Thursday, August 02, 2007


[Ed. note: this post uses the color scheme of integral thought. For the colors see here.]

(Ayaan Hirshi Ali) again. With a clearly written and very persuasive piece in the On Faith section of the Washington Post. True to form it will certainly cause some controversy.

The key themes are holy war, apostasy, and women.

Or in summary: holy war: do it. Apostasy--don't or we'll kill you. Or if you are a Christian or Jew you can choose not to convert but enjoy your life of secondary servile statushood (dhimmi). Women--if there are any women reading this....what are you doing, get back in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant.

All of which is not really unique to Islam, but is simply the product of the red and amber waves of human existence. You think spousal-beating and child abuse was any less in medieval Christendom? That's not to excuse it, but to say let's be clear---the entire human race prior to modernity was rife (and still is) rife with domestic violence.

Amber/Blue wave mythical systems are either ethnocentrically exclusive (Judaism and Hinduism) or are out to convert the world to their system (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism--the latter of which has historically not used violence, whereas the former two have).

I'm not saying her criticism is wrong, only that she gives the impression it is only limited to Islam, which it is not.

Here's where it gets more interesting (for me) is the following:

Continue Reading

In the quest for reconciliation between Muslim and western societies, it is important to recognize that Muslims are as diverse as Islam is monolithic. Islam attempts to unify more than a billion people of different geographical origins, languages, ethnicities, and cultural and educational backgrounds into one religious tribe. And while I acknowledge that generally stereotyping believers is difficult since belief is subjective, for the sake of discussion I would like to distinguish between five types of Muslims.
Her description of the five:

The first group includes those Muslims who leave the faith because they cannot reconcile it with their conscience or with modernity. This group is important for the evolution of the Islamic world because they ask the urgent and critical questions believers usually avoid. Ex-Muslims living in the west are just beginning to find their voice and to take advantage of the spiritual and social freedoms available to them.

The second group is comprised of genuine Muslim reformers, such as Irshad Manji, who acknowledge the theological out-datedness of the Koranic commands and the immorality of the prophet. They tend to emphasize the early chapters in the Koran urging goodness, generosity and spirituality. They argue that the latter chapters wherein Islam is politicized and the concepts of sharia, jihad and martyrdom are introduced should be read in the context in which they were written, some 1,400 years ago.

The third group is made up of those Muslims who support the gradual perpetuation and domination of Islam throughout the world. They use the freedoms offered in democracy to undermine social modernity and, though initially opposed to the use of violence, foresee that once the number of believers reaches a critical mass the last remnants of unbelievers may then be dealt with in violence, and sharia law may be universally implemented. Ayatollah Khomeini used this method successfully in Iran. Erdogan of Turkey is following in his footsteps. Tariq Ramadan, deeply rooted in his Muslim Brotherhood heritage, is devoted to such a program among European Muslims.

The fourth group is the most obvious and immediately threatening. In this group we find a growing number of hard-line Muslims who have defined martyrdom as their only goal. This is an army of young men whipped into a frenzy of suicidal violence by power hungry clergy. These clergy have public platforms and work with impunity from institutions untouched and often funded by national authorities.

The fifth group is largely ineffective and only threatening in their refusal to acknowledge the truth. Here we find the elite clergy who make a show of trying to reconcile Islam with modernity. They are motivated by self-preservation and have no interest in true reform. They take selective passages from the holy books to make a case for a peaceful Islam, ignoring the many passages inciting violence, such as those verses which command the death of apostates.

For Ali, the only groups that will evolve Muslim society are numbers 1 and 2. She represents group 1--i.e. a secular humanistic orange. Irshad Manji represents number 2: Islamic, faithful orange. In that situation by my own lights I would lean towards #2, but accept number 1. This to me is the most positive endorsement she's given yet of the (true) Islamic Reformers. Really Islamic "Transformers". (pun intended).

My only question with path 1 is how you make it sustainable. Because given everyone has to develop through the stages of faith (to blue) before they can even really grasp what she is correctly discussing (and the freedoms it rightly brings), then you are left with having to create a magical-mythical form of atheism/humanism. Historically this has been a very bad thing--see North Korea. Think gulags.

Of course Ali isn't pushing that, which makes her more a critic, a voice of protest/rationality whose role is to stir the pot, expose the hypocrisies.

My only disagreement with her is group #3, those who use democratic means to eventually bring about sharia throughout the world. There are such individuals. But she list Erdogan, leader of the current political party in Turkey. Here's where her blind spot is. These moderate Islamists parties (in Turkey I mean) are not out to take over the country. They are a part of a natural trend towards conservatism in the face of globalization--not radicalization. As someone who works at AEI, she should be well placed to realize that fact.

The party in Turkey represents a real way forward (conservative, pro-business, massively reduced corruption), only way forward really in most parts of the Muslim world. They are not going to be perfectly modern. Think the US was? Who was the biggest social organization in the US in the 1910-20s....the KKK. California had the most progressive eugenic laws on the planet until the rise of the National Socialists in Germany.

So let's get off the every vote for such a group is the slippery slope to domination. Do we have such little faith in globalization? In human consciousness? In growth? And even if they were say out to control, with the military establishment in Turkey, do you think that would ever happen?

The best we can hope for are US-like governments of the late 19th century/early 20th century. Going from red warlords to blue means authoritarianism (at best). Not pretty. But it could be better than what is and certainly is the only chance. Clearly what currently is the case is a failure.

There's a natural evolution and if you judge countries/nations/groups with such un-historical standards, you (and Ali makes this mistake) end up following the great liberal mistake. You are like the person who has climbed up the ladder to the top of a building, only to pull the ladder up with you and then castigate everyone else on the ground for why they haven't yet got up on the roof with you. And if you don't do that and the crowd grows too large you may tell the rest of your fellow roof-cohorts that they are out to destroy us.....which if you don't give them the damn ladder some may very well. Because the only way then to achieve any equality is not for them to rise up but for you (roofers) to come crashing down.

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