Necessary Background: Theology, Ideology And The Arab Psyche
Aldous Huxley said,
At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.
Even as Israel attempts to address the evil that is Hizbollah, Hamas and terrorism, the UN and others are demanding that Israel cease their assault (it bears noting that the ideologies that are embraced by Hizbollah, Hamas and other organizations devoted to terror, all espouse ideologies of hate, bigotry and racism.
To understand what fuels the evil of Hizbollah. Hamas and others of that ilk, it is important to understabd and see the world as they do. That means we need to look behind the facade and beneath the surface. As is most often the case, an examination of 'the darker side' might facilitate a clearer understanding of ourselves and our own values.
We strongly urge you to read Shame, The Arab Psyche And Islam, by Dr Sanity. It is an excellent essay that undescores and defines the nuances of the Arab psyche- and by extension, helps us to understand what comprises our own value system. She notes how western and Islamic values can differ significantly:
...one of the ways that those who fear shame protect their fragile self is to subjugate those who he perceives as weaker. By doing so, he can rationalize that he is superior to the subjugated individual. In fact, this is the only way he can maximize his honor. In Arab/Islamic culture, women are one of the primary instruments of achieving honor. Hence the bizarre and distorted attitude that the culture has toward women and the exaggerated means by which "honor" must be maintained. So strong is the cultural pressure, even women buy into the delusion (as eloquently demonstrated by Dymphna in this post)We cannot overstate the importance of this Dr Sanity post. It is a must read for anyone serious about learning about and understanding the foundations of today's Middle East reality.
Other expressions of the shame culture that are obvious is the rampant psychological projection and refusal to accept responsibility for the atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Not only are we regularly subjected to imams, religious leaders, and leaders of Muslim states stating even now that 9/11 or the London bombings were not committed by Muslims; they also regularly blame the Jews for such acts. In this way they can avoid the shame that taking responsibility for evil.
We will discuss the differences between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In any attempt to understand those values (or lack of values), perspective is necessary.
As a matter of preamble, we wish to say that we are discussing those three faiths, today. We are not looking to 'stack the deck' by comparing apples with oranges, so to speak. Rather, we want to examine the realities as we- and everyone else, sees them today. We will discuss ideologies and theologies- where they meet and merge, and where they collide and careen off each other.
Theology, as defined by Webster: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world.
On the other hand, ideology is defined as follows: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program
In other words, theology differs from ideology in that theology keeps faith first focused in the spiritual milieu, whereas ideology can and does answer to a ‘sociopolitical program’ as a primary focus.
To be clear- religious theology has influenced and continues to influence, political ideologies. The most recent example is that of the influence the Catholic Church had on the Solidarity movement in Poland and the Church’s influence in combating and finally breaking communist dictatorships, as well as the influence the Russian Orthodox Church had within the Soviet Union. The lessons learned, how religious influence impacted communist ideology should not be lost, because those lessons are a triumph of religious ideology over an evil political ideology. It is true that there were non religious democratic influences that were brought to bear. Certainly, their influence cannot be understated. That said, the popular support that reformers had attracted, would not have been so popular had those ideas and organizations not had the support of the Church. Walensa, Havel and others in the freedom movements of the European eastern bloc were effusive in their gratitude for Church support.
Throughout the Soviet era, in what was the European eastern bloc and the Soviet Union, church leaders fought tyrannical regimes with carefully worded sermons and a support of an underground press and ‘decadent’ (read: pro freedom) culture. With every bit of cunning and shrewdness, the churches resisted the ideologies that deprived people the freedom to choose and the freedom to self express. Their motivation was simple: Man was meant to be free from oppression and suppression. Man was to afforded the opportunity and freedom to reach his greatest potential. This ‘resistance’ went on for decades, imparting the hopes and ideals of freedom to millions. In one of the seminal events of the Polish resistance to communism, the murder of a priest, Fr Jerzy Popieluszko. (see this and this) led to massive protests against the government and was to serve as a rallying call for change. A crime meant to stifle calls for change had the exact opposite effect, and many argue that Popieluszko’s murder was the first ring of what was to become the death knell of communism in Poland.
Simply put, freedom- and thus resistance to tyranny, is part of a theology that trumps any and all political ideologies that seek to repress that free expression.
Contrast this with what occurs in much of the Islamic world today. Under harsh regimes that eschew freedom, clerics encourage allegiance to those regimes and decry any calls for freedom. Reformers are called traitors and worse, and attempts to even have the conversation are stifled with the iron fist into much of what Islam has evolved. Even if one were to exclude the calls for a hard reform in Islam, even the voices of a moderate and peaceful Islam are under attack.
With the blessings of Arab regimes and implemented by terror organizations (Hizbollah, Hamas, et al) purporting to speak for the faithful, Islam has morphed from a theology into an ideology. It is the ideology that takes precedence and it is the theology that has come to serve that ideology, providing a religious context for the evil that would keep freedom at bay.
