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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

May 14, 2003

pragmatic prioritizing of responsibilities.

actually, Bill and I agree completely:

Diana argues that Islam, as she understands it, is incompatible with American ideals, and where there is conflict, Islam must give way. I think Islam is more complex than her characterization of it. There are certainly aspects of the religion that trouble me, but I find that, like Christianity or Judaism, there is much good in it as well. Diana suggests that the "cognitive dissonance" cannot be rationally reconciled; I believe the dissonance is absolutely necessary, can be reconciled only through reason, and further, only through this cognitive dissonance will the Islamists, who refuse to admit a second, opposed idea into their minds, be routed.

this is what I actually meant when I said that there is no dissonance, that the only challenge is in assigning priorities. Take an example - the requirement that meat be halal. In practice I do not fully adhere to it, though I avoid pork completely I still eat beef and chicken at McDonald's, etc.

I make no excuses, it is my goal to someday be fully halal, but I've simply accepted for now that this is a goal that is prioritized lower than other more immediate ones (such as making sure that I speak our native language to my baby daughter as much as possible). Part of the reason that eating halal is scheduled lower on my priorities is simply because it's really hard. We live far away from our community in Houston, we often are exhausted after the long day and need to do dinner quick or cheap or bopth, etc. (these are not excuses). Speaking our language to our child is also hard, but it costs us nothing apart from a mental effort.

Dissonance arises when you have actual conflict - society tells you to do one thing, and that thing is in direct conflict with a religous requirement. To take a concrete example, if I am late on my taxes, I have to pay interest on that balance. My religion says that interest should not be paid or received. However, my religion also requires me to abide by the laws of my nation, and if I tried to fight against paying interest on my tax bill, I would suffer penalties far out of proportion. The bottom line is that I am compelled to pay interest on a late tax bill - so I simply do NOT pay taxes late. And if I ever am late, then I pay the interest.

The point here is that even this seemingly clear cut example of a conflict demonstrates the door to avoiding conflict. Don't pay taxes late. That becomes a religious responsibility, in a sens,e because the consequences put me in a position to violate my religious responsibilities.

This is always the case - there is always a way out, if you identify the source of the conflict and take preventive steps. And sometimes if there is no way out, then you are being compelled - which means that you at least didn't choose to violate the religious responsibility deliberately (premeditated).

In a free society like America, it's much less a problem. Even my community members in Britain face serious issues at times in being compelled to violate their religious responsibilities (which I won't be explaining in further detail, sorry). This forms one of the major foundations for my assertion that America remains the most Islamic country in the world - if you define an Islamic country as one that facilitates the believer's adherence to Islam.

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Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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