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Where Scholars are Making Big Mistake - Islam's Potential for Change is Zero.

Reader comment on item: A Democratic Islam?

Submitted by Singha (India), Apr 20, 2008 at 12:10

... Dr. Pipes has quoted Hassan Hanafi, professor of philosophy at the University of Cairo, the Koran "is a supermarket, where one takes what one wants and leaves what one doesn't want."

The issue is not so simple as in the case of Judaism and Christianism. The trouble in islam is because from koran one can and one does take out hatred of non muslims. And the trouble is is more serious because, author of koran himself, the supposedly perfect being for muslims carried out violence.

The separation of religion and corporal power was something that happened in Europe during the last millennium. The separation of the church and the state leading to progress and intellectual freedom; people stopped viewing life through the exclusive prism of Bible leading to progress. This was possible in Europe because of the personality of Jesus as a poor preacher who never hankered after temporal power. Church indeed was on a week wicket when it came to justifying their hold on power.

Mohummad made a cardinal mistake (therein lies the most fundamental weakness of islam) of mixing politics, corporal power and religion. So to that extent this separation of Religion (Mosque) and State (Politics and Power) is impossible for Muslims to voluntarily carry out. It can only be carried out by people like Ata Turk who is committed against islam and who used force to carry out the separation. Ata Turk was a Wafa sultan kind of person - someone that believed in islam as medieval barbarianism. Even now muslims worldwide have not reconciled to Ata Turk's actions. He is seen as a traitor to islam and efforts are on even today to revert Ata Turk's changes.

So on account of the personality of the founders and the ground reality of fundamental tenets of islam, it is very naive to expect revolutionary changes in islam.

I am taking this opportunity to reiterate an approach that can help tame islam in a democratic set up.

Part of the problem is wooly eyed understanding of islam and the non existing myth of moderate moslem. Because of the fear of Islam, naive leaders are trying to fit islamic people among the liberal framework. Tolerating an ideology that not only hates you, but also wants to destroy you and your way of life is stupidity. In the least abrogation of koran should be carried out. One obviously would not want islam to camouflage under the garb of religion and carry out a blatantly fascist agenda.

Here, I would like to stress what I have highlighted before - what is wrong with our present conceptualisation of islam, how islam has been tamed in the past and some possible suggestion.

No one has effectively defined moderate islam. islam is a single monolithic entity based primarily on koran and hadis (biography of mo-hum-mad, who muslims believe to be the ideal human). None of the variants of islam disagree on the centrality of koran and hadis. All sects of islam - shias, wahabis, bohras, ismaelis, barelvis, deobandis, ahmedis and sufis have been as intolerant as the other.

So for many scholars, the problem is they can not accurately define moderate islam and its utility based on historic context. Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Wafa Sultan, Anwar Shaikh, Ali Sina are right - islam is indeed beyond redemption or correction.

The discourse suggested by reputed scholars like Dr. Pipes that in some way one should perceive muslims and islamists as two different entities ends up hurting forces that stand for free values; No useful purpose is served by creating a distinction between Islam (dealing with religion) and Islamism (dealing with politics).

While some may think that this semantic approach gives people including muslims the opening to attack islam, it also obfuscates and in a way makes islam, an imperialistic totalitarian belief system, look nice suggesting as if islamism is something different and is the sole problem. Worse such a discourse provides islamists opportunity to camouflage their intentions under the cloak of moderate behavior and further islamist interests. In Islam, Duniya (Material World) and Din (Religion) can not be decoupled.

Every muslim charlatan under the sky including the Saudis, bin Talal, musharraf et. al have been able to expoit this semantic perception of difference between muslims and islamists very well, positioning themselves as moderates taking on islamists in a mock fight, winking at islamists and at a fundamental level, contributing to boost the damage making capabilities of islamists.

Gandhi, an apostle of non violence, who had a worldview that mirrored Dr. Pipes construct of moderate islam, miserably failed with muslims in weaning them towards tolerating those following contrary faiths.

