Is the progressive Muslim movement strong in other countries?

It's hard for me to gauge the ultimate strength because these things are in progress.and one of the things about progressive religions is that they thrive insofar as people do not feel actively threatened in an immediate way.

But when people feel that their identity in whatever religious tradition they're part of is being actively threatened, conflict-oriented religion tends to have a strong appeal because it mobilizes people, gives people a sense of purpose, a sense of mission, a sense of unity against what is considered to be a threat.

My concern is that you have a vicious cycle, with the more terror events there are, the more the West gets anti-Islamic, and the more the West carries out large military campaigns with bombings and occupations, the more sense of conflict that brings, and the more appeal conflict-oriented versions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have.

So the picture's pretty bleak globally.

The Cold War used to give the world a framework for conflict. If people had a revolution against their country they could go to the Soviets and get Soviet aid or go to the Americans and get American aid, depending on what country their government was aligned with. And that framework allowed every kind of grievance to be framed within proxy wars fought all around the world. It was a terribly grim time in many ways-many countries were devastated.

Now the Cold War is over. Where do people go if they have deep grievances? They are going to religion. Where do people go if they feel like their identity is being threatened or that they are occupied? Revivals of militant Islam, militant Hinduism, militant Judaism, militant Christianity-they're all growing very quickly in the world.

A milder example is American society's response to "The Passion of the Christ." The people champioing that movie feel their identity has been suppressed; here's a way of having it expressed.

It's important people see how the militant aspects of religion are tied subtly into wider dynamics. Religions can't be and shouldn't be categorized by the militant aspects, but the militant aspects are always the ones that are in your face, make tragedy, are on the news. The most powerful resistance to religious militancy is to not get dominated by that image in the media of the violence, but by finding ways of looking around that to the rich world that isn't represented.

Militant religions think carefully about this aspect of war in which the actual physical damage to the enemy is minimal, but the damage gets into the minds of people.


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