Santa V God

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Tao_Equus, May 10, 2008.

  1. Devadatta

    Devadatta New Member

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    Hi Tao. As you know, I’ve been in your court in calling Netti out on his many rhetorical sins and faulty representations. I just wish our friend would step back, take a breather, and with fresh eyes look at the criticisms. He may find they have some justification. And if he truly is merely humbly speaking out for the underdog, taking such lessons in stride will help him do a much better job of it.

    But here I want to call your attention to a couple of things. First of all, a minor misuse of a term that will leave you open for attack. The term “orientalist” in academe is more likely to refer to a denigrator than to a defender of Islam. “Orientalism” was coined to my knowledge by Edward Said to refer to the imposition of Western perspectives onto subject peoples in the Middle East. As I said in a previous post, Said quite rightly explicates the trauma of colonialism, but perhaps provides too much support to the view some people fall into of Arab or Muslim eternal victimization.

    Interestingly enough, some time back I did come across a little book called “Occidentalism”, which plays off Said’s work, exposing the pattern of apologists who blame the West for everything that has gone wrong with Islam. You know the list: the crusades, the reconquista, colonialism, U.S. imperialism, etc. Now, I’m no apologist for sins and violence of the West, which are legion, but history shows that Islam was not made up of choirboys either, despite at some periods having by some measures the superior civilization. But all this begs the question: why was Islam so easily traumatized? As I’ve said repeatedly, it does Muslims little service to paint them as perennial victims (or to exaggerate their glories).

    But I want also to call attention to your rather extreme and alarmist take on Islam. While in a way I admire your forthrightness and find it preferable to the mealy-mouthed types in the West who would flatter Islam out of it excesses, but who know little or nothing about it – think of the sheer hypocrisy of George Bush calling Islam a peaceful religion – I also think you’re at times painting a picture of a tradition so inherently brutal and corrupt that it would have been incapable of civilization of any description. That I think tends to undermine your quite legitimate concerns about the militancy and paucity of democratic values typical not just of the extremists but of mainstream Islam as well. Islam is certainly a potential threat to our freedoms that should be taken seriously, as are American Christian fundamentalists, but again I think a more measured and sober approach would be more effective.

    Just an FYI, not an invitation to debate.

    Cheers.
     
  2. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    I don't consider Muslims the underdog and they have no need of my defense.

    Hey there Devadatta. I notice your language is often loaded and sometimes suggests a rhetorical ploys of sorts. In this instance your phrasing would seem to be a commentary on one thing even though you are asking a question about something else. I don't know if this kind of linguistic confusion was intended (maybe you were just speaking figuratively) or whether you were just being sloppy. Anyway:

    (1) How can a religion be traumatized? I didn't know a religion had experiential capabilities of any kind. :confused: ;)

    (2) If you're talking about an empire going into decline or being shattered - which likely would be in the context of a series of military defeats or internal upheavals -- what does that have to do with religion?

    (3) What was it - military defeat or internal upheaval and when did the tide turn ?

    Thx.
     
  3. Devadatta

    Devadatta New Member

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    (1) How can a religion be traumatized? I didn't know a religion had experiential capabilities of any kind.
    It’s characteristic of you to demand the kind of rigor that you rarely practice yourself. Of course this is pure diversion. The point is clear: as I’ve already brought forward several times, many people have pointed to the crusades, the reconquista and colonialism as traumatic events in the long history of Islamic culture. Obviously, “trauma” refers to actual human beings not to some abstract entity – perhaps your seizing on this again reflects your preoccupation with essences. But again instead of dealing with the substance you seize on the tangential.
    (2) If you're talking about an empire going into decline or being shattered - which likely would be in the context of a series of military defeats or internal upheavals -- what does that have to do with religion?
    Good grief. One of the central tenets of Islam is precisely that there is no division between shariah, God’s law, and Earthly government; there is no “rendering onto Caesar”, no separation of church and state. Now, that’s an ideal not an empirical fact. The reality is obviously far more complicated. But Islam as an institution has always and everywhere been tied up with state or imperial power; to try to draw a hard line between military and political events on the one hand and the state of Islam on the other is absurd. Surely, you’re aware that from the time of the death of the Prophet the history of Islam is replete with assassination and counter assassination over inheritance of the caliphate? That the first split in Islam between Sunni and Shia dates from these very early days, and that the split was not about doctrine, not about law, but about this came issue of the caliphate and the inheritance of power?
    (3) What was it - military defeat or internal upheaval and when did the tide turn?
    (Sigh!) You know how to use Wikipedia. In ten minutes you can get an overview of the long and complex historical rivalry, competition and series of interactions between Islam and the West. There can be no absolute, agreed upon “turning point”, except at the cost of distortion and over-simplification, but only a series of watersheds with complex effects. Your question is trivial.

