Damn, are those people just bored or something? The video was quite surreal and disturbing.
People by nature like to belong to a group. They also like structure and discipline. Losers who need to belong to something will be flocking to Islam like fly’s on shit. Notice it draws in ugly single people.
They have no idea what Islam is about.
Good for them if they found happiness in their lives, but that must have been one BORED journalist to put that much effort into that piece.
Well, whatever floats your boat, I suppose.
If you look at the site it came from, www.turntoislam.com/, it is just a site trying to convert us to Islam. Now, instead of preaching the belief system that defines the religion, they are using peer-pressure. "Look, Bubba is Muslim. You should be too. And we don't care if you marry your cousin. That's not bad in our eyes."
That's right. And listening to the accents on that video, that's who they were targeting it to.
You belong to an internet forum and post about guns. Which pretty much draws in ugly single people.
Gary, you are wrong on the founding fathers, they did not want a government to be monopolize by a religion, as in the Church of England. By the way, you practice an offshoot of organized religion everyday, it is called society/civilization, aren't you lucky yours was founded by Judeo Christian principles and not sharia.
You know Ed, I can never understand the vilification of Christians in the modern US by all the 'tolerant' and 'PC' people who claim to love this country. They seem to forget that America was founded, developed and prospered under the influence of Christian ideals, leaders and the faithful. History has been revised to revile Christians that help develop this country, but they love to celebrate America in its modern form, without appreciating what/who/how it formed and developed. Well, it didn't just happen all on its own, but for the modernist, it is convienant to forget Judeo Christian influence so they don't have to appreciate or participate in Christianity.
Tolerance will get you killed. Remember, when the day comes that you have to face evil, don't be asking where it came from because you tolerated it until it came for you.
As Az_Hoplite would say, being a Christian means I shall not murder, but to kill is entirely another matter.
Agreed. Just want to add, genocide is murder.
Just adding insights to the discussion.
And Gary, I'm damn lucky (blessed) too!
I wouldnt put that past some of the ARFCOMMERS here, including myself.
We aren't so perfect ourselves.
I don't know what to say, but believe that EdSr is overly optimistic.
Ed, you always want to see the best in people, and in groups. Sometimes, that's just a little bit Rosy. There's no problem with being an optimist. But don't let it blind you to the possibility that things may be a bit worse than you want to believe.
There is no doubt that there are people, influential people, in Islam that want to kill you and I. The only question is are they the true face of the religion, or are the more moderate people.
I don't know which side is really in control, nor can I see the future. However, preparing for the worst will see us better in the future than hoping for the best.
This same statement applies to almost any question... Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. It keeps you from getting dead unnecessarily.
I'm telling you guys, if y'all would just declare me dictator for life, I would solve all of your problems.
Yes, but I'm married and ugly. That's a different thing entirely.
Tag! (just to be in a Garryowen thread!)
I am glad they talked about how its ok to rip on the christen religious beliefs, but so evil to rip on Muslim.
Are you saying that you agree that it is fine to rip on Christians, but not ok to to rip on Muslims?
I think there is a misunderstanding on both of our sides. Ill try to explaine myside later.
Some interesting and salient points are made in this Manifesto from the paper that originated the cartoons. Perhaps the most important statement is not to “confuse criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers”
MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism...
After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.
We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.
The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.
Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.
We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.
We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.
We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
From opinion duel http://www.opinionduel.com/
A very pointed and open debate on the current state of Islam ...... can it be reformed?
It’s a long read but worth the effort.
Andrew C. McCarthy led the 1995 prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. He is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Mansoor Ijaz, an American Muslim of Pakistani origin, negotiated Sudan's offer of counterterrorism assistance to the Clinton administration in April 1997 and co-authored the blueprint for a ceasefire of hostilities between Muslim militants and Indian-security forces in Kashmir in 2000. He is chairman of Crescent Investment Management in New York.
February 28, 2006 Battle
Can Islam Reform Itself?
Let me begin with two observations of a preliminary nature. First, it’s a great pleasure to be able to have a discussion like this with you. I’ve long been an admirer of your work, and your insights about American national security and the Islamic world. Second, it is with a heavy heart that I take the negative side of the proposition. It’s been my privilege over the years to work with many honorable Muslims who, like you, reject terrorism and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our government, often at great risk and social ostracism for themselves and their families. But I do take the negative, however much I hope I am wrong. Let me try to explain why.
I read with great interest your op-ed in the LATimes last week, in particular your assertion that “there is no such human persona as a ‘moderate Muslim.’” I agree: there really is only one Islam and, as you put it, “[y]ou either believe in the teachings of [God’s] prophet or you don't.” Indeed, we are discussing whether Islam can “reform” precisely because to be what you see it as, it would have to change.
I am doubtful that it can, for several reasons. First, Mohammed’s teachings most authoritatively come to us from the Koran. Unlike Western scriptures, which are said to be “inspired,” the Koran is believed to be the actual words of Allah, essentially dictated to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel. Consequently, it’s a much different proposition to change or reinterpret the scriptures—it is not a case of finding that a human intermediary got it wrong but rather the God Himself either is in error, or failed to anticipate changing times, or was unable to make Himself understood properly.
The very thought of reformers, however well-intentioned, presuming to modify God’s own directives is problematic, to say the least. That is why even the suggestion that Islam needs reform is met with such hostility throughout much of the Islamic world.
But some of these teachings would have to be modified if Islam is ever to avoid constant clashes with the West. The Koran states, for example, that Muslims must fight unbelievers and slay apostates; it demands that unbelievers submit to the authority of the Islamic state, either by converting or paying a poll tax; it regards women as “tilths” (Sura 2:223), gives men authority over them, permits men to marry up to four of them (in addition to keeping others as “captives” (4:3)); it gives women half the inheritance rights of men and counts their testimony in court as worth half a man’s; and so on.
As you say, either you accept these teachings or you don’t. If they are the instructions of Allah, by what right does any mere human being revise them?
