Moderate Muslims

British novelist Martin Amis wrote a 12,000 word piece in the Guardian to coincide with the 5th anniversary of September 11th. In it he rails against Islamism, and describes how he abandoned short story dealing with a would-be terrorist.

The piece has sparked much intense debate in the bloggosphere, especially over what he calls the “civil war within Islam.”

Until recently it was being said that what we are confronted with, here, is a ‘civil war’ within Islam. That’s what all his was supposed to be: not a clash of civilizations or anything like that, but a civil war within Islam. Well, the civil war appears to be over. And Islamism won it. The loser, moderate Islam, is always deceptively well-represented on the level of the op-ed page and the public debate; elsewhere, it is supine and inaudible. We are not hearing from moderate Islam. Whereas Islamism, as a mover and shaper of world events, is pretty well all there is.

Martin Amis, The age of horrorism, The Guardian, 9/10/06

This, plus comments made by the Pope this week, reminded us of part of the conversation from our show about generational differences in the Middle East. Some of our guests said that moderate voices were indeed being marginalized in political discourse in the Middle East, in part because actions of the West made it very difficult to argue for a moderate stance.

So tonight we’re wondering, what exactly does it mean to be a moderate Muslim? Which ideas or views define the center, and which rule it out? Does it mean something different to be a moderate Muslim in Detroit or LA than it does in Jeddah or Baghdad or Jakarta? Is there an internal struggle within Islam to draw these lines? And why has the west been so concerned with seeking out moderate Muslim voices since 9/11?

Khaled Abou El Fadl

Classically trained Islamic jurist

Professor of law, UCLA

Author, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists

Numan Waheed

Post-doctoral research associate, Institute of Polymer Science, University of Akron

Usamah Kayyali

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Tufts University

Amani Jabbar

Blogger, Mental Mulisma

Extra Credit Reading
Martin Amis, The age of horrorism, The Observer, September 10, 2006.

Pankaj Mishra, The politics of paranoia, The Guardian, September 17, 2006: “Many people, such as Martin Amis last weekend, may continue to berate Muslims for their apparent incompatibility with ‘Western’ values of democracy and rationality….But a more urgent question is: where will all this rage and distrust end? How can we change policies that have so comprehensively failed?

smiffy, Martin and the Monsters: Amis on Islamism, The Cedar Lounge Revolution, September 13, 2006: “In what sense, exactly, has Islamism ‘won it’? What is he basing this on? What criteria is he even using?”

Steven Scholl, Scholl Guest Editorial: Response to Amis, Informed Comment, September 18, 2006: “I share some of Amis’s concerns but find his analysis of Islam and Islamism rather mixed up.”

Amani Jabbar, The Papal thing…, Mental Muslima, September 18, 2006: “Even though my blog has a limited audience, I feel if I can change one person’s perceptions about Islam, then that is enough reason to continue.”

Teresa Watanabe, Defining Today’s Moderate Muslim, Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2006: “Who is a moderate Muslim?”

Haitham Sabbah, Are you Extremist or Moderate?, Sabbah’s blog, September 18, 2006: “This [LA Times] article sounds like the litmus test is for defining a ‘moderate Muslim’, or to put it right, defining ‘extremist Muslim.’ The test is very simple and straight forward. If you support Zionism, you are in good shape, in other words “moderate”. If not, you are an extremist.”

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  • Old Nick

    I originally posted this on July 31st but it didn’t earn a response. I post it again with this update: can your guests link us to a dialogue of any sort wherein moderate Muslims discuss or debate the actions of the zealously faithful fundamentalists whom this post was originally designed to inquire about?

    From July 31st:

    I would like to ask your guests for a thumbnail sketch of the people who teach Islam to Muslim youth. I don’t need to know the perceived ‘pressures’ that fuel Islamism – those already comprise much of the stuff of Western conventional wisdom regarding the Middle East.

    Nor do I need to know of the sources: I own a Koran and, like anyone with an ISP, have online access to hadith.

    I want to know about the people responsible for educating youngsters like this:

    ‘One failed Palestinian suicide bomber described being “pushed to attack Israelis by “the love of martyrdom. He added, “I didn’t want revenge for anything. I just wanted to be a martyr. Mr. Zaydan, the would-be martyr, conceded that his Jewish captors were “better than many, many Arabs. With regard to the suffering that his death would have inflicted upon his family, he reminded his interviewer that a martyr gets to pick seventy people to join him in paradise. He would have been sure to invite his family along.’

    (J. Bennett, “In Israeli Hospital, Bomber Tells of Trying to Kill Israelis”, New York Times, June 8th, 2002 – by way of Sam Harris’s The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and The Future of Reason – http://www.powells.com/biblio/2-0393327655-0 )

    Who are these people?

    Update on September 19th: what do moderate Muslims say to these fundamentalists – and, more importantly: does anything they say ever make any kind of impression?

    Lastly, can moderate Muslims actually say anything to these faithful fundamentalists—who are, after all, merely obeying the Koran as they literally understand it—without having to fear for their lives?

  • On the question of why the West is seeking out moderate Muslim voices:

    It makes sense to me that you would turn to a family member to quell the outbursts of someone in your midst. You hope that the insider understands the sources or motivations of their actions and also has the insights to provide the compelling rhetoric than can argue against that particular course of action.

    Being non-muslim, I can’t convince a fanatic that the Koran doesn’t support their actions or equally supports a different approach and that he can make a choice and still be faithful to their beliefs. We need other muslims to make that case. It’s perhaps the best chance at a non-violent resolution to tensions.

    That said, I heard a frightening interview by Terry Gross with Pastor John Hagee, a Christian Zionist. He believes that even if there are a small percentage of “Islamists” who want to kill all non-Muslims, the raw numbers are so huge – 15% would equal 200 million in his estimate – that there is no way to protect Israel and Christians except through war. And there is no way that moderate Muslims can impact the drive of the fanatics.

    Of course, he also believe that we are seeing the “birth contractions” – eerily reminscent of Condi Rice comments – of “The Rapure.” He was unequivocal about this. So, in effect, he wants war. He and his fellow Christian Zionists need war in the Middle East to continue to affirm their beliefs. So, while we Americans are searching for moderate Muslims, the rest of the world, and particularly the Muslim constituent, is probably searching desperately for the moderate US Christian voice, since our leader and his administration represent our fanatics. We may hear moderate voices within our own walls, but they’re not likely to be heard outside the fortress. (Particularly when you learn that reconstruction workers in Iraq are being screened for their support of Bush politics)

    Isn’t it possible that the same is true in the Muslim household? The extremists control the PA system and the moderates can speak at home, but can’t be heard outside of the house.

    How do we reconcile this? How do the silenced moderates rise above the cacophony and the violent control of the extremists?

  • fiddlesticks

    Another program ready to talk away the Islamic Fascist threat.

    Tuning in to public radio is like listening to a different galaxy.

    Even run of the mill liberals are beginning to own up to the Islamic threat, but on publicly funded radio it’s “what threat?”

  • fiddlesticks

    Hey Allison as usual if in doubt blame the Zionists.

    The Iranian Ayatollah Khameini blamed the Zionists and the Americans for the Popes condemnation of Islamic forced conversions.

    This is something Allison would agree with, right?

  • Potter

    Allison – I heard that interview. It was frightening.

    George Packer wrote an excellent article “the Moderate Martyr: ( interpreting Islam for the modern world- Letter from Sudan) in the New Yorker Magazine, September 11th 2006 issue. He focussed on Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, a visionary and a moderate, “the anti Qutb” who was hanged in 1985.

    I am happy to have found it online now: The Moderate Martyr

  • loki

    Sadly,we do not recognize the growing number of native born Muslims in the US.

    There are now more Muslims that Jews in the US. Also,there is more practicing Buddhist than Episcopalians. Putting aside for a moement the Pope abd the Iraqi War, are we afraid of the growing diversity within the US” Are we trying to control an increasingly pluralistic society? Is our foreign and domestic policy an attempt at mono-mania ie. an US vs them?

    We have to face the reality that our wars in Vietnam,south america and the middle east has has increased the population of people native to those regions here in order to get away from violence.

    I know these are disjointed thoughts. wonder whether we are trying to projecdt our image of moderates on to others and get upset when people do not respond to our exopectations. True peace can only comeabout when we regognize differences and learn to live with one another. Sorry for the rant!

  • Robin

    fiddlesticks – honestly, I don’t know where you’re coming from with “Another program ready to talk away the Islamic Fascist threat.” Did we dismiss Amis in the post? Did we say there was no threat? As far as I can tell, we’ve tried to set up a conversation about what we mean when we say “moderate Islam” (or “moderate Muslims”). Given how much time we spend talking about extremism, don’t you think it’s worthwhile to get a sense of what moderate actually means?

    Some good questions in your posts Allison and Loki. Hopefully we’ll work those into the show.

    Thanks for the article mention, Potter. We read the Packer piece and thought it was really interesting. Unfortunately Mahmoud Muhammad Taha was not available for tonight’s show.

  • I agree with Roben. Fiddlesticks, you’re being a bit unfair by saying that Allison’s comment can be reduced to “blame the Zionists.” But Allison, I think you’re overstating the case by saying that “our leader and his administration represent our fanatics.”

    I can’t call our political leaders “fanatic” as they are not promising a religious reward (e.g., a place in heaven) for a military action (e.g., fighting in a war).

    Still, there is a bit too much blurring of religion and militarism for the tastes of many Americans– Bush’s comments about “consulting with his Heavenly Father” regarding Iraq, and numerous comments by Undersecretary of Defense Lt. General William Boykin.

    As for Pastor John Hagee, here’s a an article in The American Prospect on him (and I’m sure the TAP editors enjoyed a little joke on the publication date of that article). Scary. We’re not quite at a point where Pastor Hagee enjoys the same sway here that mullahs do in Iran or Somalia. I hope we don’t get there.

    Morning Edition this week had a segment on Shaykh Hamza Yusuf— an American-born Muslim convert who is one of the emerging leading voices of Islam in the U.S.

  • Potter

    I believe that Hagee has been given a nod in the form of an approving call from George Bush.

    It was interesting to listen to that interview’s clips: how Hagee whipped up, mesmerized his audience. He cornered a failed Palestinian suicide bomber for an interview from whence he got these figures of 15% which he then took off of 200 milliion ( totally unscientific and unsubstantiated) and then he ran with it because it suited his purpose. Hagee and others like him are dangerous, very dangerous.

    Fiddlesticks, Christian Zionists, it was pointed out, are very very far from being true Zionists.

  • Potter– good point.

    But to Loki, who complained that we “project our image of moderates on to others.” You’re using the language of postmodernists and anti-Orientalists. What gives?

    My definition of moderate starts with not killing someone in the name of religion; it’s a fanatic who takes away from someone in this world for his gain in the next world. I think that the term militant theology would be appropriate to explain this.

    We Jews gave up killing in the name of God when the second commonwealth fell two millenia ago (contemporary zealots like Baruch Goldstein are rare exceptions). Some in the Christian world started abandoning that position in the 16th Century, but it lasted through colonialism and even, as James Carroll has argued, through the Holocaust. Vatican II, and Nostra Aetate in particular, represented the Church’s stirrings of reconciliation. Granted, Mel Gibson, who rejected Vatican II, would disagree, and whatever his drunken ramblings revealed, The Passion celebrated militant theology (as do the various contributions to the Armageddon genre from evangelicals).

    And I believe one could argue that the Buddhist world has never embraced militant theology.

    So that’s what we’re looking for when we look for “moderates.” I hope we can agree to that universal definition and understanding of it.

    So back to Potter– you’re right. If the President really wanted to rebuke militant theology (which is what he means when he says “Islamofascism”) he ought to start with his own base first.

  • fiddlesticks

    “There are now more Muslims that Jews in the US. Also,there is more practicing Buddhist than Episcopalians. Putting aside for a moement the Pope abd the Iraqi War, are we afraid of the growing diversity within the US” Are we trying to control an increasingly pluralistic society? Is our foreign and domestic policy an attempt at mono-mania ie. an US vs them?”

    Hey Loki, it’s Islam that is afraid of multiculturalism not the West.

    There is no Muslim Arab country where non Muslims are treated as equals. There is also no country with a substantial Muslim population that hasn’t experienced violence against non muslims by Muslims.

    Check this out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cwy-7KvRsUs

    this is scary.

    The Gross interview was just gross. She likes to get freaky people on her show in order to scare people like Potter.

  • “My definition of moderate starts with not killing someone in the name of religion;”

    OK, that’s what it starts with. What does it end with?

    That is, what EXACTLY do we MEAN by a “moderate”? Here in the west I think we have a definition of a moderate (…Protestant, Jew, Catholic, whatever) as someone who’s essentially secular in most things. I know lots and lots of people of all those faiths whom I would call moderate and the main thing about them is that I would never be able to guess their religion from 99% of the things they do or say.

    Almost everyone I know works on their particular sabbath; they don’t dress or eat in any special way. I hardly know anyone who says “grace” at meals (or prays in any other public context) or observes any dietary laws. I’m not aware of anyone in my social circle who has expressed any objection to marriage between their faith and another. Even though most people I know self-identify as this or that religion, it seems to be something they reserve for worship services or special events like First Communions or Bar Mitzvahs.

    This, however, is NOT how things are in many other places, where religion and one’s religious identity are far more important. If your religion is the central thing in your life, informing everything you do, defining your day and your year, and your relationships and your ethics, and your concept of how the world works, etc, then it’s hard to be moderate about it.

    I’m nonreligious, so to me religious propositions are nothing but debating points, gedankenexperiments, or amusing or instructive fables. But if you believe your religioun is truth with a capital-T you’re inclined to take it more seriously.

  • fiddlesticks

    The show is worse than I feared.

    It’s pure apologetics for Muslims and attacks on the West.

    the word “infidel” is a western word, of course, it means “non faithful,” but the Muslims in Arabic have their own terms for non Muslims believers.

    Someone should ask the guest about the concept of “Dhimmi” in Islam.

  • Sir Otto

    Why is it every Imam in the world, along with the entertainment industry, et al, can insult Christianity four times a day and we do not here of it? The Pope makes a comment, which happens to be true, and hell breaks loose. The four heirs to Mohammed were murdered in power struggles.

  • fiddlesticks

    [Fiddlesticks, please don’t copy and paste entire articles into our threads. Because it came from Wikipedia, you didn’t expose us to copyright infraction, but it does really slow the discussion down to scroll and scroll through information that could just as easily have been read on a linked page. – ed]

  • I agree that a religious moderate is someone that does not kill others for religious reasons.

    JonG, I do not agree that the current administration does not have a strong fundamentalist religious bent. Rice’s comments that the recent Israeli/Lebanese war was representative of the birth pains of a new middle east are very telling. There have been reports of the prayers that are held in the oval office and the strong support that Bush offers to folks like Hagee.

    Yes, there is a huge difference between Jewish Zionists and Christian Zionists. Christian Zionists are not really supporting the Jewish Zionist cause. Christian Zionists are promoting the prospect of ongoing violence in the Middle East. They want Israel to be protected throughout this violence so that the Israelis can finally see Christ as The Messiah and convert to Christianity upon his return. Ultimately, they seek to see the Jewish religion destroyed.

    Jewish Zionists are trying to protect themselves in order to preserve their way of life. very different objective.

  • Sir Otto

    You mean like the way the Muslims allow the Jews to exist in peace?

  • fiddlesticks

    Dhimmi,

    from wikipedia.com

    “Dhimmi

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jump to: navigation, search

    This article is about dhimmi in the context of Islamic law. For the neologism, see dhimmitude.

    A dhimmi (also zimmi, Arabic: ذمي‎, plural: اهل الذمۃ, ahl al-dhimma) was a “free” (i.e. non-slave), non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with sharia — Islamic law. A dhimmi is a person of the dhimma, a term which refers in Islamic law to a pact contracted between non-Muslims and authorities from their Muslim government. This status was originally only made available to non-Muslims who were People of the Book (i.e. Jews and Christians), but was later extended to include Zoroastrians, Mandeans, and, in some areas, Hindus.[1] and Buddhists [2] The status of dhimmi applied to millions of people living from the Atlantic Ocean to India from the 7th century until modern times.[3] Over time, many dhimmis converted to Islam. Most conversions were voluntary and happened for a number of different reasons but forced conversion played a key role in some later periods of Islamic history, mostly in the 12th century under the Almohad dynasty of North Africa and al-Andalus as well as in Persia where Shi’a Islam is dominant.[4]”

    Read the rest of the article and especially the parts about main stream Islamic attitude towards non Muslims.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhimmi

    btw: I only posted about a quarter of the original article and not the whole article.

  • fiddlesticks

    Sir Otto Says:

    September 19th, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    “You mean like the way the Muslims allow the Jews to exist in peace?”

    A moderate Muslim is one who doesn’t cut your head off. He lets you live but only on condition that you pay him money on a regular basis for the favor.

  • Sir Otto

    Do moderate Muslins believe in Isreal’s right to exist?

  • fiddlesticks

    Some show about moderation:

    only one side of the issue is presented and only people who agree with the host are allowed to ask qustions.

  • om

    I also heard the Hagee interview. I found it interesting and over the top, especially when Terry tried to engage him in terms of the other guests and perspectives she had on that show. It was clear to me he sensed the contradictions in his statements when they were linked to others with differing points of view. That lack of direct engagement is what is lacking and in that respect just look at the current administration’s policies towards those of differing religious or social systems (axis of evil). Demonize them, deny demonizing them, then get some other media mouthpiece to demonize them. Name calling and verbal “excommunication” in place of engagement and understanding starting right at the top. They say fear is a lack of faith, and no one shows or spreads more fear than the Bush administration.

    I also think the Pope used that quote intentionally. I think there are links to the whole statement on line by now but I haven’t read the whole thing. If there are several other famous (or infamous) quotes interspersed in the statement then it could be easier to believe his “apology”. It’s hard to believe a man with such “brilliance” had to pull that quote out to support his thesis and not rely on his own “brilliant” use of the language.

  • fiddlesticks

    Oh right now the guest is attacking Jews.

    Is he supposed to be a moderate.

