A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|The Arrogant Assumption|
|07/10/02 at 12:02:45|
|View Point by Abid Ullah Jan|
The Arrogant Assumption
The increasing demands by leading American analysts, asking the US administration to intensify the "war of ideas," clearly show that they have somehow assumed that the US has the best ideas and it has the best way of life. The Muslim world in particular has to accept these ideas and this way of life. The US must get engaged in a "war of ideas" through a "war within Islam" and win it. Here we need to understand that the demands made and the ways and means suggested are not for a "war of ideas," but to further intensify the ongoing "war for ideas." After Washington Post's editorial "The war of ideas' (Dec. 29, 2001) and after his first appeal for a war within Islam in New York Times (Dec. 12, 2001), Thomas L. Friedman once more came out with a New York Times column "war of ideas" (June 02) demanding that the US must "take on" the Muslim world's "ideas in public." The targeted "idea people" are "religious leaders, pseudo-intellectuals and educators."
The arrogant tone and the fatal assumption are clearly evident in the very second paragraph of the article that labels all those with different-than-American-ideas as enemies and "pseudo-intellectuals." Such write-ups show no tolerance towards non-American ideas. However, they expect the Muslims to learn tolerance and "modernize Islam." Amazingly, Mr. Friedman suggests that the target of a "war within Islam" should be Islam's "spiritual message and identity." We must not forget that the spiritual message and identity of Islam are not mere ideas that occur in a common mind. A war with the "spiritual message and identity of Islam," cannot be labeled as a "war of ideas." It is plainly a war with the core of Islam. Pure and simple. Inflaming a "war within Islam" is by no means a war of ideas. It is definitely a war for ideas because there are American ideas on the one hand and normative truth, permanent values and norms on the other.
There is a difference between ideas that promote consuming private appetite and oppressive political power and a norm, which means enduring standard. New norms cannot be invented from mere ideas of one's own creation. Nor can the war of ideas be fought with the force of daisy cutter and cluster bombs. Take out the military force and veto power from behind its ideas and the US would sound as irrational as the weakest of the nations sound today. The war of ideas need level playing field for debate and discussion - not a one-way overt dominance of the so-called mainstream media and covert actions by the CIA and FBI.
Proponents of a "war within Islam" claim that it is "a war between the future and the past, between development and underdevelopment, between authors of crazy conspiracy theories versus those espousing rationality, between advocates of suicide bombing and those who know you can't build a society out of gravestones." It is really interesting. A well known newspaper, like the New York Times, and a leading analyst, like Thomas Friedman, are telling the Muslims in their face that the war is directed at their "spiritual message" and their "identity." Still they label as irrational and "authors of conspiracy theory" the Muslims who discuss this reality. No one writes any conspiracy theory. It is a reality that Friedman and company are putting in a language as clear as A, B, C before the Muslim world. As far development and underdevelopment is concerned, Islam doesn't teach underdevelopment. If modernization of Islam is the invention of new norms against the "spiritual message" and "identity" of Islam, it shall then be clear that men do not submit long to their own creations. Norms have a reality independent of immediate social and economic utility. Ideas on the other hand are mere fictions.
It is na´ve on part of the American analysts to assume that their ideas are the best and they would wage a war to convince the Muslim world that their present values and norms are no better than the pompous fabrications of their ancestors, erected to serve the interests of a fraction or an age. If it is so, then every successive rising generation will challenge the principles of personal and social order and will learn wisdom only through agony. Those who stress on the need to reawaken our consciousness to the existence of permanent norms, to the confession that there are enduring standards superior to our petty private stock of rationality are not fanatics.
Thomas Friedman gives example of a homosexual Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who felt that Islam had "not gone through the Enlightenment or the Reformation," which prepared it to "embrace modernity." If the expected tolerance from Muslims and Islam is to accept homosexuality as an alternative life-style and other such innovations, Mr. Friedman is then in for a rude awakening as it is absolutely impossible. Going to "war of ideas," "war within Islam" and "war on terrorism," etc., simply for imposing this kind of "way of life" in the name of tolerance and modernity is bound to have disastrous consequences. War of ideas to clarify the Islamic and Western point of view is not a bad idea. But attempts either to split the Muslim world or go to a war for imposing western "ideas" - not even ideals - will never ever bring peace and harmony to this troubled world. The "ideas" which have not work wonder in the west will not turn the Muslim world into a heaven.
Institutions, values and norms of a people grow out of their religion, their moral habits and their literature - not from alien ideas imposed with chicanery, deceit and sheer power. Attempts to impose borrowed ideas upon an alien culture, however well intentioned, generally are disastrous - though sometimes decades, or even generations, may be required for the experiment to run its unlucky course. The experiment of Turkey is before our eyes. The norms or order and justice and freedom are attained in an interesting variety of ways.
It is foolish on part of the American analysts to link Zacarias Moussaoui's statement that he "prayed to Allah for the destruction of the United States" as an "ugly idea" to "spiritual message" and "identity" of Islam. The Muslim do not consider a war on the "spiritual message" and "identity" of Islam as a war on Zacarias Moussaoui's idea. They consider it a war on Islam and its way of life. Just as Rumsfeld doesn't want "anyone else deny the American people their way of life" (NPQ winter 2002), Muslims, too, do not want others to impose their brand of universalism over them. They also want to live as free people. They also want to live their own way of life.
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