Islam cannot be reformed, moreover, without discrediting the bin Ladens of the world. The problem with that is that when they quote these scriptures, they are not lying—this is what these scriptures say. It turns out to be the reformers who look like they are spinning—who look less credible, even if I see them as more admirable.
Finally, from the perspective of Muslims, why should Islam reform? As a doctrinal matter, Muslims view their religion as a final, superseding pronouncement—meaning that if someone needs reforming, it’s the rest of us, not Islam. And as a practical matter, you have highly influential Westerners like President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, and Prime Minister Blair (among many, many others) saying Islam is wonderful as is—a “religion of peace and love” (according to Rice) which has occasionally been “hijacked” (says the president) by some bad apples. What incentive, then, has it to reform?
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 08:45:23
Today, we embark on an important journey together to debate perhaps the defining issue of our time—Can Islam Reform Itself?
Indeed, it is in the great traditions of this country and free people everywhere that minds from different cultural heritages and ethnic and religious backgrounds whose honesty of purpose, patriotism, and integrity are without doubt should engage in debate, rather than threatening with bombs, bullets and intimidation, to inform—and perhaps even persuade—those who do not understand Islam and why it has become so villainized and misunderstood as a guidance for humanity.
Thank you for the opportunity. In agreeing to do this with you, I put first and foremost your respect for justice and reason as qualities that are absolutely necessary to engage in dialogue free of rhetoric and irreverent statements that serve no purpose in the quest for understanding and knowledge. We should both seek to inform the readers of the logic and rationale behind our stances, and if we do that and that alone, we will have contributed something important here.
Let the debate begin!
I offer three ideas for framing our discussions, with the disclaimer that I am no expert on the minutiae of Islam, but rather a living example of the principles of tolerance, peace, truth and justice that it expounds.
First, as an American, a Muslim and a deep believer in the Constitution and Bill of Rights as organizing principles governing our secular freedoms, I see no inherent conflict in taking the Koran—as you do the Bible—as a system of spiritual guidance under the laws of the United States of America. As a practicing Muslim, I know what my religion does and does not allow and I can state unequivocally after having traveled every corner of this Earth and met with every shade of Muslim, that the problem with Islam today is a failure of its true believers to stand up for the message on its principles. That is a problem of people, not of the message itself—i.e., Islam does not need reformation, its followers do. It is their hypocrisy in politicizing Allah's message, distorting it beyond comprehension in word and deed and misinterpreting the teachings and life examples given by Islam's Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), that needs reformation.
Second, if you take my first premise as correct, then you must forgive me when I say this is a heavy burden—of correcting the misguided from a path of destruction and ruin—for largely ignorant and uneducated people to bear. We can, and should, debate why so many Muslims have been left behind in history's long march forward. After all, Islam sparked a renaissance of learning in the Middle Ages, and I remind our readers that Allah beseeches us as Muslims, both in the Koran and in the Hadith (teachings and examples of the life of Prophet Muhammed), to seek knowledge (ilm) about all aspects of life in the real world around us—but to do so in a way that is consistent with Islam's principles.
If this burden of reformation were shared more openly by us as Americans (Muslims and non-Muslims alike)—who enjoy the most advanced political, economic and technological society on Earth, and who claim we respect the nobility of Islam as a great religion—as opposed to us being the primary force for deepening the mistrust and divide through our powerful capacities to rapidly disseminate information, we might find that the Muslim world's hearts are in the right place and that their leaders who have taken them down a path of ruin disguising it as the road to paradise are forced aside as the primary agents of change. As we proceed in the debate, I will bring example after example of how this can be done.
But we, not they, must start by understanding the massive internal conflict posed for Muslims who yearn to be free and like us, but cannot get past their own internal demons of anger and animosity when they see how we treat them in our press and how we portray their religion and their prophet in our judeo-Christian world. They—who have nothing—then feel they have no alternatives left but to rise up against us with anger and hatred on that "NO WAY OUT" road to paradise. Their leaders, be it bin Laden or Hosni Mubarak, just don't care. This need not be, but it is us with the greater understanding and knowledge, and the material resources to do something about it, that will have to help reformist Muslims spark the reformation of Islam from within.
Third, in framing the blueprint that sparks reformation from within, there will be a need for us as a society to accept that we must sit down face-to-face with the enemy, whomever we perceive them to be, and understand firsthand what the problem is. We cannot do this any longer through channels of the Muslim world that for their own reasons distort our understanding, and certainly not through those who a priori declare a hatred and mistrust of Muslims. I did this in Sudan, and it worked. It worked again in Kashmir. The limited successes of these examples were only possible because those whom I engaged in dialogue looked at me as a true-blue American. My faith in Islam never once played an important role. My love of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and human rights, did.
We cannot allow ourselves to become the pinup and penultimate hypocrites in dealing with Islam's fundamentalists. I don't advocate Condi Rice sitting face to face with Osama bin Laden, but I do advocate George Bush meeting with those Muslims who say he is the problem, and getting it all out on the table. I do favor sending a special envoy to Tehran to see if there is not a better, more direct, more clear headed way to resolve our concerns with them rather than letting the Russians do it for us. We are strong enough and grounded in principles well enough that cannot be compromised that we should not fear those who oppose our views.
I look forward to the debate, and I wish you much luck in arguing with me!!!
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 09:10:26
Maybe it’s appropriate, given the sensitivity of the topic, that you’ve begun more by staking out territory than reacting to what I’ve said in arguing against the proposition we’re here to discuss. But so we don’t talk past each other, let me try to grapple with some of your opening points.
I find, beneath your eloquence, much of what makes me pessimistic. You argue that what is in need of reformation is not Islam the doctrine but Islam the body of believers. In my opening remarks, though, I laid out a number of specific aspects of the doctrine that are troubling. I take it you don’t think I am incorrectly describing scripture. So what are we to make of these commands?
It is a commonplace among reformers (often called “moderate” Muslims—a term both of us find confusing) to say, as you say, that you know what Islam allows and doesn’t allow, and that there is a message in Islam’s “principles” which is consonant with a system that is anti-terrorist and dedicated to equality, tolerance, and a separation of church (or mosque) and state. Yet, these statements seem never to deal with several of Allah’s specific teachings in the Koran, which run in the opposite direction.
