Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Naming Your Principles

Today's NY Times had a news story about the emergence and rise of a very misleadingly-named group called the "Islamic Thinkers Society". As far as I could make out, the group's raison-d'etre is to oppose everything that America stands for. With that in mind, you would think that they would be on the defensive and have to hide or smuggle-in their principles, while those who are pro-America would proudly state theirs. Instead it is they who try to name the essential difference between them and the pro-life, secular West; while people like President Bush either evade or make excuses for it (e.g. his comments about "hijacking a great religion").

This particular fundamentalist group puts the conflict in these terms:
"Wake up and realize that the line has been drawn between the camp of Emaan and the camp of Kufr and there is no middle ground as of right now," reads a glossy publication by the group that is titled "Islamic Revival." In Arabic, Emaan can be translated to mean "faith" and Kufr, "disbelief."
Of course the crucial difference is not between "faith" and "disbelief"; but between "faith" and "reason" (or between "belief" and "thought" - which is why the group's use of "thinking" in its name is so inappropriate). But it is telling that the religionists are comfortable trying to name their principles, while most of their supposed opponents are not.

Although this particular group appears to be on the fringe, until those who oppose them are willing to name the essential conflict, and to proudly champion the antithesis of faith, viz. a rational philosophy (including its corollaries of individualism, secularism, etc.); the fringe groups will continue to make progress and to gain sway.

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