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June 22, 2008

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pwyll

"Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious."

Ophelia Benson

What's the first duty of intelligent women?

pwyll

Ophelia,
I'd say it's pretty much the same.

David

It’s almost funny. I mean, it almost suggests a deranged comedy of manners. For some people, despising the Brotherhood and other openly fascistic groups has somehow become improper, like belching in church.

Peter Risdon

There's nothing astonishing about anyone disliking Islamism, although the reverse is true. That the ground has shifted in some quarters to a protection of Islamism, from the attempted protection from criticism of Islam, is extraordinary. It's perhaps also an indication of the destination the UN Human Rights Council is steering towards.

http://pubphilosopher.blogs.com/pub_philosopher/2008/06/discussion-of-islam-banned-at-un-human-rights-council.html

David

Peter,

We’ve been discussing the UNHRC over here:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/06/entitlement/comments/page/2/#comments

Peter Risdon

David,

Thanks, I missed that (though I did read your original post). Beaming across...

sk60

Do these dicks at the Indie know anything at all about Islamist groups like MB?

David

sk60,

It’s hard to say. If they don’t, their ignorance is inexcusable. And what, then, leads them to feel entitled to regard McEwan’s objections as “astonishing”? On what do they base their gasps of astonishment? How are they measuring what an appropriate reaction should be? Perhaps they imagine it’s “unfair” to despise any religious movement, even one with the appalling history and ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps they find it hard to accept the movement’s repeatedly stated aims, and their theological origin, and what that implies.

Or maybe they have the same pathology exhibited by (among others) the Guardian’s Seumas Milne, who spent years deceiving his readers in an attempt to convince them that the Brotherhood and its affiliates are big-eyed puppies to be welcomed with open arms. In his case, the pathology is hard to miss:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/02/alguardian_the_.html

Alcuin

My own sentiments are in line with David's, Ian's and Martin's. Perhaps more so, because I find the difference between Islam and Islamism a rather artificial western construct that most Muslims do not even comprehend. It is a sort of euphemism, in that it allows us to say to "nice" muslims (who just want us enslaved under Sharia, and not blown or hacked to bits): "we don't mean you".

However, while the Indy article did describe McEwan's remarks as "astonishingly strong", this comes over merely as adjectivalism, rather than the sentiment of the authors. I mean by that, that the authors were not astonished and did not themselves fond his views "strong", they just used the words as newspapers do for effect, such as the common use of "outspoken".

David

Alcuin,

Well, it is quite often a euphemism and the distinction between Islam and Islamism is often far from clear. Almost any political expression of Islam is “Islamist,” as is almost any assertion of Islam beyond the private and personal. What would be called “Islamist” sentiments are expressed regularly by the OIC, the International Islamic Conference on Inter-Faith Dialogue, al-Azhar and almost every Islamic institution of any real size and influence. In institutional terms, such sentiments are the norm. Obviously, that’s not to say those ideas are necessarily normative of Muslims generally, but they are very common traits of the larger and more influential Muslim organisations, and of many small ones.

Sir Henry Morgan

" Pretending to be hurt in order to assert one’s will over others, or to gain unreciprocated favours, or to exert control over what others may say and think, is cowardly and malign. "

It's known in psychology and psychiatry as Passive Agression.

David

Yes, I’ve used the term once or twice. Crudely summarised, it goes something like this: “Feel our pain; now do as we say.”

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/03/the_passiveaggr.html

It’s the modern way.

Dr.Dawg

The problem with loose, undefined terms like "Islamism" (and, for that matter, "Islamophobia"), is that it makes it even more difficult to draw important distinctions.

But draw them we must. Perhaps we need a new vocabulary, but it seems to me that there is an important difference between murderous fanatics who want to rule the world with some particularly extreme variant of Shariah law and impose dhimmitude upon us, and those who simply observe Ramadan, perform their daily prayers, pay a charity tax, eschew alcohol and the meat of swine, and possibly make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

I try not to confuse all Christians with militant homophobes panting for Armageddon and waiting for the Rapture, and I seem to be moderately successful at it. My son-in-law, as it happens, is a Muslim (Turkish): he's a little on the conservative side for my taste, but he's much like an Islamic version of an Anglican. Rather secular, in other words, but he avoids pork and alcohol and has probably read some of the Qur'an, although not in the language of God (7th-century Arabic).

