The New York Times reports on a resurgence of Russian Orthodox Church teachings in Russian schools.
Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the return of religion to public life, localities in Russia are increasingly decreeing that to receive a proper public school education, children should be steeped in the ways of the Russian Orthodox Church, including its traditions, liturgy and historic figures.
The lessons are typically introduced at the urging of church leaders, who say the enforced atheism of Communism left Russians out of touch with a faith that was once at the core of their identity.
This story is interesting on a few levels. First off, the majority of the Russian people do not appear to oppose the reintroduction of Orthodox Christian teachings. Whatever the communists taught against religious belief for at least a few generations does not appear to have stuck. The underlying culture survived and the people feel some form of kinship to the beliefs of their past. This serves as a cautionary tale for neoconservatives who still might believe that America can carry the neocon democratizing mission around the world. Cultures and beliefs of other societies are sometimes surprisingly resilient.
The reintroduction of Orthodox Church teachings into local schools is mandatory for students in some schools but optional in others. The NY Times reports that in the schools where the Orthodox teachings are optional few parents avail themselves of their right to exclude their kids from those classes. There's no big groundswell against these teachings. The parents aren't afraid of the teachings of the Church.
Second some secularists, Muslims, and Jews oppose this trend. But they don't seem to be having much effect.
The new curriculum reflects the nation’s continuing struggle to define what it means to be Russian in the post-Communist era and what role religion should play after being brutally suppressed under Soviet rule. Yet the drive by a revitalized church to weave its tenets into the education system has prompted a backlash, and not only from the remains of the Communist Party.
Opponents assert that the Russian Orthodox leadership is weakening the constitutional separation of church and state by proselytizing in public schools. They say Russia is a multiethnic, pluralistic nation and risks alienating its large Muslim minority if Russian Orthodoxy takes on the trappings of a state religion.
Muslim objections in particular are a laugh. In a Muslim majority country they wouldn't hesitate to use the power of government to put Islamic teachings in every classroom.
As for the risk of alienating the Muslim minority: I doubt it. If the Russians seem irresolute then the Muslims will sense the weakness and move to exploit it. But if the Russians take confident positions in favor of a return of the Orthodox Christian teachings then I expect the Muslims will accept there's nothing they can do to stop it.
The Russians could, in any case, invite their Muslim minority to emigrate to Muslim-majority countries where they can live in a Muslim-oriented society that is more to their liking. If two peoples can't get along in the same society then the majority should invite the minority to leave. That's not my recipe for total world peace. But it is my recipe for less strife than would otherwise be the case.
Neighborhoods like this, teaming with devout Muslims, may have been considered fertile ground for Al Qaeda's goal of building a global movement. But six years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden's group appears to have attracted few loyal followers here. In fact, the militants who once reigned in Imbaba are all but invisible.
What has happened in Egypt represents an overlooked success story in much of the Arab world. While Muslim anger toward the US and its Arab allies has soared in the post-9/11 war on terrorism, and the Iraq war has been a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, there is little chance militant Islamists can seize power power in any of the region's established states.
But this has come at a price. The Egyptian story is one of how an effective, often brutal, security establishment has pushed militant Islamists to the fringes.
Well, if a society develops a large Muslim population with radicals who believe the literal texts of Islam then such a society either has to suppress these radicals in ways that the American Civil Liberties Union would find evil or such a society has to submit to the will of the most fundamentalist Muslims. To Western societies that are letting in substantial numbers of Muslim immigrants I ask which of these two paths are you planning to take.
Western democracies aren't up to using the tactics that worked in Egypt. Try to imagine the British government rounding up lots of young Muslim men because they all attend a mosque whose leader preaches that all non-believers should be forced to submit.
The role of government repression also can't be discounted in controlling these movements. In the 1990s, the government made thousands of arrests, sometimes rounding up men because of the mosque they prayed at or because they wore long beards. Also, there have been credible reports of torture of militants in Egyptian prisons.
The reason we in the West can get away with avoiding such tactics is that Muslims in the West are still relatively few in number. But in the longer run if Muslims in Western countries win the battle of the womb they will become so numerous that Western democracies will either cease to be liberal or cease to be democracies or both.
The chief threat the Muslims pose is demographic. They aren't going to field massive armies and march into Europe. They are too poor, technologically backward, and unorganized to pull off such a feat. No Muslim nation is going to fire off nuclear weapons in our direction because the leaders of Muslim countries are not suicidal. Leaders of Muslim nations aren't going to turn over nuclear weapons to terrorist groups for a similar reason. If the nukes ever get used and traced back to country of origin then that would become a country to evacuate as fast as you can manage.
Since the chief threat posed by Islam is demographic our top response should be to keep Muslims out of Western countries. People in the war party who oppose an end to Muslim immigration to the West are part of the problem and not part of the solution as they fancy themselves to be.
