Sometimes, it takes me a really long time to ‘get’ even the most obvious of things – I know I am a very, very slow thinker. But, I really ought to have seen this one clearly much, much earlier…
Like many others, I understand perfectly well that the first targets of fanatics within any group (and this applies not only to human groups) are the moderates within the ranks of that group. This makes it that much more important for these moderates to speak up, in order to preserve themselves and protect their group from being overtaken by the extremists.
We have seen this though our history and the modern-day Muslim community is no different from the rest of us.
Yet, most of the voices we hear speaking ‘for the Muslims’ in today’s world are increasingly more and more only the radicalized ones…
In the past, I, too, have asked: “Where are all the moderate Muslims and why are there so few of their voices being heard?”
Now, I think I’m beginning to understand…
In order to explain, please, indulge me in telling you a story or two.
When my mother was just an iddy-biddy baby, following WWII, the communists took over my homeland and stole her grandparents’ properties. Her mom’s daddy made (and repaired) washing machines and her mom’s mommy operated a chain of stores that retailed them. Her daddy was a top engineer at her grandpa’s factory, but had been born to a farming family. Very successful farming family. Her daddy’s mom was actually one of those women who went to work in the fields even in early stages of labour, went home to give birth – and returned to the fields afterwards. No joke! That is how hard they worked – and it showed: the were known far and wide as THE people to go to for help with anything, without any obligations in return.
Yet, when the communists were in power, they labelled my grandpa as ‘a son of a kulak‘ – a deeply pejorative term in the 1950’s for a person living behind the Iron Curtain.
What I am trying to say is that even in one of the most industrialized countries in the world at that time (as Czech was), a country where people had unlimited ‘class mobility’ (my own grandfather had gone from ‘farmer’ to ‘engineer’ to ‘industrialist’), it took very little for his status to ‘devolve’ to that of ‘a son of a kulak’…
I must stress, before WWII, Czech was philosophically a fully ‘Western’ country, with emphasis on individual rights, even if located in Central Europe.
Yet, it took a few short years for the decades of individualism to devolve into judging a person by their parents’ and other relatives’ actions. Guilty by blood association!
Now, please, let me jump to the second story.
This one takes place in Canada in the late 1990’s. I had been running my own company and an ex-employee of mine approached me with a very unusual request…
When I had first hired him, I had not realized I already knew his father. I had met him about 5 years earlier, at a party, under the table – we were both trying to sneak food to the host’s dog. Anyhow, he was a capable young man and worked his way up, so that for about 5 years, he had been my second-in-command, and only left because his dream opportunity of working in the intelligence community presented itself. By this point, I saw him as more of a brother to me than an employee and we not only parted on the best of terms, but remained close.
Which is why I was thrilled when he brought his girlfriend to meet me – and asked what my opinion of her was. He thought she was ‘the one’, and I was happy to tell him I thought she was intelligent, beautiful and a perfect match for him. They truly made a wonderful couple and I was very happy for them.
Yet, the path to their happiness was more complicated than I could have suspected!
When he had proposed to her, he came to me with a most unusual request: would I please write a letter to the government of Iran to certify that I was still his employer, and that he had a sufficient income to comfortably support a wife and a family?
His fiance had not been born in Iran – she was born in Italy, to Iranian emigres.
Yet, if she were to get married without this certificate to the Iranian government that her fiance had sufficient income to properly support her and her children, the extended family she still had in Iran would be penalized for her parents’ acceptance of a marriage proposal without this document!!!
And, he did not want them to know of the particulars of his current work for the Canadian government, and so he had approached me for help…and as I had right away contracted him to do a ‘job’ for me, I could honestly write that letter – which I did.
Ok, enough stories…let us now look back to the origins of Islam.
Islam originated in Arabia in a deeply tribal society.
‘Right and wrong’ were not based on any absolute morality, but on tribal membership: ‘right’ was what the leaders/members of your tribe deemed was ‘right’, ‘wrong’ was what their opponents/enemies deemed was’right’…
In such a tradition, ‘morality’ is a vastly different concept from what it is the ‘individualist’ tradition (though not nearly as different from the ‘communitarian’ tradition…which may explain the ‘socialist’ empathy for the Islamists): rather than measuring ‘right vs.wrong’ based on some objective values (whatever their source), ‘right vs. wrong’ becomes ‘what gives an advantage to our group’ vs. ‘what gives an advantage to their group’.
In a tribal society, members of one clan/family are interchangeable for each other.
Aside: Actually, that is where the ‘Western’ tradition of ‘bridesmaid’ and ‘groomsmen’ originates from: if the bride or the groom were found to be unsuitable for the marriage union, the next-best-maid/groomsman’ would step in and replace them so that the clans could enter into a socioeconomic union through that particular marriage contract.
In such a society, if one member of a family/clan steps out of line, any other member of the family/clan can be harmed/killed in retaliation… because the bloodline’s ‘politics’ is answerable for by ALL the members of the bloodline. Thus, if one of your relatives commits a crime, and cannot be caught, it is ‘fair’ for YOU to pay the price. The ‘individuals’ are subordinate to the ‘clan’, instead of having individual rights and freedoms.
Now that I have set the stage, I need to go a bit into the history of the Koran.
Mohammed, the Islamic prophet, had, at one point, been excommunicated by both his mothers and his father’s Arabic clans. Thus, Mohammed had been forced to seek shelter with other communities.
During this period, he had spent time with a Christian sect, and when he had been excommunicated from there, with a Jewish sect. It was only after he had been excommunicated from the Jewish sect that his uncle had agreed to adopt him and thus gained a permission for him to re-enter the Arabic society…which is where he caught the eye of his uncle’s employer, Khadija, who then extended her protection over him by marring him (and thus defying her society’s standards).
While among the Christians. Mohammed saw just how splintered the Christian sects had become: some believed that Jesus was the son of God who died on the cross and was bodily resurrected and lifted into heaven, others believed that he was a human who had been crucified and died on the cross, others yet believed that (whether the son of God or Man), he had escaped death on the cross (either by the use of a substitute or because he had been removed while unconscious but still alive and had then been revived by Esenne healers). Yet other Christians believed that Jesus Christ could never ever have been imprisoned in a corporal body by ‘Rex Mundi’, but had always been a being of pure energy…
Mohammed really, really did not want his religious movement to be fractured among various factions the way Christianity had become. Therefore, he said often that his revelations were literal and not open to interpretation – and that is why he stated clearly an openly that anyone who wishes to or attempts to ‘reform’ Islam of interpret any passages in any other way than literally is ‘a hypocrite’ and ‘an apostate’ and, according to the Koran, ‘hypocrites’ MUST be put to death…
Mohammed decreed that anyone who attempts to interpret his teachings in any way other than literally is a ‘hypocrite’ and that ‘hypocrites’ MUST be put to death…and it comes from a tribal society which holds ALL members of a family/clan accountable for the tansgressions for all of your relatives…
Thus, if a moderate Muslim in Canada, the US or another Western country speaks up against the extremists’s interpretations of Islam, their (even distant) blood relatives who live within Islamists’ jurisdiction will pay the price for it with their lives.
It is one thing to stand up to an oppressor if it is your own life/well being on the line: it is quite different if your relatives, even distant relatives and their children might be killed for you speaking your mind!!!
And THAT FEAR – not for their own selves, but for the well being of their even distant relatives’ children – is why most moderate Muslims are silent…
After all, if it were not just your own neck, but the necks of your cousins’, their children, and their children’s children – how likely would YOU be to stand up to the radicals?!?!?