Posted from the US
Can those of us in the West make peace with Islam? What does this mean?
The link here is to the Wikipedia definition of Islam, which is not perfect, but it is an interesting starting point.
I do believe that there can be peace - it really is a question of when, more than if. The U.S. has very peaceful relations between Germany and Japan today - could anyone imagine this in the 1940's? We're not technically fighting a war against Islam today (it's a war against terror), but the widening scope seems to be increasing to include radical Islam - and radical Islam seems to be gaining much popularity in the Islamic world.
There are many existence proofs of such a peace coexistence - but there are also many examples of deep unrest and what looks like a rapidly sharpening rift between Islam and Western thought. When I surfed about looking for the Islamic viewpoint on the infamous cartoons that created such a ruckus, there were many websites that believed that freedom of the press is a fine principle, so long that those of us in the West would also honor and respect that which is holy and important and meaningful to Muslims. The problem here is that freedom means that a cartoonist or an artist or anyone really is free to express themselves - and they are not bound by such rules. It would be a nice thing not to trample on someone's beliefs, but it is not a mandatory thing. A lot of bad feelings seem to revolve around the issue of honor, which is treated differently in the West than it is in the East. I do believe that many Muslims feel dishonored by the West, by our attitudes, our culture, and our general sense of doing what we want to do. This may not be true for all Muslims, but I do believe that it is true for many. This loss of honor is likely very hard to swallow when it comes from impudent non-Muslims (Israel winning a variety of wars, the U.S. invasion of Iraq). Non-Muslims have a unique, lowered status in the Islamic world, and we should understand this a bit. We're all basically people outside of the fold, infidels to a degree, souls of a dirtier status.
It seems to me that if all of us just accepted the fact that we have dhimmi status in the Islamic world, that some progress could be made. In an Islamic worldview, which stretches beyond this life, they are certain of the truth of their beliefs - and that does not resonate with Western indeterminate thought, scientific reason, and often a punk-ass attitude. In the West we also have our various groups with similar ideas (the South is a good place to find good numbers of people who believe that all kinds of non-evangelical punks are going straight to hellfire for eternity) - and what's interesting is how many of the hellfire crowd are rooting for the kind of Armegeddon that a war with radical Islam may bring.
An interesting piece from the Wikipedia site:
Humiliation of dhimmis
Islamic law stipulates that dhimmis must be belittled for their rejection of Islam; humiliating them was an act of piety, a fulfillment of divine will. Bernard Lewis comments that
The Qur'an and tradition often use the word dhull or dhilla (humiliation or abasment) to indicate the status God has assigned to those who reject Mohammad, and in which they should be kept for so long as they persist in that rejection.
Ibn Kathir wrote that dhimmis must feel “disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of the dhimma or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated." Echoing a saying attributed to Muhammad (Sahih Muslim, book 26, #5389), Hasan al-Kafrawi, an 18th century scholar, comments that “if you (Muslims) encounter one of them (dhimmis) on the road, push him into the narrowest and tightest spot”. European travelers to the Middle East describe humiliations and insults of Christians and Jews on the streets until the mid-19th century. As recommended by many Muslim scholars, most notably al-Zamakhshari and al-Nawawi, jizya was often collected in a humiliating procedure:
[T]he collector remains seated and the infidel remains standing..., his head bowed and his back bent. The infidel must place money on the scales, while the collector holds him by his beard and strikes him on both cheeks.
The ritual stemmed from the traditional interpretation of Sura 9:29 that jizya was not merely a tax, but also an expression of submission. Abu Yusuf, however, argues against mistreatment of dhimmis during jizya collection, saying that "they should be treated with leniency". The procedure was not followed in the Ottoman Empire, where jizya was collected by representatives of dhimmi communities themselves.
My knowledge of this view comes from close relatives who escaped from Muslim countries, where indeed they did live in this lowered status. One can imagine how infuriated a Muslim must be when a dhimmi insults his religion, prophet, or somehow inhabits land which is somehow embedded with holiness with respect to Islam. This is one reason why Israel's existence is so infuriating to groups like Hamas - instead of a Muslim land where the Israelis are treated like dhimmis, the Israelis basically treat the Palestinians like dhimmis. The daily fact of Israel seems to be a bleeding open sore - and in conflict with deeply held, rooted beliefs. Somehow many Israeli Arabs have learned to live reasonably well - and even prosper in Israeli society (as Muslims and with religious freedoms) - but their close first cousins just a few miles away can not deal with this reality. Many parts of the Islamic world are not adapting to the modern world - and a way to deal with the modern world is to put it in conflict with the sacred texts and belief systems of Muslims - one is considered to be eternal and absolute and true and unchanging - while the other is just a fad. The modern world also does not do well with parts of the Islamic world which it sees as backwards - freedom of speech, equal rights for women, the basics of modern, Western society are believed to be an ideal state that should be expressed worldwide. The modern world likes modern, progressive, liberal Muslims - but does not know how to deal with the fundamentalist face of Islam.
One way to make peace is to play with the rules that Islam has established internally - as long as those who are not Muslims accept their lower, dhimmi status, all will be ok. I do believe that this kind of attitude would pacify some, but not all of the radical Islamists - it is part of what they are driving for. Let's all bow down folks.
Another way for us to achieve peace is for all us to convert to Islam - I'm pretty sure that this would pacify a wide number if radical Islamists, and then (once we cleared up that Shi'a vs. Sunni thing) we could have real peace. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em (or the ever popular, convert or die).
But - none of this is ever going to happen. The modern world is going forward and it is not stopping for Islam, or any religion for that matter. A systemic problem brewing in Islamic culture is an undercurrent of expectations - that somehow the West will acknowledge its inferiority, or at least accept part of its dhimmi status. Islam in general (some liberal variations may be much more open, but they are not speaking up very loudly these days) has internal issues that prevent real peace and acceptance with the West - Western values do not cohere with Islamic values, and Islam needs to show no real peer respect to the West (from its own internal structures).
Looking back in history, sometimes peace was achieved with these kind of brewing, incompatible value systems only after major war(s), and only after so many people were killed that no one had the energy to fight anymore, so the peace was really just an exhaustion of violent energy.
Yes we can make peace with Islam, but the kind of peace that we are tracking to achieve is the peace of exhaustion, after millions, or tens of millions, or perhaps hundreds of millions of people will die - needlessly. This early 21st century seems pregnant with the kind of growing tension that will feed a major global war - my current outlook is not optimistic.
But perhaps a sense of urgency can drive many minds on both sides to think of new ways to clear the air, settle issues, and exist in different spheres but without violence.
Peace can be achieved when the parties involved acknowledge some universal, basic system of values - and in this case these values need to transcend all religions (ironic, because religions are supposed to be these things in the first place). Values like "stop shooting at me" and "let me live without bombs dropping daily" are good starting points. Values such as "stop sending your kids out to be suicide bombers" and "accept reality and get on with your own lives - please" can help too.
How about "human life is worth more than abstract concepts like honor and religion"? "Can everyone please stop killing each other" I'll bet that G-d likes that one. Heck - just follow one commandment (one that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have) - "Thou Shalt Not Kill". Not 10, not 7, just 1. Can all the religious folks out there just follow one, basic, pretty damn simple command?
No - it seems that many can't. A simple formula for peace, guaranteed to work pretty well: Just follow one commandment that all 3 major religions accept. Of course we can always flip it and kill away until we are spent, are tired, and the peace of the dead is what we'll have, instead of the peace of the living.