Thursday, February 22, 2007

In the Midst of the Islamic Reformation...

I recently read an article in Time magazine that examined the mess in the Middle East. The writer drew some interesting comparisons. His argument is that we may be stuck in the middle of an Islamic reformation.

The Reformation of the 16th century saw the differing sects within Christianity killing each other off because of differing interpretations of the Bible. The Catholic church was splintered and several new forms of Christianity emerged, including Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Anglicans. Many of the sects have come to form what we know as Protestants today. The cost of this fight was great, countless believers were killed all in the name of religion...

Today, we have Islam going through a transition period. 85% of the Muslim world is Sunni. The remaining 15% is mostly Shia. Again, much like Christianity, the reason they are not united is differing views of the substance in the Qur'an, the holiest in book of Islam. They are particularly differentiated by their interpretations of the 5 pillars of Islam:

*Tawhid: The Oneness of God
*Adelah: The Justice of God
*Nubuwwah: God's appointed messengers and prophets
*Imamah: God's appointed leaders to guide mankind
*Qiyamah: God's judgment on man.

Each sect has differing views on the importance of the above.

Shiites have managed to take control of Iraq & Iran despite having only 10-15% of the world's Muslim population. Shiites have long been oppressed by the Sunni majority throughout and the Islamic world. Infighting has been commonplace for hundreds of years. Recently, Shiites have been exercising their power much to the dismay of the rest of the Islamic community. This has caused a upswing in fighting throughout the region. Perhaps in the coming years we will see a Shite-led movement similar to the Protestants of the 16th century?

Throw in the US & British troops into the mix...not good. If there is one thing for certain in this world, it's that religion is an all-powerful force that drives people to extremes. Why in the world would anyone want to step into the middle of this? What the so-called coalition of the willing has done is given the extreme elements of both sides of the conflict fuel for the fire. One thing that seems to bring the groups in the Middle East together is their disdain for the western world and it's desire to shape things to their liking.

The war in the Middle East is about the future of Islam. We, the western world, have to step back and allow the leadership of the dominant factions work things out. There is no way that military actions will ever trump religious fervor.

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