Monday, October 25, 2010

Secular Government: A Long and Arduous Path

It is almost amazing in this modern day´╗┐ when an analysis is conducted regarding the state of Islam in the world. While at least three countries ( Mauritania, Iran and Pakistan) are directly under shari'a law, many others ( Saudi Arabia, The UAE, Yemen, and others), are shari'a in all but name. Considering the strong adherence to such a set of laws, you would think that the result of such would be benevolent to the people that live under the law, but such is not the case.  Despite the great wealth of some of those countries, illiteracy is rampant, infrastructure is next to nonexistent, and shari'a law denies even the most basic rights to females. With the situation as described, you would think that there would be impetus for change, but instead, the Islamic world appears to be gravitating towards even a more fundamentalist interpetation. While many wish only for peace, a small but growing vocal minority are demanding that the west become more shari'a compliant. Why would the west even consider such a goal after seeing what shari'a has cost the countries who practice it? Shari'a law is the law as stated in the Qur'an, thus any countries under shari'a law are in essence theocracies. The west has learned that theocracy is an unworkable form of government; we already tried it. Why doesn't Islam recognize the failure of such and strive for change?

Secular government didn't happen in the west overnight; it was a long and painful process that not only was directly impacted by humans, it was also impacted by politics and dogma at various periods in history. The following highlight some of the milestones in that struggle.

Circa 33 CE Information from records kept at that time stated that Jesus Christ from Nazareth was crucified for preaching blasphemy against the established polytheistic pantheon of Rome. Though the Catholics denote Peter as the first Pope equivalent, Catholicism was not the first Christian religion; The Coptics and possibly the Nestorians predated them. Many saints came from this period (33 CE - 312 CE ) due in large part to persecution by the rulers of that time.

312 CE Despite the difficulty of separating fiction from fact. it is known that the emperor Constantine's soldiers went into battle with some sort of representation of the cross on their shields. Though Constantine probably didn't convert to Christianity on that day, he did end persecutions of christians and was responsible for calling the Council of Nicea. Also contrary to what probably happened, canonical laws regarding the Trinity and worship of God were not addressed at this time; those matters weren't settled until later. The important thing to remember here is that Constantine called for the Council, further strengthening the hold of Christianity over the empire.

480 CE The last Roman Emperor was deposed in the west; the Dark Ages began. At this time, there was a lot of proselytizing occuring as the christian faith was spread. At the time, it should also be noted that literacy wasn't prevalent outside of the churches; there was no need for it. This gave the church and the faith even more power over the converts to their religion. Constantinople would stand as a beacon for almost 1,000 years after that event

632-732 Upon the death of Muhammed, Islam erupted across the land, carried by the fervent armed with swords. It only took one hundred years to carve out a dominion for the new faith; they were halted at Constatinople in 718 and at Tours in 732, thus containing the first major challenge to Christianity. The victory at Tours cemented the faith in Christianity as not only an unifying factor, but also as a position of power, a position it wouldn't relinquish for over 1,000 years. This was the last major contact between the two faiths for over 350 years.

1099 The taking of Jerusalem was one of the high points of Christianity; the task had been undertaken under the auspices of holy priority and necessity. The Crusaders at that time were no better then the Islamic fervent; upon taking the city, they slaughtered all not of the Christian faith. They held the city under thrall for almost 100 years.

1191 For the first time in its history, the church had to settle for an unsavory compromise ( later on such a situation became called a Devil's Deal). Though King Richard had defeated Salah-Al-Din's army on the field, he was denied the needed resources to once more take Jerusalem, so a compromise was reached. King Richard leftg the land, but in return, christians were promised safe passage to Jerusalem. Once more, a lull occured between that time and the next clash of religions.

1200's An inquisition was  launched by the Catholic church against those it perceived as its enemies. The Catharites and the Templars were wiped out and their wealth was confiscated. Many of the majestic churches and universities came to be in this period of time. It could be said that this was the apotheosis of the power of the Church; even Kings and Queens were not above their authority.

1348 With the advent of the Black Plague, the Church suffered its first loss of power. The plague killed with no discrimination at all; no one was safe from its scourge. Even the prayers to God were of no avail. The plague would return over the centuries, only dying off in the 1800's

1453 Constantinople ( Istanbul) was stormed and taken by Ottoman turks in the name of Islam. The final bastion of eastern christianity was gone.

1500's This was yet another pivotal time for the church in Rome. Not only did turks threaten the heart of western Europe with their armies, a person my the name of Martin Luther proclaimed that no person had the right to stand in the way between man and God.  The Turks were beaten off with heavy losses, but  Protestantism had been forged from the fires and was here to stay.

1600's When Galileo postulated a helocentric (sun-centered) theory versus a geocentric (earth-centered)one, action against him was swift and brutal. He spent his last days in confinement at his house for daring to challenge one of the most powerful pieces of dogma around at the time. This attempt to hold power along with the Wars of Religion ( mid 1600's) spelled the shattering of the paradigm of the church holding absolute power.

1700's Isaac newton didn't directly challenge geocentrism; instead, he proved the heliocentric theory using collateral proof that was given to the common man to peruse. Though it wasn't until 1758 that the Catholic church lifted the ban on heliocentric tomes, the damage had been done. As a result of their discovered perfidy regarding Galileo, Deism began to take hold in some areas of the world.

1787 As the culmination of their victory in 1781, the newly formed United States of America drew up a Constitution. This didn't happen overnight, though; six years of acrimony and argument went into its creation. The first amendment spelled the end of a church controlled governmental entity...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Those sixteen words had far-reaching consequences. For the first time in history, the government wasn't allowed to interfere with the religion of its subjects and nor was a religious entity allowed to interfere in governance. People were protected in their right to worship God in what way they chose or even to disavow the concept if they wished.

Islam has had almost 1,400 years to grow and adapt, but will they somehow manage to discard the yoke that shari'a law has created or is shari'a law so intertwined with Islam that this action isn't possible? They need to find some means of doing so if the followers of Islam wish to grow beyond the bounds of what is their current paradigm because the misery that is suffered by those given no say in their future can easily lead to rage and anger and all of the irrational acts that follow from such emotions.


A Jaded Bard