The Dysfunction of Islam
An Excerpt from the Michael Medved Radio Show- December 30, 2005
(Michael Medved is a Jewish Conservative Pundit)
I want to submit to you that one concept above any other ought to be grabbed hold of by everybody with a brain, and taken just so firmly into 2006. And that is the concept that ideas have consequences, that the kind of religious faith that you embrace, the kind of worldview that you embrace, is going to have an impact on the kind of society that you have and the kind of life that you lead. And that one of the problems with Islam is that it has proven itself over the course of the last thousand years deeply, deeply, profoundly, I mean, absolutely dysfunctional.
It is not a surprise, is it, that all of these new stories that I read about violence and dysfunction and poverty and lack of democratic values from around the world come from Islamic societies. These are societies that are filled with good people because most people I’m sure who live in Islamic societies are good and decent people. The problem is they are corrupted, they are ruined, they are spoiled by horrible ideas. And part of the Islamic idea, and it is something that goes back to the Koran itself, if you read the Koran, if you read the Hadiths, if you read anything about Islam, the “prophet” basically told people that he is the “final prophet”, that he is the seal of creation, that he is giving people everything they need; this is as good as it gets, this is the truth, it’s the absolute truth, and the people can’t budge from this or journey from this, or go past this in any way. Therefore, given the fact that he is the ultimate truth and that he promises that Muslims and people who adhere to his “truth” are going to be the most powerful people in the world that are going to run things, then obviously, if you take a look around the world, and you look at Islamic societies that are poor, that are backward, that are pathetic, that are really terribly, terribly sad if you look around the world, then clearly you have the idea that there’s a rip-off going on. And the rip-off involves those people who have somehow gypped Muslims of their rightful status as being kings of the earth and the people who run everything. This is a very deep problem. And is it a problem where we can say it just happens abroad?…..
But ideas do have consequences, and certain religious faiths lead to dysfunction, as in the case of Islam around the world. Other religious faiths lead to all kinds of rewards. In fact, there’s a new piece in the Economist about some other rewards (apart from Democracy and Capitalism) of Christianity……
I do want people to look at the truth. I mean, read the stories coming across the table. I mean, just today in the last 24 hours, stories of 3 different episodes of suicide bombings in different parts of the world. None of them targeting Americans by the way. That if you take a look at those episodes and then you take a look at some of the other stories regarding Muslim extremism, it really does indicate, if anybody needed any reminder, that ideas have consequences. We’re not just fighting a group of gangs; we’re fighting a malevolent and malignant ideology.
The former president of Indonesia has an interesting focus piece today, where he says that the way you fight that ideology is by putting forward a more wholesome, a more uplifting, form of Islam. Okay, but how come that a more wholesome, more uplifting, form of Islam, even that form, a moderate form, has led to these horribly dysfunctional societies like his? I mean, Indonesia, has Indonesia done particularly well, does anybody think, recently compared to some of the other non-Muslim countries of Asia?…..
Caller: I have a comment on the fact that you said that maybe the Muslims should look for a different faith, to get away from Islam.
Michael: That’s not exactly what I said. Let me make my point and I’ll let you respond.
Michael: What I was saying was that this former president of Indonesia, Abdul Rahman Wahid, says that everybody, all people of good will, should support moderate Muslims like him in their competition with radical Muslims, getting out the true message of Islam. And I said I thought maybe it’s better that we send a message that all of Islam is dysfunctional, that there are elements of Islamic society period, not just radical Islamic society, that are dysfunctional. That was my point.
Caller: Well, I disagree with your point. I firmly believe that Bin Laden’s is a good faith.
Caller: Because the Koran teaches peace and salvation, not war and killing.
Michael: Where has it worked out well?
Caller: Like the Bible and the Torah teach good will and peace, and not necessarily killing and destroying.
Michael: I understand. Where has Islam worked out particularly well? What do you see is a model of Islamic society?
Caller: In the modern age not too well. That goes back to education. I’m a firm believer in education. I believe that democracies do not work, education works. People need to be brought into democracy and educated to their own faith. The problem we’re having nowadays is there’s not enough education, not enough freedom over there for people to actively look into their own Islamic faith with the freedom that Christians over here have.
