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Like Zionism, if we fail to understand the Muslim mind and society, we do so at our own peril. The primary tumor of this cancer called terror lies in Palestine. We must fully understand and appreciate the culture of each side before we can begin to formulate an effective long-term response. The Trade Center and Pentagon bombings were metastatic expressions.

Fundamental issues of our times revolve about perspectives: Muslim and Western. They are dramatically different in vital ways. These differences are revealed in history and even more so in the respective cultures.

The Muslim and Western minds are not so different that dialogue cannot work. But they are different enough that it takes work and dedication on each side to improve understanding. There is an exception, when Muslims, Christians, and Jews have been brought up in the same neighborhood, gone to integrated schools together under a governance that values dialogue, dialogue then becomes not only non-threatening, but natural. See for example: The Oasis of Peace. This ethnic experiment in Israel along with Varshney's groundbreaking research in India (see Research and Hope) illustrate well how to bridge the culture gaps.

There are numerous moderate Muslims who adopt many Western ideas even as they offer their own to us. These are the folks with whom dialogue will come easily. Our purpose here is to illustrate some of the key differences in perceptions, and how these motivate the extreme fringe that spawns terror.

News media on each side loves to project myths upon the other. For example, Muslim news reporters will report a terrorist event as a Zionist plot while their Western counterparts will describe the same event as the work of bin Laden. Western reporters require physical evidence and reality; Muslim reporters do not. Reality is not even material to them. Their mental processes work differently from ours. In a way they are robots accepting what they have always been told and believing it so ardently that only Muslims are good and the Infidels are universally bad. The Trade Center bombing to this day is characterized by fundamentalist Muslims as a Zionist plot.

For insight how this can be, consider the following from Sheikh Abdullah Adhami from New York City.

Reported by: Dalia Soliman

    "This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a very enlightening conference hosted by an organization called Muslim Youth of Chicago. Masha'Allah, the speakers were a brilliant source of wisdom and I would like to share what was discussed.

    "My discussion will focus on the second day's topic, which was on "Muslim Family". The keynote speaker was Sheikh Abdullah Adhami from New York City. He is very knowledgeable and quite inspirational."

(Ms. Dalia Soliman graduated from Knox College in 1998 with a B.A. in Psychology. Born in Egypt, she lives in Chicago, Illinois.) Her commentary about Sheikh Adhami's presentation:

    "How do we meet the challenge of raising good Muslim children in the corrupt environment that we are surrounded by today? The Sheikh was most insightful in this area using the beauty of the Arabic language to explain the nature of a successful Muslim family. The first thing that a child must hear when born into this world is "Allahu Akbar." Why is the father supposed to utter these words in the child's ears when they are first born? This is their introduction to the surrendering to Allah. A child is like a pliant piece of dough that can be manipulated into any shape by the parents. As the child grows to an age of comprehension, the parents must instill love of Allah (swt) and the Prophet (pbuh).

    "The best way for parents to teach their children is by example. It is important for the parents to practice all their Islamic duties in order that the child may follow that example. Also, remember that Islam is a whole way of life, so there is a du'ah [maxim] for almost every occasion, parents should know these du'ahs and recite them whenever appropriate. Another way to instill love of Allah and the Prophet (pbuh) is to teach your child the Seerah.

    "Instead of reading western bedtime stories to your child, read them the seerah. Also, teach your child to love the Quran, the most precious miracle to mankind. The Sheikh suggested showing happiness when taking out the Quran to read. He said that he's seen too many Muslim parents interrupt their children playing and say to them "OK, time to get serious and read in the Quran." By doing this parents are making the reading of the Quran a punishment in the child's head.

    "Once this strong Islamic foundation is established, it is incumbent on the parents to nurture their child's nature. Every human being is unique, with a unique personality and interests. The Shiekh reminded us that, "Liberating a child is to devote them to the obedience of Allah." Once they are devoted to the obedience of Allah the parent can give them distance to grow, but be watchful at the same time."

    "Sheikh Adhami sited (sic) that one of the biggest problems of Muslim parents is their lack of 'surrender to Allah' when it comes to their children. Providers sometimes lose sight of the fact that they are just vehicles of Allah. Allah (swt) provides His servants with all the provisions using the providers as a vehicle and not a control keeper. We have to be aware that children are one of the things that keep a servant attached to this dunya instead of working for the akhira. So parents, you must learn to shed your control complexes and give your child the freedom to flourish. Planning your child's future can limit the development of their self-concept. Why tell your child that he should be a doctor or an engineer when he/she grows up? Why not let the child find his/her own interest as they journey through life's various experiences. Who knows, maybe your child will come to you and say they want to be an Islamic Scholar when they grow up. Isn't this much more pleasing to Allah (swt) than the doctor or engineer suggestion?"

These words from a well respected Sheikh provide an important snapshot into the Muslim mind. Restated:

  • Children are to be molded from birth to obey and surrender to Allah.
  • Obedience to Allah is regarded as liberation.
  • Maxims are available that fit nearly every situation and should be recited whenever appropriate.
  • Islam is a whole way of life.

Add to these the daily prayer rituals and you create a society that holds religion first, one in which each individual surrenders him/her self to Allah. The influence of the homogeneous group over each individual becomes strong because a basic need of human beings is acceptance by others. Islam plays upon this very real personal need.

The requirement of surrender in effect makes the mullahs and imams surrogates of Allah, because they are Allah's spokesmen. The Qur'an, Hadith, and Sunna do indeed provide numerous maxims. Children hearing maxims continuously naturally come to believe their truth; in fact many of them that do not include violence would be regarded as truth by most people. Children develop new "instincts" for every situation that arise basically from the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sunna. There is much to be said for such training.