    As you know, Professor Netti, I sent very much the same responses via PM and you know the reasons why. You asked that they be made public. So here you are.

    You know, I certainly have a competitive streak, but mere debating for debating’s sake for me is just “an expense of spirit and a waste of shame”. A debate or discussion needs to be productive of at least some small advance in understanding. But it takes willing participants acting in good faith to make that happen.

    But you cut and paste your arguments and your frames of reference the way you cut and paste your often badly chosen or very derivative sources, in a kind of flurry of diversion. And while it isn’t necessary to answer every point the other person makes – certainly one can and does pass over points that reflect on fundamental outlooks, without necessarily conceding those points – one does have an obligation to deal in some manner with points of substance to the discussion. Often enough you fail to do that, but merely leap off onto another diversion. Finally, while we're all susceptible of descending into a little bluff and b.s. on occasion, one needs to have some factual base to begin with. One can’t offer useful perspectives from a total vacuum of empirical knowledge. And you’ve committed some howlers, as I’ve noted, including this notion that Islam spread from its Arabic home as a simple function of trade, the way Buddhism spread from India along the Silk Route. I pointed this out in a very gentle way. Tao listed the battles. Either way, I’m not sure the message got through.

    Take a look around these forums. You’ll find that long exchanges do exist where the two sides may find points of agreement, or may simply make more clear their contrasting perspectives – in either case, something is learned. The discussion is productive of something.

    I’ve learned nothing in my discussions with you. And again, as I’ve already said, I have no interest in its continuance. You’ll have to carry this on with others.

    Shanti.
     
  4. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

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    Hi Devadatta,



    I thank you for your concern and the information you provided. I am aware that Said is the founder of Orientalism and I believe I said so a few posts back. My interpretation though is that as well as his criticisms of forced cultural values he was also the leading voice in painting Islam a wholly peaceable religion and that the warfare was a political separateness from the body of the faith. He does not try to sell that to the Islamic world. This is entirely for the western academia that go on to advise our political leaders.
    Occidentalism is ringing bells for me, so I will go take a look at that.

    tao
     
  5. Devadatta

    Devadatta New Member

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    Hi Tao. As I said, it was just a minor point. It's just that one could get the impression from your post that "Orientalism" was a form of a apology for Islam of the kind you rightly mention here, when as you know "Orientalism" is a term of oppribrium directed at the West. Just a matter of clarification. And yes, to find a copy of "Occidentialism". It's just a little book, not a serious study, but I think it does provide some politically incorrect balance.


    Cheers, Shanti, etc.
     
  6. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Obviously, "trauma" refers to actual human beings. But your comment about Islam being easily traumatized appears in the context of your comments about self-presentation: "why was Islam so easily traumatized? .... it does Muslims little service to paint them(selves) as perennial victims."

    Without any specific information about the adverse impact of certain traumatic evens, how would one presume to characterize Muslims as a bunch of whinny "perennial victims"?? Are you saying, for example, that Muslims should see the forced conversion and the slavery of Muslims during Spain's Christian regime during the 15th century as a positive experience? I guess I don't get the point you are making. It just seems like a random, off-hand remark about Muslims without much substance.

    That's the theory.

    If I recall, there are 59 Muslim countries. Only five of these have adopted Sharis as a methology for writing laws. Interestingly, these adoptions/ratifications have been very recent developments. They are also very scattered. Sometimes the process is gradual as opposed to a wholesale adoption that probably would indicate a people's readiness to adopt Sharia as a legal approach to writing laws.

    For example, Zamfara was the first of Nigeria's 39 states to adopt Sharia as a legal method. That was in the year 2000. I suspect that lack of consensus concerning specific legal coded could hobble wholesale adoption. As you know, the range of laws and penalties subsumed by Sharia is very broad. Also, they are nconsistently applied and legal codes can in effect vary dramatically between localities.

