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Old 10-08-2005, 09:08 AM   #46
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Hello all! Yolland and Irvine, what an interesting discussion, a lot of substance here.

A few thoughts, if I may intsert them.

Regarding the conversion mandate within at least Christianity and Islam (feel free to correct me, but I don't think Judaism has an equivilant--can any Jewish FYMer help me on this?), I think this content of those faiths can readily become conflict-generating. I think this has a lot to do with the approach taken, especially by political and religious leadership. I'm a "Preach the Gospel at all times--use words when necessary" kinda girl myself. But that's certainly not the case with everyone in the pews beside me, and certainly, as folks like Irvine and A-Wanderer have pointed out, it's not the case with some Muslim religious-political leadership. So certainly religion can be fuel for fire in that sense, but so can many other human institutions. I still maintain that if you look at the conflicts of the 19th-20th centuries, nationalism was a far more dangerous force (my view is a bit Western-centric here). I'd argue also that this has not change much in 2000=2005. LOL. We're in Iraq because of American identity folks.

And here's where Yolland hit on something totally essential to my mind: identity. It really can't be emphasized enough. Its power will outweigh "logic" every time. One of the most powerful conflict theories I have come across in my grad studies talks about identity formation and transformation in a conflict. It makes the well-established claim that identities can be evoked for political purposes (a la Milosovic). But it takes a step further in this one chapter I came arcross on identity transformation in societies which committed genocide to look at the merging of various identites. In every case, the author notes, "genocide" identities did not seperate between the poltiical, the ethnic and the religious. You were not, for example, a Serb, and a Christian, and a member of X party seperately. You were all three--they were inherently intertwined. By contrast, you can be an American without being a member of any one party (Karl Rove's implications aside ), you can be American and be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, for most folks Muslim LOL. (Reason #456, 798,123 that state and church are best seperate!) t was the merging of those identities that made it such a powerful force, the author aruged, because when it was threatened, there was no other identity to relate to and feel secure in. Add that to economic hardship with the structural violence of one group holding the wealth and power, and the other group not, and there you go. 800,000 people slaughtered by machete in a month.

I should address structural violence further, because I think it's critical to understanding the problem of terrorism, but I've worn myself out. Thanks for listening.
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Old 10-08-2005, 10:43 AM   #47
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Originally posted by A_Wanderer
I think that insight into the motivation of Islamists can be found by looking at their statements and sermons, although they seem to be talking like supermacists who advocate empire and not the anti-imperialists that some have painted them to be.We can have peace any time if we want too, that peace is submission.


i think this is a concise way of putting what i was getting at -- while the problems of the arab world are many, and many arabs are rightly focused on terrible Western policies that make their lives worse, and while i fully believe that Iraq was a mistake, i do think that it is a mistake (if we are to, say, take the Gorgeous George Galloway view of the world) that card-carrying members of AQ willing to bring bombs on the underground are simply anti-imperialist, socialist freedom fighter folk.

they're not.

that's my main point. and, one step further, i think it is the presence of religion that transforms one from a (for example) Shining Path mercenary into someone willing to fly an airplane into a buildling.
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Old 10-08-2005, 11:05 AM   #48
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Originally posted by yolland
[B]Still, it's important to note that "this particular brand" is a small subgroup of Islamists (let alone Muslims), and IMO it's also a mistake to assume (as some do) that all Muslim suicide attackers must be motivated primarily by this philosophy, just because their propagandists idealize it that way.
yes, i fully agree. if i didn't make that point strongly enough, i apologize. i also find it sad that these murderous few detract and distort the very legitimate complaints about Western policy in the Middle East that actually are the source of much Arab suffering.

