Friday, December 01, 2006

Negation of Blue Islam

To keep multiple perspectives open on the question of jihad, warfare, early Islam, this talk from Robert Spencer at the Heritage Foundation.

Spencer is the founder of and the author of numerous (negative) books on Islam. This talk is based on his latest The Truth About Muhammad.

Spencer holds a Master in Religious Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is therefore no uneducated, Fox News ranter on the question of Islam-terrorism, etc.

His view is extremly one-sided but still informative (true but partial).

This talk he does a fairly good job of trying to call out moderate elements in Islam. Other talks I've seen him give, he's said some things that to me are very inflammatory. [Just cuz I'm putting this up does not mean I buy all his theories, especially his political recommendations]. But it will give information that tolerant-multiculturalist (and often ignorant of the history/theology) views will not. Spencer's views negate the partiality of mythic imperial Islam, but do not really much preserve anything.

Spencer is a Melkite Greek Catholic. So of the most anti-Islamic writings today come from Near Eastern Christians (Walid Shoebat and Brigitte Gabriel come to mind). Spencer admits in another interview I saw of his (can't find the link right now, on Cspan) that he does not believe Muhammad was a Prophet or Islam is a Revelation, one of the great world religions. Certainly that is his pov, but it should be kept in mind while watching this. He does have a slanted viewpoint.

Mostly that comes out in no recognition of the glories of the Islamic world. Bc again as a Melkite Catholic/Eastern Christians his people were conquered/oppressed by the Turks. Again mythic regimes are mythic regimes. They can bring great achievements to their own group and at best leave their underlings (non group members, e.g. Jews and Christians) more or less alone and provide security for them.

I think Islam could not have achieved what it did--Baghdad in the 9th century, the absorption and conversion of the Turkic-Mongol peoples and the flowering of Asiatic Islam--without it being one of the great world religions. Spirit did not make a complete mistake by allowing this to arise/bringing it about--through the grace of the Revelation.

Islam in its imperial phase up until about the 18th century when it started to fade, was on the cutting edge of evolution.

All of the elements we now correctly see--and Spencer & Crew (Hirshi, Obsession, etc.) detail in painstaking effort--as backwards, destructive RELATIVE to the evolutionary jump into modernity-rational pluralistic societies.

--anti-Semitism, mistreatment of women, the push for revived imperialism, homophobia, dogmatism, etc.

All of these were part and parcel of the patriarchial structure of Islam. They served a function but are now correctly seen as in need of massive revision.

One point on which I differ with Spencer. Spencer sees modern groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, al-Qaeda, as simply following the guidelines laid down in the Quran and the sayings of Muhammad. I would say that they are modern manifestations of blue meme-mythic imperialism and while there are many points of similarity that is a huge difference between traditional blue-meme classical Islam.

The difference is that the modern form of mythicism is suffused with a great deal more of modern thinking than in the past. Sayid Qutb, the father of modern Islamic jjihadism/political fundamentalism saw the Quran as only a guidebook or warplan for the Islamic community to defeat the pagans (jahiliyah).

That understanding, like Protestant Fundamentalist, sees the Quran/Bible as an exterior fact in the outer world, pre-given, that one simply observes in one's blank slate mind and then repeats, mimicks. This is very modern.

Classical Islam did teach a doctrine of wanting to submit the whole world to the rule of Islam--not necessarily its conversion just Islamic rule. But so did every other imperial myth (Buddhism perhaps the lone exception?).

It is again the problem that with colonialism, the traditional blue Islamic order was destroyed, leaving red tribalism, which throughout the late 19th and up through the 20th century struggled in the Wilderness to bring back blue, which it has since '79 with Islamic Revolution and now the political rise of similar groups (Hamas, Hezbollah, etc). But they are doing so in opposition to modernity (orange) and this does have a difference on the way this worldview operates and manifests.

But yes, the one point on which the two "blues", if you like agree is that Islam is still to rule the world and still holds its patriarchial, mostly Arab flavoring, structures. My argument is that some of these Islamists group, particularly Iran can be (and must) co-opted into the globalized world structure....e.g. allowing Iran into the WTO. Others are not. For someone like Spencer that recommendation is bad, very bad.

But Spencer is right at least in this--whether or not it is a religion of peace or violence (and why can't it be both depending on context btw?) there are elements in the life of Muhammad that can not co-exist with modern life. Again same for elements of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the lives of Moses of Paul for example. Those elements of Muhammad's life were not criticizable from within his own world (whether or not their should have been more transcending on his context is a different argument), but they are from ours. Spencer mentions female child marriage. But as long as individuals are living in an agrarian, pre-industrialized economic sphere with tribal mentalities, than girls at 9 will be wedded without their say so to older men.


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