Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An Important Book

I just completed an excellent book, Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It is an inspiring story of a Muslim women from Somalia who rebels and overcomes the incredible oppression of her family, religion, and culture. I usually don't like to recommend books or restaurants unless I can give someone the book or pay for their meal but I thought this was an especially valuable book.

Aside from the fact that it was well written and interesting it actually impacted my thinking. After 9/11 I had believed that anti-muslim sentiment was overblown and that for the most part, muslim fanaticism was restricted to a small percent of the muslim world. Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over a billion adherents. It was hard to believe that a mainstream religion could support war, terrorism, suicide bombings, killing of all Jews, and the total oppression of women. It was possible that a small percent of muslims might participate in these practices and even that a larger percent, maybe ten, would sympathize with these ideas. What I didn't think was real was that these anti-humanistic views could be a fundamental part of the basic belief structure of a world religion.

Now I know you shouldn't believe everything you read or see on TV, but this book struck me as being a sincere, accurate, account of muslim thinking. It pointed out that the major theme of the Koran, the holiest muslim text, was that the purpose of life on earth was to submit to Allah's laws, and that life on earth was a test to determine our place in the afterlife. There are constant references in the Koran to the necessity to destroy non-believers and that what happens to us on earth is insignificant compared to the glory of our eternity with Allah in heaven. The suicide bombers, who crashed planes into the World Trade Center were not isolated fanatics but the embodiment of fundamental Islamic thinking.

Ali's purpose, in writing this book, was to make the world aware of the cruel and unreasonable nature of Islam , especially of their treatment of women and of their potential threat to world peace. In her attempt to get this message out she hooked up with a Dutch film maker (some descendant of Van Gogh) to make a mini-documentary. It was called Submission I. Shortly after it was released Van Gogh was brutally murdered. A letter threatening Ali was stuck in his chest by a knife. Since that time she has been in hiding protected by the Dutch secret service.

As I write this I feel a little internally disturbed because it goes against my basic world view that there could be this degree of bad stuff in a religion that is followed by so many people. I have always been suspicious of campaigns that vilify any groups of people. I have come to believe that governments and those behind governments, if they exist, oftentimes create enemies to increase their own power. When there is a clearly defined bad guy, the government becomes more important as a protector. This tactic has been effectively used for thousands of years by governments and power groups. The threats of communism were greatly magnified (according to information released by the CIA) by the US to justify the governments actions and expenditures for the Cold War. Jews, blacks, Christians, witches, American Indians, have all been used as scapegoats to rally the masses against a common enemy and strengthen those in power.

However Hitler was really a bad guy. There have been other wackos throughout history who needed to be stopped and ignoring them was costly. I am not totally sure what is the real threat of Islam. After reading this book, though, I am a little more concerned that this could be a real problem. I am going to do more research to try to get an even clearer perspective. I would like to know what the Dalai Lama thinks.

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