    Why don’t you tackle the issue of antisemitism in the Arab world?

    The guests are not believable.

    It’s just another “it’s the fault of the Jews” show.

  • “I agree that a religious moderate is someone that does not kill others for religious reasons.”

    I’m sorry, but that is WAY too watered-down to be acceptable. Simply “not killing people” is enough to be moderate? By that definition David Duke, Pat Robertson, Father Charles Edward Coughlin, Joseph Smith Jr. and Carrie Nation were “moderates”.

    And furthermore that’s exactly what I’m worried about WRT to finding Muslim moderates – we may have so much difficulty finding them that in the end we may have to settle for a definition like yours: a Muslim “moderate” who simply avoids advocating killing and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

    I’ve repeatedly heard Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf referred to as a “moderate” simply because he’s not as bad as some other Muslims. I think we need a better definition of “moderate”.

  • Lovely way to end the hour.

    Thank you, ROS.

  • plnelson, you’re right. It was a lazy definition of moderate.

    Though, I don’t agree that we’d have such a hard time finding moderate Muslims. That’s the kind of comment that furthers bigotry.

  • ” Demonize them, deny demonizing them, then get some other media mouthpiece to demonize them.”

    They’re doing a pretty good job demonizing themselves. Mindless violence from a speech by the Pope or a cartoon hardly requires any editorializing. Daily sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni in Iraq, likewise. The fact that there’s not one country in the entire Arab league that’s a legitimate pluralistic democracy is another example.

    “I also think the Pope used that quote intentionally. I think there are links to the whole statement on line by now but I haven’t read the whole thing.”

    Why not?

  • fiddlesticks

    One final point.

    Is any one suprised that Martin Amis declined to appear on the program.

    Being a critic of Islam is dangerous as the Rushdie affair, the murder of Van Gogh, the cartoon affair, and now the Pope’s speech show.

    Why would any one want to risk their lives to talk to people who will threaten to kill you if you say anythnig they think is an insult?

    Only dhimmis like Chris are allowed to talk.

  • katemcshane

    This show was great. Chris, when you made it clear at the beginning where you stand, when I saw that you were not remaining neutral about racism, I felt so much relief I almost cried. The permission that exists to be racist is given in this country (and I guess where Martin Amis lives, too) all the time, for one group or another. Often, it seems as if people are so excited to sense permission for racism, for the ignorant comment, as if they just have to let it out. I was glad when Khaled Abou El Fadl said that we wouldn’t judge the people in the United States by the government they elected. Thank you for such generosity! And the man (I forget who it was) who said that a moderate Muslim is a moderate human being. Shouldn’t such views be learned at a young age? But they’re not, are they?

  • scribe5

    fd: “Being a critic of Islam is dangerous as the Rushdie affair, the murder of Van Gogh, the cartoon affair, and now the Pope’s speech show.”

    Indeed.

    After listening to the show I thought that Chris really doesn’t get it.

    I doubt he realizes how bizarre and hollow his pronouncement about moderat Islam sound to most people, especially those who ever had a close encounter with Muslims in Europe or in the Middle East.

    As to racism, ketem, there is no more racist culture than the Islamic Arab culture. Ask the people in South Sudan about it.

  • scribe5

    arts and letter daily has a number of articles on their essay section Islam:

    aldaily.com

    Essays and Opinion

    “The game is now clear: any dispute between Christianity and Islam must follow rules set by political Islamism. Obey them or risk violence and death… more» … more» … more» The West, says Sam Harris, really is at risk from Muslim extremists.”

    This isn’t exactly a “right wing web site.”

    There is also an interesting article about Dubai which you will never hear discussed on this show:

    http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/spiegel/0,1518,druck-437017,00.html

  • scribe5

    Here is the link to aldaily:

    http://aldaily.com/

  • “Though, I don’t agree that we’d have such a hard time finding moderate Muslims. That’s the kind of comment that furthers bigotry.”

    No one here feels the slightest compunction about suggesting that there are few, if any, moderate Republicans left. You would get very little argument if someone said that the Republican party has been taken over by ideologues, extremists, and right-wingers. nasty cartoons and caricatures of Bush and other GOP neocons abound.

    I asked in an earlier thread, why is it bigotry to raise that prospect about a religion but not about another set of ideas? Why should religions get a special pass? How is a religion different from a political ideology? They are both an explanatory model of the world, an epistemology, an iconography, and a set of traditions and history.

    Since you brought up the subject of bigotry perhaps you could explain why there should be a double-standard for those systems of ideas we call “religions” as opposed to those syatems we simply call philosophies or ideologies. I can’t think of any logical difference bewtween a system of ideas positing an invisble superbeing and an alternative system of ideas positing, say, natural laws. If I can issue broad critiques of scientists, communists, Ayn_Randian “Objectivists”, PETA members, or Neocons, why not Muslims or Lutherans?

  • rc21

    Most people would call Egypt a moderate Muslim country. While I was in the service I spent a good deal of time in the Middle East. On one occasion I was shown a text book used in the teaching of young egyptian youth it was a state text book. In it were stories of Jews who were said to kidnap Arab children. They would then kill them and eat parts of their body. This was 20 years ago so I don’t recall the details. There were other totally false and vile stories about Isreal and Jews. There may be some moderate Muslims,but with teachings of this sort,I imagine that they are few in number.

  • om

    pinelson: Thanks for the nudge. I just read the transcript and it’s very heavy going. Socrates and Manuel II are also quoted directly. I am not a philosophy major or doctorate holder. It seemed to me in my ignorance, that reason when coupled with Greek “logos” and Christian faith led to the only acceptable outcome; all else was based on flawed analysis.

    My reference to the Pope’s use of that particular quote still seems valid to me; the point he was making was about the evolution of the interchange between faith and reason over the course of time. Perhaps I’m wrong, but the subject of how best to spread any belief system is another subject entirely. It seemed a stretch to include it and. It seemed gratuitous to me (especially when he says he is trying to engage people).

  • Chepe

    How can you in your radio program denigrate the Pope and the Catholic Church without allowing them the right to defend or to explain what the Pope really meant when quoting a bizantine emperor? Is that objective?

  • PMC

    I’m listening to this program in NYC right now and am plain incredulous. What’s the point? To allow some self-proclaimed, uncredentialed, Muslim historians to belly ache, whine, trash the Pope, Martin Amis and generally hold forth with twisted historical generalizations utterly and completely unchallenged? Really, guys, if you’re going to attempt something like this, it’s generally to be desired that the host is slightly up on the subject. These guys had free reign. An early low-point was when Chris recited a lo-o-o-ong litany of Christianity’s (but not Islam’s) alleged sins and transgressions and concluded with the self-evidently false claim that we’re not here to insult any faith. I’m sure your guests appreciated that.

  • Potter

    Tonight was an opportunity to hear some moderate Muslim voices if you were wondering where they were. If your mind is closed, if a defensive or accusatory mood-groove owns you none of this will matter. I thought tonight was very helpful and I am grateful. There are many ordinary Muslims I am convinced who want to coexist and to mix with the west. The more exposure these voices have the better. If you go to Haaretz talkback for instance you can read comments from moderate muslims who are genuinely trying to work things out, to understand. They are deep. Their desires are to live in peace, to be accepted, and they go deeper than the issues.

    It’s interesting that the “dhimmi” thing keeps getting thrown up so much. The Wikipedia talks about it in the past tense. It belonged to a time when the religion was trying to protect itself from other religions and influences. This need to protect from outside influences is also present in Judaism and Christianity. To keep bringing this up is like wearing a billborad that says moving forward is forbidden, we all must be chained to the past, to past hatreds. So too regarding the Pope’s poorly chosen remark.

  • Tyranid

    I’m not sure moderation is possible. I’m a former Hindu who found it difficult to reconcile being a scientist indoctrinated with the scientific method with something as nebulous as “faith”.

    My problem with most major western religions (in this I include the muslim faith) is the fundamental concept that if you are a nonbeliever of a given faith, you are a heretic and will be directed to hell. How is a believer supposed to view a neighbor or a friend as an equal man if they do not have the same faith? There is a fundamental doctrine intertwined in these religions that suggest that men are not equal. I believe the precedence for religiously motivated genocide stems from this very problem.

    The modern problems with radical islam are a separate issue in my perspective. The issue is Islam cannot be critiqued or questioned by an outsider and a critique is in itself an attack on the existence of Islam. How does one start up a discourse without a critique? I’m not suggesting the Pope’s comments were appropriate but the death of a catholic nun as a reaction to his comments makes non-believers such as myself believe there are some very uneducated and barbaric believers of the islamic faith. It’s this barbarism that needs to be addressed if Islam is to be treated with equal footing as all other faiths and non-faiths. In the end we fear what we do not understand, and I do not understand this barbarism.

  • Back near the beginning I asked for a definition of a “moderate Muslim”. I even suggested what my admittedly American, suburban, east-coast educated upper-middle-class understaning was of a “moderate” follower of a religion.

    NO ONE here has offered a reasonably clear, succinct definition of a “moderate Muslim”. Is it the same as a “moderate Lutheran”? Or something different?

    We can’t have an intelligent discussion of this unless we define our terms!

  • pnelson: No one here feels the slightest compunction about suggesting that there are few, if any, moderate Republicans left.

    I know plenty of moderate Republicans. My father is one. I love him dearly, though we differ on many political positions. He has voted Republican all his life, fought in Vietnam and served in the Air Force for 20 years. However, he and many other moderate Republicans have expressed that, on the national level, their party has been overtaken by extremists who don’t represent the true Republican political platform.

    I’m not sure how you feel comfortable putting words in the mouths of others. While I have seen plenty of comments about the extremism of this administration and it’s cronies, I don’t recall reading anyone ever saying there are NO moderate Republicans in the US. And, even if one or two had, that doesn’t represent all of us. Hyperbole does not serve constructive dialogue well.

  • Ah, I love religious wars!

    To Tyranid: “My problem with most major western religions (in this I include the muslim faith) is the fundamental concept that if you are a nonbeliever of a given faith, you are a heretic and will be directed to hell.”

    I think you can count Judaism as a “major” Western religion. Judaism inspired the other two major monotheistic belief systems. And while you can find statements in the Jewish liturgy like “pour out thy wrath upon those who know You not” (not to mention the oft-misunderstood concept of “chosenness”), it represents a great misunderstanding to see Judaism as one which damns heretics.

    Earlier I mentioned Nostra Aetate, the declaration from the Second Vatican Council which ended the Catholic Church’s supeiority theology as well (are there just no Catholics participating here?).

    To the comments about what makes a religious “moderate” I gave one. I put it in bold. The adherent should reject a militant theology. A militant theology is not just a homicidal theology– where killing people proves your faith– but in that warring, fighting, contesting others is the proof of faith. By this definition, the religious rogues that plnelson cites practices militant theologies– and one can add Paster Hagee to that group.

    I’m halfway into the broadcast, and a bit disappointed. Waiting for the answers.

  • scribe5

    This isn’t helpful,

    Potter Says:

    September 19th, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    Tonight was an opportunity to hear some moderate Muslim voices if you were wondering where they were. If your mind is closed, if a defensive or accusatory mood-groove owns you none of this will matter. I thought tonight was very helpful and I am grateful.”

    “Moderate Muslims” who compare Muslim extremists who preach Jiahd against non Muslims to those Neo Con Jews.

    Oh yes, that’s very helpful.

    If these are moderates than I fear for our world.

    Potter an open mind isn ‘t the same as having a credulous mind.

  • The program tonight was insufferable, I hate to say.

    And I say this as someone who keeps an open mind, who tries to counter the reactionary rhetoric, and who has read a few books on Islam this year.

    I was thinking back to the show from March, Black Men in America, which I and others called your finest hour. On the program were Leon Henry and Stanley Greene, who spoke quite plainly about the problems that faced them growing up as young black men in America, and how they were working to address those problems today. The show had solilquies, but they all were quite honest and heartfelt about personal struggles.

    On the show, there’s a question 2/3 of the way through the show by Chris echoing Martin Amis’s point about “why there are more moderate Muslims on Western Op-Ed pages than in power.” I believe it’s Numan Waheed who starts speaking at 36:05. And his answer is almost six minutes long (with one interjection from Chris about Wahabism): the leaders are actually moderates; its the Islamists who are in jail; the Islamists want to be democratic.

    This is what makes it insufferable. Every answer is an excuse.

    Contrary to perceptions above, Chris didn’t exactly roll over tonight. I think he should have asked more questions, but the answers went on too long.

    And note, NONE of the comments above got on the air tonight. I’m not sure if it’s because of the long answers, or other reasons.

  • scribe5

    For those interested in the difference between “moderate Muslims” and Jihadists I recommend this interview with a film maker who talked to a lot of Muslims and would be suicide bombers:

    Interview with Pierre Rehov, documentary filmmaker, on psychology behind suicide bombings

    By Andrew Cochran

    “On July 15, I appeared on MSNBC’s “Connected” program to discuss the 7/7 London attacks (you can see video of the segment on the linked page). One of my fellow guests was Pierre Rehov, a French filmmaker who has filmed six documentaries on the intifada by going undercover in the Palestinian areas. Pierre’s upcoming film, “Suicide Killers,” is based on interviews that he conducted with the families of suicide bombers and would-be bombers in an attempt to find out why they do it. Pierre agreed to my request for a Q&A interview here about his work on the new film. Many thanks to Dean Draznin and Arlyn Riskind for helping to arrange this special interview.”

    http://counterterrorismblog.org/2005/07/interview_with_pierre_rehov_do.php

    This is what he said about “moderates”

    “Do all Muslims interpret jihad and martyrdom in the same way?

    All Muslim believers believe that, ultimately, Islam will prevail on earth. They believe this is the only true religion and their is no room, in their mind, for interpretation. The main difference between moderate Muslims and extremists is that moderate Muslims don’t think they will see the absolute victory of Islam during their life time, therefore they respect other beliefs. The extremists believe that the fulfillment of the Prophecy of Islam and ruling the entire world as described in the Koran, is for today. Each victory of Bin Laden convinces 20 million moderate Muslims to become extremists.”

  • Thanks Jon, I just took a peek at the Nostra Aetate. I had no idea such a document existed. I found it astounding. As a former Protestant I see Christianity as having inherent intolerance written into its sacred doctrine. Thats why I left the church. I sure don’t see the Catholic Church giving up its superiourity theology. Where are the women preists? Pope Benidict sure does not seem moderate to me he seems Christianofascist. Don’t get me started on Mother Theresa saying that condoms are a sin.

  • scribe5

    peggysue Says:

    September 20th, 2006 at 12:57 am

    “Thanks Jon, I just took a peek at the Nostra Aetate. I had no idea such a document existed.”

    Why didn’t you?

    Nostra Aetate is a considerable advance over previous Catholic theology and ushered in a sea change in Catholic thinking about religion.

    There are Catholic ultra conservatives who would love to go back to the period before NA.

    Mel Gibson, Father and son, belong to one such organization.

    You can’t compare NA to other more liberal creeds. You need to compare it to what preceded it.

  • Old Nick

    1.

    First, thanks to Robin for the Extra Credit reading links that answer, in part, the query I made in this thread’s first post (the Extra Credit list wasn’t yet up at that time).

    Kate McShane, I enjoy and agree with nearly every post you’ve ever offered us here on ROS, so please forgive me this one quibble:

    It is not ‘racist’ to question faith—even the faith of people elsewhere in the world. Nor is it ‘racist’ to question the effect that any faith’s scriptures exert on its believers. It is not any more ‘racist’ to question the behavioral effect that Islam exerts on its believers—and, by extension, on its nonbeliever-bystanders—than it is to question the countless manifest conceits of Christianity – especially those at its ever-growing fundamentalist edges.

    Now, I’ll grant you that it is something akin to ‘racist’ to demonize people who simply believe any given creed, but it should not be off-limits to question their beliefs. Hell, I question the beliefs of Christians every bit as acidly as those of Muslims – but that doesn’t make me ‘racist’. It makes me a skeptic, and a nontheist – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontheist – “To a nontheist, the issue of God’s existence is no different than… the existence of invisible, intangible elephants…” which is a lovely riff off the utterly hilarious http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_pink_unicorn :

    “The point of this silliness is to prod the theist into remembering that their preaching is likely to be viewed by (non)theists as having all the credibility and seriousness of [the (non)theists’] preaching about the Invisble Pink Unicorn…”

    Me? I couldn’t care less that this sort of parody raises the righteous hackles of billions of ardent believers. Show me one single shred of empirically obtained evidence that the Unverifiable Supernatural Entity exists, and you’ll give me damn good reason to feel abashed. Until then, my skepticism is not only proper, but necessary. Unless, of course, we’d really prefer to simply turn the evolutionary clock back a thousand or so years on our species’ advancement from collective ignorance toward scientifically-garnered knowledge of the natural universe.

    Faith, by definition, is a surrender of credulity and rationality to the premise that an Unverifiable Supernatural Entity not only exists, but is intensely concerned that we humans behave as their putative ‘prophets’ (curiously, always men) insist that the Unverifiable Supernatural Entity/Multipurpose Excuse has told them ‘He’ has secretly designed us to. (Any of you, btw, are forthwith licensed to employ the acronym USE/ME in place of the more usual ‘God’ – and even my Jesus-admiring sister thinks it both funny and sadly accurate.) No one, it seems, ever thinks to question why the USE/ME has designed the species that most concerns ‘Him’ with instinctual urges that violate ‘His’ rules—rules that particularly obsess over sexuality.

    Some might not prefer to call such a trickster deity ‘Godly’, but ‘demonic’, don’cha think?

    Faith is also only one manifestation of the broader phenomena lumped together in the catch-all concept called ‘religion’. For example, on the show tonight Khaled Abou El Fadl said that all religions and/or secular ideologies do ‘evil’ as well as good, and that their overall virtue can be assessed and culled in his unarticulated ‘balance sheet’. This, of course, is an all-too-commonly overlooked conceit of the ‘revealed religions’ (see my next post…coming tomorrow).

    I defy anyone to demonstrate how Jainism ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jainism ) has generated more ‘evil’ than Islam – or Christianity, ftm.

