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Benchmarks

Reader comment on item: More on the Term "Islamic Fascists"
in response to reader comment: What is the historical thrust of Islam? Is that a benchmark to determine what is "normative" for Islam?

Submitted by Keith R. Snyder (United States), Aug 18, 2006 at 20:29

"Benchmark" is a great way to think of this discussion! I think Mr. Pipes's response doesn't take into consideration certain historical, religious, and sociological realities (although I do want to say I agree with him most of the time!). To say that the Islamists of late are taking Islam in "unprecedented directions" ignores the nature of the rise of Islam during and in the years following Muhammad's life.

Starting off meekly when in numbers too small to defend themselves, once his people gained in strength thanks to the merchants of Medina they began attacking anyone who refused to honor Muhammad as the prophet. The standard (norm) went from, "Let there be no compulsion in religion," to, "Attack the Christians every chance you get, cut off their opposing hands and feet, crucify them, etc., etc." And that first Crusade! What a bloodbath!

The jihadists under Muhammad, and later under the caliphate, conquered much of the Mediteranean Basin and then stretched into the East. And they didn't do it by sending missionaries to preach and build hospitals. An estimated 30,000 Christian churches and other religious entities converted to avoid the sword or debilitating dhimmitude, and individuals who "blasphemed" Muhammad were often killed, much to Muhammad's pleasure.

So are the Islamic terrorists acting in ways that are "unIslamic"? Depends on the benchmark used. Is the religion's founder and immediate successors a good enough benchmark? I say it is. Isn't that the very essence of what makes something normative? Someone may say, "But most Muslims aren't trying to murder those who disagree." Islam may have "evolved" over the centuries, but the founder of a system, whether political, religious, or otherwise defines the norms for whatever that system is. If it changes to something different, that change *is* something different. Those who want to get back to the original standards of the system by adopting the beliefs and other characteristics of the founder are not hijackers of the changed system. They are copies of the original, manifesting the benchmark (as well as showing the gap between the original and what it evolved into for what it is). If their beliefs and actions correspond to the founder's, they are quite "normative."

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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