understand. However, it is quite disturbing that one of the most basic aspects of it is not understood in a culture where democracy is being imposed by the most powerful nation on Earth. It leaves one to wonder if democracy can exist in that part of the world.

In principle, political Islam and democracy are quite compatible. To say otherwise would be to say that all revealed religions are incompatible, as they are all authoritarian by nature, adhere to a strict dogma, and perhaps most importantly, none of them believes that reason can bring one closer to God, as the rules are already set and published in a holy book of some sort. Catholics, for example, are supposed to give the Pope supreme authority. The Vatican is a dictatorship by definition, yet Catholics sometimes feel outraged when it is described as such. Protestants also have their own form of hierarchy, as do Jews.

At the very heart of the matter is how much control we have over our lives. In Islam, the concept of taqdeer is one that has been fiercely debated by Muslim scholars for centuries. Taqdeer is the concept of predestination. If you will recall, the concept has been debated by Christian scholars for centuries based on the idea of original sin. Personally, I think the concept of predestination is something not debatable. If things are predetermined, then it doesn't matter what you do on Earth, and no amount of blabbering is going to change that, right? Predestination means that freedom cannot exist, for no choice in life is going to change the fact that the end is already determined for the individual. Given that, one might as well have democracy, right?

What is freedom, anyway? It is not the meaningless concept that bushie throws around on every whim. Freedom in critical thought (what used to be called philosophy) is something to be debated. Can we ever be truly free? Tolstoy's concept of freedom had to do with doing as one wishes without constraint, something Pierre was trying to find. (I mention his idea because what we are getting at is war, this war that we are fighting and we are about to fight.) Later philosophers took it further to debate the whole idea of free will. Are we free from our will? The idea that man has no control over his affairs is a concept created by powermongering dictators. In the Muslim world, it was created as political propaganda, proof that the political decisions made today can impact the planet for eternity.

What this boils down to is moral responsibility. Without free will, there can be no moral responsiblity, something that seems to be lacking in 21st century Islam (and American Evangelicalism.) Listen, you rioters. You are losing supporters by the hour. Don't come whining to us when the bombs rain on Damascus, because somewhere deep within our liberal hearts may be a bit of the feeling of justice. (This is not the same thing as supporting a war.) You want to act like you have no moral responsibility and destroy everything in sight? You get what you give, you know.

The Arab world is due for an Enlightenment. I refuse to let Samuel Huntington win.

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