Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Tolerance and Islam
Ample linear feet of books about terrorism occupy the shelves of our library. We continue to bury our dead but the domestic economy, the closing bell on Wall Street, seems to eclipse the bugle call of Taps. Our wars are not upon the policy radars of those wishing to run for election this Fall.
Foreign policy is way out of the intellectual league and influence capability of groups consuming tea or coffee. Yet, foreign policy and the prosecution of these distant campaigns quietly drives domestic policy, while draining what treasure remains.
Is it time to let Islam be? Is it time to facilitate rather than confront? We cannot rewind history and solve the Sunni-Shia split. We cannot offer an alternative form of government to Pakistan as it faces a growing theocratic majority. We will not establish a Kurdish state nor stand up to Turkey to suggest one.
We do have friends near these regions from which we could deploy quickly, to protect our vital interests of energy access and nuclear non-proliferation. But while we continue to occupy the region with forces close to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, we will remain enemies to many.
Should we allow Islam to be? The religion, granted, is not the only element of conflict and this religion has many varieties of worship and tradition. Many people, not just Muslims, pray to the God of Abraham. But as we could learn from Abraham, families can be very complex. Islam is not unique in its “Reformation-like” growing pains. Consider the very real and violent riffs within Christianity and Judaism. Rather than pursue those wishing us harm in a distant theater of war, we should be placing more resources at home to arrest the people bent upon violence here; home-grown terrorists (currently the greatest threat), the drug cartels who fuel domestic violence.
Consider that with faith of most varieties, if you don’t believe, you’re on the outside. Our foreign policy will continue to be secular for the foreseeable future.
Our secular foreign policy cannot deal with a theocratic, faith-based set of counter-policies from state and non-state actors. Our economic interests do not have enemies interested in economics. Our efforts to confront nuclear weapons development, prevent rogue-use, and limit current nuclear actors has enemies using 1960s vintage Kalashnikov rifles. Our foreign policy makers cannot even deal with the Dalai Lama. Our closest theocratic state ally is the Vatican.
Israel is struggling with its own forces intent upon a theocratic government. And here, in America, some wish for us to embrace Christianity closer in halls of governance.
Is there a way for the US to engage effectively with theocratic governments? More important, can we find ways to foster religious co-existence and dialog in America in order to earn the respect of people world-wide? We’re not close to being there, right now. It’s a very difficult subject, but secular states cannot control religions, rather they can foster tolerance and understanding.
And yes, it works both ways...