Thursday, July 21, 2005

Ibn Abu Archie

As the British government works to create alliances with the British Muslim community, they take the path that the law is law for all citizens and not a minority. This approach that favors legal remedies was proposed in the United States post 9/11 but rejected loudly and derisively by the religious right and the neocons of the Republican Party. As recently as a month ago, their acknowledged spokesman, Karl Rove dismissed this strategy as weak just prior to being plunged into a scandal based in his own disregard for the law. At least he is consistent.

The danger in this thinking is summarized in the remark made in the run up to the 'war on terrorism', that it is 'our right wing religious nuts against their right wing religious nuts'. There are tempting parallels but I don't think that exactly catches the image I see and hear in the hallways of American business and private enterprise. It seems that since the return of the Republican Party to power and the September 11 tragedy, an old and comic figure has come to dominate the speech of the right wing: Archie Bunker is back. Archie was a comic figure as he emerged at the end of the period of social revolution of the 1960s, but coming at the beginning of one, he is a terrible omen.

I find him sitting at his desk with his door closed listening to the hate mongers such as Rush Limbaugh, who eerily resembles the religious instructor at a madrassa repeating the edicts of the illegitimate fatwa. His lack of deliberation has that same empty eyed 'challenge me not' purpose, accepting his fate and the fate of his enemies as he works his purpose: to unify believers, destroy non-believers, and make his office environment pure. He knows without purity of intent and action, we can never defeat our implacable adversaries because to understand them is to justify them, so any attempt to open our minds is to be resisted first with derision, and needs be finally, with force. He lives for that moment when his force can be felt because then he will be triumphant and pure before his God.

His law is the law of the presumption of might. He believes that we can have both peace and cheaper gas if we will just unleash our nuclear arsenal on the countries that oppose us. Unknowingly, he embraces the dark vision of his opposite number: the gates to paradise are under swords.

He is our worst enemy and he is us. He is Archie Bunker not simply telling Edith to 'stifle', but his fellow worker, his mates, his neighbor, his children's teachers, and if needs be, the opposition party. His way is right. His way is rule. All others are his enemies.

While Archie sits stewing listening to the fat man with the radio show, others are beginning to realize that rule of law is the best means to defeat terrorism. Terrorists are murderers. They are not freedom fighters and are not even devout Muslims because Muslims live under religious laws, the sharia and understand the hadith. Mohammed The Prophet was only a warrior for eight years of his life and he taught that even in war there are limits that cannot be trespassed without invoking the wrath of Allah. The members of al-Qaeda have trespassed and have no place in paradise. They have raised their sword against the innocent and in so doing, have violated both divine and human law. Their punishment is to die and their self-chosen destiny to suffer the agonies of eternal separation from the divine.

Here on Earth, we have the law of man and it is the best solution if it can be applied equally, transparently, and where just, mercifully. When the Bani Quraiza were judged by Sa'd bin Mu'adh, he judged them in accordance with their own law, the Torah. This is of importance: we have both international law and the law of the local countries.

Systems of justice are now supported by information systems. This is a business I know well because that is what my company provides. I do not speak for my company, but I do see the immediate potential of such systems as they are provided internationally. Where law can be made transparent, it can be applied equally and where just,mercifully. Where such systems are integrated with the ever growing surveillance systems as they are being, evidence becomes more difficult to obscure and available to all sides in a case. Where integrated with the open source intelligence systems now coming into being, they are incorporated into the deliberative systems that can make it possible for both religious lives and secular lives to be lived if not in perfect harmony, at least in constant reexamination and growth.

The danger is that all sides of the war on terror are enabling the fundamentalists, the Archie Bunkers to drive our deliberations. This is a terrible mistake because whether he sports a cigar and an old hat, or wears a khaftan and a scowel, he is always the same bigoted loudmouth terrorizing his family and his neighbor. We must see him for what he is and understand that in this circumstance, he is not a comic figure but the agent of Shaytan. He leads away from peace, paradise, and the righteous life lived under the law of God and Man, away from dar al Islam to dar al Karb.

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