Michael: Okay, here’s the problem. You have countries that have a great deal of religious education, where people are learning the Koran and some of the Hadiths by heart. I mean, they’re learning the whole thing. These madrasas, these people are certainly getting plenty educated. They’re just getting educated in bad ideas.
Caller: Exactly. That’s what’s going on. You have people like that. For example, like Osama bin Laden, who is a very smart man, kind of crazy, but a smart man. And he’s able to tell these people that, okay, this is what we’re going to say and he’s able to tell these people, this is what we’re going to say. This is what the process is because I can read it and you can’t.
Michael: Yeah, but the problem is there are a lot of people who can read it, who are, as you would say, reading it wrong. The question I would ask is, where are people reading it right? I’m kind of striving to look for Islamic role models. Where do you see those role models well-displayed, people who have a proper understanding of the Koran and are leading beautiful and fulfilling lives? Where is that?
Caller: There are very few of them out there that you’ll meet. For example, myself being in the navy we had a very good navy chaplain who was a Muslim. And he was our command chaplain. And he was out there helping us out with whatever problems we had.
Michael: I’m ready to believe there are individuals who are wonderful people. The problem is that this navy chaplain that you’re talking about is somebody I take it who is a loyal American and a patriotic American, who is loyal to the ideas of American society, which are directly contradictory to Islamic teaching because we believe in secular government. Yes, we do. It’s a Christian society but secular government. And secular government is not the idea of the Koran, or is it? We’ll talk about a new study in the Economist about the benefits of Christianity…..
We’re on the Michael Medved show talking about the global war in which we’re engaged. It’s not only a war against a bunch of groups of gangsters, it’s not only a war against a group of killers; it’s a war against deadly ideas. (Michael earlier broadcasted speeches of President Franklin Roosevelt calling World War II a war of ideas- ed.) And it seems to me absolutely crucial that we go forward for 2006 with some consensus of belief that ideas have consequences and that some ideas, some world views, some faiths are better and work better than others….
(A caller thought that Michael was inciting violence against Muslims by his words and Michael proved that there is no potential violence against Muslims. Then the caller tried to equate violence in the name of Christianity with Muslim acts. Michael proved how rare such deeds are and that even the perpetrators understand that it goes against Christ. Muslim killers do not see it this way. The caller was a Muslim and could not comprehend the difference between a practicing Christian and a murderer who was raised as a Christian yet is not practicing Christianity. The caller was convinced that the murderer is a Christian. Then Michael says….
Michael: I take it you’re Muslim.
Michael: By the way, I will assume that you’re a good, law-abiding, decent human being. When you look around the world at your faith, and what your faith has produced in say the last 200-300 years, what do you see?
Muslim: I see a lot of compassion and a lot of people trying to free themselves from the imperialism of the United States.
Muslim: Just look at the Middle East, at Israel.
Michael: Where do you see a lot of compassion in the Middle East right now?
Muslim: In every single mosque they’re always trying to help the poor, to meet the needs and compassion. It’s one of the most important tenets of Islam.
Michael: I know. It’s giving Zakai. I know it’s one of the Muslim tenets. And I think it’s terrific if people give to the poor. What I’m asking is where has that worked out well, where poverty has been either eliminated or alleviated?…..
Welcome to the program, where every day we say I’m not a victim, though a lot of Americans are victims of misunderstanding and disinformation. It says in the Declaration of Independence all men are created equal. It doesn’t say all ideas are created equal. Ideas are very different and have different consequences, including religious ideas….
I mentioned this piece in the Economist, which just came out. That’s a prestigious British magazine. And they report on work by Jonathan Gruber, who’s an economist at the MA Institute of Technology, who claims that regular religious participation leads to better education, higher income, and a lower chance of divorce. His results imply that doubling your church attendance, in other words, saying in 2006 I’m going to go to church twice as often, raises someone’s income by almost 10%. Wouldn’t you like a 10% raise? Apparently, if you go to church twice as often, and I say church here because his study was based on non-Hispanic, white Americans of several Christian denominations.
