Secular Right | Reality & Reason



What if all music was ‘Christian’ music?

I think this sort of rhetorical question is a good way to understand the role of religion in much of the Islamic world: there is no distinction between pop culture and religiously inflected culture. I thought of that when noticing this segment on To the Best of Our Knowledge‘s episode Superheroes:

Naif Al-Mutawa lives in his native Kuwait and is the Creator of “The 99,” a comic book series featuring a group of superheroes each of whom derives a power from one of the 99 attributes of Allah. Al-Mutawa tells Steve Paulson that his Islamic superheroes are a response to President Obama’s Cairo speech, and that they may soon engage with the traditional Western superheroes.

I’ve vaguely aware of superheroes who are explicitly Christian in the evangelical Protestant subculture. But in ‘the West’ this is a subculture and this sort of naked connection between a sectarian religion and righteousness is often sniffed at as classless and retrograde (in that it was not uncommon in the past). In the Islamic world though this is normative.

Whether that’s good or bad is up to you. But it is an observation on how analogies between the self-defined ‘Islamic world’ and ‘the West’ fail when attempting to communicate the role religion plays in society. As I’ve said over and over again, ‘moderate Muslims’ resemble American evangelical Protestants in the way they view the relationship between faith and society. What the Left terms the ‘American Taliban’ would actually represent the center in much of the Middle East.



  • syon · July 20, 2011 at 2:21 am


    It is an interesting distinction. Most prominent Western superheroes fit into one of three categories:

    1. The costumed athlete: Batman, Golden Age Sandman, the Question, etc.

    2. The “Science Hero”: Powers are derived from some kind of pseudo-scientific rationale: Superman (alien DNA), Spider-Man (artificially induced mutation), Green Lantern (Alien technology), Iron Man (cutting edge human tech), X-Men (naturally occurring mutations), etc.

    3. The magical/mythological hero: Thor, Dr Strange, Wonder Woman, Shazam Captain Marvel, Hercules, etc.

    What is fascinating is how little use is made of Judeo-Christian myth in the third category. Powers are derived from pagan myths (cf. Thor, Wonder Woman) and invented supernatural entities (Dr Strange’s Oshtur, Cyttorak, Raggadorr, Faltine, etc), but usually not from Biblical entities.Even the Ghost Rider, who started out as an agent of Satan, now contends against invented demons like Mephisto. The only significant mainstream examples that spring to mind are the Spectre (the Vengeance of God but not a very commercially successful hero) and Spawn (a renegade agent of Hell).

  • Sean · July 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Here you go again, making me doubt that you’ve ever actually spent time in the middle east. Your headline is belied by the fact that almost everywhere one goes in that part of the world, from Dubai to little villages in the Iraqi desert, the television is on and it’s tuned to their version of MTV. This has been true of every Muslim country I’ve visited or lived in over the last ten years (Maybe Saudi and Libya are different, but my point holds).

    A good 80% of the videos on those channels have a clear storyline (love lost/found, someone dies) with the remaining looking like a cheap knock-off of blingy American rap videos. I don’t recall ever seeing a particularly religious one, but maybe I did. My point is, most of them looked like this:

    I’ll even grant that there probably is something, somewhere in that video that’s religious. But the overall tenor could hardly be described as such. One comic book does not equal “normative.”

    I just don’t understand how someone with your knowledge of the region and culture could miss something so big as the music that blares from every cafe in the region, all day long. I don’t “love Islam,” I hate misrepresentations and unwarranted generalizations.

    Please confine your criticisms of Muslims and their terrible religion to the many awful things that are true about their culture. There is no need to make them out to be any worse than they already are, and there is definitely no need to undermine (however slightly) institutions that serve as a bulwark against the very religious extremism you fear.

  • James · July 21, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Tawdry melodrama and rap videos a “bulwark against religious extremism?” God help us…

  • Clark · July 22, 2011 at 5:04 am

    Is it wrong that all I could think about while reading this was the South Park episodes where Mohammad is a member of the super best friends?

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