Church attacks: A clash of extremists against all civility, or a clash of two civilizations?

The attack on a Coptic church in Egypt in January 2011 received a vocal response of disgust from Egypt's Muslims, it has been reported. It was not widely reported, though, in my purview, in the United States.
 
A writer on the site "Big Think" says that the response included the sons of Egypt's president attending church services, as a show of solidarity between Muslims and Christians in that nation.
 
The piece argues that the assault on the church, which follows ancient, regional practices, was committed by fringe extremists against what those extremists see as their enemies. It is not the soldiers of one civilization -- the Muslim World -- lashing out against an opposing civilization -- the Western World. A cliche-breaking fact from this particluar church attack is, Copts "represent a ... non-Western Christian tradition," the author points out.
 
So, it is Muslims against Christians, then? No, not so quick: This foul attack demonstrates well that it is not religion versus religion, but extremists against everyone else. (By the way, you can throw a few fundamentalist Islamic republic governments onto the extremist side, I wouldn't disagree. But not all Muslim states belong there.)
 
The problem, at least in the U.S., of Muslims seeming to be supportive of Muslim extremists, if only out of apathy, holds enough weight to beg for a vocal response from them, or at least some type of clear response (other than apathy and quiet). However, it is more important for Muslims (anyone, really, but I'm making a specific point here) to be sincere in whatever response they give to Islamic terrorist acts. Even if it the response were to speak out against the ineptness of news media for not covering the outrage of the majority of Muslims against Islamic violent extremists, at least that would be more than I am seeing. (If TV and radio personality Sean Hannity has the sense, as a renown conservative talker, to have Muslims and former Muslims on his radio show to discuss extremism, loudly and clearly, why can't the major networks and 24-hour news channels offer something more?)
 
In the case of Islamic extremism and in other problem areas, the wrong response by anyone is to marginalize or demonize an entire culture, faith, or ethnic group. That is, to call all Muslims a danger to America, or to call them all terrorists is obviously incorrect, and it is dangerous in itself. Such a calling out of a whole group is simple-minded, and if it is not expressed out of crass ignorance and/or fear, it is simply showing bigotry and prejudice, and it is being used for ill gains. What I am getting at is that informed marginalization is bigoted, and in some cases it is evil. Informed marginalization is what gave us the Nazi terror against Jews and other groups, in the 1930s and 1940s, as a prominent (and obvious) example. But informed or not, such marginalization is only worthy if it is indeed true.
 
The question of why Muslims do not assault the evil -- the evil that I and plenty others identify -- occuring in their midst does not have a perfect and conclusive answer. It is no simpler than the questions of how pedophiles manage to exist and thrive in a church community, or soldiers are able to commit the intentional murder of innocents. Life is bigger than simple answers when it comes to mass groups of people with a common thread, whether it is ethnicity, nationality, religion, or even a particular perversion.
 
With regard to Muslim reactions to Islamic extremism, I think the rational thing to do is to seek the Muslim response to these events. I don't mean to suggest that the media -- and citizens -- should make it their duty to pander to Muslims, but that Muslims deserve to have their feelings about Islamic extremism out in the open. Those of us who don't have opportunities to interact with Muslims of any stripe ought to know if what average Muslims think about Islamic extremism (and, yes, those who need to see it, the rabidly anti-Islamic types, certainly could use some evidence to calm their distaste).
 
All lands, faiths and peoples have yahoos, creeps and killers among them. The goal isn't to demonize the good because of the bad, but to push the good to get control of the bad. Otherwise, events such as September 11, and the attack on a Coptic church in Egypt in January 2011, will inspire the lowly, when they ought to engage the upstanding to push the lowly into a corner, and keep them there.
 
 
The Big Think article (click the title to read more):
 
Robert de Neufville on January 8, 2011

... At first glance, Islamist attacks on Christians in the Middle East seem like more evidence for the enduring idea — [which was] first put forward by Samuel Huntington in 1993 — that we are witnessing a "clash of civilizations" between the Western and Islamic worlds. But the Copts—who represent a distinct, non-Western Christian tradition as old as Catholicism—defy easy classification into any broad "civilization." As I have argued before, part of the problem with the idea of a clash of civilizations is that it is difficult to divide the world neatly into different civilizations. Real conflicts have complex historical origins that don't necessarily fit with the simple story of clashing cultural identities. And fundamentalist violence in the Middle East is probably as much a product of the failure of Middle Eastern states as it is of any clash of fundamental worldviews.

There is, in any case, another side to tragedy in Alexandria. Amid concerns that there could be more attacks on Christmas Eve this year, thousands of Egyptian Muslims—including President Hosni Mubarak's two sonsattended Christmas Eve masses to ward off attacks by acting as "human shields." Egyptians across Facebook changed their profile to the image of a cross within a crescent, an old symbol of religious unity in Egypt. It is a useful reminder that fundamentalists do not speak for everyone and that, in spite of their differences, people with different religious and cultural backgrounds can come together in solidarity.


- jR (aka AirFarceOne on Twitter)
Post a Comment