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If the Monsignor were Jewish, I doubt he'd find the Holocaust "less sinister"! Seriously, I see no meaningful moral distinction here. A person willing to kill an entire race is not innately less evil than one willing to kill everyone not of their own. The former goal may be more "realistic," but that hardly makes it less sinister. Anyhow, even bin Laden's stated goals are quite a bit more focused than "kill all non-Muslims," tributes to the diversity of WTC victims notwithstanding.
i sort of anticipated this ... we are in very murky waters, and honestly, making such minute distinctions is going to be pretty impossible on this forum. it might be something we could talk our ways through, but i think it might be impossible to comb our way through the various evils of history and make distinctions between the two. i think the only distinction i would feel comfortable returning to -- and it's not that this distinction offers comfort, at all, since they both produce dead innocents -- is that the nazis were concerned with this world, and the islamists are concerned with the next.

how that distinction functions ... i dunno, needs more thought.

though i would say that the closest secular parallel to Islamism is Nazism.

and, like you, i don't feel qualified to answer some of the questions put forth.

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Also, this reasoning seems to suggest that Nazism was some sort of rational, pragmatic worldview, which is very very far from the case.
let me just toss this out -- there are some postmodernists find what's known as "the insoluble question: is this where modern rationalism leads, to the holocaust? can the view of, as you say, Jews-as-pestilance be explained or at least understood as the end result of a series of rationalistic decisions? might this be an example, then, of where religion becomes a necessary humanizing, empathy-creating agent -- we are all from god -- that might prevent the creation of death factories in the future?

i suppose i'm trying to say that the holocaust might be viewed as an example of modern rationalism at it's ultimately irrational conclusion.

perhaps the religions irrationalism of the islamists is sort of the filp side of this same coin?

i dunno ... thems just thoughts.


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Well, I certainly prefer a secular state myself. I'm afraid the jury may still be out on how effective it really is in preventing the emergence of militant fundamentalisms, though. It's not enough to observe that we don't (yet?) have that problem here--there are too many other variables playing into the equation. And we do seem to be moving into an era, God forbid, where whether or not such groups enjoy government support matters less and less to how "successful" they can be. But then who is to blame for weapons proliferation?
all very interesting points.

am very much enjoying this discussion.



lots to think about.
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Old 10-08-2005, 11:29 AM   #49
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Originally posted by Sherry Darling
as folks like Irvine and A-Wanderer have pointed out, it's not the case with some Muslim religious-political leadership. So certainly religion can be fuel for fire in that sense, but so can many other human institutions. I still maintain that if you look at the conflicts of the 19th-20th centuries, nationalism was a far more dangerous force (my view is a bit Western-centric here). I'd argue also that this has not change much in 2000=2005. LOL. We're in Iraq because of American identity folks.
very good points. i think i would just raise the point that, yes, you're absolutely right, that WW1 and WW2 were not religious wars, and certainly the latter was the tragic era of the past ... well, perhaps ever since off the top of my head i can't think of another conflict that was truly global, resulted in at least 50m dead, and ended with the sound of two atomic bombs.

however, might the damage have been worse if, say, it was about religion? if the nazis had viewed death as sublime, if martyrdom was part of the ethos of being a good German? if a secular conflict -- where goals are rooted in this world and where your average soldier has been plucked from a town where he has a family and loves his wife and children and really just wants to go back to work and that being a soldier is a matter of national duty not divine calling -- can lead us to and through WW2, where might an irrational religious conflict take us espeically in the age of equally irrational weapons like nuclear bombs?

this gets at what, i think, is the scariest scenario: the planting of a nuclear/dirty bomb in the middle of NYC, London, Paris, etc.

looking back at the Cold War, one of the many things that, i think, prevented any sort of nuclear attack was that both the Americans and the Soviets wake up every day and love their children and what they have in this world. i don't think your most extreme islamist loves anything in this world; i think, to them, this world is simply immaterial, and so are all the other people who live in it. the feeling of being in the world but not of it -- and we see this attitude in some American Christians as well, including some people who post on this board that a true Christian is really not of this world -- is what produces a mentality able to embrace apocalyptic, nihilistic solutions to real world problems.

say what you will about it, the dropping of bombs on hiroshima and nagasaki were the end results of a series of logical decisions; the goal was not to incinerate japanese citizens as a end, but that the incineration of japanese cities would accomplish several rational goals (i.e., scare the soviets, prevent an invasion of the island that might result in 800,000 deaths) that might end the conflict. it's death as a means not as an end in and of itself; where as i think islamism uses death as both a means and an ends precisely because of religion and it's posited ties to the absolute, the unchanging, the infinite.

