What are the differences between Arab Islam and Islam elsewhere -- such as in India, Indonesia and in Africa? What do these differences signify? To discuss these questions with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel. Our guests are:
Mike Ghouse, a Muslim thinker, speaker and writer, and president of the Foundation for Pluralism. He is a frequent guest on talk radio, discussing interfaith issues. He also founded the World Muslim Congress. His articles can be found at www.FoundationforPluralism.com and http://mikeghouse.blogspot.com/.
Dr. Timothy Furnish, a Ph.D in Islamic History (Ohio State), former U.S. Army Arabic interrogator, and college professor. He is the author of Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden (Praeger/Greenwood, 2005), as well as a number of articles on Islamic messianism and fundamentalism.
Dr. Hans-Peter Raddatz, a scholar of Islamic Studies and author of two books on the subject of women in Islam, Allahs Schleier - die Frau im Kampf der Kulturen (Allah's Veil - Women in the Clash of Civilization) and Allahs Frauen - Djihad zwischen Demokratie und Scharia (Allah's Women - Jihad Between Democracy and Sharia). His next book, Allah and the Jews, will be published next month in Berlin.
Robert Spencer, a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of six books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and the New York Times Bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is the author of the new book, The Truth About Muhammad.
Thomas Haidon, a commentator on Islamic issues.
FP: Mike Ghouse, Thomas Haidon, Dr. Hans-Peter Raddatz, Robert Spencer and Timothy Furnish, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Thomas Haidon, let me begin with you.
Let’s start on a general theme.
Is there just one Islam?
Haidon: Thank you Jamie.
The simple answer is no. There is no one singular, universal vision of Islam. There are divisions (sometimes radical) amongst groups who call themselves Muslims on a range of historical, ritualistic and hermeneutical issues. On the whole however, while there are a number of important differences among the predominant Muslim sects, there are also a great deal of consistency in approaches and beliefs. The predominant sects of Islam, obviously, share the common bond of holding the Qur'an as the core central text which guides worship. They also share, to varying degrees, adherence to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and common approaches to Islamic jurisprudence. I would argue that these similarities and common approaches are more significant, and hold greater implications, then do dissimilarities.
I believe that external factors, such as culture can have a positive (and of course negative) impact on how Islam is practiced in a particular country or region. Currently I am residing in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Islam that I have viewed thus far, while sharing many characteristics of Islam that is practiced in the Arab world, appears to be far more pluralistic and tolerant. There are Muslim liberal/reform movements here which have widespread support and there are a number of progressive fuqaha among the ulaema. That said there are strong radical elements which exist and thrive; however they do not appear to hold a stronghold in the main centres of Indonesia. Whether this "success" is a reflection of Islam itself or the culture of the Indonesian people is a separate question, which we may explore here.
So to summarise my perspective, while there is "no one Islam", there is a predominant body of Islam containing a number of sects, which, while maintaining some differences on ritual and historical perspectives, share common perspectives and approaches on key issues. These similarities are more significant and hold greater implications than do any differences.
FP: Thank you Mr. Haidon.
Let me follow up for a moment. You say that you observed in Jakarta, Indonesia an Islam that appears to be far more pluralistic and tolerant than Arab Islam. What would you say to those who would argue that this pluralism and tolerance is the product of a relaxation of Islamic principles rather than the application of them?
Haidon: I certainly cannot dismiss those perspectives. However, I tend to look at the issue slightly different. At play, may not be a relaxation in Islamic principles per se, but a paradigm shift away from dogmatic thinking and literal approaches to understanding Islam, thanks to thinkers like Quraish Shihab who have developed progressive commentaries to the Qur'an.
Among Indonesians, there is a strong sense of ownership of Islam. Many Indonesians resent the total Arabisation and Wahabi domination of Islamic practices in Islam (that said a number also embrace it). I have observed that Indonesia is generally a pluralistic society, with Christians, Hindus and Buddhists living in relative peace (in main city centres at least; there are numerous examples in rural Indonesia where Christians and Hindus are murdered at Muslim hands).
In some regions, Islamic practices are actually infused with Hindi and other paganistic practices (although this certainly should not be considered predominant). But from what I have witnessed (please note these are just my observations), there is relative harmony between faiths that does not exist in many places.
In Indonesia there are a number of Islamic organisations taking the lead to begin to address issues around terrorism and intolerance and are actively pursuing discussion. Discussions about reform are emanating from Islamic circles, not the government (although the government and President SBE have been supportive). So when I see mainstream Islamic organisations taking the lead in discussions on moderation and reform through Islamic principles (al'adl justice), I tend to think that Indonesian Islam is not necessarily a relaxation of Islamic principles but a shift in thinking of Islamic principles (a positive shift at that), However, I remain cautious, very cautious. Only time will tell if there really is a paradigm shift in the making, or just posturing.
I would argue, however, that absent a significant paradigm shift in thinking about Islam (which appears to be happening in some circles in Islam), and continued reliance on the seminal scholars and jurisprudence which are centuries old, only the relaxation of "Islamic" principles could lead to tolerance and harmony, as the significant body of Islamic jurisprudence that is relied upon does not promote the sort of harmony that is consistent with international human rights standards.
FP: Ok before we move forward, can you give us some examples, in terms of daily life that you have observed, how Muslim life in Jakarta, Indonesia is different from, let us say, Arab Islam? Tell us some observations about normal every day life that shed light on the variety of Islam. Perhaps something that even surprised you.
Haidon: I have witnessed a number of examples that have surprised me. One of the things that have struck me the most is the relationship between women and men in worship. I have personally witnessed at several mosques in Jakarta women and men praying side by side, which would be an unheard of practice in the Arab world (except in the Holy city of Mecca at al harim al sharif). Such practices in the Arab world should actually be considered dangerous. In general, I have viewed a higher esteem for women in Jakarta than anywhere in the Arab world. While women still face significant challenges in terms of inequality, women play a greater role in Islam. There are even respected female ulaema here, something which struck me particularly.
However, these pluralistic Islamic practices, I believe, are at risk. As some ulaema move for the total Arabisation of Islam in Indonesia, tolerant cultural practices are likely to be subsumed by harsher practices. This has happened in a number of other Asian countries, including Malaysia and Thailand. This shows, unfortunately, that more moderate models of Islam may be susceptible and vulnerable to more conservative models, which may lead to catastrophic results for Muslims, and their non-Muslim counterparts. I am pleased however, that some ulaema here have had the foresight to see this as a potential problem and are working towards solutions and "future proofing", or at least are beginning to talk about it.