Even if I accepted (and I don’t) your premise that it is Muslims rather than Islam itself that requires reforming, why would the average Muslim find more persuasive than the clear injunctions of the highest authority, the Koran, this set of airy “principles” offered by reformers without much grounding in text (or, alternatively, with some textual references but generally omitting mention of the troublesome verses in the scriptures).
It always looks to me like militants are quoting the scriptures and reformers are running away from them. That does not strike me as a situation in which it is the followers, rather than aspects of the doctrine itself, that constitute the central problem for reform. And if I am right about that, I ask again: What right do mere mortals have to revise the words of Allah Himself? As I understand Islam, the Prophet is said to have revealed Allah as He is—there is perhaps nothing more unacceptable than the assertion by lowly mankind of a power to change what Allah has decreed.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 09:25:49
Permit me to set some basic parameters down about how we who are raised Muslim in America view the fundamental issue you raise in both your opening statement and first rebuttal because your starting premise is a bit off. Also, permit me to forewarn the imams and other Islamic experts who will read this debate that I put my understanding of our religion in layman's terminology that may not reflect theological rigor but this is done with an eye to educating rather than obfuscating behind sophisticated prose which no one can understand.
The words of Allah in the Koran, as promulgated through the Angel Gabriel and uttered and written down in words by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), are unalterable. On this point, we agree. You may not know this, but we Muslims are taught that God brought Islam to mankind in this way because in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, once the book had been given, man changed the literal words of God through interpretation, interpolation and in some cases, just outright made stuff up, that did not reflect what God had intended. To avoid this problem with Islam, it was given through an illiterate man, Muhammad, in a language, Arabic, that did not at the time exist. This way there could be no doubt it was the word of God and that those words were unalterable. They have remained so throughout time.
If we agree on this, then your point logically extends that it must be God who didn't get it right, or as you put it, "...God Himself either is in error, or failed to anticipate changing times, or was unable to make Himself understood properly" if His Muslim followers in this day and age are defined only as killing and maiming machines out to destroy and harm humanity. A logical conclusion, but you miss one significant point. Almost every single passage in the Koran—and I tell you this as a person who has read it over and again—that has to do with the killing/maiming/go kill the Jews stuff, or whatever other phraseology there is in the Koran which non-Muslims believe is derogatory and anti-human, refers to God's commandments on His followers for events at that time that had to do with the struggle to have Islam triumph as the accepted norm of religious belief.
This, the same way that Prophet Muhammed's acceptance of God's command to have Muslim men marry multiple times was never about arranging sanctioned sex orgies but rather about giving shelter to widowed women and orphaned children during the years that Islam's early followers were slaughtered in the thousands so that their families would be looked after.
Now, the problem is that today, the bin Laden's and Zawahiri's and Zarqawi's of the world have succeeded in dredging up the anger harbored inside otherwise docile Muslim followers by harking back to a time that has no relationship whatsoever to modern day realities. They blame westernization for their every internal failure, and then rather than blame the imams who were too ignorant to teach today's followers anything but what God has ordained in the Koran (some of which was only for that time and some of which was for all times), they turn around and blame us, and then use the only tool they have available that has any authority whatsoever, the Koran, to fan their flames of hatred. On top of that, they misuse modern technology fueled by the petrodollars of Wahhabists who seek to turn the clock back to spread their hatred like wildfire.
That's why people like me need to enter this debate, first to educate the rational crowd on what's what and then to agree a framework that puts and end to the politicization of Islam. We cannot let them succeed.
That is why this debate is so important. If you can agree with me that the bad guys who both you and I seek to isolate and make irrelevant are using the wrong parameters to compromise a generation of Muslims, we win half the battle because then we can reset what the uneducated classes of Islam's worldwide following are supposed to be looking at and how they are supposed to be interpreting the commandments of their religion for this age, not what happened in the 7th century.
I have never once, as a rational American Muslim, believed that God commands me in this day and age to go and kill Jews or harm Christians. Or to blow people up because somehow that will be the eye-for-an-eye redressing of some harm done. Bin Laden and the legions he wants so desperately to influence only seek political gain from the extracted use of Koranic language that suits their narrow-minded objectives.
Reform must begin by agreeing that the part of the Koran and Hadith that are of value for the purposes of bringing Muslims forward in time do not have to do with commandments to kill the enemies of Islam that were aligned against a prophet who won his wars by birds dropping stones on the heads of his enemies at that time.
Back over to you....
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 09:51:38
First off, what you are saying tells neither Muslims nor non-Muslims how we are to know which of “what God has ordained in the Koran” was “only for that time” that involved “the struggle to have Islam triumph as the accepted norm of religious belief,” and which, to the contrary, is “for all times.”
The bin Ladens and others to whom you refer fully believe that they are struggling, right now, to have Islam triumph as the accepted norm of religious belief. By your account, there was at least some point in time when, in order to accomplish this end, Allah decreed that brutally killing unbelievers and apostates, forcing non-Muslims to submit to the authority of the Muslim state by converting or paying the poll tax, and the like, were not only perfectly acceptable tactics but, in fact, the prescribed tactics.
Why should a Muslim believe that Allah meant such directives only for the 7th Century but not for now?
Allah, after all, is the creator of the Universe and of mankind. Why is it credible to believe that the one time He expressed himself in an instructive way regarding how Islam was to triumph, he meant it only as relevant to the virtual nano-second of time to which you are referring. Why is it not more credible to contend, as the bin Ladens contend, that He is an eternal teacher who meant his directives to endure for all time.
From my perspective, you offer no workable distinction between what scriptures are eternal and what ones are of fleeting application, and the militants have the better of the argument about how God would expect his commands to be understood. That is not very fertile soil for reform.
