Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Reality Check: Religion Counts

After more than a decade's experience inside academia, I'm not really surprised when highly educated experts fail to grasp the obvious.

Everybody (everybody who counts, anyway) knows that complex socio-economic factors, interacting with psychological manifestations of diverse cultural norms, are what make people do what they do: and that religion is dumb.

Except for some really cool religions from exotic places, of course.

Unfair? I hope so. But it's hard not to think that secular psychobabble and refried Marxism, with a dash of multicultural activism, is what passes for thought in the halls of ivy these days.

Especially when something titled "Princeton Economist Says Lack of Civil Liberties, Not Poverty, Breeds Terrorism" shows up in the Wall Street Journal (July 5, 2007).

I'm not making this up. The title says it all. It's become obvious that there isn't a link between terrorism and poverty. Something else must be the cause of all these Muslims (not all Muslims!) coming after western interests. I give the professor credit, that far, for remarkably incisive thinking.

Then, he says that lack of civil liberties causes terrorism. An opposing view is "Princeton economist: Poverty doesn't cause terror, so it must be...er...denial of civil liberties! Yeah, that's it!" (July 6, 2007). I recommend reading it.

If jihadist terrorism isn't caused by poverty, or by insufficient civil liberties, what could possibly be the reason for people committing mass murder with explosive vests, car bombs, and, on occasion, airliners, and getting themselves killed in the process?
  • Dysfunctional, codependent familial support systems?
  • Insufficient empowerment?
  • Porsche Envy?
    (wanting to be more well-to-do than one already is)
  • Racial profiling?
  • Suboptimal toilet training?
I don't think any of these factor significantly into terrorist ideology.

The reason to rise up against the west is both simple and profound. These jihadists are trying to kill those who don't agree with their leaders because they are convinced that Allah told them to.

These terrorists are doing what they do, out of a deeply and sincerely held religious conviction. No wonder most academics don't get it: religious beliefs as a basis for action is an alien concept: at best, understood as the motivation of some funny-sounding, poor, uneducated, and easily-led folks who vote the wrong way.

The Islamic Republic News Agency ran an article recently, "President: Rule of Islam only way for salvation of mankind" (August 14, 2007), in which the President of Iran, no doubt under the wise guidance of the ayatollahs, spelled out what good Muslims should do. At least, according to his masters.

Quoting from the article, "President Ahmadinejad said nations are today distancing themselves from culture of materialism and selfishness and look for a new way for their prosperity, that is the path of Islam.

"He said that the world is on verge of a great upheaval and ulama (1) at this juncture shoulder a heavy responsibility that is introducing genuine Islam as it is.

"'Nations today have no haven but religion,' the Iranian president announced, cautioning Muslim nations against enemies' divisive plots.

"He said, 'All of us have the duty to resist the enemy by closing our ranks.'

"He said that the Iranian nation today feels more than ever the need to stand beside the Afghan nation.

"'The Islamic Republic of Iran has kindly received their Afghan brothers and will continue to do so in future. Minor issues will cannot affect Iran's policies on Afghanistan,' he added.

"The president said Islam belongs to all generations and Muslims should get ready for global mission of Islam."

Not all Muslims are terrorists these days, but there's a reason why practically all terrorists are Muslims.

Religion counts. Outside of a few cultural enclaves here, and in Europe, religion is an openly important aspect of civic life.

And, this is important. The people who are running America and other western countries will not be able to make sensible decisions, unless they understand this simple fact.

Posts on this general topic:(1) ulama (علماء), the legal scholars of Islam and the Sharia, the learned and knowledgeable people in Islam.


Ottavio (Otto) Marasco said...

Interesting post. What you are stating ought be obvious (that religion counts) but it is not. This makes it so much more difficult to effectively deal with extremists amongst these groups. But let us assume for a moment that American and World leaders understood this fact, what then? It would still be difficult and highly contentious to deal with Muslims whose loyalties are to Allah and global missions of Islam.

Brian H. Gill said...

Difficult, but not impossible.

There's a vast range of opinion and belief in the Islamic world.

The 'loyalty to Allah and global missions of Islam' are not all so radical - and destructive - as the Jihadsits' beliefs.

I should think that a reasonable starting point for western leaders, and American politicos in particular, would to be to acknowledge that there are decent people who actually believe in, and follow, religious teachings for other than 'cultural' or political purposes.

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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.