Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Ulema is feeling the heat

I saw the following quoted by Frank in the comments at Ezra Levant's. I thought it was a very useful indication of how even a Saudi cleric can't deny the fact that he is enmeshed in a global civil war for hearts and minds, and that he fears a lot of the Muslims are on the side of freedom. Even the most hard-core defenders of a ritualized law and politico-religious practice can't escape a basic fact of reality: to be aware that one's religion is largely ritual is to beg the question of what the original revelation of one's faith was really all about, at its core, and what happened between the initial moment of revelation and its institutionalization in ritual/law. Sure you can proclaim the Koran eternal and uncreated, but is such a belief really going to stand forever a growing awareness of human reality, among those who are aware that Islam is ritualistic?

In other words, a thinking Muslim who values his stake in the faith can't help but think there might be a better way, in our day and age, to re-articulate and express the kernel of truth he so values, the original core of revelation (and not all that he will see as the excresence that came with politics and old tribal codes in Mohammed's day, an excrescence to be shaved away - in the manner of Muslims Against Sharia).

However, the Saudi cleric, Muhammad Al-Munajid, would beg to differ. But doesn't the fact that he has to articulate such a weak argument already show that the emperor is dropping clothes? MEMRI Clip Transcript:
Following are excerpts from an interview with Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-Munajid, which aired on Al-Majd TV on March 30, 2008.

Muhammad Al-Munajid: Some of these heretics say: "Islam is not the private property of anyone." So what do they want? They say: "No sect has a monopoly on Islam." So what do they want? They say: "We want to issue rulings." Someone who is ignorant, who does not know any Arabic, or who has no knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence wants to issue rulings?! They say: "We reinterpret the texts." There is a very dangerous conspiracy against the religion of Islam in newspapers and in what these people say. A journalist, or one of those lowlifes, wants to... These people are a mixture of Western, local, and imported ideologies, but they want to express their views with regard to religious rulings. This is the prerogative of religious scholars, not of ignorant people, the prerogative of knowledgeable people, not of fools or heretics.
The problem is that they want to open a debate on whether Islam is true or not, and on whether Judaism and Christianity are false or not. In other words, they want to open up everything for debate. Now they want to open up all issues for debate. That's it. It begins with freedom of thought, it continues with freedom of speech, and it ends up with freedom of belief. So where's the conspiracy? They say: Let's have freedom of thought in Islam. Well, what do they want? They say: I think, therefore I want to express my thoughts. I want to express myself, I want to talk and say, for example, that there are loopholes in Islam, or that Christianity is the truth. Then they will talk about freedom of belief, and say that anyone is entitled to believe in whatever he wants... If you want to become an apostate – go ahead. Fancy Buddhism? Leave Islam, and join Buddhism. No problem. That's what freedom of belief is all about. They want freedom of everything. What they want is very dangerous.
Freedom of thought, within some constraints, is blessed. Islam calls for thinking, for interpretation, and for the use of the mind. But as for freedom of heresy, which allows anyone to criticize whatever he wants in Islam, saying, for example, that he does not like the punishment for apostasy, that he doesn't like the punishment for drinking alcohol, or that he does not like the punishment of stoning adulterers – this is barbarism. They ask: Why should a thief have his hand chopped off? Some of them say that this is "too much." Two-three much on you and your rotten mind. If you abolish this punishment, you will see the rise in thefts. On the other hand, people feel their property is secure because of this punishment.


Dag said...

Obscurantism rules supreme in Islam. There can't be rejuvenation or a renaissance in Islam because it would no longer be what it is, an Arabian 7th century tribal code. Changing Islam from what it is today and has been from the first Caliphs is to make it something other than Islam. Part of the core of Islam is its immutability. Such is not the case with Christianity. But the total way of life that is Islam is total and eternal. Change it if one will, it will then not be Islam but something else. Call it something else if one is to be honest.

There are local variations within Islam, and some are hardly Islamic at all, such as Shi'a. There is an objective Islam, and if it is not that, it is not Islam in anything more than name. Words are flexible to a point, but no one can legitimately have a private language. To contradict the fundamentals of Islam is to be something other than Muslim, regardless of how many people ascribe to the new definition. All that would become is a new definition for a new thing, not a legitimate being Muslim. We can all call ourselves carrots if we choose to, but we will not "be" carrots in anything but name.