Even if I accept your premise, moreover, you offer no insight into why Allah would ever have unleashed such brutality “to have Islam triumph.” I would have to understand the sense behind that before I could begin to evaluate the likelihood of your persuading Muslims that there is something so different between then and now as to render the scriptures we are discussing presently irrelevant. It is presumptuous for mere men to demand understanding of God’s purposes, but I don’t understand why God decreed such things ever.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 10:24:19
Disinformation Problem Andy,
And the real battle begins...
One point you make resonates loudly with me, and it is absolutely spot on.
"The fanatics are always quoting from scriptures, the reformers run away from it."
Permit me to ask you then, how much of the Bible deals with the history of religion, religious thought, and ideology, and how much of it deals with what was at that time the present day, "...do this", "do that..." and "do it this way..."? The Koran's structure is such that other than the first chapter (the prayer) and the last third (which is comprised of short chapters that get right to the point of what God wants to teach us), most of it deals with historical corrections of previous books and what was taught in religion. That corrective process splices in guidance for aspects of life that are relevant to the chapter the particular point on guidance appears in.
Your argument about Islam the message being the problem vs. Islam the body of believers makes exactly the point bin Laden would have us all believe—that in today's world, Muslims have prostituted the original words of God and he is here to save us all from that folly. Nonsense. I will never accept that as a premise for rational debate.
You rely, because of sheer lack of knowledge of how true Islam is taught and practiced, on a prescription that serves the purpose only of your argument rather than trying to broaden the understanding to determine where the failure point is, or how it arose so that we can go on to correct it.
As an American Muslim, I for example, have never consumed alcohol, I never touched drugs, I do as much charity for as many different types of causes as I can—point being, I live Islam, I don't talk it. What I'm trying to get you to see is that if we in the West did more to raise up the voices of those who live Islam by its truest principles rather than villainizing (and therefore glorifying) those who seek to politicize Islam for their own narrow objectives, we'd have a much better shot of marginalizing them.
How often do we see coverage of the ruler of Dubai going into the classrooms of his city-state's schools and finding out firsthand what the problems are for teachers to bring broader education platforms to their students, and for students to feel they have all the resources they need to learn at the highest levels? How often do we hear about King Abdullah of Jordan gathering the Muslim "haves" and "have-nots" in his country, including Islamists, Islamofascists, and so-called "moderates," to hash out what troubles them and how to fix it?
The purpose of what we are doing is to explore bilaterally how to untangle the mess that Islam's message has become, not to keep on propagating the same venomous interpretations of megalomaniacs who have no understanding of even the basic principles of Islam. You quote scripture accurately, but without context. You make a point in one sentence that misses the purpose of the paragraph or the chapter. Just like bin Laden does...
Second point. Since you are not Muslim, you cannot know what we are taught and what we are not. Just as I never learned the Bible in your ways in school and must rely on your understanding, you never learned the Koran in my way. Therefore, when you say it is not possible to know, you speak only for yourself and others like you who, mostly for good reason, just don't know any better.
Perhaps for the purpose of more fully getting out the issues on the table, I am prepared to accept that you cannot know what I do about my religion, just as I do not — and full well admit that — know what the essence of Christian teaching, or for that matter Judaic teachings are because I have not the capacity to comprehend what I do not practice.
And that is why we debate this issue. Because the problem with critiquing what has gone wrong with Islam is rooted in disinformation, lack of understanding and a basic failure to cut away the fat to see where the real meat and bones are. I have started trimming away that fat to help both of us get to a common point, and from there start the process of offering solution-oriented frameworks that build a bridge and defuse the criminals who have hijacked an entire system of beliefs.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 10:43:29
It seems you are doing your level best to evade the hard questions. I'm not moving until you answer them because, even now, you won't give a plainspoken answer to what needs reforming.
The fact that the Bible, like any narrative, is a product of its history is utterly irrelevant to the point we are discussing. Regardless of the time frame in which it is set, the Bible contains injunctions which are quite plainly intended to endure for all time.
We are talking, with respect to Islam, about similar injunctions. You don't want to talk about them. Rather than deal with what they say, your reply, essentially, is the fallacy that because I am not a Muslim and thus not in the system, I am perforce ignorant of how Islam is taught and practiced. This is a common debate stopper employed by people who either deny that there is objective truth or find themselves unable or unwilling to defend an objective position. How Islam is taught and practiced is a separate matter from what Islam is. Of course, there is an objective Islam, it is knowable to those who are not Muslims, and it does include the tenets I've described. I am not politicizing Islam by quoting them. I am asking what we are to make of them.
Your point that I am relying on a prescription that merely serves my argument is ridiculous. I have cited particular principles that we agree are set forth in the Koran and are directives of Allah. They are extremely troublesome. You are the one who is saying Islam can reform. If it is to have a chance to do so, you have to have an explanation for them that is more credible than that of the militants—who very flatly say they are the commands of Allah, they continue to be operative, and they must be obeyed. Other than the fact that the substance of the commands is frightening, the militants' position is clear and accessible.
Your position, to the contrary, is incoherent. So far, you've offered a theory that some injunctions are meant only for their time, with no principle for how we can know which ones these are and thus distinguish them from the injunctions intended to be enduring; you have declined to explain how some of the more hair-raising injunctions were ever appropriate in the first place in order to, as you put it, "have Islam triumph as the accepted norm of religious belief"; and you have accused me of taking things out of context without any effort to explain how putting them in context would somehow demonstrate that I am either wrong or disingenuous.
The fact that you live an admirable life does not tell me what Islam is, or why that means you are living "Islam" as opposed to some other admirable form of life. You can't reform something without identifying what the something is and what about it needs reform.
Finally, you have the wrong hombre if you suppose that, by portraying me as in league with bin Laden et al., you are going to demagogue me into withdrawing from pressing these points—which are central to the question we are debating. This is an exercise in logic, not guilt by association. I am not a Muslim because I don't accept the doctrine on its own terms, not because I believe it has been perverted by bin Laden. I can be in agreement with him that the words of the Koran mean what they say and still be irrevocably his enemy.
