The Watchman: Jihadists on the March

Published on Jul 8, 2014 by The Christian Broadcasting Network

On this week’s edition of The Watchman, we sit down with Middle East experts Raymond Ibrahim and Tawfik Hamid to discuss the latest developments with the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Iran and what can be done to counter the jihadist.

Islam’s ‘Protestant Reformation’

Raymond Ibrahim, July 1, 2014:

Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in two parts but is being published again as one article due to some confusions prompted by its original appearance as two parts.

In order to prevent a clash of civilizations, or worse, Islam must reform.   This is the contention of many Western peoples.  And, pointing to Christianity’s Protestant Reformation as proof that Islam can also reform, many are optimistic.

Overlooked by most, however, is that Islam has been reforming.  What is today called “radical Islam” is the reformation of Islam.  And it follows the same pattern of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation.

The problem is our understanding of the word “reform.”  Despite its positive connotations, “reform” simplymeans to “make changes (in something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.”

Synonyms of “reform” include “make better,” “ameliorate,” and “improve”—splendid words all, yet words all subjective and loaded with Western references.

Muslim notions of “improving” society may include purging it of “infidels” and their corrupt ways; or segregating men and women, keeping the latter under wraps or quarantined at home; or executing apostates, who are seen as traitorous agitators.

Banning many forms of freedoms taken for granted in the West—from alcohol consumption to religious and gender equality—can be deemed an “improvement” and a “betterment” of society.

In short, an Islamic reformation need not lead to what we think of as an “improvement” and “betterment” of society—simply because “we” are not Muslims and do not share their reference points and first premises.  “Reform” only sounds good to most Western peoples because they, secular and religious alike, are to a great extent products of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation; and so, a priori, they naturally attribute positive connotations to the word.

—–

At its core, the Protestant Reformation was a revolt against tradition in the name of scripture—in this case, the Bible.  With the coming of the printing press, increasing numbers of Christians became better acquainted with the Bible’s contents, parts of which they felt contradicted what the Church was teaching.  So they broke away, protesting that the only Christian authority was “scripture alone,” sola scriptura.

Islam’s reformation follows the same logic of the Protestant Reformation—specifically by prioritizing scripture over centuries of tradition and legal debate—but with antithetical results that reflect the contradictory teachings of the core texts of Christianity and Islam.

As with Christianity, throughout most of its history, Islam’s scriptures, specifically its “twin pillars,” the Koran (literal words of Allah) and the Hadith (words and deeds of Allah’s prophet, Muhammad), were inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of Muslims.  Only a few scholars, or ulema—literally, “they who know”—were literate in Arabic and/or had possession of Islam’s scriptures.  The average Muslim knew only the basics of Islam, or its “Five Pillars.”

In this context, a “medieval synthesis” flourished throughout the Islamic world.  Guided by an evolving general consensus (or ijma‘), Muslims sought to accommodate reality by, in medieval historian Daniel Pipes’ words,

translat[ing] Islam from a body of abstract, infeasible demands [as stipulated in the Koran and Hadith] into a workable system. In practical terms, it toned down Sharia and made the code of law operational. Sharia could now be sufficiently applied without Muslims being subjected to its more stringent demands…  [However,] While the medieval synthesis worked over the centuries, it never overcame a fundamental weakness: It is not comprehensively rooted in or derived from the foundational, constitutional texts of Islam. Based on compromises and half measures, it always remained vulnerable to challenge by purists (emphasis added).

This vulnerability has now reached breaking point: millions of more Korans published in Arabic and other languages are in circulation today compared to just a century ago; millions of more Muslims are now literate enough to read and understand the Koran compared to their medieval forbears.  The Hadith, which contains some of the most intolerant teachings and violent deeds attributed to Islam’s prophet, is now collated and accessible, in part thanks to the efforts of Western scholars, the Orientalists.  Most recently, there is the Internet—where all these scriptures are now available in dozens of languages and to anyone with a laptop or iphone.

In this backdrop, what has been called at different times, places, and contexts “Islamic fundamentalism,” “radical Islam,” “Islamism,” and “Salafism” flourished.  Many of today’s Muslim believers, much better acquainted than their ancestors with the often black and white words of their scriptures, are protesting against earlier traditions, are protesting against the “medieval synthesis,” in favor of scriptural literalism—just like their Christian Protestant counterparts once did.

Thus, if Martin Luther (d. 1546) rejected the extra-scriptural accretions of the Church and “reformed” Christianity by aligning it more closely with scripture, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (d. 1787), one of Islam’s first modern reformers, “called for a return to the pure, authentic Islam of the Prophet, and the rejection of the accretions that had corrupted it and distorted it,” in the words of Bernard Lewis (The Middle East, p. 333).

The unadulterated words of God—or Allah—are all that matter for the reformists.

Note: Because they are better acquainted with Islam’s scriptures, other Muslims, of course, are apostatizing—whether by converting to other religions, most notably Christianity, or whether by abandoning religion altogether, even if only in their hearts (for fear of the apostasy penalty).  This is an important point to be revisited later.  Muslims who do not become disaffected after better acquainting themselves with the literal teachings of Islam’s scriptures and who instead become more faithful to and observant of them are the topic of this essay.

—–

How Christianity and Islam can follow similar patterns of reform but with antithetical results rests in the fact that their scriptures are often antithetical to one another.   This is the key point, and one admittedly unintelligible to postmodern, secular sensibilities, which tend to lump all religious scripture together in a melting pot of relativism without bothering to evaluate the significance of their respective words and teachings.

Obviously a point by point comparison of the scriptures of Islam and Christianity is inappropriate for an article of this length (see my “Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam” for a more comprehensive treatment).

Suffice it to note some contradictions (which will be rejected as a matter of course by the relativistic mindset):

  • The New Testament preaches peace, brotherly love, tolerance, and forgiveness—for all humans, believers and non-believers alike.  Instead of combatting and converting “infidels,” Christians are called to pray for those who persecute them and turn the other cheek (which is not the same thing as passivity, for Christians are also called to be bold and unapologetic).  Conversely, the Koran and Hadith call for war, or jihad, against all non-believers, until they either convert, accept subjugation and discrimination, or die.
  • The New Testament has no punishment for the apostate from Christianity.  Conversely, Islam’s prophet himself decreed that “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”
  • The New Testament teaches monogamy, one husband and one wife, thereby dignifying the woman.  The Koran allows polygamy—up to four wives—and the possession of concubines, or sex-slaves.  More literalist readings treat women as possessions.
  • The New Testament discourages lying (e.g., Col. 3:9).  The Koran permits it; the prophet himself often deceived others, and permitted lying to one’s wife, to reconcile quarreling parties, and to the “infidel” during war.

It is precisely because Christian scriptural literalism lends itself to religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Western civilization developed the way it did—despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

And it is precisely because Islamic scriptural literalism is at odds with religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Islamic civilization is the way it is—despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

—–

Those in the West waiting for an Islamic “reformation” along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation, on the assumption that it will lead to similar results, must embrace two facts: 1) Islam’s reformation is well on its way, and yes, along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation—with a focus on scripture and a disregard for tradition—and for similar historic reasons (literacy, scriptural dissemination, etc.); 2) But because the core teachings of the scriptures of Christianity and Islam markedly differ from one another, Islam’s reformation has naturally produced a civilization markedly different from the West.

Put differently, those in the West uncritically calling for an “Islamic reformation” need to acknowledge what it is they are really calling for: the secularization of Islam in the name of modernity; the trivialization and sidelining of Islamic law from Muslim society.

That would not be a “reformation”—certainly nothing analogous to the Protestant Reformation.

Overlooked is that Western secularism was, and is, possible only because Christian scripture lends itself to the division between church and state, the spiritual and the temporal.

Upholding the literal teachings of Christianity is possible within a secular—or any—state.  Christ called on believers to “render unto Caesar the things of Caesar (temporal) and unto God the things of God (spiritual)” (Matt. 22:21).  For the “kingdom of God” is “not of this world” (John 18:36).  Indeed, a good chunk of the New Testament deals with how “man is not justified by the works of the law… for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal. 2:16).

On the other hand, mainstream Islam is devoted to upholding the law; and Islamic scripture calls for a fusion between Islamic law—Sharia—and the state.   Allah decrees in the Koran that “It is not fitting for true believers—men or women—to take their choice in affairs if Allah and His Messenger have decreed otherwise. He that disobeys Allah and His Messenger strays far indeed!” (33:36).   Allah tells the prophet of Islam, “We put you on an ordained way [literarily in Arabic, sharia] of command; so follow it and do not follow the inclinations of those who are ignorant” (45:18).

Mainstream Islamic exegesis has always interpreted such verses to mean that Muslims must follow the commandments of Allah as laid out in the Koran and Hadith—in a word, Sharia.

