Sunday, August 26, 2007

what to think?

Thanks to reader ML, I have this interesting video link to the always-outspoken Wafa Sultan, here contending that the basic clash we see on TV these days is between "two eras": the ancient and irrational one versus the modern, rational one.

In the meantime, my buddy Dr. Steve has sent me a link to an interesting article titled "The Politics of God" that argues much the opposite-- instead of dismissing what we in the West perceive as primitivism, we need to start taking political theology seriously:

A little more than two centuries ago we began to believe that the West was on a one-way track toward modern secular democracy and that other societies, once placed on that track, would inevitably follow. Though this has not happened, we still maintain our implicit faith in a modernizing process and blame delays on extenuating circumstances like poverty or colonialism. This assumption shapes the way we see political theology, especially in its Islamic form — as an atavism requiring psychological or sociological analysis but not serious intellectual engagement. Islamists, even if they are learned professionals, appear to us primarily as frustrated, irrational representatives of frustrated, irrational societies, nothing more. We live, so to speak, on the other shore. When we observe those on the opposite bank, we are puzzled, since we have only a distant memory of what it was like to think as they do. We all face the same questions of political existence, yet their way of answering them has become alien to us. On one shore, political institutions are conceived in terms of divine authority and spiritual redemption; on the other they are not. And that, as Robert Frost might have put it, makes all the difference.

Understanding this difference is the most urgent intellectual and political task of the present time.


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