Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Understanding Islamism

A good paper to read, though the thread itself isn't too interesting.

What's most interesting here is the idea of a "religion of peace" vs. "a religion of laws." The best way I can interpret this is that a "religion of laws" is a religion in a society who's morals actually serve as the basis for moral order. Such things shouldn't be frowned upon per se; "strength through unity, unity through faith" is a much better motto than "anarchy."
This contrasts entirely to religion in a society where moral order is provided external to religion. In such a society, religion becomes more of a tool of self-expression. The practical differences in today's world would be Islam in certain areas of the Middle East, which provides the laws, and Buddhism in the United States, which is really more of an urban cult phenomenon.
In this way, we urban (and suburban) Americans may never understand the role of religion in the Middle East; it's simply too different from our own conceptions. This is probably due largely to the lack of national, non-religious institutions in the MidEast. Stable societies, I would suspect, become more secular and less religious based over time, and more concentrated on sound policies and more universal human morals.

Other than that, the paper brings us a very interesting point of view on the different strains of Islamic Activism in the MiddleEast. Those most politically active are the most trustworthy and most moderate. Those that decide to make Islamic activism about winning new converts are troublesome and potentially spawn/ally with Jihadists (which is a big problem in Europe, where young Muslim men are seeking identity), and then there the Jihadists themselves.

Also impressive is the idea that the Shi'a are actually quite modernist. In this sense, trying to negotiate with Iran is simply a matter of convincing them that our ideals of democracy and markets are superior, as opposed to simply bashing them over the head with a hammer.

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