And Sharia is so concerned with the details of this world, with the everyday doings of Muslims, that every conceivable human action falls under five rulings, or ahkam: the forbidden (haram), the discouraged (makruh), the neutral (mubah), the recommended (mustahib), and the obligatory (wajib).

Conversely, Islam offers little concerning the spiritual (sidelined Sufism the exception).

Unlike Christianity, then, Islam without the law—without Sharia—becomes meaningless.   After all, the Arabic word Islam literally means “submit.”  Submit to what?  Allah’s laws as codified in Sharia and derived from the Koran and Hadith.

The “Islamic reformation” some in the West are hoping for is really nothing less than an Islam without Islam—secularization not reformation; Muslims prioritizing secular, civic, and humanitarian laws over Allah’s law; a “reformation” that would slowly see the religion of Muhammad go into the dustbin of history.

Such a scenario is certainly more plausible than believing that Islam can be true to its scriptures in any meaningful way and still peacefully coexist with, much less complement, modernity the way Christianity does.

Islam’s ‘Protestant Reformation’ (Part 1)

By Raymond Ibrahim, June 22, 2014:

In order to prevent a clash of civilizations, or worse, Islam must reform.   This is the contention of many Western peoples.  And, pointing to Christianity’s Protestant Reformation as proof that Islam can also reform, many are optimistic.

Overlooked by most, however, is that Islam has been reforming. What is today called “radical Islam” is the reformation of Islam.  And it follows the same pattern of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation.

The problem is our understanding of the word “reform.”  Despite its positive connotations, “reform” simply meansto “make changes (in something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.”

Synonyms of “reform” include “make better,” “ameliorate,” and “improve”—splendid words all, yet words all subjective and loaded with Western references.

Muslim notions of “improving” society may include purging it of “infidels” and their corrupt ways; or segregating men and women, keeping the latter under wraps or quarantined at home; or executing apostates, who are seen as traitorous agitators.

Banning many forms of freedoms taken for granted in the West—from alcohol consumption to religious and gender equality—can be deemed an “improvement” and a “betterment” of society.

In short, an Islamic reformation need not lead to what we think of as an “improvement” and “betterment” of society—simply because “we” are not Muslims and do not share their reference points and first premises.  “Reform” only sounds good to most Western peoples because they, secular and religious alike, are to a great extent products of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation; and so, a priori, they naturally attribute positive connotations to the word.

—-

At its core, the Protestant Reformation was a revolt against tradition in the name of scripture—in this case, the Bible.  With the coming of the printing press, increasing numbers of Christians became better acquainted with the Bible’s contents, parts of which they felt contradicted what the Church was teaching.  So they broke away, protesting that the only Christian authority was “scripture alone,” sola scriptura.

Islam’s reformation follows the same logic of the Protestant Reformation—specifically by prioritizing scripture over centuries of tradition and legal debate—but with antithetical results that reflect the contradictory teachings of the core texts of Christianity and Islam.

As with Christianity, throughout most of its history, Islam’s scriptures, specifically its “twin pillars,” the Koran (literal words of Allah) and the Hadith (words and deeds of Allah’s prophet, Muhammad), were inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of Muslims.  Only a few scholars, or ulema—literally, “they who know”—were literate in Arabic and/or had possession of Islam’s scriptures.  The average Muslim knew only the basics of Islam, or its “Five Pillars.”

In this context, a “medieval synthesis” flourished throughout the Islamic world.  Guided by an evolving general consensus (or ijma‘), Muslims sought to accommodate reality by, in medieval historian Daniel Pipes’ words,

translat[ing] Islam from a body of abstract, infeasible demands [as stipulated in the Koran and Hadith] into a workable system. In practical terms, it toned down Sharia and made the code of law operational. Sharia could now be sufficiently applied without Muslims being subjected to its more stringent demands…  [However,] While the medieval synthesis worked over the centuries, it never overcame a fundamental weakness: It is not comprehensively rooted in or derived from the foundational, constitutional texts of Islam. Based on compromises and half measures, it always remained vulnerable to challenge by purists (emphasis added).

This vulnerability has now reached breaking point: millions of more Korans published in Arabic and other languages are in circulation today compared to just a century ago; millions of more Muslims are now literate enough to read and understand the Koran compared to their medieval forbears.  The Hadith, which contains some of the most intolerant teachings and violent deeds attributed to Islam’s prophet, is now collated and accessible, in part thanks to the efforts of Western scholars, the Orientalists.  Most recently, there is the Internet—where all these scriptures are now available in dozens of languages and to anyone with a laptop or iphone.

In this backdrop, what has been called at different times, places, and contexts “Islamic fundamentalism,” “radical Islam,” “Islamism,” and “Salafism” flourished.  Many of today’s Muslim believers, much better acquainted with the often black and white words of their scriptures than their ancestors, are protesting against earlier traditions, are protesting against the “medieval synthesis,” in favor of scriptural literalism—just like their Christian Protestant counterparts once did.

Thus, if Martin Luther (d. 1546) rejected the extra-scriptural accretions of the Church and “reformed” Christianity by aligning it more closely with scripture, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (d. 1787), one of Islam’s first modern reformers, “called for a return to the pure, authentic Islam of the Prophet, and the rejection of the accretions that had corrupted it and distorted it,” in the words of Bernard Lewis (The Middle East, p. 333).

The unadulterated words of God—or Allah—are all that matter for the reformists.

Note: Because they are better acquainted with Islam’s scriptures, other Muslims, of course, are apostatizing—whether by converting to other religions, most notably Christianity, or whether by abandoning religion altogether, even if only in their hearts (for fear of the apostasy penalty).  This is an important point to be revisited later.  Muslims who do not become disaffected after better acquainting themselves with the literal teachings of Islam’s scriptures and who instead become more faithful to and observant of them are the topic of this essay.

Part 2 will appear later this week

Sisi calls for “modern, comprehensive understanding of the religion of Islam”

Martin-Luther-9389283-1-402-300x300By Robert Spencer:

The latest Muslim Martin Luther, taking up the tattered crown from the cynical, deceptive Tariq Ramadan, is Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has called for a reformation within Islam. Such a reformation is certainly urgently needed, and even in calling for it, Sisi has gone much farther than the Muslim Brotherhood scion Ramadan ever did.

Sisi, however, is a general, not a member of the Egyptian ulama; his words are unlikely to spark a mass movement for general reformation of the elements of Islam that give impetus to violence and supremacism. And the existence of those elements, and people who believe in them, is likely to menace Sisi for simply making this call — as others have been menaced for calling for reform in Islam in the past. Just last year, the Moroccan cleric Ahmed Assid condemned violence in Islam’s name, and was promptly declared an apostate and an enemy of Allah by other clerics, and threatened with death. The Iraqi Shi’ite scholar Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji called for reason in Islamic discourse and jurisprudence, and was immediately arrested.

Sisi has the power of the state behind him, for now, so such a fate is not likely to befall him, at least in the near future.

“Islamic ‘Martin ‘Luther’ issues his proclamation,” by James Zumwalt for UPI, January 28:

HERNDON, Va., Jan. 28 (UPI) — During late January, two high-profile personalities took actions — one outside the United States and one within — that couldn’t be any farther apart in terms of their global impact.

Due to irresponsible media coverage, the first story — with major global impact — went unreported while the second — involving an out-of-control, spoiled 19-year old kid — kept grabbing daily headlines.

Starring in the latter was Canadian entertainer Justin Bieber whose drinking, drugging and reckless driving binge in Florida was ended by police, fortunately before he killed anyone. The other action starred Egyptian leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who made the bombshell announcement it is time for Muslims to reform Islam, bringing it into sync with modern times….

While the United States’ Islamic nightmare seems unending, time will have to tell whether Sisi’s declaration will have its intended Martin Luther-esque effect on the religion.

Sisi delivered a speech, saying, “Religious discourse is the greatest battle and challenge facing the Egyptian people, pointing to the need for a new vision and a modern, comprehensive understanding of the religion of Islam — rather than relying on a discourse that has not changed for 800 years.”

The “800 year” reference was to the year 1258 — allegedly when highly qualified Islamic scholars of the day (“mujtahids”) declared, through “ijtihad” (independent reasoning), they had officially resolved all disputes about religious doctrine. Therefore, the “gates of ijtihad” were closed to future debate as no scholar could ever again qualify as a mujtahid — obviously a somewhat short-sighted position to assume.

For Sisi to suggest reopening ijtihad “to improve the image of this religion in front of the world” is the equivalent of Martin Luther defiantly nailing his proclamation (known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) to a church door in 1517, seeking to reform self-promoting Roman Catholic religious practices.

