Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Islam and its Denial - Part V

Johann Gutenberg’s advancement in printing, in the 1450s, enabled the mass production of the Bible. No longer did believers have to depend on the clergy. The stage was set for the Protestant Reformation. Copies of printed books reached the 10 million mark before the end of the15th century. The Bible was soon translated and printed in several languages. Books, pamphlets, and flysheets were easily printed and disseminated. While the printing press did not cause the Reformation, it was a vital catalyst.

Contrary to common misconceptions, the Reformation was not a modernizing movement – it was Augustinian in outlook and fundamentalist in orientation. Any benefit to the furtherance of independent thought was an unintended consequence. Today there is a call for an Islamic Reformation as a solution to the ills that plague the Muslim world. This, of course, reflects the vast ignorance of what is actually happening in the Islamic World.

Islamism – often called Radical Islam, Militant Islam, and Fundamentalist Islam – is an Islamic revival Movement. Indeed, “Islamic Revival” is the preferred term by Muslims and Islamic sympathizers. The implication of the label is clear. This is not another type of Islam; this is a return to Islam. This is the Islamic Reformation – a rediscovery and reaffirmation of the basics of the religion. And it is fueled by inventions of technology.

During the last days of the Shah, Iranians used the new technology of audio cassettes to listen to exhortations by the exiled cleric Ayatollah Khomeini. Today, with the vast number of communication channels and ease of travel at their disposal, Muslims are rediscovering their religion and what it demands of them. The Internet, cable networks, home printers, cell phones, etc. – all play a role as a catalyst of the Islamic Revival. The vast oil wealth funds the movement.

There is little understanding of this ideology or the impact of its revival. Democracy in Iraq, political pressure on Saudi Arabia, elections in Egypt – all will do little to address the toxic nature of the Islamic Revival. Muslims are learning about Islam – Islam is the problem. We need to rethink our strategy but before we do that we must understand the nature of the enemy. It took 30 years – from 1917 to Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech in 1947 – before the horror of communism was apparent to all.

We are not even at the beginning of the start of our fight. This is 1925 and we are talking about an experiment in Islamic democracy similar to the intellectuals enthusiasm for the communist experiment to create a “worker’s paradise.” We are currently dreaming.


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