Saturday, March 27, 2004

Harvard International Review
No More Crusades
Rethinking Islam in the West

by Bruce B. Lawrence

"Since September 11, the "Clash of Civilizations" theory has dominated and incorporated all others. It seems to explain Muslim-Western hostility as both ancient and irreversible. It is neither. This enmity is made by humans and thus can be unmade by humans."

Points covered in the article:
..What is needed to advance beyond pseudo-dialectics and interminable warfare is a double critique-internal and external-that must begin with the symbolic event that haunts the memory of Christians and Muslims alike: the Crusades.

..Who are today's Crusaders? (Read and you may be surprised).

....Crusader logic is matched by Islamist, or Islamic extremist, rhetoric. Those [9-11] planes were meant not only to destroy buildings and to kill people, but also to send a message to the largest possible audience through modern media. The message was as stark as it was simple: the United States is the enemy of Islam, and the core of the United States is business that is privileged by the capitalist world system.

..We do need religious voices to speak to the current fault line between East and West, Islam and America, and it is Muslim pluralists who are the philosophers and religious thinkers with whom non-Muslim others can and should make common cause.

..To make a plural world safe both for democratic citizens and religious rivals demands nothing less than a hardy inter-faith coalition of good-willed Abrahamic advocates. The only victory that counts in the war on terror will come off the battlefield, in the minds and hearts of moral combatants who recognize their internal enemies as well as their external foes.

..Without attention to the fault lines of human caprice, including those within the churches, there can be neither peace nor its necessary concomitant, sustained Muslim-Christian cooperation, which also includes Jews and Buddhists along with others dedicated to pursuit of the collective good. It is a jihad, in the truest sense, a struggle against our own demons as well as others. It prohibits a Crusade. Indeed, it will only succeed when Crusades, Crusaders and Crusading have been understood for what they are: a bygone chapter of world history not to be repeated, except as a cautionary tale, for our own and for all future generations.
Questions about Iraq

There is excellent commentary about Iraq and the war on terror at Rodger A. Payne's blog this week.
On March 24th, Professor Payne said the real debate over Iraq remains, asking:
Can a nation like Iraq be democratized by toppling a despotic regime and "building" a new nation from the rubble?

Was military force the best way to do this?

-- Did the attack set a dangerous precedent and potentially legitimize similar uses of violence by other states that will make the world a much less safe place?

-- Will the use of military force without wide international support create so much backlash throughout the Islamic world that the forces of terror are substantially strengthened by this move?

How long will it take to democratize Iraq?

Can a democratic Iraq trigger a democratic domino effect throughout the region?

Why begin with Iraq? What if the US had put strong (non-violent) public pressure on other states -- like Saudi Arabia? Or Egypt?
Professor Payne also shares my fascination with the Republicans suddenly embracing transparency.
Harvard International Review
Religion and International Affairs

In the most current issue of the Harvard International Review, religion's role in international affairs is in focus.

From the Review:

Beginning with questions of religious radicalism, Karen Armstrong examines the forces behind the global surge in religious fundamentalism, while Mark Juergensmeyer describes religious violence against the secular state. Next, Symeon Giannakos provides a case study tracing the development of religious and statist identities in Southeast Europe. Keeping the pitfalls of civilizationalisms firmly in mind, Jonathan Fox draws on statistical evidence to show that religious factors are not the primary cause of ethnic conflict. Turning at last to ways in which religiosity can benefit the international order, David Smock evaluates the role of faith-based non-governmental organizations in peacemaking, and Robert Barro investigates the correlation between religion and economic growth.

Also, see No More Crusades- Rethinking Islam in the West by Bruce B. Lawrence.