Diary

Is a Muslim Reformation possible? (part 2)

This is the second part of my thoughts on al-Sisi’s speech but will be more broadly about the roots of Muslim antisemitism and resistance to assimilating into the modern world.

To all the people who hate Jews and say Jews all over the world are evil I ask the following question:  what have the Jews done to you?  Even if you hate Israel and believe that gov’t has oppressed the Palestinians, (obviously not true) are all Israelis responsible for the actions and policies of their gov’t?  Of course not, just like all Palestinians aren’t responsible for the horrible actions of Hamas. But even if you were to make the insane claim that all Israelis are responsible for what Israel does because they’re Israeli citizens and therefore support what their gov’t does, what about the rest of the Jews around the world who don’t live in Israel?  Why do you hate them?

Surely they can’t be guilty or have blood on their hands for the fighting between Israel and Palestine, right?  So the only explanation is you were brainwashed as a young child into believing all Jews are evil because they are an evil race who have oppressed Muslims throughout history (again, not true).

There’s plenty of evidence to back up this claim of brainwashing, because unfortunately Muslim children in madrassas around the world are being taught to hate Israel and all Jews, even though no Jewish person has done anything to hurt them in any way.  There’s no logic or merit to this hate, it’s completely irrational and has no basis in anything but envy and giving into tribal instincts, which are the characteristics of all forms of hate.

As I see it, there are six different causes of this hate, which I will outline below:

1) Groupthink and crowd rage/mentality- it’s just easier to hate a group of people who are different than you (the Jews) when people are in the streets protesting and it’s the popular thing to do.  It also involves evolution going way back to the days of our ancient ancestors when everyone belonged to a different tribe. There was no individuality, everything was done within the context of the tribe, and all members of the other tribes were viewed as outsiders and potentially dangerous, and for good reason since the tribes often fought over territory and resources and killed each other.  We evolved to not trust or like people who look, think, and act differently than us, and if that distrust is encouraged it breeds hate.  Many Muslims today have that tribal mentality still, and their leaders encourage it, which leads to:

1a)-
Muslim imams, scholars, and rulers use this hatred of a common enemy to stoke the flames of violence and to increase their influence while maintaining their power.  It’s a very cynical deception on their part because although they do hate the Jews, their primary motivation and intention behind their preaching and teaching of hatred is to raise their own status in the muslim world, which in some cases they care about more than destroying the Jews.

In most of their countries there’s rampant poverty and corruption within the gov’t, where the gov’t officials and wealthy elites who bribe them get richer and the poor get poorer.  So the leaders within the gov’t and within those local communities have an incentive to maintain the status quo out of fear of a populist uprising such as the ones that occurred in Iran and Egypt.

They can prevent this by either using brute force and strict enforcement of sharia law, which they already do to varying degrees, but they can also control the narrative and distract people by putting all the focus on those evil Jews who are “murdering” innocent Palestinians.  They know that without a common enemy that everyone can rally against, there’s a lot more pressure on them to actually improve the lives of all those suffering people and to give them honest answers to their questions, which they often don’t have because they spend most of their time instigating violence or enjoying the good life with other rich and influential people.

These leaders also have their own insecurities and inferiority complexes.  Some of them have great ambitions but were prevented from achieving them because of the country they grew up in, and some of them are envious of countries like Israel which enable people from all walks of life to achieve their dreams, something that isn’t possible in most Muslim countries, certainly not for people who grow up poor and without connections.

So they overcompensate for these psychological issues by directing their anger and frustration at the Jews and other minorities to distract themselves from their own doubts and deep-seated issues, and to get the validation from the masses for their leadership in this hatred, the same validation they wanted growing up for the abilities they never developed or the goals they never reached.

2) Insecurity over one’s own beliefs-   I believe this is more common among Muslim women, who are uncomfortable defending their roles as second class citizens in Muslim countries, but also I think it’s true for Muslim men in those countries who are often poor and see their Jewish counterparts becoming doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc while they’re stuck in the dark ages.  Hating the Jews gives them all a common enemy and cause to rally behind and to take the focus off of their own lack of opportunities, and to distract them from their own struggles and doubts.

3) Similar to #1- isolation-    This is especially true for Muslims in first-world countries like France, the UK, the US, and Australia.  The Muslims in these countries for the most part refuse to integrate into the customs and habits of those countries, which inevitably leads to conflict between them and the rest of the country.  They stay within their comfort zone, which is only spending time around other Muslims.  This of course excludes Jews, so they don’t know any Jews, and this makes it much easier to hate them cause it’s always easier to hate a group of people you don’t know when you never interact with them or even see them in person, especially if it’s a group that’s very different than the group you belong to, which leads me to #4.

