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a moderate muslim answer and critique

Reader comment on item: [Finding Moderate Muslims:] Do you believe in modernity?

Submitted by Abdul Rahman Reijerink (Australia), Jun 28, 2006 at 09:24

I quote Dr. Pipes with my answers/responses below.

Useful questions might include:

  • Violence: Do you condone or condemn the Palestinians, Chechens, and Kashmiris who give up their lives to kill enemy civilians? Will you condemn by name as terrorist groups such organizations as Abu Sayyaf, Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, Groupe Islamique Armée, Hamas, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and al-Qaida?

Suicide attacks on civilians or with civilian casualties are sinful. Many of the named groups are terrorist or commit terrorist acts (like most groups who use violence ex: British RAF in area bombing of Europe) others I just don't recognise.

  • Modernity: Should Muslim women have equal rights with men (for example, in inheritance shares or court testimony)? Is jihad, meaning a form of warfare, acceptable in today's world? Do you accept the validity of other religions? Do Muslims have anything to learn from the West?

Muslim women in my view do have equal rights and this is with religious backing. I do not accept the equivalent but different rights arguement although doing so is not necessarily oppresive to women. Jihad does not mean a form of warfare, although in very limted circumstances it can be applied to warfare. Like most westerners I do accept that war is a valid human interaction if conducted lawfully. It is however regrettable and never to be engaged in lightly. If by "validity" you mean correctness, other religions especially Judaism and (if with true monotheism even with a tripatite God) Christianity do offer a path to God possibly even non-monotheistic faiths especially for those who have not had a chance to hear the truth (as I view it), Islam is the best way. All religions have value where they improve human behaviour and our treatment of others and the creation of God. How many Christians accept the validity of non-Christian faith as delivering not just a good way to live but Salvation? Of course Muslims have something to learn from "the west". As if they are totally seperate entites, I find these types of false dichotomies amusing (I am afterall both muslim and "western"), I expect clearer and more precise language from you Dr. Pipes, this is not Fox. All human socities have something valuable to offer other ones, this is quite clearly evident in many Qur'anic ayat.

  • Secularism: Should non-Muslims enjoy completely equal civil rights with Muslims? May Muslims convert to other religions? May Muslim women marry non-Muslim men? Do you accept the laws of a majority non-Muslim government and unreservedly pledge allegiance to that government? Should the state impose religious observance, such as banning food service during Ramadan? When Islamic customs conflict with secular laws (e.g., covering the face for drivers' license pictures), which should give way?

equal rights. yes. conversion, yes (no compulsion in religion). intermarriage, yes ( there is no specific prohibition in the Qur'an, although I believe cross faith marriage is a bad idea for anyone, it creates avoidable problems.

I accept the laws of my country although I may disagree with some of them. I (and I think also that you or most of your readers) refuse to pledge allegiance to my government (what kind of crazy pledge is that, it belongs in countries like North Korea and China not democracies like our countries, places with the type of governmental/ ideological systems that I though you disliked Dr.Pipes!!). I do however pledge allegiance to my beloved country, the land of my forefathers, this does not mean agreeing to support everything my state does, and nor should it, conscience had primacy. the state should not intervene in religious practise (to enforce or refuse religious practise as in the case of france), it should merely protect the right to practise religion without fear or favour. Why does Parliament in my country open with Christian prayers, does your government do the same?

Custom/law conflict... it depends on the circumstances.... if you want to cover your face you should not be driving, that is just dangerous. Generally a muslim should obey the laws of the country they are in this is a religious obligation, but then what about laws like the Nuremburg laws? A military officer is in most democracies theoretically supposed to not obey an otherwise lawful order that goes against his/her concsience, how far can we extend this principle, civil disobedience has an honourable history.

