The Big Ideas of 2010

Is an Islamo-Christian America Possible?

It would probably come through the Sufi side.
Is an Islamo-Christian America Possible?

Nanna Kreutzmann / Junie Doctor (AFP PHOTO/NEWSCOM)

Richard Bulliet is a professor of history at Columbia University who specializes in the history of Islamic society. Adbusters contributing editor Micah White talked to him about his book The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization.


ADBUSTERS: Why is the “clash of civilizations” thesis so popular and why did it come about?

RICHARD BULLIET: If you go back to the early days of Islam, it is a fact that the majority of all the Christians in the world in the year 600 ended up having grandchildren who were living under Muslim rule. Islam really did come close to snuffing out Christianity because the most populous Christian provinces – Egypt, Syria and so on – were conquered. So you had a fear that was built in very early. And that fear generated distortions and stereotypes that still get mined from time to time for contemporary usage.

But over time it turned out that the division between the Muslim world and Europe was not continual warfare. You had trade. You had Christians and Jews living in the Muslim world without difficulty. You had a massive flow of cultural influences from the Muslim world into Christian Europe to the degree that the culture that developed in Europe is based on things that came in from the Muslim territories. This has never been fully recognized.

Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis did not reach prominence until after 9/11. At which time it was the most convenient shibboleth to encapsulate what the Bush administration was trying to make everyone fearful of.

AB: Why do you believe it is necessary to reunite Islam and Christianity?

RB: Well, let me take America as an example. If you accept a Clash of Civilizations hypothesis then you either find a way to exempt Americans of Muslim faith from the civilization their faith represents or you have turned them into an irreducible internal enemy. We have a long history in the United States of demonizing groups – whether it’s Protestants demonizing Catholics or old immigrants demonizing new immigrants or everybody demonizing Jews or whites demonizing blacks. And the best moments in American history have been those moments when we have said: “We don’t accept that.” These divisions no longer stand out as eternal divisions in our society. But what the Clash of Civilizations thesis does is say, “There is one division that is eternal. And therefore there are some Americans who are by principle, by birth, hostile to our country.” This is something that goes back to the Know Nothing Party and other bigoted groups in this country. If you are a Muslim in this country, which I am not, then you are very sensitive to the fact that there is a very powerful ideological push to turn you into an unacceptable citizen. That is wrong, fundamentally wrong.

AB: Do you think Ramadan feels spiritually alive while Christmas has been denigrated into a spiritual emptiness?

RB: Everyone I know who fasts for Ramadan feels enriched. It is really striking. People I know who fast are proud they have the self-discipline to do it. I can’t think of anything we do in this country that leaves people thinking, “Gee, I’m glad I had the self-discipline to do it,” except stopping smoking. But nobody has been able to turn that into a movement. It is a matter of exhortation and then each person goes through that hell alone.

Probably the closest thing to Ramadan is Lent for really believing Christians. I know believing Christians who will give up something for Lent. But it is not as taxing an experience as Ramadan.

AB: What are some of the positive ideals of Islam that you think the West could benefit from?

RB: The Muslim parties today are the political trend most oriented toward the notion of social justice and social services within the national community. For people who see the world economic system as one of massive exploitation, in which globalized business and the great financial powers basically extract wealth from non-privileged countries, the idea of having a political ideology that puts an emphasis on delivering benefits to society and being supportive of society is very appealing. And we have seen it happen again and again where there is a crisis in some country, whether it be Turkey, Egypt, Algeria or wherever, and the people who come through and deliver relief are the Muslim parties. It reached a point where ten years or so ago there was a severe earthquake in Turkey and the government immediately prohibited Muslim groups from offering any aid. They knew the Muslim groups would be much more effective than the government. This is a pattern.

It could be that if those groups came to power they would be as self-serving and corrupt as any other political group. But ideologically what they stand for is the idea of a faith community in which brothers and sisters help one another. It is analogous to the early days of Christian democratic parties in Europe.

AB: How do you imagine an Islamo-Christian America would look?

RB: What seems most plausible to me is that Muslims who stand for strong family values and a moral society would hook up with already existing groups, especially religious groups. From a secular liberal standpoint this may not be terribly appealing. On the other hand, it might be a good thing in the long run. It is hard to know whether the personal freedoms of the late ’60s and ’70s are really destined to be the shape of society forever. Or whether we’ll see a different trend altogether.

If you were to see a Muslim influence on America in the long run, it would probably be through the Sufi side of Islam.

58 comments on the article “Is an Islamo-Christian America Possible?”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 58

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History Punk

Given your rank idiocy and demonstrated stupidity, I addressing this reply less to you, but for anyone else who might read your nonsense and in a moment of intellectual weakness recognize for anything other than the ill-informed gibberish it is.

A lot of these programs have direct economic and social benefits. For example the 50,000 to remove gang members' tattoos is useful because it allows individuals who to escape the gang life, get jobs, and avoid prison. Fighting crime is expensive, keeping people in prison is a lot of money. Tattoo removal costs about a $1,000. This means 50 gang bangers can be treated. If the program has a 2% success rate at keeping a single gang member out of prison for a decade, that saves the government $350,000 (prison costs about 35,000 a year per person) $350,000 - $50,000 = PROFIT!!! and good ROI.

