Essay

Islam and Illiteracy? The Questions of a Polemicist [Short-short Fiction]

Is Islam in itself an impediment to democracy or is it the village mind of hundreds of millions of muslims living in third world poverty around the world, barely literate enough to read even Holy Qu’ran, let alone anything that would foster democratic thinking? We have to be better educated about history and more honest about what literacy is and should be, and how much our freedom is dependent on an advancement of literacy that our pedagogy dosn’t seem able or willing to pursue. Of course I see the women in my neighborhood wearing a variety of niqab and I do sometimes wish I lived in Paris where women are not allowed to wear them in official buildings or to school. Of course, there are some of us who remain stupid enough to believe that the Paris bombings might have something to do with France’s commitment to liberal democracy in a fashion that says, we do not have to respect repression to respect diversity in a liberal society.

I still insist that we have to manage our democracy and freedom much better than we do in face of what we think we are protecting in the matters of cultural diversity. There is no issue or question of disrespect of cultural diversity that must tolerate impediments to issues of gender equality, or matters of constitutionality. Sharia law has no place in America where it violates our laws and our commitement to equality.

Impediments to the spread of democracy may also be found in the United States and not just around the world. The United States acting less than genuinely in matters of treaty, policy, foreign affairs of several kinds, whether economic, military, geo-political, are all of a piece contrary to the spread of democracy in the world for some, while others receive unfair advantage or privilege, politically or economically. Although I do not oppose the United States having violated Pakistan’s sovereignty to kill Bin Laden, I understand the position taken by the Pakistani government in response to its having found out after the fact. It must be stated in  rebuttal, and in spite of the United States government using it as its official line, that there was really no time to adequately notify Pakistan of our needs or intentions, and that notification would have put the operation at risk. Carpe momentum.

There is something universal about politics irrespective of country or religious hegemony; irrespective of ethnic unity or diversity, or whatever else we have in the contexts within which policies are set or politics arise. Being Muslim in itself does not impede a society’s growth, democratically, not nearly as much as entrenchd cultural attitudes that have nothing whatsoever to do with Holy Qu’ran, but have much more to do with human inequality and human narrow mindedness and prejudice, something existing to a greater or lesser extent depending on the historical experiences of the people concerned. These we cannot mistake.

Misogyny is not cultural diversity. But enough on the bandwagon of assumed Islamic misogyny. The existence of such must be addressed by Muslims but never tolerated by us. This is not a privilege for Muslims: to violate the law because of their assertions in matters we confuse for religious freedom. Yes, privilege is not for the elite or the power structure but always for the marginalized. We cannot anywhere allow the repression of women even if the repressed do not understand their repression, even if they think otherwise in the matters of their repression.

Democrats are as much to blame for any of our geo-political problems as are our Republicans, neither one more diametrically opposed to the other than let’s say heads is diametrically opposed to tails on any coin you hold in your hand to flip. Do I still believe as Lincoln once thought that The United States is the last best hope for humankind? Yes, I do. But that is going to take greater literacy on the part of our people in order to manage our politics with greater clarity, greater intelligence and sensitivity; we only get the politicians our lessened level of general literacy allows. We need literacy and not the alphabetics the corporate world sponsors through their control of education in America.

Nonetheless, we need to be clear with Muslim Americans as we have been clear with Orthodox Jews who do not practice entirely in America what Jewish Law would permit them to do. This necessity for clarity is not practiced by either party and seems endemic to all politicians; obfuscation seems best for them; keep things dark and murky. Stoning is still a part of Jewish Law and Punishment.

The level of education that could produce real cultural awareness, as well as a literacy that could handle the complexities of the legal and social issues that arise when cultures do clash within a society, when religious freedom comes up against violations of laws, or when impediments to the free exercise of a person’s rights are present, is lacking in our society. The government bureacratic management of education, hand in hand with corporate capitalist demands, has left us at a great disadvantage.

The feds make no policy in education apart from corporate lobbies. These are the same corporate lobbies that could care less about the hundreds of millions of muslims living in third world poverty, again in illiteracy or semi-literacy, the latter two being soils within which many fanatics and terrorists grow. No. These are the corporate lobbies that throw millions at politicians in Washington, in the White House, in Congress, and care little to nothing for the American worker and his or her family or that family’s economic plight.

Capitalism is responsible for the worst slums in human history, some of the direst poverty, the greatest inequitable distribution of wealth, and yet, like most Alpha gorillas, we beat our chest in pride about an America we assume is the freest country in the world, all the while its people live under the repression of a Totalitarian Capitalist Hegemony bent on infringing our civil as well as Constitutional rights.

Our pride is based on a lie–we are freer than any people have ever been, or so the propaganda continues, and we have to be grateful for our lives in America because we could be living in Syria or Afghanistan or Honduras. We have to stop comparing ourselves to the third world and start comparing ourselves to what we should be and could be. We will see, with the new mandates in education being a way to wean Americans off the notion that there should be a safety net at all. The Republicans only have validity and steam to move forward because we have been systematically under educated, leaving us with a general semi-literacy that is never going to be literate enough to handle the needs and demands of democratic living. (And I repeat myself and others, I know, I know, I know.)

The Democrats are not liberal enough to counter balance the Republican reactionary responses to virtually all pressing social issues. Roe versus Wade seems in jeopardy because how many of any one-thousand women supporters of Roe versus Wade could produce five hundred articulate well-informed historically conscious words of defense as to why we need Roe versus Wade or what it means to us as a society, or how it is women have the right to choose independent of the law only that the law backs up a woman in her right to choose?

God help us. And yes, God, whether He or She or It.

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