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Very tough questions raised

Reader comment on item: "You can't fight Islamism with ideas coming out of Europe"

Submitted by Erich W (United States), Dec 7, 2010 at 18:23

Dr. Pipes

When I review the comments on this interview, and when I review my own understanding of Islam, it seems that moderate forms of Islam come from a certain evaporation of the original spirit of Mohammed's efforts. Muslim societies become moderate when they lose their grip upon Islam's historical jurisprudence. They become moderate when they no longer view their identity primarily as the Umma--i.e. when other identities prevail instead.

This would all imply that Islamism is nothing but a return to true Islam, though it be influenced by 20th century ideological competition with Fascism and Communism. In this case, the problem is really Islam, and the situation is very uncomfortable indeed. After all, globalization makes ever-deepening interaction with Islam unavoidable. Its hard to rub shoulders daily with an implacable enemy.

For me, after living in Turkey for the better part of two decades, another picture emerges, which is in some cognitive dissonance with the above. People are people, and they are usually reasonable and enjoyable. Religion, no matter how imposing it seems to be when you study it, is nevertheless subject to the real interests and needs of the community where it functions. Texts are subject to radical reinterpretations to update their usage. Turks can say, with an entirely straight face, "Islam is a wonderful religion, but the Arabs ruined it!" Their Directorate of Religious Affairs, one of the Turkish State's largest and best funded administrations, recently entered in upon a major reinterpretation of the Quran. In this new approach, the Meccan suras are said to take precedence over the Medina suras. This reverses tradition radically. It would mean that the relatively nonviolent and peaceful way of life Mohammed advocated for his followers in Mecca, when they had no power, would be the final word on how Muslims should live; rather than the harsh, violent directions he gave his Umma in Medina, when they had power and an army.

One rationale the Directorate gave for this was that the Meccan suras were more suited to modern values and realities, being less violent and more civilized. This suggests that they hope they can make this change in Islamic interpretation permanent--that they intend to depart, as a matter of interpretation of the text, from the Jihad of the 7th century, which developed in Medina, after the Umma emigrated from Mecca.

It is also possible that the switch is merely tactical: Islam does not have the power to win a Jihad now, so it should bide its time, as when Mohammed's people were weak in a Pagan Mecca. If that is the rationale, a re-reversal of this new method of interpretation would be likely in the future, if and when Islamdom were to gain viable military power over the Infidel world. This is an example of how people find one way or another to make their sacred texts more at home in their present day reality.

Nevertheless, looking at how people and the Islamic religion really work on a more day to day, grass roots level, I would say three things: 1. Islam will always be with us, because it is, for many, a totally captivating transcendent religion that passes on from one generation to another in multi-layered depth. Whether it is "the problem" or not, it is here to stay. 2. Like other religions, it will always have a pull on a core of committed, historically conscious disciples who will try to tap into its original power, authenticity, and traditional Law. In the case of Islam, these people will support the world-wide Jihad, both the violent and the non-violent spread Islamic Law. They will enforce it. "These Muslims will be", as an Assyrian Christian on the skirts of Mt. Judi said to me in the '90s, "a curse upon the head of the world." 3. Like other religions and ideologies, most of Islam's adherents will be lax, will blend their religion with other concerns, with other teachings, with other identities. These watered down Islams will be, as they are now, easy to live next to. We have true human respect and attachment to people of this kind, because they are usually good neighbors. That's just the way people are, and its a good thing. Even sinful humanity is better than Sharia; and so Sharia gets left behind as many Muslims walk forward into a shared world.

On the dark side of this latter fact: when there is violent conflict between non-Muslim society and the serious, jihad-supporting Muslims, many of the easy-going, humane Muslims will swing in behind the Jihad because of older, transcendent loyalties. That also is just the way people are. War and violence make for polarization and a return to the war camps of our fathers.

Given these observations and this danger, it seems obvious that to import large Muslim populations is to be asking for unsolvable problems. It also seems obvious that there will be an unending ideological war and military against the Jihad. We will need ceaseless efforts to keep friendly human relations with Muslims who do not buy into the Jihad in any way. The attacks against Islamic supremicism which, in my opinion have the most potential to permanently alter the consciousness of Muslims, is the presence of the Jewish State on the one hand, and the growing movements of conversion from Islam to the faith of Christ on the other. The Muslim reaction to both of these realities is often bloody, precisely because these two things cut to the core darknesses of Islam: there is a vile hatred of any autonomy for the Jews, and there is a totalitarian sense of possession of the consciences of all who are born Muslim.

The only way to break this dark hatred and dehumanizing possessiveness--the only force that can turn this mood around, is spiritual and Scriptural. These are not "ideas from Europe", but rather spiritual realities that predate Islam, and which Islam has falsely claimed to cancel by its own supreme existence. When Islamic leaders are taught by invincible faith among Jews and Christians, to back down on this point, there will be a crack in their dike of absolutism. I doubt that secularist ideas, whether from Europe, or developed by Muslims, have the power to address the spiritual darknesses that troubles Islam. The answer is in the things they hate, right under their noses, in Israel and in the power of the gospel to liberate their friends and neighbors.

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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