A while back now (June 3, 2013)—but I glimpsed it again just the other day while making order—I saw an op-ed column by Bret Stephens in the WSJ titled “The Muslim Civil War,” subtitled “Standing by while the Sunnis and Shiites fight it out invites disaster.” The story deals principally with the Syrian conflict, but it got me thinking—and recalling. I recalled a post I’d put up on January 18, 2013 here (link) entitled “The Muslim Reformation.” In that post I noted the age of the Muslim religion and compared it with that of Christianity—and concluded that what we’re now witnessing is an intra-Muslim conflict of a religious nature comparable to the religious wars that plagued Europe for a period of 124 years following the Reformation.
These wars, briefly listed by Wikipedia (link), extended from 1524 until 1648. They began with the German Peasants’ War (1524-1525) and include the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) that involved the Holy Roman Empire, Austria, Bohemia, France, Denmark, and Sweden.
In my earlier post I noted that the Muslim religious wars are viewed by us through a lens formed by modern ways of thought in which religion is, at most, a minor factor used in propaganda. All is about economics and power. But while secular concerns are always present in all wars, the deeper motivation is what sets the tone. Therefore, I suggested, even if the Americas and Europe suddenly disappeared, as if by magic, the Muslim civil wars would continue on exactly as they are doing now. Whether we stand by or participate should be guided by our sober and narrow self-interest. To misunderstand these wars as the yearning in Arab hearts for democracy and free markets is to misunderstand the current turmoil.
If my sense of history is at all on target, the great religious wars of civilizations are followed, in due time, by secularization, heralded roughly a hundred or so years after these wars have run their course by an Enlightenment. In 2214, give or take, Arabs might be agitating for democracy. Right now something else is happening.