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Indifference to Religion Undermines Effective Relations with Muslim Leaders Who Also Oppose the Goals of Al-Qaida
American strategic leaders18 and thinkers, trained in an Enlightenment influenced worldview and also thoroughly aware of the adverse consequences of public religiosity, disregard religion — which is the foundation of a people’s worldview. Ignoring religion in international relationships is a dangerous error that inevitably leads to an endless stream of policy miscalculations. To give lip service in this politically-correct era to a basic understanding of Islam and Islamic culture and then to proceed with secular American objectives is to functionally disregard the realities of Islam and Islamic culture as well as the religious foundations of our own attitudes and worldviews. For instance, the State Department’s Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy, updated February 2010, makes no discussion of religion, Islam or related issues or how these might impact U.S. efforts in the region!
Regardless of America's commitment to the separation of church and state, it is a truism of life that government and religion must interact in countless ways. Although it is plainly outside of our current worldview and comfort zone, America’s strategic leaders are obliged to engage other nations through the means of religious communication. It is also a Truth that no matter how hard American policy makers may try to ignore it, the fundamentals of our religious heritage profoundly affect our own outlook.
Religion, regardless of the intensity of one’s piety, is the basis upon which all of a nation’s life is ordered. This is why Islamic peoples (especially Islamist radicals) contend that they are engaged with the Christian19 West in Afghanistan and Iraq. Because Americans regard our nation as secular20 (i.e. publically indifferent to religion), we have a peculiar blindness to our own fundamentally religious assumptions.21 But the rest of the world plainly understands that our American constructs, end states and ideals (however sanitized of religious language) are firmly rooted in the Christian faith.22
Nations are never truly secular, because their people are invariably religious.23 Moreover nations do not separate themselves from their predominant religious worldview. Throughout the Middle East and South West Asia (as indeed the rest of the world) it’s all about religion.24 Even for the American soldier there is no practical separation of church and state, because the soldier is both the church25 and the state. It is ironic that Islamic and (personally religious) American warriors meet in a conflict in which their common battleground is the secular United States of America.
The most effective communication in Muslim contexts is typically in the language of religion. Islamists know and expertly practice this strategic principle. Religious communication is not merely the cynical use of pious words and symbols.26 It involves the incorporation of religious concepts, metaphysics, morals, and sensibilities in framing dialogue with Islamic entities and peoples. If America is to effectively communicate with the Islamic world, the content of our effort must be found in fundamentally religious discourse.
Religion as a basis for communication can be very unfamiliar ground for American strategic leaders. Descartes’ radical dualism ultimately resulted in today’s post-modern epistemology which, unfortunately, employs a fact-value divorce. Thus all religious knowledge is assumed to be non-rational, non-scientific, and personal — certainly not a proper basis for any sort of public discourse. This denial of any religious epistemological knowledge essentially handicaps the American effort because it a priori denies the validity of an entire realm of knowledge that is accessible and necessary to Muslims. Thus Americans hear Muslim religious words and concepts but do not come to the table with tools to adequately comprehend the underlying assumptions of the Islamic worldview. Conversely, Muslims perceive that it may be useless to speak to Americans about ultimate values, which are spiritually discerned, because of their inability to understand or converse about such things.
The Islamic worldview is necessarily sourced in claims of revealed Truth. The immediate, deep divide between Islamic and official Western worldviews has much to do with disagreement about the substance of reality, which informs us about the ultimate purpose and destiny of humanity.
The critical strategic task for America is to find common ground at the intersection of our religious commonality. Conversely, the critical strategic task for Islamists is to prevent any such convergence, intersection or basis of understanding between the Umma27 and the West.
Western Political-Military (POL-MIL) language rests upon fundamental assumptions derived from two millennia of Christian civilization. Infused in these fundamentals, often in a contradictory manner, are the secularizing principles of the Enlightenment.28 American strategic biases are deeply rooted. American discourse is based upon a foundation of meaning, end states and methods informed by our own mix of religio-secular assumptions. Real connection between these two worlds depends upon accurate understanding and an ability to effectively interact with each other’s worldview.29 Therefore, it is imperative that American strategic leadership employ effective religious communication in all POL-MIL intercourse.
Religion is both the problem and the solution. Ignoring the obviously religious center of the Islamic world assures continual frustration, if not defeat, for American policy objectives. The reasons for American religious blindness are found in current legal and philosophical interpretations of our founding documents. The First Amendment to the Constitution contains a disestablishment clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”30 In the dynamic of interpreting this right, religion has been progressively denied a place in public policy.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 26 April 2012 16:30|