Muslim hatred, separatism, tactics, and monopoly on morality, III
An Interactive Editorial By
Douglas Rotondi* and Hassan El-Najjar**
In interactive editorials, the editor of Al-Jazeerah answers questions and or responds to comments of readers, which are more general than readers' responses to specific articles or issues. It is an effective method of interaction in electronic journalism.
(4) One criticism of western culture by Muslims is that it is morally bankrupt and impious or unholy, apparently ignoring the millions of Americans, who go to church every week. Are Muslims really morally superior to non-Muslims? Many Muslim women cover their face because it's the law or they fear having acid thrown at them. In that case, does it make them pious? Freedom is required for there to be morality, until there is freedom in the Muslim world, there can be no morality there.
(4) Before, I respond to your many questions in the fourth segment, I would like to make two clarifications. First, as I pointed earlier, there is no conflict between Islam and the West, or between Muslims and Westerners. Muslims have no problem with Sweden, Germany, Italy, Belgium, or any other Western European country. The problem is with the US and Israel, and it is not a cultural problem. Rather, it is a result of the Israeli invasion of the Middle East for the past 54 years and the US unqualified support for that invasion. But since the 1991 Gulf War, the US has become directly involved in the conflict.
Second, there is no Western culture, Eastern culture, or Arab culture. Rather, there are sub-cultures in each society that share racial, ethnic, regional, and class characteristics (to name some). What is known as the West (Western Europe and North America) is as diverse as other regions of the world. There are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths and creeds in the West and the East. But religion is not the only defining factor of culture, although it is a major one. Language is another. You can think of the huge linguistic diversity of the West, you don't want me to list down how many languages are there in the West. Then, you think about customs, traditions, and the other so many factors that distinguish one culture from another. In brief, what I am saying is that people in the West are not mass produced to think and behave in a certain way that enables you to compare them with people from other regions of the world, including Muslims who are also as diverse. Finally, without a class analysis, you cannot understand any society or culture. For example, majority of Americans are Protestants who speak English. However, they are different in their education, occupation, income, housing, food consumption, transportation ... etc. because of the difference in their social class (upper, upper-middle, lower-middle, working class, working and non-working poor). As a consequence, there is no standard or agreed upon "Muslim" view of the West, nor an agreed upon what constitutes a "Western culture."
With this as a background, I can address your question concerning what some Muslim groups (fundamentalists in this case) think of categories of people in the West generally, and the US in particular (non-religious or secular Americans, in this case). If you compare the lifestyle of Muslim fundamentalists or even the average observing Muslims with the lifestyle of categories of non-religious Westerners, Muslims find themselves much better off. For example, an observing Muslim does not drink, or have premarital or extramarital sex, or deals in interests. This means that observing Muslims have less problems related to alcohol consumption, divorce, unwed pregnancy, abortion, and indebtedness. Now, reverse the issue and ask about how Christian, Jewish, or Hindu fundamentalists view Muslims, and you will reach the same conclusion. They view themselves as much better off. Muslims are viewed as terrorists, who do not like freedom, to say the least. Fundamentalists of all religions may think that they have monopoly on morality but they are minority in each society.
A more accurate way to compare is by using social class. Upper class wealthy business owners or rulers in most countries have a lot in common, irrelevant of religion or national origin. The same can be said about professional and middle class people. The poor are the same everywhere, marginalized, exploited, and helpless.
Concerning the relationship between lifestyle and freedom, you are right in stating that there can be no morality without freedom of choice. The example of women covering their face or the rest of the body is a valid example. In the entire Islamic world, there are no laws that prevent women from showing their face or to wear westernized but decent clothing. The only two exceptions are Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, you will find that the vast majority of Muslim women all over the world, including the US and Western Europe dress decently, covering their arms and most of their legs. The reason is that there is a very clear Islamic teaching about that.
But no matter how much religious differences are, they do not lead to war between people. The current conflict between the US and Israel, on one side, and the Arab and Islamic world, on the other, is not about religious differences. Arabs have been under a continuous Israeli assault since 1948, when Israelis dispossessed and uprooted the Palestinian people. Then, Israel attacked its neighboring Arab states in 1956, 1967, 1978, 1982, and finally the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since April 2002. The only time Arabs initiated a war against Israel was in 1973, as an attempt to restore their lands that they lost in 1967. The US has been the protector, benefactor, and sustainer of Israel. However, the 1991 Gulf War brought the US directly to the conflict, and now another war on Iraq is impending that will lead to more hostility. The conflict is not about religion or morality, it is about oil, territory, and resources.
* Douglas Rotondi is a tax accountant, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He has a bachelors degree in accounting.
** Dr. Hassan El-Najjar is the editor of Al-Jazeerah.