Ali Eteraz, with whom I’ve had a bunch of interesting and useful discussions, has a piece up at Comment is Free at the Guardian – the first in a series on ‘The roots of Islamic reform’.
Since 9/11, “Islamic reform” has become an all-purpose phrase: equally a western impulse to protect itself from Muslim violence and a humanist notion aimed at assisting voiceless Muslims. It has also been espoused by Wolfowitz and Blair in service of their neo-colonial ambitions. Yet, the politics of Islamic reform are part of a much larger debate about power: one that goes to the heart of Islam, and connects back to western foreign policy.
Now for me, this is the 100% interesting question – because there are a set of competing belief sets within Islam today – as Islam explores its reaction to modernity – and our future relations with Islam will depend largely on the which belief set winds up as dominant.
I have argued for some time that there are a range of outcomes in the collision between Islam and the West; many people (including many commenters and posters on this blog) are suggesting that we are war with Islam – I’ll suggest that there aren’t nearly enough dead people for that to be the case. If Islam as a whole was at war with the West (or vice versa), we’d see many, many more people dying in Southwest Asia, India, the Middle East,Africa, and Europe than we do. Neither do I think that inside every Muslim is a suburban Californian waiting for the right social environment to come out.
An expansionist but nonviolent Islam is something we can live with – but an expansionist and violent Islam may not be. Understanding how Islam will evolve and how we in the West can promote the former and discourage the latter is an important issue, and I’ll suggest one worth a lot of study and thought.
Because if we can’t make that happen, the only lever we will have is power.