I hope that in my writings about Islam I have made it clear that although I’m opposed to Islam (as it is practiced, not necessarily as it was practiced in the past or as some people believe it should be practiced), I’m also opposed to: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, US violence in Pakistan, and Israel’s aggressive expansion and disproportionately violent responses to Palestinian terrorism. Just to name a few things I am opposed to. I have a suspicion that US intervention in the Middle East and Israel’s mega-expansion efforts are a leading cause of radicalizing Islam in the Middle East and elsewhere. I’m not educated enough in that area to draw a conclusion yet, but this article supports my suspicion:
Events have taken a different course in Nigeria, where the Islamists came to power locally. After the end of military rule in 1999, 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states chose to adopt Sharia. Radical clerics arrived from the Middle East to spread their draconian interpretation of Islam. Religious militias such as the Hisbah of Kano state patrolled the streets, attacking those who shirked prayers, disobeyed religious dress codes or drank alcohol. Several women accused of adultery were sentenced to death by stoning. In 2002 The Weekly Standard decried “the Talibanization of West Africa” and worried that Nigeria, a “giant of sub-Saharan Africa,” could become “a haven for Islamism, linked to foreign extremists.”
But when The New York Times sent a reporter to Kano state in late 2007, she found an entirely different picture from the one that had been fretted over by State Department policy analysts. “The Islamic revolution that seemed so destined to transform northern Nigeria in recent years appears to have come and gone,” the reporter, Lydia Polgreen, concluded. The Hisbah had become “little more than glorified crossing guards” and were “largely confined to their barracks and assigned anodyne tasks like directing traffic and helping fans to their seats at soccer games.” The widely publicized sentences of mutilation and stoning rarely came to pass (although floggings were common). Other news reports have confirmed this basic picture.
Residents hadn’t become less religious; mosques still overflowed with the devout during prayer time, and virtually all Muslim women went veiled. But the government had helped push Sharia in a tamer direction by outlawing religious militias; the regular police had no interest in enforcing the law’s strictest tenets. In addition, over time some of the loudest proponents of Sharia had been exposed as hypocrites. Some were under investigation for embezzling millions.
March 13, 2009 at 4:20 pm
I’m opposed to Islam (as it is practiced, not necessarily as it was practiced in the past or as some people believe it should be practiced
Welcoming the shitstorm of accusations of hairsplitting inanity that are to come… it seems that it should go without saying that this statement belies a simplistic understanding of Islam.
Islam as it is practiced where and by whom? Is it your claim that Islam is practiced uniformly by all (or even MOST for that matter) Muslims, regardless of geography / social class / education level in such disparate places as Malaysia, Afghanistan, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, France, and Dearborn, MI? Because I don’t think that it is. Islam is not a cultural or ideological monolith and the differences in practice and belief are not annoyances to be pushed to the side.
Addressing the substance of the article: again, while not holding a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern studies, I would think you’re onto something. However, the roots seem to be deeper than U.S. / Israeli hegemony in the region. Remember that it was Churchill who apocryphally hiccuped causing a Jordanian tribe’s land to be split in half while he carelessly redrew the map of the Middle East. The absence of an Arab Bismarck goes further back. The failure of Nasserism and the corruption of Ba’athism (competing secular ideologies) didn’t help either.
Poverty, as always, plays a role. My Muslim friends were, as any Muslim studying in London would be, very well to do. They were very proud to be Muslims, but they also ate pork, drank booze, and displayed cleavage. I would imagine that there’s a direct correlation between being a radical Islamic foot soldier (i.e. one who buys into the rhetoric rather than cynically inflaming it) and being piss poor. It seems little mistake that most of the radical Islamic activity takes place in the poor countryside, while the urban centers tend to be relatively modern and cosmopolitan.
Finally, as an aside, I would very much like to see you write a piece on Islamic banking. Part of my interest in, and defense of Islam as a progressive force in the world comes from the fact that it is one of the few (if only) spheres in the world actively opposing usury and systematically replacing it with something more workable than labor dollars or other quixotic schemes.
March 13, 2009 at 4:44 pm
My argument is “most” – though it doesn’t account for the large number of mostly secular people who still identify as Muslim even though they practice little to nothing (like many people who call themselves Catholics even though they never practice the religion).
I don’t know a lot about Islamic banking, but it’s something I definitely want to learn more about (along with Hawala). If there turns out to be useful things generated by Islam – great, let’s keep those things and get rid of the rest.