David Warren has written a long and multifaceted essay on the differences between the West and the Islamic societies. Warren argues (and I think correctly) that Islams's emphasis is different than that of Christianity.
The moral order of Islam, while it overlaps with Judaism, Christianity, and all of the world's "great religions" in many crucial respects, is nevertheless unique in its emphases. Building upon such essentially tribal values as trust, honour, manliness, loyalty, the duty of hospitality, it builds a moral order in which, I will dare to say, justice is the pre-eminent value. And it is justice, beyond all other values, that is demanded in the confrontation between the Muslim and the world, between the insiders of the Islamic family and the outsiders -- the people who still live beyond the Islamic "realm of peace".
How radically different from the Christian worldview, itself deriving from the Jewish, in which, from its own Gospel beginnings, the worldly virtues are presented as written into the natural order, accessible to all whether Christian or not, so that it is quite possible for a non-Christian to be a good and worthy man. Or, turning this over, in its full universal implications, Christ proclaims that there can be no justice in this world -- only in heaven. Every single one of Christ's parables hinges not on justice but on truth, and at the center of the Christian revelation is this uncanny statement, "That you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free."
Notice the juxtaposition of these two Christian keywords: "liberty" and "truth". Compare the word "Islam" itself, which means "submission" -- in the deepest sense of submission to the will of Allah, but necessarily including Allah's detailed instructions for everyday life, delivered not through the life-example but through the actual Book "transcribed" by Muhammad. Whereas St. Paul made a point of overthrowing all the old Jewish dietary customs
Warren also argues that Islam supports the idea of an extended tribe emcompassing all believers against all non-believers. Is this a result the tribal origins of Islam? I think Stanley Kurtz's contention that cousin marriage is at the root of the political problems of the Middle East is an essential component in any explanation to explain Muslim hostility toward the US and the West. Then an obvious question to ask is whether Islam effectively encourages (either directly or indirectly) cousin marriage.
Another one of David Warren's arguments is that the literary form of the personal narrative invented during the European Enlightenment encouraged the development of sympathy for others that are unlike oneself. He argues that this influence hasn't spread as far into Muslim societies. This may be so. But don't people in the Middle East read novels, diaries, and biographies? Do they read them but only about people in their own cultures? If the latter is the case then why? Do they have such hostility or lack of interest toward people who are outside of their culture that they don't want to read about them? If so, is this hostility or lack of interest caused by Islam?
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2002 December 10 01:43 AM Religion Secular Ideologies|