Friday, August 11, 2006

What Does it Mean to be a Religion of Peace?

The problem is cognitive dissonance; the problem is self-imposed delusions and illusions for the sake of one’s own well being; the problem is evil. I can’t forget the words from “One Love,” one of Bob Marley’s songs. In it he says, “Is there a place for all those hopeless sinners who have hurt all mankind just to save their own sole beliefs?”

Islam is not a religion of peace, at least not right now. I truly believe that the ideal and values to which Islam strives is that genuine peace that they talk about. However, there are people who use that phrase as a defense against the critics of terrorism, those critics whom realize the essential and unquestionable association between terrorism and Islam. Therefore, for a person to say “Islam is a religion of peace,” a true statement, is to offer a seriously dangerous whitewashing of something which cannot be justified by any stretch of the moral and theological imagination. It is a despicable poison of humanity’s conscious to use a truth for the sake of manipulation and sheltering one’s self from (much-needed) criticism. Muslims (and other people) who try to separately categorize Islam and terrorism are a dime a dozen, but either they are guilty of spreading a grandiose and damaging illusion, believe it themselves, or a combination of both. This is a lie and it is dishonest; sometimes even the innocent ignoramus has to be blamed for his lack of knowledge for he should be paying attention when the walls of the world are being shaken around him, threatening to crush him; he should wake up.

Islam is by far not a monolithic religion, meaning that it has a variety of different expressions and opinions coming from different schools of thought. However, Islam as a religion and theology has an established lexicon, as do most religious “entities,” and the words used in Islamic thought are rich in their own contextual and conceptual definitions. This is the root of Islam’s tension with the “Western” secular world/civilization; there, religion and religious thought have long been extracted, filtered, and separated from the daily life and paradigm of the average individual- you go to a house of worship to be religious and when you go home you are you again. This is horrible and tragic; a thick and invisible wall is erected between religiosity and “normalcy,” which is why society believes that religiosity is not normal. To people who are truly a religious people, the topic of this essay being Muslims, such a segregation is kin to the destruction of the world – the separation of “Church and State” is the separation of “absolute truth and daily living,” it is the separation of “morality and legislation.” It is the American thing to say, “Don’t legislate my morality,” in the words from the song titled “Marijuana” by the band “Phish.” But yes, morality needs to be legislated lest it completely deteriorate. If one cares about morality, he should legislate it, if one cares about absolute truth, he should live with it daily, if one cares about “Church,” it should be associated with the State.

The fact that “the Western world” has almost totally institutionalized this separation and “Islamic civilization” has not, renders two different philosophical paradigms in the collective mind of each. The word “peace” for example has a different definition in each of these civilizations, and without going into what those definitions are, suffice it to say that they are relatively incompatible with each other (although not absolutely). Right after 9/11, I remember a local Imam from a mosque here in Tucson stand in front of a large crowd at my university and proclaim that Islam was a religion of peace. That was the first time in the next following years that I heard that being said. After he gave a short speech, a Jewish guy that I knew sang a song of peace with a guitar in his hands; this was supposed to be a show of solidarity for the fallen of 9/11 and to show that Muslims cannot be blamed. In that it was both true and false; Muslims cannot be blamed, but Islam must.

You see, “Islam is a religion of peace” means one thing to Americans and something else to Muslims. To an American, it means that there is a violent brand of Islam and there is a peaceful brand, the true Islam, and that the extremist minority has hijacked it and taken it captive; peace was the result of democratic ideals and the separation of religion from the sphere of politics. Even if this categorization was true, it failed miserably in explaining why nobody put pressure on "the true Muslims" to speak out against and alienate the "false Muslim." Eventually this hodgepodge of silent approval revealed an even uglier face of Islam, that the majority of Muslims agreed with the violence, and those whom did not were the silenced minority. It was very reminiscent of Nazi Germany or America's Confederate South.

“Islam is a religion of peace” was a flawed argument that American Arab Muslims have helped propagate in order to save themselves both from harm and public humility in the face of the events of 9/11 and was adopted by liberal ideologues as a philosophy. Every time after 9/11 when another Islam-related terrorist attack took place, the by now professional (and brainwashed) apologists, both secular Westerners and religious Muslims, had efficiently capitalized on the “Islam is a religion of peace” argument. To use that phrase was a wild card in any argument in which a person held feelings of resentment towards Islam; it was used to short circuit the train of thought that realized the empirical and real-world connection between Islam and terrorism; the argument tried to gloss over the secular mind with the notion that there were truly two separate categories. It was a form of hypnosis, or a lobotomy. To disagree with it was to be a racist or a bigot, and to be sure, there were surely some despicable racists and bigots, but not everybody who realized the association of Islam and terrorism qualified.

To the Muslim, however, peace meant something radically different, and perhaps he did not realize that the American had an entirely different definition. After all, peace is translated “salaam,” so “salaam” means “peace.” Doesn’t it transcend and unify the universal human understanding of the word? Absolutely not! To a Muslim, peace was the social product of the domination of Islam, so when and if Islam finally dominated a place or a society, there would be peace, until then however there would be war. So yes, the values and ideals of a Muslim society are truly egalitarian and ethical, but in order for that society to be established, the current society needs to be overthrown and replaced with a Muslim one – only then will the peaceful side of Islam emerge. It is not a lie to say that “Islam is a religion of peace,” but that is the final product of the domination of the Muslim value system in society; it was misused to get people to think that there were two distinctly categorized classes of Islam: terrorists on one hand and true Muslims on the other. Little did society understand that to a Muslim, war and peace are two sides of the same coin – there is war, victory, then peace. The meaning of the word “peace” in Western and Muslim civilizations is almost paradoxically different. Westerners said "terrorism," but Muslims said "a justified form of warfare." Eventually a handful of individualist intellectualist Muslims began to say that terrorism as warfare violated Islamic concepts of just war. I say “peace” and you say “peace.” I say “tomato,” you say “tomahto.”

Islam might very well be a religion of peace, but most Muslims are not of peace.

This opens up to a discussion of Christian and Muslim concepts and application of theocracy, which I will add here when I am finished with it. I also want to conclude with the Jewish (or Judaic) concept and application of theocracy.