 

Read more at Jihad Watch

No Reform For Islam

makbara1by Justin O Smith

During the past few years, I have often stated the need for Muslims to reform Islam, in the same manner of Judaism and Christianity, even though I knew that Islam is incapable of reforming itself. Other experts and activists, such as Irshad Manji, Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan, have suggested that the reform of Islam should be directed towards secularism; however, to date, the only successful reform, led by imams and mullahs, has been a regressive return to the type of violence, increased terrorism and military conquests, once seen only at the height of Islamic power when Abd al-Rahman and his Islamic army were repelled from the Gates of France in 732 AD by the Christian forces and their leader, Charles “the Hammer” Martel.

Two days before Christmas, fourteen people were killed and 120 wounded, as an explosion, felt in areas fifteen miles away, ripped through police headquarters in Mansoura, Egypt. Just days before New Year’s Day 2014, bombs erupted in Volgograd, Russia in the main railway station and on a trolley bus on the 29th and 30th of December, which killed 34 people and wounded sixty. The common link between these two cases and 99% of the terrorist acts worldwide is Islam.

One should note the book ‘al Islam wa usul al-hukm’- Islam and Bases of Power by Ali Abd al-Razia (1888-1966), which argued that modern Egypt should sever its connection to Islam altogether. Razia concluded that the caliphate is not mentioned in the Koran and Mohammed had not been the head of a state in the 20th century sense, so Egyptians were supposedly free to implement a European-style secular government.

Nazra Quraishi, a Michigan kindergarten teacher, stated in ‘The Lansing State Journal’ (July 5, 2006) that one “can embrace Islam but cannot get out.” If Islam is a “religion”/ideology one can only convert to and not leave upon choosing so, then it is a threat to every free person on the planet; this cuts to the core principle of any democratic state. “Radical Islam has come to mock the very principle of nationality and citizenship,” wrote Fouad Ajami.

There are not any moderate Muslims, only apostates, because a moderate Islam does not exist…a Catch-22 of sorts. In order to create a changed or reformed ideology, Muslims would have to confront their leaders. Muslims would have to stand against men like Shaker Elsayed, leader of Dar al-Hijrah – one of America’s largest mosques in Falls Church, VA, who was espousing the virtues of violent jihad in February 2013 and stated that “The call to reform Islam is an alien call.”

Islam is the fastest growing ideology__”religion”__in Europe and North America, in large part, due to the “Trojan Horse” of immigration, so brilliantly detailed by the late, great Oriana Fallaci, and the extraordinary high rate of procreation within Muslim populations. It has become more radicalized and fierce due to Saudi Arabian advocacy and financial support for Islam’s extreme Wahhabi sect, and the majority of its followers identify themselves with a pan-Islamic community that transcends borders.

Today in America, many Muslim leaders are in agreement with the ideas of British Muslim leader Anjem Choudary, as they praise the 9/11 terorists and call for Sharia law in the U.S., and they claim that “The United States belongs to Allah.” One such leader, Muzammil Siddiqi is associated with Hamas terrorists and the Islamic Center of Washington, DC, and during an October 2000 rally near the White House, he blamed the U.S. for the Palestinian situation and warned “the wrath of God will come.”

Although smooth talking Saudi princes dismissed the fact that Princess Haifa “accidently” funded the 9/11/01 murderers and terrorists through an intermediary, Majed Ibrahim, as “coincidence”, it is now all too apparent that Saudi hands were involved in the Boston Marathon Bombing. Abdul al-Harbi was quickly spirited away by Saudi diplomats, after he progressed from a “suspect” in the attack to “a person of interest” to “innocent” within a week. Ominously, it becomes clear that a terrorist was allowed to escape by U.S “authorities”, once one discovers that six of his relatives, such as Badr and Khalid al-Harbi, actively fought for Al Qaeda and three more__Salim, Majid and Muhammed al-Harbi__ are currently in Gitmo prison.

Does anyone really think that a “religion”__that Islam__ that produces  men who will eat the heart of an enemy (see Syria 2013), draw and quarter American contractors and hang them over the Euphrates River, or kill nearly 300 school children in Beslan, Russia (September 2004) in the name of Allah, here and now, in the 21st century, will ever reform itself?

Currently and confirmed by then-Representative Sue Myrick (R-NC) in 2010, Iran’s terrorist arm, Hezbollah, is building a power base in Mexico, along with Al Qaeda, and it is training Mexican drug cartels in the use of explosives. In 2010, a drug cartel detonated a car bomb for the first time in Ciudad, Juarez.

In 2011, Roger Noreiga, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, gave a clear and urgent warning: “If our government and responsible parties fail to act…there will be an attack on U.S. personnel, installations or interests in the Americas, as soon as Hezbollah operatives believe that they are capable of such an operation without implicating their Iranian sponsors in crime.”

How many Muslims have forced jihadist imams from their mosques? How many Muslim parents are prepared to say that they came to our nation to raise their children as loyal Americans, not Saudis, Iranian or Palestinian and such?

Whether the islamoNazis attack us from their enormous fear of Ataturk’s 1922 brand of secularism, which they claimed would destroy Islam, or simply because America is predominantly a Christian nation and they hate our principles and ideas on freedom, they still attack; they are not remotely considering reform. As Hussein Massawi, former Hezbollah leader, stated: “We are not fighting so that you will give us something. We are fighting to eliminate you (the infidels).

The sweet dream of world peace and “coexistence” has been replaced by the nightmare of permanent conflict. Bomb us and the Left-wing media agonizes over the “root causes”. Shoot up Ft Hood or detonate a few bombs in Boston and our community-organizer-in-chief Obama rushes to the nearest mosque to declare “Islam is a religion of peace.” Murder a school full of children, and our academics join Ossama Bahloul, imam of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, and Jamal al-Badawi, in explaining that to the vast majority of Muslims “jihad” is a harmless concept surrounding personal struggle: This resurgent Islam will not be stopped by a few new laws or outreach to the ummah, but by firm resolve and tough action across the board in all areas of U.S. policy.

Can Islam Be Reformed? A Response Essay To Daniel Pipes

reform of islamBy Nikolaas de Jong, July 10, 2013:

In a past article, I already discussed some issues of Islamic civilization which we are apt to neglect in our analysis of the current situation in the Middle East. Obviously, the potential force of democracy to conquer once primitive countries has been greatly overestimated; nobody will disagree anymore on that count. However, the explanations for this failure of democracy vary a lot, and quite independent of the political alignment of the commentators: it appears that all shades of opinion are quite confused by what is happening in countries recently “liberated” by the Arab Spring. The main reason for this confusion, as I stated before, is that most people in the west do not understand the wider civilizational questions involved: first, can we equate any popular uprising with an ideologically inspired revolution, but second, and most importantly, can revolutions in the Islamic world ever resemble those in the West and why are we so sure that the Islamic pattern of history must correspond to the earlier Western? The first point has been conceded by many observers, albeit implicitly and not in wider historical context, since today the dominant opinion is that these countries were not “ripe” for democracy and that popular rule does not necessarily imply democracy as we understand it in the west. The second point requires more insight, and is not even addressed by most commentators or journalists, although in fact to pose the question of essential differences in culture is not at all new; indeed, it only implies further investigation of the popular thesis Samuel Huntington developed about the “clash of civilizations”. But since western nations have lived in peace for over sixty years now, and we tend to believe that the whole world potentially is a prosperous and peaceful place like the western nation states, the concept of wholly different civilizations has become quite incomprehensible to most opinion makers. Nevertheless, we shall see it is essential to understand the ordeal the Muslim world is currently going through.

A few days ago Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, wrote an article, “Can Islam be reformed?”. As a good neoconservative, Pipes believes that Islamic culture will ultimately be able to adapt to western standards and that a reformed, reinterpreted version of Islam will emerge from the contacts with western democratic influences. In his article, he expressly  shows Islamic civilization in a very un-civilizational light: the issues in Islamic history are made to appear a variation on what happened in the history of other cultures, namely an endless sequence of wars and political upheavals, according to the classical pattern of rise and fall: the extremism that plagues the Islamic world is in fact a reaction to the decline of Islam since its golden age, and will wither away once a democratic, economically successful alternative has been offered; in this sense, the Islamist movement is not unlike communism and fascism, both ideologies cashing in on political and economic hardship. Moreover, Islam is not all that different from Judaism and Christianity: both religions have in the past embraced views we would now find unacceptable: Islam can adapt to modernity like other religions have. Pipes concedes that Islam today poses many problems and not all of its tenets are very humane, but he believes that Islam could be, as it were, absorbed by the west. In his most recent commentary on the military coup in Egypt, he reiterated his view that Islamism is just an extremist political fraction vying for influence among the electorate, and that the majority of the population are moderate Muslims desperately in search of answers to the crisis of modernity.

