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Monthly Archives: July 2011

I attended a discourse on the difference between Islamic history and world history. World history, said the speaker, is a series of stories, to be heard and forgotten. Islamic history is an altogether greater enterprise. It requires us to learn its stories, transform them into lessons and to see them as reinforcing the truth of the faith.

A second difference between Islamic history and world history is that world history is linear and always new. Endlessly new things are ultimately irrelevant to the big picture. World history is similarly irrelevant. Islamic history on the other hand is circular. All things are repetitions of things that have happened before. This circularity is an essential way by which the story of religion is reinforced.

This pithy dismissal set off my internal radar.

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Ingrate, that I am, I cannot help it.  I loathed their incessant pedantic demands, their rigid structures, their skewed sense of perfectionism. It rankled. Their bastard form of flayed to the bone English, skeleton-like passed off as a prose supermodel.

If only they could be reasonable: accept that a 5 word point made with a 6 word sentence was not an abomination but ordinary. That preferring the full stop over the comma, passive voice over active, not blasphemy. It  fulfilled effectively the primary goal of language: communication.

I had little success in persuading them. One can’t persuade an ideologue.

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The beauty of any ideology is that it’s simple. Any project that advances the ideology is good. Anything that hinders the ideology is bad. This clear division between right and wrong makes it easy to take action. Once the project has been measured by the ideology action is a short step away.

This black/white division based on ideology is common. One example is the US debt ceiling debate. Republicans are stridently insistent that there should be a cut in spending. There is no scope (in their ideology) for tax increases. Democrats see revenue increases as necessary. Each party being motivated by their ideology. Republicans see tax increases and government spending as wrongs. Democrats see tax increases as a necessary part of the redistributive function of government.

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