Epilog to "Naming the Enemy"
Reader comment on item: Still Asleep After Mumbai
Submitted by Prof. Paul Eidelberg (Israel), Dec 12, 2008 at 07:50
In my initial comment "Naming the Enemy," I spoke of various euphemisms of Islam. However, I neglected to define the enemy in concrete terms, and I hope Dr. Pipes, who has taught us so much about Islam, will elaborate on the following remarks, for which I am indebted to the Catholic theologian George Weigel, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism (2007).
Here are some of his most salient points about Islamic jihadism:
1) "The notion that there are ‘no innocents'—that the enemy is ‘guilty' simply by reason of drawing breath …'" This logically entails " a strategy of open-ended mayhem based on the radical dehumanization of the ‘other."
2) "Islam's deep theological structure includes themes that render the notion of "three Abrahamic faiths" ultimately misleading in understanding Islam's faith and practice—particularly if this trope is understood in the popular imagination as a matter of three equivalent legs propping up a single monotheistic stool."
3) "Islamic supersessionism has a built-in tendency to set in motion a dynamic of conflict with Judaism and Christianity that is not ‘required' vis-à-vis Islam by the deep theological structure of Judaism and Christianity—although, to be sure, Christians have taken an aggressive and bloody-minded posture toward Islam [and Judaism in the past] …"
4) "[Unlike Islam] The Bible is a moral teacher that calls faithful Jews and Christians to use their reason in understanding the meaning and import of its moral teachings, including the ten commandments, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, many of the prophets, and Jesus [all of whom wrestle with the meaning of God's purposes and commandments in the Old and New Testaments. Islam's holy book, by contrast, is described by an influential Egyptian Islamic activist in these terns: ‘The Qu'ran for mankind is like a manual for a machine.'"
5) Finally, "Alain Besancon takes us even further into the matter when he draws yet another important distinction between Judaism and Christianity, on the one hand, and Islam, on the other: ‘Although Muslims like to enumerate the 99 names of God, missing among the list … is ‘father'—i.e.. a personal God capable of a reciprocal and loving relationship with men. … If God is not our ‘father,' then it is difficult to imagine the human person as having been made ‘in the image of God.'"
This last statement brings us back to statement (1).
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Daniel Pipes replies:
Our basic difference is that you see Islam as fixed and I see it as alive, dynamic, and evolutionaray. Quoting texts is just part of the story. How are they understood? Which are emphasized and which ignored? As a historian, I am acutely aware of changes to Islam over time - including in course of my own career.
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