What Happened To Islam?

Copyright © by Len Holman, 3/18/11


  It’s one of those sad historical conundrums: How did a rich, vibrant, educated, cosmopolitan culture, awesome in its military might, it’s architecture, and its scholars, come under the thrall of dictator after dictator and sink to the level of what would be called Fourth World  status (if we acknowledged such a term)?  How did a group which produced the polymath al-Biruni produce someone like Saddam or Qaddafi?  How did a culture which originally tolerated non-Muslim communities (ummas) in its midst turn out to be so rigid, intolerant and—in many cases—so Anti-Semitic towards one of a group which the Qur’an calls “the people of the Book?”  How did it travel from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century to squalid living in hate and revenge, with permitting authoritarian robbers and brigands to define Islam to the world at large—a world in which the U.S. plays a large part in forming opinion, and in which the U.S. is in the midst of a massive, foolish, ignorant, hysterical, and ill-informed propaganda campaign, including the so-called “information” hearings by Rep. King of New York?   A deeper question arises:  Is what happened to Islam, and is happening, and will continue to happen for a long time, slated to eventually become the fate of the United States?

  It’s hard to fathom that, for instance, a dictator with a closet-full of mostly U.S. arms and an “army” of professionals, and the “dreaded” Brigade 32, can’t seem to squash a few people throwing rocks at tanks.  The good Libyan Colonel has at his disposal enough firepower to do what he pleasers right now, and though he SEEMS to be getting the upper hand, it’s taken him a very long time.  And keep in mind Saddam’s “elite” Republican Guard—a group whose “eliteness” was more financial than military.  The Marines went through them in ten minutes like a hot bayonet through yak butter.  Every tin-pot dictator has an elite guard, which is ironic, since Islam, and the Qur’an specifically, mention that Allah is the individual’s and community’s bodyguard.  I mean, if you have God watching your back, what need is there for—as in Qaddafi’s case—six-foot tall Amazons with berets and big, dark shades?  Of course, Qaddafi might enjoy the more immediate pleasure of such a bodyguard as opposed to the long-term promises of Almighty Allah.  Thinking back to a time when Cordoba, Spain was a lighted, well-plumbed city well before Europe in general knew what a bathtub was, and when Islamic scholars were saving and translating ancient texts, it’s hard to understand how the Islamic world come to be such a mass of poverty and illiteracy and ignorance.  The culture which gave the West spice and sugar and lemons and transmitted the Hindu concept of the zero cannot even protect its own women and children.  Cats are special in Cairo, but women’s bodies are not; they are for men’s public benefit.  There was more groping and molestation of women in one day during Egypt’s “popular” uprising than there is in a week of riding the subways in Japan or New York.  In the Qur’an, women have specified rights—none of which include having the right to be covered like a surprise package at a Saudi sheik’s birthday party.  There is still that hijab, which is so contentious, but Muslim women in the U.S. have not reached consensus on this traditional head covering, let alone do they demand that all Muslim women MUST wear it, risking Allah’s wrath if they don’t.  But the hijab is just a scarf, a symbol of Islamic norm-holding for women, not a sign that proclaims the wearer is a bomb-thrower.  Even the Mongols, under Genghis Khan, which came sweeping into the Muslim Empire eventually converted to Islam, producing several notable and enlightened regimes, including Akbar’s in India.    Christians and Jews lived in Muslim communities without molestation for a long time, starting with Muhammad.  They paid a tax for living under the protection of the Muslim state, but they remained unmolested and allowed to live as they chose.  So where did it all go south for Islam?

  It wasn’t 9/11, even though that certainly gave impetus to the dark speculations and outright fear and loathing in Las Vegas and elsewhere about Islam.  Maybe there is a western archetypal hatred of Islam dating back to the Muslims’ taking of Constantinople.  Maybe it is a prejudice against Others, the Jungian Shadow.  Whatever it is, most of the blame must rest with 2 parties:  Muslims themselves and various “leaders,” some of which are Islamic, some in America. Muslims have allowed the pollution of the words of Allah, just as Christians have done with those of Jesus.  There are thousands of learning centers in both the Muslim and Christian worlds, and yet no one seems to have noticed how far off the track of the original teachings they both have gone, and there is no doubt that if Jesus and Muhammad came back to life and walked this earth, they would look at each other and say, “Where are the behaviors and beliefs WE taught?”  The Muslim populations worldwide have become Seekers of Vengeance, dark and sinister thinkers who see everyone not a radically altered Muslim as The Enemy.  It might be we are witnessing Muslim evolution, a genetic mutation which prevents Muslims from understanding the intent of the Qur’an.  It might be the same mutation which affects Christians.  The Muslim population in general is surely at fault here.  Their lineage of glory and enlightenment, military prowess and cultural achievement recede and disappear in comparison to the degradation they allow themselves to suffer, and have allowed for many decades.  A mob of people in the public square looks good on CNN, and some ruler will eventually take his leave, but the structure will remain, and the mind-set of uniformed youth will remain also.  Which leads us to the imams, and the mullahs, the ones who are responsible for transmitting the message of Islam.  In short, where are they and what do they think they are doing?  They have perverted a pretty good message and continue to do so:  for their own political or monetary gain, for fame and notoriety, because of poor scholarship, because they are ignorant—either willfully or not, and they transmit this distorted version of Islam to the young.  The story of Muhammad and Kadija, for example, would be a good example for a number of social issues to be addressed by Secretary Clinton, who is so hot for women’s rights, but who ignores this obvious opening when she speaks to the Muslim world.  In fact, no one from our government seems to know what Islam officially preaches and thus doesn’t use examples from the Qur’an or the hadith tradition (authenticated examples from Muhammad’s own life) to make any points, to open ears and hearts and minds in the Arab communities, and to educate our own citizens around the world.  And all this leaves us with the craven and ignorant leaders (so-called) in the U.S., who will not—even if they know better—cease bowing to the populist will; leaders who will not ever stop thinking about the next election; leaders who will not speak out to inject reason and tolerance into what is unblushingly referred to as “public discussion.”  This country has been on top for a long time, though not as long as the Muslim Empire was, and it’s starting more and more to look less and less viable.  It may not be just the rottenness that is currently Islam which needs refurbishing—maybe it’s OUR system that needs work, too.


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