A Gaping Divide between the Muslim East and Christian West:
A gaping divide between the Western Christianity and Eastern Islam, which is presently surfacing world-wide with considerable anguish and ferocity by clever maneuvering of the Western media in collusion with surreptitious scum of Western Diplomacy, resides partly (i) in the respective cosmological theories of western science and Islam and partly. (ii) in the nature of the respective Christian and Muslim religious faith relating to the truth of the mission of Isa Masih/Jesus Christ; and in addition (iii) in the open and / or covered ambition of the capitalist Western Christians to grabbing the natural wealth of the Muslim lands.
To begin our discourse let us listen to a transparent statement advanced by a renowned Western columnist, Forrest Cookson, saying: “Muslim world and West have a deep, probably irreconcilable, difference in establishing the most sacred constraints on social behavior. Claims made for constraint or acceptance and demand for apology, given and accepted [pertaining to cartoons]are really irrelevant.”
“To the Muslim all of life is shaped down and guided by God’s teaching as represented in the holy Quran. While the Bible is the word of men written, edited and parsed for meaning; the holy Quran is God speaking, the Prophet is simply God’s scribe”. “The implication of this faith is the extension of the religion into everyday activities of family, into relation with other persons, into the political sphere and finally, the rules of market. Human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of religion derives from the holy Quran itself”.
“If one attacks the word of God, then the very source of the rules and regulations for social behavior is undermined. Thus logically by rejection of the role of the Prophet (as scribe) or the role of the holy Quran in defining how one should live, subverts the whole structure of one’s life. It is consequently clear why one would be so strongly opposed to such blasphemy (speaking against the word of the God). One finds oneself without ground on which to stand”.
“The secular West has a completely different view. Liberal democracy is built on a view of religion that believes in God as an abstract intellectual entity. This was the view of the leaders of French Revaluation and the author of the U.S. Constitution. While this belief is no longer common, it underlies the formative thinking on organizing society”.
“As science progressed and threat to life [disease, accident, starvation] of ones family and oneself has declined, religion has been seen to be intellectually irrelevant. Indeed, research and social evolutionary biology seeks explanations of why it is advantageous to believe in religion. Religion becomes another characteristic of humanity to be studied like dress codes or child rearing habits. But to the West religion is a matter for the individual”.
“Freedom of speech is a fundamental principle of Western secular society. There are no effective limits to such freedom of speech if one discusses abstract issues including religion. If one writes about living people, then one has to tell the truth or face legal retribution but for ideas and concepts anything goes”. (The independent: “The cartoons: what this is all about” dated 10 March 2006, Page 11).
The above frankly expressed comments of a well known and familiar columnist brings to our view a realistic picture of the general attitude of the secular democratic West towards God, religion, prophets and related sacrosanct objects. In view of the Quranic direction, “O you who embraced faith! If any erring person (fasiq) brings to you detrimental news, thoroughly scrutinize it; lest you should inflict upon a people harm out of ignorance, whereupon you get up repentant upon what you have committed! (Hujrat, 49:6);
A minute examination of the above attitude, which is typical of the Renaissance bound Protestant Christians, brings into perspicuity an evolutionary metamorphosis in the texture of the Christian faith that has created an unbridgeable spiritual chasm between the Christian and Islamic faith, even though to prove their metal the case of both needs be genetically referred to the Semitic Abraham conviction of faith in One Omnipotent God, the Supreme Lord of the universe. Commensurate with the above mentioned Platonic declension of the meaning of ‘justice’ from rendering ‘due’ to giving right and thereby taking it out of the hands of the divine authority and entrusting it to the legislative power of the human authority, dragging justice from divine prerogative down to humanism in the arena of Christians faith, the original Creator, Sustainer, Providence of the Universe, the Omnipotent Supreme Lord, God, has been reduced to an ‘Intelligent Designer’ (I.D.) of the creation. Not only that, The secular West and its liberal democracy have reduced God to an ABSTRACT intellectual entity, that is to say, to an IDEA or CONSEPT of God that is nothing concrete or really objectively meaningful.
