Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Religious Roots of Modern Piracy

Al Mohler has an interesting post on the modern rise of piracy off the coast of Africa.

Peter Berger is one of the most authoritative voices in modern sociology. He understands better than most that the prophets of secularization were too hasty in writing religion off as a major force in the world. Looking back at the very figures who helped shape the modern world, he comments, "Not to put too fine a point on it, they were mistaken."

In his own way, Stephen Prothero makes the same point. In a recent column in The Wall Street Journal, Prothero argues that one cannot understand the current crisis of piracy off the coast of Somalia without understanding the religious roots of this resurgence.

Prothero serves as chairman of the Department of Religion at Boston University (where Professor Berger also taught for many years). He is also author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't. When it comes to religious literacy, a bit of knowledge would serve the foreign policy elites, the military, and the media when it comes to the revival of piracy.

As Prothero explains in "Muhammad of the High Seas:"The late spate of piracy off the coast of Somalia has been analyzed so far almost entirely in political and economic terms: Somalia is lawless and impoverished, so Somali men are taking world trade for a ride. Religion comes up in this analysis only in terms of fears about potential ties between Somali pirates and Islamist groups such as al Qaeda and al Shabab.

But according to Boston University's World Religion Database, the Somali population is 99% Muslim, and the last time the U.S. was menaced by piracy, in the late 18th century, the so-called Barbary pirates of north Africa also operated out of Muslim havens. For those who know something about Muhammad and the origins of Islam, more than coincidence is at work: Religion, it turns out, should be factored into the piracy problem.
Read the entire post HERE.

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