However, it has a serious downside. No need to question, these sources supply all the answers. One includes, "if something doesn't fit, make it fit." That may be all well and good; it was for a millennium. But consider the following:

Believing one all the answers blunts his/her ability to think and question when questions raised and answered are critical for human progress. Independent thought is especially difficult when an entire society is of one mind on having all the answers. This is one basic reason why Islamic peoples are so late in adopting the advances in science and governance and why it is still so difficult for them to do so. Thinkers are intimidated by believers.

By teaching that Allah is liberation, Islamic society limits the ability of the typical Muslim to understand freedom in any other context. For society to behave in lockstep as the local Mullah would have it is not the Western idea of freedom. To the Muslim male however, he does have freedom in a Western sense. He is free to master his women, his animals, his children, and beat them if he so wishes. The Muslim male can divorce a spouse by simple declaration of the fact. He can take up to four wives if he wishes. In terms of benefit to society, these hardly measure up to freedoms of speech, thinking, and action common to the Western world.

Here we see just two of many points of departure in cultures increasingly at odds. Manifestations are numerous. For example in reporting the Trade Center bombing, the Muslim press variously reported the facts and praised their courageous Islamic brethren at the same time as they attributed the atrocity to a Zionist conspiracy.

To the Western readers, this dichotomy is nonsense. But to the Muslim, it is not at all illogical.

No Muslim can escape the following historical facts:

  • The world of Islam has been behind Europe and America for centuries and is getting ever further behind.
  • Western innovations introduced into the Middle East threaten Muslim culture.

The structure provided by Sheikh Abdullah Adhami leads to these very results. The Muslim of today knows s/he is in a lagging society; s/he knows from childhood that Islam provides all the answers. Events must be fit into and explained by those answers. To believe otherwise is to question the Islamic faith. Not many Muslims dare to become apostates. So the reporting dichotomy arose naturally from a culture so different from ours that we scarecly understand it. To the Muslim mind, there is no dichotomy in the reporting.

Islam's only focus on cause and effect is on behavior as it pleases or displeases Allah, the ultimate authority in all things. The strictest Muslims (fundamentalists in the extreme) have no option but to blame others for their plight; how else could it be, they have always behaved as Allah wished.

Add to all that the Muslim awareness of the very real ills of Western society, and you have have basis for "radical" thinking and acting where reason in the Western sense means nothing at all. Such a radical, however, sees him/her self as being in the vanguard of righteousness defending "Islamic truths."

Ralph Peters in his book "Beyond Terror" comes to the unhappy conclusion that there is no option to killing religious terrorists on the spot whenever it is legal to do so, p 61. Peters describes the Muslim civilization as delusional, p 54. His next paragraph continues:

"We may believe with great satisfaction that we have truth on our side, but myth is on their side, and myth can be more powerful than truth. Some noble or hapless souls may sacrifice their lives in service to the truth. But millions of them will rush to die for a cherished myth."

Unfortunately this is true for both sides! A historical perspective on religion is that each religion thinks the beliefs of other religions belong in the category of myth. A more immediate perspective is that while Islamic society considers surrender to Allah as liberating, Western societies think of liberation in the sense of individual liberty to speak and think and question freely as long as one does not infringe those rights for others; add freedom from rule by feudal lords, despots, and kings, and liberation from political and economic oppression. These are essentially opposite views of the word liberating. This view is simplistic and one's immediate response might range from confusion to anger.

On a deeper level however, Muslim males often recount how their surrender to Allah gave them a great sense of relief, of joyous freedom. This is certainly and literally true for them. On the emotional level it feels freeing because it is freeing.

The question we must ask, is: freeing from what? Think about it. Surrender to Allah removes all need to search for or decide for one's self about life's purpose, the real meaning and substance of nature, who the leader will be, and how one is to behave. By stepping into a rigid authoritarian structure with predetermined answers at the ready for all things, a young Muslim feels a great sense of relief. This is not mythical; it is hard psychology in action. A harsh Western appraisal might be that it is a cop out. It is not; it is more akin to robotic.

In another example, a Protestant minister known to us claims he could convert Osama to Christianity if only he could get him alone for an hour. His projection is that Osama sees the world in the same way he does. There is myth here. This minister sees himself as supremely persuasive, when in truth he only impresses the "susceptible" who are already a lot like he is. Although they are few in number, it is the impressionable few who can find the road to extremism, regardless of religion. This minister is also woefully ignorant of the power to captivate the young, groom them into non-questioning robotic warriors, and motivate them to any extreme with rewards in the here-after.

This minister also preaches that it is the Judeo-Christian ethic that made the West what it is today. In truth, the Catholic Church materially retarded the march of science, and was a long time coming to terms with the facts of nature and releasing governance from the stranglehold it held so long. The Protestant Reformation was accompanied by a lot of bloodshed and was freeing from the boot of the Popes. But Protestants too have their conservative wing that would roll the clock back to mediaeval times if it could.

In brief, we are facing a warrior religion with all the answers with a game plan that very effectively reproduces soldiers willing, even eager, to die on behalf of Allah. Like it or not, we are in a religious war. At least the Islam fundamentalists believe it is a religious war. It is pointless to deny that fact on either side.

Like it or not, we have allied ourselves with Zionism ever more closely; how can we proceed wisely if most of us in America know neither culture?

Muslim Mind
Causes of Terrorism
Nuclear Terror
World Reformation


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