"2003 Federal Budget: $1,000,000 for DNA study of black bears," I am not familar with this particular program, but I do know from personal experience, that a lot of these on-the-surface stupid programs have a valuable purpose- training future scientists. People do not go from student to cancer researcher. They are trained in graduate programs and learn the necessary skills to do cancer research in small, unimportant programs like the DNA study of black bears. Then, they go off and study how to cure cancers or other dieases.

Also, unlike the video games that inform your outlook on research, scientists have a limited idea where no information will come from. They can sort of guess, but are frequently wrong. Science is a trial-and-error field. So, lots of projects are funded in the hopes, usually fulfilled, that a new drug, technology, or procedure can be found.

"In 2001, there was $18,500,000,000 in "pork-barrel" spending - at the same time Pentagon officials predicted an $18,000,000,000 shortfall in the defense budget to fight the "War on terrorism"."

Just curious, have you ever known a government agency (which the DOD is) ever to say, "My funding is up snuff, I am good for the year,"? Of course not. If you actually understood the government, you'd know that the DOD was covering their ass. They knew they fucked up on 9-11 by failing to stop it, and were planting themselves an alibi if they couldn't stop another attack, failed to find OBL, or otherwise fucked up.

Brian M, you're a moron, but one day with a solid secular education, I'll let you make me a sandwich.

History Punk

Given your rank idiocy and demonstrated stupidity, I addressing this reply less to you, but for anyone else who might read your nonsense and in a moment of intellectual weakness recognize for anything other than the ill-informed gibberish it is.

A lot of these programs have direct economic and social benefits. For example the 50,000 to remove gang members' tattoos is useful because it allows individuals who to escape the gang life, get jobs, and avoid prison. Fighting crime is expensive, keeping people in prison is a lot of money. Tattoo removal costs about a $1,000. This means 50 gang bangers can be treated. If the program has a 2% success rate at keeping a single gang member out of prison for a decade, that saves the government $350,000 (prison costs about 35,000 a year per person) $350,000 - $50,000 = PROFIT!!! and good ROI.

"2003 Federal Budget: $1,000,000 for DNA study of black bears," I am not familar with this particular program, but I do know from personal experience, that a lot of these on-the-surface stupid programs have a valuable purpose- training future scientists. People do not go from student to cancer researcher. They are trained in graduate programs and learn the necessary skills to do cancer research in small, unimportant programs like the DNA study of black bears. Then, they go off and study how to cure cancers or other dieases.

Also, unlike the video games that inform your outlook on research, scientists have a limited idea where no information will come from. They can sort of guess, but are frequently wrong. Science is a trial-and-error field. So, lots of projects are funded in the hopes, usually fulfilled, that a new drug, technology, or procedure can be found.

"In 2001, there was $18,500,000,000 in "pork-barrel" spending - at the same time Pentagon officials predicted an $18,000,000,000 shortfall in the defense budget to fight the "War on terrorism"."

Just curious, have you ever known a government agency (which the DOD is) ever to say, "My funding is up snuff, I am good for the year,"? Of course not. If you actually understood the government, you'd know that the DOD was covering their ass. They knew they fucked up on 9-11 by failing to stop it, and were planting themselves an alibi if they couldn't stop another attack, failed to find OBL, or otherwise fucked up.

Brian M, you're a moron, but one day with a solid secular education, I'll let you make me a sandwich.

redrabbit

Studying bears and furniture manufacturing is much nicer than harrassing and killing in the name of some god.

redrabbit

Studying bears and furniture manufacturing is much nicer than harrassing and killing in the name of some god.

cui bono

Globalization of the economy = > makes local solidarity and community crumble AND makes us stressed out, confused individuals having no purpose but to consume = perfect unreflecting consumers, getting joy out of nothing but materialistic consumption...

But...

Ask yourself:

Cui bono?

Who benefits from globalization?

The obvious and simple answer?... The privileged few. Those in power..

...

Who are those privileged few? Who are those in power? And which networks do they belong to?

Ask yourself:

(1) Who are the ones controlling the financial industry? What family names are behind those billion dollar salary bankers?

(2) Who are the ones controlling the media industry filling and programming our heads with crappy lies, illusions, noise and nonsense?

(3) Ultimately: Who are the ones^^ determining our basic values? what we believe in? what we hope and strive for? Who are the ones^^ determining and deciding what's sexy and what's not?? In the 1960s solidarity and community was sexy.. today it's.. obviously.. not..

The privileged few, those in power... they have names.. and they belong to certain networks.. look into matters.. it's not that hard to figure out..

And what can we do to break their power?

cui bono

Globalization of the economy = > makes local solidarity and community crumble AND makes us stressed out, confused individuals having no purpose but to consume = perfect unreflecting consumers, getting joy out of nothing but materialistic consumption...

But...

Ask yourself:

Cui bono?

Who benefits from globalization?

The obvious and simple answer?... The privileged few. Those in power..

...

Who are those privileged few? Who are those in power? And which networks do they belong to?

