Skip to comments.(Vanity) As the World Turns, Part II, or Back to the Future
Posted on 02/15/2007 9:53:50 PM PST by grey_whiskers
In my prior article, (Vanity) As the World Turns, or The Wild, Wild East I considered the possibility that changing demographics, upheavals in culture, and changing markets may bring the centuries-old preeminence of the Western World to an end. Three main heirs-apparent were mentioned: a renewed Islamic Caliphate, China, and India. I considered some of the weaknesses of the West and some of the cultural strengths of the others. In this and the following pieces, I wish to consider the potential Achilles heels for the rivals. I begin with Islam, with a detour into US politics and recent history.
As remarked earlier, the strength of Islam is exactly that: Islam. By analogy to the United States, which has been united across a diverse set of cultures and locations through a set of common political beliefs, Islam is unitedacross many racial and national boundariesby common theological beliefs. In addition, the beliefs are such that they can be readily communicated and grasped without a great deal of formal education. In addition, the Muslim world is considerably younger (and more fecund) than the West. Finally, much of the Muslim World is centered around some of the largest oil reserves on Earthconvenient for economic power and/or blackmail against industrialized powers. However, each of these strengths contains a seed of weakness which may retard the establishment of sharia law worldwide.
First, consider the shared creed. Is the Muslim world really as unified as typically portrayed? Look at the violence in Iraq, aided and abetted by Islamic forces in Iran. Surely that is an example of Muslim unification? Not necessarily, upon closer inspection. Recall that a major battle fought by US forces in the last couple of weeks was actually against a splinter sect (Messianic isnt quite the word to use of Muslims, but perhaps apocalyptic would do) who were setting out to slaughter a number of traveling pilgrims of a different Muslim persuasion. Or, for that matter, note that a great deal of the violence in Iraq is Sunni-Shia rivalry, echoing the see-saw of Catholic and Protestant power within Europe hundreds of years ago. (For an example of how extreme this is, consider the recent bootlegged video of the execution of Saddam Hussein. Here we have a world-class mass murderer and dictator. Not quite in the league of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, or Pol Pot, but certainly up there. During his execution (a first) a bootleg recording is made, and on it, the dictator and the executioners and witnesses get into a religious quarrel. Wouldnt you think in Iraqs case, crimes against humanity would take precedence over squabbles?)
Consider now the youth and demographic quotient of Islam. The problem here is twofoldone economic and the other societal. The economic problem is that with all of the young Mohammeds being born, where are they going to find employment? Recall that much of the Muslim World would be living in pretty abject poverty if not for the flood of petrodollars coming from the hands of infidels. And history has shown us that large masses of single, bored, repressed young men is not a recipe for any kind of stability. If the leaders of the Islamic world cannot find a way to channel the energies of all these youngsters into something, this may cause problems. (Yes, I realize Death to the Great Satan is still pretty appealing, but it doesnt put food on the table. And if Islam unleashes its youth on the rest of the world with a view to conquest, the result will probably not be a clean victory, but instead something more like the Mad Max movies, with integrated civilization as a whole sputtering to a halt, with memories of finer things.)
Finally, there is oilblack gold. Some have considered the idea that petroleum is a perfect weapon to use against the developed and decadent infidels. I can think of two reasons why this is not necessarily true. First, it seems clear that the current crop of leaders in Saudi Arabia and other places, is very used to the level of luxury and comfort afforded by selling the oil. Unless there is a theocratic revolt, they will be very unwilling to renounce the profits. But there is another possibility as well. With all of the hindrances placed by the US Democratic Party on drilling for oil in ANWR, or off of the coasts of Florida, or many other places, in addition to the unilateral energy disarmament of the US by restrictions on coal and on CO2 emissions, the net effect is that many of the traditional sources of fossil fuels outside fo the US are disproportionately losing their supply of *cheap* fuel. Over the long term, this may have the economic effect of the rope-a-dope by the US, where we denude the resources of our rivals, and end up being the only player in town at the end of the day.
In summary, one hopes that Islam will not be a major threat to the US for the foreseeable future in a demographic or economic sensealways with the caveat that if Muslim fundamentalists gain access to fission or thermonuclear weapons, all bets are off. If Islam does supplant Western liberal democracy, it may be it will do so not by moving ahead, but by reducing much of the world to the Dark Ages once again. Back to the Future? Or Forward to the Past?
(As an aside, maybe it should be emphasized that *that* is what the United States has to fear most by the Islamization of Europe. One can only hope that the ex-Christian powers have the foresight to disable or destroy any nuclear-weapons related technology or artifacts, during the slow decline of their civilization, before the point of no return is reached.)
In my next piece, I will take a look at China. Keep in mind the Chinese calendar.
...more coming in a couple of days (if I have time).
Look for it tomorrown morning (Sunday), Arizona time ...
