Thursday, October 17, 2002
The Sharia Enclave-This is a predictable but dangerous precedent; the Australian government has urged it's nationals to leave Indonesia, given the Bali bombing and rumors of further attacks on foreigners. The problem with this is that the presence of westerners is a liberalizing force in Indonesia and other countries. The al Qaeda sympathizers will not want those people around, for the openness of western culture is corrosive to their brand of Islam. If terror will have the foreigners heading for the next plane out of town, then the legalists will have an easier time of it turning their country into a theocracy. Even if the foreigners aren't actively seeking the change of the overarching Islamic culture, the western idea of religion being a personal matter rather than a collective one is toxic to majoritarian Islam. Islam evolved as a majoritarian religion, where being in the minority in an area was an abnormality. The New Testament was written in an era where Christians were in a minority, and the resultant western culture that stemmed from it is more tolerant of religious minorities and advocates a differentiation between church and state. The Muslim country has three options in dealing with religious opposition. The first is to adopt a western view of religion, developing a largely secular state that allows people to practice their faith more-or-less freely; this is the tack that Indonesia seems to be heading towards before Bali. The second is to ghettoize foreigners and foreign religions, allowing foreigners in to tap their expertise and money, but to try your best to not allow them to contaminate their good Muslim country; that's the Saudi plan. The third is to pull up the drawbridge and become a hermit country, not allowing any non-Muslim person or idea in and accept the economic backwardness that results from such a move. Could we see the possibility of a series of hermit nations that pull up the drawbridge to the outside world and live pre-modern lives? North Korea and pre-90s Albania are examples of communist countries that cut off the western world in order to try and keep corrupting information out. They also became dirt poor as a result, both materially and spiritually. The Taliban tried a similar strategy, banning TVs and having very limited radio and having a limited presence of non-Islamic visitors. I remember my Econometrics prof, Dr. Bennett, at Kent State (who was a ham radio buff) back in 1991 asking what country was the hardest to reach a fellow ham radio broadcaster. Without knowing the fact in particular, I said Albania, since that regime was the least interested in having anyone freely communicating with the outside world. It's that level of control that such a hermit nation needs to do to keep the outside world out. No TV, no short-wave radio, no Internet. No copying machines or computers outside of government hands. No way of getting information about the advantages of the free market or human rights. No way to hear that Jesus is more than a secondary prophet. That's what awaits the countries that want to keep western influences out. It's hard to run a 20th-century economy with those restrictions, let alone a 21st century economy. That's why we need to keep fighting this fight and not leave the Islamic world to stew in their own natural juices. In the eyes of the more-secular person, we're condemning them to a pre-industrial, pre-Enlightenment world. For the evangelicals among us, we're also condemning them to a world with a fatally flawed vision of God. The bad guys want us to go home and leave their part of the world alone. We can't let that happen. The paleocons and paleoliberarians would want us to leave, for they don't want to pay the cost of getting those dark-skinned people a better life. The multicultis can't get past moral equivalence to see that the old-school Islamic culture needs an overhaul. Doing this job will take time, money and quite a few martyrs for the good guys. The paleos will say its too costly and the left will say it is presumptuous. It is costly; things worth having usually are costly. It is presumptuous; it's tacky to say that Western culture's better than the old-school Islamic culture, but we have to cockiness to insist that it is true nonetheless. We need to have a certain amount of humility in our own abilities and respect for other people as fellow children of God, yet we need to understand that we have a better way and shouldn't be afraid to expound on it and expand it.
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