13 thoughts on “Moderate Islam?”

  1. Hello,

    Forgive my ignorance about this process, but I have a question for Demosophist and don’t seem to grasp how to get in touch directly.

    According to your archives, last year on November 11, 2008, he blogged about his great-grandfather and grandson, the older having been in the Civli War, younger a new recruit in the Great War. He provided a photograph of them, side by side, each holding a rifle.

    I am currently designing a book of poetic narratives on the Great War that I have written, entitled Blood Garden: An Elegy for Raymond, which is loosely based on my father’s experience in that war. He was well old enough to have been my grandfather

    I would very much like to use this photo. Is this a possibility? If so, how should I acknowledge the source? My husband designs web sites, and can use what is on the site, but says that if you have a 300 dpi, 8 to 10 inches long side, that would provide maximum clarity. Otherwise we can just go with what we have.

    I would be happy to pay for this service. I’ve gotten several images from sources all over the world, like the National Archives and the Imperial War Museum. The usual rate is $20 per image, or often no charge. But I’m more than willing to reimburse you for your efforts. It’s a stunning photo.

    Thank you,
    Pam Bernard

  2. Interesting discussion. Thanks, Marc. Here are some thoughts generated by the exchange between Snipes and Sultan.

    Wafa Sultan stresses the fundamental importance of separating church and state. I think that’s essential and correct. She seems to characterize Islam as a political program, not a true religion, because it denies any separation of church and state. As I understand David Blue’s postings, he also believes that Islam cannot be understood independent of Sharia law, and that Islam must necessarily claim supremacy of Sharia law over secular laws. Daniel Pipes agrees that Sharia law is fundamental to Islam.

    Subordinating Islam to secular power naturally promotes a symbolic interpretation of religious doctrine: if adherents of ancient texts cannot literally enforce moral rules found therein, then they must interepret them symbolically and metaphorically. Daniel Snipes seems to believe that a more symbolic interpretation of Islam is the way to moderate Islam.

    In the West, we have a long and well developed tradition of separation betweeen church and state, with it’s strongest form expressed in the U.S. Constitution. It’s roots go deep, at least as far as St. Augustine’s book “The City of God.”:http://books.google.com/books?id=OykMAAAAIAAJ&dq=city+of+god&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=0qhuEpYxYz&sig=0a9dK8-pFipKNPEAFMOqco0tGHY&hl=en&ei=q9A_S6qhDYr6sQPSt-jWAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CCcQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=&f=false/ In Islam they have a much weaker tradition but the concept of civil law having supremacy over Sharia law is not necessarily incompatible with Islam as such.

    In “Turkey”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state/ the secular state controls and claims supremacy over Islam.

    Two common examples of the most active type of separation are France and Turkey. The French version of separation is called laïcité. This model of a secularist state protects the religious institutions from some types of state interference, but with public religious expression also to some extent limited. This aims to protect the public power from the influences of religious institutions, especially in public office. Religious views which contain no idea of public responsibility, or which consider religious opinion irrelevant to politics, are less impinged upon by this type of secularization of public discourse. Turkey, whose population is overwhelmingly Muslim, is also considered to have practiced the laïcité school of secularism since 1923. While France comes from a Roman Catholic tradition and Turkey from an Islamic one, secularism in Turkey and secularism in France present many similarities.

    …Nevertheless, in Turkey for example, despite it being an officially secular country, the Preamble of the Constitution states that “There shall be no interference whatsoever of the sacred religious feelings in State affairs and politics.”[51] In order to control the way religion is perceived by adherents, the State pays imams’ wages (only for Sunni Muslims), and provides religious education (of the Sunni Muslim variety) in public schools. The State has a Department of Religious Affairs, directly under the Prime Minister bureaucratically, responsible for organizing the Sunni Muslim religion – including what will and will not be mentioned in sermons given at mosques, especially on Fridays. Such an interpretation of secularism, where religion is under strict control of the State is very different from that of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and is a good example of how secularism can be applied in a variety of ways in different regions of the world.

    Similarly, in Jordan, they seem to have a legal system that draws on French civil law as well as Islamic law. The jurisdiction of Sharia courts seem to be limited to “family law”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan#Constitution/ The law in “Eqypt”:http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Egypt.htm#_People's_Assembly/ also appears to incorporate western law concepts and Sharia law is not supreme.

    Saudi Arabia is an interesting case. It is established as an “absolute monarchy.”:http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/sa00000_.html/ Sharia law is the law of the land, but this is solely at the King’s whim. The King has absolute power over the constitution which, it apears, can be modified at will by royal decree. Art. 83. It appears correct, therefore, that the form of Islam in Saudi Arabia could be changed by the King, as Wafa Sultan observed. In other words there is nothing fundamental to Islam that requires that Sharia law must be supreme.

