This morning’s paper had an article in it in which Prime Minister Howard denounced Islamic extremists as not speaking or acting in accordance with the Islamic world as a whole. It was entitled “Terrorists don’t speak for Islam: Howard”, and I think that misrepresents what he said.
“We in Australia will never accept that organisations such as al-Qaeda or Jemaah Islamiah speak or act in any way on behalf of the Islamic world,” he was quoted as saying. This isn’t something that’s reflected in the article’s title, for there is a distinction between “Islam” and the “Islamic world” — one being an abstraction, the other a reality.
Islam, the religion, is fundamentally different to the Christian paradigm (if not faith) that has shaped what is considered the Western world. The notion of Jihad is a central part of its philosophy that cannot be ignored whilst remaining true to the faith.* And that, ultimately, is what ‘conservatives’ the world over have been accused of. And rightly so.
I’d dispute Howard’s claim that these terrorists don’t speak for “the Islamic world”, as well, but that’s a little more abstract: I’d agree they don’t speak for westernised Islam, which is invariably watered down to suburban multicultural bliss, and inevitably turns any belief system into a fluffy religion — but I’d doubt (though don’t have numbers to back me up, and this is a blog post, not a published Opinion piece, so I don’t need them either) that this “westernised Islam” would constitute a majority.
Conservatives hold the core of their belief system to be true. Objective, absolute truth. There are always going to be elements of ‘religion’ open to interpretation (outside of bodies in which the human leader of that religion issues a mandated interpretation — looking at Roman Catholicism here), but, generally speaking, the religion will dictate its own ‘truths’ which are either followed as best is possible with potential ill consequences (at least in the eyes of another morality system — see, for example, the justifiable-under-Islamic-law but apparently “evil” acts of London bombings, Bali bombings, WTC bombings, Islamic treatment of women, etc.) or alternatively, met with liberalism and an inevitable watering down of the religion to some affable but ultimately secular form.
And this presents problems. Liberalism because value systems become abstractions rather than absolutes, as there is no greater power being heeded as “creator” of these value systems, and fundamentalism because it rejects anything aside from absolutes. Successful fundamentalism is of greater (rule) utilitarian benefit than attempted co-existence of abstract value systems and absolute ones, because there is no potential for conflict. There is an intrinsic potential for unhappiness, but not for injustice, as that is dictated from another source.
Conversely, liberalism presents potential for happiness (hence its appeal — though debate regarding the semantics of ‘happiness’ is of course possible), but that same ‘happiness’ often comes at the expense of another group (redistribution of wealth, etc.), or doesn’t really exist at all (happiness and affluence being considered synonymous in Western society, but provably realising a decline in actual satisfaction). Liberalism justifies “individual liberty”, and autonomy of morality within this, which of course in turn justifies all manner of things. There is an innate human requirement for an objective, absolute morality, especially as globalisation takes its toll and a convergence — or clash — of societies occurs, as we are seeing at present.
One could even describe our present multicultural reality as an inverted form of colonialism: there is an inevitable clash, if multiple cultures are not assimilated. For the record, I’m as convinced that Macquarie University’s Associate Professor Andrew Fraser’s views are racist, ignorant, and therefore repulsive, but the reality of “multiculturalism” is either that there is an assimilation and dilution of non-dominant values (I say non-dominant, because, generally speaking, “Western” values in western countries remain, and presumably vice-versa in other cultures that have in place institutionalised “multicultural” policies), or — and this is what has happened — clashes of dominant and incoming cultures occur.
And that’s what we call “terrorism”. Because it’s taking something perfectly acceptable and even condoned in other cultures and imposing it upon our different mindset. Here’s a secret: terrorism isn’t irrational or a product of ‘extremism’. It’s based upon a different mindset, certainly, but that doesn’t make it irrational or even wrong. See, if Western (and Hindu, and Buddhist, etc.) society was coerced into assimilation with Islamic values, there’d be no more conflict (unless you happened to be Jewish, in which case there’s no hope at all), because their purpose would have been achieved. Unless you happened to be female, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish — if you were female and accepted their values, you’d be fine.
Terrorists speak for Islam, despite how much as our “liberal” (meaning “accepting only secularism within an assimilated ‘multicultural’ context”) broadsheets would like to claim otherwise. Islam, in its true form (as opposed to some bastardised “liberal” form), rejects other value sets. Just like Christianity, in its true form, does — though Christianity rejects the paradigms established by other faiths (“faiths”, it should be noted, encompassing all other systems of belief including secular humanism) without calls for violence. I think Howard understands this, from what he has been quoted as saying, but somewhere that got lost in media-translation.
Jihad (in Arabic, “struggle”) is a central duty of every Muslim. Modern Muslim theologians have spoken of many things as jihads: the struggle within the soul, defending the faith from critics, supporting its growth and defense financially, even migrating to non-Muslim lands for the purpose of spreading Islam. But violent jihad is a constant of Islamic history. Many passages of the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad are used by jihad warriors today to justify their actions and gain new recruits. No major Muslim group has ever repudiated the doctrines of armed jihad. The theology of jihad, which denies unbelievers equality of human rights and dignity, is available today for anyone with the will and means to bring it to life.