Both the West and Muslim cultures need reform

Every set of curtains has two portions which meet to close from view the possibilities beyond them.

Jonathan Green’s fantastically divisive opinion in Friday’s Daily exemplifies the type of complete ignorance that prevents a resolution of the so-called “rift” between the “West” and the “Muslim World.”

Green first asserts that Muslims, and implicitly, Islam, are “morally incompatible” with the West. He supports this by claiming that U.S. liberals propagate a myth contrary to “scientific surveys” which confirm “25 percent to 70 percent of Muslims” actually espouse murdering non-Muslim civilians as a means to an end.

Secondly, he claims the United States supports Arab dictators, in part, because they are the only ones there.

Thirdly, every “Muslim society” must condemn racism and terrorism and accept the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, lest an “iron curtain” descend across the world once more.

Pretty strong claims for someone who eagerly touts the company line for an administration mired in a refuse heap of its own dishonesty and mismanagement. But since Green was courteous enough to share his viewpoint, he and the readership ought to receive a response.

Islam is not incompatible with the “West,” nor is the “Muslim world.” Just as there exists a minority of Americans who bastardize the Constitution and a fraction of Christians who smear the legacy of Jesus with their actions, there are also Muslims who defile and betray the essence of Islam. The behavior of a minority who receive prime-time air coverage due to the severity of their actions is not the basis for generalization to the whole.

Additionally, where does Green get the “scientific surveys” on which he bases his case? “Twenty-five percent to 70 percent of the Muslims worldwide” is somewhere between 375 million and 1.05 billion Muslims. A 675 million person margin-of-error is hardly scientific and ridiculous to use as even soft evidence.

To say the United States supports Arab dictators is, of course, wholly inaccurate. Pick up any literature on the matter, and it is evident that we citizens have tacitly allowed policies in our country which not only supported, but in fact installed, such dictators. This is not limited to the Arab world – Pinochet is a perfect example.

For Green to posit that a near “total absence of Arab leaders that (are) not dictators” is justification for working with inept rulers like them is abhorrent. In the end, it only betrays the values that we, ourselves, possess when we make transactions with and support such people to further our, usually economic, “interests.”

Lastly, Green makes a point with which I nearly completely agree. Many, mostly secular, governments of countries with Muslim populations are behind on the human rights and values that Islam established with clarity 1,400 years ago.

Such countries are in disarray and owe it, at the least, to their own people to right themselves. That is a fight from within.

For instance, Islam granted women and minorities rights in the seventh century which came in the 20th century in the Western world. Islam explicitly forbids unnecessary destruction of nature in warfare, not to mention civilians. Islam explicitly guarantees religious pluralism. Islam explicitly forbids cruelty to animals.

Cultural practices, extremism and backwardness of various kinds have overshadowed this, but let us not be deluded into thinking that the problems lay simply among the Muslims.

Our country, the United States, perpetrated genocidal sanctions against Iraq after bombing the country with depleted uranium and abandoning the postwar uprising against Saddam Hussein. Our country has detained more than 5,000 Muslims without charge since Sept. 11, 2001.

Our country boycotted the World Anti-Racism Summit, unlike 130 other countries. Our administration has tried to hide the prisoner abuse scandals that have occurred around the world from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay. Our country wrote into law the USA Patriot Act, significant parts of which were recently declared unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court judge in California.

Green’s limited worldview lays the blame lopsidedly. Muslim countries must reform in many ways but so must we.

People such as Green should make an effort to engage Muslim groups at the University before concluding “moral incompatibility.” Every set of curtains has two portions which meet to close from view the possibilities beyond them.

Taqee Khaled is a Muslim graduate student at the University. He welcomes comments at [email protected]