Islam fascination

(picture: bee hive that reads Allah in Arabic)

As a post in between my philosophy discussions about Levinas and Heidegger, I would like to post my reaction here to question that was asked at Orkut.

The question was (from an Orkuter from Pakistan):

So recently I've had some free time to myself and I've been hopping around communities on here whose themes were centered around discourse, racism, prejudice, justice, human rights, etc. Now, most of the time these communities were created to tackle the above mentioned issues (and more) in a broad sense. Yet, I've been seeing a funny phenomenon.It seems the majority of
threads that are created in the majority of these communities are to do with Islam in one way or another. I could possibly attribute this to the fact that there is an overwhelming population of Muslims on orkut, but it's it seems that its not as simple as that. Many of the threads involve people who appear to be ever-ready to ardently discuss, argue, debate and sometimes even bash and ridicule Islam/Muslims to some extent.

What, then, is behind this apparent fascination with Islam? Whether it be from the persepective of the passionate Muslims who would use many opportunities to give some information about his/her faith, to the people who would do anything to "expose" its teachings, to the people in between who just want to know more. Why is Islam being such a popular subject of discussion (from even before 9/11)?

And my reply:

Interesting question.

Let's start by saying that I am not sure if Orkut as a whole has got that many Islam discussions, I suppose there will be many corners of Orkut where I have never been where totally other topics are being discussed like Star Wars, Linux, ancient Maya cultures and Linkin Park ;-)
In my community list are many Islam related communities and general political communities. It's logical that the Islam communities have Islam related topics, but it's not so logical that American Politics or this community, DAR, has got a lot of Islam related topics.

I think both from the "east" and from the "west" I can mention some reasons why people pay a lot of attention to the Islam. In the east the Islam is one of the major religions (one of the biggest religions in the world). And it's a religion who plays an important role in the daily lives of people. In the Netherlands many people describe themselves as christians, but religion often plays a very small role in their lives, they go to the church with christmas and that's it. So they also don't really want to talk about it at discussion platforms like Orkut.
When you pray 5 times per day, when almost everybody around you is Muslim, when religion and culture are much more mixed and when the education is most of the time religious, religion gets a much more central place in somebody's life. So then people talk more about it, which doesn't mean they want to show the supremacy of the religion or that their aim would be to convert others, the discussions could be just as well about what it means to live as a good Muslim. In the west the perspective is different. The Islam represents what is totally different and strange, and which is soon considered to be a threat for the west. With the cold war the Russians / communists were considered to be the main enemies of the west. With the collapse of communism and the fall of the wall, the political relations changed. Now that we don't have to fear much from Russia anymore, we started to look for new possible dangers and after 9/11 the enemy picture became clear again, from both sides. The war on terrorism is not a traditional or a cold war. The threat from the east to the west is not so visible, predictable or controlable. It's not an open war but a hidden war with terrorist attacks that can strike anytime anywhere, not only in the east but also in the west. We don't know where the next attack will take place and so we can't do much to prevent it from happening. This fear can make that people start to panic and don't think very well anymore. The Islam as a whole is considered to be a threat for the west, not just the small groups of extremist terrorists both in the east and the west. At once it's assumed that normal moderate Muslims think like extremists, that they think that all non-Muslims should be killed. Then the posts at Orkut become a kind of mission to fight against the "dangerous and barbarian Islam" in order to protect the west. The "Barbarians inside the gates" thread title sounds as a clear expression of this fear (although that post was about a small group of youngsters who attacked a train, not about Muslims in Europe in general). The reason why I think it's relevant to talk about the Islam in this community, although it usually has little to do with racism, is that it offers a good opportunity to analyse different types of discourses and perspectives. I am interested in the images that people invent in their minds of other groups. Images of "the enemy". Simplistic and generalized images, group labels that are being put on the heads of unique individuals. Abstract ideas that are based on the media and propaganda of politicians. How can we stimulate that we meet each other with an open mind? What can we do to decrease the hate at different sides and to take away irrational fears?

So there's a lot to be discussed with about the Islam at Orkut, still.

Yaa indeed Islam is the largest religion.

Have you seen lately whats franzy media guys did puting Prophet Mohammad's as a cartoon wearing a turban as a bomb, just in the name of free press?
I think its absolutely triggers the Muslims all over the world. Islam is not just the name of just yet another faith of religion. Islam talks about values, and this recent issue has just increased the differences between Islam and the others, which doesn't know how Islam plays a very important play in everyone life, religious or not so religious persons...

P.S The picture is nice :-)
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