Saturday, February 14, 2009

A burning hatred all upside down.

What's this? Muslims celebrating the murder of Australian civilians? We can find some way to make this moral though, right? We can find some excuse for it? We can find a way to blame Australians for it, yes? But whatever it is, the perfect religion of Islam has nothing to do with it. True?

Eleni Hale, "Jihadists celebrating Victoria fires; taking joy in the scenes," Sunday Herald Sun. February 15, 2009

Regional Islamic Council vice-president Dr Ameer Ali says jihadis "have no idea what they are talking about."
Ain't it passing strange? I have some idea what the jihadis are talking about. It comes from the Qur'an and ahadith. Funny that none of it has to do with George W. Bush or Yanqui imperialism. See below for the jihadi understanding of it all.

JIHADISTS are celebrating the worst tragedy in Victoria's history.

Terror watchdogs said fundamentalists had blogged on websites across the globe, applauding the lives lost and destruction in the Victoria fires.

Senior analyst at SITE Intelligence Group Adam Raisman said they were posting pictures of burnt homes and devastated victims and "taking joy in the scenes", the Sunday Herald Sun reports.

One jihadist wrote: "It would be an act of revenge for Australian's participation in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Bushfires victims said they were stunned.

"We're minding our own business and trying to cope with all this and they are celebrating our suffering," said Denise McCann who lost her home in the Kinglake blaze.

Regional Islamic Council vice-president Dr Ameer Ali said the comments did not represent the wider Muslim community.

"They have no idea what they are talking about," he said.,27574,25056815-1243,00.html
The good doctor claims jihadis have no idea what they're on about? I suspect I don't know Islam as well as the good doctor. So who to believe, him or your own lying eyes?


Book 019, Number 4324:

It is narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) ordered the date-palms of Banu Nadir to be burnt and cut. These palms were at Buwaira. Qutaibah and Ibn Rumh in their versions of the tradition have added: So Allah, the Glorious and Exalted, revealed the verse:" Whatever trees you have cut down or left standing on their trunks, it was with the permission of Allah so that He may disgrace the evil-doers" (lix. 5).

This is from the famous story of the Jewish tribe of al-Nadir, that Mohammed found out the Jews were going to kill him by dropping a rock on his head as he passed by a wall. Mohammad banished the Bani Al-Nadir, a Jewish tribe living in Medina, after trying to extort money from them. He waged a war on them, burnt their trees and exiled them. Circa 626.

"The palm trees which you cut down or left standing upon their roots." [Surah 59] ... It was by God's permission."
The Life of Muhammad: A translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, trans. Alfred Guillaume. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2007; p. 438.

Surah 59.
Al Hashr (Exile, Banishment)
2: It is He Who got out the Unbelievers among the People of the Book from their homes at the first gathering (of the forces). Little did ye think that they would get out: And they thought that their fortresses would defend them from Allah! But the (Wrath of) Allah came to them from quarters from which they little expected (it), and cast terror into their hearts, so that they destroyed their dwellings by their own hands and the hands of the Believers, take warning, then, O ye with eyes (to see)!

3: And had it not been that Allah had decreed banishment for them, He would certainly have punished them in this world: And in the Hereafter they shall (certainly) have the Punishment of the Fire.

4: That is because they resisted Allah and His Apostle: and if any one resists Allah, verily Allah is severe in Punishment.

5: Whether ye cut down (O ye Muslim!) The tender palm-trees, or ye left them standing on their roots, it was by leave of Allah, and in order that He might cover with shame the rebellious transgresses.
Burning trees, as one might imagine, was tabu in the Arabian peninsula, against the rules of war. But after Mohammed decided to smash the power of the Jews, coming up with a stupid conspiracy theory to justify his attack on them at Medina, he also destroyed their olive trees. This is all out of context, right? It happened centuries ago and has nothing to do with today, right? Yes, dear reader, that is exactly right except that it's totally wrong. To believe as a legitimate Muslim, one must accept not only the Qur'an as the eternal word of Allah, one must also accept that Mohammed was his messenger. I could be making that up, but if so, it's still in agreement with every Muslim one talks to, no matter how unorthodox they might be. Mohammed was, in plain English, "The Perfect Man." In Islam, not a matter of my opinion, Mohammed did it, it's what all men must do. It's a matter of imitating Mohammed. He set fires, you can set fires. It' not a matter of opinion. That's the context.


Abu Abdullah said...

In effect, the slaves of Allah are blaspheming Allah when they say the "Religion of Peace" has nothing to do with it. By the Islamic definition that Allah is all powerful, all knowing, and timeless, i.e., Allah does not do accidents and surprises, the fires happened because Allah willed them. So, the "Religion of Peace" did it because Allah did it, and denying the "Religion of Peace" did it is denying Allah.

Dag said...