It is surprising that a man who is so knowledgeable on Islamic and Arab history, really thinks the Islamic world could be reformed. This is especially surprising, since in fact democracy and rule of law have hardly taken root in the rest of the non-western countries, and it remains to be seen whether the experiment will be viable in the long run, especially as western values are receding in the West itself at least since the first world war. Western self-confidence is at an historical low, so the first question is: why is there anything necessary about Muslims taking over western values and political institutions? I argued earlier that Islamic culture itself is not heading for a particularly happy future, but neither is the west, and if Islam does not take over Europe, it will still probably remain the same ossified theocratic system it has always been in the Muslim world itself. Besides, Pipes’ constant reference to the Islamic golden age, as if it were some shining example of human achievement and a tolerant, open-minded era, is disturbing to say the least: by now we should know that the power of Islam in this period was only brought about by brute military conquest, that its famous cultural achievements were largely the work of Christian and Jewish dhimmis, and that the Islamic world controlled so many material and cultural resources simply because it had invaded the lands of other cultures and withheld the benefits of trade from the Christian world. And of course, Pipes does not mention that this was not a “golden age” at all for many people, such as religious minorities, Hindus, and women. The reason it was called a “golden age” by Muslims is because it was a golden age for the Islamic conception of life, but not for humanity. So, on closer scrutiny, it becomes clear that Islam was always rigorous and it has not known any more humane periods or ups and downs like other civilizations, except in the military sense. The proper question that would invalidate Pipes’ designation of Islamism as a totalitarian doctrine on the pattern of fascism and communism, is: would the average Muslim throughout history have considered the deeds and beliefs of today’s Islamists and Islamic terrorists unjustified? Does the average Muslim today even see anything inherently inhumane or un-Islamic in the deeds of terrorists? I think Pipes knows the answer to these questions as well as most of us do.

Pipes warns us for adopting an excessively “essentialist” view of Islam, which means relying solely on Islamic scripture and doctrine in explaining Islamic history and the actions of Muslims; however, it seems Pipes should watch out not to adopt the absurdly empiricist view that is also held by many political correct pundits, and which implies that the deeds of Muslims only have general “human” motives, and religion is simply a justification of these universal motives. It is all very well that Pipes himself can provide his own moderate interpretation of Islam and sees history in the light of this interpretation, but in the end it is the Muslims who decide how to interpret their religion, not western academics. As Bill Warner put it, we can only understand the actions of Muslims and Islamic history by first understanding Islam and what it actually is, not the other way around. Otherwise we would just be fooling ourselves and evading the main question.

Read more at The Brussels Journal (H/T Andrew Bostom)

Nikolaas de Jong is a Flemish history student with a critical view on current affairs, history and culture. He is inspired by Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, Raymond Aron and Jean-François Revel. He is specifically interested in islam and Russian history. He is a member of the political party Liberty GB. This article appeared July 10, 2013 in the Brussels Journal. The Brussels Journal is published by the Society for the Advancement of Freedom in Europe (SAFE), a Swiss non-profit organisation. http://www.think-israel.org/dejong.islamreformable.html

Islam Needs an Intervention

addicted_to_terrorism_billboard_at_night_9-22-13-2 (1)

Bad luck for Iran’s new President Rouhani.  He arrives in New York just after the carnage in  Kenya and Pakistan.

Of course these mass murdering terror attacks were perpetrated by Sunnis, not Iranian Shiites, but most of the American public doesn’t know the difference.  And those of us who do are only reminded these killings are just the latest in a long and sadly predictable history of such events, Sunni and Shiite, during which, according to one website, a staggering 21269 deadly attacks have been undertaken by Islamic terrorists since  September 11, 2001. (To give you an idea of how many deaths this comes to, the Mumbai mass killing of 2008 in which 164 died is only one of this over twenty-one thousand, as are the 2004 Atocha Station bombings in which 191 died. And 68 and 78 died, so far, in the Kenya and Pakistan attacks, also part of the over twenty-one thousand.)

So Barack Obama should be aware, if he is in the mood to appease an Islamic regime with multiple terrorist tentacles, that it might not be the best week for such an action. Too bad, Rouhani. (Or let’s hope it’s “Too bad, Rouhani,” whose “moderate” track record fits right in with the 21269 deadly attacks above, although his pre-dates 9/11.

Indeed, like a badly failing family member — an alcoholic or a drug addict — what Islam desperately needs now is not nuclear appeasement or CAIR-style “tolerance” but an intervention.

To say that something is decidedly wrong in the Islamic world is a monumental understatement. And Muslim societies make almost no serious effort to correct themselves, ricocheting back and forth between military totalitarianism and religious totalitarianism while — like that family heroin addict — blaming everyone but themselves for their fate.

They are indeed in deep need of an intervention. The question is how to do it.

Of course, just by raising that question you are accused of Islamophobia, an absurd almost self-contradictory term, which always applies better to those using it. They are the ones who are phobic about Islam because they are the ones who are fearful (actually terrified) of what Islamic people will do if told the truth.  So they come up with those equally absurd lies, like defining the crime of a soldier who murders his fellows while shouting “Allahu Akhbar” as “workplace violence.”

This real Islamophobia has been the pathetic stance of our government and military since 9/11, made worse by the delusions of Barack Obama.  Of course it has failed.  How could it possibly succeed when it is fundamentally dishonest?

Meanwhile, another large sector of our society wants us to throw up our hands at the whole thing — let these madmen destroy each other.  I am sympathetic — how could I not be?  We have already lost so much in treasure, human and material.

But I will remind those people — and myself — that in our tradition we are our brother’s keeper.  And that is one of the most important values, if not the key value, that gave us this great country.

Furthermore, such a violent ideology left unchecked could destroy the world. It already infects over a billion Muslims, with painfully rare, though highly laudable, exceptions.  (The depressing truth is that I met almost all of them in my job at PJM. Where are the rest? Why is it there is no really organized attempt within Islam for any kind of serious reform — only the most momentary lip service after a terror attack?)

So back to the question of how to stage this intervention.  This is extremely difficult, but I am going to take a flyer with some suggestions. I invite all to respond.  (And, yes, I know, rounding up all the Muslims in the world for an intervention like your Cousin Phil is a tad inconvenient, but think metaphorically.)

1. Most importantly, start being honest.  Say that Islam itself is the cause of all this atrocious violence and must be corrected, must have a fundamental reformation of the religion. Keep talking about the reformation — keep demanding it of them — all the time.  Why have you not joined the modern world?  Why do you oppress women? Urge them to reform and never stop.  No more euphemisms about “religion of peace” or “work place violence.”  If you kill for Allah, you are evil, immoral and sick.  You don’t kill for anybody’s God.

Read more at PJ Media

 

The Question of Islamic Reform

islam_prayerBy :

Perhaps the major theological problem confronting the revisionist Muslim community today—i.e., those whom we call “moderates”  or “secular-oriented intellectuals”—is the canonical scriptures which define their faith and without which Islam would cease to exist. The dilemma for these “enlightened Muslims” is the Koran itself, with its ubiquitous summons to warfare, conquest, enslavement and social and economic persecution of vanquished peoples, which is why they are preoccupied, to the brink of obsession, with the twin concepts of re-interpretation and contextualization.

These meliorists are convinced that Islam is diametrically opposed to something called “Islamism,” that Islam is essentially a “religion of peace” rather than a bellicose imperial movement and that its founding texts therefore invite reinterpretation. This belief can be readily demolished by anyone with a cursory acquaintance with the Islamic literature and a modicum of common sense. For once the incendiary and violent passages are expurgated from the Koran and the Hadith, and the philosophical and political curriculum appropriately bowdlerized, there is far too little left over on which to base a credible and authoritative, world-historical faith. Indeed, as I have argued before, the result would resemble a version of Baha’i’ and could no longer legitimately be called Islam. Re-interpretation is effectively a dead end, a theological placebo swallowed by the naïve or the willfully ignorant who find the strong medicine of reality unpalatable or even abhorrent.

The notion of contextualization fares no better. Here the thesis is that one must adopt a historical or dialectical perspective on the progressive evolution of belief systems. The repugnant portions of the scriptures are understood to apply only to the times in which they were conceived and written. Of course, there is some truth to this contention. The Bible also contains offensive passages which have been despumated with the passing of time. But the difference between the Bible and the Koran is categorical. The former is largely narrative and parabolic in structure and the parts we would regard as objectionable are comparatively few. The Koran, on the contrary—especially the longer, Medinan section—is almost unrelentingly belligerent and exhortative, commanding the believer to slay, conquer, oppress and impose draconian taxes on those who have been subjugated.