    In the meantime, as Daniel Snipes suggests, Islam in the United States, as well as the state, must deal with Islamists who misguidely believe that Sharia law must be taken literally and that there can be no separation of church and state, just like Christians, and the state, must deal with “Christian Reconstructionists.”:http://www.religioustolerance.org/reconstr.htm/ Islam, of course, has the same problem in spades in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere. The problem there seems considerably more difficult to overcome because Islamists in those locations have the upper hand. Fundamentally that is their problem, not ours.

  3. bq. …in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere. The problem there seems considerably more difficult to overcome because Islamists in those locations have the upper hand. Fundamentally that is their problem, not ours.

    If, of course, you’re willing to overlook their little foibles of sending out jihadis to blow up things and people, and imams and cash to inculcate those ideas elsewhere. Merely a detail for some folks, I know.

  4. Tim: are you suggesting that, in addition to taking military action over there, we should take responsibilty for reforming Islam itself??

  5. No, Roland, I’m suggesting in a snarky way that you are indulging in moral equivalence by bracketing Islamists together with Christian Reconstructionists. I hold no brief for the latter, having no desire to live in a theocracy. But I haven’t lately noticed them blowing up people, attacking airliners and other public transport, or declaring themselves to be in a state of war against those who don’t believe as they do. Should that happen, I’ll start worrying, but for now the Reconstructionists don’t act as much of a foil for jihadis, unless you think the killing and destruction issue to be trivial.

    No, it’s not our job to reform Islam, not directly. But the lack of reform IS our problem, as long the impulse of Islamists – I do make a separation, unlike Blue – is to turn violently against the West.

    We have attempted a response that’s been in part about a sort of reform, call it nation building, or democratization, or secularization. Or perhaps separation of church and state, though we have curiously barely dared to speak of the religion itself. For multiple reasons, I believe that strategy is nearly spent. More major attacks from Islamists will likely be replied to with more ‘traditional’ strategies of violence, if not by this President then by his successor. Islam would end up being reformed by pain, as was Christianity’s more violent strains.

  6. Private arbitration is a matter of express consent between parties. A significant percentage of employment disputes and commercial contractual disutes are submitted to private arbitration. The law favors the enforcement of private arbitration agreements. Parties generally expect that arbitrators will determine factual disputes impartially and implement the law correctly to the facts. However, arbitrators may disregard the legal rules, and generally an arbitration award is not reviewable on the grounds that the arbitrator failed to follow the law.

    Because marital relations are based on mutual consent they naturally lend themselves to regulation by private religious courts if the parties so choose. We also allow different religions to run their own schools provided certain standards are met. Again, this is based on choice: parents are free to send their children to such schools, or not.

    The constitutional protection of freedom to practice one’s religion permits wide latitude to different groups to practice their religion, and impose rules on their members, but always subject to the legitimate regulation of society as a whole (e.g. prohibition on female circumcisions; prohibitions on parental decisions to withhold medical treatment based on religious grounds).

    As a tolerant society we should permit as much self-regulation by religious communities as possible. Toleration is a two way street, and members of particular religious communities must accept that the rules of their creed cannot be imposed on others except within the constitutional framework and in accordance with the civil law.

    A price of living in a free society is the challenge of coexisting with others who do not share your creed or culture. Some lack the security, self-confidence, or open mindedness to accept that. Tough!

  7. bq. The fact that some Islamists don’t want to accept that–as Sultan says, these people are very patient and are willing to wait a thousand years for Sharia law to triumph–is a problem. But it’s exactly the same problem posed by Christian Reconstructionists. No different.

    Yes it’s quite different, so long as one of them is willing to kill and destroy to obtain their ends, and one does not. You are being obtuse, or disingenuous. I suspect the latter, since like many Islamist apologists, you are again attempting to bracket them as equivalent to anti-abortion thugs. Again, though I have no brief for the latter – being on the other side of that question – just where are the real or attempted mass slaughterers? The proclamations of ongoing war against the unbelievers? The organized camps for training would-be jihadis? The imams well-funded by a foreign power to preach hate?

    Blue has it right that Islam is currently unique in the level of violence proposed and conducted by its fringe element. He believes it is inherent in the faith, and not reformable. I believe it is no more necessary to that faith than the violence of medieval Christianity. But the ummah will have to not only _de facto_ agree – as have Christians – that the violent, intolerant part of their faith must be winked at in order to exist in a modern, diverse world, but insist upon the same from the Islamist fringe.

