By John Vincent Sanders
It was more than three centuries after its founding before Christianity (a multi-ethnic religion that did not preach armed conflict) was co-opted for geo-political purposes by the Roman Emperor Constantine I. On the other hand, Islam was established with strong, fundamental tenets that justified cultural xenophobia and war. Why? Because it was founded by an Arab: a member of an ethnic group suffering extreme hardship at the hands of Christian Byzantines and Zoroastrian Persians. In other words, Islam was--and remains--the religion-of-choice for poverty-stricken, powerless peoples of the world. That is why it's the fastest growing religion in Africa and Asia.
Yes, the Koran does exhort "The Faithful" toward acts of generosity, hospitality, and mercy--but it also justifies the most extreme acts of barbarity, cruelty, and subterfuge. Unlike Christianity, Islam was immediately co-opted by power-hungry leaders in order to create a fanatical army capable of seizing the wealth of surrounding civilizations. Like the Byzantines, Crusaders and Spanish Conquistadores, the Islamic Arab hordes of the 8th and 9th Centuries were driven by a belief that theirs was the only true religion, and that it must be imposed upon others by the sword. Zoroastrianism and the great civilization of Persia was all-but-destroyed. Millions of Hindus and Sikhs were subjected to the atrocities of jihad and forcible conversion. The so-called "People of the Book" (Jews and Christians) were allowed to practice their respective faiths in the conquered lands--but only under economic and social constraints that made conversion a desirable alternative.
The intellectual enlightenment of early Islam can not be overlooked. While Europe writhed through the torment of the Dark Ages, the precious knowledge of classical Greece was maintained and venerated in the Muslim world (and in remote Irish Abbys inhabited by scholastic monks like Duns Scotus Erigenus.) Furthermore, the sciences of astronomy and mathematics were advanced during the heyday of the Arab Islamic Empire. Today, however, there are more than a billion Muslims in the world: most of them poverty-stricken, woefully under-educated people living medieval lifestyles in some of the harshest environments on the planet. In the world of realpolotiks, they have been historically exploited by more advanced civilizations--most recently, the Euro-American.
In my opinion, the so-called "New World Order" is merely the actualization of Jeremy Bentham's philosophy of Utilitarianism. This philosophy can be paraphrased as follows: The system that provides the best conditions for the most people is the best system. Euro-American Democratic Capitalism is becoming the predominant socio-economic form because it works, and because it is responsive to changing world conditions. Although Chinese Communists and others still deny that Democracy is a necessary component, it's becoming clear that Capitalism and Democracy can not be separated forever. Like it or not, Democracy can result in social trends that some people find objectionable. The fundamentalist expression of Islam is male-dominated in the extreme, and represents social attitudes that seem backward and counter-productive by most Western standards. Unlike Christianity and Judaism, Islam has not undergone a period of "Reformation." Although most Muslims appear willing to acknowledge changing times, there are many hard-liners who refuse to acknowledge the trend toward cultural tolerance and economic inter-dependency.
Yes, the majority of Muslims are at peace today, but history shows that world-changing upheavals can occur. A relatively small percentage of Muslims have successfully integrated themselves into the modern world. The vast majority are ill-equipped to compete in it and are, effectively, obsolete persons by western standards. Nevertheless, their potential for aggression is clear. For all practical purposes, a billion Muslims are watching this war between the wealthy west (and its allies) and militants from within the Islamic world.
Although the anti-terrorist alliance is succeeding, we have learned that a relative handful of people can cause significant problems. It does not appear that a world wide Islamic uprising will occur--like most folks, Muslims want to be on the winning side. Nevertheless, revolutions occur because people don't have enough to eat, and it is in everyone's best interests to expand economic development and opportunity throughout the largely Muslim Third World.
J.V. (John Vincent) Sanders is a freelance writer who has appeared on GROUND ZERO. John witnessed the burning of the World Trade Center from a hilltop near his home in Yonkers, New York. The J.V. Sanders Home Page is available at http://www.angelfire.com/ab6/jvsanders.
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