I want to follow up Eurasian Sensation’s post on female false-consciousness. If you look in the World Values Survey you’ll see that plenty of non-Muslim societies are very reactionary and barbaric, even savage. The anti-gay hysteria in Uganda is representative of the non-Muslim face of barbarism. China, Japan, and Korea, are very secular societies, where organized religion is a minority force. But when it comes to gender relations they have a very different model and expectations from the West. So it’s not Islam, and it’s not religion.
But nevertheless Muslims do seem to be very explicit and eloquent in their barbaric arguments. Why? I think there are two primary reasons:
1) First, more generally gods are powerful, and allow people to be more confident in the ontological solidity of their assertions. Conservatism of habit, custom, and tradition, are inchoate and frankly somewhat difficult to defend on rational grounds. I know this very well, because I am personally disposed to just this sort of conservatism. In contrast, Muslims have an entire theory predicated on their primitive deity. Even if you don’t believe in the supernatural you have a hard time denying the internal consistency between their barbarism and their superstition. But the same goes for Ugandan Christians, so why do Muslims seem more prominent in arguments against “universal human rights,” which are admittedly most well developed in the West?
2) Islam differs from other religions insofar as the cultural elites of Islam, Arabs, and in particular Gulf Arabs who feed the modern “Islamic international” money, are a particular regressive and barbaric bunch. By barbaric, I’m not saying they’re savages. Gulf Arabs have a well elucidated and coherent world view. It’s just totally alien to the trajectory of much of the West. Muslims like those in Turkey are pulled between these two extremes, all the while attempting to forge their own vision of how to flourish.
In contrast, barbaric African Christians rely on money from liberal civilized Western Christians, who work at counter-purposes to their regression. The Anglicans of Africa hold to very conservative and “traditionalist” views, but they come for the begging bowl to the gay-friendly, and sometimes gay, clerics of the wealthy West. This is in sharp contrast to the world of Islam, where Muslims from poor marginal nations are arguably more latitidinarian in inclination than the Islamic heartland.
At the end of the day this structural-demographic problem is why I think the project of “Western Islam” which tears itself away from the cultural presuppositions of the “Islamic world” has major issues. The reality is that the vast majority of the world’s 1 billion+ Muslims have a very alien Weltanschauung from that of the West. I don’t believe there’s anything logically contradictory in being a liberal pro-gay Muslim, to given one example, but such Muslims must confront the reality that the vast majority of their co-religionists would find such viewpoints not only noxious but totally incompatible with the fundamentals of the faith. As an atheist I think such objections are “not even wrong,” I don’t think religion has any fundamentals aside from what man imposes upon it. But if you actually bow down before made up idols and call them living gods in a sincere manner you can’t dismiss the vast majority of your co-religionists so flippantly. So if you’re a pro-gay Muslim trying to preach to your fellow believers of the justice of your position, I think it’s somewhat like convincing a bunch of people with Down Syndrome of the reality of simultaneity. They don’t have basic raw materials at this point to even understand where you’re coming from, it seems so incomprehensible and obscene. If this seems unbelievable, consider that in 1950 a pro-gay argument would probably fall on deaf ears in the West too.
Addendum: Multiculturalism as it is presently constructed tends to given religious viewpoints special consideration, because it rightly acknowledges that perspectives informed by faith are genuinely sincere and heartfelt. Unfortunately I think this allows for the persistence of illiberal and culturally out of sync values among Muslims in places like Europe.