Thus, the Christian faith in God, according to this secular political version, amount to a belief in the abstract idea of God. As such, the distance between the modern Christian faith and the Muslim faith in a living Allah, tends to stand a world apart, so that, it is plainly stated, that, in discussing abstract issues including religion anything goes.
Nevertheless, in the secular West religion must not be deemed to have become unimportant. It is still very much important in the life of the people. However, secularism has uprooted it from the socio-economic-political sphere of life and transferred it to rule supreme in the spiritual sphere of life. There every individual is free to choose and follow any religion of his or her liking or making. In all secular democracies, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are constitutionally guaranteed. Since the declaration of war against terror by President Bush has brought the full brunt of secularism including secular democratic process, to bear upon the worldwide Muslim population, the Muslims ought to know precisely, accurately and comprehensively what makes up secularism of the modern West.
Secularism is derived from Latin world ‘seculum’ that means this-earthly life. It has nothing to do with life after death. As an ideology, secularism refers to the ancient Greece where it thrived in flying colors in the democratic State of Athens and it is claimed to be equally flourishing with great success in combination with democracy in the modern West. The Greeks belonged to the Aryan family of culture and civilization, but unlike their sister communities of India and Iran, they believed exclusively in this worldly life. They did not believe in life after death and Divine Judgment. Consequently, they did not have the ethical virtue of morality, which their great sage Socrates endeavored unsuccessfully to introduce. They believed in ‘man as the measure of all things’ and consequently in the political doctrine of ‘nothing succeeds like success’, which together constitute ‘individualism’ and which opportunism the modern capitalist West share with the ancient Greeks, and as such, the modern West inclines to interpret individualism as ‘homomansura’ meaning human values and human success as the measure of all things. Likewise in modern times President Nixon and President Clinton had to pay dearly in the face of legal retribution and President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are not morally obliged to care a whit for telling blatant lies in the Iraq invasion. ‘Legalism’ and not morality is thus the backbone of modern Western civilization.
The people of ancient Greece were idolaters and did not believe in the life after death. Therefore, they were this-worldly people and pure and simple secularist. But the Western people acquired the Old Testament based Semitic Abrahamic Christian faith in God, belief in life after death, in the Resurrection and in Last Day of Judgment to be justly dispensed by God and in receiving reward in Heaven and punishment in the Hell for good or evil deeds. Therefore, modern Western secularism refers to exclusively in economic and political spheres of life. It is especially expressed as ‘secularization’ of society meaning, “the act or process of removing the influence or the power that religion has over something”; “the secularization of society and education” and by secularism: the belief that religion should not be involved in the organization of society, education etc. (0xford Dictionary. Thus, secularism is the anti-thesis of religion. Keeping the above perspective of secularism, democracy, individualism in view, we may try to understand the position of the “Freedom of speech” in the modern West. We had better discern its real significance from Forrest Cookson’s comments. He says: “The depth of this demand for freedom of speech is best understood by examining its role in the success of the West. I put forth three principles that underlie the growth of Western economic and technical power. These factors in turn have led to the military dominance now in the hands of the West.
“1. Sciene grows by freedom of speech and meeting standards of proof in a peer system where only truth as defined by the scientific method is acceptable. This is the basis of success of the West”.
(At this stage he, however, hurls a rancor to the Catholic Christianity saying: “The key point in understanding the importance of this, is the attempt by the Catholic Church to suppress Galileo’s discoveries. Western political thought fears suppression of science and religious dogma.”)
“2. There may be freedom of religion. Every person should be free to worship or believe in anything that they want. They should be free to preach their religion and to recruit new members voluntarily to their beliefs. In the West, we are terrified of State promulgating a religion and forcing it on us. We have experienced enough of this through the past few hundred years”.
