Monday, October 29, 2007

God's eternal word is human freedom

Dag asked me for my opinion of Jamie Glazov's Front Page interview of Bruce Tefft, a former CIA spy and now a counter-terrorism consultant. Jamie was not at his best in defending Front Page's preferred concept of "Islamofascism" to identify the supposedly specific problem we are having with the Islamic world. Many have asked, “what is the point of trying to distinguish bad “fascist” Muslims from regular Muslims who are also full of antagonism towards the West, as they are encouraged to be by the dictates of the Koran? Why use Western political terminology ("fascism") to describe Islam at all?” In my opinion, while there is always a role for comparative analysis, and thus for seeing similarities among disparate phenomena, imposing any terminology on a religion that it does not itself use is problematic. It is to imagine a world of ideal types and not one of historical particulars.

But leaving this question aside, I do think there is something wrong with Tefft's take on things, his argument that all of Islam is essentially the same thing, and all deadly for the West, just because, it seems, the Koran says this is the way it must be.

So, here are some of Tefft's arguments, and my responses:

Tefft: The "War on Terror" and the use of the terms "Islamofascism" or "radical Islam" are basic examples of faulty nomenclature. One terrorism is a tactic, used by an enemy. One wages war on the enemy, not the tactic. During WWII we did not wage war on the "blitzkrieg" or "kamikaze pilots" -- we fought a war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japanese. We are fighting a 14-century year old war against Islam and its adherents, Muslims. And it is a war that they have declared on all non-Muslims as part of their religious mandate, their ideology, to make the whole world Islamic, under the Caliphate, and to convert, kill or enslave all non-Muslims.

The two main branches of Islam, Sunni and Shi'ite have both, as the initiation of the Third Jihad (Holy War) of the modern Islamic resurgence, have repeatedly declared war against the U.S. and the West -- the Sunni with bin Laden's 1998 Declaration of War and the Shi'ites when Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah and attacked our Embassy (sovereign U.S. territory under international law) in 1979. Ignoring the fact that we are indeed at war with Muslims, and not simply a tactic of war that they use, leaves us vulnerable to infiltration, subversion and other forms of attack and makes it impossible to defeat the enemy.
[responding to Jamie Glazov] I've heard this argument before: "radical" Muslims kill and terrorize other Muslims as well so they must be different from the "moderates" that they are terrorizing. I don't think so. As with any group of human beings, there are factions in Islam and personal ambitions and petty egos of various leaders which will them to power. So there are conflicts between Muslims as well as between Muslims and everyone else. However, those Muslims killing other Muslims (which is forbidden in the Koran) do not view the "others" as true Muslims but rather as 'takfir' or apostates, thus not true Muslims and therefore subject to the same killing as the rest of us.

Like Nazism, Islam is an ideology one chooses to adhere to. Were there "good" or "moderate" Nazis? If not, then no one can claim that there are good or moderate Muslims as they are voluntarily subscribing to an ideology that advocates murder, torture and jihad and does not permit its follower to cherry-pick which parts they believe in. The requirement to accept the Koran as the literal word of God also carries with it the obligation to accept it all. And as you say, the Koran instructs all Muslims to wage war against non-Muslims and all schools of Islamic thought instruct the subjugation of the non-Muslim world through jihad. Therefore, I do not believe it wise to attempt to create artificial distinctions between Muslims that don't really [exist] as far as their attitudes towards non-Muslims is concerned.

As the prime minister of Turkey recently said: There is no radical nor moderate Islam. That is an insult to Muslims. There is only Islam.

We may wish to give Muslims the benefit of doubt, due to our humanistic and liberalized Western way of thinking. But treating the enemy as we wish they were, than as they are, will only lead to our ultimate defeat.

Truepeers: The point of our humanistic way of thinking is to allow us to distinguish human reality from fantasy ideologies. Islam is in many respects a fantasy ideology/religion, so I'll argue we can’t begin by taking its word at face value, keeping in mind the power of the fantasy over its believers.

What if it is actually impossible to live, in this day and age, (as well as in the past) by simply “accepting the Koran as the literal word of God”. Do people actually begin with the Koran and other Islamic holy texts, and model their lives on them, in some exact process of transforming words into lives? Or, do they live according to the various exigencies, imperatives and necessary freedoms that constitute life in a particular place and time – for example, all the extra-Islamic imperatives and freedoms that are required to keep a family or kinship structure going, or to put food on the table, in face of daily conflicts - and then look for religious norms or justifications to guide them in their free engagement with the basic realities of their day?

Put another way, since when has a ritual order been sufficient to order a society, with no kings or extra-ritual legislators having freedoms to impinge on the practice of the ritual order? Only the most primitive societies can make do without kings or big men and the freedoms that make such men necessary and that become a model for others to aspire. Only the most primitive or basic forms of human society are largely bound by ritual and its myths, but even here there is necessarily freedom to help the ritual and myth grow. No language, no religion, is ever entirely static.

For example, recently the Taleban in Afghanistan, a rather backward place by the standards of the present world, tried to make the Koran and Sharia into a sufficient ritual-legal code to govern every aspect of life, something few Muslim countries still try to do, whatever the professed desires to the contrary. But how long could such a regime ever survive in our globalized world? As we saw, there were plenty of clan and tribal leaders in Afghanistan, interested in access to material wealth and the modern technologies of power, who were ready to ally with the West against the Taleban when they had the chance.

For the Talebanization of the world to be a possibility, there would have to be so much destruction of the present global economic and political order, along with most of the world’s population that this order sustains, that it seems unlikely that when faced with the choices that our globalizing reality ultimately puts to us, that many Muslims would willingly choose the Talebanization of the world, or some slightly more highbrow, Persian or Arab, equivalent. That’s not to forget that there aren’t plenty of Muslims around willing to play with fantasy ideas of a world ruled by Sharia law. But I rather think that’s because they have little idea what it would take for such a world to emerge. Would they offer up their own families as victims of the necessary cull? That is the kind of question we need to put before them, rather than simply repeating the fantasy that Muslims want to live in complete submission to Sharia.

I’m not out to defend Islam; I’ve yet to see an Islamic understanding of God that I could advocate as sufficiently true for people trying to find their way in the modern world with all its demands for the responsible exercise of freedoms, for people needing to accept and ally with the infidels and the freedom that makes the modern global economy possible. That, of course, hasn’t stopped some Muslims – no doubt bad or insufficiently pious Muslims according to the arguments of people like Tefft – from succeeding in the global economy, even in high positions in the West. They succeed because they accept to some degree certain Western values, ultimately rooted (if the roots are now forgotten) in Western religion. Pragmatic imperatives that no one need give a name or lineage to are ultimately more important than any ritual code, even for Muslims.