Part of being Muslim is not questioning but being submissive and not changing from the origins of Islam. Bin Laden is a better Muslim than most. He is truer to the legitimate definition of Muslim. The fact of Islam as a Gormenghast tragedy is not relevant. Bin Laden is a good Muslim. Others should call themselves some new and different thing, some ecumenical thing, something else.

truepeers said...

You're right up to a point, Dag. But you are not addressing the question of how much Islam does and can change and still remain within Islamic tradition. You are avoiding the question for your own religious reasons.

In pointing out that much of Islam is and always has been a form of Gnostic authoritarianism, claiming to be in possession of the unique key to truth, perhaps we have to make a decision whether we are going to mimic the Gnostic gesture or not. Islam cannot be many things, but what it can be - what the tradition can evolve to become - is not yet known.

Yes, it's true that one cannot have a private language; it's equally true that no language can conclude the eternal human struggle for meaning, no language can neatly encompass its objects leaving no open, unknown, ground between its signs and things, transcendence and immanence.

While I'm sympathetic to the need to have some shared understanding of what words mean, and I might, for example, think it an interesting question whether the United Church of Canada is still recognizably Christian - I have my doubts on that score - the fact remains that such questions just can't be settled once and for all.

No matter how submissive we are to dogmatic authoritarianism, the fact remains that we are humans. We have conflicts with each other, and these conflicts reveal that there is some aspect of reality that the dogma does not yet appreciate, some problem it has not anticipated. Islam, for example, splits into sects, or into Ulema and reformers (both of the dogmatic/warrior and more secular/decadent varieties). Now the difference between these sects need not be very great in terms of the range of human religions. But the mere fact that there is an inevitable conflict of Muslim vs. Muslim reveals an aspect of reality that the original Koranic revelation does not really provide for. Sure, the original revelation recognized heresy, but are Muslims forever really going to believe that the other sect are just heretics and not really Muslims? Only the more deeply resentful minds can keep up that game forever. Eventually, most Muslims in a war-torn Iraq want peace.

And the terms of that peace must institutionalize a reality that the original Mohammedan revelation did not foresee. Thus, to the honest Muslim, honest about reality, there is inevitably the understanding that one is involved in some kind of unfolding historical revelation and that the claim that all questions have been settled once and for all just isn't exactly or entirely true.

Similarly, for those who want to survive the many conflicts between Islam and the infidels, is there nothing in the temporary truces that Islam has to make with the rest of the world, no revelation about human reality and history that will not force the honest Muslim into some quest to better understand the real nature of his religion's founding revelation?

To come into conflict is to be pressured to return to contemplate the transcendent object that is both the focus of conflict and, in hopes of some future re-articulation of our understanding of this transcendent object, the promise of the way out of conflict. History forces a process of interpretation on everyone, even those most resistant to re-interpretation.

One cannot simply submit; one has to know what it is to which one submits. One has to keep thinking about it, mentally mastering it, or at least mentally mastering the art of thinking the guy who is telling you to submit without thinking really knows what he is talking about. And maybe he is corrupt. Submission is thus inherently paradoxical, unstable.

And the one who is well tuned to reality will grasp that what we are really talking about, re the Muslim submitting, is ultimately submission not simply to Islam, but also to God whose will is not entirely known in our present incomplete understanding of Islam. A Muslim faced with a world of conflict will inevitably become rather more interested in God than in the institutions of Islam in which he cannot yet fully see the nature of God's message to submit to Islam, given the continuing conflict around him, and the novel decisions it forces on him. All the admonitions that God is unknowable, if merciful, will not finish the need to find in Islam some truer understanding of God, i.e. some truer understanding of Islam, of what it is to which one must submit. Paradoxes.

We can't hope to shake a serious Muslim from locating his convictions in Islam. But we can hope to make him see and struggle with certain paradoxical realities he can't deny, with the pieces of his faith and life that presently just don't make sense, including the admonition to stop trying to make sense...

