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discussing the crisis - 1
i've managed to get my hands on bernard lewis' the crisis of islam, a concise commentary on eastern islamic practices, western perceptions of islamic radicalism and perceived solutions to the problem of religious fundamentalism in the islamic context. in this post, and the ones to follow, i'll try and discuss my own take on lewis' work.

less a book and more an exteded essay, the crisis of islam, begins promisingly with the introduction establishing the author's scholarlship. there are however assertions inconsistent with my own education and experience as a muslim, more specifically, as an educated indian muslim. when lewis refers to the muslims for example, it is evident he's talking about the muslims around the world, indians, pakistanis, indonesians, malaysians and every other ethnic group that follows islam as a system of belief and practice. in the introduction he talks about a videotape made pubic in october 2001, in which Osama bin Laden refers to some event that occured eighty years ago, and which was purportedly a cornerstone in islamic political history. the event referred to was the breaking up of the Ottoman empire and according to Lewis, though Western observers had some time figuring out the allusion, it was something plainly evident to most muslims. i cannot speak for muslims of other nationalities, but i can speak as an indian, and i'm very positive about this, mr.lewis would be hard pressed to find too many indians of the islamic faith who would know off hand of bin Laden's reference. it is uncertain if this can be explained as evidence of ignorance or of an identity independent from that of the larger islamic body, a more likely reason for me is my belief that radical islam is intrinsically a geographical and political, rather than an islamic problem per se. an integral component of islamic identity however, is the kabah, and by association, mecca and saudi arabia. current events and alleged aggression therefore, in the wider gulf region, have been used very successfully by radical elements in all muslim communities to incite a hatred and distrust for the west in general and america in particular.

it is also instructive to note that western mores seem to be in direct conflict with islamic and in many cases asian principles and cultural practices. consider for example hinduism, which places a great deal of restrictions on sexual freedom as compared to current western attitudes. hinduism however, does not seem to be as much at war with the west as islam, why? perhaps because most other cultures have chosen to evolve and adapt to western influences or simply modern practices. islam on the other hand, the 'perfect religion', refuses to consider the idea that it has any flaws whatsoever. muslims believe the quran is the word of god, it is immutable, unchangeable, and, above all, absolute. to even entertain the idea that islam needs to adapt to any external forms of behavior or thought, be it western or anything else, is sacrilege for any practicing muslim.

lewis' introduction further talks about a letter in a london based arabic newspaper, printed in february 1998, allegedly faxed in by Osama bin Laden and other radical leaders. the letter talks about how america and not iraq was the aggressor in the 1991 gulf war, along with other rhetoric about the plight of the iraqi people under continued sanctions and of america's oft alleged cabal with israel. those arguments have been used consistenty and very successfully by radical forces in shaping public opinion on the 'arab street'. by going to war with iraq and committing one blunder after another in its conduct, for example the lack of a proper administrative plan post war and the inane handling of international media criticism, america has played into the hands of radical elements, giving even greater credence to their conspiracy theories. it is unlikely the war in iraq will lead to the democratizaion of arabia in the near future, if anything it only seems to be another bloody chapter in an ongoing struggle between islam and the west, with no quick or peaceful resolution immediately apparent.

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