FP: Robert Spencer, what are your thoughts about what Thomas Haidon has observed in Jakarta? What do they signify in the context of our topic?
Spencer: Jamie, there is absolutely no doubt that in many areas of the Islamic world, for many reasons a cultural Islam has evolved that deemphasizes the militancy of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example, and often contains significant syncretistic elements. This is true in varying ways in West Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. However, Thomas Haidon is correct when he notes that “these pluralistic Islamic practices, I believe, are at risk,” and that there is a movement fostering the “total Arabisation of Islam in Indonesia” and elsewhere. This will involve, as Haidon says, “tolerant cultural practices” being “subsumed by harsher practices.”
Haidon is also unfortunately correct that “more moderate models of Islam may be susceptible and vulnerable to more conservative models” – and this is part of the Arabization phenomenon. This is because the proponents of Arabization and radicalization present themselves as the exponents of a “true” and “pure” Islam, purged of the cultural syncretism that, because it lacks foundation in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, they are able to portray as illegitimate. For instance, in his delightful book The Caliph’s House, Tahir Shah recounts how Wahhabi recruiters from Saudi Arabia set up a trailer in a shantytown in Casablanca, from which they endeavored to recruit the locals for the jihad.
Their exhortations to return to a more “authentic” form of Islam also involve, in non-Arab lands, a measure of Arabization – since after all, it is an “Arabic Qur’an” (12:2), “a decisive utterance in Arabic,” (13:37), “Arabic, pure and clear” (16:103). Islamic prayers and recitation of the Qur’an must always be in Arabic, and that along with the fact that Muhammad and the early Muslims were Arabs has always led to a sense among some Muslims that Arab-ness is an essential component of being a true Muslim. One manifestation of this with which Americans are familiar is the phenomenon of American Muslim converts taking Arabic names; akin to this is the lesser-known phenomenon of non-Arab Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere claiming to be descendants of Muhammad. While the authenticity of such claims is wildly improbable, the fact that they are made at all is another manifestation of the fact that even among non-Arab Muslims there is a sense that being an Arab or connected in some way to Arabiyya gives one a certain status.
At the same time, there has always been a movement within Islam against Arabic supremacy. The Shu’ubites – the “confessors of equality” – proclaimed the equality of all Muslims before Allah, and flourished in the ninth and tenth centuries. Elements of the views of this party remain in the Islamic world, and are sometimes invoked by those attempting to resist Arabization. Nonetheless, for the reasons I explained above, at this point the exponents of “pure Islam” are in the intellectual ascendancy in the Islamic world.
FP: Mike Ghouse?
Ghouse: Thank you Jamie, both Thomas Haidon and Robert Spencer have touched upon various ways Islam is practiced in different countries.
Islam is certainly not a monolithic religion. The plasticity of Islam hinges on the culture it is embedded in, and the ensuing practices are shaped by the values of co-existence.
In a singular society like Saudi Arabia, where individuals do not interact with people of other faiths on a routine basis, their comprehension is exceptionally limited. A major example for this lack of reference is found in how they teach the Qur’an in their grade schools.
Al-Fatiha Verse 1:7 Sirata allatheena anAAamta AAalayhim ghayri almaghdoobi AAalayhim wala alddalleena
Literal translation: (The) way/road (of) those You blessed on them, not (those) the angered on them, and nor the misguided.
The student does not have an idea who has earned God’s anger or what is misguided. Who are these people?
The likes of Hilali Khan figured out how to explain this to them and came up with this translation; “The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).” One can guess the imprints on the young minds and where it would lead them to.
The words Christian or Jews are not mentioned in that verse, let alone the whole of chapter 1, the beginning.
In pluralistic societies like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Turkey, co-existence is at stake, and doing business together is the way of life. The societies are interdependent on each other and the following translation of the same verse is the norm: “The path of those whom you have blessed, not those who have incurred your wrath, nor the misguided.”
Thomas Haidon is right on the money when he says “there is a great deal of consistency in approaches and beliefs.” And they also share, to varying degrees, adherence to the Sunnah.” The statement would apply to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as it does for Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa.
Pluralism or tolerance is a product of co-existence rather than the application or relaxation of Islamic principles. In fact the history of civilization can attest to that; Members of rival clans fighting and killing each other for the limited resources of farming land or animals for protein, figured out a way to respect each other’s resources for peace, and sleeping well in night without the fear of a raid.
Haidon: “Women continue to face challenges in terms of inequality, women play a greater role in Islam”. The culture of the subcontinent, as well as the population mixture, has a significant impact on Muslims in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- all three nations have produced women heads of the state: Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto and Hasina Shaikh respectively. Meanwhile, in the United States, people are still not ready for it. I would like to say it has do with the securities or insecurities of the male population, more so than religion.
Wearing a burqa may have been a symbol of oppression once, not as much now. There are parallel developments where some women simply do not wear Hijab, and some wear out of their own volition. No one should expect the change to be dramatic. A moderate Anglo-Saxon girl would not be comfortable wearing a mini-skirt to school, work, church or a family event, so the Muslim women are not comfortable wearing any thing less than full clothing either, the thresholds are different and modesty is graded. Let the change happen in smaller increments and be sustainable.
Spencer’s point is incredible. The Subcontinentians eagerly claim a family tree leading to Prophet Muhammad in the hopes of feeling on par with Muslims in Arabia. They tend to forget that each one is responsible for their own deeds, even if they were to be direct descendants; salvation comes to only those who do the good deeds, treating others, as they would want to be treated. Prophet Muhammad did not give a free pass to his daughter; he told her that she has to earn it the old fashion way, doing one good deed after the other. Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: ……. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct.
The Wahhabis on the other hand destroy any such claims, and go to extremes. Presently they are planning to bulldoze the historic house where Prophet Muhammad was born in the belief that divinity is reserved to God alone.
The Muslims in general celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, but the Wahhabis’ on the other hand consider it to be kosher.