With mutual respect,
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 11:45:36
Okay, I'll take your point, so let's go through it. I'll present below each of your statements and give you my view of context and meaning, as a Muslim. We can either agree or disagree, but taking the position that unless I simply fold and agree with you that Islam is evil, as you see it, from its root source leads us to one conclusion—and one conclusion only, that there is no solution.
If that's where you want this debate to end up, there's no more point to it. You, having lived the life of a public prosecutor, and me having lived life as a Wall Street investment professional, are solutions-oriented people. We should be seeking solutions to a vexing problem.
Part of the problem here is that if we believe, as you propose, that Islam is irretrievably evil or structurally proposes destruction of all of what the world has evolved into, what do you see as the rational course to follow? That we kill all Muslims? I fear sometimes that our actions—like the instinctive reaction to the Dubai Ports deal—threatens to alienate every shade of Muslim, even those who view bin Laden and company as inherently evil beings. We are still people, you know...
By the way, I wasn't tainting you in guilt by association with bin Laden, I was simply using him as the point of reference. No offense intended by that.
Anyway, your "my way or the highway" stance is not a basis for reforming from within a religion that has serious structural problems. In a real sense, if I accept your opening thesis and defense of it so far, there are no policy options left that allow Muslims and non-Muslims to co-inhabit this world.
Now, on to your points and my rebuttals, so we can move on...
that Muslims must fight unbelievers and slay apostates; it demands that unbelievers submit to the authority of the Islamic state, either by converting or paying a poll tax; it regards women as “tilths” (Sura 2:223), gives men authority over them, permits men to marry up to four of them (in addition to keeping others as “captives” (4:3)); it gives women half the inheritance rights of men and counts their testimony in court as worth half a man’s;
You quote from two very early chapters in the Koran.
The "poll tax" is a charitable alms that every practicing Muslim, and as far as I know, good Jews pay as part of their alms giving. I don't understand why you have difficulty with this... Submitting to the authority of the Islamic state refers to the fact that at that time, there were no defined border states, there was a concept of the larger Muslim Ummah or community, that no matter where you lived in the world, you could profess allegiance to one God and Mohammed as His Messenger, and thereby along with the alms giving become a member of the Muslim community. Okay, it's not a secular state like the USA, but that's what it was, and that's what bin Laden wants to take it back to.
What you don't cite or talk about is how Prophet Mohammed in his teachings urged followers to respect the laws and traditions and customs of the lands they choose to live in freely. That is what I do. I'm American first, then anything else. Islam is a system of spiritual guidance that has valuable ideas for everyday living, but I was born in America and chose to remain there, and so my religion's prophet teaches that I should respect the laws of America as they are, not as I would like them to be.
When God refers to women being as "tilths" for man, He is referring to the fact that women bear children, that men go in to them to sew the new seeds of life. That entire section of the Koran deals with very interpersonal issues between men and women that I think are better for readers here to just go and see for themselves. I'm not prepared to discuss menstruation cycles and divorce and adultery in a debate about reforming Islam.
I've already answered your point about multiple wives. This was offered as a mercy in our ways of teaching for women who could not provide properly for themselves when their Muslim husbands were killed in war. Since the ratio of men to women dropped dramatically at that time, it became necessary for Muslim men to take in more than one family. The rest of the chapter on Women (Sura 4) deals with how a man who has chosen to take multiple wives must behave and deal with them equally.
For me, today, this practice has no validity and has been distorted beyond reason to become what I said it was not at the time the prophet lived, a free license to have sex orgies. But if a Muslim man today chose to have multiple wives, he would be required to abide by a lot of constraints in those articles of Sura 4, and for integrity's sake in this discussion, I invite anyone who would like to read the chapter for themselves, in the entirety of context, to go and have a look here.
Inheritance rights at that time were dealt with in the way you have quoted because men worked and women raised families. Today, men and women work equally, and from most of the modern-day interpretations I know of, these practices are no longer valid in Western countries. When I divorced in my first marriage, the inheritance rights of my daughter and the settlement with my Muslim wife were determined by today's interpretations of what constitutes fair and equitable distribution under Islamic jurisprudence—my daughter got exactly the same as my son, and I'd bet you that anyone living by modern interpretations would say the same.
That is precisely what I mean by "that was then, this is now" but you seem to refuse that I can have this premise as a basis of argument, and so what more would you like me to then say? That we agree to disagree...
More on your specific points in the next post... back over to you.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 12:45:27
Your last entry careens from more demagoguery to, finally, a ray of light.
To move quickly through the absurd parts, you are grossly misrepresenting my position. I never said "Islam is evil." I don't ask that you agree with such a position, because it is not my position.
My position is that Islam is dangerous. It has many very desirable qualities, but it has many troubling aspects. It seems to me that this debate is about three things: (a) are the troubling aspects problematic because the doctrine itself is problematic or because it has been misinterpreted in these particulars; (b) if the problem is in the doctrine itself, is it permissible to revise the troubling aspects; and (c) assuming we are dealing something that can be either revised (i.e., because it is undesirable as it currently stands) or reinterpreted (because it is fine as it currently stands but has been misconstrued by Muslims), is there a revision or reinterpretation sufficiently compelling that it can win the hearts and minds of the Islamic world?
With due respect, it is simply inane for you to suggest that I have said Islam is "irretrievably evil" such that the only "rational course" that follows from my viewpoint is that "we kill all Muslims." I won't say anything more about that than that it is beneath you.
I do worry that Islam is structurally difficult to reform. That is precisely why I am reluctantly on the negative end of this debate, and why I stressed, from the start, that the words of the Koran are Allah's own. That doesn't mean Islam requires "the destruction of all what the world has evolved into[.]" But it does pose a problem for reformers such as yourself, which is what we're talking about. That is, if you don't have an interpretation of what the troublesome teachings mean that is more compelling than what the militants are offering, you will have a hard time convincing Muslims that the militants are perverting doctrine—which is what you must do to marginalize and defeat them.