    Dress codes like women covering the head with a scarf or veil are part of a Sharia view. There are some Muslim countries where this head-covering custom has never been observed or only in some regions of the country. I'm just speculating here, but unless such a country were taken over by extreme fundamentalists, it is doubtful that they would change their ways even if the newly introduced Sharia system were deemed a desirable source of legal principles. Existing customs would probably prevail.

    A trend toward Sharia may be apparent for countries with a history of internal conflicts that are in the middle of social upheaval. Like Somalia, which I believe is the last country to have made a move toward Sharia. Some observers have reported that initial applications were getting results: "Sharia (Islamic law) operating in Mogadishu has been effective in bringing a semblance of law and order to the city."

    At any rate, one might reasonably ask, if Sharia is so centrally important, why has it not been in evidence until recent history throughout Muslim parts of the world?
     
  7. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Iran and Saudi Arabia are the only countries that claim to "fully implement sharia in all areas of the law."
    Islam: Governing Under Sharia - Council on Foreign Relations

    However, even Iran and Saudi Arabia could have regional differences in application, especially in tribal areas that are more likely to be influenced by customs.

    The point here, of course, is that nothing is written in stone. It would be unrealistic to suggest that "Islamic law" is fully informed by religious doctrine or that doctrine can be inferred from legal applications.

    Forgot to mention: That was in 2004.


    For your interest, here are some general Sharia principles:

    The right of freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, or physical annihilation

    The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a fair and impartial tribunal in accordance with the Rule of Law

    The application of the Principle of Legality which calls for the right of the accused to be tried for crimes specified in the Koran or other crimes whose clear and well-established meaning and content are determined by Sharia Law or by a criminal code in conformity therewith

    The right to appear before an appropriate tribunal previously established by law

    The right of a public trial

    The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself

    The right to present evidence and to call witnesses in one’s defence

    The right to council on one’s own choosing

    The right to decision on the merits based upon legally admissible evidence

    The right to have the decision in the case rendered in public

    The right to benefit from the spirit of Mercy and the goals of rehabilitation and reconciliation in the consideration of the penalty to be imposed

    The right to appeal

    Source: Bassiouni, M.C. 1982) Sources of Islamic Law and the Protection of Human Rights in the Islamic Criminal Justice System, in: M.C. Bassiouni (ed): The Islamic Criminal Justice System, London.
     
  8. Devadatta

    Devadatta New Member

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    Well, Netti, I think you're right in one respect. I make myself a little silly by constantly returning to this fraying fray. But then you keep popping up again like a whack-a-mole! At this point, I don't know which of us is nuttier.


    I don't have time this evening to respond to your latest points one by one, gving them the relfection they deserve and allowing for any validity I find.


    But for the moment, I'd like to ask you: just what is your aim here? What are you trying to maintain? Do you have a thesis? It would be helpful to any further communication if you could just let me know what your bottom line is. Who knows, we may have some agreement there.


    Cheers.
     
  9. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    My bottom line is clarity and specificity. That's why I tend toward fairly simple propositions.

    Even very elaborate theories of human behavior allow for hypotheses that can be tested and then tested again in new samples to evaluate the stability of the findings.

    I say "even elaborate theories." Actually good theories have lots of testable hypotheses. When they're confirmed, the findings in effect confirm the theory.

    I thought we did on Essentialism.
     
  10. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Hello Devadatta,

    Historically, that connection may be there. There doesn't seem to be widespread consensus on it today. Recall the studies I cited previously indicating no correlation between religiosity and political attitudes in surveys of contemporary Muslims. Perhaps you could cite a study with different results. In the meantime, why represent the connection as an aspect of a "central tenet" or an "always and everywhere" feature of Islam when it does not appear to be present in Muslim populations now and when only two Muslim countries - Iran and Saudi Arabia - claim to be implementing Islamic law in all areas?


    I never said there was absolute, agreed upon "turning point." I was looking for a description of a process that can be linked to the alleged "easy" traumatization of Muslims. What you consider "trivial" strikes me as rather important. If the Islamic empire came apart because of internal political strife or a failure to respond effectively to various "client states" desire to be autonomous, that's fundamtally different in historical meaning from being by the West. Indeed, it undercuts the notion that Muslims resent the West on account of the humiliating defeats they suffered. Not trivial at all, brother. It may have seemed trivial to you because you didn't see where I was going with my line of questioning.