To say, as did reformer Salim Mansur, an apostle of contextualization, that Jesus should not be held responsible for the actions of his followers and therefore, by implication, neither should Mohammed is to miss the point entirely. Jesus commanded the faithful to turn the other cheek, not to “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” (Koran 9:5). Jesus is in no need of contextualization. Judaism differs inasmuch as the messiah has not yet arrived and the fundamental commandments are both few and benign. In Christianity, as we have noted, Jesus is a harbinger of peace and love, and his exegetes, like Saint Paul, are fallible human beings whose utterances are seen to be open to debate. In Islam, however, the word of the Prophet, transmitted by Allah via the angel Gabriel, is set in theological stone; it cannot be reinterpreted or contextualized, only abrogated by Mohammed himself. Its directives are neither locally nor temporally specific. They are meant to be understood as having general and timeless application, constituting the default position of Islamic belief. Efforts to neuter such clearly unmistakable and bloody imperatives, which ramify throughout the Koran—as, for example, in the Muslim Access website which strenuously labors to sanitize the intractable—are embarrassingly disingenuous.

The abiding, if not insoluble, problem with the seductive hypothesis of contextualization is a kind of prolepsis, an anticipation of change before it happens—which in this case would then render the original event tolerable. Are we to assume, in other words, that the beheading of 600-900 Jewish males of the Banu Qurayza and the enslavement of their women and children at the Battle of the Trench is perfectly understandable because it occurred in 627? That theannihilation of 60-80 million Hindus during the conquest of India is historically unexceptionable because it occurred between the 11th and 16th centuries? Need we merely contextualize such atrocities—without apology—in order not to be unduly disturbed by them? Were Islamic warriors more primitive in the unenlightened past but are now well on the way toward civilized behavior and international standards of just conduct?

Read more at Front Page

 

Can Muslim Activism Be Done Right?

kr-450x337By :

In an interesting and presumably comforting article recently posted on this site, titled Muslim Activism Done Right, Michael Volpe draws our attention to a new Canadian advocacy group, Progressive Muslims Institute Canada (PMIC). Anti-extremist, amenable to secular values and politically communal, PMIC seeks to counter the theological summons to jihad and the spirit of antisemitic hatred embraced by its majoritarian co-religionists, and to establish friendly working relations with the Jewish community. Volpe understands this new project as a welcoming sign and harbinger of the future, suggesting the hope for a gradual reconciliation between heretofore antagonistic groups and the restoration of both sanity and the desire for social peace within the Muslim collective.

According to the Director General of the PMIC, Tahir Gora, the Institute “strongly denounces all forms of extremism and terrorism in the name of Islam” and promotes “gender equality…liberal, progressive and secular values among Muslims, and believes in a clear separation between religion and state.” Jewish organizations like the The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), whose concern with interfaith outreach trumps Jewish security, and B’nai B’rith have enthusiastically applauded such initiatives. And of course, developments like PMIC are a far sight better than jihadist savagery and orthodox adherence to the basic Islamic texts.

But there is a real problem here that Volpe’s article refuses to acknowledge. What these “moderates” or enlightened Muslims are proposing, however laudable, has little to do with mainstream Islam, whose fundamental scriptures cannot be rewritten on pain of apostasy and execution. Any scrupulous reading of the Koran and the attendant canonical and jurisprudential literature should make it amply clear that injunctions to slaughter, conquest, oppression and domination are inscribed in the faith. No attempt at what is euphemistically called “re-interpretation” or “contextualizing” can be expected to gain even modest traction in the larger Muslim world.

Efforts like those advanced by PMIC are doomed to fail. They cling precariously to a comparatively few benign tropes in the earlier, Meccan portion of the Koran, which are in any case subject to the principle of abrogation (Nasikh/Mansukh) and replacement by the later, more ruthless and bloodthirsty passages in the Medinian Koran. The “activists” are incubating an entirely new religion, an ostensible form of Islam that is no longer Islam but something closer to, perhaps, the inoffensiveness of Bahá’i, which is vaguely related to Shi’a Islam but essentially independent of it and condemned by both Sunni and Shi’a asharaam (sinful, unclean, forbidden).

Scrub the propulsion toward imperial ferocity from the bedrock tenets of Islam, separate mosque from state, eliminate the doctrine of violent jihad and advocate for gender equality, and what you come up with is a fantasy exercise, that is, an Islam divorced from its historical and present reality. It would comprise a body of doctrine completely alien to the rules, beliefs, usages and commands associated with the legacy of Mohammed. Contrary to the pious and uninformed sentiments of the liberal intelligentsia, Islam is not a religion of peace. As Charlie Daniels writing for CSN News asks, “What kind of religion and what kind of god advocates the wholesale slaughter of ordinary citizens, what kind of clergy send young men to a gruesome death promising them a place in some male-dominated sensuous paradise where they will while away the eons in the arms of multiple virgins?” A few small activist groups stippling the vast Islamic landscape will not do much in the way of terraforming a world.

The fact is, unfortunately, that Islam cannot be reformed if it is to remain Islam. The apostles of secular values, interfaith communion, and reconciliation with the infidel are, as Muslims, in denial of the proscriptions and prescriptions of the faith they continue to profess. Their approach, writes Mark Durie at The Gatestone Institute, “must at the very least honestly acknowledge Islam’s traditions of commentary on the Koran, and explain how a large number of violent texts might be viewed in a more liberating light.” But as Durie goes on to show in meticulous and irrefutable detail, explicit calls for violence as the religious obligation of every believer simply cannot be explained away. Context is no “silver bullet against violent texts.”

Read more at Front Page

Reflections on My Muslim Ex-Friends

ex_edited-2-350x350By David Solway:

Some of my best friends are Muslims. Or rather, some of my best friends were Muslims—not that they are no longer Muslims but that they are no longer my friends.

The problem I had over years of friendship had to do with certain personal attributes which I value highly, namely, consistency and the ability to recognize facts. My friends were good men who believed in Western democratic values, in selective immigration policies based on the possession of needed skills that would contribute to both society and the economy, in the necessity for Muslim (and all) immigrants to assimilate into the heritage culture, and in customary methods of education and a traditional curriculum; they rejected the utter folly of multiculturalism as it is practiced in Canada. At the same time they were staunch adherents of Islam as they understood it and swore by the distinction between Islam and Islamism, between genuine Muslims and radical Islamists, a distinction characterized, they claimed, by an unbridgeable divide.

I enjoyed a positive and warm relation with two of these men in particular. Both are published authors. Both are much in the limelight, reviewed and interviewed in many different places, for defending the liberal society they find superior to any other. And both are under a fatwa issued by their less tolerant brethren. And yet one of these valiant combatants considers Mohammed to be the perfect man whom Muslims should strive to emulate, is not well versed in the complex history of the Middle East, and entertains a corrosive skepticism about Israel. The other, while regarding his jihadist co-religionists as barbarians, yet argues that the atrocities associated with the development and diffusion of Islam should be historically contextualized, that the doctrinal heart of Islam is untarnished by events, and that the faith has not been properly interpreted by those who, he feels, wantonly abuse it. He believes that Islam blossomed under Mohammed as a spiritual quest, ignoring completely the historical fact that the Prophet was also a conquering warlord who engaged in raids for booty and committed bloody and indiscriminate acts of slaughter.

My two ex-friends reminded me of Irshad Manji who, in The Trouble with Islam Today, anatomizes everything that is wrong with her religion but makes a passionate case for its reform, including the revival of the faculty of ijtihad (independent thinking and counsel). It is hard to take her argument seriously. After 1400 years of nearly unchecked imperial conquest, with a holy book brimming with commandments to kill, mutilate, tax and enslave those it denominates as “infidels,” with hardline clerics in control of dogma today, and with terrorist regimes intent on bringing the West to its knees, can one credibly argue that Islam is even remotely susceptible to wide-scale, peaceful renovation? Moreover, reform would entail the gutting of myriad canonical texts, including the Koran, the Hadith and the five schools of Sunni and Shia jurisprudence, leaving nothing but a rump scriptural archive. Plainly, under the aegis of “reform,” Islam would cease to exist.

My own trouble with Islam, and the reason for calling it quits with my former friends, involved precisely what I understand as the immutable or essentialist nature of Islam. This nature prevails despite the historical nuances, the times when the faith was less oppressive than at other times (e.g., the Abbasid dynasty of early ninth century Baghdad), and the existence of comparatively enlightened movements like the eighth-and-ninth century Mu’tazalites, who fought for the primacy of reason, man’s free will, and the moral responsibility of the individual. The Mu’tazalites, be it noted, were decisively crushed in the tenth century by the fundamentalist Ash’arite sect, after which, as the latter’s leading theologian al-Ghazali wrote in his perennially influential The Incoherence of the Philosophers, “the gate of ijtihad is closed.” And it has been closed ever since. Additionally, we should keep in mind that although the Mu’tazalites believed that the Koran was a divinely created text, contingent upon the circumstances of its revelation, and not, as the Ash’arites claimed, co-existent with Allah and therefore fixed eternally, it nevertheless could not be transformed into something it was not.

