Day By Day

Friday, March 17, 2006

"Americanized Islam"

When Bush talks about changing the political culture of Islam, and Condi states:
"We've won these struggles before against ideologies of hatred, but it's always taken time; it's taken patience; unfortunately, it's sometimes taken sacrifice. "
Read it here.

This is what they are talking about.

UPI reports:

"American" Islam, a religion whose followers resemble "a Weberian society of atomized individuals given over to consumerism," is increasingly posing a challenge in Russia to "true Islam," a faith based on the norms of Sharia law and authentic Muslim ideas, according to a Muslim commentator in Moscow.

In an essay posted on the Internet portal Wednesday, Fatima Anastasiya Yezhova, an ethnic Russian convert to Islam, provides a detailed discussion of the differences between these two Islams and why the "American" one has been gaining ground among Russia's Muslims.

"'The American version of Islam,'" she writes, is "a multi-faceted term" which requires explanation as it includes "several different sets of meaning." The "most obvious," Yezhova continues, is its treatment of Islam "exclusively as 'a personal faith,' as a personal dialogue with God."

That means, she continues, that those who follow its provisions "understand Islam not through the prism of the Arabic term 'din'" -- which connotes power, subordination and devotion -- but rather "in the spirit of the Latin 'religare'" -- which involves community or connection.

"Such a radicallly incorrect understanding of Islam is in part a rudiment of the contemporary Christian mentality of a definite segment of newly converted [Muslims in the Russian Federation and elsewhere], in part as a result of the intentional efforts directed at the liberal modernization of our religion."

Muslims both among the newly converted and those returning to the faith "who think in this way can perform Islamic religious and customary norms, pray, and observe fasts, but their entire world view from political ideology to their behavior will be radically non-Muslim," Yezhova insists.

Such a reduced Sunday-school kind of faith, she continues, is based on the proposition that its followers "in general should not relate their understandings about justice, the nation, governance or war" with the provisions of Islam. Instead, they should see the religion as simply "a collection of ritual practices" rather than a set of vital ideas.

But the impact of "American Islam" can also be seen in the ideas and actions of Muslims who insist that they are completely committed to the values of Islam and the interests of the umma but who claim the right "to have their own [distinctive] Islamic brand, their own cultural label, and thus their own identity."

"Instead of mini-skirts," she says," Muslims of this type "wear the hijab to the office. Instead of drinking beer, they drink tea in coffee houses, go to fitness centers for Muslim women, use the services of Islamic tour agencies, take their children to Muslim kindergartens and spend money in beauty salons and saunas that operate in correspondence with Sharia."

"Such Muslims strive to follow the Islamic way of life in all spheres of their daily life." But despite that, "their psychology is in no way distinguished from the world views of the standard petit bourgeois consumer -- with the only difference that it is packaged in a beautiful halal wrapping."

The goals of this group, which Yezhova calls "the green bourgeoisie," are exactly the same as their non- Muslim counterparts: "to get ahead in life, to make money, to pursue a career, to buy a beautiful house and car, to guarantee their children a stable future -- naturally with means permitted by the Shariat -- and quietly live" without getting involved in anything larger than themselves.

Yup! She's got it! That's exactly what we are working toward, and by her account we are succeeding -- and she's not happy about it.

She sees the "American" version of Islam as "contemporary"and lacking a "spiritual dimension" and calls upon her fellow Muslims to resist this American, bourgeois corruption and,
to cure themselves of the "disease of middle class vulgarity and recognize as a necessity the struggle for justice" a struggle every bit as important as wearing the hijab or eating halal foods.

Read it here.

I haven't seen a story that has delighted me so much in months. Protests like these are proof of the efficacy and allure of Western values and a validation of the core beliefs animating the Bush doctrine.

These principles were once again reiterated by President Bush in his recent statement on national security:

America... has an unprecedented opportunity to lay the foundations for future peace. The ideals that have inspired our history -- freedom, democracy and human dignity -- are increasingly inspiring individuals and nations throughout the world. And because free nations tend toward peace, the advance of liberty will make America more secure. [emphasis mine]
Read the whole thing here.

We can hope that in coming years people like Fatima [and Osama] will find more and more to protest against. Perhaps Fukuyama was right the first time -- the spread of liberal principles has the force of historical inevitability. If so, Islamic radicalism is nothing more than a bump in the road to the end of history. Or, as I have suggested before [here], what anthropologists call a "revitalization movement" destined to fail.

What is perhaps most interesting about Fatima's rant is the way it illuminates the links between left wing radicalism and Islamism. Many people, including some on the Left, have been taken aback by the eagerness of many lefties to sympathize with, even to make common cause with, a repugnant Islamist ideology that constitutes in many of its aspects a repudiation of their supposed core principles.

Some have explained this loathsome abandonment of principle as a manifestation of intellectuals' historic fascination with strong men. a modern version of the fuhrerprincip; others have marked it down to simple anti-Americanism, or to a pathological loathing of Bush himself. But Fatima's rant exposes the overriding concern. Both left-wing ideology and radical Islamism have a common enemy -- Western bourgeois liberalism.

In recent years lefties, abandoned in the West by their beloved proles and devastated by the collapse of the Soviet workers' dystopia and China's embrace of free markets, have swung in ever more eccentric and fantastic circles, widening their scope to make common cause with all non-bourgeois elements of the world [see, for instance, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's inane invocation of the "multitude" in Empire, a book that disturbingly became quite a fad in academia a few years ago]. Sympathy for Islamism is [for Fatima and I suspect for many others] simply a manifestation of that impulse -- rooted in a deep loathing of the triumphant bourgeoisie. For such as she, core principles don't really matter -- they can be embraced or abandoned at will -- what matters is to keep your sights on the real enemy -- the free peoples of the world. If Communism failed to eliminate liberalism, then maybe radical Islamism can. At least, that seems to be her hope.

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