In any case, it strikes me that in developing a successful counter-Jihad strategy we need to keep forefront in our minds the fact that Islam is not and cannot be a closed ritual system, despite the orthodoxy that Sharia should rule the world. Indeed, the history of Islam, as first well explained by the medieval historian, Ibn Khaldun, has been one of a continual tension between puritanical attempts at realizing such a complete ritual system, and the inevitable decadence of such attempts. It seems to me the challenge of our age is to defeat the current fundamentalist movements to renew the puritanical desire, and to defeat it in such a way as to make more or less permanent the realization that only some kind of decadent or “moderated” Islam is compatible with a globalizing modernity and the free marketplace.

To do this, the first step, as noted, is to free our own thinking from the infatuation of many counter-Jihad forces that Islam is something immutable and unreformable just because the Koran claims to be the final, eternal, and perfect word of God. There is no need or good in reaffirming this Utopian lie, however fundamental it is to many Muslims’ consciousness.

Furthermore, it is time that those counter-Jihad bloggers who are presently calling on the West to separate Islam from the rest of the world - in some kind of quarantine to protect the world from violent Jihad (the inevitable outgrowth of fantasy ideology is violence and blood lust) that is currently being waged all around the borders of the Islamic lands - be asked to come to terms with the consequences of their own desires and fears. It seems inevitable to me that any real separation of Islam would quickly lead to the inability of the Islamic world to support anything like its present population. A true separationist strategy would have to come to terms with the likely civil war that, if we were in anything like the current ideological environment, would be engendered in the West at the sight of millions of Muslims dieing helplessly. One might also address the morality of allowing millions to die. And a less than complete separationist strategy that allowed the Islamic world to keep going on in something like its present form, by receiving various forms of foreign aid and having some access to global trade and modern technology, would have to explain why a more active engagement with the Islamic world wouldn’t be better suited to our need to find ways to defer the massive resentments of the West that is the motive force for an increasingly nuclear-tipped Islamic politics.


Tefft, like many counter-Jihad bloggers, takes issue with the Bush slogan, "war on terror”. "How can you declare war on a tactic?" they ask. Of course, many would not be happy if George Bush had simply declared a "war on terrorists", because what they really want to hear is that we are at war with Islam or with Muslims, and that we have given up trying to distinguish moderates from radicals, which is to say the relatively more passive from the more active Jihadis/Muslims.

But the thing is, if we were seriously at war with Islam, wouldn't we have invaded or nuked Mecca by now? Of course we are not yet in such a war. Bush declared the "war on terror" because he or his advisors rightly understood that they were in the somewhat novel historical situation of not having enough responsible state actors whom they could hold responsible for terrorist violence, and on whom they could thus declare war. We might invade Afghanistan and Iraq, but that would not come close to ending the terrorist problem, one that is endemic to most of the Islamic world and in fact takes the form of civil war in the Muslim countries. For example, bin Laden could have operated in such a way that he would not have given us the easy target of Afghanistan to make the object of a traditional war of state vs. state. Could we have successfully invaded nuclear-armed Pakistan if bin Laden had being operating there, prior to 9/11, without the consent of the Pakistani government? The fact that he has probably been in Pakistan for some time now suggests the answer.

Since American "realist" policy has for some time been to prop up various dictatorships in the Islamic world - like those of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, that are at (civil) war with many of the terrorist elements, even as they may also be supporting some of them in various double games in which all Muslim parties are willing to scapegoat America and Israel for being free and successful societies - there were all kinds of pragmatic reasons for America and the West to maintain certain alliances and not see it in anyone's interest to engage a total civilizational war between the West and Islam.

More to my point, however, is that the “war on terror” refers to the idea that our enemy are precisely those believers in a fantasy ideology, premised on a complete rejection of the modern global marketplace, believers who cannot seriously hope to hold the reigns of power in any existing or readily imagined future state, with the possible exception of Afghanistan which is sufficiently isolated from global markets in all but opiates. In other words, our enemy are not "freedom fighters" in some war of liberation. They are fantasy players. What propels the present wave of Islamic terrorism is not simply the traditional Jihadi doctrines of Islam, but also the near complete failure of Islamic civilization in the modern era and its much less than stellar performance in the increasingly global economy. The losers in today's global game feel their lands are being invaded by Western business and culture, as to an increasing degree they are. In more confident times, Islam sent regular armies to the Gates of Vienna, now they send lonely immigrants full of hateful Islamist preaching and fantasies of a restored Caliphate – fantasies, that as I say, can only become more or less real if there is first a drastic reduction in the population and economy of the world.

We are not at war with Islam because we recognize that there is a civil war going on within the Islamic world and because our leaders still believe, quite rightly I think, that it reasonable to assume that it is in our interest to use the pressures that can be applied on those wanting to participate in the global economy to ally with us in choosing sides in that civil war, thus dividing “Islam” and conquering the serious Jihadi forces. Of course we have not yet found the resolve or imagination to do this at all well, or found the co-operation needed internationally.
But if there is any point to my present writing, it is to say that it is time we started to find the imagination, and not give in to our own pathological desires for some great act of violence - separationism, or civilizational war - to solve this mess.

In any case, our essential choice is whether we hope to continue to invade the Muslim world, in the form of the global economy and all the demands, restraints, and disciplines that puts on people determined to suceed in the global game, leaving questions of religious reform or apostasy and conversion for Muslims themselves to work out in their own minds, or whether we come to the conclusion that Muslims cannot be anything but a threat, no matter what their level of participation in the rational global economy. For example, we can find ways, if we have the will, to pressure Muslim countries to protect the right of people to leave Islam.

Time and again, we must return to the point of recognizing that Islam taken "literally", as many idealized readings (by both Muslims and anti-Islam people) would have it, i.e. the vision of a united Umma ruling the world under a successful Caliphate and Sharia, is pure nonsense, the height of Utopianism. All those Muslims killing each other aren't really doing it because one or another side is apostate - that's just an excuse for simple minds - but because conflict is inherent to the human condition and Islam is not a very sophisticated technology for mediating and deferring conflict and violence, however more sophisticated it is than the pagan and tribal faiths that it partially replaced.

What is real is that some Muslims are starting to undermine the Islamist fantasies of overturning the global order, by participating in it. I recently saw a BBC story on the new Turkish wine industry, which aims to compete with product from neighboring Bulgaria. The BBC pointed out that this was kind of strange in a Muslim country. No doubt those who tell us that you can't reason with a Muslim, and so those who participate in the reason-demanding global economy are not real Muslims (but more or less apostate) will also tell us that those Muslims who drink alcohol aren't real Muslims either, because of course it is forbidden in Islam. But in Turkey some “Muslims” do drink alcohol.

Should we tell our potential allies in the Islamic world that they are not real Muslims, or should we deny that we have any potential allies in the Muslim world, unless and until they become full-fledged apostates? Must we live forever in fear that all the “moderate” Muslims who want to participate in the global economy are but one brain cramp away from turning en masse to becoming fundamentalist Jihadis? Only if we don’t trust that reality, if well used by free people, can overcome fantasy. Only if we believe that fantasy can become reality (instead of simply death).

