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.

What To Do About Our “Liquid Modernity”?

There was an interesting interview today on WBUR’s On Point in which Tom Ashbrook interviewed Rod Dreher, author of the new book, “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation“. In it, Dreher articulates something that I’ve heard kicked around in Muslim circles, namely what do we do about, what Zygmunt Bauman termed “liquid modernity”. Bauman felt this term was more articulate than postmodern in trying to describe the phenomenon of a constantly changing society, especially one driven by technology. The interview also showcases some competing ideas between Dreher and his fellow conservative Andrew Sullivan (author of “The Conservative Soul“). I look forward to reading and discussing Dreher’s book at Middle Ground as part of our book club, starting after Ramadan, God willing.

Can A Humanist Sustainability Work?

Edward Humes Garbology is a fascinating read. In it, he points to numerous challenges plaguing modern man, namely the issue of waste and how it not only degrades the natural environment but actually cases harm to humans. I know many secular humanists who hold to the notion that, to quote Matt Damon’s botanist, Mark Watney, “I’m gonna have to have to science the shit out of this”.

But what’s most striking is that it’s science, or perhaps more accurately, scientism, that got us into this issue in the first place. I make the designation of scientism, in that it is precisely that humanist strain of science which has sought to divorce itself from religious and spiritual ethics. Humanism, according to dictionary definition is “a system of thought criticized as being centered on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the unintegrated and conditioned nature of the individual”. It is specifically this “autonomous self”, detached from the natural world — through its “rational” mechanics — which gives license to itself to treat the world as mere objects, having no sign or significance beyond their molecules and atoms.

So how, precisely, are we going to science the feces out of our conundrum when the malady points to a much deeper diagnosis: schizophrenic god-complex. Schizophrenia in that modern man is caught between expelling God and attempting to be God himself. Thus far, the “science-ing the shit out of this” theory doesn’t seem to hold water.

The Value of One Life – What Is It In Western Civilization?

مِن أَجلِ ذٰلِكَ كَتَبنا عَلىٰ بَني إِسرائيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفسًا بِغَيرِ نَفسٍ أَو فَسادٍ فِي الأَرضِ فَكَأَنَّما قَتَلَ النّاسَ جَميعًا وَمَن أَحياها فَكَأَنَّما أَحيَا النّاسَ جَميعًا ۚ وَلَقَد جاءَتهُم رُسُلُنا بِالبَيِّناتِ ثُمَّ إِنَّ كَثيرًا مِنهُم بَعدَ ذٰلِكَ فِي الأَرضِ لَمُسرِفونَ

It was for the sake of that crime that We made it a principle for the Children of Israel that if anyone took a life — unless it be to punish a murder or to prevent the spread of chaos in the land — that it would be as if he had murdered the whole of humanity. Conversely, if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he had saved the life of the whole of humanity. However, even though Our messengers came to them with clear evidence of the truth — even after that — many of them continued to commit abuses in the land.Qur’an, 5: 32

I ask this question: “What does one life mean for us now?” Some may assume I ask this antagonistically as if — because I’m Muslim — I have some undying criticisms of the West, or more simply, I harbor ill will towards the West. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as I, all of my family, and my daughter, are all members of the West. I ask it because I wish for the West to be better: better tomorrow than yesterday. I say this to myself as well as to my fellow Muslims: we’re going to have to move beyond non-stop criticisms (which is not the same as being critical of) of the West and try and contribute to its much-need revival.

On April 10th, Cedric Anderson murdered Karen Smith as well as 8-year old Jonathan Martinez. Shortly thereafter, Steve Stephens murdered 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr., live, on Facebook. And then today, Kori Ali Muhammad appears to have murdered three white men because he felt there was a brewing race war. Stereotypically, Muhammad’s case is still under review as to whether it’s “terrorism” or not. But seriously, who cares? There’s a five-person body count; five people who are no longer here due to no fault of their own. I find myself unable to just get back to “business as usual”. This is not usual. This level of crime, killing, and indifference to human life is no usual. Is this the fate (and unintended consequence) of Facebook and our selfie culture? We have to not go back to business as usual but stop … arrest ourselves, arrest our movement, process what life means in western civilization. Does a person’s life have value anymore? Two lives? Three lives? Five lives? If it does, then when, where, and how shall we make this manifest again? We desperately need a return to meaning, one rooted in the transcendence that there is a God, that God cares about the affairs of humans, put in them indelible value because God created them, and we will be held accountable for our actions. Taking lives and then taking our own is no escape from the heinous crimes we commit against one another. We will face the consequences we reap. May God guide us all.

#MiddleGroundPodcast – The Sherman Jackson Reader: On Belief and Rationality For Muslims in the West

In this episode of the Middle Ground Podcast, we share some more insights into our Saturday class, The Sherman Jackson Reader, this time discussing such topics as belief, non-belief, and the hegemony of western constructs such as rationalism, and what are its consequences for Muslims and what our potential reactions might be.

Excerpts

On Sensationalism, ISIS and Liberalism


[Direct download]

Revelation and Talking About Revelation


[Direct download]

On Prophetic Authority


[Direct download]

Belief vs. Religion

ما تَعبُدونَ مِن دونِهِ إِلّا أَسماءً سَمَّيتُموها أَنتُم وَآباؤُكُم ما أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ بِها مِن سُلطانٍ ۚ إِنِ الحُكمُ إِلّا لِلَّهِ ۚ أَمَرَ أَلّا تَعبُدوا إِلّا إِيّاهُ ۚ ذٰلِكَ الدّينُ القَيِّمُ وَلٰكِنَّ أَكثَرَ النّاسِ لا يَعلَمونَ

“If you don’t serve Him, then you’re serving nothing more than names that you and your ancestors made up, and God gave no one permission to do that. The right to command is for none save God, and He has commanded that you serve nothing besides Him. That’s the straight way of life, but most people don’t understand.” — Qur’an, 12: 40


[Direct download]

On Being A Good Person and Being A Non-Muslim


[Direct download]

On Modern Understandings of Religion


[Direct download]

On the Hegemony of Western Norms: Wudu, Rationalism, and the Significance of Ritual


[Direct download]

The Full clip


[Direct download]

For other khutbahs and podcasts, see the Middle Ground Podcast.

Notes

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

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