Friday, September 29, 2006

It's all Ideology, folks

America has, in theory, a separation of church and state. We have a democracy and a secular constitution. Iran, for example, is an Islamic Republic. Saudi Arabia’s constitution is the Qur’an. Yes, a democratic state allows for religious freedom. No, an Islamic state may not—why is it surprising that a religious state does not proceed according to democratic values of mutual respect and equality?

Clifford D. May points out in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that “in Muslim countries Christianity and Judaism are attacked viciously and routinely”—yet in our country communism, fascism, socialism, and really anything anti-democratic is, or has been, treated the same. The McCarthy hearings, the current embargo on Cuba, the war in Iraq, the Israel-Lebanon conflict, the ‘war on terror’… Sometimes structural and political violence, and sometimes organized under the banner of military action, yes—but violence none the less. When did we become ‘we’ the peaceful people, as opposed to ‘they’ the violent Muslims?

So ‘Muslims’ are saying ‘it is wrong to speak ill of our religion,’ and the goal of Muslims may indeed be to spread Islam across the globe, to wipe out those in its path. But the goal of the US is to spread democracy, and we are also busy punishing those who stand in opposition. Muslims may call their critics “infidels,” but we call ours part of an “axis of evil.”

May states that Muslims “are attempting nothing less than the establishment of a new world order in which the supremacy of what they call the Nation of Islam is acknowledged, and "unbelievers" submit -- or die. Call it an offer you can't refuse.”

Now hang on a minute. Wasn’t it the former President Bush who proclaimed there would be a New World Order after the fall of the Soviet Empire? And wasn’t it the current President Bush who echoed the same on 9/11?

For the Nation of Islam ‘unbelievers’ submit or die—but for those who attack democratic freedom? For them, the US President, as he said on 9/11, has “directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” We not only take out the unbelievers who don’t submit, we mess with their friends too.

Consider yourself a relativist for a moment and take a look at another of May’s quotations.

"The Muslims take their religion very seriously," Choudary explained as if to a disobedient child, "and non-Muslims must appreciate that and must also understand that there may be serious consequences if you insult Islam and the prophet. Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment.

Now, look again.

“The Americans take their democracy very seriously,” President Bush explained as if to a disobedient child, "and non-Americans must appreciate that and must also understand that there may be serious consequences if you insult Democracy and the President. Whoever insults the message of the American forefathers is going to be subject to capital punishment."

America is awash these days in debates over the separation of church and state. A joke in anthropological circles, especially in the UK and Europe, is that all Americans are actually Protestants. Our constitution was written by Protestants, and many of our values to this day align closely with many Judeo-Christian moral guidelines. ‘Thou shalt’ is big over here. Thou shalt not steal, kill, covet, use expensive labor, insult the customer, be politically incorrect, forfeit our power over foreign oil… But we are not only Protestant; we are Democratic. Democracy is our religion. Thou shalt vote, and thus thou shalt be free.

American and Muslim governments are very different. Americans believe in the freedom that is granted to us by the US Constitution—but Muslims believe in freedom too; a freedom that one has in their soul when they follow the Qu’ran. And while some Muslims may have a religion which asks non-believers to ‘submit or die,’ American democracy also is a religion which our soldiers fight and fall for, which our government evangelizes, and in which we believe.