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It was the merging of those identities that made it such a powerful force, the author aruged, because when it was threatened, there was no other identity to relate to and feel secure in. Add that to economic hardship with the structural violence of one group holding the wealth and power, and the other group not, and there you go. 800,000 people slaughtered by machete in a month.
very interesting -- we totally agree about the importance of identity, though i would argue that a secular identity is likely to produce less deadly results than a religious identity. and, of course, the best leaders know this so they purposefully conflate the two.
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Old 10-08-2005, 06:05 PM   #50
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Hi guys--please excuse the terseness of what follows, I've exams to grade and a presentation to write, and may have to bow out of this for a bit...
Quote:
Originally posted by Sherry Darling
Regarding the conversion mandate within at least Christianity and Islam (feel free to correct me, but I don't think Judaism has an equivilant--can any Jewish FYMer help me on this?)...
Right, we don't proselytize, if that's what you mean. Nor--which I think *may* be significant here--do we accept the notion of original sin, so we don't believe that following God's covenant with the Jews is an everyone-do-this-or-else-go-to-hell proposition. (I'm NOT suggesting all Christians or Muslims take the doctrine of original sin to mean that, I want to make that clear.)
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One of the most powerful conflict theories I have come across in my grad studies talks about identity formation and transformation in a conflict...In every case, the author notes, "genocide" identities did not seperate between the poltiical, the ethnic and the religious...By contrast, you can be an American without being a member of any one party (Karl Rove's implications aside ), you can be American and be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, for most folks Muslim LOL...It was the merging of those identities that made it such a powerful force, the author aruged, because when it was threatened, there was no other identity to relate to and feel secure in.
Hobsbawm? Anderson? Huntington (ugh)? Help me out here, I'm getting deja vu but can't place this theory to a name...Anyway, yes, American national identity is obviously a special beast in this regard. HOWEVER, I do not share this author's total (?)confidence that under the "right" future circumstances, the obvious prevalence of Christian cultural influence within our tradition could not be tapped as an excuse to narrow that identity. Very unlikely, but possible. It was not, after all, the *intention* of the Founding Fathers to obliterate European-style nationalism...though they certainly threw a wrench into its m.o.
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Originally posted by Irvine511
do think that it is a mistake... that card-carrying members of AQ willing to bring bombs on the underground are simply anti-imperialist, socialist freedom fighter folk.
that's my main point. and, one step further, i think it is the presence of religion that transforms one from a (for example) Shining Path mercenary into someone willing to fly an airplane into a buildling.
Erm...I think perhaps you and A_W both misunderstood me then, because I would NEVER describe al-Qaeda as "freedom fighters." I referred to anti-imperialism in the context of the overall development of Islamism...which is a huge, bewilderingly diverse and complicated animal, not a simple hair-trigger fundmentalist cult. I don't appreciate culling soundbites from individual militant fanatics as "proof" that I'm some sort of naive ignoramus when it comes to the role of Islamism in present conflicts. After all, one could quote plenty of disgusting, bigoted filth from militant settler Zionists and present it as "here's what Zionism REALLY is!" too, but I would hope that's not how the world judges how to handle Israel/Palestine.

Are you aware that it was the (secular) Tamil Tigers who invented suicide bombing, and who still--not by much, admittedly--hold the dubious record for most people killed this way by any one group? Yes, I know their scope is limited to the Sinhalese...but then Hinduism in general (and its Dravidian, South Indian form in particular) has never commanded a global empire, nor the grievances associated with its collapse. Difference in scope, yes; in strength and persistence of motivation to kill...I am not so sure, myself.

