John R. Houk
© March 3, 2014
I don’t wish to sound too sophomoric (a favorite term used by one of my History Professors when a student or pundit said something he considered beneath his intellect), but I have to make that sound – SHAZZAM!
I just read an essay by Dr. Mary Habeck a PhD in history from Yale; a MA in International Relations from Yale and a BA in International Relations, Russian, and Spanish from Ohio State. Those are a lot of letters.
Dr. Habeck’s essay has brought the best clarity for me to understand Islam in that so-called fine line between Moderate and Radical. I use the term “so-called” because I have had quite a bit of difficulty in seeing the difference in beliefs between Moderate and Radical Islam even if there is a difference in practice.
Here is my difficulty with the concepts of “Moderate” and “Radical” within Islam. ALL practicing Muslims believe the Quran is the direct manifested word from their deity Allah as delivered from whom Muslims consider the perfect man their prophet Mohammed (or Muhammad or Mohamet or whatever depending in the time frame someone writes about this guy). That means the Quran is an absolutist holy document. Then the other commentaries on the Quran such as the Hadith and Sira (or whatever combination the Sunna is as part of the Sira – I am unsure of the difference between Sira and Sunna) are of value depending on which Muslim scholar majority opinion says which commentary are authentic or bogus. When there is wide agreement on authenticity on Muslim commentaries those commentaries are nearly as holy as the Quran in its force but still NOT the very word of Allah.
I reassert the word “ALL” because it doesn’t matter whether one is Moderate or Radical, all Muslims believe what I just wrote about the Quran, Hadith and Sira. What Dr. Habeck has accomplished for me is how the Moderate and Radical Muslim interpret the meanings of the Quran, Hadith and Sira.
A Muslim who contends that he/she is Moderate will undoubtedly respond, “Well DUHHHH!” However, in Dr. Habeck’s clarity I also comprehend why there is little public condemnation from a Moderate or as the good scholar Doctor writes, a “typical Muslim” about the terrorist actions of a Radical Muslim. The Moderate Muslim will consider the violence and harshness employed by Radical Muslims as un-Islamic. Even so the Radical Muslim STILL IS interpreting the Quran, Hadith and Sira from their original intent. Ergo even if the interpretation varies in implementation in the now, the Radical Islamic goals of global Islam, a global Caliphate and an absolute Islamic society governed by Islamic Sharia Law; the ends of Radical Islam do not differ from the ends of Moderate Islam. That which differs is the MEANS.
The Moderate (or “typical”) Muslim have updated their “MEANS” with modernity which is indeed is more peaceful than the “MEANS” of Radical Islam. Nonetheless, wherever Islam is already supreme a Moderate Muslim will view Islam as a superior way of life for society and law. This is the case even if Moderate Islam by activity is of a more peaceful manner. In an Islamic society Islamic Superiority is more than an ideological concept it is a norm that is sacrosanct. Hence when a non-Muslim is viewed as being insulting to that which holy even Moderate Muslims can be stirred to go nuts against that non-Muslim.
In Western society differences of opinion in ideology or religion are viewed as an individual right. Especially in the USA where we have enshrined Liberty in the First Amendment of our Constitution. Thus everyone is entitled to their opinion as long as it does not elicit harm to individuals or the community. In America the radical side of Leftism which is an offshoot of Marxism which leads to absolute State control of individuals especially by force is frowned upon even by center-Left Americans. Also the radical side of the Right Wing such as unrestrained Capitalism-Free Market that harms individuals in the name of the bottom line of profit is frowned upon even by center-Right Americans. Also there are the violent Right Wingers that will utilize violence to bring racial superiority ideologies that leads to the harm of individuals is heavily frowned upon by center-Left and center-Right Americans. The key for Americans at the least unconsciously is the harm to individual Liberty.
The Right of individual Liberty is absolutely foreign in Islamic society. The actions, beliefs and Freedoms are viewed through the filter of submission to Allah. If an action, belief or perceived freedom deviates from submission to Allah as understood from the Quran, Hadith and Sira is unacceptable in Islamic society.
This is the real essence of the clash of societies when it comes to Western thought and Islamic thought!
Individual Rights are the very identity of Americans and to a filtered extent due to history to all Western influenced nations. Submission to Allah is the very identity of Muslims. As long as there is a U.S. Constitution Americans as a whole will not accept Islam. As long as the Quran is considered absolute closely followed by authentic Hadith and Sira; Muslims as a whole will not accept or conceive Liberty as a good thing.
Just to be clear – even though Dr. Habeck brought some clarity to my mind, I cannot speak that this is the same clarity that Dr. Habeck has a conclusion of an irreparable clash between Western Liberty and Islamic submission. In fact the essay I read “Attacking America: Al Qaeda’s Grand Strategy in Its War with the World” is less about an inevitable clash between the West and Islam and more about American leaders underestimating the global agenda of Radical Islam especially as embodied in the Islamic terrorist organization al Qaeda. Even so – I have clarity about America and Islam. And thus I feel actually feel better about distrusting all of Islam in general. This is the case even if I am labeled an Islamophobic bigot. If the love of America makes me a bigot, then a bigot I will be when it comes to Islam.
JRH 3/3/14 (Hat Tip: Foreign Policy Research Institute)