    Jainism preaches: “Compassion for all life, human and non-human… Human life is valued as a unique, rare opportunity to reach enlightenment; to kill any person, no matter what crime he may have committed, is considered unimaginably abhorrent…(Jainsim) is the only religion that requires monks and laity, from all its sects and traditions, to be vegetarian…”

    Now, I’m always happy to be proven wrong, so please give it a try.

    The point of this seeming polemic is to suggest that: “(not) all religions are variations of the same (Campbellian) theme” – let alone anything resembling ‘equal’.

    Indeed, sometimes a (Freudian) cigar is actually just a cigar:

    “Slay them (the unbelievers) wherever you find them…Idolatry is worse than carnage… Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme…” Koran, Sura 2, verses 190-193)

    “If you have suffered a defeat, so did the enemy. We alternate these vicissitudes among mankind so that God may know the true believers and choose martyrs from among you…and that God may test the faithful and annihilate the infidels.” (3:140)

    “A single endeavor of fighting in Allah’s cause in the forenoon or in the afternoon is better than the world and whatever is in it.” (Hadith)

    scribe5 (with whom I’ve had many, many prior differences, mind you) gets this patently violent religious chauvinism pretty much exactly right in his 12:50 AM, September 20th, 2006 offering.

    I will second his offering by suggesting that pretending otherwise is roughly equivalent to pretending that the Christian mythology in Revelations detailing the failed (2,000 years late, and counting) prophecy called ‘The End of Days’ is no longer an operative specter in the minds of most self-proclaimed Christians. (And, no, my Jesus-admiring sister does NOT subscribe to such patent nonsense: she’s got a mind vastly sharper than her kid brother’s.)

    None of this is meant to imply that Muslims are somehow ‘worse’ than or ‘inferior’ to Christians or Jews. No, and indeed, all three ‘revealed’ faiths are in the same boat: utterly unable to account for the astounding natural universe described every passing year ever more accurately by modern science—which simply cannot discover – despite the best efforts of its many theistic practitioners – a single shred of empirically obtained evidence that supports the putative existence of the USE/ME.

    More coming tomorrow (if you can bear it).

  • desertrose

    Chris – perhaps -should have invited Wafa Sultan to the show. She is a Syrian doctor who is a leading critic of Islam, and offers a good insight into the Muslim faith. I saw an interview with her on Al Jazeera on a program called The Opposite Direction (a very popular show) and she called a spade a spade. Shortly after her appearance on the show, she received death threats from extremists who didn’t agree with her views – the typical reaction usually towards intellectuals who question the faith. At any rate, here is a link to dr. Wafa Sultan

  • desertrose
  • desertrose

    Here is a translation to her interview on Al Jazeera

    http://www.memritv.org/Search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=1050

  • Old Nick

    2.

    After reading the article @

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Benedict_XVI_Islam_controversy , which includes quoted reactions of many world and religious leaders, it seems to me that the Islamic world wants to have it both ways. I’m no fan of popes (or of any other religious salesmen) but geez, folks, the (so-called) “Vicar of Christ” at least took the pains to qualify the original quote thusly:

    “he (the Byzantine Emperor) addresses his interlocutor (his Persian Muslim correspondent) with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded”.

    I suppose I need to preface my explanation of how Islam ‘wants to have it both ways’ by pointing out that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism comprise, collectively, the Abrahamic Faiths, but are also three species (or subspecies) of this Family (or Genus): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revealed_religion

    “A revealed religion is one which perceives a symbolic center in a set of revelations allegedly given by a deity, and often transcribed into a sacred text.”

    Which, to this nontheist, makes each ‘revealed religion’ EXACTLY as credible as belief in The Invisible Pink Unicorn, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, and, of course, Santa Claus.

    The Islamic (not Islamist) contention that Jesus (whose ballyhooed divine nature I don’t subscribe to anymore than I do the ‘divine revelations’ of Mohammed’s much more probably explained hypnagogic hallucinations – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucination#Hypnagogic_Hallucination ) was a ‘prophet’ who was given only a ‘portion’ of God’s full revelation. The contention that this ‘revelation’ (according to Islamic [again, not Islamist] conceit) was given, in its final, historical fullness, to Mohammed, is a sterling example of religious chauvinism.

    Diane Rhem hosted an Islamic guest yesterday morning who insisted that ‘words are violent’. (Words, in this instance, like those of the apparently incendiary Catholic Chief-Salesman called The Pope.)

    Words?

    Puh-lease!

    WORDS?

    REALLY?

    When airliners are crashed into skyscrapers in the name of proper belief in the USE/ME?

    Look, folks, the fiery deaths of 3,000+ innocents strike me as vastly more ‘violent’ than any goddamned words.

    Are the words of the (ridiculously retro-costumed) ‘Pope’ any more ‘violent’ than those from the Koran and hadith cited in my post above @ 1:36 AM, Sept. 20th?

    And why wasn’t this sort of blatant discrepancy a matter of critical inquiry for the guests of ROS over the 52 minutes of this thread’s show?

    Moreover, the word ‘whitewash’ has landed in this thread more than once, courtesy of bylines I typically and cynically suspect of harboring un-self-recognized prejudices—but, in this instance, it might not be a wholly bigoted and misplaced usage. (I’m open to correction of my suspicions.)

    I don’t reckon that any given Muslims are any more prone to violence or to irrational thinking than any given Christians or Jews.

    However, I can’t help but notice that contemporary Muslims are much more likely to divert blame for the existence and actions of their fundamentalist coreligionists to bogeymen like ‘Western imperialists’ and other such traditional scapegoats than to simply owning it as a legacy of their medieval faith – a faith, mind you, that modern science has, frankly, rendered obsolescent.

    This, I contend, is the true resistant-to-erosion kernel of Islamism that most Westerners, terrified as we are by the cultural taboo against criticizing religion, can’t seem to grasp, or can’t dare to broach in open conversation. Chris Lydon, who I admire on almost every other level and topic, seems no less guilty of this timidity than his colleague and co-luminary Diane Rhem (see below).

    I also noted that the hour’s conversation unselfconsciously conflated secular people living in the Islamic world with ‘believers’, as in when Khaled Abou El Fadl (I think it was El Fadl – I won’t know for sure until the podcast finishes its 2+ hour download on my atrocious 32K rural phone line connection) proclaimed that Egyptian movies sometimes advance ‘atheism’.

    Hey, pal, wait a minute: atheism, by any standard, lies as much outside of Islam as it lies outside of Christianity.

    This sort of unchallenged opportunism can only add ammunition to the chorus of voices in this thread suggesting that our dear (and venerated) Chris moderated a ‘whitewash’ of the real issues. Jon G. (who I do NOT suspect of bigotry) says as much @ 12:41 AM, and so do several others.

    Count me among the (regrettably) disappointed skeptics.

    If ROS really cares about points of view like mine (and, by implication, those of the other dissenters), ya’ll might want to offer your constituents an hour with Sam Harris and/or Richard Dawkins, whose brand-spankin’-new Letter to a Christian Nation and The God Delusion should, courtesy of Powell’s.com, be arriving in my mailbox no latter than this day next week:

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0307265773-0

    http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?isbn=0618680004

    In short and in sum: Islam, as far as I can tell, is ‘tolerant’ only in a temporary sense. Its scriptural conceit is that it is the ‘final’ revelation of the Unverifiable Supernatural Entity (Multipurpose Excuse). This breathtaking conceit assures its believers that it is only a matter of time (Allah is searching, after all, for ‘true believers’ dedicated enough to become martyrs) before the House of War (that’s us, ALL of us, outside of the Islamic Ummah) are conquered by the House of Islam (which, not insignificantly, means ‘Submission’).

    That’s a hell of a conceit – and not a future I’d prefer to will to my heirs.

    Now, if my admittedly cynical analysis fails to capture the fullness of the Islamic religious worldview that I just can’t seem to plause, please feel free to engage me in conversation. I promise I don’t bite – or scorn – even though I find effectively indefensible the body of theistic beliefs on which the Abrahamic faiths rely.

  • Old Nick

    I’ve got a comment ‘Awaiting Moderation’ (because of too many links to Wikipedia) that might slip notice if I don’t mention it now, long before the good staff at ROS wake up and check their overnight posts on the threads. It will (magically) appear above this one later this morning (the 20th). Thanks, in advance, to anyone willing to scroll back and read it…

  • Rather than asking what is a moderate muslim, we should consider, as one of the guests, what is it to be a moderate person, or even a moderate group. This broadens the topic beyond religious and cultural issues to include questions of power and wealth. In this regard, what is it to be a moderate capitalist, Chrisitian, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise? What is it to be a moderate leader? What is the moderate application of authority and force. What is a moderate military power? What is a moderate ecological footprint? What is a moderate share of global resources?

    Taken against this, what is it to be violent and extreme and who should look in the mirror before labeling others?

  • Old Nick

    Thank you Desert Rose for the priceless link to Wafa Sultan. I strongly suggest that anyone claiming interest in this general topic read her Wikipedia entry, and the articles linked to it. Especially the transcript of her March 22nd, 2006 appearance on Al Jazeera:

    http://www.aqoul.com/images/wafa_sultan.pdf

    …which features unambiguous pearls like this:

    “The Muslims…began the ‘clash of civilizations’ when Islam’s prophet said, ‘I was commanded to fight until they believe in God and his prophet.’ When Muslims divided people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called for fighting others until those others believed in what they believed in, they sparked off this conflict, this war. And they must cease this war. They must revise their Islamic books and academic curricula, filled as they are with calls to denounce others as infidels, and to fight infidels.”

    Right on, Ms. Sultan. That’s calling it what it is, not what we’d like to pretend it is.

    I second Desert Rose’s suggestion that Ms. Sultan would make an excellent ROS guest, and a fully informed counterweight to the disingenuous sort of excuse-making that riddles our polite cultural discussion of Islam – exactly as the al Jazeera debate’s transcript recounts.

    Which leads me to the following: We can reasonably conceptualize and speak of ‘progressive’ Christians and Jews – believers who are paradoxically willing to ignore numerous entire passages of the scriptures their faiths stem from. We broadly recognize these ‘progressives’ as counterweights to their fundamentalist coreligionists. And we can additionally extrapolate that a body of ‘moderate’ Christians and Jews must therefore exist too: believers who have a metaphorical foot in both the progressive and fundamentalist camps. Now, I don’t think it’s any stretch to claim that the majority of Muslims are ‘moderate’, akin to their Christian and Jewish counterparts – yet I have never heard the phrase ‘progressive Muslims’.

    In fact, such a phrase seems to me a virtual impossibility, because the Koran claims that Mohamed wasn’t speaking ‘for’ God (the USE/ME), but that ‘God’ was speaking directly and inerrantly through Mohamed’s mouth. This amazing conceit (and ingenious evolutionary adaptation of the Abrahamic-religion meme) leaves no apparent room for the sort of ‘progression’ in Islam that Wafa Sultan calls for in the quote above.

    So, I wonder: is it possible that the only imaginable ‘progressive Muslim’ is a lapsed Muslim – an apostate – which is a condition that the Koran defines as a capital offense?

    Feel free, anyone, to offer appropriate correctives to my wonderment.

  • jdyer

    Old Nick made an excellent point:

    “Which leads me to the following: We can reasonably conceptualize and speak of ‘progressive’ Christians and Jews – believers who are paradoxically willing to ignore numerous entire passages of the scriptures their faiths stem from. We broadly recognize these ‘progressives’ as counterweights to their fundamentalist coreligionists. And we can additionally extrapolate that a body of ‘moderate’ Christians and Jews must therefore exist too: believers who have a metaphorical foot in both the progressive and fundamentalist camps. Now, I don’t think it’s any stretch to claim that the majority of Muslims are ‘moderate’, akin to their Christian and Jewish counterparts – yet I have never heard the phrase ‘progressive Muslims’.”

    One of the problems with using terms to describe Muslims is that they often are terms thrown at them by well meaning non Muslims.

    “In fact, such a phrase seems to me a virtual impossibility, because the Koran claims that Mohamed wasn’t speaking ‘for’ God (the USE/ME), but that ‘God’ was speaking directly and inerrantly through Mohamed’s mouth. This amazing conceit (and ingenious evolutionary adaptation of the Abrahamic-religion meme) leaves no apparent room for the sort of ‘progression’ in Islam that Wafa Sultan calls for in the quote above.”

    From what I read about the Koran and in the Koran I would tend to agree with Old Nick here.

    “So, I wonder: is it possible that the only imaginable ‘progressive Muslim’ is a lapsed Muslim – an apostate – which is a condition that the Koran defines as a capital offense?”

    Again, judging by the few former Muslims friends I would agree with the above comment.

    Many former Muslims I have known were people of the left and had similar beliefs to the ones described by Old Nick.

  • Potter

    Scribe 5″ “Moderate Muslims” who compare Muslim extremists who preach Jiahd against non Muslims to those Neo Con Jews.

    Oh yes, that’s very helpful.

    The moderates were on the defensive responding to the questions of the evening and in response to the Pope’s speech. Whatever the Pope was aiming for ( apparently reciprocity and tolerance) he missed in the short term but he raised a lot of dialogue which is good but as well as yet more accusations and defensiveness.

    An interesting point was made last night, and it not original but I believe it: Democracy will EVENTUALLY bring the moderates.

    The most important and basic idea that I heard last night is a simple definition of moderate: one who accepts the right of “the other” to exist and to thrive. “You cannot use beliefs to take another’s life.” ( You can believe you are right, you can believe what you want beyond that).

    So it seems that moderates can flourish here but they have to fight to survive there.

    Last night the moderate voices from afar were missing.

    I think it was Fadl who said he had studied Islamic law for 30 long years and he concludes it is the “product of an age” and needs to be put in context. By that I interpret that he means it needs to be modernized. If he did not mean that it is the conclusion that I think one has to come to.

    Again, I highly recommend George Packer’s “The Modern Martyr” that I linked above. He explains how Islam came out of two periods in Mohammed’s life, one peaceful, one more violent.

    What needs to happen has to come from within the faith; people will start to follow reform and new interpretations.

    In the meantime engage in dialogue, show tolerance and acceptance, praise the good.

    Nick, for myself thanks for the book recommendations! Our old argument: you can’t “break the spell” with that, expecting a sudden “‘aha” reaction from a believer that will sweep away religion or those parts of it that are destructive. That would be taken as a threat. The Pope could not even allude to it without causing riots. It’s not about name-calling, it’s about how to deal with clashing world-views, huge discrepancies between have and have-nots, short of violence.

  • Jon Garfunkel Says “To the comments about what makes a religious “moderate” I gave one. I put it in bold. The adherent should reject a militant theology”

    What you actually said was . . .

    “My definition of moderate starts with not killing someone in the name of religion; it’s a fanatic who takes away from someone in this world for his gain in the next world. I think that the term militant theology would be appropriate to explain this.”

    So from that I concluded that your definition of militant theology involved killing people.

  • “I sure don’t see the Catholic Church giving up its superiourity theology. Where are the women preists?”

    But the difference there is that for all their “superiourity theology” they don’t force it on others. They may not have female leaders in the Church, but they don’t try to prevent female leaders in politics and business.

    How many Muslim countries have a secular government and separation of civil and and religious authority? Hardly any. How many predominantly Catholic countries DON’T have such separation?

    I think it’s important when discussing “moderation” to consider not only what they believe but what SCOPE of life and society they apply those beliefs to.

  • “Democracy will EVENTUALLY bring the moderates.”

    I think that opinion, which is also the basic premise of Bush and Condi Rice, is just as faith-based as anything promoted by religionists.

    Democracy is no more the natural order of things than any other system of government. It can be done well or poorly just like any other form of government.

    Personally, I prefer democracy, but I cannot vouchsafe that this isn’t simply a peculiar western affectation of mine brought about by the cultural conditioning of living here. We have NO IDEA what cultural values, belief systems, assumptions, and so forth are necessary for democracy to succeed or even appear to be attractive to people of different cultures. China represents an interesting social experiment in whether it’s possible to have an economic free market in the absence of political freedom.

  • jazzman

    potter says:: George Packer wrote an excellent article “the Moderate Martyr: ( interpreting Islam for the modern world- Letter from Sudan) in the New Yorker Magazine, September 11th 2006 issue. He focussed on Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, a visionary and a moderate, “the anti Qutb” who was hanged in 1985.

    Potter, in reading Packer’s article about Taha, did you notice the parallels between his life and that of Jesus of Nazareth? I see an uncanny resemblance to the Republican Brotherhood and the Jews who eventually started Christianity in the 1st century. The Mecca principles might be analogous to the New Testament and the Medina Principles to the OT – kind of an inverted Judeo/Christian canon. Anyway it certainly disabuses the fashionable idea that almost all Muslims are misogynistic, Sharia obsessed Wahabis or the Taliban. It seems to me that Taha’s philosophy could lay the foundation for common ground between the Judeo/Christian followers and Islam (BTW of which I am neither.)

  • Potter

    Potter: “Democracy will EVENTUALLY bring the moderates.”

    plnelson:I think that opinion, which is also the basic premise of Bush and Condi Rice, is just as faith-based as anything promoted by religionists……Democracy is no more the natural order of things than any other system of government. It can be done well or poorly just like any other form of government…….We have NO IDEA what cultural values, belief systems, assumptions, and so forth are necessary for democracy to succeed or even appear to be attractive to people of different cultures…….

    If we concentrate on our own democracy: making it exemplary in every way that we can it would be a beacon. We have not done that. And STILL it is looked at favorable and separate from our adminstrative failings. People ( take this program’s guests) want to be here still. It is possible too that we can learn from other cultural values and other forms of democracy that might develop.

    So yes it is a leap of faith. Having faith in that ( or more hope that that might work positively) does not connect me to Bush or Condi or neocons who wish to IMPOSE democracy through force and in the process place on exhibit for all the world to see our weaknesses and failings. We have given democracy a bad name, it is being said. Exhibit A is the last two presidential elections.

  • Potter

    Jazzman…it certainly disabuses the fashionable idea that almost all Muslims are misogynistic, Sharia obsessed Wahabis or the Taliban. It seems to me that Taha’s philosophy could lay the foundation for common ground between the Judeo/Christian followers and Islam

    I thought Taha was extraordinary and bringing his ideas back can only be good.