Islam, as you nicely point out above, is metaphysically incoherent. A point I raise on occasion, and one that never fails to upset people, is the Muslim concept of Truth. In Islam, only the will of Allah is "true." Manifestations of Allah's Will, such as the Qur'an are the ultimate truth, as is the existence and model of Mohammed, for who Allah created the universe. The practical result is that not only is Allah,as Muslims would put it, "greater than the greatest that one can imagine," he can be if he so chooses, also evil and can make all others worship him as the devil. In effect, Allah, according to Islam, can be less than the least anyone can imagine. Muslims therefore can deal with conundrums without a blush. Logic plays no part in the epistemology of Islam. This means that contradictions are meaningless in any moral sense: that one can lie and cheat and steal and kill with perfect conscience so long as Allah is pleased. There is, to put it plainly, no concept of Truth outside Allah's Will in Islam. It's all relative to Allah. There is no secular version of Truth in Islam.

Tell that to a non-Muslim who has some sentimental attachment of the world at large and we are all one, and they get upset. The reality is that Muslims are Muslims and not, for example, Calvinists. And that, for us, is the truth.

truepeers said...

Logic, a form of reasoning built from favored parts of the Koran or Sharia, plays its part in Islam; it's just that it comes to an end sooner than it would if Islam could be fully open to the light of science. And, when you take as an ultimate principle the will of Allah, contradictions are not meaningless, they become meaningful in the hands of those who have the power to pronounce on them. Islam is inherently political in that the choice and advancement of certain clergy or "scholars" or Sharia schools reflect the politics of the various communities and states of Islam. That is why the Doctor who pronounces "they don't know what they're talking about" may well be "legitimately" within Islam, within its current politics, even though to our minds he may have little capacity to speak honestly about Jihadi motivations. Still, it rests with us to decide whether we are going to allow Muslims living peacefully, e.g., in Australia, any kind of sympathetic interpretation of the plight their religion puts them in. What are our political needs?

I share your disgust with Jihadi psychopaths, Dag, but I can't help but think your post is addressing a larger conversation we are having about the nature of Islam. So let me try to pick up on that.

It's pretty clear to me that anyone who reads the Koran, without a preconceived desire to be an apologist for Islam or for the masses supposedly downtrodden by a more successful but somehow illegitimate Western culture, or indeed anyone without the desire to imaginatively associate with the ways of Mohammed, will be unfavorably impressed by the book's relentless opposition of believer and unbeliever and the curses and threats heaped on the latter. It's obvious why many come to the conclusion that Muslims must be a danger to non-Muslims, and to their own as well.

Why would anyone choose to be a Muslim? But of course most Muslims don't choose it. They are born into it and either from fear of the consequences of leaving or from a desire/resentment to impose their embodied code of obedience on the next generation, they don't leave. But then they must face the fact that to interpret the Koran as Jihadis do would be to become, especially in the context of living in a country like Australia, a sociopath. They want for various reasons to identify as a Muslim and they may well not want to be a sociopath (because, whatever the normative claims of Islam about the completeness of the revelation, it is in fact impossible to be a follower of Mohammed in the modern world without also following much else besides). So, people don't necessarily interpret Islam as the fundamentalists, for lack of a better term, think they do. How could they if they actually want to put off the calls to wage the final war, and first just prepare or just live a little? People are full of contradictions, denials, hidden questions, refused questions. This, surely, is why it seems near to impossible to find Muslims capable of what a certain kind of cross-humbled Westerner, trained in the ways of an anti-sacrificial religious-anthropological thinking that is (traditionally) unique to the West, would consider to be serious and honest conversations about Islam. Islam, being bound to sacrificial violence, in its desire to see the Mohammedan army as redeeming a uniquely just cause, cannot be honest with itself in the face of Judeo-Christian-Hellenic reasoning. Anyone trapped in sacrificial thinking, whether Islamic or other, cannot be open to the kind of truth that only a revelation of both the innocence (in some degree) of our needed victim, and also of our need for intellectual humility if we are to come truthfully to terms with our society's dependence on both sacrificial violence and our desire to redeem what we can now see as the "innocent", can provide.

But that is also to suggest that those Westerners who take it upon themselves to offer some kind of sympathetic interpretation of some "Muslims" may not be entirely misguided in talking of peaceful Muslims. The truth of a religion is not exhausted by its own self-understanding of truth. Our very own Western principles of comparative religious studies demand of us a capacity to offer both etic and emic - roughtly the vantage points of both outsiders and insiders - perspectives, on the principle that while religions are a form of anthropology they must ultimately be intepreted not only in their own terms but also in terms of some larger anthropology with truly secular, universal, intent. And this should bear on how we at this blog, or any other, make political arguments about the real nature of Islam.

