Monday, December 20, 2004

Muslim Secularism…or the Lack Thereof

Henryk Broder is one of my favorite Germans…he belongs to one of the 20% of Germans who was happy to see Bush win.

Every week he has a small radio commentary, which you can listen to online at his website.

On the 19th of Novembers he showed discussed the situation of Muslims in Germany:
Heiliger Bimbam !19. November 2004
Auch wenn man mit Religion nichts am Hut hat, scheint es doch wahnsinnig wichtig zu sein, wie der Gott heißt, an den man nicht glaubt. In den vergangenen Tagen wurde mit einer Leidenschaft über die Muslime in Deutschland diskutiert, als wären sie alle erst letzte Woche zu uns gekommen.

[Translation:
Holy Cow!
Even if you don’t care about religion, it really seems nevertheless important, how the god is called, in which one doesn’t believe. In the last few days, Muslims in Germany were talked about with such a passion, as if they only just arrived here last week.]

Let me give some background: Germany is trying to deal with the conflicts of having mixed religions in their society with many different tactics, one minister even going so far as to suggest a Islamic public holiday in Germany. In the following audio report, Broder summed up the biggest problem with Muslims in Germany:

“There is a secular Christian culture, there is a secular Jewish culture, but there is no secular Islam. There is banal naïve differentiation, between Islam and Islamismus [a German word, which when literally translated means: “Islamism”], which is reminiscent of the differentiation between communism and a totalitarian government. The former in both may have been a good idea, but the second lost the plot.

He continues: “the problem with Islam, which was formerly a problem with other religions too, is the interpretation of God’s word. In religions where it is interpreted as symbolic and metaphorical, then you can live with it. In religions were it is directly interpreted, it leads to catastrophes.”

He went on to cite and example in Israel, where the Orthodox right protested against a yogurt company, because they had put dinosaurs on their packaging, in an attempt to attract youngsters to eat their product, with an explanation about dinosaurs, including the fact that they lived 100 million years ago; according the Jewish belief, dinosaurs couldn’t have existed, because the existence of the Earth only goes back about 5000 years. There was a big conflict, but in the end the orthodox Jews lost, and it has since just become an amusing anecdote. Broder summed it up by saying, it’s all a question of how society reacts.

He took the example of the promise of 72 virgins “available” for all Muslims, (not just martyrs) upon arriving in Heaven. He said, he has yet to hear the Muslim community to refute this as just being symbolic. In addition he said there has been no Muslim counterpart, to Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

I thought this was all very interesting. Basically saying there wasn’t enough introspection in Islam. And there is no Muslim country, which “practices” a secular Islam…the closest example being Jordan, which still doesn’t compare to it’s Christian or Jewish secular counterparts.

When I was listening to this, I remembered the group Free Muslim Coalition who is promoting the secularization of Muslim culture. They had an interesting article on their website discussing

10 Comments:

Blogger Abdusalaam said...

As I see it, the problem with Muslims and Islam that many Americans and Western Europeans seem to have is not whether there does or doesn't exist a secular Islam. The problem is, why aren't they like us? Why do they, the Muslims, have to be so different? Why can't they be like us? And above all, why do they have to be so close to us? This last part is the most crucial question. Even the Bushmen of Africa are different, but not many people have a problem with them, now do they?

It's not just that they, the muslims, are different; the real issue here is their proximity, their ever increasing presence in Europe and America, which is at the heart of the problem.

9:12 AM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

Abdusalaam,

I was reading a post at your website, and you talked about the possible of secession of the minority from the majority...and you took the example of joining Green Peace, and perhaps not agreeing with their way of governing...and then the choices of a member would then be to leave the club and find another, or leave the club or start another (which isn't possible with countries).

So, if you were to see a country as a group of people with matching goals to some extent, I would say that when you immigrate into a country, that you should choose this country according to how much you agree with their "mission statement". If you don't like the m.s. you can suggests changes, but if the majority isn't for it, you have to perhaps find another country (easier said than done) which more matches your goals, or try to adapt yourself to the country's m.s.

However, I believe that if someone comes to a country, and is thus the minority, they have chosen to join this country and also should agree with the majority of the country's goals.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Abdusalaam said...

"...leave the club and find another, or leave the club or start another (which isn't possible with countries)."

Why do you say it isn't possible? I don't see any reason why people shoudln't be able to form a new country or leave their parent country and join some other country. The only reason I think people aren't able to do it is because the majority(numerical or otherwise) of a country, fearing decrease in power and prestige, doesn't allow the minority to do so.

As an Indian(Not from kashmir) I ask the same question to my Indian brothers: why can't the Kashmiris secede from India and form another new country or join Pakistan if they want to? By what right do we deny them their freedom? I never get a good answer.

And it's the same thing--as far as I know--with the Basque people in Spain; Irish in the northern Ireland; Chechens in Russia, and elsewhere.

As far as the rest of your comment goes, I agree with it whole heartedly. But only under the condition people have the freedom to secede and form new countries or join already existing countries. And if not, as the saying goes, 'Freedom isn't given, it's taken.' Or did I just make that saying up? LOL. Kidding aside, I'm sure you know what I mean.

