Re: Islam and extropianism

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Thu Feb 22 2001 - 00:43:03 MST

From: Anders Sandberg <>

>Hmm, I am starting to suspect that you have not read up much about
>Islamic countries. Look at the aggressive industrialisation of Turkey,
>Egypt and Iraq for example.
>While there is definitely inertia in adopting new technology in many
>Islamic countries, I doubt it is because they are run by "rabid
>antitech nutballs"

I agree with you, Anders, and I appreciate very much Charlie's question.

If you want to learn about a culture, there is no substitute for
spending time learning about it- reading their literature,
experiencing their art, talking to people of that culture, and going
there. 'Buying into' what the media says is plain stupid, and I can
see from some comments here that some people here have done that. I
will remind some here that while Europe was in the Dark Ages,
science was thriving in the Arab world. The Arabs were well
acquainted with the philosophical, mathematical, astronomical and
medical writings of the Greeks. Medieval astronomers in Europe were
pupils of the Arab astronomers, for example. Pay attention to the
symbols in the Arab world in use today. Those stars were not put
there randomly!

[And personally, I find the Persian style of art and literature and
dance and music very expressive and suits me very well.]

If you want examples of strong, individualistic people, it would be
a very big mistake to disregard the Muslims. Have folks here
forgotten that for 10 years the Afhans fought the Soviets, and
_succeeded_ in driving them from their land? They were certainly
not the technically superior force. In my opinion, they won
because they were smarter and the more independent minded. The
Afghanis had almost none of their own weapons: what they used
to win that war were captured from the Soviets whom they killed.
Please see the book: _The Wind Blows Away Our Words: A Firsthand
Account of the Afghan Resistance_, by Doris Lessing, for
more details.

I wrote something about this in Jan 2000 on this list ("Creating New
States"), but I will repeat parts of again here.

I think that it is unfortunate that the West associates the words
"Islam" and "Muslim" with "terrorist" because there are different
Muslim countries that differ in their practices. I don't know the
"brand" of Islam that the Chechens practice, but in Afghanistan,
before "The Catastrophe" (as the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the
Soviets was called), their brand of Islam was very temperate. Women
were going to college, walking unveiled, holding government
positions. An atmosphere of tolerance existed for differing
interpretations of Islam. Their Sunnis and Shias worked together,
and some in that country felt that Afghanistan was providing a model
for a liberal Islamic state. That's not true in Afghanistan now.

In hard times, the extremists in any kind of religious system
prevail, so it's not surprising to me that the hard-core
Fundamentalist Muslims are in control now in Afghanistan. Also the
best fighters were the most hard-core Fundamentalist Muslims, and
Afghanistan needed its best fighters for those 10 years of war.
Maybe what will emerge from the Chechnya war will be a similar
hard-core Fundamentalist Islam (I hope not).

The Afghans were not at all fond of government handouts, and
their way of life during those hard times reflects some important
aspects of their thinking.

In the refugee camps in Pakistan (where most of the refugee Afghans
fled), one had to be registered with one of the political parties to
get food rations. This means that people who were not members of a
political party who were unregistered did not get rations, and so,
those who were the most independent-minded, who did not want to be
defined by a party, had an extremely difficult time keeping
themselves and their families fed. I think that there were hundreds
or thousands of such folk.The Pakistan refugee camps were full of
Afghans who started every kind of little business- they were far
from "passive recipients" of aid and food. They were selling food,
Afghan hangings, carpets, brassware, clothes, mementos of the dead
Russian soldiers, etc. The Pakistanis complained that the Afghans
were taking their jobs, and the Afghanis' reply was: "We are not
taking your jobs, we start our own businesses."

In the Qur'an there are specific passages that refer to the individual.
This religion does try to strike a balance between individualism
and collectivism. It holds everyone personally responsible
and accountable to God. At the same time, it guarantees fundamental
rights to the individual.

Some quotes about this from the Qur'an:

"God does not change the condition of a people unless they first
change that which is in their hearts."

"Man shall have nothing but what he strives for."

This note is beginning to be long-winded, and I have to get some work done.
I hope that I've made my point, however.


Amara Graps email:
Computational Physics vita: finger
Multiplex Answers URL:
"Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair
for the future of the human race." -- H. G. Wells

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