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How I Think the Modern Synthesis Differs from the Medieval One

Reader comment on item: Can Islam Be Reformed?

Submitted by Alex (United States), Jul 1, 2013 at 18:48

I agree with everything that Dr. Pipes writes in this piece. One can find a truly great example in his fortitude to not give in to the temptation (as I see it) to subsume his more nuanced views into the blanket condemnations of Islam as such that have been growing in the US since the controversy over the "Ground Zero Mosque" began--a less disciplined individual would have simply settled for some modicum of success after decades spent trying to awaken others to the threat of Islamism. While the means that Medieval Muslims found to justify the behaviors of everyday life in a functional society certainly provide a ready model for today's Muslims seeking a solution to their problems from within a traditional Islamic framework, I believe adamantly that the challenge of adopting liberal Western values (the idea of the freely choosing individual as the basic unit of political sovereignty and private life in the modern world) poses to Muslims something fundamentally different than what they faced in Medieval times.

I think that the notion of Muslims being responsible for their own behavior threatens the traditional Islamic worldview so powerfully that it lends the efforts of Muslim activists--both moderate reformers and radical Islamists--nothing short of a real life apocalyptic character. This is why I think you see suicide bombings, as many of Islam's best and brightest would rather lead their community in a glorious death than achieve something as individuals in a modern world where they lack any sense that doing so would be meaningful to their own traditions.

I have always been curious to know whether Dr. Pipes would agree or disagree with this characterization of the special desperate character of Muslim politics in the modern world, and I think considering the question of the unique obstacles that modernity poses to Muslim life is always worthwhile.

Submitting....

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Daniel Pipes replies:

"the challenge of adopting liberal Western values (the idea of the freely choosing individual as the basic unit of political sovereignty and private life in the modern world) poses to Muslims something fundamentally different than what they faced in Medieval times."

no argument from me. But some of the earlier approaches can still be relevant.

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