Sharia Law is a foundational element of Islam, yet in some of its more toxic forms, it doubles as a pox on modernity and on civilization itself and if the Western World doesn’t wake up soon enough, it will be too late to stop the momentum behind its enshrinement in many of our cities, states, and countries. This could happen quite innocently on our part, as just another idiocyncrasy of our constitutional commitment to religious tolerance, and we could easily accept Sharia Law without reservation or research as to its particulars. And yet Sharia itself isn’t really the problem. It is a key component to Islam and as such has been interpreted in wildly different ways by Islamic traditionalists than it has been by other Muslims such as fundamentalists, particularly terrorists.
Our religious tolerance–something we have every right to be proud of, but about which we must remain vigilant–is their “key to the city.” Note this comment made by Carl Jung, the great philosopher, in 1957, the year of his death: “Everywhere in the West there are subversive minorities who, sheltered by our humanitarianism and our sense of justice, hold the incendiary torches ready, with nothing to stop the spread of their ideas except the critical reason of a…stable stratum of the population.”
Jung lived in New York City at the time and I’m guessing that he was referring to Puerto Rico terrorists who were operating there and elsewhere (an attempted assassination of Harry Truman in 1950) in the ’50s. But that’s just a guess. Point is, our vulnerability to terrorists who fly in under our benign and benevolent radar, was clear even as early as 1957 to a sharp fellow like Jung.
Sharia aside, the salvation for Islam in the long run is a robust reformation as was experienced by Christianity some centuries ago. What reformation has done for Christians is to peel away the stranglehold that it had held for centuries over the body politic of the state, allowing nascent nations to breath, to move ahead, and in short, to modernize. It also served to blunt the literal readings of some older passages in the Bible as well as some in the New Testament that have been too often acted on via historical misinterpretation. For example, Revelations looks with great fear and consternation at the world of the first century in large part because of threats from the Roman’s attempted extermination of early Christianity and its followers. Commonly thought to be written by the Apostle John, tRevelations dealt with what were very real dangers then, but those threats are too often today generalized to apply to modern scenarios of which there are always an alarming abundance. But Revelations was not written for the 20th or 21st centuries, unless you are a literalist willing to project those time-specific “warnings” in any situation from now until the end of time. Without the redemption of reformation, those old Biblical tracts remain relevant because they are given literal currency as the “word of god’s will.” Post-reformation times, and especially via modern archeology and other new sciences, Revelations slowly began to be seen in context as a history of its time; as histories, not as prophesies that could be pegged to any crisis down through the ages. The Apostle John was not supposed to be seen as a Nostradamus of the first century AD whose fears would enternally ring true and timely.
If Islam can successfuly achieve reformation, its literal readings by its fundamentalists, particularly terrorists, will be seen as the historic narratives they actually were.
Islam desperately needs a reformation before Sharia in its more toxic modern forms can be dispelled; before a two-state solution can take hold in Israel; before Muslim countries can join the global community of nations as anything other than super-sized, rogue irritants. A study a few years ago clearly showed that the majority of global “troubles” occur at the interface of Islam and its neighbors. And this is so all over the world. In other words, stop the toxin leaking out from the terrorist applications of Sharia, and you staunch many of the skirmishes plaguing the planet in one fell swoop. This is to some degree true irregardless of terrorism, as the irritant is just as often mainstream Islam itself even in its moderate forms, and it occurs because Islam has yet to walk through the cleansing fires of reformation.
Sharia Law at its most toxic is but the latest expression of the absence of reformation.
I’ve often wondered, in this context, why Judaism, which to my knowledge has never had a reformation per se, has retained its sanity as a global religion. I suspect it has to do with the fact that it does not proselytize, much like Buddhism, and has never been a global power. Those two elements are related. If you don’t push your religion aggressively upon your neighbors, you remain relatively powerless; without that power you have no need to dominate your neighbors and you won’t exhibit all the unsavory behavors that come along with conquest and dominance.
And just an FYI: Having traveled extensively by foot in the Mideast, North Africa, and down the east coast of Africa, I do not blame the people of Islam for Islam’s problems. They are a fine and legendarily hospitable people, and the legend of their good treatment to travelers is true to a fault. And we can see that most Muslims who immigrate here to America experience success and are open to modernity. They are a cultured people long readied for modern ways. Conversely, we see that because of their residual familial and cultural insularity, the children of Islamic immigrants, unable to fully participate in their new society, end up too often being attracted to the thrill of terrorism, despite the enhanced lifestyle they enjoy here and in Europe.
It’s reformation or bust for Islam. If you believe, as I do, that the symptoms of a reformation include a prolonged period of violent and anti-social behaviors, as we are currently witnessing throughout the Islamic world, it is my great hope that it is precisely that reformation that we are experiencing right now. And while reformation’s symptoms are ugly and unsettling, we know from our own experience that ultimately they are enlightening and pave the way for a better future for all of us.