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Pipes, Pope, Taha & Interpretability of the Quoran

Reader comment on item: Pope Benedict XVI and the Koran

Submitted by JOverton (United States), Jan 17, 2006 at 11:11

Dr. Pipes cites two peripheral examples from an unrepresentative theocratic regime facing a multitude of Western educated citizens, Iran. He offers them as persuasive examples of how Islam is not only open to interpretation but is in fact morphing into a new, improved, rational Islam. ...

Mullah Taha was faced with a locality in which the Arab Muslims practiced both slavery against the non-Muslim Brown and Black Christian and Animist Sudanese populations and violent subjugation as well. But, these efforts were encountering serious, resolved resistance from the Coptic Christians. He could not see the ultimate benefit of the violence and was looking for a new road, a new path.

He conveniently devised the idea of a neat severability in the focus of Mohammad and his revelations of the word of Allah, one that completely avoided direct confrontation with both Mohammad and Allah - much as McArthur island-hopped past huge and overpowering elements of the Japanese Imperial forces. Taha simply freed himself to offer a re-interpretation of what was and remains Allah's immutable revelations by declaring the latter Medina Period as localized and particular - not universal. Convenient as a matter of argument. Without support elsewhere, at least to my readings.

The Pope was not, so far as one can tell, seeking to pick a fight or re-open a critical sore point with Islam. Rather, he was speaking what his study and heart reveal, combined with the scholarship of his minions. I say this not being a Roman Catholic. Also, as he thought he was speaking in camera we can presume a high level of candor. ...

Taha is in no way representative of even a large minority of current Islamic thinking, much less teaching or rank and file following. The lamination of Western rationalistic thinking - and wishing - and analysis to Islamic tenant and thinking is artificial at best. It leads to grasping at thinkers like Taha, the elevation of them to a status and persuasiveness they do not enjoy in their own faith, and the risk of misleading of Westerners who look to learned scholars like you.

If, however, you believe that by focusing on folk like Taha you can help initiate a sea change in Islam, have at it but please clearly say that is what you are attempting.

Respectfully,

JOverton
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Daniel Pipes replies:

I gave Taha as an example of the sort of Islamic thinking that takes place. I did not state or imply that he has succeeded in finding a large following for his message. That's not the issue here. The issue, rather, is whether Islam can evolve and Taha's example, plus the Iranian actions, point precisely to that.

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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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