Friday, January 21, 2005

Why Do Muslims Hate Us?:

The answer may surprise you. According to Mustafa Akyol, writing in the American Enterprise:
The first answer from someone like me, who is repulsed by terrorists who kill in the name of Islam, is that most of us do not hate you. Yet it must be acknowledged that radical Muslim rage is real in many countries.
Akyol goes on to explain that a major source of this rage is the moral decadence of American society as communicated by Hollywood and other media:
This distaste derives not only from culture but also from ideas. When ‘Western ideas’ are mentioned, many Muslims think not of Jefferson, C. S. Lewis, Lincoln, or Burke, but rather of Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, and Carl Sagan. The behavior of some Westernized local elites in Muslim countries makes the situation even worse. In my country of Turkey, one popular stereotype of the Westernized Turk is of the soulless, skirt- and money-chasing man drinking whiskey while swearing at Islam. Although a caricature, it carries enough truth to further a bad image of the West. . . .

Obviously, that is a distortion of the truth. America stands out in the Western world as ‘a nation under God,’ particularly compared to ‘Old Europe.’ The aggressive secularism ofEurope is one reason why European Muslims are especially radicalized. (Another spur is the lesser opportunities for upward mobility in Europe as compared to America.) As a Muslim, I feel at home in America when I see people saying grace at the table, praising the Lord, filling houses of worship, and handling currency inscribed ‘In God We Trust.’ When I’m in Europe, on the other hand, with its empty cathedrals, widespread atheism, and joyless cynicism, I feel alienated.

Here's Akyol's advice on what can be done:
To erase this false image, America must help Muslims see that it is indeed a nation under God. The culture it exports should celebrate more than materialism, disbelief, selfishness, and hedonism. America must do a better job of portraying the principles of decency that undergird its society. Otherwise it will be despised by devout Muslims throughout the world, and radicals will channel contempt into violence. Of course, avoiding radical Islamist rage is only one reason for Americans to resist empty materialism. A deeper reason is that materialism is a mistaken philosophy. If they will save themselves from its disappointments, Americans will enjoy many benefits—including a better chance to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, and avert a clash of civilizations.”
All in all, very prudent advice. The trick is to send (and embody) this message in a way that does not -- as I pointed out in my post "America Is Not the Church" -- fall into the trap of misrepresenting the United States as a substitute for the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In other words, an America that aspires to be faithful as well as tolerant is an America that really would have much to teach the world, not the least of which would be the virtues of a chastened government that does not take its self too seriously and therefore is not afraid to acknowledge that only God is God.

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