Declaring war on Islam, as a whole, will strengthen its resolve. Making friends with Muslims who drink wine and want to have comfortable lives with all the modern amenities is not a sure-fire way to avoid Jihad or betrayal by our friends - we all know that many of the active terrorists are precisely those among the Muslims most exposed to the modern world, its wealth and education - but it is nonetheless a pragmatic strategy.

Many Muslims who like a glass of wine will not turn out like the Muslim doctors who recently tried to let off bombs in Britain, or the young men of suburban Toronto who plotted various terrorist acts in this country. Many Muslims who like a glass of wine are on the road to rejecting terrorism, however much the terrorists may have a better grasp of orthodox Islam than the wine drinkers. People can and do live with contradictions. No one can be a pure Muslim because Islamic theology is untrue, unrealistic. Perfect Sharia regimes generally can't and don't survive many years of their attempted implementation, as an Afghanistan or presently crumbling Iran would suggest. When we in the West come to the rightful conclusion that we must make Muslims choose, at risk of their lives and freedoms, between harboring or supporting Jihadis, or living in fear of them, and participating in the global economy, many will choose to ally with us. And those who don't will be fair targets for our self-defense of the global economy.

But the larger point is, we don't know how many Muslims we are at war with until we define and prosecute the terms of our conflict in ways that make people choose sides between freedom and the fantasy ideologies of one world Umma and Caliphate. Right now we let many people get away with being all things to all people. And right now there are many counter-Jihad bloggers who don’t want to find the mental energy to think through how putting unmistakeable choices before Muslims could work. They’d rather deny any offer to Muslims to show good faith can work. They'd rather believe in some one great solution, like separationism or re-colonization or total war. But these are fanciful and impractical ideas in many respects. If we learn well to offer both the carrot and the stick we will go farther towards achieving something realistic.

Tefft, above, asks rhetorically if there were any good or moderate Nazis, as if to suggest the inanity of believing in moderate Muslims. But this is silly. First, if we distinguish all the Germans who wore uniforms and fought in the war, or worked for the state in some capacity, from those who gladly joined the Nazi party, of course we will discover that there were good German soldiers who refused to do just anything in the name of the Nazi movement. I dare to say there were even people with Nazi party cards who had some kind of conscience that troubled them. There will always be people who recognize basic human decency and who put it before overarching ideologies. Grand ideological or religious systems are latecomers to the game of structuring human consciousness and they simply cannot eliminate more pragmatic and more sacred modes of thinking that long predate them. What’s more, Naziism was a short-lived movement that people really had to make a choice about joining. Islam has been around 1400 years and those born into it today need make no commitment to the cause to be considered one of its number. It is thus entirely likely that many Muslims are less interested in Islam than in being decent or pragmatic human beings. That, of course, is no guarantee that pragmatism or decency can come to the fore in the Islamic world, given violent politics and the privileged status of Koranic forms of representation. But it is the basis for hoping that when “we” find the will, we can pressure the Muslim world to expand its forms of representation.

FP: So is Islam an ideology or a religion?

Tefft: That is a good question, a key question.
Islam is an ideology with religious trappings. The Koran can quite logically be viewed as Mohammed's "Mein Kampf" -- it lays out his justification for murder, rape, torture and military conquest on a daily basis. Since Mohammed made it up as he went along, it lacks some of the coherency and consistency of the "Mein Kampf" but it has the same effect. It is full of contradictions, but Muslims start from the premise that Allah can make no errors, and mere mortals cannot know what Allah really means. So if there are contradictions, the principle of "abrogation" is applied -- whatever Allah says last, trumps whatever went before. This leads directly to the example of the so-called "peace, love and tolerance" of Islam vs. it's holy war bloodthirstiness.

TP: It’s not a good question if you take it for granted that the difference between ideology and religion is self-evident. To any kind of traditional Muslim, without an understanding of Western ways of distinguishing secular metaphyisics from religion, the question would be incoherent. And that is perhaps the essential problem we face with Islam: the inability of Muslims to separate religion and ideology, the church and the state. Islam attempts to be an all-encompasssing ritual-legal order. But because it can’t be that in this day and age, if it ever could, it is increasingly open to fundamentalist "reform" ideologies, like those of bin Laden, which often rub the established clerical authorities the wrong way. The question remains whether more secularizing reform ideologies will also have their day, or whether the reform of Islam will entail its complete dismantling. I would prefer the latter, and imagine it will happen one day, but for pragmatic reasons I can’t suggest we put all our eggs in advancing that basket. Muslims will have to work through all the possibilities for reform first.

Tefft: Islam, unlike either Christianity or Judaism is not reformable. Christians are in general agreement that the Bible was written by humans, inspired by God; the primary and central tenet of Islam is that the Koran is the literal word of Allah. How does one 'reform', interpret or change, the Word of God (or Allah)? The answer is one can't and it would be blasphemous to try to do so and apostasy, in Islam, like so much else, is punishable by death.

Truepeers: Tefft is confusing the widespread desire to live as if one had the literal word of Allah, with actuality. In fact it is not possible to read any book, even the Koran, and to relate it to your actual life and experience, without doing a lot of your own interpretation. People, especially Muslims, need to be told this and we need to quit reinforcing the fantasy that Islam is some computer program running inerrably in every Muslim robotic mind. The problem with Islam is that interpretation has become codified for centuries by the Ulema, and there is very little original thinking going on in the Muslim world other than by radicals opposed to the established Islamic authorities. The fact that the traditional Islamic authorities, are increasingly less successful in interpreting Islam for a wider audience, than are the modern fundamentalists, suggests that the pressures posed by global conditions can and do change Islam. If the extreme fantasy ideology now has a hold, it is not proof that Islam is unreformable in more moderate directions, only that fantasy fundamentalism is the easy way out for many trying to come to terms with globalization.

This returns us to the question of whether, given the dangers posed to us by a lack of real thinking in any significant Islamic quarters - other than those of the fundamentalists of the bin Laden variety - do we follow a separationist strategy or do we think about ways of forcing Muslims to make choices about freedom or oppression that necessarily engage them in acts of interpretation.

For example, do we make immigration and residence in the West, the licensing of Mosques and imams here, dependent on a person’s demonstration of a consistent commitment to reform of Islam, e.g. the separation of church and state? Do we punish any links to violent Jihadi activity accordingly? Do we demand worldwide protection for Muslim apostates and converts to Christianity, and are we willing to back up such demands with a full range of sanctions, including force from time to time? Or do we just throw up our hands and say none of that will ever happen because Muslims must be inerrant in following the word of God?