American Muslim converts have gone both ways, keeping their name as it was before or adding a Arabic sounding name to perhaps make the announcement that they are indeed Muslims. However, this is not a requirement. The very names Mohammad, Abu Bakr Siddiq, Ali, Umar, and Uthman remained the same when they became Muslims, and when they went out conquering lands they did not ask or impose their names either.
There is indeed one Islam but different manifestations. There are four different schools of thought in Sunni Tradition that very few Muslims show any disrespect towards the other. The Shia Sunni debate is as old as Islam, hitherto it remained in the realm of discussion and debate, but it has gone on high gear of destruction now. My hypothesis is that whenever a group reaches a certain elusive number, it splits itself into two due to the political need to have the influence. Then there are cultural differences that abound.
FP: Mr. Ghouse, with all due respect, your comments on wearing a burqa don’t stand up. The analogies to some Anglo Saxon girl being comfortable or not wearing some mini-skirt completely ignores the main issues involved. The bottom line is that human beings must have the right to live by their own conscience. If a woman must fear for her life if she does not wear a veil, then that is the mark of barbaric oppression. Zilla Huma Usman, a Pakistani minister and woman’s activist, was, as you know, recently shot dead by an Islamic extremist for refusing to wear the veil. I would really like to know: where are the mass demonstrations of Muslims vehemently protesting this murder? Should a woman have the right to decide whether she wants to veil or not veil without having to fear getting shot to death or facing some other persecution? That is the question. And many Muslims worldwide have been deafeningly silent on this question, just as they have been deafendingly silent after the tragic murder of Zilla Huma Usman.
Peter Raddatz, go ahead.
Raddatz: What I was invited to this refreshing possibility to join a round table of participants, I presumed that the panellists would fortunately know what they are talking about. This is by far not always the case with European let alone German symposiums -- especially when it comes to the aspect of Islam being or not being a "monolith" but rather a multitude of cultural "facets" which in turn develop or not a self-sufficient life of their own. You may meet a whole new species of believers over here who tell you that Islam is so differentiated that it ultimately does not exist at all.
Fortunately, we have arrived at a more qualified interim stage so far. As I see, Mr. Ghouse and Mr. Haidon entertain a quite different point of view as compared to what Mr Spencer represents. Allow me to tend to the latter's sceptical impression as far as "tolerant cultural practices” are endangered by Arabic conformity pressure are concerned. Age-wise I am in the position to compare the Islam in some key countries like Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi-Arabia with the conditions 30 years ago. From my experience I may tell you that Mr. Spencer is quite right to the very point. What the first two countries have in common is a distinct tendency towards assimilation to Saudi or rather Wahhabi standards of legal thought and practice.
To make the situation understandable from a more general and simultaneously practical point of view, I may concentrate on the particular character of Islam as a cultural contingency system. Due to its body of dominant shariatic rules which I call the HQ complex (Hadith and Qur'an), each respective Islamic society develops its own variant inside the shariatic purity/impurity spectrum. If it is "subsumed by harsher rules", as Mr. Haidon formulates, we are almost always talking about a stricter application of the HQ complex. In another abbreviation some people call it also "HadQur" which may or may not activate more or less intentional, phonetic associations with the English "Hardcore"
Here the contingency aspect comes in. The question is when and why the harsher rules are applied and, moreover, why we cannot register the other way around. The dominant tendency of Islamic contingency points rather towards "harsher rules" than "tolerant practices". Whenever the latter occur - like the common prayers of men and women in Indonesia - they remain rare exceptions and are observed closely by the higher levels of theological and political control. On the whole, Islamic contingency is a function of the extent to which the QH complex finds reasons and room to be applied - the main reason being, of course, is the progress of Western civilization that Islamic societies have to deal with in some way or other.
Mr. Haidon is well advised to regard the "shift in Islamic thinking" from a "very cautious" standpoint as it, so far, did not show any realistic sign to shift to "tolerant cultural practices" in terms of a paradigmatic world view change. Its contingency may be compared to the criteria of a health insurance. The older an insured person, the higher his/her insurance premium. And, correspondingly, the stronger the Western modernization pressure, the better the arguments and conditions for shariatic purification, often meaning the increased inflow of Wahhabi money and personnel - one important part of so-called "Arabization".
In other words, each and every Islamic society bases on a contingent hardcore of "HadQur" rules defending its people against the "Fitna", the threat from un-Islamic influences. As hardly any Muslim denies, this rule set contains also the legitimization of internal violence against women and dissidents as well as the right to external deception and violence towards unbelievers, especially Western influence. This violence potential is a latent and virtual one, though, but under suitable circumstances it can become and often has become actual and acute. So far the system switch still points towards "harsher rules" and there is nobody who is able or prepared to guarantee for the opposite, the "tolerant practices" as Islamist power bases on this very set of rules and its permanent preservation.
Among other aspects, Mr. Ghouse gave us a good example of what kind of "hermeneutics" we are talking about when it comes to what is usually referred to as "dialogue with Islam". He mentions the female Prime Ministers of the Indo-Islamic region as opposed to the United States, which is apparently "not ready for it". Here we may see the whole "range" of Muslim eclecticism compressing the fundamental freedom of approximately 150 million American girls and women into the female constraint in Islam to which the said Prime Ministers are an exception. This kind of comparison is completely off the point, of course, but illustrates lively, how difficult if not impossible it is to argue from a standpoint which is not bound by HadQur "hermeneutics". And, if you please, I feel a little uncomfortable with Mr. Ghouse's very unpluralistic certainty about when and why female human beings supposedly feel uncomfortable in mini-skirts.
As on the other hand Western "hermeneutics" - at least in Europe - include the shariatic rule set within the general freedom of religion, this human right includes then in turn the latent potential of Islamically legitimized violence. The first results can be seen in the 2005 riots in France as well as the current semi-riots in London and elsewhere blackmailing the British government into a proper "Dhimmi" submission. Thus, Tony Blair and Prince Charles recently called the people in England to regard the Qur'an as the most progressive book of all time. As this is in perfect line with not only the dominance ideology of Islamic orthodoxy but also the official EU policy, with Germany closely following suit, there is no realistic reason why the Wahhabi expansion, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, should not only succeed in the leading part of the Islamic region but also in selected European countries.
