Excellent article by Timothy Garton Ash in today’s Guardian, in which he summarises the six main views of Islam found in the west (and also, Ash argues, in many Muslim-majority countries such as Iran).
Here’s my brief summary of the six views: Ash expands on each of these at more length in the article, and he suggests that “As you go down the list, you might like to put a mental tick against the view you most strongly agree with. It’s logically possible to put smaller ticks against a couple of others, but not against them all”:
- The problem is religion generally, not Islam.
- The problem is not religion generally, but Islam itself, which is stuck in its own middle ages and needs a Reformation.
- The problem is not Islam, but the violent political ideology of Islamism.
- The problem is not religion, Islam or even Islamism, but is specifically to do with Arab history and political culture.
- It’s all our fault: Crusades, imperialism, Israel, yada yada yada.
- The biggest problems come at the interface between Islam and the west, as young Muslims are at once attracted and repelled by “the most seductive system known to humankind”.
Ash then concludes:
Now, which of the six views got your largest tick? In answering that question, you will not just be saying something about the Islamic world; you will be saying something about yourself. For what we call Islam is a mirror in which we see ourselves. Tell me your Islam and I will tell you who you are.
My own view is that the real underlying cause of the problems is a combination of 2 and 3, with 6 providing the spark that turns those issues of belief and ideology into violent action, and 5 providing the rhetorical framework that is used to justify those actions.
If forced to put a “big tick” against one of these, I’d probably opt for number 3, but perhaps (as Ash suggests is the case with George Bush and Tony Blair) under a truth serum I’d “be closer to 2”. Big fat cross against number 1, you won’t be surprised to learn.
Feel free to give your own “scores” in the comments.