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Friday, September 14, 2012

Peace withers when religion tramples the vine


President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton greet
caskets of four U.S. victims of Libyan violence, at
Andrews Air Force Base,
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 9/14/12

Faith requires so little - only the willingness to abandon what one knows to be true in family and society, in favor of something less certain, outside one's usual life experience. That is where a prophet of faith begins his (or her) personal journey. It is not until after others have also stepped forward, into the uncertain chaos of new belief, that system and structure begin to emerge, and what once was an exiled gathering of like minded individuals is re-absorbed into the larger community from whence it came. There, after derision, discrimination and death, the movement finally takes hold as a religion, as true to its adherents as fire, air and water.

The Arab Spring, that began in the winter of 2011, could not have happened without the tenacity to true faith that Islam has in the everyday lives of people in North Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. These were not revolutions for individual freedoms, as some in the West may think of them, inasmuch as they were populist actions to overthrow dictators and despots. They were revolutions for democracy, because the people did not feel their voices were being heard. We can harbor no illusion that they would suddenly become reasonable players on the world stage, since it was often those dictators and despots who would have helped keep things, like what happened this week in Cairo, Benghazi and Sanaa, from getting out of hand. (Well, maybe not so much in Libya. If Gaddafi were still around, he'd probably lead the assault.)

In the Arab and Muslim world, this week, it is not the brambled hedge of religion that is under attack. It is the thorny vine of budding peace, trying to wind its way around the stake planted during the Arab Spring, that is struggling.

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