What concerns me is not only the blurring of the boundary between 9/11 suicidal maniacs and ordinary people trying to make their living and go about their business, but the comments found in many quarters that there is no boundary to be drawn. And further--although I stress that I am referring to no one here--that the word "Muslim" has become a bit of a code-word for swarthy, dangerous Others. (I can provide a few instances if people insist.)

If by "Islamism" we mean yet another version of lethal authoritarianism, I believe that I have met very few Islamists. I have encountered quite a few Muslims, on the other hand. I don't like their Book, and do not intend to read it in the original. In its bloodthirstier passages, it reminds me quite a bit of the Old Testament. Hence I generally agree with David here:

"As I’ve said before, religious freedom does not entail sparing believers any hint that others do not share their beliefs or indeed find them ludicrous. There is, after all, no corresponding obligation for believers to embrace ideas that are not clearly risible, monstrous or disgusting."

But I would not gratuitously mock believers--ordinary ones, sans bombs and scowls--with my profound objections to their creed, any more than I would do so with Christians: the fact that I have a *right* to, notwithstanding. And I reserve that same right to take on unfair, inflated, frequently racist criticism and hysteria about Muslims and Islam. That too, we might agree (even though I am not a liberal), is an intrinsic part of the liberal project.

Trimegistus

It's really pretty simple. Modern Western liberals loathe themselves and their own societies far, far more than they could ever dislike even the most vicious Islamic terrorists. It's simply no contest. We've seen it in practice: offered the choice between a nuclear-armed Iranian theocracy and George W. Bush, American liberals are crying "Allah Akbar!" and voting for pre-emptive surrender.

They hate America. They hate Christianity. They hate Western Civilization and all it has ever accomplished. We have to find a way to keep them from including us in their suicide pact.

randian

"fanatics who want to rule the world with some particularly extreme variant of Shariah law"

You make a serious error here. There is no such thing as an "extreme variant" of Sharia, since it has only one definition. It is the enforcement of Sharia in its fullness that the fanatics desire. In Islam that is not extreme.

"What concerns me is not only the blurring of the boundary between 9/11 suicidal maniacs and ordinary people trying to make their living and go about their business"

Again, you make a serious error. You appear to assume that the "ordinary people" disapprove of the acts of the maniacs, when in fact they supply them with money, sanctuary, and political cover. Indeed, the maniacs recruit from the ranks of the ordinary as part of their call to obey the will of Allah. This recruiting effort would be ineffective if the maniacs were seen by the ordinary Muslim as acting in opposition to Islam's theological dictates. Even if they wanted to, the ordinary people cannot repudiate the maniacs because they have no theological grounds on which to do so. So long as these things are so, the boundaries must be blurred, or we will be misled by the "good cop, bad cop" routine employed by Muslims.

David

Dr Dawg,

“The problem with loose, undefined terms like ‘Islamism’ (and, for that matter, ‘Islamophobia’), is that it makes it even more difficult to draw important distinctions. But draw them we must.”

I agree it would be lazy and absurd to disregard the spectrum of views and preferences that exist, along with the degrees of religious observance, etc. I’m simply pointing out the not infrequent difficulty in making clear distinctions. There is, for instance, a tendency to regard the Brotherhood’s political Islamism as unsavoury while politely ignoring its roots and justification in normative Islamic theology. As a result, there’s a kind of learned cognitive dissonance. A polite averting of the eyes.

For years the Muslim Council of Britain – the UK’s most prominent Muslim organisation - was hailed by both media and government as “moderate” and respectable, despite the deranged Mawdudist leanings of its central figures and many affiliates. The past and present secretaries general of the MCB have made overtly Islamist statements many times. Indeed, the MCB’s current mouthpiece, Muhammad Abdul Bari, famously said “negative attitudes” towards Muslims would result in Britain being faced with “two million Muslim terrorists — 700,000 of them in London.” (Like his predecessor, Bari has the knack for turning protestations of innocence and victimhood into barely-veiled threats.) And the belated discovery, or admission, that supposedly mainstream, moderate groups are in fact far from moderate hasn’t exactly affirmed reassuring distinctions:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/06/image_problem.html

If a person feels that Islam (however they conceive it) should be asserted socially and politically, isn’t that Islamism? Or is it only Islamism if this involves activism of some kind? Does the belief that Islam should prevail unchallenged across the entire planet (as voiced by the OIC, al-Azhar, etc) qualify as Islamist? Or is it only Islamist if actual steps are taken to further that scenario? What if a person recoils from coercion and violence personally, but shares much the same dream as those who happily employ violence and coercion? What about legal, democratic efforts to undermine the basis of a democratic society – say, by lobbying to criminalise as “hate speech” certain statements of fact?

