The Arab world is in ferment as it has never been before, at least in recent times. First we had Tunisia, then Egypt quickly followed. Now we have Libya, not to mention other countries that have been largely eclipsed by the virtual civil war there. What the results will be, God only knows. Democracy, if that is indeed one result, will no doubt take different forms in each of these countries, not to mention any differences from various Western forms, since these too are not identical.
What is noteworthy already, is the new role that religion can potentially play in Western perceptions of these developments. The role of religion in the West has been changing for a long time. Once religion was dismissed as irrelevant and not allowed to play a role in the public square. Increasingly, however, there has been a recognition that religion can no longer be ignored entirely. Religion belongs to the human DNA. We are created as religious beings. Secularism, of course, denies this, but today this denial is being questioned more and more, in part because of these recent developments in the Middle East. Islam teaches that life and religion are inseparable. But now many in the West are being confronted with a face of Islam that has not been ignored before. They are faced with the reality of a faith that integrates religion with the rest of life. The Christian faith does this too, but that teaching has been forgotten by many Christians. One result is that Islam, and Muslims in general, should no longer be quickly dismissed as "evil." That would not be fair to them. We may quibble about how that integration should take place, but not its necessity. There is much that we in the West can and, indeed, must learn from Muslims.
For decades, Islam was demonized in the West, so that some people today still think that all Muslims are potential terrorists. Witness former President Bush's misguided "war on terror." But now people witness many Muslims who are willing to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, in order win freedom for themselves and their children. Western-supported tyrants are being overthrown, and people can now see Muslims who are like them and who only want to live in freedom and enjoy the wealth of their nation--wealth that was too often being siphoned off by these tyrants with the tacit support of Western governments.
Whether everyone in the West will be prepared to accept Muslims more than before as a result of what is now happening in the Middle East still remains to be seen. I, for one, firmly believe that Christians and Muslims (as well as Jews) worship the same God. Thus all of us must seek to build bridges rather than destroying each other with all kinds of weapons, including the most deadly one of all: words. Love must replace hatred. Then and only then will we be able to live together in peace and harmony, as God intended.
I will develop many of these themes, as well as others, further in future postings on this blog. Please feel free to respond by commenting directly in the comment box, going to my Facebook page, or you may even write me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.