Now, he says the idea that religion can bring material advantages has a distinguished history. Robert Barrow, a professor at Harvard, has been examining the links between religion and economic growth for years at the micro-economic levels. Several studies have concluded that religious participation is associated with lower rates of crime, lower drug use, and so forth. Richard Freeman, another Harvard economist, found 20 years ago that church-going among black youths made it more likely for them to attend school and less likely to commit crimes or use drugs. In other words, attending church is good for you. Now, what would be interesting to me is, I don’t know of any study that suggests that attending mosque is good for you. Unfortunately, we have a reality in our world today that suggests that attending mosque makes it more likely for you to blow yourself up, or to do something horrible to yourself and to others. Is that being unfair?…..
Caller: The problems in the Middle East, the problems in Muslim countries, I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it was only about a hundred years ago, you know, that the Western Christian countries were basically just carving up the spoils of war by drawing the boundaries and installing, you know, their own puppet regimes and basically ruling those countries as colonies.
Michael: You see, here’s the problem, is that Western rule over those countries only really began in 1919. Up until that time Turkey was the dominant power in the whole area. And all the countries that you’re talking about that are so deeply dysfunctional were run by Muslims under religious Muslim rule.
Caller: The type of extremism that you’re experiencing right now is an outgrowth of those countries being colonized and controlled by the West for so many decades. And the reason why they’re able to gain support in their extreme positions, it’s more based on politics than religion. It has to do with the fact that they’re rebelling against being colonized by the West. And it’s only in the last couple of decades that they’ve had the freedom to put up with some of that.
Michael: Okay, but here’s the problem with what you’re saying. The countries with the greatest problems of violence are the countries with the least Western influence, countries like Saudi Arabia, which never has really been colonized by the West, for goodness sake. Those are countries with huge problems. It goes against your argument that somehow America and our allies are to blame….
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that every individual, every family, deserves respect and decency. But I don’t believe that all systems of ideas deserve equal respect…
Caller: I pick people as individuals.
Caller: If a fellow has a radical belief that he thinks that everybody should be killed, that’s fine. That’s what a Nazi feels too. And if you want to feel that way, fine. But I see no reason to attempt to eradicate his religion, nor to take any action against him.
Michael: What I’m advocating is people telling the truth, which is that ideas have different consequences. And the consequences of Islamic ideas have been pretty lousy. What’s the problem with that?
Caller: That pretty much names just about a lot of people in all religions.
Michael: No, no, it does not, sir.
Caller: Oh, it doesn’t?
Michael: No, it doesn’t. The consequences of Christianity for most societies have been pretty good, particularly recently.
Michael: Particularly recently, but it’s also true in history. Look, competition between Islam and Christianity, which has been at the center of world conflict for years is a competition that Christians have been winning for about 700 years.
Caller: I guess we made good progress since they hung witches in Christianity. And I imagine there’s room for improvement in all religions.
Michael: Absolutely right.
Caller: Treat each person as an individual.
Michael: Absolutely right. Every person should be treated as an individual with respect and decency…..
Caller: Just one thing, Michael. I don’t know if it’s a direct quote, but attending mosque promotes suicide bombers. I mean, I certainly don’t know that much about it, in fact, about that religion, except, and I never, you know, picked up the Koran. But I’ve heard different people say, I don’t know if it’s a fact or not, but in the Koran it says, you know, we are to wipe out Christianity, I mean, that’s part of our religion. That’s all I would say about that.
Michael: It doesn’t really say that.
Caller: I don’t think the majority of the Islam people feel that way. I don’t think the majority are going to blow themselves up.
Michael: Absolutely right. The majority of Muslims are good, decent people who are trying to raise their family and trying to get ahead. And the problem here, however, is that sometimes certain ideas make it harder to get ahead. By the way, the “prophet” Mohammed said, “The true Muslim is the one from whose hand and tongue other Muslims are safe.” But notice he says other Muslims. He doesn’t necessarily say kaftir, he doesn’t necessarily say infidels, non-believers. Look, there are all kinds of challenges for 2006. One of them means speaking the truth about ideas and their consequences in this greatest nation on God’s green earth…..