The ideology of terror organizations that masquerades as political expression, has become a part of Islam's religious expression. It is oppressive, repressive, stifling and designed to ‘re-brand’ a once great religion. What once gave the world warm and colorful expressions of art, literature and architecture, has been redefined into cold, stark and controlled expressions of faith. Mosques are now drab and colorless and Islamic expression is focused on hate and subjugation. There is no call to celebrate what is possible under Islam, the potential or greatness, but rather, what can be destroyed or broken and ultimately, what can be controlled.
Whereas Islam, like Christianity and Judaism once celebrated mans potential, now regards that potential as dangerous and a matter to be subjugated. That is in stark contrast to the culture and society that gave us the organized study of mathematics and medicine, philosophy, art and literature. It is ironic that Islamists, in their wish to ‘reclaim past glories,’ would no doubt end up persecuting those free thinkers that were the foundation of Islam’s ‘Golden Era,’ incompatible with the ideology that is today’s Islam.
While Islamic theology is presented to the west as one of equivalence to our own, it is Islamic ideologies that rule the day.
It cannot be explained any other way. Muslims cannot claim to be equals in faith and at the same time, allow for that faith to spew vile hatred. There is no denying that truth. When Jews and Christians leave worship services, they are filled with the spirit of sanctity and humility. When many in the Islamic world leave their services, they are overcome with rage and hate, and are ready to kill. That is not an exaggeration, as Christians and Shiaa in Pakistan and Indonesia can attest to.
It is up to the Muslim world to explain those realities- failures, really, in an honest a way as they can. It is not enough to blame Arab and Islamic failures on Israel and the Jews. There have been and continues to be, far greater crimes against Muslims, by other Muslims- a truth rarely, if ever, discussed.
As we have noted before, Muslims, for the most part, took no part in the Holocaust. They could, if they desired, point an accusatory finger at us and say, ‘look at what you have done!’ Instead, they cannot hide their association with the perpetrators of the crime, identifying with the evil-doers and their ideologies. The Nazis took pain to hide their evil agenda. The Islamists, with the tacit support of much of the Islamic world including the now well manipulated religious community, cannot be bothered.
To be clear- the Christian community too, persecuted Jews. That said, the Christian community has long since abandoned that ideology. The theology of Christianity is no longer influenced by those who hate. In fact, John Paul II made it very clear that Catholicism must atone for the sin of that persecution- the greatest sin the one that allowed an ideology of hate to influence the theology.
We would be less than complete if we did not address Zionism, because it is after all, an extension of the Jewish identity. In all it's incarnations, religious or secular, the fact remains that Zionism was a noble ideal, mismanaged. No matter how you cut it, the State of Israel was led by first generation Holocaust survivors, 'graduates' of the concentration camps established to eradicate them and other 'undesirables.' One would be foolish to think the Holocaust did not influence the decision makers in Israel. They saw the Zionist dream as a homeland for the Jews and at the same time, attached an almost fanatical ideology that all was fair in the name of survival- even when it wasn't. The fact of the matter is that even if the Palestinians were to remain indoors and were to stop breathing for six months, they would somehow be violation of of treaties authored by the Israelis.
That said, the Israelis were not responding to messages from outer space. All they had to do- and still do- is listen and read Arab media. All they had to do was look to the UN and see outrageous displays of anti semitism.
Nevertheless, the Israelis, despite their faults, never responded with a hand heavier than the one they were extended. The faith of the Jews, despite the hand they were dealt, was never turned into an ideology of hatred, save for a very few. Despite the difficulties and shortcomings, the Jewish state was quick to offer a helping hand to others and freedoms to it's own Arab citizens, that remain unknown in the Arab world, predicated on the unyielding belief in freedom and the theology that defined a people for 2,000 years, despite a history of persecution. It is after all, the Old Testament that is the foundation for our beliefs and much of our value system.
As we have noted earlier,
… the bible is the guidebook to day to day living with each other. We are to help each other, nourish each other and support each other. If we accept that our mission on this earth is not to destroy each other, then we must accept as truth that the principal part of our lives is to be spent living in peace and harmony. We are all connected, each of us. The accumulation of our contributions are what define us as a community. Those that do not contribute, exclude themselves from that community, of course- and that weakens the community in general. It is our collective mission to bring light into this world, not darkness...
Our adversaries, by deeds, actions and own admission, have destroyed much and wish to destroy even more. They wish to upend the truth that we are not meant to destroy each other. We do not go to war easily. Indeed, we wish peace with our neighbors. Peace by definition, means equality, a live and let live culture. Our adversaries want peace based on our capitulation to an evil that destroys and hates.
The current ideology that is Islam neither sees those truths nor recognizes the distance between their ideology and the theology of the Judeo-Christian ethic
Until such time as a real Islamic theology replaces Islamic ideologies, we must be clear as to our differences.
Portions of this post were published on SC&A, earlier.