Mon, 13 Feb 2006

Muslim Rage

Surely everyone has heard about the Muslim rage at the cartoons published in Denmark. You may notice that some newspaper reports call them "Danish cartoons". Surely they were not authored by all Danish people, however. Nor are they appreciated or enjoyed by all Danish people. I fully expect that a majority of Danes find them objectionable.

A Friend in my Quaker Meeting was in the Peace Corps, stationed in Tunisia in the 70's. They went back to Tunisia in the 90's for a sabbatical. He has a greater than average understanding of Muslim culture. He points out that there is today no freedom-loving Muslim culture. In all Muslim countries, there is no free press. The press cannot publish anything without the approval of the government. Not only do they have no experience of a free press, most of them don't even want a free press. A tenet of Islam is that the government and the religion is one and the same. The secular law and the religious law coincide.

Thus, when Muslims see "Danish cartoons", they really see them as products of the Danish government, not as cartoons produced by Danish individuals. All Danes share the collective guilt of the Danish government, thus the attacks on Danish embassies, and the fear that individual Danes will be attacked.

Of course, this posting begs the question of "what does a Muslim believe?" I'm sure that there are some Muslims who simultaneously are revolted by the cartoons AND by their co-religionist's reaction to them. Perhaps they are serious scholars of Islam who observe every requirement imposed by the Koran. And yet, while they may have a good idea of what is actually in the Koran, and what Mohamed actually instructed, they cannot be said to be the definition of Islam; not when so many other Muslims disagree with them.

Quakers used to keep good track of what their co-religionists were doing, and if they strayed from the definition of "A Quaker", they were read out of meeting. They could still worship in the manner of Friends, but they weren't recognized by the meeting as a Quaker. That was not a great solution to the problem of large numbers of people disagreeing. It lead instead to schisms. But at least it kept any small minority of Quakers from becoming the definition of "Quaker". Currently, Muslims get defined by the practices of the most outrageous of them. When those definitions are confronted by other Muslims with silence and inaction, one thinks that the definitions are correct.

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