What I want to stress here is the fact that more than three decades of "dialogue,” "interpretation", "hermeneutics" and what have you did not arrive at something one could call a lasting compromise. On the contrary, what we have to take note of in Europe as well as in the American universities and especially in the UN is a strong progress of Islamist lobbying accompanied at times by very real corruption. So, if Mr. Haidon asks rightly for the change "to happen in smaller increments," we should define a little more precisely what kind of change we are talking about.
Currently there is certainly little room for change on the Islamic side if "consistency of belief" prevails in politics, the "volition of women" is rigorously dictated by men, and the contingent power potential of Islam stays firmly geared towards confrontation without trying to plausibly contribute to obliging criteria of "hermeneutics" which may pave a way to some realistic co-operation. If what we call "tolerance" i.e. a conciliatory attitude which is only interrelated as weakness to be exploited for power purposes, the outlook for a constructive solution for co-existence in a civil society must stay quite obscure. Insofar the cultural multitude aspect has not contributed any feasible development.
Furnish: Once again, it’s an honor to participate in a Frontpage symposium.
Is there just one Islam? In one sense, of course not—any more than there is just one Christianity. Christianity and Islam are the two most missionary-oriented religions the world has ever produced and together make up about half of the world’s population (Christians number over 2 billion, Muslims close to 1.5 billion) and thus each spread over an enormous geographical area. Each has differentiated over the millennia in terms of cultural and geographic zone, language, ethnic inclinations and traditions, etc. Today, in terms of space, the Islamic world can at the least be divided into Arab, Persian, Turkish, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi), Southeast Asian (Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.), various African (North, West and East, especially) and “Diasporan” (Islam in Europe and North America) zones. Of course, the differences within the Islamic fold over time are also important to note.
The unity of the early Islamic community, or ummah, quickly degenerated into political power struggles that resulted in the split between the Sunni and Shi'i branches, and the latter in particular further split along lines based on which descendant of Ali (Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law) would return at the end of time as the Imam Mahdi—thus Fivers (Zaydis), Seveners (Isma’ilis) and Twelvers (the majority in Iran and Iraq today). The Sunnis, too, had and have their differences, most notably today—as Mr. Haidon and Mr. Ghouse note—that between the Wahhabis and other, less fundamentalist Sunnis.
One theological strain that must be mentioned is Sufism, Islamic mysticism which in earlier periods of Islam could be either Shi'i or Sunni but has for the most part today been subsumed under the latter. Sufi orders have been historically, normally, more inclusivistic that most Muslim groups; however, some of the most violent revolutions in Islamic history have been led, and manned, by Sufis (such as those of Usman don Fodio in west Africa in the late 18th/early 19th century, the Sanusis of Libya and the Mahdists of Sudan in the 19th century, for example).
Islam also, over time, differentiated into dozens of often-warring polities, such as the Abbasids v. the Fatimids in the Middle Ages, or the Ottomans v. the Safavids in the early modern period. Note, too, that in each of these struggles the former state was Sunni while the latter was Shi'i—which demolishes Mr. Ghouse’s allegation that the “Shia Sunni debate…hitherto remained in the realm of discussion.” Sunnis and Shi'is did not start killing each other when George Bush sent the U.S. military into Iraq. The same can be said of Mr. Ghouse’s ahistorical claim that “in Sunni traditions very few Muslims show any disrespect towards the other.” The Ottomans conquered their fellow Sunni Mamluks of Egypt in 1517—rather disrespectful, it seems to me; and the Sunni al-Muwahhids conquered the Sunni al-Murabits in Morocco and the Maghrib in the 12th c. CE—again, not exactly manifesting Muslim brotherhood.
And this brings me to the sense in which Islam can be said to be one: at the level of certain doctrines which continually are reified in Islamic history. At a minimum, of course, belief that God spoke to Muhammad as the final prophet to humanity, and that these revelations were later collected into the Qur’an, is something that unites all Muslims. Ditto for the other four pillars of Islam (prayer five times daily; tithing; fasting during Ramadan; and the hajj). But I speak of a constant in Islamic history, one that mystics and generals both have agreed on the importance of, and one that has, for some very influential Islamic thinkers over the years, been ranked as the sixth pillar of Islam: jihad.
Mr. Ghouse and Mr. Haidon will no doubt pull out of the quiver the argument that “jihad means being a good Muslim” but—as Mr. Spencer will no doubt argue better than me—that mainly Sufi understanding of jihad is based on a spurious hadith, or tradition, attributed to Muhammad. Any examination of Islamic over the course of 1,400 years will show that jihad-as-conquest is the normative meaning and is, I would argue, perhaps the most defining feature of Islam going back to the time of Muhammad. The Bin Ladins of the world did not create violent jihad ex nihilo. And even moderate Islamic polities such as the Ottoman Empire declared, and waged, violent jihad against (mainly Christian) states—as recently as World War I!
Until Islam can divest itself of the proclivity to violence, originating in the Qur’an itself and the activities of its founder—then all the appeals to, and claims of, “progressive” Islam will remain vacuous.
Haidon: I am in agreement with Mr. Spencer, who further illustrated the point of the susceptibility of cultural Islam to succumb to puritanical Islam. Why does puritanical Islam appear to be winning out, and why has this been the case for almost the duration of Islam's existence?
Puritanical Islam holds support from the full range of recognised Islamic schools of thought and foundational scholars. Pluralistic Muslim practices are a reflection of cultural life in an eggshell existence, because there may be little basis for them according to the body of usul al fiqh that has been developed. Further, given that the exercise of itjihad is considered bid'a in the Arab Islamic establishment, tolerant cultural practices are not likely to be subsumed into the monolithic bod(ies) of Islam. There is no real divergence of views on this issue with Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer has written extensively in this area, and I will not dispute his position; in fact, I endorse it.
As a side note, I would caution my fellow panelists from over-emphasising the role of Wahabbism (which is a sub-sect of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence) as the source of Islam's problems. Islam's hermeneutical problems arise from all schools of Islamic thought and their respective bodies of jurisprudence which are remarkably consistent in areas such as jihad and huduud.
For progressive Islamic practices to be truly successful, and not just transient and capable of toppling, they must be justified by Al'Qur'an and usul al'fiqh. There must be an intellectual and hermenueutical basis for their existence; legal arguments to justify their presence. For this process to begin, there needs to be high level and grass roots conversations about these practices within Islamic societies.