  • Old Nick

    Wafa Sultan says,

    “In our (Islamic) countries, religion is the sole source of education, and is the only spring from which that terrorist drank until his thirst was quenched. He was not born a terrorist, and did not become a terrorist overnight. Islamic teachings played a role in weaving his ideological fabric, thread by thread, and did not allow other sources – I am referring to scientific sources – to play a role. It was these teachings that distorted this terrorist and killed his humanity. It was not (the terrorist) who distorted the religious teachings and misunderstood them, as some ignorant people claim.

    “When you recite to a child still in his early years the verse: ‘They will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off,’ regardless of this verse’s interpretation, and regardless of the reasons it was conveyed or its time – you have made the first step towards creating a great terrorist…”

    http://www.annaqed.com/english/under/islam_is_the_source_of_terror.html

    I can very easily imagine American Muslims saying, “This isn’t my Islam.”

    I can very easily imagine their authentic sincerity, too.

    In answer, I say,

    Good! Then make it so. Edit the scriptures from which your faith springs. Separate, unmistakably and eternally, your Islam from the Islam of the Islamists.

    If you can’t take this simple conceptual step, then your Islam is the same Islam of the Islamists.

  • Old Nick

    rc21:

    Inquisitions. Crusades. Witch-burnings. And this:

    http://www.radioopensource.org/moderate-muslims/#comment-19547

    Compare the record of faith-incited violence with the Wikipedia article on secular humanism – and then consider the intellectual dishonesty of your cheap-shot attempt to conflate secular humanism with the totalitarian ideologies that—in stark imitation of the Inquisitions and crusades that historically preceded them in Western culture—murdered millions of innocents.

    Luckily for you, this is the ‘Mea Culpa’ thread. I am longstanding and proud member of the ROS Mea Culpa Club, and will gladly welcome you into the clubhouse should you find the courage to apologize for your cheap-shot, smeary conflation.

  • Old Nick

    oOpS! The post above this one belongs (obviously) in the Mea Culpa thread.

  • Who are the real terrorists…

    2973 Americans died on 9/11

    suicide bombers did the job

    they called them “terrorists”

    they launched an offensive

    Proclaimed Iraq free

    48,000 Iraqis died

    3,015 Americans gave their lives

    Dead…yet, Free?

    Who are the real terrorists?

    Americans are called people

    Iraqis are “insurgents”… “terrorists” …”islamists”…inhuman

    They dehumanize them, “abu ghraib” them

    Rape, murder, humiliate them

    Empathy only counts when the victims look like you…

    speak your language…

    drink Coca Cola and wear Levi’s Jeans…

    48,000 Iraqis

    what is the rate of exchange for Iraqis lives vs. Americans

    the going rate is 16:1

    a purple stained finger doesn’t replace my…

    mother, sister, father, brother…friend

    If you back me against a wall…

    I will come out swinging…

    they call me a terrorist…an islamist…an insurgent

    yet…48,000 Iraqis have died

    Who are the real terrorists?

    (c) By Amani Jabbar

    some facts courtesy of http://www.iraqbodycount.net/

  • Old Nick

    Amani, I appreciate your outrage over the inexcusable US invasion and occupation of Iraq – and in fact I share your outrage. But I’d like to ask you something different:

    You were given a voice on this show as a moderate Muslim woman; so, as such, I’d like to read your thoughts on the points made and questions raised by Wafa Sultan here:

    http://www.aqoul.com/images/wafa_sultan.pdf

    And here: http://www.annaqed.com/english/under/islam_is_the_source_of_terror.html

    And also the thoughts made by Wajeeda al-Huwaider and other Arab women here:

    http://www.metransparent.com/texts/arab_feminists_on_women_s_rights.htm

    Thank you, in advance.

  • Old Nick

    It’s been a long time—too long—since I linked anything from Middle East Transparent to a ROS thread.

    I owe it, in no small part to make amends for perceptions of my nontheist stridency.

    Middle East Transparent, operated by a Lebanese named Pierre Akel, is a treasure trove of Arab liberalism. It’s authentically liberal too, and so much so to have been blocked by the Saudi government, and others.

    Here’s a very brief selection of articles you can access with a click @

    http://www.metransparent.com/english.html

    Islam: Walking a Tightrope Between Violence and Reform, by Samir Khalil Samir, sj

    Interview with Iranian Activist Shirin Ebadi: “I Will Fight As Long As I Am Alive”

    Days Of Darkness, by Gideon Levy (who, I might as well remind us, was a terrific ROS guest this past July)

    Turning Abbas Into A Missed Opportunity, by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

    Extremist Image Masks Iran’s Many Faiths – Some Religious Minorities See Increase In Harassment, by Karl Vick

    Why I Published The Muhammad Cartoons, by Fleming Rose

    That’s a mere half dozen of the several dozen articles on the site’s front page – and it has four pages in English alone!

    Enjoy the enlightenment, everyone.

  • Old Nick

    And, while taking a dose of my own prescribed medicine, I stand—happily—corrected: I found a very credible usage of the phrase ‘progressive Muslims’ here:

    http://www.metransparent.com/texts/samir_khalil_samir_islam_walking_a_tightrope.htm

  • desertrose

    Old Nick: I agree with Dr. Wafa Sultan’s views simply because I was also indoctrinated with hating the other so called ‘non-believers’, and those who don’t adhere to the strict Islamic rules of obeying and denying the mind. Fortunately, I had a family that was liberal-minded and taught me otherwise. But not everyone is as lucky as I was. As a young person in Aden, I had a horrible picture of the Jews, Christians, and anyone else. History books taught in schools are full of rejection of the other (even within people of the same faith), and militarizing children’s minds before they blossom, and learn to live to their fullest potential.

    I chose to divorce myself from such a faith that “cancels’ the mind” and silences any voice of reason or constructive criticism, and label individuals/intellectuals ‘KAFER’ or Murtad (one rejected the faith). Dr. Wafa Sultan called them up on the expulsion of the Jews from Mecca & Medina (modern day Saudi Arabia), and imposing “Jizya” a from of taxation on Christians who didn’t want to convert named (ahl al dhimma), on dividing the world on believers and non, on imposing Hijab on women whereas in the beginning was meant only for the many wives of the prophet. She also expressed her disagreement with Moderate Muslims and their institutions such as “Al Azhar” that produces a cadre of moderate militant, and how they pray on the West lack of knowledge of the Arabic language, and portray another picture of Islam different to the reality on the ground.

    A lot of issues needs to be brought to light by Muslims in order to repair the rift they created with the Western countries (if one excludes colonialism, and wars waged on innocent Iraqis). Reformation is definitely needed.

    Cheers,

  • Reginleif

    If your mind is closed, if a defensive or accusatory mood-groove owns you none of this will matter,

    I.e., “If you disagree with the thrust of the show, you’re a closed-minded right-winger.”

    It’s interesting that the “dhimmi” thing keeps getting thrown up so much. The Wikipedia talks about it in the past tense. It belonged to a time when the religion was trying to protect itself from other religions and influences.

    Any religion that has to “protect itself from other religions and influences” is obviously at a disadvantage in the marketplace of ideas. And if you think the dhimma is completely a thing of the past, try reading some Robert Spencer or Bat Ye’or.

    http://www.amazon.com/Myth-Islamic-Tolerance-Treats-Non-Muslims/dp/1591022495/sr=8-12/qid=1158828359/ref=sr_1_12/002-1466878-4377657?ie=UTF8&s=books

    http://www.amazon.com/Islam-Dhimmitude-Where-Civilizations-Collide/dp/0838639437/sr=8-2/qid=1158828561/ref=pd_bbs_2/002-1466878-4377657?ie=UTF8&s=books

    scribe5: Potter an open mind isn ‘t the same as having a credulous mind.

    It’s entirely possible, as Potter’s comments show, to have a mind so open that one’s brains fall right out.

  • Amani says

    “Who are the real terrorists…

    2973 Americans died on 9/11

    suicide bombers did the job

    they called them “terrorists”

    they launched an offensive

    Proclaimed Iraq free

    48,000 Iraqis died

    3,015 Americans gave their lives”

    Thas doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. Two key points are:

    1. The 9/11 terrorists INTENDED to kill their victims, and would have been happier to kill even more. The Americans invaded Iraq for many stupid reasons, but the desire to kill lots of people wasn’t one of them.

    2. Most the people killed in Iraq were killed by their fellow Iraqis, many of whom were killed in precisely the kind of Muslim-on-Muslim violence that has undermined that religion’s claim to be a “religion of peace and tolerance” and prompted this topic.

  • Potter

    Reginleif :”It’s entirely possible, as Potter’s comments show, to have a mind so open that one’s brains fall right out.”

    I take that as a compliment and gladly take that chance over the other extreme. So far I am happy to report I seem to be okay, contained, and have no mess to clean up. If you cannot stand our differences I suggest you cultivate some tolerance, some manners here and check the guidelines. Thanks.

  • rc21

    To amani ; plnelson beat me to the punch.It is the Iraquis and other muslims who are doing almost all the killing so when you ask the question who is the real terrorist? The answer is as usual Muslims.

    This was Bushes biggest mistake. He actually thought he could introduce democracy and freedom to an area where violence and repression is all that is known. Bush suffers from PC sickness. He tried to value all people and cultures. He mistakingly thought freedom, liberty,human rights,economic freedom,and education were something that all people valued.

  • In response to “old Nick”

    Firstly, I would like to say that it saddens me that Ms. Sultan and Ms. al-Huwaider have experienced such ill treatment by misguided people. I can see the anger and sadness that they have lived through their writings.

    Having said that, we must remember that the billion Muslims in the world reside on every continent and at times our religion is tainted by cultural practices that have no root in Islam. In the article you linked to, Arab Feminists on Women’s Rights, this is especially apparent, as the article is about ARAB women’s rights. Not all Arabs are Muslim and not all Muslims are Arab. She is mostly speaking about cultural practices that take place in Arab countries. One could easily look at the condition of women in India or China and say that those practices hail from the Hindu or Bhuddist religions. That is not necessarily true.

    As I am not a scholar of Islam, I can only speak from my experience and knowledge.

    Allow me to compare Islam’s view of women to Christianity and Judaisms:

    1. Eve’s Fualt?

    “The Judeo-Christian conception of Adam and Eve’s creation is narrated in detail in Genesis 2:4-3:24. God prohibited both of them from eating the fruits of the forbidden tree. However, the serpent seduced Eve to eat from it and Eve, in turn, seduced Adam to eat with her. Consequently, God said to Eve: I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing. With pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you….

    The Qur’an, contrary to the Bible, places equal blame on both Adam and Eve (7:19:23) and nowhere gives even the slightest hint that Eve tempted Adam to eat from the tree or that she ate before he did. In other words, Eve is not a temptress, a seducer, or a deceiver. Moreover, she is not to be blamed for the pains of childbearing. God, according to the Qur’an, punishes no one for another’s faults.”

    Shameful Duaghters

    The Bible states: The period of the mother’s ritual impurity is twice as long if a girl is born than if a boy is (Leviticus 12:2-5). The Catholic Bible states explicitly: The birth of a daughter is a loss (Ecclesiasticus 22:3)…

    This same idea of treating daughters as sources of shame led pagan Arabs, before the advent of Islam, to practice female infanticide. The Qur’an condemned this heinous practice: When news is brought to one of them of the birth of a female child, his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief. With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil they decide on? (16:58-59). This sinister crime would never have ended in Arabia were it not for the power of the scathing terms the Qur’an used to condemn it (16:59, 43:17, and 81:8-9). …”

    Female Education

    “…according to the Talmud, “women are exempt from the study of the Torah.” Some rabbis firmly declared: “Let the words of Torah rather be destroyed by fire than imparted to women” and: “Whoever teaches his daughter Torah is as though he taught her obscenity”(6)…

    The Bible also states: As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church (I Corinthians 14:34-35).

    A woman in the Qur’anic conception has the right to argue even with the Prophet. No one has the right to tell her to be silent, and she is under no obligation to consider her husband the one and only reference in matters of law and religion.

    It is her obligation, as well as her right, to read the Qur’an and learn Islam.

    Divorce:

    The New Testament unequivocally advocates the indissolubility of marriage based upon the attribution of Jesus’ words: But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:32).

    In Islam I have the right to ask for a divorce, and the Prophet Muhammad married divorced women and well as widows. This proves that marrying a divorcee is not shameful.

    For more on this topic read: http://www.fountainmagazine.com/articles.php?SIN=405e128163&k=63&948364318&show=part1

    Now let me tell you about my experience with Islam. Islam gives me the right to be supported completely by myhusband, any money that the I earn is for me to spend as I choose, and that IS the case in my household. As a Muslims woman, I have the right to ask for a divorce, and be treated fairly and justly by my husband.

    It saddens me that some have misconstrued my religion and mistreated women in this way. I think those men need to learn their religion more fully.

  • To pnelson:

    1. The 9/11 terrorists INTENDED to kill their victims, and would have been happier to kill even more. The Americans invaded Iraq for many stupid reasons, but the desire to kill lots of people wasn’t one of them…

    I didn’t know that you were a diety and thus can judge the intention of human beings. All hail Pnelson…

  • “To pnelson:

    1. The 9/11 terrorists INTENDED to kill their victims, and would have been happier to kill even more. The Americans invaded Iraq for many stupid reasons, but the desire to kill lots of people wasn’t one of them…

    I didn’t know that you were a diety and thus can judge the intention of human beings. All hail Pnelson… :”

    Do you have even the slightest evidence that either one of my assertions is wrong?

    Your response is emotional and not well-reasoned.

  • “Allow me to compare Islam’s view of women to Christianity and Judaisms: . . . ”

    This is irrelevant. As I am not a Christian, Jew or Muslim, the question of their theoretical or theological views of women is not nearly as important as how those views are applied IN PRACTICE.

    Muslim countries, and even Muslim communities impose practical restrictions and requirements on women that non-Muslim ones do not. My wife has no restrictions placed on her as a woman by anyone – not the culture as a whole, not me or her male relatives, not her religion. She can come and go as she pleases, dress as she pleases, worship as she pleases, and do all these things in the company of whomever she wants, male or female.

    Another part of the problem is that Islamic societies seem to have a very difficult time separating state and religion. There are very few predominantly Muslim societies where the state authorities supercede the religious ones, and even where that’s achieved, it’s usually achieved through extremist measures. For example, Turkey has struggled for years to remain secular but they’ve had to adopt measures that would never be acceptable in the US – preventing women members of parliament from wearing their headscarves if they want to, for instance.

    So it’s not merely the medieval ideas that Islam has about women, but the fact that the religious authorities have far more power to IMPOSE those ideas. We certainly have the odd Christian or Jew here (e.g., Phyllis Schlafley) who seem to think that women should occupy a subordinate role but they are not in a position of power to impose their views.

  • “It saddens me that some have misconstrued my religion and mistreated women in this way. I think those men need to learn their religion more fully.”

    This assumes that the sum total of what a religion is consists of whatever it says in its scripture. But that is not empirically true.

    ALL religions are subject to interpretation, and Islam is no different. You have YOUR opinion of what Islam is, and the Taliban have theirs, and each of you can cite learned scholars and passages in the Koran. Christians and Jews do the same things.

    Show of hands: How many people here believe that the Crusades and the Inquisitions were NOT carried out by Christians? I’ve read numerous histories of the period and I’ve never seen a serious historian use any term other than “Christian” to describe the perpetrators of those acts.

    On theological grounds you could argue that they violated the teachings of Jesus. But this only goes to show that a religion is MORE THAN just a set of theological precepts. As I’ve said elsewhere here – a religion consists of a SET of things that includes a world-view, a set of traditions and history, an iconography, etc.

    “Modersate Muslims” keep trying to retreat into the position that suicide bombers are not Muslims because IN THEIR OPINION suicide bombings violate Muslim teaching. But those same suicide bombers can cite religious authorities who would take a contrary position. It would be like saying that Pope Gregory IX or Alexander VI were not Christians or that the Catholicism is not a species of Christianity. That line of argument goes nowhere.

  • Reginleif

    I suggest you cultivate some tolerance

    Ah, yes, another buzzword of the dhimmi left. No thanks, I’d rather be considered “intolerant” by the likes of you than dead or subservient.

  • rc21

    Christianity had it’s dark time. The crusades and the inquisitions took place hundreds of years ago.Christians no longer kill in the name of their god. They dont even force people into christianity. The same can be said for the Jews,hindus and just about any other religon you can think of.

    It seems that only radical Islam still lives in the past.

  • “Christianity had it’s dark time. The crusades and the inquisitions took place hundreds of years ago.Christians no longer kill in the name of their god. They dont even force people into christianity. The same can be said for the Jews,hindus and just about any other religon you can think of.

    It seems that only radical Islam still lives in the past.”

    Precisely. But my point was that it’s generally agreed to call the people who did the Crusades and Inquisitions “Christians”.

    Some so-called “moderate” Muslims are trying to distance Islam from the bloody riots over cartoons and the Pope’s comments, from the suicide attacks all over the world, from the death threats against Salman Rushdie and the Pope, and from the barbaric treatment of women in many Islamic societies, and from the denial of religious freedom to non-Muslims in many Islamic societies, by saying that the people who are doing those things are not true Muslims – that they are not interpreting Islamic doctrine correctly.

    But that would be like saying that we shouldn’t use the term “Christian” to describe the Crusaders, the Pope or the Catholics. ALL religions have doctrinal disputes and religious authorities at odds with one-another. It’s not my job, or yours, or the US government’s job to sort out who is a “true” Muslim. And our resident “moderate” Muslim, Amani, is saying that she knows better than the Islamic religious authorities who sanctioned the above barbarities.

    There are certainly violent, wacko Christians out there, too, but they are tiny cults without the degree of popular support needed to create the widespread violence that Islamic extremism has.