So where do we go from here? Our answer to this very important question will shape how we interpret Islam. If one is merely concerned to point out what many people in the West don't want to see about Islam, one may be satisfied with the kind of argument you advance here Dag. But if one thinks the only plausible ways forward involve some strategy to actually change the Islamic world, however incredibly difficult this is going to be - for various reasons having to do with the impossibility of building tight walls that we don't need to go into now - then one needs to start by insisting on certain unalterable facts of our "God"-given human existence that bear on the question of how and why people change in the course of history. One such anthropological fact is that it is impossible just to read a text and without thought or effort just turn it into actions; interpretation in the context of some kind of ethical and/or practical calculus is inevitable, even for Jihadis.

There are no doubt jihadis who are looking for an excuse to indulge in psychopathic thrills, and maybe some who are even little concerned with how their fellow Jihadis will intepret their desire or methods to wipe the earth of something supposedly kaffir. Yet there remains, whether one recognizes it or not, a basic difference between reading and posting at Jihadi websites about following Mohammed's "righteous" violence, and doing the violence oneself. Whether one likes it or not, the very act of reading/writing is an act of deferral. If the Koran were a simple computer program directing robotic Muslims in their actions, in the way that some arguments seem to imply, surely we or they would all be dead by now. Orthodox Muslims may not recognize it but inevitably history, deferral, is still revealing new things about the Creation to us.

The opinion that it's not a matter of opinion is inescapably an opinion. (By the way, the Islamist opinion that it's not a matter of opinion reminds me of the postmodern leftist lie that in deconstructing all forms of binary othering we need not ourselves construct a hegemonic and oppressive form of othering: we should take neither idiocy to heart.) Of course every thug and dictator wants to imagine a world where things are not a matter of opinion. And so there are all kinds of normative thug statements proclaiming the truth of power, so just zip it, don't think. But, alas, the real exercise of power (in the reality beyond the insane fantasy) inevitably relies on a trade in opinions among those who will carry out the power, even if this means trying to convince people that their opinion should be that we all have the same correct opinion. But, given human nature, there will always then be a contest over whose opinion of this collectively held opinion is the real correct opinion. Or, in other words, why is it correct that I get to make orders/threaten and you must listen/advise? Inevitably, "context" doesn't merely influence this competition but it *is* this competition as it organizes itself and plays out in a given time and place.

Anyway, inevitably there are some Muslims, with a sense of humanity that exceeds Islam that comes from living in the real world, who are looking for reasons not to accept the fundamentalist dicta: do exactly what Mohammed did, do not question if this is the right context or reason to do it; our claim to have the final and eternal revelation means no more thinking is needed to understand that revelation. And so they question whether the tradition that presumes to convey the correct word of Mohammed is not itself corrupted in various ways. Some even question the canonical Koran. But, even if you just want an excuse to do violence, these dicta still entail a misunderstanding of the inevitably cognitive process that must necessarily be involved in giving oneself license and means to do violence to the kaffir.

We certainly need to know why there are many people in this world who want to make us submit (or die) to their idea of what is sacred, and thus to fight them. It is useful to quote from their holy books to see what they are interpreting. But I don't see how it is useful for us to try to take seriously the orthdoxy that interpretation need not be part of life for them. We need to recognize that some people believe in that orthodoxy and are hence a mortal danger to us. But we also need to remind people, not least Muslims, that no coherent understanding of human nature will allow us to take this orthodoxy seriously as anything but some kind of paradoxical metaphor.

Seriously, Dag, how many "Muslims" in the world - rough guess, percentage wise - do you think are cheering the bush fires? And if the "Muslims" who are not cheering it are either just uninformed Muslims or not really Muslims, in your book, how does your representation of Islam help us fight, or help them to free themselves from their confusion and fear and oppression? Does your argument help people better recognize the freedom and need for self-understanding that, whether it comes in but one degree, or many, is inescapable in being human? Islam must be juxtaposed with this God-given reality of human freedom.

Or on the other side, when we blog these stories of Jihadi evil, what do we want Westerners to think and do: are we just to build a massive wall around the Muslims or must we engage them in some way? And if for various pragmatic reasons in this modern world of countless global interactions, diseases, and nuclear missiles we can't just build a wall and forget about them, isn't it in our interest to interpret their "religion" in order to show that no single perspective on a religion, even when discussing the most dogmatic of religions, can exhaust the question of what binds or should bind men in an unfolding historical process? How can we take the lead in a conversation if we insist that there is nothing to discuss? And how can we say there is nothing to discuss if we reason that we can't just build that wall and forget about them? Clearly, we have to kill as many of those who do violence to us as we can. But the better we are at that the more of them will want to talk. But this is also to say that the better we talk about this reality, the fewer we will have to kill. And furthermore, since we can't win many of our own people over to the opinion that we need to fight this war against Jihad - as long as they remain afraid of too much killing - we can't win without talking in ways that are truly productive of the need to reveal the unreality behind all kinds of dogmas. That is why I question the fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic fundamentalism, and not because I want to remain in the dark about Islam.