27 Sep '12 21:50>
I am sickened by the level of Islamaphobia expressed by some contributors in this forum. This material might perhaps permit a more interesting debate, since each of the seven points offers a basis for debate that might get beyond the racist simplicities of other threads.
The historian Timothy Garton-Ash writes principally about geopolitics and the world stage and in this connection outlines six grand narratives – six big pictures, six explanatory paradigms – in competition with each other. ... he is at least as much interested in ‘us’ (non-Muslims) as in ‘them’. It is striking in this connection to note the title that he (or perhaps a sub-editor) gave to his article: ‘What we call Islam is a mirror in which we see ourselves’. His six narratives are not, he stresses, mutually exclusive. It is logically impossible, however, for someone to operate with all six with equal assurance.
Briefly summarised, ..., Garton-Ash’s six narratives are set out below, together with a seventh. Each is an explanation responding to the prior question ‘What is the problem?’
The problem is religion in general, which is superstition, self-delusion and the abandonment of reason. The deplorable influence of religion is seen throughout the world, and in all cultural traditions – in Christianity and Judaism, for example, as well as in Islam.
The problem is a particular religion, Islam. Unlike western Christianity, it does not allow the separation of religion and politics. With its systematic discrimination against women, its barbaric punishments for homosexuality and its intolerance of other world-views, Islam is stuck in the middle ages. It needs a reformation, based on integrating religion with science and rationality and re-interpreting traditional texts in the light of modernity.
The problem is Islamism, namely an interpretation of Islam that has its intellectual roots in organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood founded in Egypt after the first world war and subsequently developed by Sayyid Qutb in Egypt and Maulana Maududi in Pakistan. Alternative phrases or words instead of Islamism include political, militant or radical Islam; Islamic activism; Qutbism; jihadism; extremism; and fundamentalism.
4. West Asia/Middle East
The problem lies in the specific history of West Asia, particularly the history of Arab nations. Key events and factors of the last 100 years include the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 for the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire; the Balfour Declaration and in due course the creation of the state of Israel; processes of decolonisation and globalisation; tensions and conflicts within and between Arab countries and between Arab countries and Iran, the Sunni/Shi’a rift; and the emergence of oil-rich economies.
5. The West
The problem is ‘the West’. From the Crusades to colonisation, and from moral and military support for Israel to the recent invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, western powers have oppressed Muslim countries and cultures, and have developed forms of anti-Muslim hostility, Islamophobia and orientalism in order to justify their own behaviour. This has provoked, understandably, much bitterness and anti-western hostility in return.
6. Discrimination and alienation within European societies
The problem lies in the alienation of young people of Muslim heritage born and educated in European countries. They are marginalised and excluded by processes of religious and racist discrimination and some turn to an ideology of nihilism and terrorism, intermixed with Islamism (see above), as a rhetoric of self-justification.
7. Conflicts of material interest
The problem is not in the first instance to do with differences of culture, religion, ideology or civilisation. Rather, it is to do with conflicts of material interest. Globally, the key conflicts are around power, influence, territory and resources, particularly oil. Within urban areas in Europe they are around employment, housing, health and education. Such conflicts become ‘religionised’ or ‘culturalised’ – each side celebrates and idealises its own traditions and cultural heritage, including religion,
and denigrates and demonises the traditions of the other.