Tuesday, December 05, 2006


In the ever continuing thread of Islam, violence, etc. a talk from Karen Armstrong on the subject here.

It's a transcript of her talk, so there are some typos, ellisions, etc. Her talk begins at the bottom of page 6.

Also its a pdf file, so no go on me block quoting here to comment.

Armstrong has finished her second biography of Muhammad recently. Haven't read--did read the first one. In this book (and talk) she highlights a non-violent activist side to the Prophet. During the infant Muslim community's war with their relations in Mecca, when the Muslim community was not particularly strong, Muhammad wanted to go on pilgrimage (the Haj, which predates Islam, though taken up by Muhammad). While on pilgrimage one went without a weapon and hence was vulnerable. 1,000 Muslims went with Muhammad. The Meccan coommunity sent fighters out to slaughter all of them, knowing they were unarmed, but local Bedouins helped the Muslims escape to the pilgrimage site where one was in sanctuary. Killing pilgrims was illegal by the rules of tribal Arabian war.

Armstrong sees in this something of a non-violent resistance movement, saying this action turned the tide in the war. And she also stresses the 2nd, middle period of passages in the Quran which talk of a defensive only war.

I think, while accurate, her argument is as equally one-sided as Robert Spencer's is in the other direction. In integral speak, Armstrong does not strongly enough negate the mythic form of Islam and show that there has been no movement comparable to Reform Judaism or Vatican II in RC or Liberal Protestantism in Islam.

Put her and Spencer togerher and see the truth but partial of each and you would have a decent (from a Western outside pov no doubt) reconstruction I think.

Her arguments about seeing violence in context of oil, colonialism, and all the rest are valid, but they still do not address this principle issue.

Her work on fundamentalism, showing how it is a modernist phenomenon through and through is her best work, imo. But her suggestions that religion is just about compassion and the like are, for me, an expression of relativism. She's for me very Boomer, calling the Muhammad tactic a sit-in and religion is all about love and peace, etc.


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