    As it turns out, the more recent variants of the Islamic Empire disintegrated from within because of political forces and incompetent governance; not as a result of military defeat that reduced Muslims to powerlessness. Before that, there were military defeats - principally at the hands of the Turks, Crusaders, and the Mongols -- but the Muslims always rebounded.


    Sorry bro, but it's perfectly legitimate to ask somebody to clarify or support their position. It's not self-indulgent. It's just like you and me talking in person and me asking you "ok, so you're saying that?..."


    All off my questions and comments have been purposeful and in good faith. You need to give me the benefit of the doubt rather than assume bad intent. Also, you need to be more patient and give me a chance, so that you can see where I'm headed with my line of questioning. It's not petty or trivial. There's a good reason for it -- even if it's not apparent at the time.


    When I ask for clarification, that's not a diversion. When I present contrary evidence, that's not a diversion. You'd see my line of questioning makes good sense if you just try to understand the intended purpose -- which may mean hanging in there an extra day or so. I have a life too.


    That's why I like to cite surveys and specific historical record.


    Heh, you call that "a Howler?" Muslims ended up taking over the spice trade in China. Even today there are Muslim communities in China. Obviously they got pretty far and it seems even the Chinese were sufficiently impressed to turn over their import business to Muslims.

    The view that Islam spread though the spice trade is not my pet theory. It reflects numerous historical accounts. Muhammad himself was a trader. One other thing: I never said this was the only means for the transmission of Islam. For example, the Mongols apparently converted to Islam as a result of living among the Sufis, Islam's Peace and Love people.


    Yes, he did and you will recall my response was to ask "What they mean?" Also, which of these were "easy victories because the people preferred Muslim rule to the tyranny they had been living under before?

    Moreover, were the various conquests in Tao's list representative of a large-scale evangelization effort? Think about it. Why would Muslims want people to convert to Islam when they could keep collecting taxes from them as long as the "client states" were viable money-making protectorates? Financial self-interest argues against evangelization and forced conversion. The Muslims would have made a point not to try to convert non-Muslims. (Btw, most of the areas conquered were Christian, which means they qualified for protective Dhimmi status as People of the Book.)

    Anyway, based on Tao's list of battles/conquests, it looks to me like there were lots of victories for the Islamic armies. That's what it looks like based on the accounts given. Were the accounts written by the victors? As you know, the victors tend to "exaggerate their glories" (your terms) and impose their view of history to the exclusion of their defeated adversaries' version of the story. So why would you take a bunch of hyperactive 8th century warriors word for what happened with these battles?

    Shanti to you, too, brother Devadatta.
     
  11. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    Pretty much like the rights you allready have anyway... Human right... Which is protected by law and is valid to everyone no matter their religion.... :)


    The rights are:

    We are all born equal and free.
    Don't disciminate.
    The right to life.
    No slavery.
    No torture.
    You have your rights WHEREVER you go.
    All are equal before the law.
    Human rights are protected by law.
    No unfair detainment.
    The Right to trial.
    Innocent until proven other wise.
    Right to privacy.
    Freedom to move.
    The right to asylum.
    The right to nationality.
    The right to family.
    The right to have your own personal things.
    The right to freedom of thought.
    The right to expression.
    The right to public assembly.
    The right to democracy.
    The right to social secruity
    Workers rights.
    Rights to play.
    The rights to food and shelter.
    The right to education.
    Copyright.
    Free fair world.
    Reponsability.
    The right that no one can take these rights from you.
    And the right to know your rights.....

    So basically sharia HAS, HAS to abide by these, so of course your rights are going to be like that, but it isn't from your religion they come.... If you understand what I am trying to say?
     
  12. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

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    Lol, Netti,

    Why take the word of anything you read if that is your attitude. Why bother to put forth the results of any study, any survey. Why not just form your own idea and stick with it regardless of the records that do exist? Oh ....hang on.... that is what you do do!!!
    By the way in most of the Muslim battles there are multiple sources for the accounts of what took place. Muslims were known for their brutality and lack of mercy on the conquered. Instead of just sourcing from the apologists why dont you go take a real hard look from multiple sources.

    tao
     
  13. Devadatta

    Devadatta New Member

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    Hi Netti. Thanks for your response. What you’re saying here is a laudable intellectual ideal, in its place. On the other hand, can we agree that it’s an ideal that we both have violated on occasion, and humbly leave it at that? As well, neither of us has offered in this discussion anything so exalted as an “elaborate theory of human behavior”.

