Monday, February 06, 2006

Hugh asks 2 questions, the wrong questions

From this piece:
The debate begins with these questions: Are we at war with Islam? Do you want a war with Islam?

My answers and the answers of any sensible person ought to be "no," and "no." I'd like to see blogggers who are opining on the caroons answer these questions up front.

I have, so I will take a whack at this. First of all, it is the wrong question set Hugh. One cannot go to war with a religion. One cannot even agree or disagree with a religion. One can agree or disagree with a particular person's or group's behaviour based on their interpretation of their religion. A religion, in this case Islam, is an abstract idea. A dear Jewish friend has said to me on more than one occasion, "That is a good question. Find me 10 rabbis and I'll give you 11 answers." This is true in all faiths that I am aware of. Look at the number of sects of Christianity we have in this country and how many things they disagree on.

So the "right" questions are: Are we at war with Muslims? Do you want to be at war with Muslims.

To go into a little more detail I will attempt to make the point the way Dennis Prager has made it several times that I have heard on his radio show (Hugh, you should have Dennis on your show to discuss this in the context of "true Muslims"). I will undoubtedly not do this as well as Dennis, but here goes my paraphrase of Dennis.

There is a dispute among Christians and Mormons as to whether Mormons are Christians. I cannot judge this as I am neither a Mormon nor a Christian. Many Christians claim they are not. Mormons emphatically insist that they are. From my perspective I have to assume that the Mormons are Christian since they insist that they are, but it really doesn't matter to me. I can only judge them on their behaviour. Most Mormons are good and decent people. Most Christians are good and decent people. It is a distinction without a difference to me.

In this case there are many different kinds of people who claim to be Muslim. I will simplify greatly for the point of the argument and just discuss two of them.

Muslim group A: Muslims who believe that their faith teaches peace, respect for all people and equality. They wish to spread their faith by setting an example in their own life and peacefully sharing their beliefs with their neighbors. I would agree with most everybody who has spoken up on the topic that the vast majority of American Muslims fit this broad category. Without question there are Muslims who fit into this category around the world, including the Arab world.

Muslim group B: Muslims who believe that their faith teaches them that they must forcibly convert or destroy all non-Muslims. Further, they are prepared to kill other Muslims who don't conform to their version of their religion. Their primary group goals are to destroy Israel and then convert or destroy Europe and the US. Different people have different opinions on what percentage of Arab Muslims fit into this broad category. There is very little doubt that there are a lot of people in this group.

So now we have 4 questions?

Are we at war with group A? NO.
Do I want to be at war with group A? Hell NO!
Are we at war with group B? YES we are without question. This is the GWOT.
Do I want to be at war with group B? Not really, but I see no viable alternative.

The hard, I would argue unanswerable, question is which of these very different groups represent "true Islam"? I don't know and I really don't care. Which is the "true Christianity", the one that committed the atrocities during the Crusades in the name of Jesus Christ, the ones that burned witches, or the peaceful versions we see today in the US? People who aren't Christian shouldn't care.

I am happy to work with members of group A. I don't but would be perfectly happy to live next door to members of group A. I would invite them to dinner in my home. I believe we have to either convert, imprison or kill the members of group B before they kill us. I would guess Dennis is perfectly happy to live next door to modern American Christians. I would guess he is glad that the Crusader-type Christians aren't around any more. I know I am.

The point has been made many times that we don't see enough "moderate" (group A) Muslims denouncing the behaviour of the "extremists" (group B). I agree to a point. First of all, I think there is a lot more of that going on than we see in the antique press. Secondly, people forget that it took many decades (I would argue centuries) for Christianity to right itself after the rift created in the Middle Ages. In the modern world of airplanes, TV, radio and the Internet it should go faster for the Muslims. They could right themselves more quickly (meaning a small number of decades). I hope they do. Group B needs to go away.


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