The article in the New York Times “If the Arab spring Turns Ugly" by Vali Nasr (August 27, 2011) displays an unusual awareness that a sectarian division in the Middle East between the Shi’ites and Sunnis might spell doom over the aspirations of the Arab Spring.
Nasr is one of very few writers that recognize the sectarian problem in the Middle East as an important shape agent. The research in The Great Leap-Fraud – Social Economics of Religious Terrorism, Volume II, Islam and Secularization, shows that the issue is more deeply rooted than commonly thought. The Muslim traditions make believe that there was a time of unity and cooperation among the Muslim sects. However, that is hardly so and the sectarian divisions reach right back to and beyond the beginning of Islam and Muhammad. As the Christian claim to peace and understanding can easily be refuted through its historic evidence, to assume (or believe) that Islam would have started as a religion of unity seems naïve. The Koran includes a narrow set of Christian and Jewish sects and specifically excludes the adherents of Trinitarian Christianity – the Christianity of the modern West. Probably all religions, in particular the three Judaic faiths, have one unifying theme: exclusion of others for the sake of supremacy. Throughout history, religion has been shaped and abused for power, usually at the expense of minorities.
Having said this, when zeroing in on Islam, the dream of Muslim democracies, as laid out in Nasr’s article may be utopian. Firstly, whether the West likes it or not, the nations in the Middle East will be Muslim. The Shi’ite / Sunni division only selects one flavor over another but it does not promote inclusion or democracy in the hopes of the West. In all cases, it may promote an Iranian style “democracy" where the candidates for the head of state are a short list of contenders, accepted by the imams. Even if that were not the case, there will be no democratically elected Shi’ite leader in areas of Sunni domination and vice versa.
This is not to say that Muslims do not long of peace. However, their religious intellectual framework hinders them from braking free from the straight jacket of mutual intolerance.
Where does this lead us and what can the West do? The secret to unlocking the positive Muslim energies (the findings in The Great Leap-Fraud show that the Muslim ideology could provide for a stronger framework for peace and prosperity than the Christian doctrines) may lie in supporting a Muslim reformation. Firstly, an honest reassessment of Muslim history will bring forth the inevitable conclusion that there was no era of prosperity under Islam where nobody could be found to receive the zakat (alms). The historic evidence seems quite clear that the Umayyads rejected the Koran of the Muhammadeans after having first been forced to accept it. Secondly, the Shi’ite fixation on Husain and the chain of imams should be reevaluated. It could dawn on some Shi’ites that Muhammad himself would serve as the better role model in creating prosperity than the rejectionist stance of an overhyped martyr that continues to stir the open wounds for over 1300 years. Scholars would soon realize that the first centuries of Muslim history was marked by an almost uninterrupted succession of sectarian civil wars, refuting the notion of a unified Muslim caliphate. Thirdly, the re-evaluation of the traditions (probably the most important step toward a reformation) would quickly bring forth that they were largely inventions with specific purposes that lie in the context of 100 to 200 years after Muhammad. Studying Muslim primary evidence absent of later traditions is a revealing experience in this respect.
To help the Middle East out of its dark age, the West needs to conduct the ground work for an entirely new approach. For this, the Christian West (and Israel) needs to be honest and break open its own convoluted religious history. It may unveil some unwelcome surprises. A Muslim reformation would hopefully bring forth a fragmentation of both, the Shi’ite and Sunni adherents. This, in turn could potentially put all large sects into minority positions, which would finally force them to cooperate among each other and with the West.
For an early assessment of the Arab Spring, review the article “The Future of Egypt is with Islam" (February 19, 2011). It can be found at www.ajdeus.org/articles/417.
Author of The Great Leap-Fraud
Social Economics of Religious Terrorism
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