    So what I’m looking for is your sense of where we are in this discussion. Leaving aside quibbles on individual points, what is the substance of what you would like to get across on the general question? What can I learn from you?

    Also, there’s this question of a faith commitment. Do you have one? I’ve blathered on ad nauseum about my crackpot theories, so surely you know where I stand. In our discussions at least, you’ve been rather coy. Are you committed to a particular faith or religious theory or not? And if not, how do you rationalize the removal of the factor of religious belief from the social questions under discussion?

    I do apologize for my previous ballistic outbursts and loss of patience. But here’s the substance of what I was losing patience with: your continual oscillations between invoking some abstruse methodology on the one hand and using the language of apologetics on the other, and in either case leaving your ultimate frames of reference, not to say your real motives, rather concealed.

    So with all respect, if you could respond to the above questions it will help me respond to the material in your posts. And please be assured, I’m not looking for ammunition, but only for the basis of a clear and useful conclusion to this discussion. (And please, take your time to reflect, especially if any of this offends you. I don't require a snap back response.)

    Shanti.
     
  14. Devadatta

    Devadatta New Member

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    Hi Netti. When you wrote the above response you were still a little upset, at least that’s my perception. Perhaps you feel you were merely high-spirited!

    As I’ve already said in my previous post, our discussion needs a reboot to successively conclude. I will perhaps respond point by point later, if it seems of use. But I have to say now that a lot of what you’re saying here is attacking me for positions I’ve never taken. Some of what you’re saying doesn’t seem to me to be the point at all, for example, all this spice trade business seems extraordinarily tangential. The original issue was your claim that the expansion of Islam in general was the result of this kind of process, when plainly that was not the case. I made this point some time back in a very gentle way. Another example: you make the point that some conquered peoples, given the conditions of the time, welcomed the new, fresh and vigorous (here I embellish) regime of the Muslims, that Muslims had little financial interest in converting the dhimmi since they used them as a tax base through the tax penalty of jizya. None of this is news to me. None of this is for me at issue. You appear to morph every criticism of Islam, no matter what it’s form or reasonableness, into a call for its defense and invent claims to refute that were never made in the first place.

    Okay, I hope that wasn’t too intemperate of me. And please do, if you’re interested respond to my last post on the issue of where we stand on this discussion. If we can put this on civil basis, focus on where the different perspectives actually lie, then we can make some progress.

    Shanti.
     
  15. Devadatta

    Devadatta New Member

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    Addendum to Netti Netti on the spice trade.


    Okay, so perhaps your point is economic reductionism, and certainly from a particular point of view, one certainly can reduce everything to economics. Didn’t I point out that one of the prime motives for the building of civilizations and empires was the protection of trade routes? But you insert the economic turn where it doesn’t belong in the context of arguing the relative violence of Muslim expansion, which confuses the issue while deflecting from any point you’re trying to make. As for the reductionist move, the problem there of course is that reductions are innumerable: everything is economics, everything is ideology, everything is the weather, everything is the collective unconscious, everything is the Will to Power... Yes, everything is everything. Squeezing all of our experience into one dichotomy is no difficult trick. The trick is in trying to grasp, in some small measure, how these innumerable forces interact.


    Please don’t take this an attack. I’m still suggesting a reboot. But this spice trade business led me to share my perception that your specific points are not as clearly framed as you think they are.


    Shanti.
     
  16. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    I think so. My thought is: love of G-d informs love of fellow human beings. It also informs respect for concepts of justice and compassion that derive from faith.

    I think the sense that human rights are G-d-ordained can make a difference in both interpretation and application.
     
  17. Devadatta

    Devadatta New Member

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    Talking of Islam: apology or challenge?

    These are just some general remarks regarding the above discussions.

    How can we help the moderate forces in the Arab world and other Islamic nations under discussion in their struggle with violent radicalism and with their dream of making Islam a definitively progressive and positive force? Of course, what really needs to happen are substantive changes on the ground, say a comprehensive agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors. But leaving concrete action aside, all we have are words: words of apology and words of challenge.