While I agree with some of Mr. Ghouse's sentiments and views, particularly in relation to highlighting how some Islamic scholars malign the Qur'an, I would have to disagree with my Muslim brother on a couple of points. Like the other co-panelists, I am uneasy about Mr. Ghouse's burqa/miniskirt comparison. The burqa is a tool of oppression and to compare its usage to that of a miniskirt in the Western context is misguided. Mr. Ghouse appears to assume that there is an equal level of choice involved, which there is not.
Similarly I find I think Mr. Ghouse's attempt to somehow compare the United States failure to elect a woman president and the situations of India, Bangaldesh and Pakistan where women have held highest office as misleading and unhelpful. The election of women leaders in these countries has more to do with the modalities and machinery of parliamentary democracy, where voters vote directly for political parties as opposed to candidates than it does with Muslim modernity and progressive thinking. As Mr. Ghouse is aptly aware, women are denigrated in the worst of ways in these particular countries. The positition of women as leaders are anomalies only and should not be seen to reflect Islamic tolerance.
Mr. Raddatz makes some interesting remarks, which I generally agree with. He makes normative observations about cultural practices and their relation to Islam that I accept. Mr. Raddatz's observation that decades of interpretation, dialogue and herneneutics have only exacerbated problems between the West and Islam and has led partially to Western capitulation to the Islamist lobby. There has never been an open, concerted effort by Western governments to challenge Muslims to reform, to the contrary. Yes, reform in Islam must be methodical, systemic and incremental. But before we can even begin discussing reform or the integration of cultural practices as a way forward, Muslims have to recognise that there are problems and a justification for reform. To date there have been no concerted global efforts at this by Muslims. There cannot be effective inter-faith dialogue without intra-faith dialogue that explores these issues within Islam.
Dr. Furnish should not attempt to put words into other people’s mouths, and he is not in a position to speak for myself or for Mr. Ghouse. I do not believe that engaging in jihad makes one a good Muslim. To the contrary, Muslims have been conditioned to see jihad as an aggressive offensive tool which seeks to subjugate, as opposed to defend and seek justice. Until Muslims develop a vision of jihad that is consistent with modernity and international human rights law (perhaps akin to the legal doctrine of humanitarian intervention), jihad as a practice and a tool should be curbed by all means.
I support Dr. Furnish's points with respect to Sufism, that while it appears to be tolerant and pluralistic in many respects, it has also promoted jihad and violence as a means of propagation; not merely for self-defence and the pursuit of justice. Dr. Furrnish's final point about what is required for a progressive Islam to truly take its place is correct and I support it.
Spencer: Mr. Ghouse criticizes a Saudi translation of the Qur’an for adding negative mention of Christians and Jews into parenthetical glosses on the Fatiha, the first sura of the Qur’an. He suggests that in “pluralistic societies like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Turkey” this interpretation is unknown. However, Mr. Ghouse does not mention the fact that this interpretation of the Fatiha is mainstream in Islam. The classic Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that “the two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.”
Ibn Kathir’s understanding of this passage is not a lone “extremist” interpretation. In fact, most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. This is the view of Tabari, Zamakhshari, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Arabi, as well as Ibn Kathir. One contrasting, but not majority view, is that of Nisaburi, who says that “those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the people of negligence, and those who have gone astray are the people of immoderation.”
What’s more, the ideas that the Jews have earned Allah’s anger and the Christians have gone astray can be found elsewhere in the Qur’an, Wahhabi glosses aside. Ibn Kathir notes that in Qur’an 5:60 the Sabbath-breaking Jews are referred to as “those who incurred the curse of Allah,” and 5:77, in the context of scolding Christians for deifying Christ, characterizes them as those who “misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even way.”
These passages and others that are abusive toward Jews and Christians and proclaim that they are under Allah’s curse (cf. Qur’an ) are, unfortunately, in the Qur’ans that Muslims read in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Turkey. While there is no doubt that the expression of Islam in those countries and others has been less virulent than it has been in, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran, I respectfully ask that Mr. Ghouse not patronize us by suggesting that this is because material in the Qur’an that incites Muslims to hateful intolerance of non-Muslims has been inserted into the book by Wahhabis. I would ask the same thing of him in regard to my points about Arab and non-Arab Muslims. Bringing up Muhammad’s exhortations to his daughter tells us absolutely nothing about the existence of the Shu’ubites, or the conditions that led to their creation as a party within Islam.
I applaud Mr. Haidon’s honesty in acknowledging that “Muslims have been conditioned to see jihad as an aggressive offensive tool which seeks to subjugate,” and enthusiastically agree with him that “until Muslims develop a vision of jihad that is consistent with modernity and international human rights law (perhaps akin to the legal doctrine of humanitarian intervention), jihad as a practice and a tool should be curbed by all means.”
Ghouse: “Should a woman have the right to decide whether she wants to veil or not veil without having to fear getting shot to death or facing some other persecution?” The Answer is most certainly yes, a woman should have the right to decide whether she wants to veil or not. Undoubtedly, there are social and family pressures for conformity in many Muslim communities -- more than their religious needs. Women, regardless of their faith have endured oppression in the hands of men. The world community needs to continue working for the emancipation of women, we are behind, I mean, men of all socieities need to understand full value of the woman individual.
Mr. Raddatz notes that “The dominant tendency of Islamic contingency points rather towards "harsher rules" than "tolerant practices". Whenever the latter occur - like the common prayers of men and women in Indonesia - they remain rare”. I agree with the note and further add that the later practice is gaining momentum. The societies are at different milestones, the remotest societies are about 100 years behind us in terms of human rights, and we have made a tremendous progress in terms of human rights and women’s emancipation in the last 50 years. None of the societies are fully emancipated, though we are all on the trajectory.
On the burqa/mini-skirt issue, it seems that my comment has been misunderstood. In that comparison, I was trying to emphasize that the definition or standard of modesty varies from culture to culture. However, that example did not have anything to do with the women’s volition issue. That observance of dress codes, to a great extent, has to be a matter of personal volition. To me as a Muslim, it can’t be any other way. However, as in so many cases, Muslims have to contend with totally conflicting situations. The levels of emancipation of women in different communities vary, but certainly it is moving forward towards a just society.