You see the problem?

Peter Risdon

There's a danger, though, of further victimising people who are already victims of Islam - those born into the Islamic world. Reza Moradi, an Iranian dissident, secularist and communist, remade Gert Wilders' Fitna in a way he felt was more accurate.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTb0vAOAyy0

His communism is misguided, in my opinion, but even his placing of blame of American "imperialism" has some truth in it. As he points out, it's our governments that roll out the red carpet for people like the Saudi royal family, who are far worse than the odd hook-handed screwball in the West.

There's an echo of the Catholic imperative here: hate the sin but love the sinner. But Moradi's most important point is that we should support dissidents in the Islamic world - secularists and democrats.

David

Peter,

I’m all in favour of supporting dissidents who want to live in a freethinking world, as opposed to one based on dishonesty and fear. And it seems to me a good way to do that is to subject Islam, as a global ideological phenomenon, to a degree of unapologetic scrutiny. For instance, it’s difficult to meaningfully oppose the oppression and intimidation of women and minorities without challenging, quite firmly, the specific religious laws and religious ideas that are used to justify and perpetuate the oppression in question. Yet quite a few people seem to imagine one can “take a stand” of some kind without actually addressing the ideological nuts and bolts of how oppression works:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/06/empty_gestures.html

My views on “Fitna” can be found here:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/03/umbrage-and-flu.html

Peter Risdon

David,

"... it’s difficult to meaningfully oppose the oppression and intimidation of women and minorities without challenging, quite firmly, the specific religious laws and religious ideas that are used to justify and perpetuate the oppression in question."

Quite so. In my small way, I've done this myself, directly challenging Moslem activists over core parts of mainstream Islamic (not -ist) teaching. I've linked here before to examples of this so perhaps don't need to do so again.

The reactions to Fitna you describe led me to post the movie on my own blog.

I don't think this conflicts with the point I made earlier.

virgil xenophon

Aynrandgirl and Trimegistus, along with David, pretty much cover the waterfront in my view. I'm just over from Harry's where I made the comment that we must not shrink from being unrepentant advocates of the position David and those who agree with him take and to not shy from forcibly laying out such criticisms in each and every, any and all, forums, least we be recreant in our duties as citizens (and, as of now, free men) to uphold the best of the values of Western Civilization--a system of freedom and self-expression created over much time and travail by our ancestors.

Alcuin

"If a person feels that Islam (however they conceive it) should be asserted socially and politically, isn’t that Islamism?"

It is a useful definition. Martin Amis draws the line at the use of violence in pursuance of such goals. The trouble with any such definition is that you don't hear Muslims using any of them, or even the word itself. One suspects that if Inayat were to find the word useful in his dissembling, he would do so. But the only reason such a word was invented is to enable us to dance around the fundamentally nasty aspects of Islam without facing them squarely. Is this helpful?

The issue is one of restraint, and in proselytising, Christians exercise significantly more restraint than Muslims. Not since the Inquisition has the threat or use of violence been practised by Christians except in extremely rare circumstances by the deranged, and nowhere in the teachings of Jesus can any justification for coercion be found.

Alienation, when analysed psychologically, is a process involving several steps. It can be fanned by unscrupulous politicians, such at the Nazis. But in Christian Germany, the process that led to the Holocaust had to be carefully managed and concealed. In Islam the disdain for the Kufr is fundamental dogma - the starting position - pogroms have been frequent and require little management.

The more any enlightened person thinks and reads about Islam as it is practised today, the justification of such practises, its history, the concepts as Sharia and Jihad, and the roots of all this in Islam's fundamental texts, the more (s)he is drawn to uncomfortable realisation that the only tenable position is uncompromising opposition - such as that of McEwan, Amis, Liddle and others. It is only "astonishingly strong" to those who have not studied it or suffered under it. It reminds me of Nils Bohr's remark: "anyone who is not shocked by Quantum Theory has not understood it". Few, if any, of our political leaders are willing to voice such a position in public.

David

Alcuin,

“It [the social and political assertion of Islam] is a useful definition. Martin Amis draws the line at the use of violence in pursuance of such goals.”