We can hope to draw him out of the resentful delusion in which it is possible to think that Islam, as he already knows it, satisfactorily captures God-given demands and reality. As non-Muslims, we can try to show him, if we wish, that our shared humanity involves an inherent freedom to be aware that we are living in history and with a freedom AND necessity to re-articulate the relationship between signs and things, transcendence and immanence. As non-Muslims it is our duty to show that his received ideas about the infidel are a sham and that what we are both honestly engaged in is a struggle better to know God and his will/love for us.

We must pressure him, with violence if necessary, to share with us in tentative compacts or peace treaties in face of what none of us can ever hope to capture: God. But if we are to do so, we must insist that "Islam" can grow, even change. We must not semi-deify bin Laden and say your only choice is to follow that truly Islamic demi-god, or give up Islam and become "something else". Polarizing in that way is likely to bring us war without end, or huge massacres. We must stifle our own hatred of Islam as false ritual, or Satanic violence, and admit the Muslim's humanity as a free being.

None of this is meant to suggest to non-Muslims that we can leave Islam off the hook for the harm it does us or Muslims. But for just that reason we have to think coolly about what it is that will promote positive change. Dag, you often worry that the end of our conflict with Islam will be a war of extermination, which will ruin us as much as Islam. Do we get closer or further to that possibility by arguing that Islam is immutable and any reformers (no matter what their program) aren't really Muslims? When we talk as if the only real Muslim is a bin Laden, don't we just encourage Muslims to see the world in stark apocalyptic terms? Wouldn't it be better for us to make the focus of conflict, Islam itself? Wouldn't it be better to tell the truth than no religion can exhaust its object (knowledge of God's will). And that anyone who thinks there is some objective essence to any religion is just someone expressing a religious view, of a rather Gnostic variety?

No doubt there is much that is humanly possible that is not consonant with any given religious tradition. But that's not to say that there isn't room for change within that tradition. It may be often our best hope that Muslims will convert to another religion. But in countries that are overwhelmingly Muslim, our hope will first lie with a moderating or reforming force within Islam. And so it is mutable human reality with which we must ally in recommending such a moderating course to those Muslims who also respect God's reality in human necessity.

Dag said...

That entire comment is just out-right smart to the ground, which is most of the problem we face in presenting it to the average Muslim, who would single you out as one of the first to go for making such a challenge to the eternal and immutable Truth of the Revelation of Islam to the world.

We are faced with two irreconcilable epistemologies here and one more thing as well: Western Modernity recognizes flux and the certainties of change toward the better, a Rationalism that allows us to achieve further rather than lesser through Human volition. Adam, for example, had the task of naming things, the power to say "This is X, that is Y." And with that power we too have inherited it, so that we can say, "This is X in a way that is similar but different from what it was yesterday." Not one of us can say, "This is X because I say so regardless of what others call it." We accept each other as equal to an extent in our make-up of language, a communal if individual creation not tied to one time or place eternally. But Islam, even there, cannot allow for Human volition. Allah determined the names of things and set it permanently prior to The Creation.Since such, then all else is devolution and either heresy or apostasy. With a first premise that nothing can change without becoming sinful,we are faced with an Irrationalism that is determined and necessarily violent and force-based, insecure and terrified. For the average fellah to listen to your presentation would, at an intuitive level, set off alarms he couldn't cope with any better than would we when faced with our realities being threatened by jet planes approaching our built environment. Your very presentation of moderation and Rationalism would destroy the emotional and epistemological edifices of reality in the Muslim world.