The idea that a human must inerrably follow the word of God is actually a very basic idea, long pre-dating Islam, and grounded in a rather basic kind of religious consciousness and its corresponding language: the ostensive and imperative forms of signifying the sacred. These are things every primitve tribesman knows. And these forms of language cannot simply be stabilized by any attempt to codify the ostensive and imperative in a major text like the Koran. IN other words, there is an inherent freedom in our ability to signify “the word of God”. The existence of language, any human language, entails freedom. One can continually find new ways of signifying the sacred, new ways of pointing to something and saying “holy!", or “you must do this”. For example, imagine you are an Afghan today, and an Imam tells you to kill the infidel invaders, as the Koran demands. But these infidels are presently defending your clan against the local enemy, and they are feeding your village. What do you do? What is the imperative sign that you must recognize and share with your fellows? Once the infidels (or any competing sect within Islam) are in your country, you can’t avoid the freedom of choice, to hell with the pretense that it could ever be otherwise.

We must seek ways to bring this reality to bear on Islamic consciousness. We must make re-interpretation or apostasy the clear-cut choice that our God-given human consciousness demands of any person. That last sentence is a paradox, I know. We must all suck on the lime. Truth is paradoxical.

One can of course read the Koran as if its rambling sentences and paragraphs were ostensive gestures and imperative demands, as believers try to do. But one cannot avoid a world in which the need for new ways to make ostensive and imperative signs continually arises from emergent circumstances. Conflicts arise and they can’t be solved simply by someone chanting the same old party line. New conflicts always demand somewhat new forms of resolution. Muslims have no choice but to live in history like the rest of us.

Tefft: While the war with Islam is eminently winnable, it is very difficult to be optimistic at this stage when one sees political correctness rampant and the Western leftists supporting Islam (as they supported the National Socialists and Lenin/Stalin in the last century), to the point our leadership (where is Churchill, Thatcher and Reagan when we need them?) is either too frightened or too ignorant to name our enemy.
Islam is basically a regressive ideology, reflecting the evil ambitions of Mohammed, a 6th century brigand. Even if it were to succeed temporarily in bringing a new Dark Age to the world, eventually it will collapse from its own internal inconsistencies and anti-humanistic beliefs.

Truepeers: Here I agree with Tefft. The left is often the enemy of freedom, however much they often sincerely believe otherwise. But what are these internal inconsistencies and anti-humanistic beliefs? As I have been arguing, I think these are rooted in the fallacy that one can ever have the final and eternal word of God.

While I have my disagreements with Tefft’s formulations, this doesn’t stop me from requesting any readers with a few extra dollars consider contributing to Tefft’s legal defense fund. If we are to believe in the power of human freedom to turn the Muslim world around, we have to start by resisting all forms of Jihadist blackmail that are corrupting our society, and Tefft has become the target of one such victimary blackmailer. Read the details at Front Page. We must stand for freedom and have our door open to any Muslims wanting to be free. The rest should be given the choice in rather brusque terms that make the price of their false belief in unquestioning slavery to “Allah” clear. To be a slave to God is to think and to be free. That's not a theological idea, it's human, god-given, reality.


Anonymous said...


I just thought I'd "drop in" and say how helpful and illuminating I found this post to be. I'm going to link it to the GaBlog


truepeers said...

Thanks Adam

This issue is threatening to pull our current blogging alliance apart, hence my frank and quickly-written tone.

Of course you of all people will recognize the GA writers to whom this post is indebted. I don't fill up the posts with links and references because sometimes it is best to try to communicate ideas as simply as one can. I don't know if I succeeded in well translating your recent post on theme of "ostensives all the way down". I'd be happy to hear any thoughts on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I noticed the engagement with my post, and the way you articulated it in a very powerful and nuanced way with a genuinely generative account of contemporary Islam and the complexities of our relation to it. It will be an important reference point for me. (It also applies perfectly to Fitzgerald and others at NER)


maccusgermanis said...

People do identify themselves as having been born to various ideologies, but I’ve yet to hear a compelling statement of faith from a newborn. A nominal muslim’s admission that their parents were muslim is not itself “submission.” People neither begin with knowledge of the koran, nor the daily necessities of life. It must be respected that muslims have chosen, whether for need to assimilate into their culture or true conviction, to identify themselves with all the horrible things the koran does say.

The truth that you state, that “there were plenty of clan and tribal leaders ….who where ready to ally with the West” -willing to subvert their professed faith for mutual benefit of themselves and we kuffar- is actually evidence that we should draw the distinction between our values and islam more starkly rather than less. In fact relatively “good” Nazis did exist. But, their “goodness” was subject to their need to assimilate with a cultural fad that pervaded their time. And in our own time, the undeniable “goodness” of the munafiq and their apologizing brethren of the West is occluded by a tactical need to avoid mentioning that islam may have something to do with the mad ravings of that illiterate pedophille -who is more commonly referred to as mo’.

I have some sympathy with your assumption that the relative success of a muslim is owed more to their adoption of Western values than their own submission, but recognize that such knowingly compromised persons must inevitably be forced to choose between further “pragmatic” subversion of their faith or redemption. A relatively successful muslim is actually quite dangerous, having more means than his more pious brethren, while still attempting to light his jihadist fuse with sparks from the koran. Adherents do make, however imperfect, attempts to adhere to their faith. Salfist are clear in their distinctions, and we who invite apostasy -either knowingly or unknowingly- must be equally clear. Islam must die.

Muslims face a choice between submission to a murderous pedophile’s lies, reconciliation to truth, or further procrastination. We do them no service by pretending that the koran might “seem” to say something different –with a decoder ring -a muslim popery – or standing on your head, holding your tongue just right.

truepeers said...


thanks for the comment. I don't think the debate is so much about what the Koran says (it would be very hard to argue it is not full of hate towards the non-Muslim), as about how can we live together with Muslims in this day and age. Can one be a "Muslim" without being a violent Jihadist or a Sharia advocate? Perhaps, perhaps not. How much contradiction and ambiguity, and deference to historical context, can a "Muslim" live with? But it's not for you or me to know since we're not trying to be (non-violent) "Muslims". I expect that if given the necessary freedom, a lot of people will leave Islam (my intuition, only, is that reform is going to be a very hard road); some will try to reform it to meet the expectations of the modern world. Some will dig in and fight, and we should fight back. In either of the first two cases, what are the conditions for allowing this reform or apostasy to happen? That is the question we need to put before our minds, unless we are willing to try to build a water tight wall between us and them, with all the horrors and dangers that will entail. I have nothing against accentuating the stark differences between our values and theirs. I am only against assuming that we know exactly how they can and will formulate their "Muslim" or post-Muslim values in a future where they choose to recognize the legitimacy of the present global economic and nation-state system, and the requirements of these systems for free and responsible human beings and transparent governments.

Of course it's a risk to try to engage with Muslims. They may never respect us, though that's unlikely to be entirely the case, to the degree they can't live without us. But if refusing the risk means warring with all those who are not willing to quit Islam, is that something our culture can live with? We have so much guilt in the West now, we need find ways to positively re-assert our values, to attract converts to the high road. Saying Islam must end now, is not to grapple seriously with what we can or should do in the medium term, leaving aside all dreams of great solutions in a future we won't be around to negotiate. Right now the choice is global war for the foreseeable future, or negotiation with "Muslims". No doubt we will need some of both, and hence minds open to the ambiguities therein.

maccusgermanis said...