The use of violence as a definition of Islamism is much too slack for my taste. The supremacist ideology at the heart of it – and the urge to shoehorn Islam into all areas of life - can exist independently of, and prior to, acts of violence. A more convincing definition would cover all attempts to bring about the primacy of Islam in the social, legal and political spheres. Such attempts could (at least initially) involve entirely non-violent means – e.g. lobbying for parallel legal systems, banking, education, exemptions, special treatment, etc. And a credible definition would also have to include efforts to inhibit criticism of Islamic theology and history, along with wilful dissembling and the cultivation of pretentious grievance.

That would be a start.

Dr.Dawg

David:

I agree that drawing the distinction I referred to is a problem. That doesn't mean we shouldn't tackle it, though. And we may disagree on precisely what is problematic: for example, speaking of my own country, "hate speech" is not a concept invented by Islamists, it is precisely defined in the Criminal Code, and there have been very few prosecutions under it--mostly against anti-Semites. In the civil realm, we have, of course, our Human Rights Commissions and Tribunals, which also pre-date the current Islamic current: only a small fraction of its work has anything to do with communication of messages, and very little of the latter has had anything to do with Islam.

"If a person feels that Islam (however they conceive it) should be asserted socially and politically, isn’t that Islamism?"

I don't know what "social assertion" is--wearing hijab?--but I would agree that politicizing the religion is Islamism. As a secularist, I am strongly opposed to the politicizing of any religion. The Americans have separation of Church and State--we Canadians aren't quite as clear, but we generally like the church/synagogue/mosque to stay out of active political campaigning, and we enforce that with our tax laws.

I would see the line between "Islamism" and Islam generally as this: "Islamism" involves action to create a non-secular, Islamic state. This goes beyond the *wish* for such a thing--I'm sure that even moderate Christians think it would be nice if everyone believed in the New Dispensation and governed themselves accordingly, even politicians. It's a matter of making active political attempts to bring that about. In that respect, Christian Dominionism is our closer equivalent, but not, of course, in terms of its actions or its influence.

On Shariah law, there are, of course, many variants (four schools), and many interpretations. It's not all about stoning and amputations, either. But I take aynrandgirl's first point (although decidedly not her second): if, like observant Jews, Muslims want religious courts to decide matters within the congregation, based upon voluntary participation, that's one thing: state-imposed Shariah is quite another. I would join others here behind the barricades if such a thing were ever a serious possibility.

Turkey, for all its flaws, is less polarized on the subject. This article sums up the general approach there, new vocabulary and all: http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=105475.

Finally, the very fact that we're having this discussion tells me that it's possible to talk about Islam and Islamism without politely averting one's eyes from the hard facts. (We will differ, I suspect, on what those facts are, but that's why we have debates in the first place.) I would have no difficulty with such discussions in a more public venue, and would defend our common right to have such discussions against anyone who thinks they are "improper," or "hateful," or whatever.

PS: Thank you, Peter Risdon, for the "Fitna Remade" link.

Alcuin

Dr Dawg

Again with the definitions of Islamism. As I have said above, such definitions are poor enough if non-Muslims cannot agree them, but effectively rendered useless if Muslims do not accept them. What you describe as "action to create a non-secular, Islamic state", is embraced by far too many Muslims in the West for it to be of any use to sideline extremists.

"It's not all about stoning and amputations, either"

True, those are usually referred to as the Hudood laws, active in some OIC countries, notably Saudi and Pakistan. But Sharia (of any of the four schools) is bad enough. The worst of it is its discrimination in legal judgements between Muslims and others. This requires all citizens to be defined by their religion, which is put on any ID card or passport, and if you are born Muslim you cannot change it, even in relatively enlightened Malaysia.

For example, according to the Saudi "Hanbali" interpretation of Shari'a, once fault is determined by a court, a Muslim male receives 100 percent of the amount of compensation determined, a male Jew or Christian receives 50 percent, and all others (including Hindus and Sikhs) receive 1/16 of the amount a male Muslim receives. Women receive half that of the relevant male. Add the dhimmi practices, and you have institutionalised humiliation and loss of rights for any non-Muslim. And then there is the jizya.

No way can any of this be acceptable in a free pluralist society. Anyone who wants it or argues for is is our intellectual enemy, and anyone who works for it is our political enemy. Neither is it desirable in Muslim enclaves, due to social pressure and intimidation to submit to informal Sharia courts that are unlikely to be consensual.

