Fort Hood and Swiss Minarets: The Existential Problem of Scorpions in a Bottle

Fort Hood and Swiss Minarets:  The Existential Problem of Scorpions in a Bottle

Tom Friedman is quite right in his New York Times op-ed piece of November 29th where he exclaims to Muslims: “Whenever something like Fort Hood happens you say, ‘This is not Islam.’ I believe that.  But you keep telling us what Islam isn’t.  You need to tell us what it is and show us how its positive interpretations are being promoted in your schools and mosques.  If this is not Islam, then why is it that a million Muslims will pour into the streets to protest Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but not one will take to the streets to protest Muslim suicide bombers who blow up other Muslims, real people, created in the image of God?  You need to explain that to us — and to yourselves.”

The reason why Muslims instinctively attack those who attack Islam but hesitate to attack Muslims who by their actions are un-Islamic is a sickness that I would call a monist identity crisis.  This is a denial of multiple identities, whereby a person can have several identities based on a core common to all of them. 

In my view, the major weaknesses of any person, community, or civilization in the world today is modern tribalism, which I define as an identity crisis derived from arrogance and from an underlying fear of the other, which leads to blind support of one’s own group.  This clearly explains Neo-Conservatism and its failure to promote an environment favorable to its own goals of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the world.  This same existential fear motivates many Muslims, who are too insecure to conceive of any expanded identity beyond one’s own tribe, whether it be Pakistani or merely Muslim.

When some Muslim commits a horrendous crime, the instinctive reaction of most other Muslims is a lame attempt to justify the motivation behind the crime or merely a lame excuse by saying “Don’t blame me.” The reaction should be to condemn the crime and the criminal as a threat to all of humanity, including themselves as Muslims.  This, however, violates the tribal instinct to defend one’s own, regardless of right or wrong.

Another development in the war against Islam and Muslims was highlighted, also today, November 29th, 2009, in the AP report from Geneva, Switzerland, by Alexander G. Higgins, entitled “Swiss Ban Mosque Minarets in Surprise Vote.” Its introductory paragraph reads” “Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on minarets on Sunday, barring construction of the iconic mosque towers in a surprise vote that put Switzerland at the forefront of a European backlash against a growing Muslim population.”

This constitutional prohibition automatically adopted by the landslide vote yesterday against building minarets in Switzerland poses three problems. 

The first is that this makes it difficult for the efforts by the Vatican and others involved in the Common Word dialogue movement to demand freedom for crosses (and churches) in Saudi Arabia.  This barrier to the Common Word dialogue is a setback, because any kind of religious extremism promotes more extremism in response until, as the old saying goes, we are all blind.

Secondly, the Swiss are not alone in their fear of Muslims and may be merely in the forefront of a rising global problem.  The biggest mosque in the Washington area, Dar al Hijra, enlisted my support to lobby for permission to build a minaret in the early 1990s.  Unfortunately, we had to settle for a tiny minaret hidden by newly planted trees so that no-one could see it from the main highway (Route 7, near Seven Corners). 

This was a no-win situation, because the local Muslims seemed to be exactly what the local residents feared, namely, narrow-minded foreigners who should have “gone home to where they belonged”.  When a neighborhood leader across the street wanted to greet the Muslims while they were building the mosque, the imam refused to let her in, because the Wahhabi religion prohibits non-Muslims where they do not belong, namely, in anything reserved exclusively for Muslims.  Unfortunately, to compound the problem, the local Muslims claimed to be not Wahhabis but representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, who oppose the Wahhabis.  In the eyes of most “informed” Americans at the time, the Ikhwan or Muslim Brotherhood represented a revolutionary form of Muslim political activism that arose as a modernist reaction to the secularist West but claimed to represent traditional Islam.  The Muslim denial that the mosque was a Wahhabi encroachment was regarded as typical Muslim hypocrisy supposedly justified by the Shi’a doctrine of taqiya or dissimulation, which, in turn, supposedly is designed to infiltrate and overthrow the government wherever Muslims have decided to take over a country.

At the time, I supported the local neighborhood leader in addressing parking problems in order to persuade her to drop her suit against further construction of the mosque, and I even went further by offering to buy her property and house across the street and give her a cut in the parking fees from the construction of an office building and five-story parking facility on her former property.  She accepted this enthusiastically, even though I had no authority to make the offer, which I dreamed up out of thin air on the spur of the moment.  The mosque was built, but we never bought her property, because eventually she just wanted to get away from the Muslim threat. 

This was almost twenty years ago.  Most Muslims have wised up since then and now understand what it means to be an American, but the old history and the environment since 9/11 and Fort Hood and now in Europe still dominates politically.  I would estimate that a vote against building minarets in America would succeed even more so than it did in Switzerland and might even win in a campaign to add a similar prohibitory amendment to the American Constitution, as is the case now in Switzerland.

The third problem, so far only a potential one, is that Muslim outrage over the ban on building a minaret next to a mosque might trigger similar votes in other countries and result even in the prohibition of building mosques altogether.

The challenge both by and to Muslims is indicated by the response to my advocacy of a Fourth World War against extremists, including Muslims.  This is highly unpopular among Muslims, because I thereby appear to be joining the Islamophobes who invented the term “Fourth World War.” In fact, I am inviting them to join Muslims in fighting Muslim extremists whose actions are understandable but un-Islamic and therefore are a threat to everyone, including themselves. 

The low road of condemnation, however, does not get us very far and is inferior to the high road, which is to emphasize the positive in Islam and every world religion as the best way to counter extremism.  The Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam, as I remember, once shocked his listeners by saying, in true Sufi style, that one should support the wrongdoers.  When his listeners were shocked, he explained that one should support the wrong doers by showing them what is right.  This is what the Fourth World War should be all about.  Our challenge is to recruit Muslims and others to join us in a Fourth World War against the extremists of every tribe who are now caught in a bottle like scorpions with no alternative but to destroy each other.