Show Us More of the Other America; a Moderate Muslim's Prayer for American Faith and Family Values

By Akyol, Mustafa | The American Enterprise, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Show Us More of the Other America; a Moderate Muslim's Prayer for American Faith and Family Values


Akyol, Mustafa, The American Enterprise


"Why do you hate us?" Since the horrendous events of 9/11, Americans have been posing that question to Muslims across the globe. The first answer from someone like me, who is repulsed by terrorists who kill in the name of Islam, is that most of us do not hate you. Yet it must be acknowledged that radical Muslim rage is real in many countries.

This rage is often irrational and ill founded. There is, however, one crucial source of anti-Americanism that is built on a genuine threat. Many Muslims are put off by the moral decline that seems to have pervaded American culture during the second half of the twentieth century. They worry that it will be exported to their own children and societies.

In truth, American moral values are in much better shape than a glance at U.S. television or other indicators might have one believe. Crime, divorce, welfare dependency, illegitimacy, abortion, drug use, and many other ills have actually fallen significantly from their peaks alter 1960s- and '70s-style liberation swept U.S. culture. Still, many Americans agree that moral decline is a serious risk in all the modern democracies, and most would trace the virus ultimately to a view asserting that material life is all there is to existence. Philosophical materialism puts self-interest before all else, and denies the existence of higher callings from God. This easily leads to pleasure-seeking, selfishness, and hedonism, and the consequences are horrifying to many devout Muslims around the world. Through American popular culture such as Hollywood movies, MTV, or pornography, they encounter a culture in which God and religious principles seem to be disrespected, neglected, even attacked or ridiculed.

In his recent book, Why the Rest Hates the West, historian Meic Pearse notes that many people around the globe see Western societies as being ones that "derogate religion, exalt triviality (sports, entertainment, fashion), endorse sexual shamelessness, deprecate family, and discard honor." Pearse argues that these tendencies do indeed have bad results: "social atomization; personal irresponsibility; dehumanizing impersonality; and other wounds to traditional families, communities, and conceptions of the person."

"The al-Qaeda hijackers did not target the Vatican, the capital of Western Christianity," notes writer David Kelley, but rather the World Trade Center, "a temple of modernity." He points out that "Hamas's suicide bombers usually attack Israeli pizza parlors, hotels, and nightclubs, not synagogues." Kelley (who is himself an atheist) concludes that "Islamist hatred of the West is not directed at Christianity as a rival religion but at modernism as an alternative to religion as such."

But of course, the West is not monolithic. Materialism is just one side of the West---on the other side, Judeo-Christianity stands firm. This state of affairs is evident only vaguely in Europe, but crystal clear in America. Americans possess one of the most religious societies in the world, and in fact the world's most determined battle against materialism--on cultural, philosophical, and scientific grounds--is going on right now in America.

Muslims who recognize this fact make a distinction between "righteous Westerners" and other ones. For example, take a look at these lines from an article titled "The Final Jihad," published on a popular Muslim Web site:

   Western secular materialism takes us from our prayers,
   takes us from our Islamic culture ... gives us a society of
   crime, violence, drug abuse, alcoholism, prostitution,
   pornography, homosexuality, exploitation of people and
   resources, and reduces life to a meaningless exercise in futility.
   [But] we must know who and what is the enemy. It is
   important to realize that ... many good
   people in Western nations trying to live
   right lives.... These people are not our
   enemy; they also are victims of Western
   secular materialism. … 

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