Can one be a "Muslim" without being a violent Jihadist or a Sharia advocate?
“Muslim” - "one who submits"

To order your own life is the act of an apostate or a munafiq. It is not the act of “one who submits” to the violent and hateful teachings of the koran. We do those nominal muslims, that struggle to resovle contradictions with ambiguous deference to carefully re-crafted historical context, no service by pretense that, by sacrifice of truth, islam can be moderated. We ill equip them to meet the true muslim that will point out the same truth, but to different conclusion. “Contradiction, ambiguity, and deference to [psuedo]historical context” all equal further dollars pledged to the building of hospitals in Gaza, that instead buy explosives for Hamas.

So if it’s neither you nor I that hopes for and plans to be a hypocrite, then why should you assume such from a nominal muslim? Of the conditions that might allow reform and encourage apostacy, is not included the pretense that there is no conflict between we and they, or within themselves. I respect most the mind of those that have become apostate, the heart of those that foolishly hope for reform, and the resolve of those that will meet us in eventual battle. (psuedo-palis hiding behind skirts and chickenshit homicide bombers don’t make the list) None of them need to be confused about who we are, or of what we are capable. Separation and distinction are the first steps toward resolution, whether that resolution be that which is ameniable to all parties or that dictated by a superior force. The assumption that we can co-exist when so much islamic tradition and recent history contradicts such assumption is to invite a disorderly slaughter. A “wall” should not (and in fact can not) be “water tight,” but it can mark clearly a line from which we have no intention of retreating.

The charge of undue separation and lack of engagement is out of place in your comments about Teft’s interview. Did he not add a nominal muslim to his mailing list? Did he anywhere in the interview call for the “water tight wall” that you now refer? The one mistake I noted was that, while recognising terror as a tactic, he did not recognise muslims as only mediums of a conflict that shall reoccur until islam has ceased to exist. The conflict that presents itself is of the koran, and is islam. The muslim world has already been through a relatively modern process of moderation to which salafism is the leading reaction against. To say that islam is as I have stated, but that I am insincere in stating that islam must die, is to willfully obscure a truth. Do what you will in the medium term concerning the varying adherance of the mediums, but as long as the faith exists, somewhere, someone might actually believe it. Shall we instead say that honesty must die?

truepeers said...

“Muslim” - "one who submits"... To order your own life is the act of an apostate or a munafiq.

Well, I have no trouble, generally, with Christians who want to obey God's will. That's because I think their religious ideas are generally true, for example the idea that God must want us to be free even as that entails obeying certain realities, or natural laws. Christian truth is grounded in a true understanding of our anthropology. A human slave, however downtrodden, cannot be just a robot obeying carefully defined orders. At a minimum, he must every day make the choice of whether to obey, how to obey, or whether to die. Freedom, though always restrained by others, is inherent in the human condition and no false theology can eliminate this fact. So, again, I would ask whether you are taking the fantasy of Islam's unquestioning submission too literally. Many Muslims do attempt to live up to that fantasy, but practically that does not allow them to deny a reality that requires them to think and decide.

So if it’s neither you nor I that hopes for and plans to be a hypocrite, then why should you assume such from a nominal muslim? Of the conditions that might allow reform and encourage apostacy, is not included the pretense that there is no conflict between we and they, or within themselves.

-I think you're right to suggest that we need to be doing more to make explicit the conflicts we are struggling with. I am only disagreeing, i think, on how we might formulate the terms of these conflicts. My terms would entail pressuring people to make all kinds of choices (for example, making it very painful for those who do choose explosives over hospitals), yet leaving aside any ultimate questions about how people must understand their identities. This seem hypocritical to you, but to my mind there is a need to provide for the necessary muddy compromises and things left unsaid by which any politics inevitably works. A new degree of freedom for the Muslim world, or for any society, can only come about around a degree of uncertainty about what can be done in a new kind of political marketplace. And if you start by trying to determine entirely the terms of that marketplace, or, in this case, saying to Muslims there can be no new political marketplace as long as you remain Muslims, then I think you create an impasse, one that will soon have little to do with people questioning competing faith claims and more to do with basic existential questions - mere survival - that demand loyalty to those who will lead the "Muslims" against the rest of hte world.

I think it's important for us to think seriously about giving Muslims a realistic way out, which will always entail anticipating, but never entirely finalizing, the terms of some shared transcendence of our and their conflicts in some future geopolitical order. And I can't see how demanding a blanket proscription of Islam will engender this. What you call hypocrisy, I would probably see as the fact that more than one kind of real human truth comes into play in any major conflict. For starters, there are a billion odd people who call themselves Muslims, among whom there are many whom I imagine want both greater freedoms or wealth, and an ability to maintain some kind of loyalty to their own people vis a vis the rest of the world, and especially in relation to the leaders of the global economy. Asking them to give up their pragmatic loyalty to their own people (which, like it or not, takes, to some degree, the form of loyalty to "Islam") , in exchange for greater freedom is a non-starter - since one can only have freedom within society, not apart from it - unless we are going to find new homes and societies for all of them, somewhere safely apart from the rest of that billion+ Muslim people.

A realistic way out for many will require that they remain "Muslims" even as they work - from need to survive in the global economy - to enjoy and defend freedoms that will allow for an evolution in the nature of their loyalty to their own people, an evolution towards the idea that loyalty means acting as the guarantor for the other guy's market freedom, in matters religion, politics, economics, etc., even when you disagree with him. Those Pakistanis currently protesting to maintain constitutional freedoms are perhaps an example. They may be few. But even if there is only one Muslim freedom lover, we should start with him and draw our lines accordingly.

Most generally, we should be defining our conflicts in terms of those who would justify political violence (other than in clear self-defense, or defense of the free market) and those who refuse to recognize its legitimacy except in defense of freedom. You can reply, but this is the same as saying we should define the conflict in terms of Islam vs. Freedom. But, pragmatically, it is not the same thing. And pragmatic truths are just as true, if differently true, than (theo)logical truths. I don't see that as a hypocritical statement but rather an attempt to articulate a fundamental paradox that there is more than one kind of truth at play in human conflicts.

The assumption that we can co-exist when so much islamic tradition and recent history contradicts such assumption is to invite a disorderly slaughter.

