David Thompson


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November 29, 2007


Mr Grumpy

I think we need to keep our eye on the ball. On the one hand I was disappointed by Ed's shoot-the-messenger attack on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and you and Robert Spencer are right not to let him get away with it. On the other hand, if Ed has embraced a major Muslim tradition - Sufism - in which the Prophet is indeed perceived as a benign and peace-loving mystic, and emulated accordingly, why not leave well alone rather than try to beat him into submission to post-Enlightenment scepticism? What does anyone else gain by shattering his faith? There are spiritual truths accessed within that tradition which, I'd suggest, matter more than the details of Mohammed's biography.


Mr Grumpy,

I think you’d have to elaborate on what those “spiritual truths” are before I can offer an adequate reply.

Rich Rostrom

There is no good answer, it seems to me.

To say "Islam is peace, etc", is to deny the obvious meaning of much of the Koran, and to ignore congruence between the jihadists and traditional Islamic interpretation. It leaves the jihadis standing as the true votaries of traditional scripturally-based Islam, and anti-jihadi Moslems with a very weak case.

But if one says that in all traditional interpretations, the Koran does justify jihadism, then what? It's said that Islam needs a Reformation to overturn these interpretations explicitly. But how can outsiders demand that Moslems revise their faith and expressly deny part of their scriptures? If all the old orthodox schools must be overturned, what replaces them? And how will Moslems come to accept the new doctrines as authoritative? Who is to preach them?

It seems massively impossible to me.

ISTM one could just as well push for Moslems to convert to other faiths.



“It leaves the jihadis standing as the true votaries of traditional scripturally-based Islam, and anti-jihadi Moslems with a very weak case.”

Well, there are endless shades of adherence and I wouldn’t presume to guess what Islam means to any particular believer; nor would I presume to know what a “true” Islam might be, or what “spiritual truths” may, allegedly, be derived from it. But, yes, it seems to me that it’s the Islamists who are currently gaining ground and making the stronger *theological* arguments, insofar as they appeal directly to Muhammad’s own example and to orthodox schools of thought. As a result, their position has proved difficult to oppose in theological terms.

Thus, a question arises. Can Muhammad’s central position within Islam be altered to de-legitimise jihadist ideas? Sanitising Muhammad’s life doesn’t work particularly well, despite enormous efforts to that end. Can Muhammad be reduced to a fairly marginal figure within Islam? And can a religion survive if its founder, on whom so much is pinned, is sidelined, or revealed as being… um, less worthy than one might hope?

As an infidel, and thus of little importance, it seems to me that the entire theological structure is unsound.


Whilst Spencer is pretty convincing when it comes to exploring the realities of Islam, he leaves me cold when he writes about the supposed superiorities of Christianity. For example:


It's not necessary for him to make this kind of comparison.

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