    If not, the reform will happen violently from outside Islam when the provocation becomes politically intolerable. Neither type of reform – voluntary or forced – has happened as of now, and yet you seem to be jumping straight to making this a civil matter, while ignoring the small fact of an ongoing war. Much though you (and the Obama admin, and CAIR, for that matter) might like it, it’s not reality. In the name of toleration, you’re trying to walk us towards shariah in our midst. That ploy will last until the first US-born Islamist mass murderer succeeds.

  8. _so long as one of them is willing to kill and destroy to obtain their ends, and one does not_

    Who is not? Isn’t killing and destroying to obtain ends _exactly_ what war is? The difference is not about being willing to kill and destroy, the difference is about the ends. We are willing to kill and destroy in the name of liberty and freedom. They are willing to kill and destroy in the name of religion. We think (rightly so, in my opinion) that their religious views are perverse. But we would be fooling ourselves if we thought we weren’t willing to kill and destroy to get what we want, if what we want is important enough to us. You seem willing to kill and destroy in order to prevent sharia. Isn’t that a proclamation of war against unbelievers. Maybe I’m misreading what you say, but you seem to be arguing in favor of war as the only solution to the problem.

  9. mark, I get your broader point, but this is dishonest:

    bq. ” You seem willing to kill and destroy in order to prevent sharia. Isn’t that a proclamation of war against unbelievers. ”

    No, it isn’t.

    There are many people who may not believe in the things Tim believes, but whom Tim is not interested in fighting, or hurting. This is not the case for Islamists, for whom that simple unbelief is reason enough to fight and kill.

    We are all willing to kill and destroy, if the provocation is sufficient. The difference is that their provocation is our existence, and ours is their violence and an explicit, chosen program to do us harm.

    A policeman, and Charles Manson, are both willing to kill to fulfill their sense of duty. Only a morally lobotomized leftist would consider them equivalent. But that’s the level of discourse you brought to this debate. You may want to rethink that, and raise your game.

  10. I’m not sure why we need all this name calling (“dishonest”, “Islamic apologist”, “morally lobotimized”, “disingenuous”).

    Paraphrasing the exchanges, above, we have:

    a) Islamists present the same challenge to an open society as Christian Reconstructionists because they both deny the doctrine of separation of church and state;

    b) Tim rejoined: Islamists are willing to kill for their idea of an Islamist state, Reconstructionists aren’t, so they aren’t as bad.

    c) To which Mark says: Willingness to kill is not the issue; it’s a question of the value–we are willing to kill to preserve an open society just like (some) Islamists are willing to kill to achieve an Islamic society.

    d) And Joe says: But we are killing in self-defense, therefore, our killing is o.k. and theirs is not.

    Nobody here has tried to apologize for Islamic terrorism, or suggested that Islamic terrorism is in any way justified, or suggested that defending ourselves from terrorism isn’t o.k. The larger point that Joe alludes to is that (1) Islam and Christianity are equally incompatible with an open society to the extent that they deny separation of church and state and strive to implement religious law; (2) Neither Islam nor Christianity are incompatible with an open society per se; and (3) an open society is worth fighting for.

  11. I share Roland Nikkles bewilderment at the sudden descent to name-calling.

    Whether I or other lobotomized liberals, leftists or communists believe that a cop and Manson are morally equivalent is wholly beside the point. As a good collectivist and socialist, I will insist that all of us who can afford to chip in and pay for cops to protect us from the Manson’s of the world. Not because it’s moral but because I don’t want to be slaughtered in my bed.

    The difference between those of us who are willing to kill to establish democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan and those of us who are willing to kill to establish sharia in Iraq or Afghanistan isn’t that we are willing to kill; The difference is in what we are willing to kill for.

    That doesn’t seem to me to be all that controversial a statement.

  12. Right. Snarky can be o.k., but only if you’re clear about what you’re talking about. Thanks for elucidating.

    The question David Blue and Wafa Sultan have raised is whether a moderate Islam independent of literalist Sharia law is possible. I am suggesting, by the examples given, that Islam can flourish as a religion in societies where Sharia law is viewed symbolically and is not the basis of civil law. For example, you can have meaningful Islam in the United States where Sharia can never have the force of law. The fact that some Islamists don’t want to accept that–as Sultan says, these people are very patient and are willing to wait a thousand years for Sharia law to triumph–is a problem. But it’s exactly the same problem posed by Christian Reconstructionists. No different.

    Also, insofar as we are talking about Islam in the United States, they have been no more violent than Christian Reconstructionists. There is Major Hasan on the one side, and abortion terrorists on the the other.

  13. Roland, Tim – may I suggest the example of ultra-Orthodox Judaism as an example of a political religion that manages to coexist with a larger secular environment?

    Orthodox women may go to religious divorce courts – or to secular ones at the cost of their standing in the community. There are arbitrators who resolve business disputes – or they may be taken to civil courts (see above).



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