For the Muslim, this world is not a good thing, Islam being Manichean in essence. Islam doesn't allow for understanding in a critical sense. One cannot say, "I get it now." That would not be submissive but volitional, an immediate apostasy, a usurping of the right of Allah. This world is not to be examined nor considered but is to be submitted to, regardless of the Power, the Caliph of the Sultan, good or bad, not the weather, not anything at all including living or dying. Islamic culture and therefore personality i ruled by insh'allah, "If Allah wills it...." Only if it seems to go against the will of Allah is something to be challenged, and that something isn't going to come from those of us who aren't Muslim, a clearly defined thing that submits to Allah rather than to Will. And if all that goes against Allah is in fact better in this world, then it is bad anyway if it can't be incorporated into Islam and can't be made to "be" Islamic. VS Naipaul, for example, says that Western technology is simply accepted as Islam when it beneficial to Islam, but it is neutral, a machine not having a religious value per e but having a religious value when made Islamic ex post facto, by, as I might claim, by magical thinking. So there is no rational reason but one of prejudice and dishonesty as if it were natural honesty. And so it goes with the World. If the World can be made to seem Islamic, then it is useful to an extent if one needs it to gain power, but otherwise it has no value, not medicine, not technology, not fineness of any kind other than that which can be consumed within the day. Life is reduced to its most basic hedonistic and desperate. Grab what one can and consume it before another takes it from one. The sacred and inviolable is merely that which gives physical power to Islam, the Qur'an, fortified mosque, and weapons. All else is consumable, if halal, or nothing good. Existence is atomic, not one moment connected to the next, and reality being at the whim of Allah to change should he so desire, nothing being solid or eternal in this life, like Hume on LSD. There is only Allah and Hell.

Reality is set pre-eternally for the Muslim, and variation from that pre-ordination is haram. Islam is already known according to Muslims, is already shown at its perfect beginning, from whence all else is a degeneration. The time of Mohammed and the Rightly Guided Caliphs is the exact time of perfection. Mohammed is the Perfect man, the guide for all other men eternally, the total totalitarianism. There is change, but it is all evil and has to e rectified by jihad and the spread of Islam till the Final Day. Nothing we can offer the Muslim is going to be anything but evil, according to Islam. Only Mohammed's example is worthy of emulation, and it is written in the Qur'an, the Sira, and the hadiths, which is too much information for any one person, regardless, to assimilate and act upon. But the model is there and waiting for the observant Muslim. We have nothing for the Muslim but ill. Reason is the best indicator that we are evil.

[N]o language can conclude the eternal human struggle for meaning, no language can neatly encompass its objects leaving no open, unknown, ground between its signs and things, transcendence and immanence."

That, though, is Rational. We have to accept that from the moment of birth to the instants of death the Muslim is raised to accept that Allah speaks Arabic as it is in the Qur'an, that his words are perfect, and that His words are eternal and immutable, if abrogated on occasion for something better without contradiction. [!] So our Rationalism is a dead letter in the mind of the Muslim. All of genuine importance, the very life of man and man is determined in Arabic and transmitted in the Qur'an forever and extemporal. Say Muslims. But we know better. What good does it do us in the face of the peasant and the intellectual peasant of the ulema forever on end reconstructing the lie of unreality for the sake of Islam? It is impenetrable if Islam is to survive for a day.

To break into anecdote here, there is a middle-aged fool named Chris living in Mexico City who tries to pass himself off as a lawyer. He's easy to find in the Zocalo. Tell him "Doug" sent you. Chris is lazy ad careless of other people, missing my name and never bothering to pay attention to my objections or those of anyone else, for that matter. He doesn't have time for that, truly, because his energy is put into a round-the-clock concoction of his life-story: He is a liar. I refer to him as the Invisible Man. He hates me. Chris must hate me because I laugh at him for lying all the time rather than for accepting that he is not much of a person and carrying on as such. Chris is a cartoon who pretends and compounds his pretense with further pretense till there is not a moment in a day when he has a moment to do anything but lie to prop up past lies. If it were a bigger lie than simply his own desire to impress girls he might be dangerous, like Islam is dangerous in its constant reification of a lie. Chris lies to make himself feel good about himself, and Islam does the same, though they are more ambitious than he. But just as one cannot penetrate Chris's phantasy world without destroying it entirely, making one admission the end of all lies, neither can Islam admit to one reform without the whole lie dying on the spot as well.

I think it's time for breakfast here! Maybe some coffee. And all I've done is look at one small piece of one sentence from you so far,and I didn't even address it yet.

truepeers said...

Well, we've had this debate before; i'm not sure what new I have to add, but for the sake of debate...