While many Muslims are trying to emphasize the volitional issue in the Muslim world, the same Muslims are also confronted with the bigotry and double standard of the same societies sermonizing about freedom and volition that they won’t let women wear Islamic dresses (excepting niqab or face-covering) as they want. Even the same pundits and advocates who get animated about the imposition of dress code of women have no problem of secular democracies, such as France, imposing dress code (that is, Muslim women can’t wear as they like). We need to have a principled stand. Many Muslims like us are trying to approach such issues from women’s volitional perspective. However, such principled stance requires that as we uphold women’s volition in wearing if they don’t want to wear a veil (headcovering), it is also important that we uphold the volition of those women who do want to.
My comment about women reaching leadership position in certain Muslim-majority countries may not be on the target, but what I was trying to say is that there are opportunities in the Muslim-majority countries to articulate a vision and foster a culture that accords women their due rights. This does not require bashing Islam. Ayesha, wife of the Prophet, was a religious scholar and jurist of her time. Women have participated in the battlefront in both support and combat role, of course, on a voluntary basis.
During the earliest period covering the Prophet and post-prophetic era, Muslim women used to engage in many income-earning professions. A woman was appointed as a market inspector in Madinah under 2nd Caliph Umar. All these were part of an evolving culture, in accordance with Islam, the progress of which was thwarted and even choked over time. Of course, it is the responsibility of Muslims to take up the challenge to cut through the socio-cultural taboos that have piled up over time and re-chart the future connecting with the Qur’anic values and the Prophetic legacy. We don’t ride on camels any more to show our affinity to the Prophet. Riding on a camel has nothing to with Islam. Similarly, the guidance of the Qur’an and the Prophetic legacy ushered in a new era in women’s empowerment. Within the essential guidance of the Qur’an and the Prophet, Muslims need to resume the task of women’s empowerment in the Muslim societies, a task the Prophet initiated.
Notably, the Muslim community in North America is moving forward in an exemplary fashion. The election of Dr. Ingrid Mattson as the first female president of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is indicative of those positive changes. This change did not cause a decline in the membership of ISNA. Rather, the entire ISNA community has welcomed it, and we haven’t seen any protest and complain about it from the rest of the broader Muslim community.
Lest we gloss over, it should also be noted that not everything in the West is to be taken as a model. Family as an institution is now more vulnerable than ever. Much of the tensions and alienation in a society has its root in dysfunctional family. We all need to benefit from our collective human experience.
In regard to Zilla Huma Usman, let me state unequivocally that as a Muslim and a human being I see it as a murder and there is no justification for it. I work with many Muslims with a pluralistic bent and I can say without reservation that I haven’t come across anyone who justifies or defends such killing.
If we take the religious labeling out and observe how humans behave we may find surprising commanalities in doing the right and the wrong things. There have been reports of rape in subway trains, the passengers simply watch and do nothing about the disadvantaged, people also watch the murders and do nothing about it, and at the same time we always find a hero who speaks up and does her or his part against the injustice. We need to subject every one to the same principle and logic as we do with Muslims, then some of the unjust criticism has to be done with.
We must have a principled approach in this regard. In 1971, our government ended up providing political, diplomatic and, yes, military support too to the genocidal army of Pakistan. Where were our conscientious voices in support of women, when such gendercide was taking place in then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)? Please refer to the chapter on Bangladesh in Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. When the U.S. Consul General Archer Blood in Dhaka sent a telegram (known as Blood Telegram) informing Washington that genocide is underway and urged urgent intervention, he was summarily transferred away from Dhaka.
Muslims are constantly being asked to condemn this or condemn that, and in many cases, condemnation is our moral obligation. However, do we not have some common problems in which we all are entangled and have common interests in approaching these issues in a principled-manner? We ourselves patronize, endear and defend (militarily) barbaric autocracies like that of Saudi monarchy with close tie to puritanical Wahabism, and then many rotten things that we see happening from that Kingdom, Muslims are held responsible for condemning the Wahabism.
I do appreciate Mr. Spencer’s acknowledgement “While there is no doubt that the expression of Islam in those countries and others has been less virulent than it has been in, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran,”
Mr. Spencer is not a fan of Wahabism or Saudi Arabia, and I am not either. However, instead of asking me or others like me to condemn all that is rotten, why don’t we come together to condemn such autocratic monarchies with puritanical-cum-fanatical religious connections on the one hand, and also condemn those powers that patronize or protect such undemocratic entities on the other?
Mr. Raddatz may have the reason to believe that all people behave the same way, “As hardly any Muslim denies, this rule set contains also the legitimization of internal violence against women and dissidents as well as the right to external deception and violence towards unbelievers, especially Western influence.” This is way too general and vague, and a few will buy this, but most will reject this characterization.
Raddatz asks, “…what kind of change we are talking about.” Clearly the “incremental changes” as Mr. Haidon puts it. No society or culture has had a dramatic change in values and practices. Except some historical and trailblazing aspects, most changes occur gradually and far-reaching ideas usually take time to gain wider acceptance. Change is the most difficult thing for the masses and at times for individuals. We have to go from familiar turf to the new one in a gradual fashion. None of us, who speaks about freedom, ought to entertain the thoughts of imposing our ideas onto others in a rush.
Mr. Haidon’s comment, “There has never been an open, concerted effort by Western governments to challenge Muslims to reform, to the contrary. Yes, reform in Islam must be methodical, systemic and incremental.” While agreeing with the 2nd part of the statement, I would not pass the responsibility to any one, reform is in our interest, indeed, and in this case, reform means correcting ourselves to what was meant in Qur’an and the authentic Hadith in the light of creating a just society.
In Muslim societies a few of our practices are not in tune with the Qur’an, like; divorce, wife beating, Jihaad and pluralism to name a few. And these issues are being tackled now with a strong commitment. Mr. Haidon has expressed it well. “There cannot be effective inter-faith dialogue without intra-faith dialogue that explores these issues within Islam.”
And I have emphasized a similar thought to the Muslim Organizations that I work with, “For progressive Islamic practices to be truly successful, and not just transient and capable of toppling, they must be justified by Al'Qur'an and usul al'fiqh.” We have to tread from familiar territory to have acceptance and one of the flaws of many a progressive organization is that they are not on the familiar grounds.