1:01 AM  
Blogger ac blue eagle said...

I think I started trying to say this: the Muslim business about meeting 72 virgins in heaven! That has to be totally nuts! I like girls, especially pretty ones, but the idea of 72 virgins, well, all I can say that would be like doing something like trying to make the Guiness Book or World Records--or getting to the grave early. I mean does that make any sense at all? Of couse, there probably is something about being super human if you follow all the rules of the Muslim religion, which would make that 72 virgin deal possible.

3:27 AM  
Blogger ac blue eagle said...

I've tried to publish this on your blog site several times. One more time: I just said after reading your blog on Muslims, I know little about Muslims or their religion. But! But, when I hear this business about Muslims getting to have 72 virgins when they go to heaven, I have to ask myself: 72 virgins! I mean, I like pretty girls, don't get me wrong but 72 virgins! I'd have to be trying to get into the Guiness Book of World Records or worry about getting a heart attack trying something like that. I mean if that really is a belief of their religion, there must be some other part of their religion explaining what you have to eat before you get to heaven to prepare to handle all those firgins!

3:42 AM  
Blogger ac blue eagle said...

One more time: this may show up several more times--because I wrote the ideas, hit publish and nothing happened.
Anyway, I just noted that I've heard the business about a Muslim dying and meeting 72 virgins when he goes through the pearly gates, or whatever Muslims call it. When I hear that 72 virgins, I think to myself, I do appreciate a pretty girl, and I might like looking at 72 of them--but doing what the Muslims suggest, well... I'd either be trying for the Guiness Book of World Records or a heart attack. I mean, they cannot be serious. Of course, there is probably somewhere in their Bible or whatever they call it that explains what diet they have to be on on earth in order to handle the 72 virgins and still be in good heavenly health.

4:18 AM  
Blogger Abdusalaam said...

Apparently for some people Islam starts and ends with 72 virgins.

Anyways, in an effort to do my part, in bridging the gap between people of different faiths. I'm going to put forward a few clarifications regarding the concept of virgins in Islam.

The whole concept of virgins in heaven, in my opinion, is among the most known, as well as the most misunderstood concept of Islam today. It's so widespread that even many Muslims are unaware of the truth.

So to start off, it's true God has promised virgins, or the Arabic word 'Hoor,' as one of many blessings in heaven for the righteous. And it's not just for martyrs, which seems to be the commonly held belief, but for all those will go to heaven; even women.

Now the misunderstanding arises at the use of the word virgins. In English, as I’ve observed, we generally use the word virgin for un-wed chaste women. And this is how the word is generally understood when we read or hear about the concept of virgins in Islam.

But what many fail to realize is that, what makes those heavenly beings virgins is not that they are chaste women or maidens or whatever. But what makes them virgins is the fact they have not been seen, heard or even sensed by anybody outside the confines of heaven/paradise. Nobody knows what those heavenly beings are. It is there un-knowability, to coin a term, which makes them virgins.

We all must be aware; the word virgin is used in different contexts to mean different things. For instance, Virgin Olives. As far as I'm aware of, the term has no sexual connotations.

In Islam, it is said, heaven/paradise is a place unlike anybody has seen or could even imagine. So to think Hoor/virgins are women is to claim you know what paradise is like. We're not even sure if in heaven, we humans will be like what we are on this earth.

I'm sure there is a similar understanding of heaven among some Christians.

At any rate, to say there are maiden girls for sex in heaven is to claim to know the unseen and the unknown. All we know is that there are heavenly beings called Hoor/virgins, which will serve as companions. And in what way? Nobody knows.

Now, one can fantasize all he wants. But the reality of the matter is--whatever we cook up in our heads, it will be just that, a figment of our imaginations.

So there you have it. If you care enough about the topic and wish to discuss it further to get a better understanding, then I'm open to any questions or remarks you might have. But please, no counter arguments for the sake of argument. If you don't buy my interpretation then it's fine with me. I'm not looking to convince anybody here.

9:43 AM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

Definately no counter argument for argument's sake...I am pretty satisfied. And genuine thanks for the clarification. It's a pity that it is buried in the comments section...that's worthy of a post of its own.

10:51 AM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

Definately no counter argument for argument's sake...I am pretty satisfied. And genuine thanks for the clarification. It's a pity that it is buried in the comments section...that's worthy of a post of its own.

10:51 AM  
Blogger ac blue eagle said...

My only comment is the way the 72 virgins business is generally presented in news casts etc., is not the way you explain it at all. Thanks for your explanation. A different point of view.
As to concerns about Muslims becoming a majority or growing in numbers in some countries, my comment is: so what. The US always has influxes of populations from countries all over the world. Right now the fastest growning group is the Spanish/Mexican. I do not object to any of these groups or their religions as long as they take the American view point, which in my mind means tolerance for others of other beliefs--as long as those beliefs do not infringe upon my beliefs or the way I want to believe or act or be.
One of the great things about the US is its great diversity of people and religions.

2:28 PM  

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