Of course, the Tigers are not going to plant a nuclear bomb in their own home. I *could* see the Kashmir conflict coming to nuclear war, though, God forbid. Would this be fueled by militant fundamentalism? Depends on which party starts it; there is more than enough precedent for nationalism alone becoming the trigger. Would the result be any worse if it was a "God bomb?" No. Mass death is mass death.
Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
looking back at the Cold War, one of the many things that, i think, prevented any sort of nuclear attack was that both the Americans and the Soviets wake up every day and love their children and what they have in this world. i don't think your most extreme islamist loves anything in this world; i think, to them, this world is simply immaterial, and so are all the other people who live in it. the feeling of being in the world but not of it -- and we see this attitude in some American Christians as well, including some people who post on this board that a true Christian is really not of this world -- is what produces a mentality able to embrace apocalyptic, nihilistic solutions to real world problems.
That is a powerful statement and I am not sure what to say to it, honestly. I have never at any point denied that "fundamentalism + failed states + the grievances (just or otherwise) of an empire lost" is more dangerous than any of those in isolation. Of course it is. You misunderstood me if you thought I meant otherwise, and perhaps that is my fault.

Remember, this all started because I was offended that a simple holiday wish cannot be offered without it turning into a meditation on the divisive evils of religion. And I continue to find it deeply troubling that we (collectively) are so much more ready to see that potential in Islam than elsewhere. That is not prudence; that is not rationalism; that is not the way towards the desperately needed global cooperation on this issue.

I am too pragmatic and world-weary to imagine that we will ever tame the forces that tell us who we are and what we belong to into a state where they are invulnerable to being perverted and warped. But I am certain that the best solution doesn't lie with Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld or Hitchens.

One last note, Irvine...the postmodern theory of the Holocaust is one I'm familiar with, but again feel unqualified to evaluate. I will say, though, that as a Jew, one of the lessons of it for me is that "your secularism will not protect you." Could religion have stopped it...I doubt it. My religion teaches that our job in this world (and Jews generally spend little time contemplating what comes after it...that will be another covenant and a whole different sort of revelation) is to work together with God on tikkun olam, the work of loving and healing a broken world. God needs and wants our help in this endeavor, and we are his partners as much as his subjects. But God cannot force us to listen, nor control how we choose to understand the message. Nonethless, the obligation to participate in this work is there; it is inherent in the universe; and I believe that the destination it means to lead us towards is merciful and just. That is how I find meaning in the deaths of six million people. I know no other way.
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Old 10-08-2005, 11:27 PM   #51
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You know, it just occurred to me that the proposed connection point of religion to apocalyptic violence has shifted in the last several posts from "access to the divine and the infinite" to something much more specific: a preoccupation with the afterlife. And here, perhaps, is another way in which my own religious background might be predisposing me to interpret things differently. As I mentioned in passing, while most Jews do hold vague notions of some type of afterlife or another, we don't collectively dwell much on this topic, nor do we generally regard it as a crucial aspect of our faith. I don't know, Irvine, if you were raised to believe in an afterlife or not, but perhaps this could be another point of divergence in our interpretive tendencies.

I might also add that something *roughly* similar is true of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, the three most...how shall I say?...politically salient religions of the East. All three subscribe to a belief in cyclical reincarnation (and a goal of transcending that), but none of them really have a tradition of martyrdom as a way of achieving that transcendence. That doesn't mean their adherents regard dying for one's faith as a waste (and neither do the Jews, for sure) but perhaps it does make for a different take on the connections between faith and violence.

Just a thought...
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Old 10-08-2005, 11:40 PM   #52
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Originally posted by yolland

Are you aware that it was the (secular) Tamil Tigers who invented suicide bombing, and who still--not by much, admittedly--hold the dubious record for most people killed this way by any one group? Yes, I know their scope is limited to the Sinhalese...but then Hinduism in general (and its Dravidian, South Indian form in particular) has never commanded a global empire, nor the grievances associated with its collapse.
The Sinhalese are mostly Buddhist.