Read more at Front Page

For an opposing view see “Recommended Reading: Islam and Islamism” (globalmbwatch.com)

The Incontrovertible Dead-End of Islam Revisited

20121006_MAP003_0Islam is nothing if not a political ideology. The first time Mohammad raised his sword to forcibly convert men to Islam, and abandoned persuasion, that was the inauguration of political Islam. It has not changed since then. Force, coercion, slavery, death, and submission are the sole hallmarks of Islam.

By Edward Cline:

Excerpt:

The following is a revised and expanded version of “The Incontrovertible Dead-End of Islam,” which first appeared on October 30th, 2010. The revision and expansion are prompted by a May 13th, 2013 article by Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, “Islam vs. Islamism,” which also appeared in the Washington Times on May 13th. His article reflects a troubling central premise of alleging a necessary distinction between Islam and “Islamists,” that is, between ordinary, non-violent Muslims and their violent, “extremist” or “radical” brethren.

Pipes opens with a reference to the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15thand the foiled attack on the Canadian rail link to the U.S.:

What motives lay behind last month’s Boston Marathon bombing and the would-be attack on a VIA Rail Canada train?

Leftists and establishmentarians variously offer imprecise and tired replies – such as “violent extremism” or anger at Western imperialism – unworthy of serious discussion. Conservatives, in contrast, engage in a lively and serious debate among themselves: some say Islam the religion provides motive, others say it’s a modern extremist variant of the religion, known as radical Islam or Islamism.

As a participant in the latter debate, here’s my argument for focusing on Islamism.

His argument proposes a false dichotomy between Islam and “Islamists,” that is, between Muslims who wage violent jihad on the West and even amongst themselves for sectarian reasons, and those who don’t.

Islam is the fourteen-century-old faith of a billion-plus believers that includes everyone from quietist Sufis to violent jihadis. Muslims achieved remarkable military, economic, and cultural success between roughly 600 and 1200 C.E. Being a Muslim then meant belonging to a winning team, a fact that broadly inspired Muslims to associate their faith with mundane success. Those memories of medieval glory remain not just alive but central to believers’ confidence in Islam and in themselves as Muslims.

Major dissonance began around 1800, when Muslims unexpectedly lost wars, markets, and cultural leadership to Western Europeans. It continues today, as Muslims bunch toward the bottom of nearly ever index of achievement. This shift has caused massive confusion and anger. What went wrong, why did God seemingly abandon His faithful? The unbearable divergence between pre-modern accomplishment and modern failure brought about trauma.

Muslims have responded to this crisis in three main ways. Secularists want Muslims to ditch the Shari’a (Islamic law) and emulate the West. Apologists also emulate the West but pretend that in doing so they are following the Shari’a. Islamists reject the West in favor of a retrograde and full application of the Shari’a.

These paragraphs astounded me. The first one glosses over the conquest of the Middle East and North Africa which necessitated forced conversion, butchery, and slavery. Remarkable military successes, indeed. But for their defeat at the Battle of Tours, the “Islamists” would have carved out a huge empire in Europe. What economic accomplishments? The period he cites spans the economically stagnant Dark Ages and early Western Medieval periods. Cultural successes? Other than a certain architectural style, translating some Aristotle and other ancient thinkers – whose works Islam subsequently rejected – I can’t recall any great symphonies, artwork, or literature Islam produced in those six hundred years.

“Major dissonance” within Islam began over who was going to be Mohammad’s official successor in the 630’s. Thus the interminable conflicts between Sunnis and Shi’ites and other splintering sects of Islam. Islam never had any “cultural leadership.”

Secularist Muslims may want Islam to ditch Sharia law but only at the risk of being deemed apostates and of their deaths. Apologist Muslims feign a hypothetical reconciliation between Sharia and Western concepts of freedom, and demand the incorporation of Sharia into Western law. “Islamists,” however, are consistent with their creed, know that it is“retrograde” and primitive, and wage jihad to achieve that end.

Raymond Ibrahim, associate director of the Middle East Forum, on October 28, 2010, however, published an article, “Offensive Jihad: The One Incontrovertible Problem with Islam,” also in the Middle East Form (October 28, 2010), which seems to be at fundamental odds with Pipes’ article. Ibrahim’s article addresses one of the fundamental problems of and with Islam, one which I have continually stressed: jihadJihad is a core tenet in what is a codified system of irrationalism that cannot be “reformed” without obliterating Islam as a distinct religious creed. Remove the belligerent jihadist commands from the Koran and Hadith to wage jihad, for example, and it would cease to be Islam, not only in Muslim minds but in non-Muslim, as well.

There would, of course, remain a host of other irrational assertions and imperatives, such as the sanctioning of wife-beating and the murder of apostates and the like, which constitute, after some astounding mental gymnastics by Islamic clerics and scholars, the byzantine and illogical underpinnings and text of Sharia law. The jihadist elements of Islam, however, are easily transmutable into a political policy, which is conquest of all non-Muslim or infidel governments and societies and their submission to Sharia. That makes it an ideological doctrine. Muslims are either obliged to wage jihad, or they are not. Mohammad and Muslim scholars say they are. End of argument, so far as Koranic interpretation goes, and that interpretation is biased towards the literal.

Reading the debates about what Islam’s mission is and the role of jihad in it and what they truly “mean,” I am always reminded of H.L. Mencken’s observation on religious zealotry: “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” Islam is a puritanical creed that makes no allowances for either infidels or apostates or its adherents. I cannot believe that beneath the pious exterior of any person who would be seduced by Islam is not a seething, percolating envy of men who are indeed free, an envy easily and maliciously transfigured into violent jihad.

This policy is operative and underway today in Western nations with varying degrees of success, and it is making progress only by default. Islam is strong only because the West’s defenders are emasculated by multiculturalist premises and a general disinclination to condemn any religion. Aggravating the problem is an unadmitted but general fear in tolerance-obsessed pragmatists of “offending” Muslims, who might start rioting and demonstrating again, claiming discrimination, defamation, and disrespect, and etc., none of it spontaneous but clearly organized and orchestrated by so-called “radicals.”

I was initially impressed by Ibrahim’s quotation from an entry on jihad in the Encyclopedia of Islam, which is an admission that “Islam must completely be made over before the doctrine of jihad can be eliminated” – until I realized that it could just as well mean that, after a global caliphate has been established, there would be no more justification for violentjihad. Every nation would by then be conquered, recalcitrant infidels slain, enslaved, or reduced to dhimmitude, and Sharia made the law of every land.

In short, after all the killing, enslaving, and oppression, jihad would be wrong!!

But, if Islam is completely” made over” in the sense of reforming it, what would be left of Islam that virtually any other creed could not claim as its fundamental tenets, as well? And to” make over” Islam, its principal font of “kilman” or wisdom, the objectionable and barbaric Mohammad, would need to be dispensed with. He is a role model for killers and tyrants and other psychopathic individuals. Remove that one critical link of the irrational and arbitrary in Islam, and all the other links fall to the floor or dissolve into nothingness.

 
Read more: Family Security Matters

Islam Vs. Islamism: A Case for Wishful Thinkers

 

By Walid Shoebat:

“Our killer question is ‘How do you propose to defeat Islamism?’ Those who make all Islam their enemy not only succumb to a simplistic and essentialist illusion but they lack any mechanism to defeat it.”

This is what historian and Middle East analyst Daniel Pipes asks [1] in his recent Washington Times article.

To support his argument, Pipes makes an unsubstantiated claim [2] that a majority of Muslims are moderate and that Islamism is only,

supported by 10-15 percent [2] of Muslims…

So how and why did he come up with such numbers? Pipes uses different studies and surveys about which he himself confesses [2]: “These ambiguous and contradictorypercentages lead to no clear, specific count of Islamists.” Why then use such statistics? It is only to serve the major argument he made in my first paragraph.

And there are more “confessions.” Pipes writes: “Out of a quantitative mish-mash, I suggested just three days after 9/11 [3] that some 10-15 percent of Muslims are determined Islamists.” This is in itself contradictory and is even absolutely nonsense mathematically as he clearly admits. To further support this conservative number, Pipes adds:

 Indonesian survey and election results led R. William Liddle and Saiful Mujani [4] in 2003 to conclude that the number of Islamists “is no more than 15 percent of the total Indonesian Muslim population.”

He did this while he ignored his other statement:

In contrast, a 2008 survey of 8,000 Indonesian Muslims by Roy Morgan Research [5] found 40 percent of Indonesians favoring hadd criminal punishments (such as cutting off the hands of thieves) and 52 percent favoring some form of Islamic legal code.

So here we have 52% of Indonesians are extremists, not 15%.

DanielPipes

Yet even that doesn’t determine the correct percentages to separate Muslims from Islamists. To say that “views on 9/11″ or “supporting Hadd” (Islamic punishment) is the yardstick to measure the percentages is also absurd and mathematically false. What if a Muslim doesn’t support 9/11 or Hadd but supports the idea that it takes two women in a court of law to equal the testimony of a man? Will Pipes count him as a moderate Muslim or an extremist Islamist? If he chooses “moderate,” then Pakistan got it right. No matter what Pipes chooses, it debunks all his unsubstantiated claims about moderate Islam.