Dr.Dawg

Just on the last point, Alcuin, no one in Canada had the slightest difficulty with Orthodox Jewish Halachic courts, wherein women fare badly as well. These courts operated in tandem with the Ontario arbitration system for many years. When MUslims wanted something similar, all hell broke loose--Shariah! Amputations!--until the government of Ontario removed all religious courts from the arbitration system. I think that was a good thing, by the way.

Peter Risdon

"The use of violence as a definition of Islamism is much too slack for my taste."

Surely violence has nothing to do with it, it's a given that violence in the furtherance of any ideas, even good ones, is unacceptable. There are, as you say David, many other features of Islamism, and indeed of Islam itself as practiced in several countries, that deserve to be criticised, as well as ridiculed.

Alcuin

"it's a given that violence in the furtherance of any ideas, even good ones, is unacceptable"

Oh boy. Tell that to Mugabe. Or Qaradawi, Abu Qatada, even Sacranie.

David

Peter,

“There are, as you say David, many other features of Islamism…”

Well, indeed. It seems to me that any credible definition of Islamism would also have to include the censorious tactics of the OIC, MCB, CAIR, etc and the relentless dissembling and general bad faith of, say, Tariq Ramadan. I hesitate to use the term “intellectual enemies” (it sounds rather grand and has unintended connotations), but the phenomenon we’re describing takes a range of forms, many of which involve rhetoric and role-play rather than violence.

stuck-Record

It's not just the threat of violence. It is the likelihood and severity of violence that could be used in response to even minor slights.

For instance. Scenario 1.
Let's say, for the purposes of argument, you're sitting across the table from from, say, one of the following; the chairman of the BBC, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the CBI, the chair of the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Chief Rabbi, the head of the trade union Congress, the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, the CEO of a multinational bank, the editor of the Daily Mail, the head of Greenpeace, the chief constable of Merseyside etc etc. You get the picture.

They express their most cherished beliefs, and you tell them you hold their views in complete contempt. You can do it respectfully, or abrasively -- it's up to you. The conversation may get heated, or even offensive, but, at no time, would you feel that continuing to express your opinion could result in your injury or murder. Never. Not for one single second (even with the editor of the Daily Mail).

That complete freedom is one of the greatest triumphs of our culture. It allows all ideas -- no matter how stupid -- to be tested.

Now imagine Scenario 2.
You're sitting across the table from the type of mentally subnormal, psychopathic thug that commonly gets on the trains around where I live. The kind of individual that is desperate for eye contact; desperate to intimidate, beat or knife someone. He turns to you and expresses his most cherished beliefs. You hold them in complete contempt. But, unless you're a black belt in karate, you don't disagree with him. Neither does anybody else on the train compartment. You all either stare out the window or try to look like you're agreeing without agreeing -- a pitiful attempt to retain your self-respect.

In short, you use your common sense. You would no more goad a wild animal.

You're talking to somebody who may genuinely beat you to within an inch of your life because you support the wrong football team; don't like rap music, spitting or excessive swearing; or anything. The why doesn't matter. All that matters is it does happen. People have died in the past for less. It simply enough to know that the individual belongs to a group that DOES kill, maim and injure people over trivia.

Our society's relation with Islam, at the moment, is like that train carriage in scenario 2. The vast majority of us live by the rules in scenario 1, but we know there is one group in society that doesn't play by the same rules. So we stay quiet. We watch our language. We refuse to speak out. Because we do not want to be the one to catch their eye.

That is their aim.

David

SR,

Well, the implicit threat of violence is more cost-effective (as it were) than actual continual violence. A week or so of rioting and burning once every year is apparently just about enough to achieve the desired effect. And passive-aggressive intimidation is clearly the point of many statements by Islamic institutions and grandees. See, for instance, my earlier comment regarding the MCB’s Muhammad Abdul Bari. See also the link below:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/06/insufficiently.html

But what might be called the Islamist project involves more than violence and the threat thereof. It also requires theological fantasy and role-play, and a sanitised and fanciful rewriting of Islamic history. A few years ago, I had a long exchange with a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. It was clear he had a set approach to debate – a script, basically – one that was geared to pushing the guilt buttons of lefty students and Guardianistas. But among the usual disingenuous grievances was a bizarre rewriting of history. Apparently, this pseudo-history hadn’t been challenged by the people he usually argued with, who presumably accepted his narrative at face value. And once the debate moved away from his fantasy script and bumped into some facts and points of logic, his argument fell apart.

