Wednesday, 31 October 2007

the most surprising thing

is that the liberal media appears to be surprised about the fact that "lessons in hate" have been found at mosques across the country. (Yes, the Times does count as liberal!)

The remarkable ignorance in the West about some of the most basic aspects of Islamic history and theology has been a major factor in the current tense situation. A kind of patronising indifference towards Middle Eastern culture (blended with an Orientalist wonder at the trappings) bred of years of military preeminence, economic success and confidence in a (post-)'Christian' way of life means that suddenly we are all surprised when people who have been indirectly (and in some cases directly) hurt and offended by Western governments and companies start to respond with violence. But really, to find that surprising is more than a little naive.

Furthermore, the resources are there in the Islamic tradition to foster a culture of exclusivism and violence. [And, given the right technological advances, the conditions are there for ideologically-driven mass murderers to arise from among the people, not just in the board rooms of governments around the world.] We in the West might well be ignorant of the many Islamic cultures around the world that are generally 'nice' (in the sense of not supporting open hatred and terrorism), and we might indeed need to be reminded of the relative benignity of some Ottoman rule in the early modern period, particularly as compared with some of the brutality in Europe. However, we also need to be reminded of the historical roots of Islam - conquest, forced conversion and massacre. And of the intellectual roots - not just the hair-splitting of jurists down the centuries and modern-day so-called liberal muslims, but the Koranic text itself (which in places enjoins violence, however ambiguous a modern application might be, depending on your hermeneutic) an the reams of Hadith, which are very clear in their endorsement of violence.

It's enough to make anyone run into the arms of Fethullah Gulen. Which is what a lot of people are doing! And if I'd had the time, I would have toddled off to this fascinating conference in London at the weekend: Muslim World in Transition, Contributions of the Gulen Movement. Thankfully the proceedings of the conference are already up on he website (all 755 pages) so that will keep me occupied if I ever have a dull moment in the next few weeks!

(As it happens Kate and I were enjoying a film festival at L'Abri in Hampshire along with PG, who generously drove us there and back, which was tremendous fun in every respect!)