posted on Apr, 24 2006 @ 06:01 PM
Someone once said "A culture can only be judged from within itself".
I usually have no patience when some Islamic cleric claims to speak for the entire breadth of the Islamic world. There is no such thing as an
overarching class called Muslim. One of the amazing features of Islam is the ability of the religion to adapt to local realities. I think it's only
the literalists who delude themselves into thinking Islam is monochromatic. I am beginning to see more coverage in the mainstream media of the variety
in Islamic cultures but it is a painstakingly slow process. Unfortunately, "extremists armed with explosives and a copy of the Qur'an" make for
better copy than whirling dervishes in Konya.
It's actually muslims who should feel threatened by anyone who promotes curbing freedom of speech - reactionary rhetoric in the extreme - and
regressive responses to criticism.
The current situation in Islam is a mess. But the mess is the product of the people living in the house, not the house itself. I'll put it another
way: in Islam there is only one absolutely perfect being in the universe and that is God. The mistake many muslims (including scholars) make is in
ascribing absolute perfection to Muhammad* also. This in itself is dangerously close to polytheism. Muhammad* was not a god, he was a man. As a man he
could not be infallible. At best, Muslims can claim that Muhammad* was relatively prefect, relative, that is, to his day and age. It follows from this
line of reasoning that the Sunnah of the Prophet and the Hadiths, as products of a relative perfection, do not transcend time and space; they are open
to debate and should be constantly re-evaluated in the context of contemporary society. Some scholars, Ziauddin Sardar for example, have argued that
this was Muhammad's intention: he didn’t choose his own successor because there is no single absolute authority in Islam outside of the Qur'an,
and it is the ummah as a whole which is assigned the task of applying the teachings of the Qur'an to contemporary realities. That, unfortunately, has
not been done, for a number of reasons. Power, topping the list.
Islam recognizes the warlike nature of man as a reality. It takes note of the fierce acquisitive nature of our species and our low inhibition against
killing our own kind. Since the very beginning, it has sought first to maintain peace. Rather than deny the possibility of violent conflict, it has
sought to minimize its occurrence. When it occurs, Islam sets stringent rules for its conduct in a chivalrous, gentlemanly manner. Most, especially
prisoners of war and non combatants are to be treated honorably. The permissible causes for war are narrowly defined, for example expelling those who
would expel Muslims. Transgression, continuing the war beyond the original objective, is forbidden. Because it evolved under constant violent
aggression, its doctrines include ways of trying to avoid and to limit the tragedies inflicted on humanity by that most undesirable but ubiquitous of
human activities: war.
I am not trying to convince you of anything except that any side can play this game of self-aggrandizement and the denigration of others.
What I object to is a large repertoire of “off-the-shelf” and “boiler-plate” derogatory criticisms, many unfair or based on partial truths,
credible only given a pre-disposition for bias against Islam. Some are centuries old and probably developed by organizations to try and stem the huge
tide of conversions to Islam. Frankly, I am not really concerned about criticism or even insults by the West, (probably due to the feeling of
superiority to which they refer) except for one thing. In today’s world, when aggression against Muslims is rampant and widespread, such old
antagonisms nurtured and sustained, help create a bedrock of hostility (often subconscious) or at least distaste for Islam. Such hostility can be so
old and well-entrenched that it unconsciously becomes a part of the West’s Weltanschauung. This in turn enables powerful leadership and
special-interest groups in the West to promote aggressive and violent intrusions in the Muslim World, with their otherwise generally fair-minded
populations pre-disposed to see such aggression in the context of good (them) versus evil (us). The covert and sometimes overt purpose of such
aggression over the last century and a half has almost always been material gain. It had to be given a respectable cover.
I'm sorry but I can't take this good versus evil dichotomy very seriously. Both are such ephemeral qualities in the human condition. It wasn't so
long ago that slavery was accepted as a normal social class in society. Good and evil are interchangeable and I think the problem in theological
debates is that people tend to get stuck on the semantics of this divining rod called Human Nature. It's a circular argument that is condemned to
Repeating the same argument over and over again, debunking the same misconceptions repeatedly in a seemingly endless cycle of redundancy. I often wish
people would just take the time to get their facts straight before unleashing their pent up frustrations.
It was a British soldier who sailed all the way from England (and more recently America) and shot my people. It was not a Muslim soldier who sailed to
England (or wherever you are located) and attacked you. The Muslim sword has been ineffective against tanks and helicopter gunships. Thus for 150
years your people have invaded my people, killed them and plundered their lands with considerable success and negligeable casualties. Yet you are
taught that you are good and I am bad. That is part and parcel of the aggression against us. That is why boiler-plate criticism is valuable to Western
I agree that too many "Ulama", interpreting the Qur'an in the context of power and not the context of peace, have turned Islam into exactly the
kind of rigid, intolerant religion you fear. But you're only looking at the surface. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Islamic theology and
jurisprudence but I do have extensive experience in Islamic societies and your judgments simply do not coincide with the totality of my experience.
You quote a long list of Muslim scholars who have used Hadith and the Qur'an to justify what would in the modern ethos be considered atrocities. But
you ignore the equally substantive records of scholars who have read things very differently. Why? As for Muhammad's 'colonial and supremacist
ambitions', I would be interested in seeing the sources which gave one this impression. I assume it's based on the myth that Islam was spread by the
sword, but many modern Islamic scholars, including Karen Armstrong, have debunked this misconception.
With such blatant disregard for the truth and distortion of facts it is little wonder the 'moderate, enlightened' Muslims you seek to talk with have
no time for you.