-You may be right, like the best stock market traders who are right fifty-five percent of the time; but for just that reason I'd argue you have no right not to doubt it. The future is not knowable in advance simply on account of past trends, even assuming we have read them correctly, for the reason that any compelling reading changes the behaviour of actors going forward, thus discounting the reliability of past trends. And, if we are willing to take risks, we further change the odds, because our risks impact the decisions of the other players, like bluffing in poker. In any case, the possibly implicit assumption here that human society can ever be anything other than conflict-ridden may itself be the seed of a disorderly slaughter. Co-existence as I understand it can never be anything other than managing conflicts. If you want to argue that these conflicts can only be understood in apocalpytic terms (either for Islam or for us) you haven't yet convinced me why. Because the Koran says so is not convincing, because any reading of any book always involves some kind of re-interpretation, whether this is admitted or not.

A “wall” should not (and in fact can not) be “water tight,” but it can mark clearly a line from which we have no intention of retreating.

The charge of undue separation and lack of engagement is out of place in your comments about Teft’s interview. Did he not add a nominal muslim to his mailing list? Did he anywhere in the interview call for the “water tight wall” that you now refer?

-this is a good correction. We do need to draw all kinds of lines from which we won't retreat; and I don't want to suggest I know exactly what kind of walls Tefft would defend. Again, it is all a question of how we define these lines. I entirely agree that refusing to acknowledge the existence of fundamental conflicts is potentially deadly. But if you want a war, you have no choice but to negotiate the terms and lines with the other side.

maccusgermanis said...

To call oneself “one who submits” is to clearly communicate that the first of your daily choices is already settled. The decision that remains is how to obey. The false distinction between “one who submits” to what the koran is known to say (islamofascist) and “one who submits” to vague notions of moderation (moderate muslim) places the latter under the power of the former. Each claims adherence that only one demonstrates. It is you that assumes the true adherent to be a robot. The true adherent has read, understood and demonstrated an ability to adapt the murderous aims of islam to modern technology, while the “moderate” is stammering “does not compute.” A “moderate” has not submitted to the koran, while perfectly happy to robotically mimic the rites of a murderous tradition. A “moderate” is not a muslim.

The point about the hospitals did refer to the Holy Land Foundation. Why wouldn’t a wine drinking muslim give toward a charity that pledged to build hospitals? Especially when a more pious brother points out the munafiq’s shortcomings. Apostates are not susceptible to the same type of shakedown. The munafiq, whom Western media prefers to call moderate muslims, give tacit approval and plausible deniability to the violent actions of real muslims. The only way that munafiq will be free of this is to know that they do not submit and then choose how to resist. Islam must die. It is the “leaving aside” of this identity crisis that indulges the “fantasy” of moderation.

A nominal muslim that hopes to “maintain some kind of loyalty to their own people” is not submitted to the concept of the umma. Islam does not allow such loyalty to one’s own people. This is both another reason for the death of ,and a demonstrated weakness within, islam.

You speak of showing nominal muslims a way out, while insisting that they be called by a historically oppressive name. Is it more of an impasse to realize and freely call a munafiq by their demonstrated name, or to continue to call them by that which does more define a common ideological adversary? Which is a more realistic way out?

Compromises are made necessary by, and must be more clearly defined commensurate with proximity. The more that you wish not to name islam as the fundamental problem, the more that your solution does rely on the “water tight wall” of which you have accused others of dreaming. The more engaged we become, the more clear we must be about who is, is not, and is only potentially an ally. If the munafiq can overlook 1400 years of dhimmi beating tradition, then why should we fret over what to call them? It won’t phase them and we send a clear signal of which values we are opposed. If they wish to overlook the fact that real muslims recognize their departure then let them also overlook that we call them munafiq. Should a runaway slave rather be called a free man, or even as he exhibits his freedom, still a slave?

Re-interpretation is no way out. The commitment to text of ideas that should be communicated through time must have been quite radical in its time, since even now it struggles to be accepted. Re-interpretation is open to re-interpretation and only ever represents the fantasy of what one had rather the text say. If the text does not change then you must always fear that somewhere, someone might have an actual education that makes clear sense of written words.

truepeers said...


Obviously Islam, as you suggest, does have many totalitarian tendencies. It is not strictly totalitarian, in the sense that it has no single, centralized leadership, but to the extent it lacks a free exchange of ideas, many disputes among the various camps of Islam quickly devolve into brutal power struggles and do not become great intellectual or theological struggles.

You look at these brutal power struggles and sympathize with the idea of moving beyond all that by destroying Islam before it destroys all its people. Maybe this will happen one day. But I'm still left wondering how. How will the necessary learning process unfold - learning that life need not be only a choice among totalitarian masters - if people don't have some kind of freedom to test the waters and fight over uncertain alternative possibilities? Even if the logical end result is to reject Islam, how can people come to this conclusion without some freedom to "reform" Islam first?

You say the outcome of any internal Islamic dispute is pre-ordained, in favor of tough guy fundamentalism. The rest, whom you insist on calling munafiq, hypocrites, will never have the intellectual or other strength to defeat their oppressors. Maybe you're right, even if never is a long time. But I really don't see how we can know in advance. We can't know how Muslims will act in the kind of unprecedented world-threatening situations that will exist in future, especially if we get creative about dividing Islam, supporting one side or another in Islam's civil wars. We can't know how many Muslims, connected to today's global media, when faced with a clear choice between supporting some Taleban-like gang with nukes, or supporting one or another possible alternative (say, a movement for mass apostasy, or a movement for liberalization that leaves religious identity a question for free individuals) will choose which.

You may be right that even if we get very smart in our engagements and in developing strategies for dividing the Muslim world between fundamentalists and reformers/"hypocrites", that the fundamentalists will win out. It is a fair hypothesis. We may eventually have near incontrovertible reason to believe that there really is no hope for reform of Islam.

But, at present, it seems clear to me that many people, including many Muslims, haven't learned that lesson yet. And this pragmatic reality must be respected for there may be little hope to move in any direction without bringing a lot of these people on board. And those who are not convinced by your logic may turn out right too, if they are suitably determined to pursue their moderate agendas, to fight hard in face of conventional wisdom and logic about what all the words in the Koran must say. If people may be willing to fight for some reform agenda, then we need to make opportunities for this to happen so that a true learning process will unfold. Only through the experience of events - how many events I don't know - when something happens, will enough minds come to the revelations by which we will really know enough about what is and is not possible for Islam. You may be already totally convinced, but even you will need further events to convince others of your logic. You can call this evil, an unnecessary waiting for further proof of Islamic evil; but I state it simply as a pragmatic fact. Pure reason alone can't change yet uncertain minds, whether Islamic or Western. Only seeing what we can't yet see will do that, and so we all have a responsibility to fight for positive events, and revelations, if at all possible, over more bloody ones.

No extreme "solution" can be implemented as a first policy, especially not in a world that has become allergic to mass killing and total war. And I think that's something to be happy about. Western society needs to renew itself in various ways and it can't do this by a simple rush to face down Jihadi violence, or by some attempt to put Islam out of sight out of mind. There has to be some kind of interaction that serves as a learning process by which people can see again the true nature and wisdsom of the Western values that can motivate an ongoing commitment to expand human freedom. These values cannot be renewed by simply denying they can ever be appreciated in any way by real Muslims. Their ultimate defense must lie in assumptions that all human beings, notwithstanding their very real cultural, ideological, and religious blinkers and differences, share some minimal core humanity in common; and that our Western values are best because they stem from a true appreciation of this fundamental, if minimal, human truth.

