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Desert v. Monsoon Islam?

Reader comment on item: The Middle East Forum Debates Moderate Islam
in response to reader comment: arab orthodoxy vs south-asian moderate

Submitted by Peter Herz (United States), Apr 8, 2014 at 18:06

I frankly am wary when people talk about a "hard-edged desert Islam" versus a "mild, mystic Monsoom Islam". Such talk was common in the first twenty years after the Iranian Revolution. "Mild, mystical, Monsoon Muslims" in Mindanao gave our forces a run for their money in 1902. I'm old enough to remember the viciousness of the Bangladesh war for independence from Pakistan and hearing of outbreaks of communal violence in India. As I write, Brunei is becoming more and more a Sharia state, and there are serious issues in Malaysia about whether Christian versions of the Bible may use "Allah" as the term for God.

As for "kinder, gentler" Sufi'ism, I can only note that Sufi grops like the Naqshbandi were at the forefront of Muslim resistance to Russian and Chinese rule in Central Asia and the Caucasus--and in China, they were also very active in firing up Hui revolts against the Qing Dynasty.

We in the West, if we are to truly understand and come to grips with current religious ferment, need to drop the 1960's and '70's meme that "mystics" who dialogue with Quakers are necessarily nice and lovey-dovey, or that mysticism is inherently more peaceful than a more doctrinally and ethically strict kind of religion. Theology matters, and I strongly suspect that the reason why American foreign policy flounders in across the Islamic world is because our current elites can't comprehend people for whom jettisoning a traditional belief is still blasphemy rather than an important rite of passage.

Submitting....

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