Like you, I would like to see a worthy solution here. But it was not my practice to go into court without putting the hardest questions to my case, making sure I had a good answer if I was called on them, and being prepared to give ground where I did not have a good answer.
In any event, the rest of your latest salvo suggests that there is some room for reinterpreting the Koran based on current conditions. There is, for example, nothing in the Koran which suggests that the inheritance formula prescribed therein was a product of its time. You, however, make the reasonable argument that it must be construed as having been based on assumptions that no longer obtain, and thus that it may be revised in light of current conditions. I believe the success of the reform project—which I would like to see succeed notwithstanding my doubts about it—hinges on whether you can convince a dominant majority of Muslims that changed conditions can supersede the Koran's seeming commands, since some of those commands easily lend themselves to brutality.
I don't think I agree with you about genesis of either polygamy or the poll-tax. The former is hardly singular to Islam and not very important to our discussion (I meant to raise it only in the context of a broader point about whether the dictates of the Koran may permissibly be altered). The jizya, or poll-tax, was not mere alms giving; it was a levy imposed on those who did not accept Islam but were willing to live under its protection, and one of the last Suras of the Koran makes plain that those paying it should "feel themselves subdued." (9:29).
I bring up the point about the lateness in time of Sura 9 because it suggests another challenge for reformers that gives me great pause regarding the likelihood of their success. Some of the fiercest passages in the Koran are those that came at the end, such as Sura 9:5 ("But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war"). I agree that there is not time and space to for us to spout scripture at one another. The point here is to address the challenge to reformers. To the extent it is important to be able to argue that some of the troubling verses are ameliorated by the inspiring ones that counsel tolerance and forbearance, what are we to make of the fact that a lot of the troubling stuff comes at the end? It seems to me that this gives militants an advantage in contending that it was the more belligerent verses that superseded the tolerant ones, not the other way around.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 14:57:58
As you will note, we are both starting to get feedback now, and I think we can move on from this phase of the debate by summing it up in the words of a lady who just wrote to both of us, and what she says makes imminently good sense, and builds on your later paragraphs of the previous post.
This lady said [I have trimmed some just for space]:
May I cut through some of the confusion? Andy’s main contention is that Islam must, inherently, be a fundamentalist faith, because of the belief that the Koran is the Word of God, period. Mansoor’s response boils down to the empirical statement that there are a heck of a lot of non-fundamentalist Muslims in the world, and they manage to figure out what’s God’s commandment for all time and what’s not.
But I do understand [Andy's] puzzlement – it seems to an outsider that even though Islam is not inherently fundamentalist, it ought to be given its principles. I would suggest to Mansoor that he share with his non-Muslim readers the mechanisms used to distinguish between the Koran’s eternal commands and its situational directives.
Finally, gentlemen, bear in mind that we could be having exactly the same argument about Christianity or Judaism. The Old Testament, in particular, is filled with stuff that does not measure up to modern values – slavery, genocide, you name it. Nonetheless, Jews and Christians do not in fact advocate the stoning of disobedient children. I suggest we give Muslims no less credit.
I think that sums it up perfectly for this phase. May I suggest we now move to another part of this discussion and that is that whether you accept this bright lady's premise or not, it is legitimate to set forth a body of ideas that offer food for thought on how reform of the followers might be achieved.
I'll let you start, and this time I'll respond... from a higher common ground.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 15:36:59
I have not been following the feedback, and hadn’t intended to until we are done. (I have nothing against feedback—I welcome it; but you agreed to debate me, not me and a cast of thousands, so I’ve drawn that line. I don’t mean to suggest that there is anything wrong or unwise about your having made a different choice.)
We are talking past each other, and the reader, respectfully, is wrong just as I believe you are wrong. To be clear, I am not making a judgment (beyond the very personal one I made for myself, decades ago) about the truth of Islam. I am not a Muslim, but that is not because I am either ignorant or confused. I simply don’t buy it. That is not a condemnation. I am not a Jew either—I have great respect for Judaism, but it is not for me.
I am a Christian, so obviously I believe different things. But the topic is not whether Islam is true. It is whether Islam can be reformed. As a strictly personal matter, I have no problem with the notion that the Koran can be superseded, updated, revised, reinterpreted, or otherwise altered. But my view about that is irrelevant. The question is whether Muslims believe it can be changed—and whether they will believe it in overwhelming enough numbers that the militants who take the scriptures very literally can be marginalized.
I don’t see “reform” as a project for completely overhauling Islam (although I suppose it could be). It is a project for arriving at a nigh-universal understanding of Islam that so discredits the militants they become a true fringe at most. The reason I have kept after the basics here is that you need credibility at a very basic level to succeed. On that score, it matters a lot whether divine authorship makes changing a single comma a sacrilege.
In play here are not only the active militants but the millions of other Muslims unlikely ever to commit terrorism but who sympathize with militants intellectually, morally and sometimes financially. They are the reasons we have, for example, global rioting. For reform to take hold, you’ve got to give them something that moves them.
The militants, their imams, and their endless streams of funding can open the Koran, point to “fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them …,” and say “it means exactly what it says.” If reform is to succeed, you have to be able to convince Muslims that this very straightforward argument is wrong. It is of no moment that I happen to think the honorable way in which you personally live lines up with my perception of the good and the natural law. What matters in terms of developing a groundswell to reform Islam is whether you have the arguments at your disposal to make Muslims broadly think you are right and the militants are wrong. So far, I don’t think you do. That doesn’t mean I have to conclude your arguments are wrong; the point of this exercise is to evaluate your prospects for success in persuading your co-religionists of the need for reform.
Finally, we couldn’t sensibly be having this conversation about Christianity or Judaism. Those traditions have had whatever reform they are likely to have, there are no substantial subsets within them committing terrorism on a global scale, when bad actors do arise they are universally and intramurally condemned, and thus there is no impulse toward reform among adherents. I am not suggesting that means their scriptures are fully congenial to contemporary sensibilities; but to the extent they are not, blocs of believers are not engaging in, for example, slavery or genocide in the name of those religions.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 17:12:26
My father, God rest his soul, taught me long before he died that if you get something wrong, admit it and remove the harm it has caused to the person who has been harmed. That is one good in Muslim (and Christian, Judaic and human) ways of doing things. So, permit me to apologize for using the word "evil" in my earlier post to describe where I thought you stood on Islam as an ideology and system of beliefs.