  • rc21

    plnelson ;Yes I agree 100% with what you are saying. My point is (and I guess we are sying the same thing ) Christians and other religons have evolved to the point where they no longer use violence to try and convert the nonbelievers. Whereas fanatical Muslims seem to be regressing to a point where violence is not only accepted but advocated for by its leaders as a way to either convert or destroy all nonbelievers.

  • Old Nick

    A Christian madrasa?

    Jihad isn’t just for Muslims anymore:

    (quote)

    Jesus Camp…

    A new documentary coming out on a church amp for children called “Kids on Fire.”

    A quote from the movie:

    “I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places.”

    Wait… what? We want that kind of turmoil over here, eh’?

    I also like the worshiping of a cardboard cutout of GWB.

    The movie site, with a trailer http://www.jesuscampthemovie.com

    (unquote)

    This posting came courtesy of: http://forums.roadbikereview.com/showthread.php?t=73601

  • Old Nick

    For more on the Christian madrasa:

    http://www.kcrw.com/cgi-bin/db/kcrw.pl?tmplt_type=program&show_code=tp

    It’s a 10 minute segment that begins about 42 minutes into the program.

  • Potter

    Reginleif– You are violating the guidelines of this blog with your personal attacks. Cut it out.

  • “For more on the Christian madrasa:

    http://www.kcrw.com/cgi-bin/db/kcrw.pl?tmplt_type=program&show_code=tp

    Hopefully this will turn out to be nothing more than a cargo-cult version of the Islamic extremists. But it does illustrate the irrationality that religion seems to promote in some people, and why rational people prefer not to put religionistas in charge of their countries.

  • Old Nick

    Here’s more from the New York Times:

    (quote)

    Children’s Boot Camp for the Culture Wars

    By STEPHEN HOLDEN

    Published: September 22, 2006

    “Extreme liberals who look at this should be quaking in their boots,” declares Pastor Becky Fischer with jovial satisfaction in the riveting documentary “Jesus Camp.” Ms. Fischer, an evangelical Christian, helps run Kids on Fire, a summer camp in Devils Lake, N.D., that grooms children to be soldiers in “God’s army.”

    A mountainous woman of indefatigable good cheer, Ms. Fischer makes no bones about her expectation that the growing evangelical movement in the United States will one day end the constitutional ban separating church and state. And as the movie explores her highly effective methods of mobilizing God’s army, that expectation seems reasonable.

    Ms. Fischer understands full well that the indoctrination of children when they are most impressionable (under 13 and preferably between 7 and 9) with evangelical dogma is the key to the movement’s future growth, and she compares Kids on Fire to militant Palestinian training camps in the Middle East that instill an aggressive Islamist fundamentalism. The term war, as in culture war, is repeatedly invoked to describe the fighting spirit of a movement already embraced by 30 million Americans, mostly in the heartland.

    At Kids on Fire we see children in camouflage and face paint practicing war dances with wooden swords and making straight-armed salutes to a soundtrack of Christian heavy metal. We see them weeping and speaking in tongues as they are seized by the Holy Spirit. And we see them in Washington at an anti-abortion demonstration.

    (unquote)

    Read the rest @ http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/22/movies/22camp.html?_r=1&ex=1159070400&en=d698645fe1b6848d&ei=5087&oref=slogin

  • Old Nick

    “I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places.”

    I’ve spent some idle time today absorbing the import of those words by Becky Fischer, heard in the new film ‘Jesus Camp’.

    Fischer is working to make children—children!—into soldiers for Jesus (which means what – crusaders, hmmm…?). She is training youngsters for ‘the war’ (her words).

    I compared those words with words I read earlier this morning at Amani Jabbar’s blog, words like these:

    “…there are many things happening right now that are more deserving of our rage than cartoons and the Pope’s verbal diarrhea. I know that only a handful of Muslims acted stupidly. It probably wasn’t even 500 of us, which is a drop in the bucket in our community of 1.7 billion. But it would be nice to see this anger and rage channeled in non-violent ways over the carnage in Iraq, Palestine, Darfur, Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere. I don’t know why some of us don’t get upset over the deaths of thousands of our brothers and sisters around the world. But when a smaller insult is directed our way, which could be subdued with dhikr and prayer, some of (us Muslims) go nuts.”

    And in the comparison, I’ve learned a thing or two. Like this: it is as wrong to conflate moderate, normal people like Amani Jabbar with Osama bin Laden as it is to conflate the Christian-dominatrix Becky Fischer with Christopher Lydon (or peace-activist secular humanists with Mao Tze-Dung).

    There’s plenty of corollary prejudice evident in this thread, and I want no more part of it.

    ‘Faithful’ people who do not push their beliefs on others aren’t the same as those who do.

    I won’t cease my activism calling for humans to examine our beliefs – most especially our faiths – in favor of the humble admission that we humans—all us humans—are far more ignorant than knowledgeable.

    But I want to apologize if I have strayed across the border between criticizing the beliefs that colonize people’s minds, and casting aspersions on the people themselves. We aren’t responsible for what we are taught, and it takes a lot of epiphany to begin to detect the presence of unsupportable beliefs in one’s mind, and then to begin the potentially painful process of relinquishing them.

    I want to thank Amani for her blog, and for teaching me a thing or two – like humility.

    I also hope to disassociate myself from any perception that I blame ‘people’ instead of the ancient belief systems that I, probably by dumb luck, was never able to plause, and therefore find all-too-easy to criticize.

    PS: thank you, too, Desert Rose, for your contributions here.

    PPS: here’s another review of the new film: http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/film_review.asp?ID=2486

  • Old Nick

    rc21, I can’t find it, but I seem to recall you, in a recent post, suggesting that I (and ‘others like me’) are out to convert people away from their beliefs and ‘to mine’ (and/or to ‘ours’). I have an explanation for why this isn’t so, which answers additionally this from you: “You are just appalled by people who have faith.”

    It’s here: http://www.radioopensource.org/morality-god-given-or-evolved/#comment-19858 (post #368 in that thread).

    It’s long but good-natured.

    See ya.

  • “And in the comparison, I’ve learned a thing or two. Like this: it is as wrong to conflate moderate, normal people like Amani Jabbar with Osama bin Laden as it is to conflate the Christian-dominatrix Becky Fischer with Christopher Lydon

    . . .

    I want to thank Amani for her blog, and for teaching me a thing or two – like humility.”

    I don’t think Amani is “moderate”. I pointed out numerous factual and logical errors in her comments which she could only respond-to by suggesting I must have god-like knowledge.

    “I also hope to disassociate myself from any perception that I blame ‘people’ instead of the ancient belief systems that I, probably by dumb luck, was never able to plause, and therefore find all-too-easy to criticize.”

    It is not up to you to plause ancient belief systems – it is up to the belief systems or their advocates to MAKE them plausible.

    And what does it mean to not blame “people”, but instead the belief systems? The belief systems do not exist independently of the people who created them, interpret them, or explain them.

    Amani seems to believe that a guy 1400 years ago heard a voice in his head, and that it was the voice of an invisible superbeing. This is such a patently weird proposition that a rational person would expect some sort of logical justification and supporting data for it before readjusting their entire life around it.

    “and it takes a lot of epiphany to begin to detect the presence of unsupportable beliefs in one’s mind, and then to begin the potentially painful process of relinquishing them.”

    I don’t agree with that at all. I’m over 50 and have been an avid amateur scientist since young childhood. In that time a great MANY things that I was taught in physics, biology, and astronomy have been overturned. I don’t recall ever needing an epiphany or having any trouble adjusting my views of the universe when new data or better models came along.

    This is true in other areas as well. 75% of the US public supported the Iraq invasion back in the day. Most polls today show a strong majority think it was a “mistake”. This means that in the just a few years 10’s of millions of people made a significant shift in something they believed.

    At a more personal level, I fall in love easily and in my life have had terrible crushes on members of the opposite sex, and would ascribe to them all sorts of wonderful qualities. Eventually I would realize that they were much more ordinary than all that. Falling out of love is an emotionally wrenching experience but we do it routinely. People are capable of more rationality, and more willing to revise their views than we give credit for. Their failure to do so is a CHOICE they make like staying in love with someone who doesn’t love you back or isn’t the person you thought they were.

  • rc21

    Old Nick: I went back and read post 368. Also I noticed that I had made a post to potter that should have been to you. My apologies to the both of you,I probably caused some confusion. Both your posts are quite long. And in my post to potter which was supposed to be to you. I expressed my feelings on religon.

    Actually this may suprise you, I pretty much feel the same way. I grew up in a

    family where my father was atheist and my mother did not attend. So other than the questions that everyone asks. Who created the universe? Who started time?

    When will time end? what is a soul? things of that nature. I just have never gotten into the whole is there a god or not debate. I dont think anyone can prove or disprove who is right. It is really just one long philosophical debate.

    I dont think I ever said you were trying to convert people away from their beliefs. I just think you put an inordinate amount of blame on religon and people of faith for the worlds problems.

    As I said to potter thinking it was you. It would be better to engage a religous philosopher or a true believer on this subject.

    I guess my only question is why do you spend so much time thinking about god -faith -religon,if you dont belive. I can understand why religous people spend so much time on the subject, It is a major part of their life. But why would an agnostic or atheist. I certainly dont spend time thinking about hobbits, and fairies, Just curious I’m not trying to be sarcastic.It’s just that I think there much more real subjects out there to grab my interest.

    One thing I know (and I wont try and paint you with this brush ,because I could be mistaken) There does seem to be a condescending almost intolerence to religon among many secularists/atheists that I find as bad as the Jerry Fallwells of the world who practice the same thing in reverse.

  • Reginleif

    Yeah, Potter, it’s only a personal attack when non-liberals do it. But calling people “intolerant” is fine.

    Not that I’m surprised. I grew up in Marxachusetts.

  • “I guess my only question is why do you spend so much time thinking about god -faith -religon,if you dont belive. I can understand why religous people spend so much time on the subject, It is a major part of their life. But why would an agnostic or atheist.”

    I know you are addressing that question to Old Nick, but I’d like to offer my own answer –

    It’s for the same reason that, if we had an autistic child we would spend hours a day studying autism. It’s the same reason why the Gates Foundation spends billions on AIDS and malaria even though Gates and Buffet don’t have either disease.

    It the same reason why I’m forced to answer the doorbell when a Jehovah’s Witness rings it, even if it’s only to insult them or threaten them with my garden hose.

    In short, it’s because the True Believers, and the One True Wayists have made themselves such a problem for the REST of us. So we are FORCED to think about them and deal with them and address them.

    All over the world Muslims riot violently to protest our stereotypes of them as violent. Here in America Christian wackos are not content to exercise their freedom of religion in their own lives, but instead try to force their values on state legislatures, school boards, and even the US Constitution.

    The most powerful tool our species has ever developed to solve problems and understand the universe – the reason why we can communicate over this computer network, and why we’re not running around the savannah hunting giraffes, and the only hope we have for dealing with our economic and population and environmental future, is our rationality. Religion is an intrinsically anti-rational force. It undermines our greatest strength. Despite what the Pope said about trying to reconcile rationality and religion, it can’t be done because at an epistemological level they are inconsistent. You cannot reconcile an epstemology based on careful observation and measurement, and logically constructed, and ultimately testable theoretical models, with an epistemology based on hearing voices in your head.

  • rc21

    Hi plnelson; I think hope for a cure is the reason we spend money on aids, malaria,and autism. I dont consider religon a disease,its just the way some people find purpose and value in there life.It’s a free country. To each his own.

    I really wish there was someone on this forum who was truly religous,then you and nick could go to town.

  • Potter

    Here is a post from an Haaretz thread: editor Burston’s editorial asked ” What is Wrong With Islam Today? I read many of the almost 700 posts and would not have except they were very enlightening and they spurred me on. This is from So France ( Nantes) by “Hakim” posted towards the end :

    I personally am a Muslim born, of an Arab father, and a French mother, and grew up in the Muslim world, although I myself am agnostic. I have studied monotheism all my life (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) and frankly, I can`t really say Islam is a bad religion in itself.

    But, times have changed. In the 7th century, Islam freed women and gave them rights, gave rights to slaves, and minorities. Not toal equal rights, but rights. Since then, muslim societies have forgotten the golden age and returned to a “tribal” structure, and I prefer living in Europe, where I have equal rights, even though I myself am a minority. I believe in freedom of speech and religion, and equal rights for all. I don`t think I could live in a modern Islamic society, where these rights are far from guaranteed to all…

    But who knows what the future holds? Xian fundamentalism is taking hold in the West too, and I fear for the future over here.

    Furthermore, I feel there is a dull future for us, those of monotheistic culture. There is “Islamic” terrorism (which is not Islamic, believe me) and the current “war on terror” and the conflict in the Middle East and Iraq, which are greating greater and greater tensions between the faiths, and societies in general. When all out war breaks out, who am I supposed to support ? I am Arab, and European. How can I support the West`s wars, lead by imperialist Americans who want to control the World? If I can get “renditioned” any day just because I`m Arab? How can I support Hamas, Hisbullah, Al Qaida, or other such lunatics, who kill innocent people in my name? Or Israel, with the occupation, and hatred of my people? I am forced to remain neutral, and that is a tough thing to do in today`s World…

    I`m not alone, though! We are plentiful in my position, from all origins and religions, who want only for dialog, a peaceful life, and a peaceful World. But we are not the ones in power.

    Finally, there is a very dangerous phenomenon in Europe, which some would like to use to get rid of European Muslims, which is ingrown terrorists. The UK suffers the most from this problem, but France is not far behind. France has been at the forefront in the fight against terrorism for alot longer than the US and we haven`t invaded the wrong country while doing it.

    This is a problem for people like me, since we are often viewed with suspition by some. The extreme right is gaining power, and one of their favorite slogans is “Against the islamisation of France”. They want to be rid of Muslims in France, while most of them are French.

    I would be well rid of fanatics and Saudi Imams preaching hatred. They are hurting us, the moderates, who suffer since people confuse Islam and radical maniacs.

    Thanks to Hakim and Haaretz- I hope they do not mind me posting this here.

  • Potter

    There does seem to be a condescending almost intolerence to religon among many secularists/atheists that I find as bad as the Jerry Fallwells of the world who practice the same thing in reverse.

    I agree rc21. plnelson’s above yours ( 9/23 @2:02) struck me that way. If one does not have deeply held beliefs to begin with then letting go of changing ideas about the universe seems like it should be as easy for everybody. (ie It helps to have been an amateur scientist from childhood, to have such a bent of mind, but how many do?)

    Also, it’s not comparable to falling in love ( a short fever) or changing one’s ideas about whether we should have gone to war when the trauma of 9/11 has worn off.

  • “If one does not have deeply held beliefs to begin with then letting go of changing ideas about the universe seems like it should be as easy for everybody. (ie It helps to have been an amateur scientist from childhood, to have such a bent of mind, but how many do?)

    Also, it’s not comparable to falling in love ( a short fever) or changing one’s ideas about whether we should have gone to war when the trauma of 9/11 has worn off.”

    Well, you SAY that, but what EXACTLY is your thesis?

    I’m taking the position that rational people are able to alter deeply held, emotionally significant beliefs when these beliefs are challenged by facts or simply when their beliefs are not substantiated by facts. Notice that I didn’t say “all” people; I said “rational” people.

    So I ask you again: what IS your thesis? That there is a species of rationalism that does NOT have this property? This whole discussion started with Old Nick’s assertion that Amani was rational . . . so . . .

    OK, gedankenexperiment: You go to a doctor about a serious medical condition and are having an office consultation wirth him. Everything is going along fine until, in the middle of the conversation the doctor reveals that, in all seriousness and not as a joke, he believes in leprechauns and leaves food out every night for them. Or that space aliens take him aboard their flying saucer once a month and teach him alien poetry. I don’t know about you but this would undermine my confidence in him.

    Deeply religious people strike me the same way. They are free to hold their particular beliefs, but my confidence in their rationality is not strengthened by such things.

    Potter says:

    “There does seem to be a condescending almost intolerence to religon among many secularists/atheists that I find as bad as the Jerry Fallwells of the world who practice the same thing in reverse.”

    You may “find” it that way, but as above, what PRECISELY does that mean? Are your “findings” based on hard data? To what extent are secularists forcing Jerry and his fundie kids to adopt secular values? The situation is NOT symmetrical. I don’t go knocking on Christians’ doors advocating they read Scientific American. I don’t advocate passing laws restricting what they can watch on TV or who they can marry. And I certainly don’t advocate violence if they make mocking cartoons of Galileo, Einstein, darwin or other icons of rational inquiry.

  • Old Nick

    Boy have I ever been proven WRONG. ‘Progressive Islam’ isn’t an improbability as I hypothesized earlier in this thread, but a phenomenon already developing in Europe.

    I stand happily disabused.

    What follows dovetails perfectly with Potter’s eye-opening offering @ 7:31 PM, Sept. 24th, 2006:

    European Muslim Intellectuals Chart New Course

    Relevant excerpts from the transcript:

    (quote)

    SYLVIA POGGIOLI: It’s widely acknowledged that Europe’s multi-cultural model of separate side-by-side communities has failed. Europe’s Muslims are being pressed to adapt to societies based on civil rights, religious tolerance and equality of women. The Mufti of Marseille, Soheib Bencheikh, says for Muslims to become fully a part of Europe, their religion must move beyond precepts that reflex a 7th century Arab world.

    Mr. SOHEIB BENCHEIKH (Mufti of Marseille):(Through translator) We have to promote an Islam that can exist as an minority religion along side other religions in secular societies, and which is respectful of everyone’s freedom of choice.

    POGGIOLI: Bencheikh says Muslims must learn how to adapt their religion and the Koran to their new environment.

    Mr. BENCHEIKH (Through translator): I don’t know why in our sermons and prayers we shouldn’t use the language of Shakespeare or of Moliere. We must show that Islam can be experienced in any culture. We must put the accent on its universality.

    (unquote)

    Then:

    (quote)

    One of the biggest obstacles to ending Muslims’ culture and social exclusion is the influence of so many imported imams, preachers who reject European cultures and languages. Some prayer halls have become havens of radicalism and recruitment centers for terror networks. After 9/11 and Islamic terror attacks in Europe, many governments began to fund institutions for the training of local European imams. Shadik El Asam(ph) is a Syrian philosopher who is pinning his hopes on Europe for a drastic reform of Islam, particularly in relation to women.

