02. October 2006 · Comments Off on ROP, Part 2 · Categories: General, Good God, GWOT, History, Pajama Game

So, what is it with Islam, these days; Is it really thriving like the green bay tree? Or might the Islamic faith militant, exemplified by Bin Laden and his merry chums, sympathizers and apologists be ridden by a secret terror of their own – that Islam is not growing, powerful, and omnipotent, but flawed at the root, and dying by degrees – a dangerous-looking but essentially hollow show, like the pufferfish? Is it a hollow faith, crumbling by insidious degrees, as it’s commonly assumed tenents are being examined in the spirit of skeptical scholarship? The ferocious reaction to any departure from orthodoxy suggests that the most fanatical believers may fear so, very deeply. Even the scholar of linguistics, Christoph Luxemberg, in his study of influences of the Aramaic language on the Koran must publish under a pseudonym – for his suggestion that translations of the Koran must consider the Aramaic in teasing out exact meanings is as explosive as what devotees of the Prophet strap about themselves, or pack into automobiles as their response to the insults of another extant belief system. And again, the violent response suggests that something more is going on here, something deep and dangerous – but the very violence of the response is enough to make a curious person wonder why? Why so touchy?

Last week on NPR they ran another one of those poor-mouthing stories about the sad plight of Hispanic female converts to Islam and how they must cope with family disapproval, and—horrors! How people look at them funny when they wear a headscarf! NPR seems to love this sort of story, they bang on (and on, and on and on!) about the Poor Muslim having to Cope In Heartlessly Hostile America about as often as they do about the Poor Palestinians Having to Cope with the Brutal Israeli Occupation, demanding our sympathies as if their listening audience were some sort of psychic ATM; swipe the story-card through the slot, here’s another twenty bucks worth of Sympathy for the Chosen Victim Class. I’d love to hear a story, for once, about Amish or Mennonite women having to cope with people giving them the eye-brow lifted look because of their somewhat distinctive and defiantly old-fashioned dress-sense, but that’s just me. And I am also left to wonder – what about converts from Islam? I googled that, this weekend “Islam+converts+from” and got a couple of stories and a query “Do you mean ‘Converts to Islam?'”

Well, no, I meant exactly what I typed in – but considering that conversion from Islam means a death sentence as an apostate – talk about a story that most major news media don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole, and a subject which converts would also prefer to remain untouched. Since exposure as a convert means the death penalty for apostasy, one can hardly blame converts from Islam for being extremely circumspect. Missionaries and ministers to converts also must feel the same need for a similarly subterranean profile but there are still a trickle of accounts and witnesses, mostly from religious organizations. One story which intrigued me when I first read it some years ago was about conversions to Christianity among the Berbers of Algeria – that very quietly, many local Berbers were rejecting Islam as a horrific death cult; in fact, reclaiming their heritage as Christians, which they had been up until the Muslim conquests of the 8th century. (St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica was a Berber Christian.)

There was the briefly famous Afghan convert, and a handful of others, leaving one to wonder how many other converts there are in the shadows, seeking no notice of themselves for fear of being murdered. One also wonders how many outwardly conforming Muslims have quietly declared apostasy in their hearts, going through the outward motions for the sake of their families and a bit of peace and quiet, or have moved to another city, or country and just let the whole thing lapse. There’s probably no way to work out the numbers, but it is food for thought.

Especially since life under a strict Wahabi Islamic rule seems desperately unappealing: Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban and Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors looked more like sort of religious concentration camp, with every pleasure in life, small and large being banned, constrained and forced underground. No wonder that only those who are allowed to exercise power over their fellows seem to look on it with any affection.

This is only a speculation, a working out of various themes and memes in my own mind. But it is different way to look at the whole structure of Islam, and a way to account for the hostility on display every time the followers of the Prophet feel disregarded and to have been offended. It could be that the disproportionate reactions are those of frightened men who feel power trickling out of their fingers, like grains of a handful of sand.

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