Ask yourself:

(1) Who are the ones controlling the financial industry? What family names are behind those billion dollar salary bankers?

(2) Who are the ones controlling the media industry filling and programming our heads with crappy lies, illusions, noise and nonsense?

(3) Ultimately: Who are the ones^^ determining our basic values? what we believe in? what we hope and strive for? Who are the ones^^ determining and deciding what's sexy and what's not?? In the 1960s solidarity and community was sexy.. today it's.. obviously.. not..

The privileged few, those in power... they have names.. and they belong to certain networks.. look into matters.. it's not that hard to figure out..

And what can we do to break their power?

KB

To anonymous, baptized at All-Saints, Hull, greetings.

Everyone thinks they know what Christians believe because they look at people who call themselves Christian and make some assumptions, never having read the Bible or any actual theology.

It would be the same as looking at a person who claims to be a doctor, but never went to medical school. The difficulty is that Christians actually acknowledge that humanity is a flawed, shadow of what it ought to be, and there is no way for us to save ourselves from our flaws. Humans just cannot follow natural law...take away laws, and you get more murder, more social harm, more sickness, more sadness. That is why a savior is needed. If you think mankind is naturally good, or can become good on our own, you will not think you need a savior. True Christians do not think they are better than anyone else; in fact they acknowledge themselves to be the worst of sinners; the more you know yourself, the deeper horror you experience at the depths of innate depravity.

I have gained much insight from C. S. Lewis, and the curious might want to as well. He was once an Atheist who had a breakthrough much later in life. He was a tremendous literature prof. at Cambridge.

http://books.google.com/books?id=PHEbGgHFb7MC&lpg=PP1&dq=mere%20christianity&pg=PA35#v=onepage&q=&f=false

The difficulty with Islam is that it is a works-based religion; i.e. a human can please God so much with human actions that God will give you eternal life because of your goodness. Christianity never makes this claim and that is why they are irreconcilably incompatible; Christianity promises God's grace and favor to those who receive God's grace through faith in these promises. Islam does not promise this. Christianity acknowledges that if a human were perfect and never sinning, then this human would be able to satisfy God's law and achieve eternal life on one's own. We know from every evil thought in our hearts that we can never be perfect.

Christianity makes it a point to show how flawed and nasty all human beings are, then offers a beautiful way out, free of charge, free of work. On the converse, though, this can be abused and called "cheap grace." Hence the beauty of Martin Luther's theology of both being obedient to God's law, but relying and trusting on God's grace when we cannot keep the law. Are there consequences to breaking laws? You bet. That's why Jesus had to die for human depravity; Jesus, being fully God and fully man, a perfect God-man, as was historically confessed by the Christian church since even before the council of Nicaea, was the only one who could satisfy the law's demand that all who sin fall short of God's law and are worthy of temporal and eternal death. C.S. Lewis writes nicely about this in "The Great Divorce" as well.

KB

To anonymous, baptized at All-Saints, Hull, greetings.

Everyone thinks they know what Christians believe because they look at people who call themselves Christian and make some assumptions, never having read the Bible or any actual theology.

It would be the same as looking at a person who claims to be a doctor, but never went to medical school. The difficulty is that Christians actually acknowledge that humanity is a flawed, shadow of what it ought to be, and there is no way for us to save ourselves from our flaws. Humans just cannot follow natural law...take away laws, and you get more murder, more social harm, more sickness, more sadness. That is why a savior is needed. If you think mankind is naturally good, or can become good on our own, you will not think you need a savior. True Christians do not think they are better than anyone else; in fact they acknowledge themselves to be the worst of sinners; the more you know yourself, the deeper horror you experience at the depths of innate depravity.

I have gained much insight from C. S. Lewis, and the curious might want to as well. He was once an Atheist who had a breakthrough much later in life. He was a tremendous literature prof. at Cambridge.

http://books.google.com/books?id=PHEbGgHFb7MC&lpg=PP1&dq=mere%20christianity&pg=PA35#v=onepage&q=&f=false

The difficulty with Islam is that it is a works-based religion; i.e. a human can please God so much with human actions that God will give you eternal life because of your goodness. Christianity never makes this claim and that is why they are irreconcilably incompatible; Christianity promises God's grace and favor to those who receive God's grace through faith in these promises. Islam does not promise this. Christianity acknowledges that if a human were perfect and never sinning, then this human would be able to satisfy God's law and achieve eternal life on one's own. We know from every evil thought in our hearts that we can never be perfect.

Christianity makes it a point to show how flawed and nasty all human beings are, then offers a beautiful way out, free of charge, free of work. On the converse, though, this can be abused and called "cheap grace." Hence the beauty of Martin Luther's theology of both being obedient to God's law, but relying and trusting on God's grace when we cannot keep the law. Are there consequences to breaking laws? You bet. That's why Jesus had to die for human depravity; Jesus, being fully God and fully man, a perfect God-man, as was historically confessed by the Christian church since even before the council of Nicaea, was the only one who could satisfy the law's demand that all who sin fall short of God's law and are worthy of temporal and eternal death. C.S. Lewis writes nicely about this in "The Great Divorce" as well.

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