    Professor SHADIK EL ASAM (University of Damascus): You have to abolish the category of woman as howra(ph). It’s a something scandalous that has to be covered. This has to go, all right, if there is to be any meaning to a reconciliation of Islam and democracy.

    POGGIOLI: El Asam, who teaches at the University of Damascus, also calls for the abolition of some aspects of Sharia, especially the penal code he describes as the martial law of Islam. He also calls for an end to the juxtaposition between the House of Islam and the House of Disbelief.

    Prof. EL ASAM: This obsession with the outside world, non-Muslim world, full of (unintelligible) hopefully it can happen in Europe. On our side I have myself lost hope that it will be ever achieved.

    POGGIOLI: Abdelwahab Meddeb is a Tunisian born university professor in Paris and author of the Malady of Islam. He defines Islam’s illness using the French derived word for fundamentalism.

    Professor ABDELWAHAB MEDDEB (Author, Malady of Islam): (Unintelligible) inside Islam is a kind of fascism. Islam has to make the critic of Islam. And now in Europe this speech exists, and it’s very, very important for the future of Islam.

    (unquote)

    However:

    (quote)

    POGGIOLI: Reforming Islam is still an elitist debate, but Muslims are already adapting to changes in their daily lives. It’s in Europe that the friction between Western secular culture and Islam is most intense. While it has produced a small number of extremists, it has also generated a quiet revolution of the streets, where the great majority of Muslims are learning how to cope with diversity and have daily relations with non-Muslims, including women.

    But Magde Alum, an outspoken Egyptian born commentator for the Italian newspaper Coriella Della Sera, describes Europe’s Muslim moderates as a large but very silent majority.

    Mr. MAGDE ALUM (Coriella Della Sera): (Through translator): The problem for moderates is fear, the fear of becoming targets of extremists. For a moderate to uphold the separation of church and state (unintelligible) a death sentence. Fear deeply pervades the Muslim world.

    (unquote)

    This is the sort of information I would like to have learned from this hour of ROS, whose guests and topic were ‘Moderate Muslims’.

    It also implies that the prospects for Islam’s progression from the 7th century to the 21st are hardly certain. But we—the West and USA—could certainly help the prospects for progress by desisting from any further actions that professsional analysts (like the brave folks in the CIA who leaked the intelligence assessment to the NYT this past week) assert are radicalizing the Muslim world instead of ‘democratizing’ it. Because, after all, dead people can’t vote (well, except in Florida and Chicago).

  • Old Nick

    plnelson, you and I agree on the fundamental irrationalness of faith. Please see my recent posts in the Morality thread (starting at 12:02 AM, Sept.22nd, 2006) that jibe almost perfectly with your 1:35 PM, Sept. 24th here —which I very much appreciated. Especially its conclusion.

    But I’m learning a thing or two in the research I’ve been doing for the discussions in this thread, and in the Morality thread, and in the Mea Culpa thread, etc (and my thought processes are still incomplete). The most important lesson, I think, is that rational skepticism, garden-variety belief, and the wholly irrational miasma of ‘blind faith’ aren’t hard and fast concepts but relative degrees of the application of reason along the fuzzy continuum of human credulity and gullibility.

    For example, your imaginary doctor who believes in alien kidnappings is certainly a frightening prospect. But what about a Church of Scientology dentist? Would such a health professional be less prone to dangerous irrationality, considering that Scientologists number in the hundreds of thousands (if not millions, as they claim), and are considered more ‘mainstream’ than, say, Islamists, even though Scientology preaches unverifiable fantasias about galactic aliens?

    Better yet, how do we assess the rational capacities of the Governor of a major New England State who believes that less than 200 years ago a Supernatural Entity visited a New York woodsman named Joe Smith, and made him a Prophet? Does this weird (yet widespread) belief entirely compromise Mitch Romney’s rational faculties?

    Now, I think it utterly deplorable that politicians aspiring seriously to high office in this undereducated republic must publicly profess belief in the supernatural, and advertise their regular participation in supernatural ceremonies. To my thinking, such beliefs ought to raise a whole host of critical questions instead of mute them.

    But maybe the problem isn’t flat out irrationality, but this: ‘If many believe so, it is so’. It explains how beliefs, like schooling fish, find safety in numbers. (Which neatly explains the religious intolerance inherent in the act of proselytizing.)

    This, I think, is what ‘religious moderation’ really means: not pushing your beliefs onto others. I had to (re-)learn it at Amani’s blog (whose link is in the billboard of this thread). I found nothing there that approached anything like what follows:

    This past Friday, Warren Olney of KCRW introduced the ‘Jesus Camp’ segment of his To The Point show (see above) with (in part) this:

    “…(Christian children) training for what’s called ‘God’s Army’. Pastor (Becky) Fischer has compared the camp to the madrasas in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Middle East that teach an aggressive form of fundamental Islam.”

    Fischer, however, when put to the test on the public radio air, equivocated. (Surprised?) She qualified the words of introduction by the host, Warren Olney, by trying to backpedal, saying that he’d ‘gotten it almost right, (except for this)’:

    “(Islamic fundamentalists) really take the training of their children very seriously, and for that I admire them. They don’t marginalize them; they go after their children to indoctrinate them… My issue is that the Christian Church is not doing the same…(while) on the other side of the ocean, those people are willing to die for their faith…

    (Fundamentalist Muslims are) doing something right; we’re doing something wrong (by not indoctrinating our children as they do)…

    We need to reevaluate how we’re discipling our children…” (yes, she made ‘disciple’ into a verb)

    Olney: “Should Christian children be willing to die for their faith?”

    Fischer: “I’m going to say ‘yes’, but let me explain that: (and I’m glad this is a live show so you can’t edit out my comments)…children are dying for their faith all over the world…we pray that never happens to any of our children; we wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But as a Christian, we are taught in scripture that Jesus says, ‘if you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father’…and so from that perspective, (we have to) say to our children (on their way to the mission field to proclaim Christ): ‘hey, you have to think about this: would you be willing (to die for your faith)’?

    “We pray that never happens; and I don’t know if this sounds radical…but laying your life down for the Gospel can take many connotations. It doesn’t necessarily mean—and it certainly doesn’t mean suicide, it certainly doesn’t mean killing yourself and taking other people with you on a loaded bus—All we want…to know is that our children understand (their) position: that they are willing, if necessary, to lay down their lives for the Gospel at some point in their life.”

    I don’t care that this unambiguous fanatic tries to distance herself from the ‘sacred explosions’ of ‘martyrs for Allah’.

    This is nevertheless jihad, even without specifically pre-planned suicides. Moreover, many of us know that medals are awarded to non-religious soldiers for actions in battle considered ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ – which often imply suicidal bravery. How long before these young new crusaders – should any of them actually engage in real battle with secularists or Muslims – find ways to effectively commit suicide to advance ‘the Gospel’?

    1. This is exactly the dangerous sort of ‘evolution of the faith-religion meme’ that Dan Dennett discusses at length in his controversial but largely outstanding Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (which I think you’d enjoy, since it proposes scientific study of religion and its effects on people).

    2. It also, and in conjunction with Dennett’s thesis (which ROS, IMHO, really didn’t want to discuss in the spring when Dennett came on the show for that purpose, along with a ROS-selected trio of theists), demonstrates quite baldly that Christianity, despite our cultural conceits to the contrary, hasn’t evolved away from the concept of ‘holy war’. Why? Because it’s inherent, embedded in the very fabric of ‘faith’ and in the logic of ‘Argumentum ad populum’. Yes, it has lain dormant. Yet all it has needed to respawn is a good hard rain of neo-fundamentalism to refresh the water in the stinking-algae pond in which it festers. As in the fertilizing irrationality televised daily for decades now by Pastors Falwell, Roberts, and countless others. It has plainly begun to spawn its new crusaders in the form of the zealot Becky Fischer—and who know how many others that didn’t get into the ‘Jesus Camp’ documentary?

    Again, compare the words and worldview of Becky Fischer to anything you can find at Amani Jabbar’s blog. Then ask yourself, what exactly is a religious moderate? I haven’t settled on a definition myself, but this much I’m now sure of: you don’t have to be a Christian or a Jew to be one.

  • RC21 says . . . “I dont consider religon a disease”

    No?

    When I lived in Boston there was a guy in my apartment building who went about with his head wrapped in aluminum foil in an attempt to block the voices that he said were being beamed into his brain. I never asked him how effective it was, whether he had tried tin, copper, or a full faraday cage, or whether he had tried phenothiazine antipsychotics.

    BUT . . .

    Another gedankenexperiment: How would would world (or religious) history have turned out differently if aluminum foil (or, better yet, Thorazine) had been available for the use of the prophets of the world’s various religions?

  • “Better yet, how do we assess the rational capacities of the Governor of a major New England State who believes that less than 200 years ago a Supernatural Entity visited a New York woodsman named Joe Smith, and made him a Prophet? Does this weird (yet widespread) belief entirely compromise Mitch Romney’s rational faculties?”

    This is a great example.

    Isaac Newton believed in wacko stuff as well. As I said above, obvious signs of irrationality undermine my confidence in someone. To overcome that they would have to put something really strong on the table. Newton gave us the calculus and the laws of motion. Romney has been a pretty effective governor but given the choice of him and equally effective governor who did not suffer from Romney’s weird beliefs I would choose the latter.

    This subthread came up because of your assertion that Amani was rational. I pointed out that her comments were neither supported by hard facts or strong internal logic, and that her response to my comments did not appear rational. So unlike Newton, she has not brought anything strong to the table.

  • “what exactly is a religious moderate? I haven’t settled on a definition myself, but this much I’m now sure of: you don’t have to be a Christian or a Jew to be one.”

    No one here has suggested a good definition, even though I’ve repeatedly asked for one. It’s amazing that we can have a thread with over a hundred postings about a topic for which we have no definition!

    I implied one earlier. I will attempt to elaborate on it. Many people have activities they do that provide meaning and purpose and pleasure and community in their lives, and which are associated with an iconography and history, but for which they do not ascribe any absolute nature. For example I’m an artist and a poet. These things are very important to me, they provide metaphors for many other things, and I have definite opinions about tham, and about what is good or bad, right or wrong, in them. But there’s no way I would commit violence over a painting or make laws based on my artistic or poetic views. And I can go days or weeks without writing or painting.

    I know MANY people who pursue their religions in that way. They attend services, participate in rituals, and maybe part of their social network involves their religious community. If you ask them what their religion is they will tell you Presbyterian or Unitarian or Reform Jew or whatever. But they do all these things with the full knowledge that their religion is just the one they fell into or were born into; they don’t really believe all that stuff in the Bible; they realize that if they had been born in a different family or nation they might well be a Hindu or Muslim, and in their heart-of-hearts have no idea whether Anyone’s listening to them when they pray, or where, if anywhere, they will end up when they die. If they had to move to some other place where no one had ever heard of their religion they might well adopt the local religion if it wasn’t too onerous. They can go days without doing, or even thinking about, anything religious

    That’s my idea of a religious moderate.

  • Potter

    Plnelson Well, you SAY that, but what EXACTLY is your thesis?

    I don’t need a thesis to question yours.

    All people have the potential of being throroughly rational but they turn it on and off. You will then probably kick in with blame as you have done above. I say this is callous and does not take emotional and spiritual needs into account.

    I agree with Nick when he says: “and it takes a lot of epiphany to begin to detect the presence of unsupportable beliefs in one’s mind, and then to begin the potentially painful process of relinquishing them.”

    After your ridiculous leprechaun and space alien examples,revealing what seems like a lack of understanding of religions ( read Joseph Campbell for instance), it’s symbolism, it’s transformative power for many and, as well, lack of acknowledgement that much interpretation isnon-literal (not fundamentalist) your argument is very much undermined. You are presumably a rational person. You could understand religions more rationally. Instead you take a hard position and offer nonsensical,improbable examples for rational comparisons.What’s worse is that this attitude goes nowhere towards resolving the issues of extremism vs moderation. You are not going to erase religion.

    Deeply religious people (and I am not one) are not irrational and you may in fact have one operating on you to save your life ( I hope you never need it) and not even know it. But it may very well be what sustains a doctor such as my cousin who is a religious neuro-surgeon. There are many more like him too.

    (PS The Jerry Falwell quote was rc21’s not mine. I quoted it. See last line of this post

    which I agree with. I am not necessarily agreeing with the whole post.)

    http://www.radioopensource.org/moderate-muslims/#comment-19916

  • Potter

    plnelson (re what is a moderate) But they do all these things with the full knowledge that their religion is just the one they fell into or were born into; they don’t really believe all that stuff in the Bible; they realize that if they had been born in a different family or nation they might well be a Hindu or Muslim, and in their heart-of-hearts have no idea whether Anyone’s listening to them when they pray, or where, if anywhere, they will end up when they die.

    I does not matter what path one takes to achieve spiritual goals. You describe moderates at automatons which is insulting. People find metaphors and spiritual uplift in religion that help them as you ( and I) do in art and poetry. Fine if it does not work for you. But it should be fine that religion works for others. As long as it works.

    Moderation was described well by a guest on the show and I wrote it above:

    The most important and basic idea that I heard last night is a simple definition of moderate: one who accepts the right of “the other” to exist and to thrive. “You cannot use beliefs to take another’s life.” ( You can believe you are right, you can believe what you want beyond that).

  • Old Nick

    rc21, you asked:

    “Who started time? When will time end? What is a soul? Things of that nature.”

    I’ve got an answer to your first two questionshere.

    As for ‘soul’: it is a personal unverifiable supernatural entity that I reckon to be the source, by the projection of imagination, of the putatively ‘universal’ Unverifiable Supernatural Entity. ‘Soul’, I think, is the projection of human consciousness into a speculatively ‘eternal’ form, in the hope that death doesn’t extinguish it. ‘Soul’ can’t be proven to exist since it can’t be identified, measured, or otherwise studied. It is entirely supernatural – well, except for Motown and the Atlantic recording stars of the Sixties, like Wilson Pickett and Booker T & The MG’s, who are entirely real and entirely sublime.

    Widespread belief in the ‘soul’ doesn’t make it real. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

  • Old Nick

    Let’s try that link again:

    here.

    (The answer to the time question, etc.)

  • rc21

    Hi OldNick Thanks for the link. I read it and will try and reread it. As usual while trying to sort through all the scientific and intellectual theories on your link my head began to hurt. This is my whole problem with this stuff. Its great to think about,quite interesting but in the end I’m still not sure. Even this Big Bang theory is just that a theory. I do admit it has as much chance of being true as anything else.

    I liked your thoughts on the soul. They seem as good as anything else i”ve heard.

    As to soul and Wilson Pickett. Check out youtube. They have clips of a great live concert from Germany in 68 I especially like Funky Broadway.

  • I just cannot read all the comments on this post. As promised on the Post-Game post here on this program, I went back and re-heard the program. And now I see that Chris’s post-game comments are right on. There is most probably a mis-alignment of expectations here. I heard the same program Chris said he was going for; the “silent” Muslim majority discussing this issue, with Chris and others helping frame and moderate it. If you came to hear just an analloyed condemnation of fanatical behaviour (fundamentalist monotheists making idols–effigies, if you will–to burn! oh, the irony!!), you were listening to the wrong program. If you want to hear that, please do read the following on my own blog:

    http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/09/islam-101-muslim-conduct-towards.html

    http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/09/on-terrorists-that-are-islamic-or.html

    or, though maybe not as unalloyed as–or maybe more unalloyed–than you might want:

    http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/07/one-mans-terrorist.html

    But if you really want a conversation with me, you’ll also have to hear:

    http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/09/popes-statement.html

    http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/09/karen-armstrong-on-popes-speech.html

    (not my note of caution at the top)

    http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/09/dear-holy-father-stop-feeding-bears.html

    http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/09/comments-on-pope-stratforfriedman.html

    Personally, I am grateful, personally grateful to Christopher Lydon and tohers like Brian Lehrer (http://www.radioopensource.org/post-game-moderate-muslims/#comment-19823) for the space they have provided in the public square for the Moderate Muslim voices that we all say aren’t speaking up to actually be heard.

  • desertrose

    Old Nick:

    On the subject of ‘Progressive Islam’ Professor Muhammad Shahrur’s book titled The Book and the Qur’an: a contemporary reading published in Damascus in 1990 is thought provoking and timely. I know it’s a bit too late but I thought It might be something of interest. Here is a link about the book:

  • desertrose
  • Old Nick

    Desert Rose, thanks for the tip. I’ll look to order it this weekend from Powell’s when I order this relatively new Irshad Manji tome: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0312327005-0

    I have to say, as an unapologetic nontheist, yet fascinated by religion and its workings, the discovery this past week of the nascent progressive Islam movement is extraordinarily exciting. And I wouldn’t have found out much without ROS (and Google, too, I have to admit).

    The internet is a wonderful tool for broadening one’s horizons – that is, if a person is interested in broadening one’s horizon’s instead of clinging to old beliefs and biases! 😉

    Oh, hey, does anyone know of a volume of hadith presented and annotated from a feminist perspective?

  • desertrose

    Old Nick

    You are welcome!

    I have to say, as an unapologetic nontheist, yet fascinated by religion and its workings, the discovery this past week of the nascent progressive Islam movement is extraordinarily exciting

    The calls for `Progressive Islam` appeared since the early dawn of the advent of Islam, starting with Sagaah Al Tameemiya (a woman) who lead her tribe against the new rulers who altered their way of life, and later defeated by the prophet’s successor Abu Bakr Al Sidiiq, to whom she said “the prophet said there will be no prophet after me, but didn’t say that there will be no female prophet after me”. To the Mu’atazila who argued reason & rational thinking, and to many others throughout the centuries. Unfortunately, they have been silenced by the rulers (religious & non religious) who were afraid of the power of free thought.

    The internet is a wonderful tool for broadening one’s horizons – that is, if a person is interested in broadening one’s horizon’s instead of clinging to old beliefs and biases! .

    True indeed! It’s a powerful force that’s scares many, and enlightens those of us who want to learn about one another and to transcend our boundaries.

