If it is it doesn't matter

Friday, March 03, 2006

Changing my mind

I will not be posting the next part of my discussion on Islam until the begining of next week, at the earliest. I want to widen the topics on this blog, get back to politics, cats, tv, even mystery stories. (I may either copy or link to a discussion I am having with the Egyptian blogger, Tomanbay,
http://tomanbay.blogspot.com/ -- sorry, but my dashboard is not putting up links properly)
about a mufti who he sees as a possible voice for reason, but who I have my doubts about. (The discussion is already getting lively with a third party entering into the fray, so you might check it out.)

And much of what I have written and will be writing about is also covered on a VERY important website,
which is the home page of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society.

But this is NOT what i am changing my mind about, though the information on the website is quite important to my change. Two weeks ago, I would have stated that the idea of a "Reformed Islam" was a desireable theoretical possibility, but that I doubted it would be politically practical. There are many Muslims in the blogosphere -- as well as those on my old fourm -- who have discussed the idea. But I felt that the key was that they were not either in power or seeking power. I know of no Muslim country where there is a Reformist, Secularist movement that is actually contending with the government -- usually secular governments are battling hard-line Islamicizers and making concession after concession to defeat them, up to the point of some attempt at instuting a version of Sharia law. (Turkey, with its unique history and the legacy of Ataturk is something of an exception, but even there, religious parties are important players and have gotten their own concessions.)

I am afraid that, were any Reformist group to actually approach power, to begin to gain seats or to challenge for the presidency or prime ministership of a Muslim country, the hardliners would use every weapon, including violence and election fraud, to keep them out of power. (Were they to gain power, well, we have seen Muslim governments do their best to destabilize Muslim countries that they disapprove of.)

But after the events of the last two weeks, I have come to the conclusion that a "Reform Islam" is no longer even a theoretical possibility. (The key events were the events in Iraq and the declaration signed by Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and ten other intellectuals who were raised Muslim. If you are unaware of this, I'll refer you to Tomanbay again, since he was the first person to mention this.

The complete list of signers is:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq

I decided to Google each of them and read more about them, except for Hirsi Ali who I have already discussed here. The comments I read, and the quotes from their works convinced me that Islam is not reformable.

Let me give an analogy. I had an old computer before I got my present one last year. It was so old that it had an original Pentium chip, and that had been new when I bought it. My wife asked if we couldn't just 'fix it up,' rather than replace it.

I explained that to 'fix it up' I'd have to replace the CPU. I'd have to change the motherboard, or I couldn't install the new CPU. I'd have to change the video card and have more video memory, and probably the sound card as well. I'd have to add about 20 times the RAM and replace the hard drive with one that was at least 40 times as big. And I'd have to change the modem, which was 28.8 kps. I might even have to change the cooling system because of the new CPU. In other words, to 'fix it up,' I'd be left with nothing but the case and maybe the speakers, and the case wasn't in great shape either.

Sadly, that is a good analogy for Islam. I am afraid that there is too much wrong with it for a reform movement to succeed, that the changes would simply leave 'nothing but the case.' Now certainly there are other religions which have the same problems as Islam. Mormonism, Christian Science, the Jehovah's Witnesses come to mind. BUT THEY DON"T CONTROL COUNTRIES, and they don't attempt to use blackmail and violence to win acceptance for their own beliefs. (And they don't consider 'apostasy' punishable by death.)

Were Islam, at least in the West, able to accept Western values and liberties (including the liberty any Westerner has to leave the religion he was brought up in), were there no attempts to acquire special treatment for their communities, were there none of the horrors of forced and kidnapped marriages, compulsory veiling, even honor killings in the West, were there not attempts to establish Sharia law in Western societies, were there not violent attacks in the West, I might, regretfully, argue that Islamic countries had the right to establish their own systems, that Muslims had the right to their own beliefs, and to hope for the eventual triumph of reason and rationality. (Though I'd also want the West to offer asylum easily to those who were fleeing Islamic societies.)

Sadly, I am afraid that this is not going to happen, and the possible consequences scare me, which has been the point of this entire discussion of Islam.


Blogger jami said...

I think you just love to talk about Islam. Dont you have any other topic or religion to dicuss?

3:59 AM  
Blogger Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

If you had checked my archives, you'd find that I have discussed other topics here. My next post will be a continuation of a series on my cats. I discussed DR. WHO coming to America and I will be continuing that after March 17th, when I see the first episodes. I will be going back to my discussion on Democratic politics as well. And you might read my post on the Iraq war, a topic which does not -- in my mind -- involve Islam at all. And I'm sure I'll be posting comments on baseball once the season starts.

But, ever since I wandered into a forum that was 99% Pakistani to discuss Pakistani music and found myself discussing other topics, I DO find myself discussing Islam a lot. (This series of posts IS a series, and I hope to continue it, even though it is getting even longer than I had expected.)

I don't apologize for that. Many of the most important news stories, and the ones that caught my attention, have involved the question of the relationship between Islam and the West. Mukhtar Mai, honor killings, the Indonesian beheadings, the cartoons, the Dubai port deal, the manifesto, the explosions in Iraq, these are the topics that have engaged me because they involve important questions that may, in fact, shape the future of the world, the extent of freedoms, etc. (I could talk about Catholicism and Pope Benedict, sure, but he is hardly that relevant to the world at large. I could be discussing questions involving gay rights, and probably will, but they don't affect nearly as many people as discussion of women's rights in Islam. etc.)

And I find myself commenting so much on other blogs that I forget to post in my own, so what brings me back in the series.

Sorry, but not VERY sorry, if you find the discussion too one-topiced.


12:05 PM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

hello mr. benton, thanks for stopping by my site.

I have read the news of the coptic guy who supposedly got caught for eating danish cheese :S from BP's source. And i have heard the interview too.

Like BP, I believe I have to doubt such a site, because such sites offered many many false stories before . However, I do not leave off the possibility that such an incident happend. Simply because police here ready to assault anyone at anytime, with no regard to what their religion is. My post answers it. The police in Egypt's Southern Valley University hold muslim students for backing up the danish boycott, beat them severly and release them without charge. And that story on BP's says about a coptic christian being arrested for eating danish cheese. If this tells something, it tells about how the oppression done by the Egyptian police never discriminates between a muslim and a christian, and ready to punish anyone for contradicting reasons as well.

THis is just the outcome of the unquestioned authority the egyptian police enjoys. All Egyptians ready at anytime to be a victim of a police man.

Great blog there, keep it up!


7:28 AM  

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