Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Islam's Prophet and America's Profit - two radical fundamentalisms

To many people - wise and foolish, it seems that America is locked in a struggle with Islam or at the very least with the radical elements of Islam. The question is whether this conflict will be limited in time and intensity or whether it will erupt into an all out battle to the death.

I do not propose to enter into that debate. I would simply like to point out that there is a direct correlation between the likelihood of struggle and the degree of radical fundamentalism. When you look at the Muslim citizens of American it is hard to find a radical majority. Most Muslim Americans are proud to be American and vigorously self police their community for signs of terrorism. Show a group of Islamic parents walking their children to mosque and you will be hard pressed to get the average American to declare them mortal enemies.

However, present that same American an image of raging Pakistani youth burning an American flag or stoning rape victims to death and you will quickly reach a consensus that “those” people are dangerous and must be confronted totally.
So we have established that a radical fundamentalist response is met much more forcefully than a more measured one. The higher the degree of fundamentalist fervor the higher the antagonism towards the group. We see that relationship between Islam and the American public. Let is now turn the mirror on ourselves. Do we present any degree of radical fundamentalism to the Muslim world?

Some might argue that we do offer a fundamental Christian view to the world. I do not think that is true enough to be a general statement. Some may argue that we present a fundamentally western view. Now, that is closer to truth and frankly I am perfectly satisfied to be tied to the western principles of the enlightenment.

However, I would argue that America may adhere to enlightened principles in law and society but they hold closer to an even higher god. That god is capitalism. Not just capitalism but a radical fundamental view of capitalism that stands at the very core of our values. No cry of heresy is hurled as loudly as that of being against the free market. No profanity can reach the staining power of socialist.  No violation of morality or social justice is unredeemd by a healthy income statement. Yet we do not see ourselves as radical nor fundamental.

America complains about the insanity of the Muslim extremist who follows the word of the Prophet Mohammed to any excess. Yet American worships our own prophet – Profit and we are every bit as radical in its defense – we destroy environments, cultures, entire civilizations in the holy name of Profit. We parade 12 year old girls in lingerie ads in the name of Profit. We send entire communities into poverty and despair when we ship their jobs overseas in the name of Profit. Profit is holy and Profit is an answer unto itself.

We build temples to Profit - our very homes are measured by how much profit they represent. Our careers are measured in Profit. We earnestly declare that no scientist would want to cure cancer if it did not end in Profit. Our coal is mined and cars built with a keen balance being kept between the cost of funerals and bottom line Profit. Liberal arts have withered to ghost presences on our campus because they yield no Profit. Profit – holy Profit – it is the ghost in the machine of American culture.

The Islamic world values sanctity and order and worships their Prophet. America values capitalism and freedom and worships our Profit. Two zealots locked in a battle of heresies do not bode well for compromise. We need to realize how our own radicalism threatens their world before we expect them to abandon their own fundamentalism. One irrational radical fundamental fanaticism deserves another.  If there is any hope of coexistence, we need to recognize our own orthodoxies.

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