The Islam and dogmatism

Here is one more post from Orkut, this time a text that I wrote myself. Something strange is happening, while almost everyone in my surroundings starts to talk more and more negatively about the Islam, I start to think more and more positively about it. To say it more precisely, I try to get to know more about the Islam and when I know and understand more I also start to see the positive aspects more clearly. I get sick of all the aggressiveness that I see at Orkut against the Islam, especially against Pakistani. And that while I have some very very kind, friendly, open and peaceful friends from Pakistan at Orkut.

In the community that I created myself - Discourse Analysis and Racism - some time ago I wrote down my experiences with the Islam in Senegal and Mali, to create a more balanced view, against all the negative stories from the west about the Islam which are posted at Orkut all the time. I received only positive reactions to my Senegal / Mali post, it turns out that what I wrote is really unknown among Islam haters but that they are glad to hear that the Islam is tolerant and peaceful in West-Africa. It's a pity that this other face of the Islam is so unknown.

But if I wanted to discuss the Islam in other places than West-Africa also (which I wanted), I would first have to know more about it. So that's why I decided to read "The Islam is an orange" about the Islam in Syria. Here are my conclusions.


I have been taking part in many discussions about the Islam at Orkut. In general I try to point at generalisations, simplifications and prejudices which are seen as absolute truths (in contrast to an open mind and a willingness to change the image you had of an individual, immediately, when that person shows that the image you had doesn't apply to him or her, and also in contrast with a nuanced view with different aspects expressed in it). Most of the simplications and prejudices and aggression I saw at Orkut were aimed against the Islam. And so to stop the generalisations and simplistic negative images I started to defend the Islam. I did that by telling about the positive experiences I had with the Islam in West-Africa. But what was weak in my defence was that I was fighting against prejudices and generalisations, but without having much knowledge of what I was talking about myself. It's weak of course if I say that the images that people present are not realistic, if I don't know much about this part of reality myself. So now I am trying to gather knowledge about the Islam and also about other Islamic countries than only countries in West-Africa.
Especially Ghulam helps me well with Quran quotes and links on the Internet.

And during my vacation I finally read "The Islam is an orange" from Maurits Berger. (The title refers to the flesh as sufism and the skin as the sharia.) A Dutch lawyer, who studied both law and Arabic and who has lived in Egypt, tells about how he decided to move to Syria to study Islamic law. This is only one personal story and I know that I still have a long way to go to increase my knowledge, and that I should actually go to the Middle-East myself and so, but at least this personal story gave me some kind of frame to understand it better. The perspective of this lawyer is interesting. He is not a Muslim but a Christian. He is interested in the Islam, but as an outsider. His description is neutral, he describes what happens without making too fast judgements, he tries to understand the Islamic way of life.

There were many elements in his story that are similar to my experiences in West-Africa. Maurits always said everywhere that he was not a Muslim and asked e.g. if it was ok to enter a mosq and so. Everyone reacted that it was no problem, that he was accepted as a Christian, because Muslims and Christians believe in the same God. And there was the emphasis within the Islam to try to live in a morally good way, to treat other people right and so. He also describes differences between fundamentalism, the conservative Islam (which is not the same), sufism etc. He has many interesting dialogues with Muslims.

Still he finds it difficult to live in Syria as a foreigner, in the long run. In the first place he finds it difficult that religion is so strongly present in every aspect of people's lives. It's the first and most important topic that people talk about. Muslims asked him many questions about christianity, e.g. how it's possible if Christians believe in only one God, how this God can have a son, and if he is a God or a human then etc. Maurits didn't know how to answer these questions, he is not interested in these questions himself, for him religion is something vague that he doesn't think about much. He was only interested in the law aspects of the Islam, not in the religion. But such a perspective is impossible in Syria. In the second place, which is related, he found it frustrating in the end that his being different was not accepted. He really tried his best to understand it and to behave in the way that was expected of him. His adaptation went much further than of most foreigners anywhere in the world. He found it a pity that people didn't want to accept that he refused to become a Muslim and that it's impossible to leave your own culture completely behind. In Senegal I experienced this differently, I had the feeling that I was accepted as myself there. If I would live there permanently it would be different I think and I would always remain an outsider, but still there's a difference between the Senegalese and the Syrian culture I think, the Senegalese culture is more open and accepts differences more easily. So, as far as the criticism at Orkut against the Islam was aimed against dogmatic thinking and against strong assimilation attempts on non-Muslims, I agree with the criticism, I also dissaprove of these elements. And it's also that from my culture, my Dutch perspective, I cannot understand why women would have to hide their bodies, why they cannot show it if they are beautiful and why sex is considered obscene so fast and why people have to be killed for that. The moral problem of it I just can't understand.

But in general the dogmatism is the biggest problem I think. The strange thing is that it seems as if atheism or weak christianity is only the absence of religion, as if there is nothing which is replacing it. But the values of atheists are just as strong, but less consciously present. It's because of that that Maurits found it hard to find his place in Syria. On the other hand I think that the same - but the other way around - happens in the west, that we also don't accept that immigrants are different and that we strongly impose our values on them, which makes it very hard for them to be accepted in a foreign country. It's a pity that most people who attack the dogmatism of the Islam don't admit that this principle also exists on the other side.
what about;

the silent holecaust of assimilation
globalisation of political Islam
rights of dhimmis under shaira law
Hi Paul,

"what about;
- the silent holecaust of assimilation"

Probably holocaust is too strong a word. But I agree that the totalisation / discrimination through assimilation policies are taking place mostly in silence, almost completely without resistance from "autochtonen". I don't understand why so many people don't see why it's so terrible, all the discrimination measures that Minister Verdonk proposes, with her cold and so self-confident arrogance.

"- globalisation of political Islam"

A very relevant topic indeed. So what do you think about it, in relation to what I wrote?

"rights of dhimmis under shaira law"

This topic I don't know enough about to say something that makes sense.
(Now I do know enough about the last topic as well but I don't see the relevance with regard to my post.)
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