After several weeks (is it months?) of hiatus, I am back at the old stand. Life and circumstances had gotten ahead of me and I was simply washed away in its wake. In the meantime, I did receive a few comments to my previous outpourings. I appreciate your time and patience. So… without further ado, let me pick up threads where I left them.
In the last post I agreed to make a 4-part post about why I focus on Islam although there are several other religions that are worthy of the same criticism. The last post was dedicated to the fact that Islam is a 21st century bomb with a 7th century trigger. In this post, I will dwell on a separate theme that makes is particularly toxic.
Backward and opposed to modernity.
Religious texts are, by their very nature, old, outdated and outmoded. But modernity keeps such parochial content safely sequestered. Modernity has introduced and established principles such as secularism which relegate religion to its rightful place (i.e. private spiritual pursuit). Of course, all religions would love to command a greater sphere of influence but they are, generally speaking, confined to their corner in modern societies.
But NOT Islam! No sir!!
Where Islam operates, it is not only supreme in the religious sphere, it also demands dominion over society, politics, commerce, justice – indeed the whole spectrum of human experience. Look at the leading Islamic theocracies (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran) to see examples of what an Islamic society looks like. These are NOT poor and impoverished countries. They command extraordinary wealth and yet their societies are almost completely bereft of the spirit of modernity. This happens because Islam is not just behind times – it is opposed to being up with times.
Consider the issue of Sharia law: While it is true that ultra-islamists are the most rabid proponents of Sharia, it is equally true that the wider muslim populace considers it positive because it is purported to be divinely inspired. A significant percentage of Islamic countries already have some version of Sharia law in operation. Can you name the countries where the populace is striving to overthrow/repeal Sharia? Didn’t think so. Now, can you think of countries where ultra-islamists are pushing for a greater imposition of Sharia? Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq come to mind (along with Great Britain). This tells us that Islam’s retrograde outlook is viewed as a badge of honor. In other words, Backward and Proud of it!
Opposed to modernity
It would be one thing to be backward because one was left behind in the great race toward development. But is quite another to oppose modernity even when it has arrived at the main-gates. The Islamic world is still dominated by Kings, Sultans and Emirs. Clearly, modernity has revealed better (though not perfect) governmental structures than hereditary monarchy. Most muslim-majority countries have not even adopted a 20th century governmental system – much less a 21st century one. In contrast, the king of Bhutan (a predominantly buddhist nation) has recently transformed his country from a monarchy to a democracy – without any popular unrest to force his hand. The Nepalese have overthrown a despotic monarchy and installed a young republic. Can you name a comparable devolution of power in an Islamic state? Me neither. This tells you that cult of the “tribal chieftan” is alive, well and thriving in the Islamic world.
One could be misled by the glitter and razzmatazz of some Islamic societies and mistake their affluence for progress. (if not “westernization”). Barring some exceptions, this would be a folly. While Islamic societies have been quick to acquire amenities and conveniences of a western life (Cars, TVs, Malls, cell-phones…) they are far from having adopted the underlying secular temperament that has fueled progress which ultimately yielded the amenities and conveniences.
Take the example of Saudi Arabia: One can come across fleets of the most opulent cars and limousines cruising the highways. But one does not have to try very hard before one notices that women are forbidden to drive in the Islamic Kingdom. (Until recently, they could not even sit in the front-passenger seat.) They are sequestered in black-robes and relegated to a lifetime of second-class citizenship (as the Koran prescribes). It is against this backdrop that the opulence of Saudi society seems pathetically vacuous. Check out this scarf-dude explaining how permitting women to drive leads to widespread sexual permissiveness and therefore societal decay.
As the leading Islamic voice and as the custodian of the holiest Islamic shrines, Saudi Arabia could be leading the way for the Islamic world. With the purse, power and prestige that Saudi Arabia commands, they could be a tremendous force for modernization and upliftment of Muslims around the world. But they stubbornly and sanctimoniously adhere to a primitive mindset. It is not as though they don’t know the way forward. Its just that they oppose modernity and prefer obscurantism. And they derive the impetus for this directly from the Koran. Barring slight differences, you will see the same obscurantist outlook pervade across most of the Muslim world.
One would have to regrettably conclude that although the Islamic world is capable of rising from its squalor, it prefers to languish in it because of the belief that salvation lies in being true to a 7th century doctrine. In doing so it rejects every meaningful thing that modernity offers.