What if a Muslim couldn’t care less about Sharia, jihad, and 9/11, yet he kills his sister for marrying a Jew? Is he a “Muslim” or is he an “Islamist”?

And what if we even use terrorism as a yardstick as Pipes prefers; in Saudi Arabia and across the Muslim world, you have many who do not support al-Qaeda. Are these then counted as moderates? In Pipes’ view the answer is “yes.” But this is false. Last week I had an exchange with Sheikh Faisal Al-Harbi, who chastised me on such issues,stating that his clan (Al-Harbi) would not support terrorism. Indeed, on his clan’s official website [7] they denounce al-Qaeda, adding:

Jihad for the sake of Allah is to go to war with the infidels and the polytheists to remove these and enforce Unitarianism. That is after inviting them to Islam and they reject the invitation (Da’wa). This Jihad is then organized and supervised by the Imam.

That cannot be placed in the moderate Islam camp. In light of this and my other arguments, Pipes’ percentages are escalating dramatically.

The true number for Islamists is 100%. Here, let me add more beef to my claim. What if a Muslim denounces today’s jihad, sharia, Islamic state and all? Is he then moderate?

Read more at PJ Media

 

The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch weighs in on the debate:

As made clear in our FAQ, the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch was created as part of an ongoing effort to track and an analyze the activities of the Global Muslim Brotherhood that we define as “global network of individuals and organizations that developed as Muslim Brotherhood members dispersed to other countries while fleeing the periodic crackdowns on the organization in Egypt.” The GMBDW considers the Muslim Brotherhood, in all its manifestations, to be both the wellspring as well the most important ongoing influence on Islamism in the world today. Therefore, in line with what Dr. Pipes has written, we want to reassert that the GMBDW also makes the distinction between Islam the religion and Islamism which we would characterize as even a greater threat to Muslim-majority nations than it is in the West.

That said, the GMBDW does take issue with one passage in Dr. Pipe’s otherwise salutary article.

He writes:

Those who make all Islam their enemy not only succumb to a simplistic and essentialist illusion but they lack any mechanism to defeat it. We who focus on Islamism see World War II and the Cold War as models for subduing the third totalitarianism. We understand that radical Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution. We work with anti-Islamist Muslims to vanquish a common scourge. We will triumph over this new variant of barbarism so that a modern form of Islam can emerge.

We are not convinced that that World War II and/or the Cold War are appropriate models for taking on modern Islamism as we do not believe that Islamism can productively be analyzed in these terms. Therefore, those that adopt such models run the risk of advocating inappropriate strategies for taking on the problem. Further elaboration of this theme involves a degree of complexity and will have to wait for future analysis.

 

CAN ISLAM BE REFORMED?

Al-Ghasali: Photo source: Die Welt

Al-Ghasali: Photo source: Die Welt

By Tiffany Gabbbay:

After turning away from Islam and becoming an atheist, young blogger Kassim al-Ghasali became a target in his native Morocco. Following a string of death threats, he sought political asylum in Switzerland, where he now lives and continues to embrace ideals of freedom and tolerance.

Ever-outspoken in his beliefs, al-Ghasali presented a speech at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in February. Speaking to the German-language news outlet Die Welt following the event, the young Moroccan shared his views (a translation of the full interview can be found in the Gates of Vienna blog), on the Arab Spring, why he believes Islam cannot be reformed in the same way that Christianity was, and why moderate Muslims should admit that “terror and violence” — or more pointedly, “unmitigated horror” — is part of the Koran.

Al-Ghasali also poignantly added that the Koran is a “politically and historically-determined book and not the word of Allah” and that Islam cannot be reformed as its tenets are anathema to Western enlightenment, which helped to reform Christianity [emphasis added].

In my opinion, there can be no reformation or enlightenment in Sunni or Shiite Islam, because there is no church to be reformed,” al-Ghasali explained to Die Welt.

“In Islam, we are subject to the power of a sacred book and the instructions it gives. Identity and understanding of self come from the Quran. If Muslims could use their reason without the instructions of a book which is recognized as the Word of God, then we could talk about enlightenment. But today most Muslims are against the ideas of the Western Enlightenment.

Read more at The Blaze

 

Zuhdi Jasser and Robert Spencer debate Islamic reform:

 

To Think or Not to Think: A Muslim’s ‘Outrageous Fortune’

20130210_islam_muslim_adult_child_largeby Edward Cline:

In his penetrating essay on the futility of Islam’s efforts to “reform”  itself through revolution, “régime change,” or purification, “Springtime for  Islam” (February 5th), Daniel Greenfield noted:

There is a peculiar tragedy to a religion which cannot escape its own  destructive nature, each time it reaches for some form of redemption, its hands  come up dripping with blood and it all ends in more bodies and petty  tyrannies.

“Reform,” of course, means to change oneself or some institution for the  better, from bad and corrupt to good and pure, or at least to the unobtrusive  benign. But, as Greenfield points out and stresses, the Arab Spring is in  reality a continuation of an ongoing “Arab Winter.” The “Arab Spring” was fueled  by Islam, and Islam is, by its foundational nature, destructive and  self-destructive.

Islam’s only redemption is in establishing a theocracy. Its commitment to  power and the indulgence of the earthly and heavenly paradise of loot, slaves  and violence, led to its own degeneration over and over again. Having no other  spiritual form than the exercise of power, it has corrupted itself each time,  and then attempted to exorcise the corruption through more of the same.

Any theocracy must be totalitarian. It can become totalitarian by  default or happenstance or by negligence, or it can become totalitarian  according to an instruction manual written by clerics and intellectuals friendly  to what they know in their minds are dystopias for the masses and paradises for  the rulers. Islam has its instruction manuals.

Islam governs an individual’s life from his sandals to his beard, from his  diet to the number of times a day he must demonstrate fealty to his icons, to  how he may lawfully (per Sharia law) treat his wives and children. It governs  his social relationships with his friends and enemies, and his enemies are  everyone who is not Muslim. The Koran,  the Hadith,  and the Reliance of the Traveler  all command it. They are how-to manuals  written chiefly in Arabic and translated into a dozen languages.

A Muslim accepts this state of submission – whether or not he’s read all the  manuals from beginning to end – for a variety of reasons, none of them  complimentary and too often those reasons become a Molotov cocktail blend  waiting to explode: a repressed, unacknowledged fear of the mortal consequences  of not conforming; mental inertia, encouraged by an unquestioning faith  in non-evidentiary assertions; a delusional sense of superiority (qua Muslim, and qua Muslim male); a sense of predestination; an  attitude of privilege and expectation of deference; and a borrowed sense of  omniscience.

After all, the propaganda goes, Islam will conquer men, neighborhoods,  cities, nations, and the globe. It is written. Fealty to Islam gives a  rank-and-file Muslim the comforting confidence that he’s on the winning side.  Why bother to think about it? Islam is like an advancing glacier, and he is but  a lump of ice on it. He doesn’t mind. He knows that he’s just dross, a grain of  ballast that helps to keep the Islamic corsair upright and afloat and its sails  taut in the wind.

Islam cannot be “reformed” unless its caretakers repudiate its instruction  manuals. But their repudiation would necessarily entail the repudiation of  Islam. When the manuals go up in flames, so will Islam.

Read more: Family Security Matters

Can Muslims Reopen the Gates of Ijtihad?

imagesCAW9P52Fby Harold Rhode

The way things look now, only if the forces which want to bring back seventh century Islamic society were to suffer a massive defeat, could there be much hope. Only then, after the anti-ijtihad forces were defeated and no longer had access to unlimited financial resources with which to spread their anti-critical thinking, can things change.

The exercise of critical thinking and independent judgment – or Ijtihad –was an important way to address questions in the early centuries of Islam. After approximately 400 years, however, the leaders of the Sunni Muslim world closed the “Gates of Ijtihad;” Muslims were no longer allowed use itjihad to solve problems. If a seemingly new problem arose, they were supposed to find an analogy from earlier scholars and apply that ruling to the problem that arose. From the 10th century onwards, Sunni Muslim leaders began to see questioning as politically dangerous to their ability to rule. Regrettably, Sunni Muslim leaders reject the use of itjihad to this day.

As questioning could very likely upset the established order and bring down the autocracies and despotic regimes which rule most of the Muslim world, even Muslims who live in freer Muslim countries such as Turkey often hesitate to exercise ijtihad. How did the Muslim world succumb to this situation, and is there a way out?