Dag, I don't see any need to question (were I better equipped in studies Islamic) your account of the totalitarian "logic" by which Islam walls itself off from contact with reasoned debate with infidels. Here's a link to help make your point - "Kufr laws to be extinct" says the nicely graphic poster. I only question whether it can be our final word.

The problem, I see, is that for the increasing number of Westerners, or Muslims supposedly apostate in varying degrees, who accept something like your account of orthodox Islam (imagine the readers of Jihad Watch and Hugh Fitzgerald, for example), such accounts leave them without much basis for formulating anything but fantasy ideologies themselves in response to the Islamic fantasy of a world successfully ruled by Sharia and Caliphate (a fantasy many "Muslims" have historically resisted in varying degrees).

Our people quickly fall into the belief that the only way the West can save itself is to expel all the Muslims, build a wall around the Muslim world, and refuse to have anything to do with them. Some even want to nuke them all. I've made this point before, and so I know both you and I know what a "quarantine" of Islam means: we will allow millions of Muslims (no longer with access to the Western food, medicine, and technology that sustains them at present) to die, which is something I doubt the West will ever want on its conscience or even at the center of public debate. No doubt, despite ourselves, the possibility exists for some catastrophe if more and more freedom in the global economy succumbs to left-Islamic proscriptions; but in naming this demon for what it is, we still need to think about how to do an end run around it if we want to help save our civilization from a historical trauma from which it might not quickly awake. When the failures of Sharia and Caliphate are revealed, through various events, how do we make that revelation stick in minds that are disinclined to see the reality of such failures? That, it seems to me, is a worthy challenge to pose ourselves: how to show people certain realities even as their minds are closed to a full and truthful telling or reasoning about them.

So while I will accept, on one level of consciousness, your account of Islam, I hasten to point out, as have many others, that what you are describing, as Islam, is a fantasy ideology. It may be real in the minds of many Muslims, and that counts for a whole lot in pragmatic terms (just as "communism" also motivated millions of people even as it never could exist as anything but fantasy ideology); but orthodox Islam is not consonant with the kind of facts about humanity as free and historical being that I previously mentioned here. For the opponents of a fantasy ideology it is important to know exactly how it is out of touch with human reality. Because this will be helpful to developing some pragmatic strategies to deal with the fantasy ideology we have to face, one way or another. We didn't defeat communism by assuming it was what it said it was; Islam may be a more skillful and deeply rooted conceit, but there is yet no evidence it can long exist without being at war or parasitic on non-Muslim peoples. There is no reason to think it can be sustained when there are no non-Muslims left. So there is yet no proof that Islam is or can be anything other than a fantasy ideology. To those who can hear such an argument, we can't make it often enough; to those who can't, well then, we have to find more creative ways to show them.

Your very presentation of moderation and Rationalism would destroy the emotional and epistemological edifices of reality in the Muslim world.

-yes, I can believe that would be true in many Muslim quarters. But it's even probably true of the edifices built in our own Western culture by the internationalist left-liberals who are so intent on regulating everything to insure no great inequities ensue from our "freedom". I fear being accused of some kind of "disproportionate response" to the Islamic threat, or crime against some vague "equality", in what I write here. No doubt, some entrenched elitist could allege we are breaking some kind of "human rights" law.

I don't want to give the impression that I think it necessarily wise to face down our more totalitarian opponents with the kind of reasoning I offered in my previous comment. Most of them would never "get it", as you say. But in terms of our pragmatic tactics, where does that leave us? This is the question we need seriously to pursue, to help give our people a greater sense of hope and shared discipline of freedom, an attention to reality to guide us in taking the many small steps that will be necessary to winning back the culture for those who would exercise freedom.

How to change the world by allowing people the freedoms to make pragmatic bargains with Muslims and others that increase human exchange at the cost of totalitarian fantasy ideologies? Knowledge of reality is for those who will do something useful with it by pushing the buttons of the other side in creative and subversive ways that forces them, despite themselves, to come to "terms" with a reality their fantasy ideology cannot admit.

What you write about Islam and modernity is, you know, a hypothesis, one that will be tested by history. It may well prove reasonably accurate. All our efforts to build a world without great massacres or Western suicide may come to naught. Those who love Western culture and freedom may keep losing to the point we have to fortress New Zealand, or something, and prepare for a thousand year renaissance from there.