4)   Muslims and Jews have very different cultures and religious practices and beliefs-   This has been the historical basis for their constant fighting, in addition to fighting over land.  These differences can be overcome however, because differences between two groups can be overcome if the intentions of the groups are pure and there’s a sincere desire to have peace, understanding, and racial/religious harmony.  But that’s not the case here since Muslims have never wanted peace with Israel or the Jews, in fact they’ve wanted them wiped off the face of the planet, or at the very least ostracized and forced to leave the middle east forever.

There are many cultural and religious differences between them, such as the following:

Israelis view women as equal to men, Muslims still believe they’re inferior; Israel respects minorities of all kinds, including gays and members of other religions, Muslims believe these groups should be oppressed or killed; Israel believes in science and technology as means to advance their society and make progress, Muslims are still stuck in the dark age and believe tech and science are weapons used by the western world to corrupt and confuse practicing Muslims; Israelis believe all religions can live together in harmony and that a country should be run by a secular gov’t which is democratically elected, Muslims believe Islam is the only true religion and therefore all other religions must be oppressed and eventually destroyed, and that all Muslim countries must be theocracies run by religious rulers who enforce sharia law.
These differences only serve as an excuse for muslims to express and apply their hatred for Jews.

5)     The Qu’ran-    It states that only Islam should exist as a religion on Earth and anyone who doesn’t practice it is an infidel who must be converted, enslaved, or killed.   Many Muslim scholars use these passages in the qu’ran as a justification for terrorist bombings and other atrocities against innocent civilians in countries around the world.  I should note here that the majority of Muslims who die in areas of conflict are killed by fellow Muslims.

So instead of blaming Israel and the Jews for the deaths of innocent Muslims, the so called “moderate” Muslims around the world should blame Hamas and other radical Islamic terrorist groups, who use women and children as shields for their bombs and their leaders and who are on record as saying their goal is to cause more of these civilian deaths in order to make Israel look like the bad guy.

Also, to use the deaths as a propaganda tool to get the rest of the world on their side by manipulating the coverage of the conflict to only show the deaths without showing the cause of the deaths, which is Hamas building tunnels under schools, homes, and hospitals and using Palestinian homes to store their weapons.

6)  Islam is as much a cultural force as it is a religious force-     Instead of being taught to study and question their faith, Muslims are taught to memorize it and accept every teaching that comes from their imams.  A faith that can’t be questioned is a faith that’s blind, or not a faith at all, but an ideology, as al-Sisi mentioned in his speech.

Many Muslims don’t follow Islam because they searched for the truth on their own and independently came to the conclusion that Islam is the best religion.  Rather, they’re indoctrinated at any early age by their parents at home and by imams at madrassas, and are taught that they must follow these practices and ideas, even if they don’t understand them.  It’s not an intellectual practice for them, but a cultural one, and as we know, cultural influences have a big impact on shaping our identities.

So if Islam is part of the identity of a Muslim, he can no sooner change the way he thinks about his faith than he can change the way he thinks about himself or who he is.  It’s wrapped up in his identity and in his eyes it would be insane to try and change something that’s always been a certain way for him.  You rarely hear Muslims questioning their faith or having deeper theological discussions about it the way Christians do.  I believe that’s because many of them have never taken time to truly understand what the Qu’ran says or what Islam teaches, especially regarding the more problematic teachings.  That’s not a faith that’s alive, rather, it’s a blind faith tied to tradition and societal influences.

Is it any wonder that these groups are so willing to die for their twisted beliefs and will do whatever it takes to kill Jews, when imams and scholars who are respected within the worldwide Muslim community say the qu’ran justifies the killing of civilians and the extermination of all Jews?

This is the fundamental problem with Islam, and it isn’t just the radical Muslims who have used their own interpretation of the words of the qu’ran to justify their heinous actions.  The qu’ran itself has many passages advocating for intolerance, violence , and jihad, and while there are some passages that advocate for peace that seem to contradict those passages, where does that leave the average Muslim?  Most aren’t scholars and therefore rely on their imams and scholars to interpret the Qu’ran for them, and unfortunately up to this point the majority of these scholars and imams around the world, or at least the ones with the most influence, advocate for the more violent verses and ignore the more peaceful, tolerant verses.

So this is what Muslim children grow up learning in general, and when you add in all the other factors that lead them to hate Jews, this is just throwing more gas on that fire of hatred.  As we know from neuroscience and psychology, what one learns during early childhood often lasts a lifetime because that’s when the brain is developing, and it’s very hard to unlearn what one is taught or experiences during those years, at least not without a massive effort, introspection, and outside help.