Good post, but you haven’t mentioned that the Sunni-Shia or the Shia-Ismaili etc feuds are not the same as the Catholic-Protestant feud. Islamic sects were formed primarily because of political rivalry — the Shia’s believe that Husain/Ali should have been the Caliph, while the mainstream Sunnis think that Muawiyah was good enough. Then the fight between the 5ers and the 12ers in Shia Islam (i.e. the ones who support the first 5 imams as rightful and those that support the first 12 as rightful!)
This presents some parallels to the entanglement of Church and State in medeival / early Renaissance Europe; and the fight between the 5ers and 12ers (which I hadn't even *heard* of, thanks for telling me about it) would be analogous to the split of Orthodox and Roman Catholic...(I wonder who the protestant Muslims are?)
But I didn't do much more than allude to these matters, simply because I was out of my depth. As Clint Eastwood said, "A man's got to know his limitations"; and as the old saying goes "It is better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
(G8, can you comment on the religious/sectarian quarrels within Islam?)
Oh, and I do not mean any disrespect to you — the articles were really very good reads and well-researched.
There are, of course, the SEVENERS, and they have a whole ‘nuther take on the whole business.
Islam is a very light wrap they have used in the past to protect themselves from the extreme Islamofascist majority over the ages.
They claim, and DNA tests have demonstrated, that they are descendants of every group to have come to or ruled over the Holy Land.
Not heard that about the Druze, but then I don’t know much about them at all. I know that they have been severely persecuted over the centuries. Could they be Samaritans? There are 300 Samaritans left in Israel I think at last count
The Druze and the Samaritans are “different”.
I know — according to what we know, but don’t we know very very little about the Druze? Or the yazidi or the Sabaens or even the Samaritans?
I suspect they are the people sometimes identified in the Bible as "scribes", and I don't mean the political sect of Jesus' time.
Interesting — can you send me some links or something? I couldn’t find much myself on the Druze.
The bottom line regarding inter-Islamic fueds is: Everyone hates each other
The origin of the Sunni-Shi’a split is over a disagreement on who should succeed Muhammad and become the next caliph. The Shi’ites believed that Husayn bin Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law, should succeed him because he was actually related to him (they believe a caliph must be a descendent of Muhammad). The Sunnis argued that since Muhammad didn’t actually specify who was to succeed him, anyone would be fine as long as he was a good Muslim. They chose Abu Bakr, a friend of Muhammad to be the first caliph. Shi’ites don’t recognize the first three caliphs. They believe Ali (the fourth caliph) is the first imam (they use the term imam, not caliph). Shi’a literally means party or sect, from Shi’at Ali (Party of Ali). Sunni comes from sunnah, meaning “tradition.”
Within Sunni and Shi’a Islam there are even more divisions. There are four schools of Sunni thought, with different sects falling under each one. The puritannical Wahhabis (or Salafis as they’re also called) are one of these sects and are actually considered heretics by mainstream Sunnis. Deobandis (Pakistani/Indian Muslims) were originally quite different from Wahhabis but were Wahhabized via Saudi-funded madrasahs, and now the only real theological difference between the two is the school of thought to which they subscribe.
Shi’a Islam is full of divisions. The mainstream Shi’ites (”Twelvers”) are so called because the await the coming of the twelfth imam (like Nutjob in Iran, for instance). “Fivers” recognize only five imams, and believe the fifth one is the “mahdi” (awaited one). The ‘Alawis deviate from mainstream Shi’ism (I’m not exactly sure how, but they don’t believe the 12th imam thing). Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian govt are ‘Alawis. They are generally not looked on favorably by twelvers (except by Nutjob because he’s looking for ME allies). Other sects include Ismailis, Zaidis, Ibadis, and Ahmadiyyahs, with minorites in Yemen mostly. The Druze are an offshoot of Shi’a Islam, but are considered heretics by both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims.
Sunnis hate Shi’ites and treat Shi’a minorites poorly. That’s part of the reason for the Saudi-Iran tensions (the other is the Arab-Persian rivarly). But some branches Sunnis hate other Sunnis, and some branches of Shi’ites hate other Shi’ites. If they didn’t have the Jews to hate to provide a common interest, they would all be tearing at each other’s throats.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the Sufis, who are considered heretics by Sunnis AND Shi’ites. The Mevlevi (the “whirling dervishes”) are prominent in Turkey.
And as someone else mentioned, there are also Sevener Shi’ites, who recognize only seven imams.
There isn’t much on the Druze. They work hard to keep it secret.
May I ask some questions?
1) Who is ibadis?
2) I agree Wahabbis would be the strictest group of Islam that I've heard of, and that they want to "purify" Islam (what is their relation to the Taliban, btw?), but I'm not sure what the Wahabbis consider themselves as rebelling against -- from my limited knowledge, I didn't think their was a formal, historical, hierarchical structure within Islam? Could you elaborate?
3) I never heard of Ismailies (it vaguely reminds me of Moby Dick, LOL), and I was under the impression that many of the Druze were Christian. Is that a different spelling, or is "Druze" an ethnic term instead of theological?
Last point -- if it *is* true that the Arabs are the descendents of the Biblical Hagar, it sure looks like Genesis 16:12 has come true...
Thanks for the information, I appreciate the corrections.
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