But unless and until we are resigned by circumstances to some such fate, we should free our minds to test your hypothesis. If we take as certainty your hypothesis about the continuing nature of Islam under conditions of global modernity, then we will resign ourselves to what, exactly? I don't see how believing, as a sure thing, that Islam is immutable, unreformable, allows us to avoid anything but the more apocalyptic scenarios for the future. Kiwi kaffirs, or, mass killers, are us. You have talked loosely about re-colonizing the Islamic world, sending in school teachers with guns; but leaving aside the question of where the liberators and freedom teachers are going to come from, I have not yet heard you explain how the culture of the Islamic world can be changed with anything other than periodic massacres of the adult males to bring the point home. And why is that a scenario we should take seriously - for the sake of our own humanity, which is also theirs - unless and until we have seriously tested your hypothesis about Islam? Are we so threatened already that we can't do anything but make our final fatal decision? Have we even begun to see what new realities might emerge from creating a discipline to defend freedoms (for all people, including Muslims), without caring to predict or define what result this *must* have on the Islamic mind?

If people believe in your vision of Islam, the chances that the West will ever again try to promote, say, democracy or individual freedoms in the Islamic world are small; and since Islamic tyrannies will always focus their resentments on us, we will always, from time to time, be faced with going in and killing our more dangerous enemies in Muslim lands and colonies. Or, giving in. So why not start already thinking more creatively about how to fight Muslims and their leftist aiders and abettors?

I don't know how many chances one will ever get to put some kind of creative reality test in front of someone enmeshed in a fantasy ideology. But we should be thinking of how to do that - without getting lost in long-winded treatises on human reality, when we are talking to Muslims, though maybe we need the treatises for ourselves - every occasion we get.

If we believe in Islamic fatalism ourselves, then the chances that we will pressure Muslims to learn about themselves in the ways Iraqis have recently learned something about themselves diminishes. I know they are still widely blaming America for their woes, but I find it difficult to believe they have learned nothing about the nature of Islamic orthodoxies amidst all their recent hardships. At least we can be reasonably certain that bin Laden is not widely considered the exemplary Muslim today in Iraq.

All I am suggesting is that it does our side little good to come to definite conclusions about the nature of Islam right now. Sure we have to know our enemy, but without assuming too much.

Is there much to lose by foregoing the desire to mimic Muslims' endless mimesis of their ritualistic misunderstandings of the nature of human revelation and freedom? Not if we make our bottom and non-negotiable line some kind of principled defense of freedom and Western civilization. We need some basis for saying to Muslims (but not necessarily in so many words), you have your religion, we have ours; now, are we going to go to war, or are you going to make some kind of compact with us that will respect our freedom and reveal something of yours whether you like it revealed or not? Are we going to stand up for the freedom of every individual Muslim - pointing out all the victims of totalitarianism to the Western left - the freedom to question Islam, become apostate or whatever; or are we going to stand up for the need to stop any more Muslim interaction with the West?

Are you so sure you know what Islam is and what it will do when faced with confident opponents willing to test the relationship between hard facts of human existence and the fantasy ideology in which this humanity is wrapped?

Having said all that, and sorry for the repetition, I return to the idea that a lot of our hopes, in the short term, will be not with soldiers, but with the missionaries whom we must make it one of primary goals to defend. Here is a powerful video testimony of a recent Muslim convert to Christianity. ( HT:

This convert says he was a hard core Hezbollah Jihadi and Muslim scholar who somehow saw the light when in prison. The reality that Christian ideas about God's love speak to human truths, to our universal need to find ways to transcend worldly conflicts and mimetic furies, somehow got through to him, and in this case without any apparent missionary work being done. Reality alone was enough to do the job, even if he doesn't fully know how to describe this reality for what it is. This doesn't happen to all or very many Muslims right now. But to how many could it happen? That's the kind of question we won't know the answer to until we find creative ways to pressure our opponents with reality and Islam tests.

truepeers said...

