Thursday, September 27, 2007

Islam and the 21st Century: Not the Best Fit?

My wife and I had a chat today with someone whose sister's husband lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The two of them had been living there for some time: he'd grown up there, so it sounds like a nice arrangement.

He died recently, and quite abruptly. His widow has quite a few decisions to make. She likes it in Riyadh, but things are a little different, now that her husband is dead.

For example, when she tried to visit his grave recently she was chased away. This is perfectly understandable, of course. She was a woman, and not escorted by a male relative. I suppose she should have known better.

Saudi Arabia, of course, is a very up-to-date country, well aware of the social and political changes of the last few centuries. For example, the Kingdom Center in Riyadh has a shopping center, occupying an entire floor of the thousand-foot-tall structure, that is available exclusively to women. It has a separate entrance, and I understand that within this shopping center, women are allowed to not wear a veil.

I'm impressed.

I think this raises an issue that's involved in the war on terror. The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and related groups, seem to have the goal of replacing western civilization with caliphates in which their vision of sharia law rules.

We've got a preview of how this Islamic state would work, from the way they ran Afghanistan a few years ago. Blowing up irreplaceable historic statues was bad enough. Killing quite a few people they didn't approve of indicates this particular brand of Islam isn't quite as tolerant as western civilization.

People in America, at least, would find it awkward to adjust.

People who follow Islam have a lot to think about these days. The religion seems to be inextricably enmeshed in the culture of the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia. Someone following that culture's assumptions about the status and treatment of women in an American business, for example, would be in serious legal trouble.

This isn't an attack on Islam. I still hope that it is "a peaceful religion" that can be brought into the 18th century, and perhaps into the Information Age.

My concern is that many people in America, and elsewhere, don't realize what's at stake. The Euro-American culture, although not perfect, gave the world constitutional democracy in the 18th century, rejected slavery in the 19th, and established the right of women to vote and work in the 20th.

I doubt very much that sharia law would permit many of these new ideas.

I sincerely hope that America's leadership, in government, media, and education, understand clearly how much we all have to lose.

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.


Anonymous said...

So close, yet so far!

The problem is not Islam, the problem is Saudi Arabia, pure and simple.

We will never gain one inch in the War on Terror until we wrap our minds around that fact.

Brian H. Gill said...

I'm not entirely convinced that Saudi Arabia is the only problem faced by the west.

I realize that Saudi Arabia and the UAE stood out from the crowd in recognizing the Taliban when the latter were running, and ruining, Afghanistan: but I don't know that the Taliban is actually a part of the House of Saud's holdings.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.