Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Lumping Islam in with Totalitarianism because of Sharia, a serious misjudgment

The lumping of Islam in with totalitarianism by rightwing commentators is, in my opinion, seriously out of touch with reality. Islam's code is not totalitarian as much as it is a different way of viewing thing than we're used to in our Christian society, one that doesn't shy away from engaging the world around us. Islam gives advice on how to live life in the world, as opposed to outside of it.

By trying to give answers to practical questions, Islam does not make itself totalitarian. Instead, it's attempt to fill the void can be looked at as if anything realistic. In fact, it's a kind of realism that has much in common with the pre-Christian pagan philosophy Rome and Greece. Stoic philosophy as well as Aristotelian morality on living the good life have much in common with Islam's core idea of virtue. Christianity, on the other hand, shies away from truly practical advice--it's too worldly, and therefore not valid.

Most often, Christianity either gives vague answers about life, like "Love thy neighbor" and "God is Love", or it simply provides a total, reactionary, condemnation of groups and practices, such as homosexuality or abortion. Simply condemning homosexuality says nothing about the way that a person who is not homosexual should live life in a positive way. The content directing people on how to go beyond simply abstaining from doing wrong is missing. In fact, although preachers are very good at talking up simple compassionate love and the absolutely forbidden, cases come up again and again of pastors who preach hellfire and brimstone doing the very things that they condemn. I think that the levels rise beyond that expected because of human nature and coincidence.

Instead of condemning Islamic sharia outright I think many people would benefit from a dialogue with Islam about its thoughts on what a just society and good way of life is. None of this is totalitarian, anymore than advice from the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle or from Seneca's letters on morality becomes totalitarian because they give tips on diverse areas of life.

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