Otherwise, your point holds quite well.
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Old 10-08-2005, 11:45 PM   #53
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Originally posted by yolland

I might also add that something *roughly* similar is true of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, the three most...how shall I say?...politically salient religions of the East. All three subscribe to a belief in cyclical reincarnation (and a goal of transcending that), but none of them really have a tradition of martyrdom as a way of achieving that transcendence.
But that is because their religion is relatively clear on how one is to liberate oneself from the cycles of rebirth. You cannot have a tradition of martyrdom within a religious thought that preaches, as for example, Buddhism does, that while all life is suffering, it is also possible to overcome it through a renunciation of attachment, desire, etc. Therefore, martyrdom cannot enter into the discussion reasonably, whereas if you look at Islam, for example, you can misinterpret certain teachings to advocate martyrdom. You really cannot misinterpret asceticism in the same way - it does not lend itself to that type of conclusion.
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Old 10-09-2005, 12:01 AM   #54
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The Sinhalese are mostly Buddhist.
Right, I meant "scope" in the sense of "intended target." Poor word choice, I guess.

Also, while I generally agree with you about the limitations asceticism places on martyrdom's appeal, the sad fact that some Sinhalese Buddhist monks have prominently figured in pro-government paramilitaries suggests that even Buddhism can be perverted into an incentive to violence.
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Old 10-09-2005, 07:55 PM   #55
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Erm...I think perhaps you and A_W both misunderstood me then, because I would NEVER describe al-Qaeda as "freedom fighters."
Wasn't thinking about you (sorry ) I was thinking along the lines of sanctimonious left-wing pricks like Phillip Adams (Australian radio host, media personality) who had the most sickening fawning interview with the blackshirted leader of Hizb ut Tahir in Australia where he presented the fascistic Islamist supremacist movement in the generic revolutionary terms, painting them as anti-Imperialists and in many ways allies of the secular and pluralist progressive left. It was pretty disgusting.

Same goes on for Michael Moore (minutemen) and George Galloway, Ken Livingstone, Aryan Nation (like we needed any more reason to hate those Nazis ~ factually correct) etc.
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Old 10-09-2005, 08:57 PM   #56
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^ OK; thanks for clearing that up. I appreciate that.

I would offer a comment or two on the rest of your post, but I'm afraid I live so far down the rabbit hole that I've yet to even see a Michael Moore flick let alone hear your man Adams. I've read some of Chomsky's petits propos, does that count?

I'm a bit puzzled how the Aryan Nation fits into that list though...
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Old 10-09-2005, 09:07 PM   #57
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Well they qualify on the shitlist of ideologies anyway but if they needed any additional reason check out this little article.

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/03/29/schuster.column/

But they are just meatheadded assholes anyway, the real danger is those who actually mistake the nature of these groups, the useful idiots if you will.
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Old 10-09-2005, 09:32 PM   #58
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Fuck, we actually hike in that exact same park whenever we go visit my mother.

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"The notion of radical Islamists from abroad actually getting together with American neo-Nazis I think is an absolutely frightening one," said Potok. "It's just that so far we really have no evidence at all to suggest this is any kind of real collaboration."

So while August Kreis may be calling, there is no sign that al Qaeda is listening.
Well, now there's a nice prospect.

Perhaps there's some silver lining after all to al-Qaeda's insistence on an army of true believers--it may mean they're that much less likely to broaden their influence through "enemy-of-my-enemy" type alliances...
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Old 10-10-2005, 06:43 AM   #59
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Originally posted by financeguy
Let's face it, they hate each other.

I look forward to the day when all Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other religious 'holy' days are abolished.
No they don't. I'm a Muslim and I don't hate anyone due to their faith. If you ask most people point blank if they inherently hate people of a certain faith, they'll say no. Theres a difference between hating the leadership of the Muslim world or Israel and hating the Muslim people or the Jewish people

Until WW2, Muslims and Jews lived in peace in Palestine/Israel. There have been many Muslim leaders who were friends of Christian leaders, but history doesn't point this out. The stuff that stands out in history is conflict.

