Thursday, June 23, 2005
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So how is moderate Islam doing?
Two years ago, then-Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed gave a controversial talk at the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The gist of it was, "We Muslims must embrace modernization -- so we can crush the Jews."
Two years later, current Malaysian PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is preaching the first, less offensive part of that message. The New York Times' Wayne Arnold explains:
Whether Abdullah is a Nixon going to China or a Mahathir in sheep's clothing is a question I will leave to the comments.... once they've digested those inelegant metaphors.posted by Dan on 06.23.05 at 05:41 AM
While Abdulla is far more polished than Mahathir, his other views & statements, made in Malaysia, show that he is no different.posted by: NYgirl on 06.23.05 at 05:41 AM [permalink]
A lot of Mahathir's posturing was for local consumption -- typical behavior for leaders of smaller counties: When you're in trouble at home, bash the USA. (Our State Department should work actively to discourage this, but that's OT.) And, since their independence from Britain in 1957, Malaysia has had a tradition of hanging on to their PMs a little too long. Mahathir was no exception.
Maybe the USA is interested in the issue of "moderate Islam," but as Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local." If Abdullah is taking a more moderate line, it's because he thinks a more moderate line will sell at home. The Malay (Muslim) moderates are city dwellers; and Kuala Lumpur is becoming a more sophisticated urban area, and more populous, each year. This has to be a primary motivator for the new PM.posted by: Scott Ferguson on 06.23.05 at 05:41 AM [permalink]
As long as the focus of Islamic countries is the defense of Islam, Arab governments will exercise disproportionate influence in the Muslim world.
Anything that tends to focus the attention of these governments on other issues -- trade, economic development, the public health issues alluded to in Dan's last post, regional geopolitics -- will tend also to reduce the relevance of the keepers of the holy places, and should be welcomed even if it comes with a certain amount of distasteful baggage. To progress in these areas the United States can often make substantial contributions, while the Arab states have little to contribute at all.
We are always being accused of trying to "divide Muslims." We have every reason to try to do exactly that.posted by: Zathras on 06.23.05 at 05:41 AM [permalink]
And they are always accused of trying to divide the Christians. Which they do. Carry on Bulgeoning. We let us go forth, for the millionth time and crush the heretics who wrongly claim the legacy of Abraham.posted by: exclab on 06.23.05 at 05:41 AM [permalink]
Wonder what the Muslims will be up to once they crush the Jews? They've always had a jolly old time beating on each other when they weren't thinking about the Jews. Somehow they just seem to be about crushing someone else, which just doesn't jive with the "Islam is peace" idea.
You could say the same about christianity. Now there's a faith that has a long history of crushing other people.
Incidentally, the islamic-jewish conflict is a relatively modern development.posted by: peter on 06.23.05 at 05:41 AM [permalink]
Nice blog :)posted by: Joy on 06.23.05 at 05:41 AM [permalink]
In a related matter, Dan, how come no post on Iran ???
For our take on the matter, please check out:
"What’s the Matter with Khorasan? Iranians as Manipulated as Americans"
Thanksposted by: Grok Your World.com on 06.23.05 at 05:41 AM [permalink]
However, trying to encourage fighting between Islamic sects is not what we should be doing but rather simply fighting against Islamic extremists by supporting the Sufi sects that have a long history of practicing and encouraging peace and tolerance with non-Muslims and in general, practicing a much more authentic “Sunnah”. Through out Islamic history, Sufi’s have generally been the missionaries of the religion and very successful at it.
Their are some western academics who have claimed that Islam represents a vast conspiracy of global domination. As someone who has lived amongst Muslims I find that view extremely ignorant as the average devout Muslim does not care or think about global domination but rather in simply being a good Muslim by practicing the pillars of Islam, taking care of his/her family, and just trying to be a productive member of his/her community and a good citizen of their country.
However, there are indeed fanatics that do preach rhetoric of global domination and "crushing the Jews" but they are few and far between. But before going on, I must ask, did the ex-Malaysian PM Mahathir ever use the words "crush the Jews"? I do remember him making some rather stupid comments about Jews ruling the world and the need to fight against that, but I don't remember him calling for economic or military Jihad against them.
I have found that the most effective way to stop fanatics is to use their own religion against them. Most of their arguements are founded upon extremely poor Islamic theology and are very easy to counter. They follow a warped sense of "Sunnah" (following the example of the Prophet Mohammed) based on literal interpretation rather then instead following the traditional teachings of Sunnah that take into account that their prophet was special and that not all that he did was meant for others to also do.
Furthermore fanatics often grossly misinterpret classical Arabic of that time period in which meanings changed. An example is the word for friend. There is verse in the Qu'ran stating for Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as friends. But in fact the word for friends is more authentically translated as "teachers". This can be proven academically by using other Arabic texts from that time period in which the word is used as "teacher" according to its context (according to Islamic scholar David Dakake).
I highly recommend to those of you interested in this topic to first read Serge Trifkovic's book "Sword of the Prophet". It is a damning critique of Islam and is one of the few critiques that actually involves at least a little bit of actual scholarly research. Then however read "Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betryal of Tradition" edited by Joseph E. B. Lumbard. This is a compiliation of writings by Western Muslim scholars who are Muslim themselves and all of whom are highly educated in Islamic theology and history, as well as in secular fields of academia. In this book, they take apart bit by bit, the ideologies and interpretations of Islamic militants like Al-Qaeda as well as the arguments put forth by western critics like Trifkovic.
I think most will find that the last book offers much more in depth analysis and much more valid arguements to the accusations and fundamentalist interpretations that Trifkovic uses in his book.
At any rate, I highly recommend Lumbard's and Trifkovic's book as well as doing your own research into Islam and even more importantly, getting to know Muslims in your own communities. It’s as simple as stopping by your local mosque and just talking to people there. After awhile, you'll probably end up getting invited to someone's house for a Qu'ran study just as you would get invited to a bible study by hanging around a Baptist church for example as both religions are eager to convert people.
Finally, in conclusion… this whole area of fighting fundamentalism is I believe sorely lack in our War On Terror. If our government was to create a department designed to create Islamic based counter-propaganda to the massive amounts of Al-Qaeda propaganda on the internet, we would probably have MUCH more success in fighting terrorism. If there is one good thing about an Islamic religious fundamentalist, it is that if you can show them that their beliefs GO AGAINST their own religion conclusively and put them in danger of being a hypocrite, they generally WILL change their beliefs. Yemeni judge Hammoud Al-Hitar has reportedly been successful in reforming and releasing over 180 terrorists not directly linked to any violent crimes. To date, none have been re-arrested. Here is a link to a good article about him:
There are many more articles about him as well on the internet.posted by: Miles Teg on 06.23.05 at 05:41 AM [permalink]
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