And then let me tell you that neither one of us is wrong on the issue at hand. We simply arrive at the conclusion we need to get to in widely differing ways. Permit me to expand just a bit here.
On the three central issues you raised in a previous post, you eloquently sum up the problem:
(a) are the troubling aspects [of Islam] problematic because the doctrine itself is problematic or because it has been misinterpreted in these particulars?
I would argue it is the misinterpretation of the particulars by radicalized followers who seek to gain political advantage and notoriety in order to achieve their dubious objectives. There is no problem, in my view, with Islam the doctrine.
(b) if the problem is in the doctrine itself, is it permissible to revise the troubling aspects?
If I take the premise, then the simple answer is that it is not permissible to change the words of God as they are related in the Koran, but it is impendent on those who read the words to insure honest and representative interpretation, both in terms of time and in terms of context.
(c) assuming we are dealing something that can be either revised (i.e., because it is undesirable as it currently stands) or reinterpreted (because it is fine as it currently stands but has been misconstrued by Muslims), is there a revision or reinterpretation sufficiently compelling that it can win the hearts and minds of the Islamic world?
Now, you and I have finally come to the point of an agreement. We have to set up the platform for a proper interpretation of Islam's principles and teachings for the modern age. Islam is fine. It has, as you say, been misconstrued by a narrow cabal of the faith for evil (my word) political and egotistical purposes. So, as we take this debate to a new level, let's build a platform from which we can ask rational people of every faith to join in and help revive Islam's prospects so it is seen doing what it preaches.
My ideas, and these are by no means a complete set, are as follows:
1. Non-fundamentalist Muslims must help delineate the lines of time-bound vs. eternal guidance in the Koran to clear up the type of confusion you highlighted with compelling clarity during the earlier phases of this debate. This is not easy because the architecture of the Koran is such that it weaves the practical, the historical and the philosophical together. But I'm prepared to make that happen in a series in which we dissect the Koran's chapters and the Suras where needed. I'm happy to have you participate with me and hold my feet to the fire as we go along. I'm not an imam, and so some Saudi Wahhabist may threaten to cut my head off, but it wouldn't be the first time!
2. Once the delineation phase is complete, we get to an interpretation of the Prophet's teachings and the eternal guidance of the Koran for the modern age. Here it gets even trickier, and we'll have to have a lot of help from rational Muslim minds around the world who buy into the argument that we—you, me, George Bush and Don Rumsfeld (i.e., all of us as Americans)—are not out to get them. I've got a handful of people I know pretty well who, with a little light from our side, would participate in this process and whose words would be accepted by the co-religionists who you believe I cannot persuade with my arguments. We could enjoin Western scholars in that process and have them talk through external perception problems with what Islam proposes. Some things will not be up for debate, but others—like how Muslims should treat followers of other faiths, be they Jewish, Christian or otherwise—would be hotly debated and out of that tinderbox would come I think a meaningful and useful result.
3. Raise the profiles of and give responsibility to American Muslims who seek reform within their religion. Give them positions of meaningful responsibility that enable them to be real messengers and agents for change, not by preaching but rather by the force of their examples in serving this great nation. If we had an American Muslim FBI director, or the deputy Defense secretary was a Muslim by faith, or one day we had an American Muslim secretary of State, these officeholders would do a world of good by setting an example of how secularism, tolerance and belief can coexist, much the same way Condi Rice and Colin Powell did for black people everywhere in diffusing race as a factor in service to our country. But we cannot have just one or two. Zalmay Khalilzad and Fareed Zakaria and Mansoor Ijaz are Uncles Abdullah, Asim, and Arif —the three stooges who don't represent Islam, but rather seek to ingratiate themselves with the vested interests who seek to destroy Islam. We are seen as apologists, not agents of change. We need hundreds, even thousands to rise into positions of real responsibility, to make this part of the strategy work. We need ambassadors of Pakistani origin in Pakistan, of Indian origin in India, who speak Arabic and know the traditions working in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. We need to vest in America's Arab and Muslim communities the feeling of responsibility that goes far beyond their own local spheres of influence, to a level that compels them to help protect the national interest not just because they believe it is right, but because they have a talent that can help in ways no one else can.
back over to you for the next three.... and then I've got three more to round out the set.
Now, we're getting somewhere.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 17:33:46
Apology accepted, and I appreciate the gracious tenor of your response. I still fear that we are like ships in the night, though. What you are seeing as our areas of agreement are overstated.
For example, I appreciate that you believe Islamic doctrine is fine but has been misinterpreted by bad Muslims. That is what I would like to believe, but you haven't convinced me that it is so. You suggest that I have conceded this ("[Islam] has, as you say, been misconstrued by a narrow cabal of the faith for evil political and egotistical purposes"), but I was laying out the possibilities, not settling on one of them. If there were nothing else to go on but our discussion here, my inclination would be to believe that the problem is at least as much the doctrine itself as it is the misinterpretation of doctrine.
I do agree with you that if Islam is to be reformed, a platform of the type you describe would be necessary. But that begs the question whether Islam can be reformed, and the fact that such a platform has to be constructed because it is not ready to hand is not encouraging for the prospects.
Plainly, the energy for any reform effort would have to be supplied in large part by the conviction that the effort can succeed. With respect to that issue, I end where I began: highly skeptical, but hopeful that honorable Muslims like you can pull it off.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 18:06:15
We will never know if we do not try. I cannot accept that we do not try—we must.
Permit me in closing to recount for you and our readers three instances in my practical experience that demonstrate, for me at least, why I think Islam's followers can be reformed, and why people such as myself as an American Muslim must lead the way with as many of my fellow American Muslims coming along as we can get on board.
