Wednesday, March 07, 2018

contra scotosis

There is a willful blindness in the West when it comes to reckoning with Islam. Dr. V dredges up this 2016 article, which deals with the problem of willful blindness versus seeing truly.

The fact that there are multiple ways of construing Islam hardly makes the Blind Sheikh’s literal construction wrong. The blunt fact of the matter is that, in this contest of competing interpretations, it is the jihadists who seem to be making sense because they have the words of scripture on their side—it is the others who seem to be dancing on the head of a pin. For our present purposes, however, the fact is that the Blind Sheikh’s summons to jihad was rooted in a coherent interpretation of Islamic doctrine. He was not perverting Islam—he was, if anything, shining a light on the need to reform it.

Another point, obvious but inconvenient, is that Islam is not a religion of peace. There are ways of interpreting Islam that could make it something other than a call to war. But even these benign constructions do not make it a call to peace. Verses such as “Fight those who believe not in Allah,” and “Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war,” are not peaceful injunctions, no matter how one contextualizes.


  1. Good read. I found this paragraph to be an eye-opener:

    "Contrast this with the constitution that the U.S. government helped write for post-Taliban Afghanistan, which showed no awareness of the opposition of Islamic and Western law. That constitution contains soaring tropes about human rights, yet it makes Islam the state religion and sharia a principal source of law—and under it, Muslim converts to Christianity have been subjected to capital trials for apostasy."

    I had no idea this was the case. Kind of mind-blowing.

    I wonder what the answer here is. There are some pretty violent passages in the Old Testament (the Israelites on more than one occasion were ordered by God to essentially commit genocide, for example), but I'm pretty sure I've never heard of Jews stoning someone for, say, adultery. What has to happen in the Islamic world to leave behind the elements that are unacceptable in our modern world?

  2. For a long time, the talk has been that "Islam needs a Reformation." This general sentiment has taken on several specific flavors, as you can imagine, but one of the most compelling is the idea that, if a Reformation is to occur, it needs to sprout from within and not be imposed from without because, per basic human psychology, Muslims won't accept an imposed Reformation (they would also, of course, balk at the use of such a redolently Christian term)—and understandably so. I've mentioned, once or twice on this blog, the notion that something like that may already have occurred with the advent of Sufism. Mainly, I've argued that Sufis start from the same scriptural bases as other Muslims, but interpret the scripture and doctrines mystically, thus leading to a radically pacifist strain of Islam. (This has also been why I've stood against conservatives who argue that Islam is inherently toxic and irredeemable. There's nothing at all necessary about the violent strains of Islam we see today, and Sufism stands as evidence for my view.)

    I once embedded a video interview with a liberal Muslim who wants to reform Islam from within. He's got his work cut out for him!

  3. I've always found Sufism fascinating--it does indeed strike me as a reformist movement of sorts. And the Sufis also have Rumi going for them, which is nice.

  4. And this is why you're my friend: you slip a Carl Spackler reference alongside a mention of Rumi.

  5. Well, you're one of the few people I know who would have gotten both parts of that.



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