Everything I NEED to know about Islam I learned on 11 September 2001. Everything. I have friends who believe that there is such a thing a “moderate Islam.” I won’t go so far as to say that they are stupid — after all, stupid people are not allowed the privilege of being my friends — but they are naive for believing in a fairly tale like “moderate Islam.” Claiming that there is such a thing is like claiming that there was once such a thing as “moderate National Socialism” — and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Nazis and the Moslems were best of friends back in the day….
Islam is NOT a religion, folks, regardless of what its adherents and sympathizers will tell you. It is a totalitarian social and political ideology wrapped in religious trappings.
A religion, by definition, must allow for freedom of conscience: to truly follow a religion a person must arrive at the decision to do so through internal conviction, not external coercion. Inherent in any genuine religious system is the right to refuse to believe it in — or any other religion for that matter.
An ideology, on the other hand, does not tolerate dissent or non-conformity: everyone within its reach must adhere to its doctrines and dogmas, regardless of whether or not they personally accept the validity of those doctrines and dogmas. Everyone outside of the ideology’s reach must be brought into it, as their existence outside of the ideology’s control represents a threat to not only the ideology’s control over those it dominates, but also to the very existence of the ideology itself. Those of you who have studied Islam will immediately recognize that this is identical to the “Realm of Peace (the Moslem world)/Realm of War (the rest of the world)” dichotomy in Islamic doctrine. Going hand-in-hand with this a fundamental doctrines in Islam that the existence of anyone outside of the “Realm of Peace” will not be tolerated — either they must be brought into the “Realm of Peace” i.e. convert to Islam, or they must be eliminated. No alternatives are allowed in either the Koran or the hadiths.
Which leads to the next point in understanding why Islam is NOT a religion: no genuine religion will espouse the idea of conversion by force. The existence of a God or gods is not something that can be “proven,” in the scientific use of the word, so belief in a God or gods is, again by definition, a matter of faith. The exercise of such faith is a conscious, deliberate, voluntary act, one that in essence states, however openly or privately one might do so, that “I have come to this point, no one has brought me here or made me come here: I now believe what I believe because it is what I have chosen — it the conclusion of my spiritual seach, and that of no one else.” Islam, however, has at its heart the doctrine of “conversion through coercion” — the use of force, including physical violence and threats of execution, to compel non-Moslems to renounce their own beliefs and embrace Islam. This is not some modern aberration or perversion of Islam, the doctrine began with Mohammed himself in 622 AD. Again, this is the methodology of totalitarianism: conform or die. History has provided us with more than sufficient examples of this, whether they be the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, Maoist China, or any one of a dozen tinpot dictatorships that sprang up around the world in the 20th Century.
In a nutshell, then, the difference is this: a genuine religion will always allow the individual the right to free will, to follow his or her conscience, to believe or not believe as they feel is right. An ideology, even one masquerading as a religion, will never allow the individual right to conscience or to not believe, but demands adherence, without exception. That is the litmus test, it’s a simple pass/fail that takes only a few seconds to determine, but tells you everything you need to know when some ideologue is playing the religion card.
In the end, it comes down to this: the violence that we are seeing today — and was done on 11 September 2001 — is not simply a part of the fabric of Islam, it IS the fabric of Islam. Burying our heads in the sand, hoping it will go away, will not solve the problem. The world was shown the solution by men like Martel, Graf Salm, von Roggendorf, and Sobieski. The choice we have now is whether or not we will choose to profit from their example. The solution does not lie in continuing to pretend that Islam is something far different than what it actually is.
And that’s the way it is…
…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not.
Well, I guess this is where and when everyone is supposed to get sentimental and maudlin, lachrymose and melancholy as they prepare to wave goodbye to 2014 in a bit less than twenty-five hours. Everyone but me, I guess. You were expecting that, though, weren’t you? You’ve come to expect me to be, by turns or in combination, cantankerous, cranky, obnoxious, cynical, irreverent, intolerant, condescending, skeptical, and sometimes downright rude. And after a while you probably just write it off as “Dan just being Dan,” with an occasional sprinkle of “How on earth does he live with himself?” thrown in for good measure. And frankly, that’s who I am – or at least, the Daniel Allen Butler persona you see here online is all of that, and it IS part of who the whole person is, but not all of him, not by a long chalk. But it’s also Dan’s way of keeping most of the world at arm’s length, because in 57 (soon to be 58) years, I’ve learned that I’m more comfortable with it that way. You see, like just about every year before it, 2014 was pretty much a mixed bag. I’ve had successes and failures (I actually had a book proposal rejected this year, the first time I wrote one that wasn’t specifically MEANT to be rejected (for contractual reasons) that was turned down); I’ve had big surprises, good and bad; I’ve experienced tremendous validation and excitement, along with painful disappointment. Taken all in all, pretty typical of “a year in the life of….” wouldn’t you say? I’m still on the green side of the sod, which means that the ledger is still in my favor; a good thing, considering the alternative, but let’s not get carried away with the thing. After all, in the words of Leonard McCoy, “What’s so damned troublesome about not havin’ died?”
Those of you who are still with me are here because one or the other (or both) of us made a decision to keep you here – which means you’ve gotten further inside arm’s length than the rest of the entire world has managed to do. (Some got even closer – the results were not what anyone expected.) Congratulate yourselves for that, because it means that collectively and as individuals you have substance – not because I said that you are such, but because your thoughts and actions have proven you to be so. None of you saw everything that happened here in this curious dramedy called “The Life and Times of Dan Butler,” though every one of you saw something no one else did, and some saw more than others. Not everyone who was here on this page a year ago is here now. Some were jettisoned. For some, we played “The Flowers o’ the Forest.” Some walked away, not just here but in real life as well. One of those who did broke my heart – and laughed while they did it. Again, it was all a part of that strange experience of total community and absolute loneliness we call “life.” It’s not fair, it just is. The great dichotomy of being a human being is the experience of knowing that you are simultaneously component with the whole of humanity and utterly alone. For some – for many – that thought is cause for dismay. Personally, I find it fascinating.
But I will tell you this. For myself, at least, I’m looking forward to 2015 much the same as I have looked at the 56 previous New Years I have known: yet one more arbitrary division in the whole experience of my life. I will make of it whatever I can, and try to bend as much of it as I may to my will — whatever I cannot I will take for what it is, good or bad, and try to profit, intellectually, spiritually, or materially, from it. For those of you want to continue to tag along, by all means do so. Not all of you will see the same things, nor will anyone – but me – see everything that happens here. Still, I can assure all of you of one thing: it won’t be boring!
Happy Hogmanay and Happy New Year to all.
And that’s the way it is…
…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not.