I should point out that such exchanges are essentially pointless, in that members of Hizb ut-Tahrir or similar groups are unlikely to acknowledge their errors and lies, even when they’re blatant and inarguable. One can only hope that anyone watching the exchange will notice the evasions and dishonesties. But it was clear that the worldview of such people very often stands on fantasy and an account of events that is patently absurd. (This is one area in which the distinction between Islamism and Islam generally is all too blurry, since hagiography and historical whitewashing are pretty much the norm throughout the Islamic world.)

Dr.Dawg

"(But it was clear that the worldview of such people very often stands on fantasy and an account of events that is patently absurd. (This is one area in which the distinction between Islamism and Islam generally is all too blurry, since hagiography and historical whitewashing are pretty much the norm throughout the Islamic world.)"

David,

Hoe does this differ in kind from Intelligent Design/Creationism, believed in by more than half of the American people, or the coming Rapture (one-quarter of Americans thought it was coming last year)?

Can we not make a clear distinction between fantasy of all kinds, that fuels every religion and its benighted followers, and the bloodthirsty actions (not to mention anti-secular political engagement) of the followers of one specific religion? Surely you aren't linking the pseudo-history in this case, Fitna style, to the violent actions of a few Allah-u-Nutbars?

Incidentally, I forgot my manners earlier. Thank you for welcoming me back. : )

David

Dr Dawg,

I’m not sure I understand your point. I was remarking on what is, I think, fairly obvious – i.e. that Islamist groups tend to have a fantasy narrative, including pseudo-history. My point is that if one is going to debate such people, it’s important not to be lured into arguing on their (fantasy) terms. Though, as I said, the exchange is essentially unrewarding as one side will, necessarily, be arguing in bad faith.

Dr.Dawg

David:

"My point is that if one is going to debate such people, it’s important not to be lured into arguing on their (fantasy) terms. Though, as I said, the exchange is essentially unrewarding as one side will, necessarily, be arguing in bad faith."

I agree with the first sentence--it's like arguing with any extremely religious person. Before you know it, you're debating the kind of salt Lot's wife was turned into. I take your point, I thunk.

But "arguing in bad faith?" How, exactly? The Islamists you refer to really believe what they're saying, don't they? They really view the world precisely as they put it to you. How is that "bad faith?"

I can see the term used appropriately for those who pretend to a kind of liberalism to suit their own objectives--and I think that may be what you're referring to. But the pseudo-history is quite a different, if sometimes related, matter. They don't push that pseudo-history as taqiyya, do they? They believe it.

Dr.Dawg

"I *think*." Good grief.

David

Dr Dawg,

“They don’t push that pseudo-history as taqiyya, do they? They believe it.”

I could only guess at how sincere the fantasy history is in any given instance. Most likely it’s imagined to be true in many cases. Though in the exchange I mention above, it did occur to me that I was being deliberately bullshitted. And, of course, people can come to believe their own lies. (The bad faith arises chiefly from the fact that no errors will be conceded, however obvious they are.) Just to clarify my earlier comment: Islamic extremism is very often tied to a history that never was. Pseudo-history is one way in which extremism is propagated and justified. I suppose if the history of Islam and its founder were less sanitised and taboo, and just a little more realistic, it might make it a little more difficult to swallow Islamist mythology. But perhaps I’m being a wee bit optimistic.

stuck-Record

I don't know about anybody else, but I would pay (see PayPal button) for a post about the pseudo-history you keep alluding to. Sounds fascinating. Is it anything like the black supremacists madcap comic-strip stuff, as spouted by Louis Farrakhan? All that 'Whitey created by black scientists' makes me think of a Mike Mignola Hellboy story.

When I was much younger I used to love arguing with the Jehovah's Witnesses who came to the door. I thought I was a real smart-arse who would cure them of their foolish beliefs. Silly me. I was labouring under the mistaken belief that they were actually 'arguing'. Though I do have a friend who invites his Jehovah's Witnesses in for tea every time they call. They been coming for years as they are under the illusion he is a potential convert. Unfortunately, they don't realise he's gay, and just winding them up.