The Sunni Muslims see Shiites as heretics. The Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia especially take that position. Sheik Safar al-Hawali has denounced Hezbollah even as Hezbollah battles the Jews of Israel.
A top Saudi Sunni cleric, whose ideas inspired Osama bin Laden, issued a religious edict Saturday disavowing the Shi'ite guerrilla group Hizbullah, evidence that a rift remained among Muslims over the fighting in Lebanon.
Hizbullah, which translates as "the party of God," is actually "the party of the devil," said Sheik Safar al-Hawali, whose radical views made the al-Qaida leader one of his followers in the past.
"Don't pray for Hizbullah," he said in the fatwa posted on his Web site.
Sheik al-Hawali, you'll be happy to know that I'm going to follow your suggestion. No praying to Hizbullah. Got that everybody? Remove Hizbullah from your prayer list.
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia, July 23 -- The war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon has created widespread public support for the militant Shiite group among people across the Arab world, but leaders appear uneasy about the conflict and fear it could boost the influence of Hezbollah's patron Iran, analysts say.
A leading Saudi Wahhabi cleric, Abdullah bin Jibreen, this week issued a fatwa, or edict, saying it was a sin to support or pray for Hezbollah, which strict Wahhabis view as an infidel group because it is Shiite. Bin Jibreen, a member of Saudi Arabia's higher religious council, said that he viewed Hezbollah as an enemy doing bidding for Iran, and that through it Tehran was trying to extend its influence in the region.
Saudi writer Yousef al-Dayni said the reaction of most Saudis has been confused and blurred by the government's position on Hezbollah and bin Jibreen's fatwa. "Some activists and intellectuals want to follow the government line and blame Hezbollah. Some believe this is a war between Iran and Syria and Israel, through Hezbollah by proxy. Some have called for the support of Hezbollah, and others just want to support the Lebanese people," he said. "The extremists influenced by bin Jibreen's fatwa believe this is a fight between Jews and Shiites and the rest of us should not get involved."
"Jibreen, who is to speak via video hookup from Saudi Arabia, is an influential cleric whose Web site is linked to the IIASA site. Ahmed said Jibreen praised bin Laden in a speech recorded in Saudi Arabia as recently as two months ago. 'Osama is a man who fought in the path of God for a long time,' Jibreen said, according to a translation provided by the Saudi Institute. 'May God aid him and bring victory to him and by him.'"
So Jibreen sees Jews, Christians, and Shiites all as enemies.
Another cleric, Sheikh Allamah Ibn Jibreen, was advertised to address the Houston gathering via satellite. On his Web site, linked to that of IIASA as a recommended source of Islamic teaching, Jibreen called on Saudis to go north of the Iraqi border to attack Coalition troops.
Jibreen also praised Osama bin Laden only months ago, calling on God to "aid him and bring victory to him and by him."
I wonder if he hates Shiites or Christian more. Now that the Shiites have the upper hand in Iraq and are killing Sunnis does he argue to hold off on attacking Coalition troops and a shift toward attacking Shia soldiers?
A New York Times article reports on upper class Sunni hostility toward Hezbollah and Shiites.
DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 3 — To one Damascus University professor, the faint echo of Israeli bombs exploding in the lower Bekaa Valley brings two fears. He recoils at the destruction he imagines across the border, less than 10 miles from his village home, but deeper down he worries that any Hezbollah triumph will come at the expense of his own Sunni branch of Islam.
“Since the Americans invaded Iraq we have all become aware of the danger from the Shiites,” said the professor, who asked not to be identified by name because discussing sectarian rivalry is taboo in Syria, an authoritarian state run by a religious minority. “Ordinary people only think of Hezbollah as fighting against Israeli aggression. But the educated classes think that if Hezbollah controls the region, then the Sunnis will be abused.”
A December 8, 2004 interview of King Abdullah II of Jordan by Chris Matthews encapsulates the elite Arab view of Hezbollah and Iran as a threat to Sunni Arab states. The Sunni elites fear an alliance of Shia-dominated states running from Iran to Lebanon.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that would be a danger to the region, an alliance between a Shia-led Iraq and Iran?
HIS MAJESTY: If it was a Shia-led Iraq that had a special relationship with Iran and you look at that relationship with Syria and Hezbollah and Lebanon, then we have this now crescent that appears that will be very destabilizing for the Gulf countries and for the whole region.http://www.mfa.gov.jo/interviews_details.php?id=93&menu_id=35
Since the Arab masses mostly just see virtuous Muslims fighting perfidious Jews in Lebanon and Israel the elites of Arab states are frustrated. In their view Israel's approach to conduct of the war against Hezbollah makes it hard for them to tilt against Hezbollah.