December 18, 2007

Islam & the West: there is a cultural divide

Hat Tip: Booker Rising
Ayaan Hirsi Ali's op-ed piece in the New York Times highlights recent incidents in the Islamic world that underscore the deep divide between Islamic values, as applied in Islamic countries, and western values.

Her op-ed piece focuses on two recent high profile cases: the British teacher who allowed her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad and the Saudi government's imprisonment and intended caning of a rape victim. These two cases highlight what I think is a tremendous cultural divide between muslims and westerners who are predominantly Christian. People often refute critiques of Islam by saying that what we observe in these instances is not really what Islam is about. I beg to differ. These responses are what we see in in the heart of Islamic countries where the faith is practiced by the majority of people. So I just don't buy the argument that this isn't how the faith is expected to be practiced by its adherents. Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her op-ed piece asks the question, "where are the moderates?". I wonder if they exist at all.

Because here is the thing. When we hear about incidents like the muslim woman gang raped and then thrown in jail, I keep waiting for outrage to break out across the muslim community in response. I never see it. Maybe I'm not tapped into the right news, blog or web sources, that could be. I never see an outcry or a sense of horror at these incidents from the muslim community. Seeing no response, I'm left with the impression that this is considered a reasonable outcome, an expected, even desired outcome. The Kingdom practices the active suppression of its female citizens. And the Islamic faith writ large seems to agree. How could we think otherwise, when Saudi Arabia is the site of the holiest places in the Islamic world? Every year, millions make pilgrimage to Mecca. This is the place where muslims go to renew their faith, yea to fulfill one of the very tenets of their faith. Why should I not draw the inference from that that the muslim world considers this response to be completely in line with their faith? By the way, its interesting to note that the woman and the man she was found with were both raped and were both imprisoned and sentenced to caning. There is a divide here. I don't think its one that can be crossed.