Monday, December 17, 2007

Sword of faith

I have encountered a gentleman, who suggested to me, that, perhaps, mohammedanism is a non-violent religion when it is true to its core beliefs; certainly there are adherents, whom, in their personal lives are above reproach in this area, and can quote appropriate koranic passages as proof texts. We all know many examples, even in our circles of acquaintances and, perhaps our own selves, who are violent and follow other beliefs, that we claim, to be pacific.

When one sees the Sa'udi flag, other than the background moslem green, one sees the calligraphic thuluth script, the shahadah: There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger, and beneath it a sword. That specific sword commemorates Ibn Sa'ud, but most people can not know that. Recently, the sa'udi king presented the pope with a sword. This is the sword of victorious conflict. People see a sword and it refers to what a sword naturally refers to. That is only one item, but let us proceed, that flag is even more totemic than other flags. Since, the holy words are presented, it must be able to be read correctly from both sides, so two flags are sown together. In the US the flag is made into an idol, it is more so with the Sa'udis. Careful behavior must not go beyond the proscribed limits or hell will be raised. Historically, the arab tribes were fetishists, as the content of the ka'ba testified. One can pose this as a continuity.

In secular [sic] Turkey, yesterday, 16 December, another Catholic priest has been attacked, stabbed in Izmir (Smyrna). He flaunted his presence in a church. Anatolia, once the home of some of the most ancient christian communities, is being "cleansed" by these provocations. Even criticism and exposure of such acts are dangerous, after all would not a cryptic greek say such things.

Within the sufi tradition there is a peaceful mysticism, but do mohammedans accept this as normative? or are sufis only tolerated when they are physically distant? Can the genesis of mohammedan belief be considered non-violently. Certainly, the rapid spread of the faith was spread by the sword and only stopped by military force: Charles Martel 732/3 at Tours/Poitiers, Spain was not finally freed from the Moors until 1492, the Turkish advance failed to break a siege at Vienna in 1529, the naval power of the Turks was destroyed at Lepanto in 1571 with fleets combined under Don Juan of Austria, and outside Vienna, in 1683, Jan Sobieski defeated and stopped the Turks. Since then they have not been expanding, but no one has ever considered them peaceful.

With danish cartoons, Salman Rushdie's writing, a dutch film, Benedict's citing academically a mediaeval quotation, a stuffed toy, night time rioting in France ... the extreme response is so easily elicited, it can be no surprise for someone to doubt the inherent peacefulness of islam. Especially, when the caveat, that the faith and the prophet must be defended and never insulted, is violently put into force.

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