In 1996, I went to Israel to open private channels between Shimon Peres and the Pakistanis at the invitation of Shlomo "Chich" Lahat. Chich, who was a wonderful host, took me to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem—I could not imagine that magnitude of human cruelty until I saw it with my own eyes. At the end of our visit, we were overlooking the West Bank with its pristine Israeli settlements, and there in the bottom of a bowl-shaped valley, he pointed to a Palestinian slum and said "our biggest mistake as Jews was not raising them [the disaffected Palestinians] up alongside us as Israel grew in wealth and power." An extraordinary admission from an honest man—not a Jew, not a Palestinian sympathizer, but an honest man. To which I responded, "Chich, that was not the biggest mistake. The biggest mistake was and remains to this day, ours—that Muslims in Saudi Arabia and other oil-wealthy nations spend in a month at hotels and nightclubs throughout Europe more money than the Palestinians need in a year for food, clothing and the education of a thousand children." My point is that self-introspection of Muslims especially in regard to the overwhelming hypocrisy in Islam today, sparked by some of the platform items in my previous post, is vital for the success of our efforts to reform. Rather than being skeptical, get behind a few of us, then a few hundred, then tens of thousands, and before you know it, you have a movement dedicated to the reform of Islam. Skepticism is healthy when taken in digestible doses. It kills the patient if it is overwhelming and aimed at dismembering an effort before it can germinate.
In 1997, Sudan's president, Omar Hassan El Bashir, against every instinct in his military mind, signed the counterterrorism offer in my presence which I then carried back to the United States. As he handed me the letter, he said "today, I have essentially turned the national sovereignty of my nation over to you because if this offer is accepted, your FBI can come onto my soil anytime they want for any reason they want. I'm doing this because I trust you as an American to know your people. If you fail, my government is finished." It was a melodramatic moment that said something very important about the power of America's ideals and example of its integrity to judge right and wrong. Here was an African Muslim military strongman who brutally dealt with dissent in his own government, but when presented with an opportunity to engage a skeptical America at the cost of his national sovereignty, he chose engagement because an American Muslim unwilling to compromise on American principles equated those very same American principles with the basest of Islam's principles. He had nowhere else to go.
In 1999, Chander DSahay, India's then deputy intelligence director, reached out to me to help craft a peace plan for Kashmir. I was the most unlikely of candidates for a task that went to the very heart of what defines India's polity—an American with close ties to the Clinton White House (India was loathe to let America interfere in its internal affairs) whose father was a nuclear physicist from Pakistan (the Islamic bomb came up frequently) and who himself was close to Pakistani officials (Musharraf and company) that India openly accused of planning a war against their country. In the first ten minutes of our first meeting at a Delhi hotel, he said, "We believe you to be an American first, but also a Muslim with whom we can talk rationally." The ceasefire was announced eight months later.
Sometimes in this world, the dreams and driving ambition to change that reside in a few good people can spark change that transforms history for millions more. Bin Laden is succeeding at an alarming rate to do the opposite of what I propose for reforming Islam from within.
Perhaps I am an agent for that change, perhaps not. But if we do not try, we will never know. I dream every day of defining, maybe even in myself, the antithesis of militant Islam and taking back my religion from the fanatics that have irreparably harmed it. I believe Islam is a religion that advocates in its principles what we in America live our lives by. Our failure is that we have not yet made that abundantly clear to the silent, oppressed masses in the Muslim world. That is what we must join hands to do. I invite you to join us in that endeavor.
I end this debate with the words my father lived his life by...
"Be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, Smile, Be Happy, and remember that in Unity you will find Peace."
Thank you for the opportunity to have this lively discussion, and thank you the editors of National Review and National Review Online for opening these important doors for dialogue.
Posted on 2006-02-28 @ 18:47:47
Maybe you guys need to watch this website for a few weeks and read the informative links;
By the way, how can I make it a hot link?
Thats what I was trying to say Ed...
As Az_Hoplite would say, being a Christian means I shall not murder, but to kill is entirely another matter
A good Christian is told to love his enemy and to forgive him. A good Christian is told that "revenge is mine (God's)".
I am not saying you have to do it,as I would probably not do it either.That is between God and you (or me),but the point is that nowhere in the New Testament (as far as I know) does it tell a Christian to kill anyone.If AZ_Hoplite can enlighten me,I am willing to listen and learn.
Not meaning to hijack this thread… I respect and will defend the couple’s freedom to make this decision…I frown upon their choice.
A more interesting point is made by the quotes…every day when a Christian soldier laces up his boots or scans his AO…thoughts similar to these go thru his mind and need to be justified/rationalized.
If I spot an armed man in my AO/KZ and drop him…did I kill him? Operational orders would define him as an enemy combatant and justify the shoot.
An unarmed man…would be murder.
A “good” Christian soldier respects his enemy…which is said to be a form of love. The enemy is honored/respected in death and surrender. This respect has made it easier for many of our enemies to lay down their weapons. An enemy that will fight to the death is…..
“Revenge is mine” is a tough one when your squad member is taken out while treating an injured EC…a “good” Christian can only pray for forgiveness and stride to be more like Jesus.
I also cannot find anywhere in the New Testament where it tells “a Christian to kill anyone”…can we say the same about the Koran?
I did not want to stay on this, but I feel I need to make the point that the New Testament is not the end-all of the bible, and many seem to think it over-rides the Old Testament. It does not, it completes it. I do not engage in debate of the meaning or teachings by using selected quotes as a means to convey a point. If you want to follow the Bible, it is an encompassing text, and I do not believe such selections convey a complete context a selected book.
People who claim that Jesus was a pacifist are ignoring more than half the Bible. Jesus was not a prophet with His own agenda; Jesus was and is God. He is the God of the Old Testament. Jesus is Jehovah, the God who commanded the Israelites to go to war.
Or you can take the direct approach of just reading one aspect and ignoring the first half.
I'm not saying any of this is correct or right for you, but I am trying to make the point that some forget the entire teachings and focus on the new. In the New Testament it is explained that you are to follow The Father's ways.