Anyways, you shouldn't look at political groups (al-Qaeda, IRA, US govt., Israeli govt., Saudi govt., British govt., etc) as an example of how people who live under them/who are of the same faith act. You should actually go and meet some of these people instead. Keep it real.
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Old 10-10-2005, 07:09 AM   #60
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Originally posted by A_Wanderer

Well you know the old saying, John Lennon imagined - Pol Pot performed.

I think that insight into the motivation of Islamists can be found by looking at their statements and sermons, although they seem to be talking like supermacists who advocate empire and not the anti-imperialists that some have painted them to be.We can have peace any time if we want too, that peace is submission.
Quote:
Scott Atran: What can the West, especially the US, do to make the world more peaceful?
Abu Bakar Bashir: They have to stop fighting Islam. That's impossible because t is sunnatullah [destiny, a law of nature], as Allah has said in the Koran. If they want to have peace, they have to accept to be governed by Islam.
SA: What if they persist?
ABB: We'll keep fighting them and they'll lose. The batil [falsehood] will lose sooner or later. I sent a letter to Bush. I said that you'll lose and there is no point for you [to fight us]. This [concept] is found in the Koran.
...
SA: So this fight will never end?
ABB: Never. This fight is compulsory. Muslims who don't hate America sin. What I mean by America is George Bush's regime. There is no iman [belief] if one doesn't hate America.
SA: How can the American regime and its policies change?
ABB: We'll see. As long as there is no intention to fight us and Islam continues to grow there can be peace. This is the doctrine of Islam. Islam can't be ruled by others. Allah's law must stand above human law. There is no [example] of Islam and infidels, the right and the wrong, living together in peace.
Islam is not a superior religion, if I was so inclined it would probably be sitting down on my list with pentecostals and scientology.
Wow, you've really showed that you are a scholar of Islam by reading some fucking uneducated idiot's world view and applying it to Islam and to Muslims.

No Muslim who knows anything about their own religion believes that the US has to be governed by Islam. What is believed is that legitimate political leadership died years ago, both in the Muslim world and the rest of the world. But even that is beside the point, Islam isn't about believing something that happened in the past, or something will happen in the future. Its about loving your neighbour, its about being a good parent, spouse, sibling, and child; its about keeping your priorities in order so you don't get full of yourself or be hurtful to others.

Muhammad said once to his companions that now is the time for the big struggle (Jihad). And then his companions were confused, because they thought they were done fighting off the Quresh. And Muhammad responded that now its the time for the struggle within one's self. Theres no compulsory fight against the United States. Maybe if Muslims feel that certain things are sinful, they should not associate with it, or try to work with people to find a solution. Lives are precious to Muslims; a life is MORE precious than an idea. One of the basic teachings in Islam is if you killed one person, its like you killed all of humanity, and if you saved one person, its like you saved all of humanity.

This "Abu Bakar Bashir" guy is just a political nutball, who probably has a skewed view of the West, and of his own religion. He believes Islam is a ritual religion, that performing his 5 prayers a day makes him a good Muslim. He doesn't understand thats not Islam, its just a reminder. Islam is how you live your life day to day, how you interact with people, how you can make other lives better. This is what happens when someone is only taught "what" to do and not "why" they should do it. He also probably doesn't know that with all of the social freedoms in the West, as long as you have a strong will power, you can probably practice Islam (or any faith for that matter) better in the West than in the Muslim world. And when you practice Islam here, its truly from the heart, because a lot of the social pressures lead to assimilation of religious identity.

If you want to get some formal unbiased classes to learn a bit more about Islam, perhaps you might want to take a course from your local college/university (although I'm not sure how high quality it is-- the professors in University of Toronto do a very good job by trying to be objective as possible). You'd have to take something that goes deeper than teaching about the rituals of Islam however.

Anyways, I didn't mean to sound hostile, it just is slightly frustrating when people use someone with second-hand knowledge as a quote to make a point.

We need to CoeXisT
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