I agree with Mr. Spencer when he says “In fact, most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. This is the view of Tabari, Zamakhshari, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Arabi, as well as Ibn Kathir. One contrasting, but not majority view, is that of Nisaburi, who says that “those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the people of negligence, and those who have gone astray are the people of immoderation.”
No doubt, this view has existed, but the majority of Muslims really did not believe in it as it did not translate into major warfare and subjugation of people, any more than the wars and destruction in Europe and elsewhere. It was the politics of the people in government, most of whom through out the world, with the exception of United States and Canada, were dictators and kings who fought the wars for their power rather than religion or the people.
Spencer “Bringing up Muhammad’s exhortations to his daughter tells us absolutely nothing...” Well, Mr. Spencer, it does speaks capaciously about individual responsibility, it was in response to your comment that the Pakistanis aspire to claim in the family tree of Prophet Mohammad or Arabs that I wrote. When he told his own daughter that she has to earn her righteous place through her good deeds, and that she will not get a free pass because she is his daughter speaks volumes about taking individual responsibility for one’s behavior and negating the hereditary nobility and bringing every one par as the Qur’an says “The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct”.
I am glad Mr. Spencer finds agreement with the statement of Mr. Haidon “until Muslims develop a vision of jihad that is consistent with modernity and international human rights law (perhaps akin to the legal doctrine of humanitarian intervention), jihad as a practice and a tool should be curbed by all means.”
Mr. Haidon reflects the attitudes among Muslims today “To the contrary, Muslims have been conditioned to see jihad as an aggressive offensive tool which seeks to subjugate, as opposed to defend and seek justice.” And it has got to change.
It is unfortunate that the word Jihad has taken the meaning of holy war against infidels. This understanding of Jihad was further crystallized as an outcome against the crusades and has stuck with the Muslim psyche till recently. It did not have any more steam in it and had stayed dormant for a long time; the words started playing the games again from the early 50’s as a political tool to galvanize the masses to protect the kingdoms in the name of religion.
The tragic 9/11 was a wake up call to Muslims around the world. They felt a sense of betrayal to learn that the aggression part of Jihad was not in their religion, but was developed as a political tool, just as much as the crusades, inquisitions were political tools using religion to consolidate the hold of Kings over their people.
Jihad is an Arabic word meaning a struggle or an effort in the fulfilling of the commandments of God in order to become a better human being. The war is not holy and there is nothing in the Qur’an to aggressively go after any one, unless you’re defending against an aggression. Even then, there is a command that says, if the aggressor has stopped the aggression, you need to stop as well.
It is most certainly a duty of all human beings to help each other against oppression and injustice. This is what Islam teaches. (Power point on Jihad at www.worldMuslimCongress.com )
Therefore, Islam has laid out clear rules and regulations for Muslims to follow in the event of war, which is only used as a last resort. Qur’an, Surah 2:190-194 “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors.” And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.
It is time to wake up and see the changes that are evolving, Mr. Raddatz’s statement would have been valid a decade ago “Currently there is certainly little room for change on the Islamic side if "consistency of belief" prevails in politics, the "volition of women" is rigorously dictated by men..” and “the outlook for a constructive solution for co-existence in a civil society must stay quite obscure. Insofar the cultural multitude aspect has not contributed any feasible development.”
The changes that have missed the radar of many a people in the writing business are:
 Human rights issues. Muslims are seeking an understanding if the just values of Qur’an are reflected in Socio-political Sharia Laws, Muslims are relentlessly pursuing to understand the wisdom of Sharia laws and the intensity of the pursuit is refreshing. The political Apostasy laws are losing ground to Qur’anic understanding of no compulsion in religion led by several scholars.
 Emancipation of Muslim women’s rights. Never in the history of Muslims has the pursuit of this been so strong. Muslims women having their own Personal Law board in India, Women Mayors around the Subcontinent, Women’s seminary in Morocco, Women speaking up in Indonesia against terrorism, Women’s heading major Muslim Organizations, Nobel Prize winners, An Iranian American Muslim women going into space, Air Force Pilots in Pakistan, Sania Mirza in international tennis, and all the way to paving the way to Women’s only Mosques in India, equal space for women and even Women lead Friday Congregational prayers in Canada and the United States. Not all these are without controversy, of course. But the Muslim community is moving forward through a more encompassing discourse. Muslims are even trying to make case for taking non-Muslims into consideration as stakeholders in Islamic discourse. See “Apostasy and Reform in Islam.”
The major change that is taking root, which Mr. Spencer keeps hammering at is the verse about wife beating. This verse has been mis-understood for a long time. Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar has just written about, and Dr. Abusulayman and Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq have also written about it and can be found at: www.WorldMuslimCongress.blogspot.com
The word "Idribuhunna" is usually translated as "beat them" in Sura . This word with the root "Dharaba" has a very long list of meanings. The word is used in Qur’aan in 10 different ways – for example the meaning “to beat” is used 2 times, “to strike” is used 9 times and “to give” is used 17 times. Most Muslims are finding the new interpretation more congruent with the overall spirit and perspective of the Qur’an and these works are circulating rapidly.
 Co-existence – There is plethora of organizations emerging on the principles of Co-existence, certainly not enough, but considering the birthing that has begun in 2001, the growth is impressive. I am a member of a few organizations that espouse those Qur’anic values of Pluralism. In fact Our Mission is driven by the Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: “O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware.” And our Mission is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. We cannot have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it.
The first step to peace on earth is to rejuvenate the United Nations, where all of us need to join together to create a Just World. All aggression ought to be fought jointly and justly by the entire community of Nations. For short term gains, the big nations have acted un-justly, each one has taken their turn to be wrong, this has got to go. The big brothers have to demonstrate a sense of justice and fairness in dealing with different nations, when there is justice, peace is bound to come.
FP: Mr. Ghouse, I am not so sure how a few words of lip service regarding how the world must stand up for women’s rights deals with the problem of gender apartheid under Islam in any real way, nor how it deals with the problem that such apartheid has its roots in the teaching of the Qur’an.
In terms of forced veiling, I am not so sure what you mean when you say that “The levels of emancipation of women in different communities vary, but certainly it is moving forward towards a just society.” If you are saying that there is a progressive movement in Islamic communities toward free choice regarding wearing the veil, this is news to me. The pressures are moving in the completely opposite direction, and surely you are aware of what is happening to unveiled women in Iraq and even in certain areas of France, where non-Muslim women veil themselves in terror of physical punishment from Muslims. The tragedy of Zilla Huma Usman represents this phenomenon well.
