The recent Islamic outrage over perceived desecration of the Koran reveals the basic ignorance of the American media and Americans in general when it comes to understanding Islam and the religious instinct. What the American media cannot fathom is that Muslims who have not been westernized still believe in absolute truth. The democratization of human experience and the ideology of cultural relativism found in western American culture cannot grasp what is going on inside a non-westernized Muslim’s mind and heart. For non-westernized Muslims the Koran really is from God. For them the Koran really is holy. From their perspective it logically follows that to treat the Koran as just another book is scandalous.
For a non-westernized Muslim to question anything in the Koran is blasphemous. Remember what happened to Salman Rushdie? That a fatwa should be put out against Rushdie was unintelligible to the western mind. But Rushdie knew it was real because he understood the Islamic paradigm. There really were Muslims who would want to kill him because, in their eyes, he defamed Mohammed. Thus he went into hiding to save his life.
This past week Muslims were reported to have been chanting “We will cut off the legs of those who defile the Koran!” In logic, this is called an “appeal to force.” It is an informal logical fallacy, adding nothing to support the claim that the Koran is not to be physically mishandled. But it is a deep, ingrained religious conviction that characterizes many serious Muslims. Such Muslims really would cut off the legs of someone who abused the Koran.
Islam is a growing force in international relations. Muslims are moving into American neighborhoods. If they become indoctrinated into American culture they will grow relativistic and become secularized. As nominal Muslims they will affect no one. Muslim scholars and clerics know this. That is why the really great threat to Islam is not Christianity, but Western American culture. That is why effigies of President Bush were being burned this past week. And that explains why Muslim scholars so easily reduce Christianity to a hidden agenda, which is to indoctrinate Muslim peoples with capitalistic values. (See, e.g., Ali Bulac, "Whose Side Was Jesus On?")