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The Mullahs are jousting at windmills

Reader comment on item: Why the Death Edict on Salman Rushdie?

Submitted by Dave (United States), Aug 23, 2022 at 13:23

The Rushdie kerfuffle is an interesting example of intra-Muslim controversy. Yet, the dispute takes place within the context of generally accepted Islamic texts. Indeed, the great majority of people who have opinions on Islam, positive or negative, refer to the same canonical works.

Modern, leading-edge scholarship into the origins of Islam raises challenges to this orthodoxy, from authors such as Crone and Crook and Stephen Shoemaker. Robert Spencer has summarized some of these studies in his "Did Muhammed Exist". These works rely on ancient documents and adhere to scientifically rigorous methods. Their conclusions are iconoclastic.

A couple of items stand out. First, the evidence about Muhammed (assuming he existed), was that he was actually quite tolerant and inclusive when it came to his followers' religious beliefs. He called his group "believers", but that simply meant monotheists, as Islam was not formalized until long after his death. Years later, when Islam was formalized during the Abbasid Caliphate, a believer was defined as a Muslim, and non-Muslims were cast as inferiors (although Christians and Jews as People of the Book, were a little less inferior). Thus, the relgious intolerance of the Mullahs is very un-Muhammedan. Muhammed would never have condemned Rushdie - he wasn't even a Muslim and there was no Koran in his day.

The other research discovery really casts doubt on the physical setting in the Koran, of Mecca and Medina. It seems improbable that Muhammed came from the hejaz. Mecca was described as a thriving commercial center in the Koran, which was unlikely, and the vegetation and topology described there is more characteristic of somewhere in Jordan, in a richer urban setting. In addition, ancient mosques were oriented towards what is now Petra in Jordan, not Mecca. Placing Muhammed in the hejaz makes little sense in any case, as what is now Saudi Arabia was then outside the Roman Empire. It make little logical sense that Muhammed would have led a successful rebellion against the Romans from a sparsely populated backwater where recruits were few and anti-Roman sentiment was probably weak. For example, the American Revolution centered in cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia, populated places directly affected by British rule, where discontent could be exploited and rebels recruited, not in the relatively desolate Ohio Valley.

The full impact of this research has yet to be felt. It is in its infancy and being politically incorrect, its popularization in woke academia may take a long time. But it's been said that the ultimate enemy of myth is circumstance, so one can hope.

It's a sad irony that Rushdie has to fear for his life over nothing, a fiction, but that's satanic human nature for you.


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Daniel Pipes replies:

Good points.

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