But this is to say there must be a possibility, how small or large we can't know in advance, that even Muslims, given a chance to ally with us in the cause of freedom, might come to appreciate something of the fundamental humanity they share with us and that this might have such a powerful effect on them that they question certain Islamic assumptions about a fundamental divide between believers and infidels. Now that questioning might well take the form of apostasy. But if we see that this questioning must be free, that it cannot be predetermined, that its form and content can't be known in advance by us or anyone else, we have to leave open the possibility that it will lead to a significant movement for the reform of Islam.

You say I "speak of showing nominal muslims a way out, while insisting that they be called by a historically oppressive name." But I insist on nothing of the sort. I only insist that if I want Muslims to become freer, I can't pretend to know the outcome of that freedom, I can't pretend to know by what name they can or should go. I can only pretend to know and to defend the difference between freedom of choice and totalitarian despotism.

Will this way of thinking lead me to help feed "moderate" and naive Muslims to the fundamentalist wolves? Perhaps. It is certainly a possibility that needs to be drawn to attention. The answer, it seems to me, is to make it perfectly clear to all with whom we deal that we are quite consciously encouraging a civil war in the Islamic world and simply asking people to take sides in a very dangerous struggle for freedom (because the appeasing alternatives are even more dangerous).

And if we are to become at all trustworthy in such a struggle, there must be a major shift in public opinion so that we have sizeable support for our freedom struggles within Western and other non-Islamic countries. And how can such a shift ever happen if we don't succeed in framing the struggle in terms of our modern, global values and their defense. And I just can't imagine the world signing on to any struggle that doesn't assume that even Muslims are capable of joining us, of fighting for their freedom whatever illogical (to our minds) reform agendas they attempt through an ongoing trial and error learning process. If we start by saying that "Muslim" freedom can only exist when they are self-professed apostates, then that freedom doesn't really exist. A successful conversion must be a free choice. Otherwise, it's like asking a man to join a privileged club, on club terms, and then to enjoy the freedoms and privileges of the club in any way other than doing anything that recognizes the kind of man he has always been. It seems to me that a successful assimilation must entail the candidate finding the truth of what he has always been through open-ended engagement with the truth of the other.

The more engaged we become, the more clear we must be about who is, is not, and is only potentially an ally.

-I agree

If the munafiq can overlook 1400 years of dhimmi beating tradition, then why should we fret over what to call them?

-Well, if he is able to say that dhimmitude was a historical practice that makes no sense and is not desirable in the modern age, if he is able to say that even eternal and uncreated Koran must reveal its truth to Muslims in a historically open-ended process (if he has the mind open to such a paradoxical possibility, to theological insights emerging from a human reality that the Koran cannot predetermine), and not from some impossible end of history viewpoint, then we have a basis for negotiation and alliances that could be ruined if we are not diplomatic about what we call them.

Should a runaway slave rather be called a free man, or even as he exhibits his freedom, still a slave?

-he should be given a chance to fight in defense of his freedom. If he doesn't trust us he will keep running like a slave. If we can trust him as a free man, we will know when he puts his life on the line for our shared cause, not simply with an eye to using us for personal gain, but in a clear case of risking his life to defend another's freedom, with little else but freedom being on the line. How can we allow Muslims to enter such a free situation? That is the question, it seems to me.

If the text does not change then you must always fear that somewhere, someone might have an actual education that makes clear sense of written words.

-Yes, the truth is that our choice is not for the perfect, but between the bad and the worse. I hope for mass conversion tomorrow, but I can't say I think it likely. As long as anyone takes Islam seriously, the fundamentalist problem will probably always be with us. But is this problem better challenged by engaging minds from within - demanding Muslims negotiate with us the risks we pose to each other, that we let certain frank political realities mediate the interpretation of Islam - or by demanding, more or less violently, that change be solely forced from without, that negotiations and freedoms are only possible when Muslims become apostate? And can the West live with the violent consequences that are likely to follow a hard line if we don't seriously try "reform" first? Maybe we will get over our present guilt and see the necessity and rightness of killing millions. But I doubt it, and I don't want it.

maccusgermanis said...

I have not forbid anyone from attempting to reform islam. Neither did I notice that Teft had. –Not in that interview anyway- I take exception to the fact that the West’s understanding of, and language toward, islam is more often attacked than is ever attempted any reform of islam. Is your argument, that certain anti-Jihadist should become less specific in their criticisms in order to allow a necessary vagueness in which islam might reform in the next 1400 years. If vagueness is your solution to allow communication between we and they, then why is specificity your tact against certain anti-Jihadist? And what communication do you think possible among such vagueness? I understand that they will come, if they come, as they are, but so should we. We owe it both to ourselves and our adversaries to give honest account of our criticisms. I bear no ill will toward reformers, and so do not intend to say, “I told you so.” I am saying it now.

Islam has already reformed. The super-literalism and supra-Arabianism of jihadists is the reformed islam. They contend to replace the supposed corrupt ethnic regimes that you associate with islam with a system where a common man –though he must be a man- and a believer- might have redress of grievances. -wherein his simple reading of the koran is on par with a jurist- Intellectual or theological struggle does little good when the agreed upon parameters are themselves corrupt. Do you deny that muslims are already capable of intellectual or theological debate? Its just a simple matter, that when discussing what a book says, the actual text is quite a trump card.

I do not assume that islam’s internal enemies will always lack necessary intellectual or physical strength to cast off vaguely defined oppressors. I do however question the wisdom of switching coaches, while keeping play books.

We may not know how individuals might act. But are individual muslims more likely to be swayed by people who are unapologetic about their identity or by the profusely apologizing - I didn’t mean to call you a hypocrite- us? The hard choice that faces them does exist whether we admit it or defer to fantasies of reform.

The question “how can we allow muslims to enter such a free situation,” presumes that we are the oppressors. Shouldn’t, “allow” rather be “challenge”. I am in charge of neither a muslims internal devotion, nor the prosecution that may be faced in their country. I can only advise that if one should want to be free, then they should probably stop thinking themselves a slave. Understandably many apostates likely do conceal their true feelings, but shall they be better served by -will they trust more- a West that fantasizes about reform, or one that understands that islam must die.

truepeers said...


