Middle East Question – Is it Islam or Arab/Persian Culture?

There comes a point when we begin to ask, despite the contrary pronouncements and assurances from so many, whether Islam has become an angry, violent, intolerant, and fanatical religion – not that it has always been so or must be, but right now it seems to be. Of course not all Muslims are burning down Danish embassies, or blowing themselves up to kill Jews (or any other ‘infidel’). I believe most Muslims prefer to simply live out their lives in peace and have their children realize a better future. But, what are we to think?
The published images of Mohammad, and I’ve seen them, are very mild and aside from one or two, not offensive according to what I consider to be offensive. (Of course, this is the rub. We all have different definitions of what is offensive.) We have seen pictures published of the Virgin Mary covered in dung and urine, but I know of no Christians who are burning down embassies or shooting their opponents. Many complain strenuously, yes, but no one engages in mass destruction.
As troubling as this will sound, the very complex issues contributing to what is going on in the Middle East and why might be summed up by the word “insecurity.” (Am I being condescending, in a very Western or American way?) Mary is defamed, but few Christians riot or even give much attention to it other than admitting that the “artist” may have some issues he needs to work through. Lord help him! It seems we simply are not very insecure about our religion – most of us, that is. (Perhaps we are just complacent? Like I say, doubt is not the enemy of faith, complacency is.)
How many of the problems faced and experienced by Muslims (and by association, us all) result not from Islam per se, but from a century of humiliation (percieved or actual) suffered by Arabs and Persians? Is Islam just the excuse or a means through which Arab and Persian humiliation and rage towards the colonizers and the multi-nationals and the hegemonists are expressed? Religion can obviously inflame the passions, as can cultural and political issues. Combine them, and we have a very, very volatile mix. During the World Wars and afterwards, Westerners have not done much to ingratiate themselves to Arabs and Persians or dispel the anger!
Are the problems cultural or religious? Yes, a mixture for sure, but is the primary factor religion or culture? If religion was removed from the equation concerning The Troubles in Northern Ireland, there would still be troubles! If Northern Ireland was re-incorporated into the rest of Ireland, I really doubt the religious animosities and problems would continue much longer. Who knows???

Palestinian Elections – Hamas

Here is a statement issued by Sabeel: Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center concerning the Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian elections. I know next to nothing about this organization, but I think the statement seems fair, and frankly good.
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28)
Before we engage in both analysis and prognosis of the Palestinian election, it is important to humble oneself before God and to the way history moves and turns always surprising us with changes that on the surface may seem dangerous and threatening but eventually could be for our good. We believe in the sovereignty of God over the affairs of this world. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways. We need to put our full confidence and trust in God. With the Psalmist we say,
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:3-4)
The so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has often had to be resuscitated by shock treatment. The first and second Intifadas were such examples, and now this – Hamas is in power. All these earth-shaking tremors were sudden and completely unexpected. There has been no peace process going on for many years now, and Israel has been clamping down on the Palestinian people more and more oppressively to stop an explosion. Well, the explosion has nevertheless taken place but this time in a democratic and peaceful way.
Up to the last minute before the Palestinian election, the polls showed that Fatah, the main Palestinian party, and the party in government, would win by a small margin. On Wednesday, January 25, 2006, 77.69% of the Palestinian voters cast their ballots. To the shock of the Palestinian community, Hamas won a sweeping victory with 74 seats out of 132 in the Legislative Council, while Fatah obtained 45 seats. Four of the other competing parties by comparison, hardly won 2 or 3 seats each. It must be remembered that Fatah, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, led the Palestinian struggle since the mid 1960’s as the largest and most influential party. Hamas on the
other hand is less than 20 years old.

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