To fight fundamentalist Islam, buy a hybrid car?

Ebonmuse over at Daylight Atheism has an article up about how to stop fundamentalist Islam:

He first says this about moderate versus fundamentalist Islam:

“To answer this question, I think it’s worth asking another one. Why is it that violent Islam has had so much success at spreading itself? How has it made so many converts?

I don’t believe that it’s because militant Islam is intrinsically more appealing than moderate Islam, or because it offers a stronger sense of purpose or identity. Nor is it because, as racists sometimes claim, Muslim people are less intelligent or more prone to violence than Westerners.”

Good start, but here’s his conclusion:

“The spread of radical Islam can be traced directly to the disastrous coincidence that the more severe forms of Islam, like Wahhabism, were born in and came to dominate the same countries that have some of the world’s richest oil reserves. The leaders of these countries, all of which are theocracies, treated this discovery as proof that God favors their beliefs. And they’ve used – they’re still using – their vast oil wealth to fund an evangelistic movement spreading the poison of militant Islam throughout the world.”

So, ultimately, his conclusion is that what we need to do to end fundamentalist Islam is to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and, therefore, dry up the wells — so to speak — of funding for it.

The first impression of this is that these are mostly unrelated things, and that this is a new and novel way to make an argument for reducing fossil fuels.  Looking a bit deeper, the analysis seems even more suspect.  How many of those rich oil sheiks are, in fact, fundamentalist Islams?  How many of them are more moderate?  How many of them don’t, in fact, care about religion at all?  Recall that Iran, for example, was a very moderate and Westernized state until a fundamentalist religion came in, and that Saudi Arabia is considered to be fairly moderate compared to places like the new Iran.  It’s true that a lot of the funding for Islamic terrorist groups comes from oil money, and that drying that up will make those groups less effective.  But we have to recall that many of these fundamentalists — and most of the people, in fact — are actually very poor; oil money doesn’t seem to be driving their belief, nor would they think that God or Allah favours them because they have so many natural boons.

But this sidesteps, I think, the key question: why is it that fundamentalist Islam is more popular than moderate Islam?  Oil money requires that Arabs interact internationally, and interacting internationally and with different cultures tends to — and should — moderate people.  If the CEO of a major Canadian or American or British distribution company is female, you’d better not demand that she not be present if you want to make a sale, and most of those who do well with oil are, in fact, consummate businessmen.  So why doesn’t it trickle down through governments to the ordinary people?

One answer is this: radical views get so much more attention than moderate ones.  People get drawn into radical views because of the attention and the focus on them, while moderate views have a tendency to get shuffled off into the background and ignored.  After all, there are some people who think that there are no moderate views in Islam; with that kind of attitude, it’s not inconceivable that people will think that either they are radical Islamists or they aren’t Islamists at all.

Another answer is related: fundamentalist sheiks spend their money promoting radical and fundamentalist Islam, while moderate sheiks don’t.  The moderates might support their local shrines or temples or fund pilgrimages or some moderate charities, but they aren’t spending lots of money promoting Islam or their moderate version of it.  They just don’t care enough, and aren’t passionate enough about the topic to do so.   Fundamentalists, however, do care enough to spend lots and lots of money promoting their form of Islam and even sponsoring terrorism.

So, what is the solution?  What needs to be done is find the moderate groups and do two things:

1) Hold them up to the spotlight as something that we’d like to see more of.  Instead of attacking all moderates as supporting the fundamentalists, make a sharp distinction between moderates and fundamentalists and at least be willing to say “If you aren’t going to be an atheist, at least be like this!” 

2) Have all moderates join and work together to work out differences and at least get to a state of “We disagree on this, but I’m willing to agree to disagree and focus on what we all agree on.”

3) Convince the moderates that they need to speak out against the fundamentalists and promote their moderate beliefs as loudly as the fundamentalists promote theirs.

Doing this, I think, will do far more to eradicate fundamentalist Islam that reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, which is not something that we can do all that quickly.

And if you have to get oil, buy Canadian [grin].

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