The “Diane Rehm Show” on NPr had a good hour today. On her website look for ”
Thursday, Feb 05, 2015 • 10 a.m. (ET)
The discussion was far-ranging, the listener questions hard and direct, the answers were realistic and, as Diane said, disappointing. There is no simple or easy or quick answer. The one thing the radio show did not mention–half the population, women.
You have only to contemplate the long, brutal religious struggles in Europe over a millennium to comprehend the blood, fury, death and change needed to pass from a religious political culture to one that actually allows, if not encourages, personal beliefs without threat of death. When the Papacy ruled supreme it, too, used torture, murder, phony trials, blackmail, political intrigue, ex-communication and war to enforce its rule, power and influence. Is it any wonder that the French Revolution and even England’s repeated religious civil conflicts often led to the execution of priests of various shades who refused to recant their heretical beliefs?
In Lewes, England, there is a hill called Martyrs Hill. There good Catholic Queen Mary’s henchmen burned alive some of the local recalcitrant Protestants. To this day the town marks their martyrdom with a boisterous torch-led march at night, often with burning effigies of the Pope involved. England has finally evolved enough that it is rare indeed for Catholic or Protestant there to feel threatened by a heretical neighbor. These days even the Lewes Catholic priest takes part in the bonfire night parades. Twas not always such.
Can Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Syria Egypt, Morocco or Nigeria ever get to that civilized level? How hard is cultural change? It is the work of generations and centuries. Here in the U.S. we still have Christian fundamentalists who pretend our nation was founded by Bible-beating believers. They have built their own narrow mythology on lies about Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin. In Reovlutionary those days U.S. Protestant churches largely dismissed education and women’s rights. It was only the Quakers who supported education enough to generate America’s earliest scientists. They were men like William Bartram, Thomas Say, John Townsend. Today there is still a hardy strain of anti-intellectualism in fundamentalist Protestant religion. It is now a milder infection than what we see across parts of the Muslim regions.
Saudi Arabia is a case study for the woes of Muslim authoritarian states. There a kleptocracy rules. A “royal family” that rules by force, taking all the country’s money and doling it out in ways to maintain power. People are still whipped or stoned to death. The House of Saud uses its money and power to keep the Muslim clergy in line and encourages a teaching of strongly fundamentalist religion. Women must cover their faces, can’t drive. Birth control is out of the question. This means there is rampant population growth and not enough jobs for angry young men. They are always the eager foot soldiers of any violent movement as long as there have been wars. Send the 19 year old men to kill one another. ISIS and Boko Haram are new only in their names and details. It is another fundamentalist radicalism built on the anger, frustration and adventure-lust of alienated young men. Was ever thus. Grandmothers don’t fight wars.
Until the western nations and Japan and China and Russia say to their “friends” among the Muslim nations that they must join the anti-clerical, tolerant, multi-religious 21st Century, fundamentalism will thrive under tyrannies with bad economies and bleak futures. Corruption and kleptocracy from NIgeria to Pakistan simply plead for violent, fundamentalist revolution.
The message from outside that world needs to be: full rights for women including birth control and abortion [even our own American fundamentalists hate those ideas because it reduces the man’s control of women and society], an end to the preaching of hate of the other whether that be Jew, Sunni, Shia, Hindu or atheist. And we must encourage the dismantling of the phony imperialist boundaries put together a century ago to fit the desires of oil hungry Europeans. Iraq is a typical phony country just as Yugoslavia was, or the Austro-Hungarian Empire before it. Why would it not be better to have partitioning between ethnic groups that hate one another? Imagine where we’d be if we’d tried to keep India and Pakistan as a single country.
Drones will not solve the ISIS Crisis, only long-term revolutionary change will.