Re: Letter to NPR re Duncan Moon's 9/18 piece on Islamic reaction to the 911 attacks

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Tue Sep 18 2001 - 23:40:08 MDT

"E. Shaun Russell" <> writes:

> In the same way the average Westerner does: by finding passages that
> can be appropriately interpreted to mean the opposite of others. Any
> culture --Western, Muslim or otherwise-- that bases its beliefs almost
> solely on the writings of a single book can not make *any* rational
> justifications whatsoever, so long as they are guided by religion.
> The primary difference I have detected between the way Western
> civilization conducts itself and the way Muslim etc. conducts itself
> is that the former claims to have religious imperative but seems to
> make the most rational choice regardless of that claim. Eastern
> religions tend to have much more of a narrow focus which their
> proponents adhere to more strictly. I don't see this as a problem
> with the books (Bible vs. Koran, Bhagavad Gita etc.) so much as a
> problem with the narrowness of interpretation...and such
> interpretation, as you mention, has formed some Eastern cultural law.

Actually both Hinduism and Buddhism have led to much more peaceful cultures
and a great deal earlier than Christianity did. So it is not an Eastern vs.
Western thing.

I think it is more of a young and bloody culture wrenched into the 20th century
kind of problem. While there were and are many areas of great culture in the
region there were also other areas predominated by warring tribes of largely
nomadic people. Such cultures do not have a developmental basis for building
modern peaceful secular states even without religion. Islam is often praised,
and rightly, for bringing more peace and stability to such cultures than they
had ever experienced before. But that does not mean these cultures are ready
and able to leap into post-Enlightenment mindsets and socio-political structures.

> > How can
> >democracy flourish in cultures where a religion based on that scripture is
> >enshrined in law? These are the hard questions that our contemporary
> >cultural relativism apparently makes it impossible to ask.
> I don't think that democracy *can* flourish in those countries without
> widespread cultural assimilation. It brings up the more difficult
> question of whether people are more willing to quell culture for the
> sake of politics or quell politics for the preservation of culture.

Why are people intent on preserving that which does not work?

- samantha

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