Cult vs. Culture: Amish Population Booms in North America. And So Does Sharist Islam.
Today I stumbled upon this article from the Wall Street Journal about the increase in population among the Amish community in North America.
The article itself is fairly uninteresting, simply pointing out that there has been a baby boom in Amish communities, and the communities themselves are growing partially to good old fashioned reproduction, and partially because Amish communities have a “retention rate” of 85%. So 85% of kids who grow up in an Amish community choose to remain in that community instead of branching out into the larger homogenized American culture. I think that is interesting, and while I have nothing against Amish people (I wouldn’t make that lifestyle choice, religiously or culturally), it does bring up an interesting question about religious behavior, and the difference between a “culture” and being in a “cult.”
Webster’s Dictionary defines a Cult as: “1 : formal religious veneration : worship
2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
3 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents.” Well…uh…by that definition can you think of a religion (or culture) that isn’t a “cult”? This is not my greater point of the post, but just an interesting side note. We all live in our own cults, generally with people who believe the same things we do. Whether that’s a religious belief system, a lifestyle choice, sexual orientation, or simply community culture (yes, gamers, I’m talking to you) we all exist in our own little culty worlds, and while many people shift fluidly between cultures, many choose to never go outside of the familiarity of the culture they grew up in.
Now let’s juxtapose the nice Amish people (who while I wouldn’t want to live like them, haven’t ever done anything offensive to me personally) to another cult (or religious group): Sharist Islam.
I want to start by making a distinction between Sharist Islam (Islamic peoples whose goal is to institute religious and political Sharia law on another population) and peaceful Islam (Islamic people who want to live their lives according to their own beliefs and have no desire to force other people into their belief system). Sharist Islam is not just a religion, but a culture and political system bent on assimilating and destroying other cultures that do not fit their mold of a cultural system. The Brussels Journal (unfortunately shorted to “BJ.com” ) has a great article about the movement toward Sharia law in European cities, using religious tolerance as a beard for political and social change.
A small exerpt from the article about the situation in the UK:
“In an online story in newspaper The Daily Telegraph that was removed “for legal reasons,” former Muslim Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo warned that British Muslims could soon form a state within the state. Dr Sookhdeo believed that “in a decade, you will see parts of English cities which are controlled by Muslim clerics and which follow, not the common law, but aspects of Muslim sharia law.” “In 1980, the Islamic Council of Europe laid out their strategy for the future – and the fundamental rule was never dilute your presence. That is to say, do not integrate.” “Rather, concentrate Muslim presence in a particular area until you are a majority in that area, so that the institutions of the local community come to reflect Islamic structures. The education system will be Islamic, the shops will serve only halal food, there will be no advertisements showing naked or semi-naked women, and so on.”
The next step will be pushing the Government to recognize sharia law for Muslim communities – which will be backed up by the claim that it is “racist” or “Islamophobic” to deny them this. Sookhdeo noted that there is already a Sharia Law Council for the UK. “There are Muslim men in Britain who marry and divorce three women, then marry a fourth time – and stay married, in sharia law, to all four.” “The more fundamentalist clerics think that it is only a matter of time before they will persuade the Government to concede on the issue of sharia law. Given the Government’s record of capitulating, you can see why they believe that.”
At what point does religious tolerance allow for culture clash? How do you determine the difference between tolerance for different lifestyle choices (a la the Amish) versus using religious tolerance for forcible political change? Is it reasonable to allow communities like Sharist Islam to exist outside of the cultural norms of the country that they reside in, or should tolerance end when a population incites violence and repressive political change?
I don’t have a good answer to any of these questions, the wonderful thing about America is our willingness to allow for free speech, and free practice of religion, but is there a line in the sand when it comes to inciting violence and political agitation? As always, your thoughts are welcome.