Adonis Diaries

“Can’t protect licensed bars? How can you protect Mosques, Churches, and Synagogues?”

Posted on: December 6, 2010

Don’t you have this strong impression that the current worldwide cultural climate is shifting inevitably toward extreme religious antagonism? From the Philippines (Moslems and Catholics), Indonesia (Moslems and Christians), China (against Moslem provinces), India (Hindus and Moslems), the Middle East (Sunni Moslems and Christians of all denominations), Egypt (Sunni and Copt Christians), Nigeria (Moslems and Christians), France, Germany, and the USA you witness alliance coalitions based on religious sectarianism.

Reading history, the present climate is very similar to many periods of domination relying on the ignorance of the population based on venomous religious strict allegiances and ignited by arousing misplaced “sense of dignity”.  Dynasties relied frequently on religious conflicts to increasing fictitious support by rallying people around the official monarchy religious sect, particularly in times of transition from one dying monarch to another.

After the formal end of the Cold War (the disintegration of the Soviet Union) a new enemy was to be created for the free flow of financial transactions among the capitalist multinational corporations.  This religious antagonism barely existed during the Cold War, which suggest that the current climate was encouraged and influenced to propagate in order to preventing emerging nations to reaping any advantages within this fictitious economic boom.

The Wahhabi Saudi Arabia theocracy forbid construction of any religious monument not Islamic;  the churches in Iraq are targeted in this unstable political climate and Christians are fleeing by the thousands; the Christian Copts in Egypt are harassed in order to draw Islamic sympathy to a declining support to President Mubarak (unusually, the impoverished Moslems supported the forces of “order” that were hurling stones on the Coptic demonstrators); France is putting the squeeze on the Moslem immigrants and labeling them hooligans, Germany is reducing the number of permits to building Mosques, the US utra-conservative Christians want to burn the Coran…

I will focus my article on the Middle East.  There is direct connection between foreign troops on the ground and fomenting religious internal conflicts.  For example:  First, the shifting of the conflict in Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1991) from a conflict with Palestinian armed groups to conflicts among Lebanese religious sects once Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and withdrew in 2000 (without any negotiation or pre-conditions) due to the steadfastness and sustained Lebanese Resistance in South Lebanon. 

Second, the start of internal religious conflicts in Iraq after the US invaded Iraq in 1993.  Third, the beginning of extremist religious activities in Afghanistan after the invasion of Russia in 1981 and then the presence of US troops in 2002.  How foreign powers with troops on the field manage to incite citizens of various religious denominations in developing States against one another in the Middle East in order to destabilizing these countries?

Let me recount a few historical events that might set the proper background for what we are experiencing today.

In the western medieval period, the Roman Catholic Church instituted its customs and rituals and subjugated the other Christian schismatic sects to abiding by the same understanding of “Christian dignity”.  Consequently, the successive crusading campaigns, although financed by the merchants in order to conquering Egypt and opening up the shorter maritime route for the trade of spices and perfume, were launched by arousing the ignorant population for their “trampled” dignity in the pilgrimage locations such as Jerusalem.

The Prophet Mohammad failed in his lifetime to transforming the meaning of dignity prevalent in the nomadic customs and traditions.  Mohammad had to compromise and revisit prior verses in order not to lose the political and military backing of the tribes.  As in all previous instances, the newer versions in the Coran were related to women status, rights, and inheritance.  Nothing changed in the customs and traditions of the tribes during the lifetime of Muhammad.  

After the death of Muhammad, many people started collecting hadith (stories and hearsay accounts) of what the Prophet said or did in order to emulate proper conducts.   Aisha, the most learned and beloved wife of Muhammad, spent her life confronting and correcting extravagant hadiths that were erroneous and out of context.  Later, every monarch hired faqihs (religious scholars and judges) to inventing or interpreting hadith out of context to suit his interests.  

As the Omayyad dynasty selected Damascus for Capital of the Islamic Arabic Empire the Moslems were confronted with urban customs and a different meaning for dignity.  The elite Arabs from the Arabic Peninsula were merchants and were familiar with the Syrian urban and mostly Christian traditions; thus, the administration relied on the converted Christians for the translation of manuscripts of other civilization and running the administration according to the customs of the land.

In the 11th century, most of the Central Asian and Caucasus people were Moslems:  They favored and enjoyed stories on Muhammad’s sayings and deeds (the hadith) and cared less for the Coran’s message; thus, they declared that the Coran is not to be interpreted or commented.  If there are contradictions in verses then, tough luck; read and move on.  The Coran was no longer the main source for what is dignity and honor to Moslems but the stories told on Muhammad.

Modern western European “democracies” and republicanism established political structures compatible with a revised meaning of dignity (Constitutions for all the citizens) following higher levels of freedom of expression and dissemination of knowledge and education.  State social programs were promulgated and they became acquired rights for the citizens such as retirement, health care, education…

Religious political allegiances in western Europe and the USA are strong and serious, but they are kept under lid because of specific laws forbidding the merging of religion with State matters.  Effectively, the separation of religion from civil laws are barely skin deep and it is hypocritical, but very efficient in safeguarding outright religious conflicts.  This is not due because most of the citizens in the western civilization are not practising people but because they give life more importance than abstract notions to dividing and wasting their energy and focus.

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December 2010

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