    And it seems to me that we should always keep the essential aim of encouraging moderate forces in mind, and so we shouldn’t dismiss either apology or challenge out of hand. Both may be of use.

    As the discussions above shows, different people will tend to take one or the other side. The question is whether such a discussion can teach us anything, give us a more complete view of the issues. Perhaps.

    But one of the problems I see – and of course this is only my view – is that such a discussion doesn’t work well as a wiki-battle, as a tit for tat of cut and paste and sourcing. The issues are I think far too complex. There are too many ambiguities.

    For example, one can cite this or that polling data or study on Muslim attitudes as evidence for one side or the other. But I think if you look at a bunch of different indicators, at the range of differences between countries and populations, what you find is a very mixed picture, especially if you go to the more solid sources like Pew Research. In the end, everyone has to think through all this stuff, and make up his or her own mind. There is no magic bullet, in my opinion, that sustains a one-sided view. The concrete realities are complex and in constant flux. It’s better, in my view, that everyone who wants to carry on this kind of discussion do their own serious study, and when they’re ready return with their own evaluations, using their own words.

    Similarly, the lifting out of context of some portion of Islamic law because it supports a certain impression, only invites the tit for tat of some other lifting out of context of some other portion that leaves the opposite impression. So while one might paste a text on rights and freedoms, another might paste a text on the laws and penalties of apostasy. Neither will increase anyone’s understanding of Islamic law as such.

    Finally, there’s the question of Shariah. Here I think we need to keep in mind that there is no “Shariah law” as such. Shariah refers to God’s Law as an absolute. It’s a core concept akin to “Torah” or “Kingdom of God”, and like these other core concepts, it can take on many senses. And like Torah or Kingdom of God, in its ideal sense one might say that Shariah has never yet been realized, for that would be the state of perfection, when the ummah was universal and the will of human beings conformed absolutely to the Will of God. What you have instead are religious figures who call on the prestige of the Shariah, as guided by the Koran and by what they deem the most authentic hadith, to frame Islamic law as such. This is the work of the recognized legal schools, five for the Sunni and one for the Shia.

    So I would reduce the number of Islamic states who have instituted full Shariah to zero. Instead, I would point out that the place of Islamic law in Muslim nations is ever-evolving, that even as far back as the Ottomans, the tendency was for a division of labor between the clerics and whatever ruling regime was in place, so that, for example, the clerics might deal with family and civil law, the prince with criminal and commercial, that the impact of colonialism and modernization in many countries had the effect of further reducing the scope of Islamic law as such. (It’s been a while since I read about this stuff, but I think this is correct in principle if not in every detail.)

    So I think one has to look at the place of Islamic law on a country by country basis, and here I think we can say three things: that there’s no simple distinction among Muslim countries between “secular” and “religious” states but that there exists a complex continuum, that every Muslim country to the extent it is Muslim has some provision for Islamic law, makes some gesture toward “Shariah”, that Islam, even when it’s pushed as far as possible to the margins or merely exploited – say under Saddam Hussein in Iraq – remains a powerful force in the shaping of the culture and the world view of individual Muslims. In fact, for the most impoverished Muslims in particular Islam has been the one constant through centuries of continuous regime change at the top. So it’s not surprising that Islam – whatever local form it takes – is the lens through which they view every new phenomenon and the base to which they repeatedly return.

    So it isn’t enough to point to the self-proclaimed Sharia states like the Saudis, Iran, the Taliban. We should also notice that even the new governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, the one replacing a secular the other a theocratic state, both recognize the authority of Islam in their constitutions, that Afghanistan still has the death penalty against apostasy on its books, and that in Iraq the various parties of God have committed extraordinary carnage. Now tribalism is a big part of this carnage, but these are tribes formed by Islamic culture. To blame it all on Muslim fanaticism would be simplistic. But to exclude Islam from the analysis hampers our understanding.

    Consider as well that Islamist movements are in large part a reaction against modernization and secularization, the move away from the ideal of Shariah and the universalist claims of Islam. And again there’s no clear distinction between “Islamism” on one side and the various forms of Islam on the other. Think of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the oldest Islamist movements, which began in Egypt. It helped spawn Said Qutb, the intellectual godfather of al qaida and Osama bin laden. At the same time, its views in general are not as radical as al qaida, and while falling in and out of favor, the Muslim Brotherhood has been a fixture in the Arab world for decades. It’s part of that world of discourse, where its points of view are considered legitimate, however distasteful, or at least alien, many in the West might find them.

