Wednesday, October 17, 2007



For some time now I have been a reader of Dr. Sanity's posts at Blogger. I find that she has an excellent writing style and she argues with a lot of reason, being neither too conservative or liberal in her point of view. In this post, Dr. Sanity reviews a review of the letter that has been sent to Pope Benedict XVI as well as to the Archbishop of Canterbury. She points out some of the deficiencies in the logic of the writer of the article. To refresh, the Islamic clerics sent an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, inviting dialogue, but with conditions attached.

Peter Jenkins, the author of the article in the London Times expressed the following sentiment about the open letter:

Coming at the end of Ramadan, the letter is impressive. The signatories embrace a global range of grand muftis, imams, sheikhs and scholars from all denominations of Islam, with a wide span of theological influence. The appeal to religious tolerance at a time of tension between Islam and the West is welcome. But what the letter means needs deconstruction.

Religious leaders like to claim headlines by subjecting politics to a downpour of platitude. The letter makes no mention of (monotheistic) Jews, let alone Hindus and Buddhists. It merely invites the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others to acknowledge what the archbishop calls “their common scriptural foundations . . . as a basis for justice and peace in the world”. Two religions that embrace “half of humanity” should stand together or, by implication, there will be war.

Such an implication is grandiose, dangerous and wrong. It implies that the Muslim world has a politico-military power that is in some sense equal and opposite to that of Christianity. This elevates the so-called jihadist tendency within Islam to a status that it does not have and should never think it has. It suggests Islam has sufficient power to confront and possibly undermine the West. It implies a balance of power parallel with a balance of theological interpretation.

Such an implication feeds a no less dangerous paranoia in the West. By stating that the “survival of the world” might turn on a struggle between Islam and Christianity, the letter reinforces the militarist fantasies of neoconservatives who see the world as just such a struggle. It is a paranoia which, since 9/11, has driven the “war on terror” and fomented the tension and antagonism to the West to which the scholars’ letter is so vacuous a response.

The chief threat to world security at present lies in the capacity of tiny groups of political Islamists to goad the West into a rolling military retaliation. Extremists on each side feed off the others’ frenzied scenarios so as to garner money and political support for their respective armies of the night. Each sees the other as a cosmic menace and abandons communal tolerance and peaceful diplomacy to counter it. The authors of this letter would be better employed vetting their own blood-curdling mullahs and madrasahs than in writing platitudes to the Pope.

Basically, Jenkins is stating that the letter is based upon the grandiose idea that the Muslims world has a politico-military power that is in some sense equal or opposite to that of Christianity, which he says elevates the jihadist tendency within Islam to a status that it does not have and should never think it has, and that it implies a balance of power parallel with a balance of theological interpretation. He also claims that such a letter feeds upon the fantasies of the "neoconservatives" who also see the world in such a struggle.

In analyzing the comments made by Peter Jenkins, Dr. Sanity shows exactly where Jenkins has made a series of errors regarding the threat of Islam. It is a good idea to read all that she has to say in reply to the Jenkins article. However, I have my own ideas, that are consistent with that of Dr. Sanity.

What I noticed about the open letter, is that there is an underlying threat to the western world, such as you either do as we say, or there will be further wars. That underlying threat should not be brushed off so easily, and I see the Jenkins article as a means of trivializing the underlying threat that was being made. At the same time, I take issue with the label of neoconservative and the way that Jenkins implies that there is a belief amongst all who do not support the liberal agenda, as those who believe in the idea of an armed struggle. Fundamentalism within religion does not equal conservatives in politics. The two simply do not go hand in hand. Also, amongst Christian fundamentalists there is no real suggestion of going to war, or even inciting war, except amongst a very small minority. Islam is a very different story, because in Islam the idea of jihad or war against those who do not submit, is very much a part of the Koran. Whilst there is a small minority who claim to be Christian and who believe that Armageddon is around the corner, the vast majority of Christians, especially those who have Pope Benedict as the titular head of their church, do not subscribe to the notion of Armageddon being at hand, and we do not subscribe to the idea that we should participate in bringing on such a conflict.

The Jenkins analysis fails for a variety of reasons:

  1. There is a sense of equivalence in his response - that the ultra conservative fundamentalists are equivalent in their delusional ideas about world power and world domination.
  2. That Christian "extremists" were somehow responsible for the execution of the "war on terror".
A part of this analyis is based upon the notion that George Bush is some kind of Christian fundamentalist, which is a mischaracterization that is found in the MSM as well as among left wing bloggers. However, it is a false idea, because President Bush is a Methodist, not some fundamentalist Baptist, or fundamentalist member of the Church of Christ etc. However, the idea has taken hold, and there has been little effort in attempting to refute such a mischaracterization.

A third reason that the analysis fails is that Jenkins has not understood the nature of the threat of Islam and Jihad. He seems to think that military jihad is the property of a minority of terrorists, whereas anyone who is at all familiar with the Koran should be able to recognize that Mohammed called for military jihad, not some other form of jihad that involves "personal struggle". It is the radical imams who know the Koran and who are turning moderate Muslims into terrorists that we should watch more carefully. These are the real threat to our society. The imams hold a lot of sway over the people under their care. The Muslims who attend mosque on a regular basis are truly like sheep, for they follow their leader in a blind fashion.

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