Catching up with my email, I might add another point that our friend, MG, sends in on a related discussion: whatever we believe the truth of Islam to be, we need to remember that there may be many pragmatic reasons to encourage the idea that there is some significant difference between "Islamists" and "moderate" Muslims. It gives an out to all the "moderates" who don't want to see Islam as demanding what the Jihadis believe it demands, and these people, among other things, may be necessary and useful to our soldiers and policemen in their work.

What's more, if Dag is right about the core nature of Islam, then the ultimate choice for Muslims interacting with the West, once all useful clouds of (mis)understanding have lifted, is Jihad or apostasy. Do we not increase the likelihood of the latter choice by encouraging, in the meantime, the idea of a moderate and modern form of Islam? Do we not hinder the cause of apostasy by demanding people face it before they're ready?

maccusgermanis said...

Do we not increase the likelihood of the latter choice by encouraging, in the meantime, the idea of a moderate and modern form of Islam?

Why wouldn't a "moderate," that you had willfully duped, revert to the lie, that did at least always comport itself as truth?

Do we not hinder the cause of apostasy by demanding people face it before they're ready?

Whatever, I may demand, my words shall only have the effect that can be illicited in the mind of the reader. If I am willfully false, then all of my words have less meaning. I am less able to contend for apostacy, when the eventual decision is to be made.

truepeers said...

First, in what sense is it a lie for me to profess belief in a moderate Islam? Whatever the Islamists believe, whatever the Koran says, i truly believe Islam could and should be reduced to a private non-political religion. I believe re-intepretation and re-articulation of any sacred sign is an inevitable part of human reality, which does not stop me from acknowledging that some Muslims don't share this view. When the sincere Islamists professes his view on the eternal Koran, I call him a follower of a fantasy ideology, an ideology which I admit is no less real and powerful for all its delusional aspects.

Second, if a "Muslim" believes the same thing as me about the need to re-interpret the sacred, but then comes to believe what the Islamists say, that Islam really does compel thoughtless unquestioning submission to Jihad and Sharia in their most full-blown AND original sense, well then, does having an experience of life as a "moderate" make one more or less likely to go radical or make the final decision to go apostate? Clearly there are both people choosing either way. But on the whole, do we really know what is the effect of avoiding making early in life the choice between Jihad and liberal modernity, of trying to be a "moderate Muslim"? I would think the more one's life is enmeshed in realities that the serious Jihadis repute, the better, from our liberal and modern point of view. Though there is of course the consideration that modern market-based civilization is difficult, frustrating, and always generating many resentments. It seems to me that a lot of the present "Islamofascism" is a reaction to people getting too much of a taste of free market society. But that's going to happen whether they like it or not. No one can isolate themselves any longer from the global economy.

truepeers said...

Just came across a 2004 article by Amir Taheri, Fascism in Muslim countries that may be useful to quote here:

The first characteristic of generic fascism is its totalitarianism. Not all totalitarian movements and systems are fascist. But all fascist movements and systems are totalitarian inasmuch as they seek to seize control of all aspects of individual and community life. They are one-party system. In Iran the slogans is "Only one Party : the Hezballah !". They reject diversity and scorn alternative life-styles. The state and the dominant party must dictate every movement of all citizens at all times. Khomeini's magnum opus "Hal al-Masa'el" includes more than 6000 fatwas regulating every issue –from one's Weltanschauung to rules for urinating.

The totalitarian state wants to control the past, the present and the future, stopping history at points it deems suitable to its own designs.

The second characteristic of generic fascism is that, even when it believes it is religious, it is, in fact, deeply anti-religious. In Iran the mosques have been turned into supermarkets and centres for distributing consumer durables. A Tehran joke puts it well : Before the mullahs we used to pray in private and drink in public. Now we drink in private and pray in public! Numerous mosques are used as offices of the "Imam Committees" (known as ‘Komiteh' in Persian), the parallel police created by Khomeini in the early days of the regime. On occasions mosques are used as temporary prisons for political opponents of the regime and ordinary criminals. The government has made a mockery of Shi'ite rules for choosing the "maraje taqlid" –rules that go back more than three centuries. More than 300 mullahs and students of theology have been executed and some 2000 are in prison. Thousands of others have fled into exile. Koranic and religious studies have been cut from six hours a week to four hours. The remaining two hours are used for a study of "the political thoughts and acts of Imam Khomeini". More than 100 religious seminaries have been closed, and all of Iran's grand ayatollahs are under house arrest. People going to Mecca for Hajj are chosen in accordance with quotas fixed by revolutionary organisations. More than a million Muslims died in the Iran-Iraq war and tens of thousands of Muslims have been executed or killed in clashes with government forces.

