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September 11 & Beyond:


At War With Fundamentalist Islam

By Daniel John Bornt

Ten thousand years ago, our ancestors drifted south through the melting snows flowing from the receding glaciers of the last ice age. As the new art of agriculture took hold we gradually abandoned our previous existence as hunter-gatherers and gathered together into early communities like Jericho and Catal Huyuk.

We brought with us into this matrix of early civilization the millennia of the cultural values of kinship loyalty that had evolved around the patriarchal family bands of hunter/warriors. This kinship loyalty, characterized in part by the unfettered self-interest and xenophobic animosity of the familial band, had subjected humanity to an eons-long terror of the strong oppressing the weak with its concomitant blood feuds, revenge, and unchecked rapine.

As we moved out of the forest and adjusted to this new world of fields and permanent settlements, we also brought with us the religions that our long-ago ancestors had created around their campfires during those long and dangerous nights in the deep forests. These mental constructs helped us cope with the omnipotent and powerful forces of a capricious natural world and the unfathomable awareness of own mortality.

When those early villages grew into cities and the cities into the city-states of a structured civilization, our familial kinship loyalties were transformed into the national loyalties required of large populations with varied peoples interdependent on each other for sustenance and defense.

Our religions were transformed, too, from the supplications of tribal shamans to entire bureaucratic panoplies of priestly-kings in control of the mysticism and secrets necessary to propitiate the numerous gods.

The religions of our making have carried a two-edged sword. On one hand they helped the new civilizations define and inculcate the moral codes needed to break the chains of the ancient anarchic kinship systems of self-interest and "lawlessness." On the other hand they worked in concert with the political powers of civilizations, establishing new chains of oppression that resulted from religion's perceived power to determine not only the fates of men's souls, but also the gods' favor in determining the quality and survival of man's temporal existence on earth.

Now the new empires of civilization, in league with their religious institutions, became supra-entities emulating their tribal forbears, with conquest, blood feuds, revenge and unchecked rapine against their neighbors, first on a regional, and then a continental, scale. The last two thousand years of bloody religious-inspired conflicts involving the world's great religions have extended even into the modern era.

The founders of the American Experiment were well aware of the unreasoning fervor that religion's approach to the unseen world instilled in the emotions of mankind; of the centuries' record of violence that religions had instigated, including our own dismal history of heavy-handed intolerance that we brought to these very shores. They understood that a new kind of freedom was necessary not only from political oppression, but religious oppression as well.

It was only a little over two hundred years ago that the accumulated wisdom of Western philosophy's most discerning sages was distilled and focused through the fertile and brilliant mind of a young 23-year-old man, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, impelling him to declare to the world and eternity the universal axiom that "All men are created equal, that they endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

We codified this truism in our Constitution, and especially our Bill of Rights. Here once and for all, in these ten definitive statements of the basic rights which we as Americans and as free human beings naturally possessed, we placed in subjection both the tyranny of kings and the tyranny of religions.

Now for the first effective time in history, religious doctrines, thoughts and opinions would have to compete for the souls of men through thoughtful disputation and debate rather than a domineering coercion enabled with the collaboration of political and military might.

The flowering of the modern age - fueled and inspired by the freedoms that America has shown to the world - has unfolded an unprecedented advance in all of mankind's abilities and achievements, and a common interest in their preservation.

Simultaneously, the world's major religions have had to some extent adjust their doctrine and philosophies to new revelations in science, changing cultural values, and the general context of the era (some more readily and timely than others), but all finding it expedient to do so if they hoped to retain the loyalties of the faithful and remain in existence.

In this respect, Christianity, despite its often oppressive and brutal past, has appeared to fare better in being able to accommodate to the new homogeneity encompassing a globally-intertwined network of nations built upon the Western ideals of individual freedom and dispassionate justice.

Fundamentalist Islam, on the other hand, seems to be irretrievably frozen to its historical past, stuck in a rut of Neolithic "kinship loyalties." Unable and unwilling to advance beyond its ecstatic beginnings and fully intent on maintaining its theocratic power in an unyielding grip over the masses in its control, it is indeed in complete contradistinction to the ever-advancing Western conception of freedom and humanity.

Whatever the reasons for the resurgence of such fundamentalism (which in some cases has always been present) - failures of Western policy, the perception of loss of culture, the caprice of history - the ugly head of religious fanaticism has arisen once again in a large scale out of the primitive ages of man's past to attempt a tyrannical theological hegemony over not only its own peoples, but ultimately, the rest of Western society.

Although we have been lead to believe that the Islamic fundamentalists are a minority segment of the Muslim world, the fact remains that beneath the constrained surface of the Islamic nations' governmental control the fundamental impulse is bubbling with a primitive fever awaiting to erupt at the urging of the self-serving manipulative clerical leaders of the region.

We have already seen the Taliban's rule, a revergence into a twisted, barbaric misogynic savagery that not even so-called "primitive" partriarchial societies would countenance. Yet an outraged condemnation of such a brutal regime, which one would expect from moderate representatives of the Islamic world, is sorely lacking. One could easily conclude they are either secretly in sympathy with the Taliban's vision of society or have been cowed into silence through fear of reprisals.

And now we've seen the power of the deliberately instigated fanaticism and inflamed passions that these radical Islamic leaders have cleverly induced through what may indeed be a distortion of more modern Islamic religious beliefs. Whether they themselves actually believe in the movement or not is beside the point. Once again, as in the middle ages, tyrannical religion is supporting despotic power and despotic power is supporting tyrannical religion.

There is no placating a force such as this. There can be no dialogue. There can be no appeasement. There is no reasoning with those who believe that God has given them license and a mandate to kill and destroy those who do not share their faith.

Our democratic society, with its ever-increasing windows of information and communication that are opening up more and more to the repressed peoples of the world, is a potent threat to the totalitarians' fascism and the fundamentalist leaders' counterfeit religiosity. They know that the desire for the freedoms we possess will eventually erode their political power base. Only the complete destruction of our infrastructure will guarantee their continued control.

We are at war with such an entity, as we would be at war with any religion, any theocracy, or any political power attempting to return us to the days of religious and political authoritarianism, and attempting to destroy those freedoms we worked so many centuries to conceptualize and achieve. Those freedoms were purchased with the blood and sacrifices of our fathers and mothers and grandparents and neighbors. They must be defended at any cost.

- Daniel John Bornt, 10/11/2001

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