Dr.Dawg

"Whitey created by black scientists." My favourite variant was one I read years ago in which whitey was subsequently expelled north and a rope was put up to keep them from coming back--hence the origin of the name "Eu-rope." I kid you not.

David

Heh. The exchange I’m thinking of wasn’t *quite* so outlandish, but it had a not dissimilar flavour. It was basically an exaggerated version of the usual soapy hokum, i.e. the great jihad campaigns never actually happened and the rapid and enormous territorial gains were the result of entirely voluntary and spontaneous mass conversions. People just felt the love. Imagine the witterings of Karen Armstrong ramped up another few notches:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/02/islams_hagiogra.html

Anna

Is it possible the Indy journalists thought McEwan's remarks were "astonishing" because of the "febrile legalistic climate"? i.e. it's his honesty not his hostility that's astonishing?

David

Anna,

That would, I think, be a very generous reading of the article. The journalists described McEwan’s comments as “astonishingly strong” when they seem perfectly reasonable, indeed obvious. (What other position regarding Islamism would an honest and freethinking person take? Fondness? Pride?) If that *is* what was meant – that McEwan was being astonishingly frank or brave – then it’s very poorly expressed. You really do have to dig for that reading of it. That said, the piece is confused. I mean, it isn’t at all clear on what the writers base their astonishment. Why isn’t their astonishment directed, unambiguously, at the possibility of “hate crime” investigation?

I’m guessing here, but I’d say it’s probably that most basic PC reflex: Islamism is something that (mainly) brown people do. Brown people are oppressed (and thus virtuous) and thus criticising brown people is wicked. Criticising Islamism (i.e., a Brown Person Thing™) is thus – ooh – “astonishingly strong”.

Anna

All things considered that does sound more likely. ;)

Trimegistus

The simple fact is that Muslims can become tolerant, peaceful, and open-minded -- but only to the extent that they become bad Muslims. Intolerance of non-Muslims is built into the faith, to a degree unparalleled in other evangelizing religions. Where Christ told his followers "render unto Caesar" and thereby established the concept of separation of state and church, Muhammad conquered and ruled cities personally in the name of Allah. To a good Muslim, there can be no secularism, there can be no tolerance. The Koran is literally inerrant, and therefore other opinions are simply impossible.

Which means that it's only the bad Muslims who can get along with others is anything but a state of warfare or slave-mastery. In history the most liberal, tolerant Muslim societies have been either minorities within a non-Muslim majority, or corrupt and impious, or forcibly dominated by "imperial" non-Muslim powers.

Unfortunately, there is a long-standing historical trend in Islam that when challenged by outside threats -- i.e. infidels with guns, or infidels with bigger guns -- the Islamic response has been to seek revitalization through a restoration of "true" faith. In other words, when confronted by the world, Islam becomes less tolerant. This led to the imperialist era of the 19th century, when European powers wound up annexing virtually all the Islamic lands, in part because areas outside European control became breeding grounds for jihad (as with the Mahdi in the Sudan).

Today the stakes are much higher. Islamic societies are getting hold of nuclear weapons, and soon the world will face a choice: can Islam learn to tolerate others, or will Muslims commit suicide bombing on a planetary scale?

David Gillies

I smell a rat: the name 'Thais Portilho-Shrimpton' is too ridiculous to be anything but a nom-de-plume.

A_Nonny_Mouse

"...if, like observant Jews, Muslims want religious courts to decide matters within the congregation, based upon voluntary participation, that's one thing..."
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Dr. Dawg,
What if among themselves they agree that honor killing is a good thing? What if among themselves they agree polygamy is wonderful? What if among themselves they agree that a man can divorce his wife and stop supporting her with just the 3 repetitions of "I divorce you"? Or that an apostate must be murdered for his sin of turning against Allah? Or that 9-year-olds can be married off to 40-year-old men?

"Voluntary participation" cannot be allowed to trump the law of the land. "Religious sensitivities" and "cultural customs" can't be used to override the law. Accusations of Islamophobia, bigotry, or racism, (as well as the imams' delicate hints that "we can't control what our mobs --righteously infuriated by such insults to The Prophet/Allah/The Noble Quran-- may do") be permitted to win exemptions from the equal application of the law.

In other words, when they get here they need to be committed to becoming "one of us". If they can't give up their holy dream of Islamic domination of the world under sharia, they need to stay home in their Islamic Paradises where sharia and Islamic domination are already a fact of life.

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