  • Islamic pluralism: Are Sufis and Shi'ites fully legitimate Muslims? Do you see Muslims who disagree with you as having fallen into unbelief? Is takfir (condemning fellow Muslims with whom one has disagreements as unbelievers) an acceptable practice?

a muslim is anyone who says that there is no God but God, and that Muhammad is his prophet and not retracted this. The most a muslim can say about another is that the other is sinful. The practise of Takfir is sinful. Only God can judge our hearts. There is plenty of evidence for this. Shifty arguements to the contrary have a very shady history and were used to justify criminal behaviour (with tacit British support due to poltical reasons) of the House of Saud at the prompting of Ibn Abdul Wahhab who loved to draw up huge lists of Muslims he wanted to execute because they disagreed with him.... life is sacrosanct, apostasy is not a legitimate reason to take it.

  • Self-criticism: Do you accept the legitimacy of scholarly inquiry into the origins of Islam? Who was responsible for the 9/11 suicide hijackings?

Scholarly inquiry. welcome however I am wary of prejudice masquerading as "impartial" inquiry.

9/11, in all probability people who either are misled Muslims or think of themselves as Muslims. I trhink that crackpot even took credit for it, but I am not sure as I don't watch much TV.(its a waste of time)

  • Defense against militant Islam: Do you accept enhanced security measures to fight militant Islam, even if this means extra scrutiny of yourself (for example, at airline security)? Do you agree that institutions accused of funding terrorism should be shut down, or do you see this a symptom of bias?

What exactly is "militant Islam"? If you mean terrorists trying to cloak themselves in respectability by bad reasoning, then please use a more appropriate term.

security. yes, but wary of misuse of state power as every democracy lover should be. security should be transparent and open to scrutiny by third parties (elected reps, judges, red cross, UN, press etc) ex: unlike detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay etc...

Institutions ACCUSED of funding terrorism should be scrutinised and under go the normal process of law. Innocent until proven guilty. People may also unknowingly fund terrorism and they should be given a good chance to clear themselves, as many give money to charity only to have it misused. People need to hold those they give funds to more accountable when they elect to hand these funds over, especially disaster relief (a common reason at Mosques as muslims are very generous at these times but too uncritical of who they give money to and in being trusting they rarely ask for credentials and proof of where it is being spent)

  • Goals in the West: Do you accept that Western countries are majority-Christian and secular or do you seek to transform them into majority-Muslim countries ruled by Islamic law?

I think that most "western" countries are not christian majority except in name. Most people who claim to be Christians have little idea of what that means and hold very unorthadox beliefs. the US is a rare exception in its level of Christian belief/practise. I question how secular these countries are when Christian ritual plays such an enormous role in the running of the state (ex: bibles handed out as a matter of course in court to juries with no-one being asked if they wish to make a secular affirmation or other religious oath when I was on a jury). I believe that Muslims have the right to elect people who will enact legislation that reflects muslim beliefs but does not enforce muslim behaviour, ex: like the laws against murder which are to some extent informed by a Christian understanding, this is not forcing Christianity on anyone, just informing the behaviour of the legislators by their convictions, convictions that many were elected for having... democracy.

the area of Muslim law and what it constitues is a complex area that is terribly misunderstood by most people and this is not surprising as most muslims do not understand the role of the Sharia in society either. I think that modern ideas about Sharia have been perverted by a modern post colonial aproach that conflates the Sharia methodology with "western" approaches to law, where the law is enforced by a state and has a definable solution that is correct for any given problem.... this is in my understanding an ahistorical view of the role of Sharia. Further embellishment to complex for this place.

Dr. Pipes, on the whole i think many of these questions are a useful means of seperating the sheep from the goats so to speak, but they also catch too many neo-traditionalists as well (like Hamza Yusuf who in my opinion is a very good man and a very important person in interfaith understanding and powerful voice for calm and moderation), who are essentailly no threat to anyone and useful allies, and through sloppy language it catches genuine modernists as well. I think you could have targetted some of these questions more appropriately with clearer and more accurate language and thinking. In general (i.e. with relation to most of your work) I disagree frequently with many of your conclusions but believe that usually you have a very high academic standard that is hard to match. Not so here. Sorry.

In Peace,

Abdul Rahman.

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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