From History let us examine some approaches that worked in rolling islam back:

1. Spanish Model: During the period of inquisition islam was kicked out albeit violently - by catholic Christianists in 15th Century – muslims were told to convert or get out. Most muslims chose to convert to Catholicism and remain in Spain, while a few opted out of Spain.

2. Chinese Efforts last century: (1936 - muslim population in China 50 million, 2006 - it is about 10 million).

Though some people claim the muslim population is in 15 to 20 million range, fact remains that China has achieved extra ordinary success in curbing islam.

In China till recently arabic script and skull cap were banned and in the present days too islam is closely monitored and regulated; koran meetings and haj disallowed till recently; longer beard length can trigger arrests; moulvi's speeches need prior clearance from government; islam lost its vitality and most muslims in china have given up on islam and many are only nominally muslims. (It must be noted that china's coercive approach towards islam has not prevented it from forging close economic and military linkages with islamic world - engagement with Sudan regime, weapon proliferation to Pakistan etc.)

The magnitude of the success of coercive chinese methods in taming islam can be gauged from this telling comparison with Democratic India: 1947 - muslim population in India was 30 million, In 2007 it is 200 million - give or take a few millions. The lesson - islam knows how to work its way around democracies.

Both the Spanish and Chinese approaches are not particularly preferred models for those who believe in genuine liberal values.

So what could be the framework to face the islamic menace. A tentative framework (set of necessary actions) is presented for further elaboration and refinement:

(a) Establish islam as a set of intolerant norms: Those that stand up against islam must be encouraged and felicitated - sentiments of islamists be damned. Public criticism of i-slam, quran and mohummad must be widely publicised. Suras and ayats in quran that call for violence against non-muslims must be forcefully questioned whenever muslims try to assert islam to be a peaceful religion. The logical fallacy of islamic inequality towards women and burqua usage should be pointed out in all available opportunities. Anyone that converts out of islam must be celebrated as a hero - as heroic as the chinese man that stopped the Tiananmen tanks.

(b) Face organised islamic resistance to prevent criticism of i-slam, Koran and mo-hum-mad head on and not compromise this whatever be the cost.

(c) Impose Secular Constituion on the Islamic World Where Possible: US did a mistake in Afghanistan and Iraq. US presence there was a God given opportunity to foist a secular constitution. In future where such opportunities present, free world must ensure a secular constitution in the muslim lands.

(d) Government regulation of mosques and profiling: In free world, considering the established terror making potential of Islam, there must be closed circuit TVs in all mosques and profiling. The probability of a muslim young man carrying out terror is much more than that of a Japanese old lady.

(e) Dismemberment of Saudi Arabia and Defanging of Pakistan - In Saudi Arabia, Shia and Sunni regions would need to be separated. Islamic cities - Mecca and Medina can be made a separate city state or an entity controlled by Hashemites. Oil and islam have been proven to be a combustible mix. Decoupling them could do world some good. Pakistan needs to be defanged - made to give up its islamic nuke. Any muslim country/group that supports terror and intolerance must be eliminated if necessary through occupation.

(f) Any country that censors views critical of islam, and disallows other religions should be publicly rebuked for intolerance and where possible sanctions imposed. Exposure to information can help people question the emptiness of assertion driven totalitarian islamic weltanschauung.

To summarise we have to create an environment where muslims must get exposed to valid alternate options such as - not believing islam and believing other faiths that appeal to intellect. That is the solution rather than failed vacuous constructs like "moderate islam" ... or the "islam is peace" naiveté articulated by most politicians.

Free world should validate the success of the suggested approach by periodical survey and review of the incidents of terror attacks, reduction in muslim population etc.

If the above approach does not work, in helping light up civilised values among muslim societies by a definite cut off date (say 20-30 years, one generation), the choice for free world will be to occupy the islamic world, outlaw islam, and impose alternate options. During the last 2 centuries free world has missed many windows to defang Islam.

Taking on Islam is going to be the fight of the century; and it involves using all the tools under our arsenal. There are no easy options. The Islamists are extremely capable and underestimating their threat or wishing them away will be foolish.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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