Wow, I think I’m guilty of this. And I’m not sure I can change either.
I read “Why Muslims are still mad at America” by Steven Kull on CNN and I can’t say that I think the Muslim perception of the American narrative is incorrect. Speaking for myself, I do view freedom and civil rights for women as an evolution past Sharia law. I believe our Democratic-Republic is a more evolved form of government than a theocracy. Of course the non-sequitur in my thought pattern is that Sharia is opposed to rights for women, which I realize does not follow. Non-sequitur or not, that is how my brain processed it. And that is how governments like the Taliban implemented it.
So why are Muslims still mad at America? From Dr. Kull’s article on CNN:
“…there is one thing that is the most fundamental: their (Muslim) perception that America seeks to undermine Islam – a perception held by overwhelming majorities.”
“According to this American narrative – which Muslims perceive as arrogant and dismissive – human society naturally and inevitable evolves through the stages that the West has gone through. As in the Renaissance, religion is largely banished from the public sphere, thus allowing pluralism and diversity of beliefs in the private sphere while maintaining a secular public sphere. This leads naturally to the elevation of individual freedoms and the emergence of democratic principles that make the will of the people the basis of the authority of law rather than revealed religious principles.
From this assumed American perspective, Muslim society is seen as simply behind the West in this evolutionary process. Retrogressive forces in Muslim society are seen as clinging to Islamic traditions that make Sharia the basis of law, not the will of the people, and inevitably keep women in their traditional oppressed roles and minority religions discriminated against.”
I would be interested to know how many Americans, right or wrong, actually do view Islamic governments as earlier than Western governments in the course of natural evolution. I had never thought about it in exactly that way, but it makes sense. I’m guilty of thinking that. And I don’t think it was Islam where the west first threw off the shackles. I suspect we can credit Henry VIII, Martin Luther and Ann Boleyn for ending the rule-by-fiat from Rome for that part of the West’s evolution in political thought.
There was an article a while back I read that opined that Muslims view Judaism as “Religion 1.0”, Christianity as “Religion 2.0” and Islam as “Religion 3.0.” Thus the later releases should be “superior” to those prior. And if Islam is indeed superior to Christianity or Judaism in the eyes of Muslims, then why do the people who subscribe to these 1.0 or 2.0 religions prosper more than the new-fangled 3.0 release? (I tried to find the article but instead found message-boards full of crazy posts, so I won’t link them.)
I can see how the Muslim perception of the American narrative could be particularly galling from that world view. Although the irony of a perception of American arrogance based on an arrogant assumption of religious superiority means both narratives aren’t fact based. Narratives are stories. In this case it’s a perception of a story you think the other person thinks without actually asking them. This thought pattern is best expressed by a quote from Vizzini in the Princess Bride:
“But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.” (and he goes on and on…)
You think that I think that you think that I think that you…etc… You can’t resolve that or even have a reasonable conversation about something that amorphous. After Vizzini drops dead from switching and then drinking from the Goblet that was in front of our hero, the Man in Black explains to Buttercup how he did it:
“They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”
In closing, why can’t we all just get along man? And it seems to me keeping religion out of politics is the first step and was a wise decision. If any of the religions are more or less “evolved” is not really the point. It is that this quote from James Madison:
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”
Which became the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
To me at least, separation of church and state is a more evolved political structure. And that, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the superiority or inferiority of any particular religion. It simply speaks of a political system designed to reduce people killing each other in the name of God.
(This is a cross post. if you wish to comment please comment on the chron post here.)