I hope this grows

This does seem encouraging, although there’s a long way to go. One of the ‘ulema is putting it on the line and debating imprisoned radicals as to the Islamic correctness of their understanding of jihad:

“If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, then we will join you in your struggle … But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence.”

He seems to be making a great deal of headway.

The usual line is that “Islam needs a Reformation.” Taken literally that doesn’t make much sense, since it seems Islam has already had a Reformation—it’s shucked off centuries of man-made traditions and cultural accommodations in favor of direct appeal to the words of scripture—and the result has been Islamic radicalism. What’s really meant, of course, is that Islam, like the whole of respectable Christianity, has to recognize modernity and liberalism as the public truth of things, and understand itself as a subordinate private pursuit. Like everything else, it has to submit to the Enlightenment. More concretely, the fact that some Wahhabi engineering students murdered 3,000 people 3 miles from where I’m sitting is taken to mean that both the Muslims and I have to convert to the faith preached by The New York Times. That’s the sole road to world peace in a multicultural world.

Why does that make sense? There’d be just as much peace if everybody converted to Christian Science or became a Lubavitcher. There’d be no wars of religion if everybody converted to religion X. That approach has proven unrealistic, though, so our best hope is a modus vivendi. I have no real idea what the correct understanding of jihad is. The PC interpretation, that Muslims on the whole view it first and foremost as an inward spiritual struggle, is evidently wrong. Still, exactly what degree of armed struggle it calls for is no doubt up for interpretation, just as it’s not clear to what extent “human rights” require armed intervention in countries that do not adequately implement secularism and gender equality. In both cases it seems that forcible intervention where the true way is rejected is sometimes required, but that leaves a lot of room for specifics. I favor the moderates in each camp, so that collisions between the rival imperialisms can be avoided as much as possible.

2 thoughts on “I hope this grows”

  1. I have a couple of comments.
    I have a couple of comments. The first is derived from MacIntyre and his observation that moral discourse in the modern world has degenerated into emotivism because there is no common agreement on the foundations (rational or otherwise) for moral action. In other words, there is no agreed authority to which contending parties can either refer or appeal to resolve their differences, so contending parties just talk past each other and make use of manipulation, rhetoric, and coercion to win the point.

    That’s not the case in Yemen. Both parties agree that Islam in general, and the Koran specifically, are authoritative. They therefore have a shared reference for authority to which they can appeal and frame discussion and argument. To undermine Islam through a “reformation,” or to introduce Enlightenment categories as authoritative, would collapse the otherwise unnoticed consensus that makes dialogue possible in the first instance.

    As for your observation that both jihad and Western insistence on “enlightenment” are both imperialistic, I am reminded of comments made by Leslie Newbigin in his book, “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society,” from which I quote:

    “There is a longing for unity among all human beings, for unity offers the promise of peace. The problem is that we want unity on our terms, and it is our rival programs for unity that tear us apart. As Augustine said, all wars are fought for the sake of peace. The history of the world could be told as the story of successive efforts to bring unity to the world, and of course the name we give to these efforts is “imperialism.” The Christian Gospel has sometimes been made the tool of an imperialism, and of that we have to repent. But at its heart it is the denial of all imperialisms, for at its center there is the cross where all imperialisms are humbled and we are invited to find the center of human unity in the One who was made nothing so that all might be one.”

    “The truth of course is that every program for human unity has implicit in it some vision of the organizing principle which is to make this unity possible (think modern Pluralism). If this is not clearly recognized and stated, then we shall find that the interests and intentions of the proposer are the hidden center (the hidden hegemony of Pluralist programs). If there is no explicit statement of the center of unity, then the assumptions and interests of the proposer become the effective center (a point that Pluralists wish to deny of course).”

    The parentheses are my additions.

    • I agree that liberalization o
      I agree that liberalization of the Muslim world would not necessarily be a good thing. At least that’s what stories about conditions among half-Westernized Muslims in England and France seem to suggest. When men give up whatever it is that’s enabled them to reason about conduct (in the case of Muslims, a religious system that whatever its faults has been found worthy of acceptance and even devotion for 1400 years) it doesn’t always improve them.

      By “imperialism” I meant the inclination to impose universally by force what is taken to be the true way of life. It seems to me that imperialism in that sense is implicit in both Islam and advanced liberalism. Neither recognizes the right to exist anywhere of governments, social structures, or ways of life that do not accept them as authoritative. I don’t think the same can be said of other world religions. Christianity for example says that Caesar is Caesar even when he’s a pagan.

      Rem tene, verba sequentur.


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