    As for the book I recommended, I read it a long time ago in Arabic, & I looked online to find an English translation of it, but to no avail.

    Irshad Manji is courageous and an articulate woman. I heard an interview with her on my favorite radio show (canceled a few yrs. ago) The Connection (Chris was formerly on that show). I have not read her book yet, but it’s on my list. Check the link below if you like.

    http://www.theconnection.org/shows/2004/01/20040122_b_main.asp

    Dr. Muhammad Siddiqi Zubyr can be is a good source to learn about Hadith. There is a chapter about women scholars of Hadith.

    http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3594429366936&isbn=0946621381

    Cheers,

  • Old Nick

    Desert Rose, I too can’t find Shahrur’s books anywhere on line. I’ll have to settle for the excellent review you linked me too (and thank you).

    I love that Shahrur can argue so cogently that Islam must be open to new knowledge. That he found this necessary to articulate is my beef with ‘faith’. It’s also why Pope Ratzinger’s speech on the link between faith and reason (that sparked the recent riots) doesn’t represent a plausible view: you can’t link rational thought and inquiry with the abrogation of rational inquiry. It’s something akin to linking personal liberty with servitude: they juxtapose one another. They cannot support one another.

    It’s true that one can construct seemingly ‘logical’ belief structures atop a foundation of faith, but these are like castles floating in the air: prone to crash to the ground in ruin the very instant a sufficient weight of anti- or non- corroborative evidence settles onto the castle’s battlements.

    I expect to find great illumination in Irshad Manji, just as I did in Bishop John Shelby Spong’s Why Christianity Must Change or Die, which includes the sort of thinking captured in this chapter title:

    The Meaning of Prayer in a World with No External Deity.

    At the risk of mischaracterizing Bishop Spong’s thesis: worshipping love doesn’t have to mean worshipping a ‘personal god’. As a parallel: revering ‘the spirit of giving’ at the Winter Solstice doesn’t require revering personifications of ‘the spirit of giving’, a la Santa Claus.

    The day that churches, mosques, and all other religious temples offer nondogmatic veneration to the beneficence and healing powers of unpersonified love instead of to Unverifiable Supernatural Entities is the day I’ll cease my criticisms of religion. And joyfully.

    Thanks again.

  • Old Nick

    This will be very long and broken into three installments, because I quote extensively from my sources. I do so not only to convey the essential information, but to avoid perceptions that I’ve cherrypicked the sources to bolster whatever the reader might pre-judge as my purposes. Because this thread, which hasn’t received a new post in weeks, is about to descend beneath the horizon and into the vault of the Archives, I hope the lengthiness is forgivable.

    At the outset, I should thank desert rose, ifaqeer, and Amani Jabbar for inspiring me toward the readings I will now try to encapsulate.

    I’ve very recently finished Irshad Manji’s The Trouble With Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. I’m just now finishing Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam. And I’ve just started Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not A Muslim.

    Please note: all three of these books are by people born into Islam. Books by Muslims (or Muslim-apostates—i.e., people now under threat of death). So, if you choose to deem the forthcoming words populating this post “Muslim-bashing”, then you’re dissing Muslims yourself. There’s a difference between ‘bashing’ beliefs (or ‘conventional wisdom’) and ‘bashing’ the people whose minds have been (culturally) colonized by the beliefs. Ibn Warraq makes this clear in a quote I wouldn’t dare to offer without the ability to attribute it to him. Indeed, he uses it as the opening epigraph of his scholarly 400-pager:

    Muslims are the first victims of Islam. Many times I have observed in my travels in the Orient, that fanaticism comes from a small number of dangerous men who maintain the others in the practice of religion by terror. To liberate the Muslim from his religion is the best service one can render him. – E. Renan

    Heavy? Warraq himself is far more relentless. (Buy the book and see for yourself.) Manji, Ali, and Warraq all finger Islam, not the West, as the primary oppressor of Muslims.

    Manji, however, holds onto hope for meaningful, humanistic reformation. She calls it ‘Project Ijtihad’ (more on this shortly).

    Irshad Manji’s The Trouble with Islam; (a book report, in three parts, for ROS)

    Written as an “extended letter” to her coreligionists, Manji’s book was revelatory – akin to a whistleblower’s account. She, a believer, significantly calls into question the dogma that the Koran is God’s Inerrantly Transmitted Instructions for Humankind. It’s a subtle, affectionate, yet persistent theme throughout the very, very readable book. (Her writing voice is better than simply “good”: it’s exactly the sort of wittily insouciant and easy-to-read voice I’d love to parrot for one of my first-person pov novels!) An example of the subtlety comes on pages 40 and 41, after a paragraph discussing the widespread belief in the Muslim world that “Islam is tolerant of other religions”:

    (quote)

    …But everything’s up for interpretation, because the Koran also discourages Muslims from taking Jews and Christians as friends, lest we become “one of them.” It speaks of “them” as an “unjust people” whom “God does not guide.” There’s talk of smiting, slaughtering, and subjecting non-Muslims to a special tax as a tribute to their Muslim conquerors. Truly scalding stuff, these passages lend credence to those Muslims who spit on interfaith outreach. For such people, non-Muslims can exist, but never on a level playing field with Muslims. Not anywhere close to level, because Islam isn’t one faith in addition to the rest, it supercedes the rest by dint of having the perfect word and final prophet in service to the one God. It’s a choice to read the Koran this way, isn’t it? But we’re not conscious we’re choosing it.

    “Slow down”, you might protest. “I’m not choosing this interpretation at all. I don’t want to smack my neighbor for celebrating Hanukkah, so don’t lump me in with the Jew-bashers. I’m decent, dammit.” Yes, you probably are. Out of decency, then, ask yourself this: Have I chosen to challenge the mainstream Muslim belief that Islam trumps Christianity and Judaism? So thoroughly immersed are we in our spiritual narcissism that most Muslims don’t think twice, or once, about the damage this attitude can inflict on the world. We instinctively accept it, sliding our heads out of the sand every so often to notice the “extremists.” And sometimes not even then.

    Do I exaggerate? Tell me after you read this story. A few weeks before September 11, I joined a panel on national (Canadian) TV to “discuss images of the Islamic world.” Taking this politely worded invitation as a euphemism for “let’s complain about the West,” my fellow panelists indulged in the usual castigating of North American pop culture: Hollywood casts us all as fanatics, the fanatics always look swarthy, and every other standard line in the victims’ canon. Bored with an argument-on-autopilot, I proposed a different line: that we Muslims don’t give people much incentive to see us as anything but monolithic. Where, I asked, were Muslims in Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal when the Taliban toppled the pre-Islamic statues of Buddha that overlooked Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley? “Let there be no compulsion in religion,” says the Koran. We couldn’t expect the Taliban to sing that tune, but why didn’t Muslims in the West choose to sing it rather than remain mostly mute? Why the absence of mass Muslim protests in our own streets?

    I waited.

    The sole response came from another Muslim woman—an active feminist, no less. “Manji,” she blurted, “do you know what’s happening to Muslims in Palestine?” Excuse me?! Somebody return me to earth, or transport my butt to a part of the solar system where we distinguish between justice and justification. I’ll give her this much: There’s obviously some relationship between the rise of Islamic totalitarianism and the intractable politics of the Middle East. But how did that textured relationship justify the Muslim silence in the West toward the scripturally supremacist, Buddha-bombing, woman-pulverizing, kite-banning, execution-enamored Taliban?

    It didn’t. The response of my “sister” was a cop-out. For all her critical thinking about the West, she wore her unthinking Islam like a head-to-toe burqa. If that was the best a self-proclaimed feminist could do, I shuddered to imagine where we were all headed.

    (unquote, Manji, pps. 40-42)

    In the next paragraphs, Manji goes on to explain how the Koran allows “wiggle room” against the equally Koranic sentiment that “to kill an innocent being is like killing entire humanity”—i.e., the “wiggle room” necessary to justify jihad:

    (quote)

    You and I can agree that Osama bin Laden is morally Neanderthal for pursuing this strain of jihad. But can we agree that he and his mercenaries have been scripturally supported too? All I’m asking for is honesty.

    What’s that? I should understand the context of the Koran’s violent passages? Let me assure you: I’ve read the scholarship that explains these verses “in their context,” and I think there’s a fancy dance of evasion going on. It’s not choreography by conspiracy, just a deep-seated assumption that the Koran is perfect, so there must be perfectly valid reasons for the hate it often preaches.

    (unquote, Manji, pps. 43-44, emphasis mine)

  • Old Nick

    Manji, Part 2: Religious exceptionalism

    This quote is as good a place as any to introduce the descriptor-phrase “Muslim exceptionalism.” For those unfamiliar with the meanings of ‘exceptionalism’, here are pertinent elements of Wikipedia’s entry on American Exceptionalism:

    (quote)

    American exceptionalism has been historically referred to as the perception that the United States differs qualitatively from other developed nations, because of its unique origins, national credo, historical evolution, and distinctive political and religious institutions. The term was first used by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831…

    …Among non-US and U.S. constitutional law scholars alike, the term has also come to describe the belief that the United States should not be bound by international law except where it serves American interests. This position is driven by a (usually implicit) premise that the United States cannot violate international law, especially international human rights norms, because it has long defined those norms and led international efforts to advance human rights…

    …Those who use the term in its loose, colloquial sense may claim “American exceptionalism” is common ethnocentrism and little more than crude propaganda, that in essence is a justification for an America-centered view of the world that is inherently chauvinistic and jingoistic in nature, noting that many nations have claimed at the height of their power to have basis for an exceptional nature or a destiny different to all other countries, at different times in history.

    (unquote)

    Compare that to this, on ‘Jewish exceptionalism’: “…However, more common is the idea of Jewish exceptionalism. One perspective is that their long history of suffering should free Jews from whatever constraints are applied to others. Another is that their persecutions make Jews more sympathetic to others’ suffering…”

    http://www.thesocialcontract.com/cgi-bin/showarticle.pl?articleID=439&terms – (emphasis mine)

    Muslims might argue that Zionism is Jewish exceptionalism in a nationalistic manifestation of statehood. (Me? I’ll defer to Manji’s myth-busting quoted extensively in this book-report installment.) Muslims might additionally argue that the above description’s second sentence implying empathy doesn’t apply to Zionist polices.

    But Irshad Manji exhaustively deconstructs this sort of argument – and must now live behind bulletproof windows in Toronto (Toronto! Of all places!) as a consequence of her choice to be a vocal (and telegenic) ‘Muslim refusenik’. (Manji’s book, in a phrase, is a call for the unrelenting critical self-reflection—ijtihad—necessary to ameliorate Muslim exceptionalism.)

    (quote)

    As I left the building (Tel Aviv Museum of Art), a visual contrast struck me. The low sprawling stone edifice of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art sits directly across the street from the towering, spacelike headquarters of the Israeli Defense Forces. This juxtaposition of creativity and hierarchy might be coincidental, but it can be found everywhere in Israel—home to Hasidic political parties and the only annual gay pride parade in the Middle East. That point was made to me in one of my first conversations with an Israeli, the same journalists who told me about the Palestinian National Theatre and its Jewish following. He went on to pose the most existential and touchy questions: Should Israel remain a “Jewish state” or should it evolve into a purely secular one where faith is incidental? And what role should the Holocaust play, not just in the official history of Israel but in its present-day identity as a place of refuge? Righteous, I thought, that an Israeli would be openly asking these things of himself, let alone a stranger like me.

    Throughout my stay, the Israeli media passionately debated such questions. I didn’t think you could assail religion in a Jewish state. I was wrong. I read about a member of the Knesset, Israel’s legislature, who remarked that the country doesn’t need more religious immigrants from North America. One newspaper fanned his comments into a minor firestorm. He later claimed he’d meant “ultrareligious” immigrants. Whatever. Israel’s laws guarantee freedom of expression, and that says something.

    I especially enjoyed reading newspaper editorials, whose choice of subjects indicated a ferociously free press. Take Ha’aretz, the New York Times of Israel. It skewered a government proposal to allocate state lands to exclusively Jewish towns. You know how Ha’aretz described this bill? “Racist.” Right there in the headline, “A racist bill.” No sugarcoating, no equivocating, no apologizing. The bill died under intense Israeli criticism.

    (unquote, Manji, pps.74-75)

    Three paragraphs later (and recall, please, that this book is an open letter to Muslims):

    (quote)

    Entering Jerusalem for the second half of my trip, I took in a scene from a window. Fully uniformed, a young woman marched in front of a dozen male soldiers. Where was she leading her troops? I turned to my guide. He said they were heading into the old City—the religious quarters of Jerusalem—“where they’ll spend three days or so being educated about the various faiths represented here.”

    “You mean, religious literacy is part of military duty?”

    “Sure. The army makes time, every few months, for soldiers stationed in Jerusalem to learn about traditions outside their daily experience.” I learned the value of this program in a personal way the next afternoon.

    (unquote, Manji, p.76)

    The next 16+ pages detail Manji’s trips to The Dome of the Rock (& Al-Aksa Mosque), the Western Wall, and the West Bank. This run of description and analysis is, by itself, worth the price of the book. She compares the sexism and harassment she endures amidst the Muslim men of Al-Aksa (the Wakf) with the absence of such degradations amidst the Jews before the Western Wall.

    (quote)

    I borrow a pencil and scrawl a request to God, the weave through the crowd to approach the wall. As I spend time in search of an unused crack that will clasp my prayer, I realize I’m holding up the Jews behind me. Still, I don’t feel like an interloper. I feel at home. More viscerally than ever, I know who my true family is.

    (unquote, Manji, pps.84-85)

    On the same page (85), a secular Israeli friend shares a story paraphrased here by Manji:

    (quote)

    Having grown up in Britain, detached from her Jewish heritage, Isabel opened herself to just about every adventure upon arriving in Israel as a teenager. That’s how she got “picked up” at the Western Wall by an Orthodox Jew who offered free study at a yeshiva. Sounds creepy to cautious personalities, but Isabel’s a pistol. She went. “The atmosphere was great,” she told me at an Italian restaurant in Jerusalem. “People were generous and genuine and they encouraged me to ask questions. ‘Keep asking,’ they would nudge. Eventually, they couldn’t answer my questions, so they sent me to the rabbi. After a couple of weeks, I decided I’d gotten the point of the yeshiva and left for something else to do. It was a wonderful experience. Nothing sinister at all.” Today, as a senior correspondent for The Jerusalem Report magazine Isabel commands the public recognition of a rising journalistic star.

    I appreciate that not every yeshiva lives up to hers. Jim Lederman, Israel’s longest-serving foreign correspondent, adds vital perspective. He writes that “the ultra-Orthodox rabbis have forbidden their followers to use the Internet because of what they might learn from it. And they very recently agreed to the establishment of what they called a university. But…they have specifically forbidden the study of history, literature, sciences dealing with evolutionary theory such as biology and astrophysics, and philosophy.” I’ll go further on the perspective front. The pressure to conform will always assert itself, everywhere. It’s part of the human condition, I suspect. What Israel does differently as a country is what I respect. Israel endows its citizens with the permission to inquire, to accumulate experiences, as I did at the Western Wall. Here, a teenage girl can conceive or leaving her yeshiva without stigma. Here, too, a Hasidic boy can zip around on an emblem of consumer cool (a scooter mentioned one page previously). Here, then, a people will witness their potential to be many things at once, reflecting the multitudes of God Himself.

    (unquote)

    During her trip to the West Bank, Manji doesn’t detail signs of Israeli oppression so much as she details unambiguous evidence of Muslim exceptionalism. She describes a meeting with three Palestinian spokesmen: how they delivered their predictable lines, accusing Israel of apartheid and worse.

    (quote)

    “…Shehadeh (the third speaker of the three) uses the next several minutes to deliver a passage about the technology—and agenda—possessed by Israel to dispossess Palestinians. Having read his book twice and practically memorized key paragraphs, I notice that, in this situation, Shehadeh stops just before he reaches a significant section. It’s a section in which his father says that a tenable solution for Palestine would have to be bargained, not bombed, into being… A political initiative, and soon: exactly what Arafat had the opportunity to pursue and didn’t.

    I’m stunned by where Shehadeh wraps up. Still, I know enough about how this particular passage ends to understand why an otherwise robust intellectual would censor himself in front of two compatriots. In Palestine, he writes elsewhere in the book, “society conspires to destroy, discourage, and bring down by rampant corrosive jealousy those who triumph. It’s a society that encourages you to cringe. Most of the energy is spent extending feelers to detect public perception of your actions, because your survival is contingent on remaining on good terms with your society.” I’m reminded what the Tel Aviv curator mentioned to me: It’s probably out of self-preservation that her Palestinian counterpart won’t return her calls. Any refusal to play along with collective victimhood comes at a steep cost, which Shedaheh’s father paid in spades. “He was an energetic, public-spirited man who was never allowed to succeed. He had become a marked man…” I want to ask his son it that how he perceives himself, too. But the question feels cruel. It’s significant enough that on a morning when the people of Ramallah can roam, Raja Shehadeh doesn’t dare venture beyond the hallways of half-truth.

    …That night, before the flight home to Toronto, I enter Ben Gurion Airport with Ramallah on my mind—and an intention to find books on sale about the Palestinian—Israeli mess. I see only two: one that’s relatively neutral, the other famously sympathetic toward the Arabs. Israel allows its legitimacy to be questioned by histories that are marketed at its national airport. Go figure. And yet, I can’t shake the allegation of apartheid hurled so vigorously by Palestinian activists. Day in and day out, they witness what I’ve only glimpsed: young women and men with guns strapped to their chests, ID cards, razor wire, papers at checkpoints, armored tanks. I’m puzzled, but about to be enlightened.

    On the flight, I open…an issue of the Journal of Palestinian Studies. It’s dated 1997, a year when the peace process still held promise. The first article points out that those who founded Israel did so by suppressing democracy. The author quotes Chaim Weizmann, Zionist leader, admitting that “we could not rest our case on the consent of the Arabs; as long as their consent was asked, they would naturally refuse it.” The more I read the article, the more I understood the author’s bitterness.

