Outrage, Islam, and a marketing opportunity for Xanax
VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA- Islam is changing. That’s natural; all religions evolve and morph to suit the needs and desires of the devout.
It’s also natural that conservatives within any religion resist change and hang on by their fingernails to the dogmas with which they were brought up; it is, after all, a central tenet of all religions that their teachings are eternal and unchanging. And since religious principles and “truths” are supposed to be immutable, it is necessary for religious apologists, when looking at the history of their faith, to deny that any fundamental change in beliefs, dogma, or principles has occurred since its inception.
Conservative religious leaders like to call themselves “fundamentalists”, suggesting that they have successfully resisted the impulse to evolve and have kept to the original tenets of their faith, the fundamentals. That lie is particularly easy to observe in modern Western Christianity. The simplest way to observe change is not to examine the tiny increments as they occur (try watching the movement of a minute hand), but rather to compare the current situation with the starting point. With Christianity, the trick is trying to determine where that starting point actually resides. Did it start with Adam and Eve? Abraham? The birth of Christ? The Crucifixion? Paul’s evangelism? The writing of the Gospels? The Council of Nicea? No matter; even if you grant Christianity the latest reasonable starting date, today’s “fundamentalists” are poles apart from anything fundamental in their own religion.
Where Jesus preached kindness, turning the other cheek, poverty, humility, and responsibility for and love of one’s neighbour, those who refer to themselves as “fundamentalist Christians” today by and large support – on religious grounds – harsher and harsher criminal penalties, enhanced military response, closing borders, eliminating foreign aid, eliminating welfare, the abandonment of the poor, wealth accumulation and hoarding, removal of social programs, and virtually any reactionary, self-interested legislation that is offered. If these are fundamentals, they certainly weren’t the basics for the founders of the religion.
Is this the natural place for a religion to be 2000 years after the lifetime of its founding figure? Perhaps.
The Prophet Muhammad died in 632 CE. The religion with which he is associated, Islam, is therefore a little over 1400 years old. I say “associated with” rather than refer to him as the founder of Islam simply out of courtesy to Muslims, for whom it is a tenet that Muhammad didn’t found Islam, but rather resurrected an uncorrupted version of the ancient religion shared by Adam, Noah, Moses, and other Old Testament characters. It is, of course, historical nonsense, but then so is pretty much everything associated with the Abrahamic religions and their views. Nevertheless, it is worth considering whether Islam, which is in a state of flux as well as being the world’s fastest growing religion, is undergoing a process of evolution that mirrors the changes already experienced by Christianity.
In the early part of the second millennium of Christianity, the religion had already morphed from a gentle doctrine of love, peace, tolerance, and forgiveness to a militant one in which priests and monks were warriors bent on the destruction of those who failed to buy into their doctrine as they narrowly interpreted it. People were becoming militantly devout to the point of fanaticism. An insult to their religious figures could result in an execution, failure to follow the strict rituals of the faith in the proscribed manner could result in imprisonment, beatings, or mutilation, being a foreign national of a nation that espoused a different religion meant that you could expect invasion or suicidal terrorist raids. To put it succinctly, at the approximate same time in its lifespan, Christianity was very much what Islam is now becoming.
In the early 21st Century, Islam is spawning more and more fanatically devout, intolerant, bellicose wannabe warrior/martyrs. Islam is 600 years younger than Christianity; it’s history is only following in the footsteps of its older brother. And the parallels between Medieval Christianity and an Islam of 1400 years are easily seen. Both medieval Christians and modern Muslims venerate and envy if they don’t emulate their religious martyrs. Both cultures demonstrate an obsession with religion and their governments act upon purely religious agendas. Where Christianity had the Crusades, Islam has jihad; where Christianity had the Holy Inquisition, Islam has its imams; where Christianity burned heretics at the stake, Islam beheads or stones transgressors. What we are seeing, it seems, is a medieval mentality driving an Iron Age religion which prides itself on actually being a revival of a Neolithic belief system. The current sensibilities are purely medieval; hardly an historical period from which enlightened people draw moral lessons.
So for the foreseeable future, if history does continue to repeat itself, Islam will continue to persecute heretics, wage war on other religions, mutilate and torture and kill transgressors, and breed psychotically fanatic heaven-obsessed religious suicide/murderers. That’s the medieval way. The streets of Muslim countries will continue to erupt with tiresome frequency and predictability with stone and bomb throwing mental defectives who believe that they are more holy if they are more outraged. And outrage is their oxygen. They thrive on it.
One is tempted to suggest that those Islam-baiting imbeciles who make deliberately provocative and breathtakingly inept, trashy anti-Muslim videos and post them online are actually doing us a favour. If they weren’t setting their hair on fire to piss off Muslims, the current crop of hard-core Islamists would find something else to be outraged at…they need outrage like any junkie needs a fix.
Unlike Christianity which has degenerated into a mixed batch of irrelevant anachronisms and is only useful as a political touchstone, Islam is in the middle of its most vibrant if pernicious phase. Contrary to its apologists who repeat the mantra that Islam is a religion of peace, Islam is a violent religion. It was born as a warrior religion, its initial explosive growth was characterised by conquest and bloodshed, and its central religio/legal system, Sharia law, is violent, brutal and unforgiving. Moreover, Islam is now in a brutal and violent stage of its development and becoming more so every day.
Every time I publish a piece that criticises Islam, I get one or two emails that quote a passage or two from the Quran that suggest that Muslims are enjoined to act peacefully; of course they are balanced by the avalanche of death threats and venom-spewing hate mail that comes in. It is hard to take a voice or two seriously when the chorus as whole is singing in an entirely different key. Until Islamic religious leaders stand up together and, in a single voice renounce violence, denounce those of their followers who employ it, and condemn the violent actions committed in the name of Islam, the objections to the assessment of Islam as a violent religion will ring hollow.