Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Christendom and Islam

Western governments simply do not understand Islam or the Muslim countries. These Islamic countries were created by the West in what they thought was the best interest of the people and certainly in the best interest of the West but these are fragile creations that have only the most tenuous hold on reality. Christendom is essentially composed of all of the Westernized and Christian nation states but there is no centralized authority or unifying force. Any unifying Christian force ceased with Martin Luther and certainly ended altogether with Henry VIII who split from the Pope altogether. While loyalties to family, church, ethnic group or other organizations exist in Christendom, these loyalties are always subservient to the nation state. This is not true in Islam. In Islam loyalties are to the family, the clan, the tribe, and Islam in that order with any loyalty to such a thing as a nation state being of secondary importance if it exists at all. In fact the internal politics of these Islamic states tends to be tribal in nature and this can be seen in the internal conflicts that plague all of the Islamic states. These Islamic states are really tribal organizations – essentially “tribes with flags” with a seventh century ethos, where blood feuds are common and personal honor paramount. But whatever they are these Islamic states are not nation states in the Western model and to continue to view their governments as having the same level of authority and respect as Western governments is a major error in judgment.

From a Western perspective these Islamic states are truly barbarous where they stone adulterers and homosexuals to death, lash miscreants for minor offenses, maim others for things such as theft, deny equal rights to women, and see it as their duty to kill all infidels. Recently there was an explosion in an Iranian Mosque and the authorities initially thought that the arms and ammunition stored in the Mosque were not handled properly and exploded. As it turned out this was not the situation but the fact that it was the initial reaction is very telling, when you consider their reaction to any damage to a Mosque by the American Military. Furthermore, Muslims consider it their duty to destroy all Christian Churches and to kill all Christians and this is currently going on in many if not most Islamic countries. For most Christians it would be unthinkable to use a church as an ammunition dump, but to Muslims it is routine practice, particularly due to the fact that the morally superior western democracies would never attack a Mosque. The whole moral structure of Islam is almost totally opposite of that in Christendom. In Saudi Arabia the mere possession of a Bible is a capital offense. All of this moral ambiguity is well known in the West but Westerners continue to see Islam as having equivalent morality and the Islamic countries as nation states with authority. In fact they have only limited authority and are heavily influenced by various religious leaders who may not even be citizens in their countries.

What is not recognized in the West is that since the fall of the Ottomans there has been a power struggle going on throughout the Muslim world as various groups and individuals compete to unify Islam under one central authority—the Caliphate. The Islamic concept of ummah ( cultural unification) actually presupposes the illegitimacy of the nation state but this ummah or unification can only be accomplished through the actions of a strong core state or group, which does not currently exist. However, shortly after the death of Mohammed Islam spread across all of North Africa and culminated in the first central authority in the form of the Umayyad Caliphate whose capital was Damascus (Syria did not exist). This was followed by the Abbasid Caliphate with a capital in Baghdad. This was followed by other Caliphates beginning in the tenth century, but by the thirteenth century the Ottoman Turks rose in the Middle East, conquered Constantinople and established a new Caliphate that stood until the end of WW I. With the fall of the Ottomans the Western Powers created these arbitrary states in the Western model without regard to tribe, clan, or religious grouping and since that time Islam has been without a core state and unstable as the various factions vie for supremacy while some, such as the Kurds, vie for autonomy.

This power struggle is obscured by the American presence in Iraq, but it is being played out in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. The Shiite’s represent only a small percentage of Muslims, but they currently dominate Iran and Iraq and are easily the most organized and heavily armed. But the Sunni majority will not tolerate Shiite control or a Shia Caliphate so it is unlikely that any religious leader in either of these Shiite dominated countries can muster enough support to unify Islam and restore the Caliphate. However, the power struggle is increasingly violent with each group blaming the US in order to disguise their violation of Islamic law in their fight for supremacy. This is apparent in the recent battles between the Iraqi government and the Iranian backed Militia’s, which are actually power struggles between two Shiite groups, with the US backing one side and the Iranians the other. Because these are both Shiite groups the Sunni majority isn’t happy with the US support of the Shiites so Iraq remains unstable. The problem actually stems from the failure of the US to recognize that a democratic government is totally alien to the Islamic World and supporting the government is actually viewed as supporting a specific Shiite group. It would have been better to have established an authoritarian government but since that didn’t happen, it might be better to allow a military dictatorship to evolve that would be pro-American. A failure to resolve this problem can only allow time for a strong Islamic leader to emerge and that could be in Turkey.

There is growing unrest in Turkey as the Western Powers continue to treat Turkey as a second class country. The Ottomans joined the Germans because they were poorly treated by the British and it seems we are making the same mistake again. If Turkey rejects the secular government established by Ataturk, then they could easily become the stable government that could form the foundation for another Islamic Empire equivalent to the Ottoman Empire, but richer, more stable, and more heavily armed. This would be a disaster for the West and would certainly pit Islam against Christendom once again.

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