    Or consider Hamas and Hezboulah. These are Islamist movements that feed directly on the failures of secularism, modernization and whatever moderate voices exist. The US, Canada and don’t know how many other countries call them terrorist organizations, pure and simple. In fact, both organizations have strong social welfare components – everyone noticed that Hezboulah was more efficient in the aftermath of the recent Israeli invasion than the US government was in the aftermath of Katrina – and have the definite positive attribute of empowerment, of bottom-up movements of peoples whom every other institution has failed. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezboulah may go up and down in the polls, but in the Middle East they’re hardly off the charts. They’re part of that world of discourse.

    Moderate Arabs or Muslims do pop up from time to time on my side of the pond and what they express is ambivalence and frustration. They recognize that the forces of moderation have been in retreat, and for good reason: because they have failed. They recognize the positive side of empowering ordinary Muslims, of bringing them into more active participation. At the same time, they fear the totalitarian turn among these movements, and the reliance on violence. Gandhis are pretty thin on the ground.

    So it’s pretty self-evident that Islam remains an integral component in the politics of the Arab world and in the Islamic nations under discussion. And it’s my view, as I suggested in the beginning, that if we hope to help empower the moderates and steer Islamist movements to their better angels, we need both to support the positive and challenge the negative in their underling Islamic ideologies, and leave it up to Muslims to demonstrate what the true nature of “Islam” actually entails.
     
  18. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Hello Devadatta,
    Which criticism of Islam was reasonable and by whose standard of reasonableness?

    Plainly? Maybe you think the word "plainly" applies. I don't. In fact, the issues are rather controversial. That's why I called attention to the fact that there are different views on the transmission of the religion of Islam. One view is that it happened along international trade routes, which accounts for the fact that Islam got as far as China, where Muslims would eventually take over the import business.

    At one point Islamic rulers controlled kingdoms in Persia, Turkey, and India. Based on what we know about the Muslim trade business (for which there are many, many references) the expansion was at least in part a gradual and organic process that did not involve aggressive evangelization spearheaded by warriors types who were pursuing expansionist policies. It appears such policies were to some extent in evidence in the conquest of the Arab Peninsula. However, historical information about how the Arab empire evolved doesn't tell us anything about the spread of Islam to other parts of the world.

    The success of Islam appears to be related in part to its ability to adapt to existing cultures. It was possible to introduce the religion with a minimum of disruption. That is, conversion to Islam did not require native peoples to swap out their indigenous beliefs for Islamic doctrine. Even today in Africa we see native tribal religions coexisting with Islam. Muslim medicine men who use sorcery are not unheard of.

    Contrary to the notion of hardline theocracy, as late as the 17th century Bengal Muslims were seen participating in Hindu practices. In Saudi Arabia, the palace of Abdul Aziz Al-Saud was used for Christian prayer services even when the Salafists' were having a revival in the 1920s. One could on and on with historical records that attest to Islam's coexistence with other religions, particularly during Islam's Golden Age, which lasted almost 800 years, and which ended with the dominance of a Christian regime that implemented "Convert or Die" policies.

    Contemporary Muslim societies confirms that the spread of Islam did not necessarily involve an imposition of a uniform theocratic culture. Indeed, native people's acceptance of Islam was facilitated by the fact that it was a trendy, happening cultural thing that had potential to revive sagging domestic cultures or, in the case of India, because it seemed like a viable alternative to India's oppressive caste system. Survey research has shown that the social and cultural relevance of Islam is a factor in commitment to Islamification. The salience of this factor can be expected to magnify the more Muslims feel threatened by Western cultural hegemony.

    I'm not so sure Islam exists in a pure form anywhere. I would go further and say there is no such thing as Islam, just as there is no such thing as Christianity. Further, just because Islam originated in the Arab world, there is no reason to think of it as having an Arabic ethnic identity. Most of the world's Muslims today are in Africa, not in Arab nation states. It is therefore very unclear why anyone intent on understanding Islam would focus only on Arab states. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world. Indonesians are not Arabs.

    Are you saying that context makes a difference in the applicability of universal human rights recognized by Muslim law?

    I disagree. Depending on the level of detail, a discussion of both could add to our understanding.