    In the same publication, I read the “confessions” of a man who returned to Gaza after years away. In 1997, it looked as if an independent Palestine would be achieved, and he had come home to plan life after liberation. What he found, however, was a society blanched of honesty, grasping at every opportunity to vent old grievances. “There were the newly whitewashed walls…walls which, only a few days later, after a Palestinian was killed by a stray Israeli bullet, were plastered with obituaries composed by all the known and obscure organizations claiming him as a hero and martyr and threatening terrible vengeance on his killers. Truth and the gleaming white walls were sacrificed, for it is certain that the victim belonged to none of those organizations. The thirst for martyrs is consuming, a dominant passion.”

    So, even at a time of relative optimism, the death wish had seized Palestinian Muslims. Why? Our confessor observes that it “wasn’t just the harshness of the occupation,” but a total absence of introspection as well. This triggered a “collapse of the values on which the social contract rests. Elevating oneself above criticism (exceptionalism – Nick’s intrusion) is not so much self-confidence as a sign of encapsulating oneself, closing oneself off from the rest of the world. The price has been exorbitant.” (Nick again: The same can be said of the Jewish exceptionalism evident in Israel’s hawks, and of the shamelessly jingoistic American exceptionalism at work in Bush’s worldly-ignorant early 21st century USA.)

    I resolve to learn more about how Muslims have broken faith with the Koran’s warning that “God changes not what is in a people until they change what is in themselves.” The Israeli press reassured me that there’s no shame in airing communal frailties. The Wakf showed me there’s plenty of disgrace in remaining gagged… What else aren’t we Muslims telling ourselves so we can keep surfing in sympathy and subsisting on victimhood?

    (unquote, Manji, pps. 91-93)

    Her next chapter, number 5, is titled “Who’s Betraying Whom?” After its opening—an extended telling of a joke that can only be dubbed ‘black humor’ (or funny irony – buy the book so you can read it)—Manji writes,

    (quote)

    The movement to establish the state of Israel, a movement known as Zionism, sprouted in Europe during the late 1800’s. Zionists realized that anti-Semitism wasn’t going away and might just be getting worse. Jews, they warned, needed a national homeland. And Jews needed it not in the Antarctic, nor in Uganda, but in the Near Eastern strip of sand and soil to which they traced their earliest, deepest, and most persistent roots—the lands that Arabs belatedly minted Palestine.

    There’s a lot of controversy over whether Jews have a historical attachment to Palestine, and therefore whether they can call any of it a homeland. I think they can. First, according to a DNA study conducted by an international team of researchers and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jews and Arabs share at least one common ancestor—a “common Middle Eastern origin,” as the study puts it.

    Islamic tradition concurs. It says that Ishmael, who established the Arab nation, and Isaac, who founded the Jewish nation, were half-brothers sired by Abraham. Prophet Muhammad reportedly descended from Ishmael, while Moses and Jesus came from Isaac’s side of the family. All had a blood tie to Abraham. And if that’s not enough for you, then listen to the Koran: “We said to the Israelites: ‘Dwell in the land. When the promise of the hereafter comes to be fulfilled, We shall assemble you all together’.” I hate to be selective, but not mentioning this verse would be selective too.

    Finally, let’s go back to the Zionist movement. When European Jews arrived in Palestine, they discovered a smattering of their coreligionists already living in what today would be the West Bank. When did the Jews get there? Might Jews have always been there? Recent settlers in the West Bank tend to attract the most consternation, and often deserve to because of their illegal outposts. But somewhere here is a homeland. To squawk that Jews are alien usurpers of Palestine is as ignorant as to rant that Arabs have no place in Israel.

    How, then, did Palestinians become refugee outcasts, even within the Arab world? Through the disruptions of war—a conflict initiated by Arab countries that couldn’t accept Israel’s existence in their midst. Only one day after the birth of the Jewish state in 1948, five Arab armies invaded Israel, and the Palestinian refugee problem got serious. In some towns Israeli commanders expelled Arabs, egged on by a controversial strategy called the Dalet plan. The grief it imposed can no longer be denied. In other towns, though, Arabs were urged to stay—and many stuck around to accept Israeli citizenship. Many more Palestinians chose to go, fully expecting to be back once the Jews had been driven into the sea.

    And these refugees took their marching orders not from Israelis, but from Arabs. So said Khaled al-Azm, the prime minister of Syria during this war. In his 1973 memoirs, al-Azm wrote about “the call by the Arab Governments to the inhabitants of Palestine to evacuate it and to leave the bordering Arab countries, after having sown terror among them…since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the one who encouraged them to leave.” To al-Azm’s chagrin, “(t)his collective flight helped the Jews, whose position improved without any effort on their part.” So much for Israel being completely on the hook for the Palestinian crisis.

    (unquote, Manji, pps. 95-97)

    Manji, in detail, continues illuminating the cynical and hypocritical use of the Palestinians not by Israelis but by the neighboring Arab governments. On page 99, she punctuates the account,

    (quote)

    We can rip into Israeli “imperialists” for the Palestinian plight. The truth is, though, that Muslims have our own imperialists to indict. Not in equal measure, you might say. Maybe in greater measure, I say. Parsing how the Mideast drama even started is a lesson in the ways that Muslims have been sticking it to each other for decades…

    In the early 20th century, we conveniently believe, Zionists stomped in and turfed out Palestinians by force of arms. As I’ve said, plenty of Arabs did get the heave-ho. But the instructions to vacate didn’t always originate with Jews. The Ottomans—Turkish Muslims—oversaw the empire that controlled Palestine at the time. Against the interests of Arab tenant farmers, the Ottomans voluntarily sold lands to the early Zionists. Yes, Muslims did this. And they did it consciously. In 1911, 150 high-profile Arabs telegraphed the Turkish parliament to protest the continued land sales. Their cable was ignored. During the First World War, the Arabs helped Britain fight the Ottomans on condition that all of Palestine would be turned over to the Arabs afterwards… Yet, in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain broke its presumed pact with the Arabs. London publicly committed some of Palestine to the Jews, who were facing increasingly spiteful attacks in Europe. Thus, the Promised Land became the twice-promised land. Muslims have cursed Western colonizers for treachery ever since.

    Once again, though, we’ve failed to atone for our own travesties of 1915. That year marks the height of the Ottoman Muslim genocide perpetrated against Armenian Christians. Allah’s ambassadors expunged more than a million Christians through deportation, starvation, and bloodbaths. Why don’t I hear too many of us calling on the Turks to make amends? We should be indignant, particularly since Armenians seek back none of their property—only an apology. Are Muslims too busy cleaving to the sanctimony of the betrayed to care about how we’re betraying others?

    We Muslims aren’t the only ones who had to settle for less from the colonial powers; Jews also experienced betrayal. The year was 1921. Of the land that Britain designated for the Jewish national home, almost four-fifths went to Arabs for what would become Jordan. Only two years later, Britain ceded more Jewish-slated territory, this time to Syria. But then, as now, the concessions foisted on Jews meant nothing to delusional Muslims.

    (unquote, Manji, pps.99-100)

    Manji is not incapable of criticizing Jewish exceptionalism either. Better yet, she can laud that exceptionalism’s implicit empathy (“One perspective is that their long history of suffering should free Jews from whatever constraints are applied to others. Another is that their persecutions make Jews more sympathetic to others’ suffering…”), and then, without breaking her rhetorical stride, criticize its conceits.

    On page 173, in her pivotal chapter entitled “Operation Ijtihad”, she writes,

    (quote)

    And that’s when it hit me—religion is one reason that Israel perseveres as a multifaith democracy in the midst of its own demagogues and a welter of Arab dynasties. Judaism, unlike Islam and Christianity, doesn’t set out to convert. It harbors no claim to universalism. By its own laws, it can’t evangelize. “That’s because Jews are ‘the chosen ones’,” Muslims are apt to sniff. “Chosen people don’t need to prove themselves. Come hell or high water, their salvation is in the bag.” I consider this a tragic misapprehension. Jews believe they’re chosen for burdens on earth, and on behalf of all humanity. Whether Jews prove themselves capable of handling those burdens responsibly will determine if they deserve deliverance. Far from being “in the bag,” salvation rests on being responsible. But what does that mean? I can only convey the mainstream Jewish consensus: Being responsible means resisting tribal arrogance.

    As humans, Jews sometimes turn arrogance into a high art—or at least a gauche one. I recoil at the West Bank crazies who illuminate their hilltop settlements with neon Stars of David. I don’t pretend to defend those who kindle fires with branches severed from olive trees Arabs have nurtured for decades, and who sequester themselves in yeshivas where they’re forbidden to study the disciplines, from astronomy to philosophy, that made Maimonides tick. Bear in mind, though, that these folks are lightweights in contemporary Judaism. Infuriating, but relatively marginal.

    Jews who aren’t marginal often exceed the call of responsibility—without acknowledgment from us Muslims. In April 2002, Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. deputy defense secretary, handed a metaphorical olive branch to Palestinians. A noted hawk, Wolfowitz conceded that “innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying in great numbers as well.” The gathering jeered. But what did Edgar M. Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, do? He wrote to the New York Times with avowed humility. “Those who booed should be ashamed of themselves and should be made aware of the passage of the Haggadah (Passover story)…God chastises the angels for cheering as the Egyptians were drowning while chasing the Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea. God told them, These are my people, too. Palestinians are dying in this war in the Middle East. My sympathies are certainly for Israel and its people, but we must all be aware that the Palestinians are people, too.”

    The same covenant to recognize the “other” allows Britain’s chief Orthodox rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, to write about the “dignity of difference.” Did I say write about it? More like write the book on it. In Sacks’s prose, “God creates the difference; therefore it is in one-who-is-different that we meet God.” To Rabbi Sacks, “(t)he supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.” I’ll admit that Sacks has taken heat from ultra-Orthodox rabbis, particularly for his point that Judaism doesn’t have the last word on Truth. Under pressure, Sacks has revised some sentiments. Not all, however. Not the ones about the sanctity of difference. For years, in fact, Sacks has been promoting Jewish responsibility to the “other,” all the while holding onto his seat as head of Britain’s Orthodox Jews.

    Why am I banging away at the humanity that Judaism enables? Because while I expect that Operation Ijtihad will spur conversations among the three Peoples of the Book, these “trialogues” will amount to something only if they’re driven by talmudic open-endedness. I don’t mean the Talmud itself; I mean the attitude, so elegantly voiced by Rabbi Hartman, that Abraham’s God is equally the “God of surprise and novelty.” A God, that is, whose will you can’t predict.

    Too preposterous a thought for most Arab Muslims? Malaysia’s prime minister suggests that it is. At a 2002 international assembly of Muslims in Kuala Lumpur, Mahathir Mohamed let it slip that Islam’s leadership can no longer come from Arabs because, on balance, they don’t know how to speak with non-Muslims. But, he implied, Asian Muslims do. Ironically, Mahathir has betrayed his own susceptibility to Arab influences by holding Jews responsible for Malaysia’s currency crisis and by standing on the sidelines as Sharia law spreads in his country. The good news is: Malaysia isn’t Matathir. Neither is neighboring Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, where millions have condemned the Islamist bombing of a Bali nightclub. In fact, Southeast Asians have always had to practice Islam in an entrepot that’s multiethnic (Chinese, Indian, Malay) and multifaith (Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim).

    (unquote, Manji, pps.173-175)

  • Old Nick

    Manji, part 3: Project Ijtihad

    Ultimately, Manji takes aim at unquestioning belief in the literal ‘truth’ of Islam as promoted, most notoriously, by Wahhabism, and spread by Saudi petrodollars (she calls it ‘desert Islam’), as a primary target for her ‘Project (originally Operation) Ijtihad’.

    “Project Ijtihad is our foundation to spur a reform in Islam — a reform that enables the emerging generation of Muslims, especially young women, to challenge authoritarianism and restore Islam’s tradition of critical thinking.” (Please see Manji’s website, http://www.muslim-refusenik.com)

    In her book, she proposes an international campaign of criminal charges against Saudis for encouraging and perpetrating international hate crimes:

    (quote)

    Given that the UN operates on protocol more than on principle, with jackboot regimes treated as morally equivalent to democracies, would the UN embarrass Saudi Arabia with an inquiry into Wahhabism? Hardly. As for the newly established International Criminal Court, it’s meant to be reactive instead of proactive. Anyway, as of spring 2003, the court faced two hundred complaints about crimes against humanity. Why would it appoint a prosecutor to probe Wahhabism when neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia has signed on to the ICC?

    Right now, our best bet for intercepting religiously motivated homicides might be to use the justice system in our own countries. As I write this, Britain’s criminal courts have successfully prosecuted a Saudi-trained, London-based cleric for soliciting the murder of Jews, Hindus, and Americans. It’s the first such conviction in England. It ought not be the last…

    …By proposing criminal charges against the Saudis, am I merely mimicking those who would shut down Houllebecq, Fallaci, Nasrin, and Rushdie? God, I hope not. Challenging the Saudis isn’t about shutting down Islam but letting more than (one?) strain bloom in the desert. And challenging them could help prevent another round of mass extermination while protecting many a nation’s security. How the Koran is interpreted—and how it isn’t—has become everybody’s business.

    (unquote, Manji, pps.182-183 – emphasis mine)

    Later:

    (quote)

    If you’re (a non-Muslim worried over egregiously stereotyping Muslims), please listen. There’s more than one way to exploit Islam. Some Muslims exploit it as a sword, and they’re goons for doing so. But just as many—or more—Muslims exploit Islam as a shield, and that’s destructive too. It protects Muslims from self-inquiry and non-Muslims from guilt. “You have no right to question my religion,” the shield-wavers often sermonize to non-Muslims. “You’ll never understand Islam.” (Among the multiple meanings of this statement: I, as an insecure Muslim, don’t want to understand where you’re coming from.) “You’ve ‘radicalized’ my people in the past and you’ll ‘problematize’ us again.” (Subtext: We Muslims have no power of our own. That’s what my cultural studies professor taught me.)

    I’ve watched this ploy too many times to be delicate in describing it. So I’ll just tell it like it is: Since my young adulthood, Muslims in the West have been sucking on the nipple of public ignorance about Islam, wailing for validation under all conditions, at all costs. Other commentators have noticed. Even before September 11, British journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote that the “idea of our society as simply a non-interference pact between groups is not just wrong, it is impossible. We are now necessarily involved with each other.” We’ve got to lay down the shield and accept the birthright of any open society: that we can ask questions of each other. Sometimes pointed questions. Sometimes in public.

    In this spirit, we shouldn’t let multicultural bromides anesthetize our brains any further. But that’s what we’re doing…

    (unquote, Manji, p.190, bolded emphasis mine; parenthetical enclosures Manji’s.)

    (quote)

    Note to non-Muslims: Dare to ruin the romance of the moment. When Muslims insist, “We’re democracies in our own way,” you need pose only one question: What rights do women and religious minorities actually exercise? You’ll doubtless hear in reply that the West should take a hard look at how it’s mutilating women through breast implants and tummy tucks for the sake of social acceptance. Agreed, the West should look hard. Still, in all my years as an active feminist in the West, I’ve never met a girl whose parents have disowned her because she wouldn’t inject silicon into her boobs—and yet more than a few Muslim parents have rejected their daughters for resisting clitoral (mutilation). Non-Muslims do the world no favors by pushing the moral mute button as soon as Muslims start speaking. Dare to ruin the moment.

    (unquote, Manji, p.192; bolded emphasis and use of ‘mutilation’ mine – see Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s The Caged Virgin for the explanation of how the non-Islamic cultural practice of female genital mutilation is nonetheless protected by Islamic sexism. And ask yourself: have you heard of a non-Muslim modern culture that permits or mandates female genital mutilation?)

    (quote)

    I propose that, as a guiding value, we in the West agree on individuality. When we celebrate individuality, we let most people choose who they are, be they members of a religion, free spirits, or both. For a lot of Europeans, individuality might ring too much of American individualism. It doesn’t have to. Individualism—I’m out for myself—differs from individuality—I’m myself, and my society benefits from that uniqueness. My question to non-Muslim Europe is this: Do you believe that your 16 million Muslims are capable of contributing as individuals? The question is not whether they’re capable, but whether you believe they are.

    Europe, why do you hesitate to imagine Muslims as full citizens? Many Muslim families have lived in Germany since the Second World War. Why are they still referred to as second- and third-generation immigrants instead of as Germans? What’s with the purity hang-up—something you claim to abhor about Israel, even though Israel has long conferred citizenship on foreigners? I plead with you, Europe, not to conjure an unholy alliance between desert tribalism and your own tribalisms. Let down your defenses and learn from the North American pluralistic model, in which Muslims can become integrated citizens. Do you want to see pluralism retrench because, that way, America will retrench with it? Sure, you’ll spite Americans, but you’ll also be impugning your liberal forebears, from Averroes to Erasmus to Kant to Voltaire.

    (unquote, Manji, pps.200-201)

    Manji ends her letter with a chapter called “Thank God for the West”. Here is its conclusion:

    (quote)

    …I’m down to my final fair shake for Islam. Whether I leave it behind will be up to me. In another sense, though, it’s up to us. What I need to see is an appetite for reform.

    · Will we snap out of our rites and spark our imaginations in order to free Muslims worldwide from fear, hunger, and illiteracy?

    · Will we move past the superstition that we can’t question the Koran? By openly asking where its verses come from, why they’re contradictory, and how they can be differently interpreted, we’re not violating anything more than tribal totalitarianism.

    · If my analysis is wrong, can you explain why no other religion is producing as many terrorist travesties and human rights transgressions in the name of God? And can you explain this without pointing fingers at everyone but Muslims?

    Write me back at http://www.muslim-refusenik.com. I look forward to an honest discussion.

    Faithfully (for now),

    Irshad

    (unquote)

    Please consider buying her brilliant and courageous book. It’s vastly richer and more varied than what I’ve been able to offer in this ‘report’.

    Further reading: Wikipedia’s external links at the bottom of its Irshad Manji page, featuring her priceless rebuttal to Tarek Fatah:

    http://muslim-refusenik.com/news/globe-dec2-03.html

    Coming next: excerpts from Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s The Caged Virgin