The Smugness of Secularism

Secularism is, among many things, smug. It is so heavily dripping with ideology and prejudice — two qualities it would love to convince the lot of us that it is above — that it’s virtually impossible to take anything it says at face value. But its smugness would have no traction without its purveyors, many of whom these days are Muslims.

Of the many ridiculous statements of secularists (and perhaps especially Muslim secularists) is the notion that everything that’s wrong with the so-called Muslim world can be lain at the feet of religion in general and doubly so for Islam. This only furthers the crippling of emerging Muslim societies by discouraging them from solving their problems and challenges they face today by using the tools of genius already present within their societies and culture (influenced and informed by Islam) by shaming them for no other reason than simply being Muslim. Additionally, like a good used car salesman, secularists then proceed to sell Muslim societies on all of the wonders and benefits secularism promises to bring to their societies, a one-stop shop if you will for modernity. This sleight of hand, especially by Muslim secularists and anti-theists, is akin to a magic trick that requires audience participation for the effect to seem believable. In the end, secularists are doubly guilty of reducing the problems of Muslim societies to merely the adoption and adherence to Islam and reducing their solutions to the mere appropriation and unquestioning embracing of secularism. Like any good magician however, they do not like for you to scrutinize their techniques too closely as the house of cards their arguments are built off of may crumble. By this I mean the failures of secularism. Continue reading “The Smugness of Secularism”

Violence in the Modern World

A short talk about the events in Manchester and violence in the world in general.

“I strongly agree with President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia to Arab leaders. It’s ultimately going to have to be Arab and Islamic leaders — that speak to their own people of their own faith.”Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, speaking on The Hugh Hewitt Show

Notes

Cavanaugh, William T. The Myth Of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict . Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009.

The Secular State and Muted Violence

I know a lot of folks who consider themselves to be “secular” — including Muslims — in part due to misconceptions they hold about how religion is (inherently) divisive or even violent, but will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the violence perpetrated by the secular state. Take for instance the black struggles of the 19th and 20th centuries. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told the world,

“We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.”1

this, and other theological movements were heavily repressed by the American secular state, a state which still “mutes and manages” race, according to Vincent W. Lloyd, and religion, in a so-called “postracial regime of America”2.

So long as religion remains a mythical beast which must be tamed by the secular, we are unlikely to see any significant shift away from violence in the modern world. In fact, the more that religion is maligned and its leadership marginalized, we will continue to see ever greater and amplified violence inflicted on parts of the world who tragically have also had their voices muted and their narratives managed, all in the name of “peace”.

Our violence, being secular, is rational, peace making, and sometimes regrettably necessary to contain their violence. We find ourselves obliged to bomb them into liberal democracy.”3

Notes

1. Kahn, Jonathan S., and Lloyd, Vincent W. Race And Secularism In America. New York, Columbia University Press, 2016. Pg. 2.

2. Ibid., Pg. 2.

3. Cavanaugh, William T. The Myth Of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict . Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009. Pg. 4.

In The Name Of God, In The Name Of The State: Secularism and A License To Kill

“In the West, revulsion toward killing and dying in the name of one’s religion is one of the principal means by which we become convinced that killing and dying in the name of the nation-state is laudable and proper.” — From The Myth of Religious Violence by William T. Cavanaugh

It is secularism, not religion, which has brought us “collateral damage“, that form of mass killing which so dehumanizes the fallen. Often they are merely reduced to a body count, a most modern — even digital — dehumanization, whereby the deceased are only worthy mentioning if they can somehow perish in denominations greater than one. And even then they reduced to forgettable numbers. But yes, by all means, let us demonize religion.

The Violent Scourge of Modernity

Seldom do I reply to such tragedies as we saw today in London. Not because I am not bothered by them but mostly because I do not wish to politicize loss of life. But I do become weary of the world and its non-stop dirge of violence, as was also seen in NYC with James Jackson, white supremacist and vet, who traveled all the way from Baltimore to New York City in hopes of creating a publicity storm when he murdered Timothy Caughman. I can only offer these words in hope of giving hope to those who feel all hope is lost:

مَنْ قَتَلَ مُعَاهَدًا لَمْ يَرَحْ رَائِحَةَ الْجَنَّةِ، وَإِنَّ رِيحَهَا تُوجَدُ مِنْ مَسِيرَةِ أَرْبَعِينَ عَامًا

“Whoever kills the one with whom there is a social contract will not smell the scent of Paradise though its fragrance is perceived from a distance of forty years.”Prophet Muhammad

I chose to translate the Arabic word “mu’ahad” as “social contract” because in essence, any Muslim who comes to live in a non-Muslim country has entered into a social contract of mutual cooperation and benefit. Such actions are an abomination and violation of that.

Of course the case will have to be investigated, but if it does not prove to be a cause of mental health (something rarely afforded to Muslim perpetrators of violence), then it points to what I feel  the problem: a lack(ing) of Islam, not a problem because of it. Many Muslim youth have been misled as to how they ought to process their grievances with the world (perhaps equally import is for to know that some of their grievances are legitimate, others not). I feel that if there was an actual encouragement for them to (a) read the Qur’an and (b) embody it1, a message coming from religious leadership, we might actually begin to tackle this issue.

الَّذينَ إِذا أَصابَتهُم مُصيبَةٌ قالوا إِنّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنّا إِلَيهِ راجِعونَ

“Those who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘We belong to Allah and to Him we will return’.” Qur’an, 2: 156

Part of what makes this difficult is the point from which western secular democracies depart when they view what is perceived to be religiously motivated violence. William Cavanaugh echoes this in his book, The Myth of Religious Violence,

“The idea that religion has a tendency to promote violence is part of the conventional wisdom of Western societies, and it underlies many of our institutions and policies, from limits on the public role of churches to efforts to promote liberal democracy in the Middle East.”2

Particularly grabbing is Cavanaugh’s insights in the root or essence of violence in the modern world, including acts of violence committed by religious groups or individuals. Immediately after the tragic attack in England, Londoners took to the streets, rightfully angry, and began drawing swift conclusions from the event stating that such violence has been ongoing for 1,400 years, unarrested.

What Cavanaugh brings to our attention is that this violence is not “transhistorical and transcultural”3 but is in fact locally situated to its environs. A cursory study of Muslims living in various non-Muslim countries will show the vast majority amply assimilated; clearly the problem is more complicated than simply “they hate us for our freedoms”.

My feelings that the heart of the issue will never be solved by sidelining and excluding meaningful religious leadership. This is all too often the case as secular societies seek to “tame” religion and “restrict its access to public power”4, even if that power is to simply communicate effectively to disenfranchised individuals who, because of modern technology, can greatly amplify their capacity to inflict harm on the world.

Notes

1. Cavanaugh , William T. The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

2. Ware III , Rudolph T. The Walking Qur’an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa (Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

3. Cavanaugh. The Myth of Religious Violence.

4. Cavanaugh. The Myth of Religious Violence.