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I respect Pipes' aspirations but I fear ...

Reader comment on item: Can Islam Be Reformed?

Submitted by Jim K (United States), Jul 3, 2013 at 07:38

Reading the comments above I don't believe the readers have given Dr. Pipes a fair hearing. I still have concerns but let's be fair about what he has achieved in this article.

He notes that the Islamic religion as written makes "untenable demands" that are "impossible for all to live up to." Reality demands hypocrisy or as Daniel puts it a "legal fig leaves that allowed for the relaxation" of these rules. In the past these "tricks" and "mechanisms" amounted to a "medieval synthesis" allowing Muslims to be moderate. Some might say "slackers." He notes these "compromises and half measures," were called out by the "purists" who correctly understood that Islam was being abandoned by such hypocrisy.

Pipes' use of the words "synthesis" and "reformation" is too strong to describe what is simply either being lax, selective in one's practice, perfunctory in one's practice, or just self-deluding hypocrisy. How else can "reformist Muslims ... do better than their medieval predecessors and ground their interpretation in both scripture" except by contorting core texts, evading a large percent of harsh warrior passages, and essentially lying to themselves about what was written and what it originally meant? They, of course, can do just that. As he notes, this "synthesis" will "remain vulnerable to attack by purists, who can point to Muhammad's example."

This is very different from other reformers who advocate that Muslims repudiate and exorcize large chunks of offending texts. To reinterpret texts as Pipes suggests, the moderates must "labor, probably for decades, to develop an ideology," a new "understanding of their religion," by changing the "interpretation" that clearly will be at odds with the historic position. Human nature, as Daniel points out, allows what I've called evasions, delusions, and hypocrisy. However, there is a problem with advocating this solution.

Long before Muslims can fool themselves that the texts say something moderate, they'll fool us. Every advocate of "moderate Islam" except for Daniel Pipes insists that Islam is in fact moderate and only an "Islamophobe" or Islamist "hijacker of Islam" would say otherwise. These self-deluded Westerners must believe that Morsi and Erdogan are "moderate Islamists" or else one is being bigoted towards the majority of Muslims in two key Islamic states. Pointing out the harsh reality that exists today, as Daniel does, seems impossible for other advocates of "moderate Islam."

Only Pipes can maintain that " these stealthy, lawful, political movements" are "more effective and no less dangerous" than the overtly violent jihadi. Only Pipes can express his aspirations for a future moderation while noting that "Islam currently represents a backward, aggressive, and violent force." Other advocates of moderation say that Islam is that way and it is a vicious bigoted lie to say otherwise. The trick, that it seems only Dr. Pipes can pull off, is to advocate a hypothetical Islam for future Muslims while still seeing the painful reality around the world today.


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