Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Morocco's King Muhammad and Islamic Reform
(Thanks to cuz1 for the support. Can't reply to everyone, but wanted to say I appreciate the comments.)

Saw a great piece of work on PBS yesterday, maybe on POV. A documentary about Morocco's reformer king and the first women graduates of a religious training program he set up. Fantastic glimpse at how Muslims can use contemporary ideas to modernize their societies, even as they maintain Islamic principles as their root values. Also, a nice glimpse at why (e.g.) the Prophet encouraged polygamy (protection of widows and orphans in the Muslim wars), and why, in modern times, polygamy is largely unnecessary. He did this symbolically by stating that his first wife would be his sole wife.) Naturally, the glowering, kidney-stone-passing-looking mullah from the gloom and doom school of Islam -- the Wahhabis, doesn't like any of it... nosireebob! He and his friends just sit around thinking how they can blow stuff up to the greater glory of God. They tried that a few years ago and found out that the people of Morocco don't like seeing fellow citizens coming at them in pieces. King cracked down, and his remaining mission is to create a better economy so that the Wahhabis have fewer disenfranchised young men to woo to their numbers.

It's pretty easy to woo the poor when you think about it. Hitler did it after the French made sure there would be a second world war by bankrupting Germany after the first one. All those loose cannons lying around with nothing to do but be organized into useful cogs in a larger machine. [By the way, Arabs virtually never used their current "antisemitic" language about Jews until after the Nazis gave them the words in the 20th century. Muslims have been at odds with Jews since the early 7th century when Jews of the Arabian Peninsula withheld their support from the Prophet Muhammad when he was at war to establish Islam. Despite that, no widespread hatred was apparent on the part of Muslims, and Jews even held some enviable positions in Muslim societies during the Middle Ages.] Yes, it's easy to rouse rabble, and that tells you why we know the phrase, and what we really think about the people themselves. I mean "rabble" is somehow lower than highway tar, isn't it.
The program I saw was really about young women, and they can also be roused. But poor men don't rouse poor women in the best direction. Reasonable men tend to support the activities of women along a broad range of issues, and women tend to respond well to having men's support. That Muslims in Morocco have carved out important places for women in religious affairs shows that even in the mosques, women have roles that are integral to society. It's wonderful to see religious women who feel empowered by being Muslim, not simply duty-bound. The women in this documentary were not about judging women, but about improving the lot of women. One must never be fooled by the hejab; women wear the scarf for different reasons. If we see Muslims on a continuum from liberal-minded (Ismailis) to very conservative (Wahhabis), we will see women all along that continuum who dress alike. Are they all the same? (Rhetorical)

So, good luck to King Muhammad of Morocco, and to the Muslims of the world. There are so many good and reasonable men and women among them that one must be essentially optimistic about their desire to undo the harm done by those who are far less reasonable. How should we support them? Write and tell us all.
PS: It occurs to me that a pop singer named something like Smokey Mo Al-Wahhabi might make a real difference with some nice love songs, or is that too, too obvious.

2 Comments:

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At Thu Aug 17, 06:34:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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