Peter Raddatz, your turn sir.
Raddatz: We all know how difficult it is to realize democratic measures in an Islamic society. Therefore, in terms of Mr. Ghouse’s assertions, it would be much more helpful to skip assertions that are obviously too palliative, be it the "just society", the position of women, the question of apostasy, or the general "wisdom" of Sharia laws as such. Moreover, I wonder how one can be sure about any statement to be 10 years out of date while on the other hand, as he rightly says, the harmonization of different concepts in civil society and Islam necessarily take a vastly elongated period of time, impossible to define.
Likewise we should not bewilder our readers by an allegedly "long list of meanings" of the word "daraba" = to beat. If Mr. Spencer is blamed for insisting on this meaning in the framework of Qur’an 4/34: "...beat them" (the women), this reproach certainly cannot be supported by the established variants of the Arabic language. "Daraba" simply means "to beat" - full stop. If you want another meaning like - for instance - to play (an instrument), to write (on a typing machine), to calculate, to avert, to separate, to delete, you would have to combine each of it with a pertaining conjunction, the Qur’anic text does not offer, however.
So dozens of famous traditionists and Qur’an exegetes over dozens of generations of the Islamic history have based, correspondingly, on this one single meaning - "to beat". This may be regarded as only one small but typical and not unimportant example of what makes the contemporary, orthodox Islam so predictable: the charismatic decision which goes usually in favour of Shariatic rules whenever the actual power practice is concerned. Insofar Mr. Haidon's statements on law hermeneutics may be confirmed and Mr. Furnish's on the Islamic "multitude" relativated a bit, for the same reason.
Last but not least, Mr. Ghouse's view of the role of the United Nations seems particularly obscure. I think our round has deserved better than generally blaming the UN for "short term gains", acting "unjustly" and so on. If you take a closer look at the UN history as from the early 1970s you may register a slowly but surely rising influence of Islamic, especially Arab countries may confirm the theory of "one Islam" from a somewhat unexpected point of view.
I may recommend to read Pedro Sanjuan's book on "The UN Gang" where he describes the genesis of an extremely anti-Semitic Arab state mafia blackmailing the "international community" to spend an enormous portion of its time on Israel and to vote for "just decisions" against the "terror state". Pretending to be a "secular institution", the UN administration offers a prayer facility to the believers in Islam - as the only religion. Already in 1974, against all written and unwritten rules, the UN gave standing ovations to Yassir Arafat, having spoken, armed with a Smith & Wesson revolver. So far for "unjust treatment" of Islamic and/or Palestinian interests in the UN.
Furnish: Mr. Haidon’s warning about “over-emphasising the role of Wahhabism” is well-taken, and I think I have been careful about not doing so. Wahhabi Islam has only existed for two centuries, and the martial trends of Islam long pre-date it. I do find it interesting that he also cautions me about “put[ing] words in other people’s mouths”—when I predicted that he and Mr. Ghouse would argue that “jihad means being a good Muslim,” and not expanding the Dar al-Islam at the expense of the rest of us—but then Mr. Ghouse, at any rate, proceeds to say exactly what I predicted: that after 9/11 Muslims “felt a sense of betrayal to learn that the aggression part of jihad was not in their religion, but was developed as a political tool, just as much as the crusades,” and that “it is unfortunate that the word Jihad has taken the meaning of holy war against the infidels.”
Indeed, it is unfortunate: but the word has meant that going back to Muhammad’s time, and Mr. Ghouse is woefully ignorant of Islamic history when he states that jihad as holy war “crystallized as an outcome against the crusades.” Please. In this ahistorical view, Islamic rule was spread from the border of France to the Indus River in a little over a century by what—handing out brochures? Note that I am not saying Islam spread only by the sword; there were peaceful da'is, or “missionaries,” especially among the Sufi orders. And Islam also spread across the Sahara, and the Indian Ocean, via traders on camels and ships. But it takes a massive ignorance, or misrepresentation, of history to argue with a straight face that jihad—bringing the non-Muslim Dar al-Harb under the political sway of the Dar al-Islam—had nothing to do with the spread of Islam as a religion and a civilization.
I find it also extremely disingenuous for Mr. Ghouse to maintain that “wife-beating “is “not in tune with the Qur’an.” Perhaps this is a conscious echo of Laleh Bakhtiar’s new “exegesis” of the Qur’an, most notable in her rendering of Surah Nisa’ :34. For 1,400 years that passage has been understood thus: “As for those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct: admonish them, refuse to share their beds and beat them.” Bakhtiar’s new version has it that the verbal form idrabuhunna does not mean “beat them” but, rather, “send them away.” I’m a historian who reads Arabic, not an expert in pre-modern Arabic, but for the verb daraba to mean “send them away” or “shun them,” there must be a preposition after the verb—which is not the case in the Qur’anic text—as Professor Raddatz observes correctly.
In any event, I truly hope that Bakhtiar’s “progressive” view of that passage takes hold in the Islamic world; but in the meantime it is just, well, silly to maintain that that passage has meant, for most Muslims over the last 14 centuries, something other than what the plain text says. Likewise, I hope that the world’s Muslims eventually do come to see jihad as something other than holy war against Jews and Christians. But in the interim it does no one, Muslim or non-Muslim, any favor to deny how such terms have historically been understood, articulated and realized.
Mr. Ghouse’s appeals for “co-existence” are admirable but, as Mr. Glazov pointed out, amount to little more than lip service. Before embarking on grandiose schemes to “rejuvenate” the United Nations, what say we start smaller—like, for example, pressuring the Sa'udis to allow even one church or—God forbid—synagogue in the Kingdom? Muslims are free to worship and build mosques in every Western nation, but Christians in particular are forbidden the same rights in many Muslim nations. Again, one might argue that that is because of the influence of the Wahhabis and their like-minded brethren in, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood. But the calls for “justice and equity to attain peace for humankind” ring rather hollow when non-Muslims are second-class citizens in many majority-Muslim nations.
FP: Mike Ghouse, Thomas Haidon, Dr. Hans-Peter Raddatz, Robert Spencer and Timothy Furnish, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.
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