Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His Servant?

Obama in the Middle East – Is Peace Possible?

Obama is in the Middle East trying to mend relations with a part of the world that very much hates us.  The first stop was in Saudi Arabia – without doubt one of the most repressive countries in the world, a country with almost zero religious freedom (rivaled only by North Korea).

As one who lived in a muslim country (Indonesia), with a more colorful background that W, he is supposed to be more qualified to mend relations with this part of the world, and understand better Islam.  One only hopes that is the case.

My view is much more pessimistic about Obama’s knowledge of Islam and the Middle East, and also about the possibilities for peace.

I wrote a while back about PEACE in Islam (see the article rubric above) and my conclusions were not very encouraging.  I hope I am wrong.  Here, I will point out a few things and I would like to hear/read some opposing views.

The usual view on Islam is the following (much abridged): Islam is a peaceful religion, and Al Qaeda etc are extremists that do not represent true Islam.  Is this an accurate assessment of ‘true Islam’ – whatever that means? YES and NO.

It is TRUE that the majority of people in most muslim countries are fairly peaceful, many like the West (at least the people there) and desire a peaceful existence.  The question becomes the following: are they peaceful because the follow Islam, or because they are nominal Muslims (as is definitely the case in Jordan, Syria, Iraq etc) and they do not follow Islam? (Someone say: Christians are dangerous when they do NOT follow their leader, while Muslims are dangerous whey they do follow their leader! [?]).

Is extreme Islam different from true Islam?  It is not easy to answer this question, but I will make a few observations.

1) There are very clear passages in the Quran (and in the Hadith/Tradition) that present Islam as being very militant, and really not having much patience with people who do not follow its teachings.  The same can be said about certain stories of Mohammed and his followers.  These would suggest that Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda (though the 2 do not see eye to eye they certainly both fall into the conservative branch of Islam) are the true representatives of Islam.

2) The best way to judge/evaluate a religion is to evaluate its ‘center.’  For example – the best people to give us an accurate view of Catholicism are the ones who live in its center – the Vatican.  The best representatives of Russian Orthodoxy should be in Moscow etc.

The center of Islam is in Saudi Arabia, and that country is seen as the one which safeguards the holiest sites of Islam and the purest form of Islam.  Or – Saudi Arabia is the country with the most repressive form of Islam (arguably NOT as militant as that of Al Qaeda), a country that still publishes school textbooks that encourage the hating of the Jews and their destruction.  This is a country in which you are not allowed to build a church, and of course (like most, if not all) where you cannot change your religion without being killed for apostasy.

[What does not cease to amaze me, is how both W and Obama are ready to “lick the ground” and embrace the leader of arguably the most repressive country in the world.  I know very well that they have oil that we need etc., but I am ready to walk for the rest of my life or ride a pony 🙂 , if only our leaders would do the right thing in this ‘relationship.’  I guess most Americans are not ready for that.   Too bad!!!]

Is it possible to be at peace with Islam? YES and NO.  I will let you figure out both the YES and the NO.

The brief points I made in this post should help in this endeavor.

4 responses

  1. Raj

    West has successfully dichotomized religion from social-political relationship. So it is easy for people to work together in spite of their obvious differences of opinion/beliefs. But the East (Middle East/South East) is different. Such dichotomy doesn’t exist there. It is same with Hinduism as well as Islam. These are more than religion but they represent a culture that is built on the religion. That’s why their religious beliefs color their social relationship both in the national as well as international level.

    Increased business co-operation might be possible, because they have to sell their oil and others need it. But anything more from this visit is extremely unlikely.

    June 11, 2009 at 12:38 am

  2. I agree with you Raj. However, I am not sure if I would put Hinduism on the same level with Islam. It seems to me that Hinduism is more flexible…Don’t you think so?

    June 11, 2009 at 1:33 am

  3. Raj

    Yes. Hinduism is much more flexible than Islam. But the center of Hinduism is Brahminism, which is very repressive. They have attempted to revise the history in line with their beliefs as well (which is known as saffronization). Militancy is also fast growing(BJP, VHP, RSS, Siva Sena, etc).

    Islam approves violence against apostasy which is validated by their teachings and traditions. such concept is philosophically unknown in Hinduism. The ‘Popual level militancy’ arise out of the passion to preserve ‘the religion of the soil’ but not motivated by the teachings of the religion itself. In this way, Hinduism is much more flexible.

    June 11, 2009 at 2:10 am

  4. I see. Thanks a lot for your insights. After all, you speak from experience!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:05 am

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