You must read Keith Hudson’s blog. Here’s one post from it which I am stealing lock, stock, and barrel.
It looks as though the democracy movement in the Islamic countries of the Middle East is failing. Gaddafi appears to be suppressing the protesters in the same brutal way that Ahmadinejad did in Iran in 2009. The Tunisians presently fleeing their country for Italy in boats suggests that their new provisional government is no better than Ben Alis’s was. In Egypt, despite the resignation of Mubarak and the apparent success of the democracy movement three weeks ago, there is no sign that anything constructive is emerging from the army council. In Yemen, Bahrein and Saudi Arabia, any democracy protests are either snuffed out quickly or are prevented from happening. Pakistan kills Christians to popular acclaim. Afghanistan buries women to their necks and stones them to death so we are pretty reliably informed.
The irony is that the only Middle East country where secularists had successfully wrenched control away from Islam, where its Foreign Secretary was a Roman Catholic and where a Jewish synagogue still operated in its capital, was also the country that President Bush chose to invade in 2003. It was in Iraq also where women could dress without the veil, where academic freedom was largely tolerated and where the professional middle class (and the scientist class) was the largest in the Middle East (proportionate to the population). Iraq is now back in the Middle Ages where Sunnis are terrorizing the Shias with bomb attacks and the government looks on helplessly.
I could go on. The fact of the matter is that no country can hope to achieve a Western way of life for its population unless it first prevent mass thought-control by organized religion. In particular, scientists must be allowed to change their doctrines as frequently as their experiments tell them to. They must not be subject to religious doctrines which take generations, sometimes centuries, to adjust to reality.
Unfortunately, history seems to be telling us that predominant religious power can only successfully be put down by brutal methods. Emperor Qin did so in 200BC and China has remained secular ever since. In the 15th and 16th centuries various kings and princelings of Europe had to defeat the Pope in battle many times before sufficient freedom of thought finally emerged.
Whether Gaddafi wins or not in Libya, the whole of the Islamic Middle East is still generations away from any hope that free expression in both science and politics (and religion when kept within modest bounds) will be tolerated. Iraq might have done so in another one or two generation’s time, but no longer it seems. Otherwise, there can be little hope for a long time to come for most of those — women particularly — who live in the indoctrinated countries of the Middle East.