If you’re trained to hate the Jews before you even know what a Jew is or what they believe, or why you’re supposed to hate them, that hate will become ingrained in your brain, and if you grow up surrounded by other people who have that same hate, and are encouraged by all the adults you see to continue that hate, then it’s no wonder most Muslims around the world hate Jews.  It’s only the ones who go outside their comfort zones and are forced to confront their hatred head-on and defend it intellectually who realize it’s indefensible and completely irrational.  But this is a small minority of Muslims.

Will there ever be an end to this hatred, or a renaissance within the Muslim world? It’s hard to see how that’s possible as long as the billions of its members devoutly follow a book which advocates for the extermination of all people who don’t share their beliefs.  As far as I can tell, there are only two ways the Muslim world can adapt to modernity and become a part of the civilized world:

1)    The inevitable spread of technology will open up even the most repressive Muslim countries to western culture, and no matter how the authorities there try to crack down on it, it will develop an underground following that will lead to a revolution that will eventually overthrow that regime.  This would then lead to a democratic gov’t and a leader who would be sympathetic to the influence of western culture and freedom in general, and allow the citizens of his country to act, dress, buy, and believe in whatever way they desire to.

2)      A group of intellectuals within the “moderate” Muslim community will get together and have some kind of worldwide conference that would involve issuing a statement about a new set of interpretations of the Qu’ran that are more adaptable and applicable to Muslims living in the modern civilized world.  It would be like what the Second Vatican Council was for Catholics, who Muslims could learn from when it comes to updating practices and beliefs while still maintaining core dogma and truths.

The problem for Muslims is that they haven’t even had the equivalent of a First Vatican Council yet, much less a second.  For some of the reasons I’ve described, they’ve decided to go backwards into history instead of forwards into the future.  Apparently they haven’t realized you can retain the most ancient and important aspects of your religion while reinventing its most outdated and inapplicable aspects so as a whole it can be applied to life in the modern world.

 

Maybe the Pope and leaders of other religions can be the catalysts for this change within the muslim world, but in the end the desire for change and for not being left in the dustbin of history has to come from muslims themselves.  Who will initiate this process?  So far it seems the moderate musims cower in fear at the thought of offending the more radical minority, and to some degree rightly so.  But courage is necessary to bring about radical change, and this is no different than any other case.

Maybe it will require some radical tragic event such as the occupation of Israel by a muslim army, or the disintegration of a muslim country such as Iran or Iraq for muslims around the world to wake up and realize the error of their ways when it comes to antisemitism.  It doesn’t look like it’ll happen within my lifetime, but in order for this deep-seated and widespread antisemitism to be pulled out by the roots, and for the vicious cycle of violence in the middle east to end, the thinkers within the muslim world have to take a long, hard look at the Qu’ran and either throw out the parts that advocate for violence and intolerance against all non-muslims, or come up with a more nuanced interpretation of those verses that don’t allow for the justification of radical jihad or intolerance of any other religion, not just with Jews.

Catholics have the Catechism, which explains everything the average catholic needs to know about how to interpret the Bible and apply it to their everyday life in the modern world.  It also contains answers to questions surrounding all of the most important and controversial issues and subjects Catholics must deal with.

Is there any such book for muslims?  If not, why not?  I think it’s far past the time for such a book to be created, and it must be written by muslim leaders who are tolerant, open-minded, peaceful, compassionate, living in the modern, civilized world, and most importantly, logical and rational, and not biased against any group of people or beliefs.

If such a book existed, and there was more guidance for the average muslim about how to interpret the Qu’ran and why it’s wrong to hate the Jews, and if the Qu’ran was updated to reflect our diverse, tolerant, and free societies, then radical muslims couldn’t use it as an excuse to justify their acts of terror.  Furthermore, no Imam could continue to preach hatred for Jews or other radical beliefs without being condemned and isolated by the rest of the muslim community, who would be following what I call The New Islam, or Updated Islam.

This change in Islamic beliefs, and the change in law, practice, and teaching and preaching as a result of it, would allow an entire generation of muslim kids to grow up believing in tolerance, freedom, charity, and peace, and would end the cycle of violence, hatred, and bigotry.  It would also bring freedom to muslim women and greatly decrease the abuse they currently experience.  It could change the world.

But for now we’re in a tunnel of darkness and few can see the light of peace and tolerance at the end of it and we’re travelling at a snail’s pace while we’re in it. In the meantime, all those of us outside this conflict can do is be witnesses to the truth about Islam and open the eyes of all the people who have been blinded by their hatred of the Jews or anyone who lives and believes differently than they do.