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Real and Unreal Islam

Reader comment on item: Islam's Future [Can Be Modern]

Submitted by Tom Pembroke (United States), Aug 13, 2002 at 18:57

Mr Pipes' article frankly acknowledges the vociferous reader response he got contra his earlier article "Islam Isn't The Enemy" of a few weeks back.

And now in this article Mr Pipes attempts to further explain his position that Islam the religion cannot be viewed as the enemy, citing certain fundamental changes in Islamic practice that have recently been liberalized in Turkey, as indicative of Islam's capacity to change into a more "enlightened" (my quotes) form.

But I still disagree with him. Profoundly.

I have been living in the Islamic world for at least 20 years (I've actually lost track of the exact figure). When I listen to Western, particularly American, commentators on the subject, I simply have to shake my head in resignation, if not disbelief. Most simply don't know what they're talking about, PhD after their names or no.

At bottom, these "expert" comments reflect a total mental denial of the reality of Islam.

Most academics know Islam in the abstract, as a "subject" of study and, until recently, they mostly studied and researched Medieval or earlier Islam, tacitly implying that "modern" Islam is simply a pathetic remnant of a dead civilization (which is true).

No academic would publically voice such a reality today even though that's what they really believe.

In addition, few of these "experts" know Arabic other than as an "academic" language of research. Fewer still can hold even a basic conversation in spoken Arabic, and fewer still have spent any length of time in the lands of their study (for very good reasons, of course).

None of them know Islam for what it really is today and as it is practiced today.

Many hark back to "Al-Ghazali" and similar paragons of medieval philosophy and thought which admittedly were abundant in Islam "back when" (and even THAT statement requires some commentary which I won't go into here) and which have no relevance to Islam today, anymore than Thomas Aquinas has any relevance to Christianity for the average Christian of today.

This tactic of pretending to speak expertly about Islam by voicing in hushed tones the names of historical figures of classical Islamic, is simply a smokescreen trying to mask ignorance of present-day Islam and, after 9/11, trying to mask horror of its reality.

When Dr Pipes came onto the public scene several years ago it was a most refreshing change to the usual banalities one heard about Islam. Here was an individual that DID know what he was talking about, even though I've always disagreed with his separating Islam from Islamism.

Since this is getting long, I will simply get to the point, or one of them anyway.

The fact is, few commentators (if any) have noticed the fundamental difference between ARAB Islam and OTHER Islams.

When pressed, hardly a single Arab Muslim will give legitimacy to non-Arab Muslims.

The vast majority simply don't see, for example, an Indonesian Muslim in the same league as, say, a Syrian Muslim. The great divide is one of racial but primarily linguistic difference between the two groups.

To an Arab, ARABIC, the language, is a sine qua non of a "true" believer. The fact that the vast majority of Muslims world-wide have as much knowledge of Arabic as a Christian in Montana has of Latin, negates the "authenticity" of his belief.

Therefore, I would say that a vast field of research remains unexplored or even acknowledged dealing with this great divide. Islam may not be the evil one, if you're speaking of international Islam.

But Arab Islam is quite a different matter.
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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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