Ijtihad in historical context

Ijtihad was important in early Islam: when questions arose – even while Muhammad was alive – for which there were no answers, Muhammad would call the Muslims together in their mosque. They would discuss the issues at hand, reason them through, and come to a consensus — so came into being the Islamic concept of ijma’ (consensus among the scholars).[1]

After Muhammad died, however, the Muslim community rapidly expanded; the community of scholars became too large, and ijma’ no longer practical. What developed was a body of traditions – called hadiths – sayings and deeds attributed to their prophet Muhammad. When new questions arose, people would seek out individuals who had known Muhammad and ask them whether they had seen or heard Muhammad address the matter at hand.

Within 200 years, the number of hadiths was thought to be in the hundreds of thousands, but people had no way of knowing which were true and which were fabricated. The great Muslim scholar, al-Bukhari (810 -870 CE), who analyzed them, concluded that only a few thousand were reliable.[2]

Later, when still more questions arose, diverse schools of thought developed. The Quran, the hadiths, and those schools of thought were collected into Islamic law. This body of Islamic religious guidance is known as the Shari’a, or “The Path.”

During the first four centuries of Islam, Muslim scholars seem to have exercised independent judgment freely, and debated rigorously new issues that arose. The Muslim world at that time seems to have been inclusive and flexible; it accepted differing views, differing conclusions and differing sorts of influences that arose as part of the cultures of its large empire.[3]

Muslim scholars studied Arabic translations of ancient Greek texts which they thought might help them understand the nature of mankind as well as other aspects of life. These texts, though clearly non-Islamic, nevertheless provided scholars with useful insights. There were also intellectual interchanges with Jewish scholars, particularly in the fields of science, medicine, language, and geography. There seems to have been, however, little discussion with Christians.[4]

With time, however, the situation became unwieldy. Certain groups (called ghulat) were accused of extremism – going too far — and attempts were made to rein them in.[5] Questions arose as to the limits of divergent views, and whether “extremist elements” could still be considered Muslim. The many schools of Islamic thought were reduced to four; these became the basis of the Sunni Shari’a.

As Islamic rule started to become more autocratic, Islamic rulers began to see discord as potentially able to undermine their rule.

All four schools accepted the Quran as the divine word of God, and the hadiths as the source for legal decisions. But it soon became apparent that the larger the number of hadiths a school of thought accepted, the more restrictive and rigid this school became. The Hanafi school of law, for example — the most liberal school of thought, founded by Abu Hanifa (699-767 CE) — accepted over a few thousand hadiths. In contrast, the most restrictive of the four schools – founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal (778-863 CE) — accepted tens of thousands. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the 18th century Wahhabism — probably one of the most restrictive forms of Islam — developed out of the Hanbali School of law.

The Islamic authorities possibly still worried that despite four schools of thought, dissent would become unmanageable. Towards the end of the eleventh century, therefore, they officially closed the “Gates of Ijtihad.” There may have been too many different answers to the same questions, leading to confusion. Possibly this, in turn, may have made it difficult for the authorities to maintain order as well as to justify their autocratic rule.

Muslim scholars also appear to have decided that as all questions had been addressed, there was no longer any need to exercise independent judgment. The result was that exercising independent judgment became no longer permissible.

During the twelfth century, nevertheless, there were still attempts to use rational and deductive reasoning. In Muslim Spain, for instance, Averroes (aka Ibn Rushd, 1126-1198 CE), one of the founders of secular reasoning in Europe, refused to accept the closing of the Gates of Ijtihad. He continued to use Arabic translations of classical Greek sources, and preferred strictly rational methods to decide matters in contention. As in the Muslim world the Gates of Ijtihad had been closed, however, his rulings proved unacceptable.

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Muslim attempts to re-open the Gates of Ijtihad

Most of the governments of the Muslim world are despotic regimes run by autocrats who do not allow their citizens to question them. Questioning might lead to insurrection; governments might be overthrown. These leaders, therefore, make sure to appoint “official” religious leaders who will endorse the government line. Ijtihad might lead people to question regimes; a situation that cannot be tolerated. It is not surprising that calls for re-opening the Gates of Ijtihad fall on deaf ears, as the Saudis, Egyptians, Emiratis, and others all do their utmost to stamp out individual thought.

Because questioning religion — and much else — is not allowed, some young Muslims who grow up in Islamic lands find much of what was forced down their throats meaningless, then reject Islam. When some of them come to the West, often their first reaction is to stay as far away from Islam and Muslims as possible. Some, after they remain in the West for a while, stumble upon books about Islam in libraries; they start reading and realize that there is a lot of beauty and knowledge in Islam – just not when forced down their throats. They read, but find almost no one with whom they can share their newfound curiosity.

If and when they do find a kindred spirit, there is often a sort of dance – a tiptoeing around the real questions – mostly out of fear and suspicion. With time, when they realize that other people might have similar interests and feel safe enough to open up, they introduce each other to other men who think like them, but as if these are secret societies: there is a fear that if others, who may not agree, find out what they are discussing, both they and their families back home could suffer. They know well that organized Islam, even in the West, is controlled overwhelmingly by forces that strongly oppose ijtihad.

The internet has offered many the anonymity to pursue an interest in Islam. A surgeon from Malaysia now living in California who says he is happy with his life there, writes on the internet extensively about his fascination with Islam and ijtihad. (See his blog at http://www.bakrimusa.com) His daring has attracted others who write on his blog about Islam. He also boldly states that he could never have engaged in these types of discussions about Islam in his native Malaysia. Could the internet be a way out of this Muslim predicament?

There is also a remarkable group called the Ahl al-Quran[8] which originated in Egypt. The group’s adherents maintain that the only true source of Islamic law is the Quran, the only divine text of Islam. The hadiths and the legal exegesis which constitute Shari’a law, they argue, are just interpretations of the Quran. The interpretations were made by man, and occurred because of problems Muslims had after the Quran was revealed. The scholars addressed problems Muslims faced centuries ago. Muslims in the 21st century, they state, face different problems and should use the Quran – and only the Quran, just as the earliest Islamic scholars did – to find solutions to modern problems. They see no reason why Muslim scholars today cannot think creatively as the scholars of early Islam used to do.

As it is more comfortable to find Quranic material that can be used to address modern situations, and not then feel encumbered by the enormous weight of the hadiths and other legal and interpretive material from ancient religious scholars, an Egyptian organization, Ahl al-Quran, maintains that science and technology are Allah’s gifts to man, to be used to address contemporary problems.

After Egypt’s religious establishment ordered the Ahl al-Quran banned, arrested, or expelled, the group was forced to flee; it is now based in the United States. Why was it forced out? Its adherents, well versed in the Quran, rejected the imposed decision-making of Egypt’s al-Azhar religious establishment,[9] and stated that Islam strongly opposes dictatorship in both its political and religious forms. Instead, this group has been using the Quran to demonstrate that the original Muslim community was inclusive and that it encouraged discussion,[10] both of which today are absent in Egypt and throughout the Muslim world.

When Western officials ask Egyptian political and religious officials about the Ahl al-Quran, the Egyptians laugh and smear the group, labeling its members as crazy extremists with no following. Sadly, because of our ignorance of Islamic culture, or political pressures, we usually accept what the Egyptian government officials tell us without subjecting their remarks to “our own ijtihad,” thereby closing our eyes to a force which could help save the Muslim world from itself, and possibly even help prevent a clash between the Western and Muslim worlds.

Conclusion

Is there a chance that the Muslims could reopen the Gates of Ijtihad? For the foreseeable future, the answer seems to be a resounding no. The mislabeled “Arab Spring” has turned into an “Arab Winter” in which the forces who apparently want to recreate an imagined, glorious past society modeled after what they believe their prophet established. Add to that the huge amounts of money Wahhabi “allies” of the U.S. are spending throughout the Muslim world, to propagate their militant version of Islam, and things do not look promising.

Those who understand that without itjihad, they have no future, are being forced underground, and, if they are lucky, then emigrate. These emigrants who think critically rarely move into Islamic communities where critical thinking is discouraged.

The way things look now, only if the forces which want to bring back seventh century Islamic society were to suffer a massive defeat, could there be much hope. Only then, after the anti-ijtihad forces were defeated and no longer had access to unlimited financial resources with which to spread their anti-critical thinking, can things change.

Until then, the Gates of Ijtihad will almost assuredly remain tightly shut, and the forces which now control Islam will see to it that they remain so.

Regrettably, if this analysis is correct, the future does not look able to be transformed for the Muslim world or its adherents in the near future. Until Muslim countries and communities in the West allow their people to express themselves freely — without fear of reprisal — it is unlikely that the Muslim world will be able to reopen the Gates of Ijtihad and again become a center of science and creativity as it used to be in the early centuries of Islam.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

Harold Rhode received in Ph.D. in Ottoman History and later served as the Turkish Desk Officer at the US Department of Defense. He is now a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

See also:

Dr. Tawfik Hamid: Islam Needs Modern Interpretation (radicalislam.org)