The third characteristic of generic fascism is the cult of tradition. This assumes that all that is there for man to learn is already there, contained in some cryptic message of either religious or pagan provenance. The idea is to return to the source, which could be ancient Hellas, the Rome of Caesars, or the imagined Medina of the seventh century. The past is idealised, the present vilified and the future dreamified.

It is interesting that a huge market has developed for all kinds of esoteric oeuvres under the supposedly Islamic Republic. Nostradamus, Joseph de Maistre, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, biographies of Pythagoras and Cagliostro, books on alchemy, etc. There is even Khomeini's own assessment of ancient Greek philosophy. In it he presents Socrates as the first "monotheist Muslim" who was murdered in a Jewish conspiracy" (sic).

The idea is to reject rationalism and to inject in society a syncretism in which rulers run a supermarket of superstitions.

The fourth characteristic of generic fascism is its rejection of modernism. We see mullahs flying in helicopters and wearing glistening Colts under their abayas. But to them the modern world is the product of a "Judeo-Christian conspiracy". A more extremism version of this was given by Mahathir Mohamed, Malaysia's retiring Prime Minister, in October 2003. Addressing a summit of the Islamic Conference Organisation, he claimed that the modern world was a "Jewish creation". He also credited the Jews for having "invented" all modern ideas, including democracy, human rights and communism. Rejection of modernism means rejecting the achievements of humanism since the Enlightenment. This is why de Maistre's criticism of the French revolution is so appreciated by the ruling mullahs in Tehran. Modern ideas as the intrinsic worth of the individual, freedom of conscience, and the rule of law are rejected as "Western" or "colonial" values to be combated at all levels. In an address to the University of Florence in 1998, President Muhammad Khatami branded the Renaissance as the starting point of "human decline into barbarity." "The Renaissance," he said, "led to Imperialism and the burning of weak countries by the strong."

maccusgermanis said...

The idea is to reject rationalism and to inject in society a syncretism in which rulers run a supermarket of superstitions.

That sums it up rather nicely. If all rational arguments, -as Islam sometimes purports itself to be- having the rigidity to rule or break as proven or disproved, are discarded for flexible nothing, then nihilists shall call their particular mush anything they like, islam included.

I'd rather not call you a liar for believing that "moderate" islam exists. But would it be more neighborly to call you ignorant? It is true enough to say that islam, "should [have long ago been] reduced to a private non-political religion," but a bit of fantasy to definitively say that it still could be so permanently reduced.

I would think the more one's life is enmeshed in realities that the serious Jihadis repute, the better, from our liberal and modern point of view.

Is that why we should pretend not to notice the violent passages of the koran, muderous model of mo' and near 1400 years of dhimmi beating tradition? Does that engage the nominal muslim in reality?

Any and all of these assertions the true and nominal may both call unseemly to voice, but they can't say that I didn't warn them. And when they find themselves mulling over whether to truly submit (as the jihadist suggest), submit with fingers crossed (as you suggest), or say to hell with it all (I knew they'd come around), then I like the last chance best, however scant it is.

truepeers said...

Well, I think the "moderate Muslim" should attempt what they are attempting at Muslims Against Sharia: acknowledge the violent passages in the Koran, the frequent cursing of the kaffir, and acknowledge the full history of Islam and its conquests; and then sit down and figure out what is left when one has rejected the political violence and when one is simply doing religion with one's own people, when one is focussed on domestic peace and not fighting a war against the infidel, and when one is not abusing women or children.

How many actually live like that at present, I don't know. Not too many I'm sure. Apostasy or conversion may not be such a bad bet; but then there is no one solution for everyone.