On specificity and vagueness, it's not an either/or but we need an argument about how the two go together. For example, when a country or countries draw up some kind of constitution or compact by which they will be governed, or by which they set up terms for interaction, they should want it to be somewhat specific about outlining the rules of the game, e.g. designating the various kinds of authority, but it should not be an attempt to determine the outcome of (free) interaction, or to systematize the rules in too much detail. What makes the constitution powerful is some common faith in its ability to mediate new and unforeseen conflicts. We can try to specify where this ability comes from, but to the extent the constitution's users keep finding new kinds of solutions in new contexts, there remains something about it which we cannot know in advance. Each new deferral of a conflict is a new revelation about the potential inherent at the beginning of the compact, a potential not even the constitution's founders could have known. As long as people retain faith in their covenant, in its unknown possibilities, it remains sacred, somewhat mysterious, vague if you like; and this unknowable potential gives it its ability to serve as a vehicle for interaction and negotiation so that this dialogue can reveal to the parties certain human and historical truths that allow them to gain an understanding of each other that, if they maintain a basic good faith, allows them to further develop a system in which there is greater freedom for all.

Basically, I am arguing that we can expect violence, but even more of it if we do not create some basis for those Muslims who would, to show good faith in some process of more or less peaceful interaction. If we simply say, we can put faith in no process with Muslims, we are basically declaring war on all of them, even if we dress this up in the language of "separationism". And even if we expect that at some time in the future, those Muslims who want to show good faith will probably come to reject Islam, we have no right to expect that they can come to that conclusion if we simply demand it now. We have to allow a learning process, both for them and us, demonstrate a good faith understanding that we will allow ourselves the freedom to test each other to see what is and is not possible under a constitution or compact that is suitable to mediating the kinds of conflicts and realities that exist today.

The terms of this compact should be explicit (though not too detailed: the future cannot be ironed out). We cannot, for example, have any tolerance for those who would justify violence as God's will for some sub-class of infidel humans. There can be no compact without mutual respect. So, it is certainly not my argument that we should tone down the "anti-Jihadist" criticism, if Jihad is a kind of sacrificial violence in God's name, which I think it is for many. That should be criticized unflinchingly, or more to the point resisted since criticism is wasted on some. But I do think those who are engaged in this criticism and resistance have to remind themselves that they will be going down a similar road of evil if they don't keep open the possibility to engage in good faith with a large population from which we can no longer hope to be separated in the age of globalization. Now it is easy to say that I have just said we cannot tolerate Islam, because Jihad as I have just described it is a central sacrament of Islam. But if some "muslim" wants to deny or qualify this, if some "muslim" wants to come to terms with reality today and show us infidels respect, and maybe even ally with us (for example, as happens right now in Afghanistan where the majority are with us against the Taleban), I don't want to pre-empt his freedom by saying he is just a theologically confused person who can't be trusted because he's bound to cave in when the fundamentalists start reminding him what real Islam is. I want to open a conversation in which either he or I or both of us might learn something about our fundamental humanity that even Islam can't erase, and by which Islam is thus inevitably reinterpreted, or, cast aside. I want to make him intellectually stronger so that he can resist the fundamentalist.

Tefft may not be forbidding anything. But he is saying it is a dangerous delusion to think we can dialogue with Muslims and that we can be safe with anything other than separation from Islam. As I have tried to say, I don't belive any safe kind of separation is possible, without a lot of death, and so there has to be professed the possibility of interaction with those who want to play by the rules of the modern nation-state system

You are right about Islamic "reformations". I referred to this in the post where I argued Islam has an inherent tendency to decadence, because some of its beliefs are fundamentally out of touch with human reality. But, because the decadence is resented for various reasons, there is a periodic reaction when fundamentalists try to renew the true faith, though, in turn, a pure Islamic state never survives long because the idea clashes with human reality. Somehow we have to show Muslims how they are trapped in this hopeless cycle and try to help them find a way out.

Do you deny that muslims are already capable of intellectual or theological debate? Its just a simple matter, that when discussing what a book says, the actual text is quite a trump card.

-Of course Muslims are capable, in the sense that they have more or less the same potential as other humans if given the right kind of educaiton. But, serious theological debate has been more or less outlawed in Islam, the "gates of Ijtihad" have been closed. The actual text is only a trump card if you firmly believe that we can have an unproblematic reading of it, that anyone can immediately receive the eternal and perfect word simply by opening the book. (And how long can such an idea survive in anyone open to dialogue and arguments.) What needs to be impressed on Muslim minds, however, is that they have no serious reason to think that this is the case, that they are somehow removed from any kind of historical processs that is throwing new light onto what the book means. The bottom line is that we are going to find out what Muslims really believe, sooner or later. How many, when faced with the high risk of obliteration in nuclear war, are going to continue to believe that they must interpret Jihad in the literal way you seem to imagine they must? We are in a high stakes game of poker, and it's time to start calling bluffs (preferably before the stakes get too high) if we really want to know what the other guy believes. We haven't started doing that in any serious way yet. WE are still appeasing. That's the problem. And we may well be appeasing in part because part of us actually believes the line that Muslims have no choice but to pursue Jihad even into the apocalyptic fires of Ahmadinejad's imagination. Well, if we stop appeasing, we get to find out a truth that none of us really knows yet. How many Muslims seriously believe the millennial fantasy, and how many would prefer to have grandchildren with a hope for some kind of unexciting future? And how many Westerners have the nerve to put their feet to the fire, without seeking to dominate them in a way that will never allow us, or more importantly them, to find out what they really believe.

But are individual muslims more likely to be swayed by people who are unapologetic about their identity or by the profusely apologizing

-is this really the choice? Can't we imagine a reformer with all the confidence in the world that his is the only way out?

The question “how can we allow muslims to enter such a free situation,” presumes that we are the oppressors. Shouldn’t, “allow” rather be “challenge”."

-Yes, challenge sounds better.

Understandably many apostates likely do conceal their true feelings, but shall they be better served by -will they trust more- a West that fantasizes about reform, or one that understands that islam must die.

-Well, no one key opens all doors. So, while, to hone each other's minds, we should argue about what we think the most basic or fundamental truths are, on a pragmatic level we should also recognize that we need more than one voice talking to Muslims. And then, if we engage instead of trying to hide from a conflict that has to play out sooner or later, we will learn what lines are the most appealing to Muslims. There are many things we can't know until we set up challenges that are real and consequential. And setting those up is where we should be focussing a lot of our political and intellectual energy. That's why i question arguments like Tefft's that suggest we should already know the obvious and give up on trying to change Islam.

Muslims Against Sharia said...

Many people talk about the need to reform Islam. Now you can stop talking and start helping.

With the help of our readers we went through the Koran and removed every verse that we believe did not come from Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. However, it is possible that we missed something, and we could use your help. If you find verses in the reformed version of the Koran that promote violence, divisiveness, religious or gender superiority, bigotry, or discrimination, please let us know the number of the verse and the reason why it should be removed. Please email your suggestions to

When we finish editing process, we would like to publish Reform Koran in as many languages as possible. If you could help with translation or distribution of the Reform Koran, please email us at If you could provide financial support, please visit our support page.

In Memoriam of Aqsa Parvez.

truepeers said...

@Muslims Against Sharia.

Thanks for your comment; I have responded to it here.