“The Reformation enabled many Europeans to free themselves from the repression of Catholic Church. The U.S. and French revolutions clearly put forth the view that the State has nothing to do with religion. This idea is difficult for Muslim to accept. However, for a Western there is no option here. Many Muslim States repress other religions. The United State government has reported some of the repression in Bangladesh”.
“3. The State needs to be democratic based on a constitution, that is, a set of rules made by humans. The democratic constitution has to protect minorities. The advantages of democratic system are (a) These allow new persons to get wealth and achievement; (b) There are fewer wars and less destruction of capital. (c) Private property can only be protected in a democratic system with an independent judiciary that enforces the laws. (d) New ideas and scientific economic, political and religious grow far batter in democracies’’.
“These are the factors that led to great human accomplishment: openness, merit based selection, competition and protection of one’s interest by political action. There have been few democracies in history. Yet the greatest achievements of the humanities took place in two democratic environments-Athenian Democracy in 5th century B.C. and the Western democratic ethos of 1850-2000 AD)”.
“These are the two periods in human history when the real potential of humans emerged. These are the period of the greatest cultural, scientific and artistic achievements”.
“These are also periods of the greatest challenge to the democratic ethos. Fifth century Athens failed and destroyed by a totalitarian regime and humanity was set back a thousand years. The West’s scientific, military and economic dominance so far continues due to these three principles. Athens’s democracy met this standard but the link between science and military power was not yet established.”
“The differences in views about cartoons are deep and fundamental. The aggrieved Muslims are essentially stating their worldview and the West is stating theirs. These are truly different and cannot be reconciled.’’
These are indeed very valuable tips for Muslims to understand the point of view of the West. Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), Novel prize wiener of 1907, had pronounced the world famous observation about a hundred years ago that, “The East in East and the West is West, the twain shall never meet”. The contemporary Eastern Muslim sage Iqbal (d.1938) cautioned: O’ people of the East don’t judge the red lips of Western girls as the sign of health! O’ people of the West, don’t regard the world as a shop of God! Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, however, kissed the dazzling skirt of the ‘grand homme’ (great man), humanism of the West, saying: The West has today opened the doors; People fetch thence laurels; They would give and take; will embrace and will be embraced; At the sea-coast of Grand Man”. The last hope of Tagore, however, seems to have met with deepest crisis at the present moment.
Keeping aside, the inexorable inner conflict of Capitalism, there is seemingly a covered hint in the above quotations of an over-confident feeling of overwhelming superiority complex of experimental science oriented secular democratic West in their technologically acquired ability to dominate the rest of the world by virtue of their fundamentally guaranteed untrammeled freedom of speech, freedom of Press and their fruitful combination of scientific technological engineering through the freedom of speech with the politico-military power. Their ideology of freedom of speech sustained by the maxim of the grand prophet of Western Renaissance and French Revolution Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) to the effect that “I may not agree to what you say but I am ready to sacrifice my life to defend your freedom to say it’. On the other hand, the most significant US constitutional document “The Virginia Declaration of Rights” adopted unanimously on 12 June 1776 (clause 12) reads: “That the freedom of the Press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic government” (Independent, 17 March 2006,Weekend, P.12).
The secular West is thus firmly set on the three fundamental principles of (a) Freedom of speech and Press, (b) Freedom of religion and conscience and (c) Constitutional Secular Democracy. So long as these are yielding to them the highest points of internal peace, prosperity and power, they will keep on running fast along their racetrack in dire competition with the rest of the world. It would, therefore, be of no avail to try to persuade them to bow to ethical norms, moral aphorism, social equality, spiritual values or God-fearing asceticism. Its psychological parable may be like trying to restrain a carnivorous animal smelling out blood and getting a bite on raw meat from proceeding to break the neck of its prey. We batter calmly accept the threefold distinctive marks of West as inalienable actual facts and proceed to consider the other set of threefold factors that fatally depress the relations between the Eastern Muslim and Western Christians, pertaining to (i) cosmology (ii) religious faith and (iii) aggressive designs . That will take us to our next discourse.