    I don't think it would be hard for you to look back to and see that no one was paying much attention to evidence before I started to cite sources of historical information that directly contradicted certain contentions Islam. It seems you are now suggesting we go back to unsubstantiated claims, stereotyping, and sloppy generalities.

    This is not the first time that you've indicated your resistance to new information being introduced into the discussion even though it is directly relevant to factual claims. Where will it stop? With the shuttering of the libraries and burning of history books? Obviously I'm exaggerating, but you get the point.

    Again, this is not the first time you have tried to hobble the discussion. My response is to state the obvious: Just because controversies cannot be settled quickly and with certainty, that's no reason to give up on a good faith exploration of relevant facts. Further, just because there are different views and different sets of facts that don't necessarily converge or describe all situations, that doesn't mean there isn't something to be learned.

    If nothing else, conflicting evidence can alert us to the fact that there are controversies and thus raise awareness about possible biases. People may also be motivated to do more in-depth searches on their own. To my way of thinking, all of this can be very valuable in preserving ecology of mind by affirming the importance of an open-ended inquiry.

    I don't recall anyone suggesting that Islam should be excluded from the analysis. I like the way you gloss over the fact that Islam was specifically singled out without much of a rationale. Was is to avoid getting flack for insulting the spiritual character of Jesus or calling Yahweh a false god? And why would anyone on CR take up for Muhammad when someone invokes his character as an explanation for the contemporary geopolitics?....

    I'm curious how you would reconcile your portrayal of the Brotherhood as "distasteful" and "alien" to the description offered by Daniel Williams (Washington Post Foreign Service), who likens the Brotherhood's moral/social platform to "a high school civics book." In a Washington Post article, Williams observes that the Brotherhood promotes freedom of speech and "the independence of unions and professional organizations, transparency of government transactions, a crackdown on corruption and freedom for political prisoners. The Brotherhood is not pressing for Islamic-oriented social changes, such as mandatory use of veils by women or a ban on alcohol."

    You want to call that "alien" and "distasteful"? I read the Brothers' manifesto. It sounds like it was dictated by Pat Robertson's speech writers. The Muslim Brotherhood renounced violence many years ago and is committed to intellectual evangelization.

    I'm puzzled you continue to post these highly questionable characterizations without having done any fact checks and without any real effort to represent balance. Moreover, the general lack of detail in your arguments suggests a reliance on imagery rather than facts.
     
  19. Devadatta

    Devadatta New Member

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    Alllllrighty then! The problem here, to quote an old movie, is the failure to communicate, and perhaps some personal animus. It’s not a question of this or that argument or fact. It’s a question of having sensible and civil grounds on which to carry on a discussion. The irony for me is that it was never my intention to support any particular point of view but only to call for openness and to warn against extreme views. That was the purport of my last post, though you obviously seized on those portions that seemed to reference you or which offered some opening for attack. Several posts back I suggested that we reboot the discussion, though I did unfortunately feel compelled in the meantime to respond schematically to several your points. That certainly undercut that effort. But I did apologize for my previous over-reactions, tried to honestly explain the problems I have with your modes of presentation and asked for a show of good faith on your part – none of which you have responded to.

    But I’m not asking that you to respond to any of that now. And I regret that this discussion has ended in such bad feelings. I’ve had this experience once before in these forums since I first participated several years ago, and it still gives me pain to think of it. And when this happens both sides must share some responsibility. At least I hope that’s one agreement we can have.

    In the meantime, let’s drop any further ad hominem and sniping, and affirm that we have conflicting notions on how to carry on this kind of discussion (although these differences are not as simple and clear cut as either of us has suggested).

    I wish you well. It seems to me that you show a genuine lust for truth, and that will serve you well in the long run.

    (smiley face) (face somehow expressing the absurdities of the human ego)
     
  20. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    To the best of my knowledge I haven't expressed any extreme views.

    As for openness: Interspersed between various calls for balance, you include arguments that very clearly show a bias and an intention to support a particular point of view. For that reason, I disagree with how you're positioning yourself.


    How many times have you ended this discussion now? :) Btw, it's not over for me and I hope you're not going to try to make a case for getting my posting priviledges revoked in order to silence me. :eek: ;)


    Sorry, I'm totally innocent :)


    I will do so as time permits. Thanks for your patience.

    As for my good faith, you have no reason to question it.
     

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