If it is it doesn't matter

Monday, March 20, 2006

Questions for Moderate Muslims #2

I probably should have broken the previous into two posts. I'll probably have about three more areas to ask about here, and I'll make them into distinct posts -- and possibly intersperse some other topics (I finally saw the new DR. WHO and baseball season is starting very soon).

But this one will be on values.

3: What values, ethical or moral principles, philosophical ideas or other cause you to remain Muslims, rather than to either join another religion or to become 'secular good people'?

3a: In which cases do you consider Islamic values superior to Western ones on similar topics?

3b: In which cases do you consider Western values superior?

3c: How can those Western values you prefer be joined onto an Islam many of whose believers consider is unchangeable.

3d: Is Islam compatible with democracy and democratic values.

3e: If you feel it is, how do you answer an ultraconservative who argues as follows (referring to our ultraconservative "Islam Q&A")

"Question :
Is the one who fails to rule by that which Allaah has revealed and bases the entire legal system on man-made laws a kaafir? Should we differentiate between him and one who judges according to sharee’ah, but may rule in a manner contrary to sharee’ah on some issues, because of his own whims and desires or because of a bribe, etc.? Answer :
Praise be to Allaah.
Yes, we must make this distinction. The one who rejects the law of Allaah and casts it aside, and replaces it with man-made laws and the opinions of individuals has committed an act of kufr which puts him beyond the pale of Islam. Whereas the one who adheres to the religion of Islam, but is a sinner and wrongdoer by virtue of his following his whims and desires in some cases, or pursuing some worldly interest, but admits that he is a wrongdoer by doing so, is not guilty of kufr which would put him beyond the pale of Islam.
Whoever thinks that ruling by man-made laws is equal to ruling by sharee’ah, and thinks that it is OK to do that, is also guilty of kufr that puts him beyond the pale of Islam, even if it is only in one instance.
Shaykh ‘Abd-Allaah al-Ghunaymaan (www.islam-qa.com)

3f: Many of the tenets of Islam that I can wholeheartedly agree with, such as giving to the poor, the equality of all, etc. seem, in Islam, to be limited to believers. Can Islam extend those ideas to non-believers as well?

3g: Several places in the Qur'an assume the existence of slavery, particularly the enslavement of prisoners of war. (Thus the punishment for killing a believer accidentally is first to free a believing slave.) How do you reconcile or accept this?

And, as a bridge between this section and the next, many times when certain barbaric practises that occur only or principally in Muslim societies are brought up (honor killing, forced marraige, etc.) the response is that these are 'cultural survivals' in primitive societies. Yet these societies have been Muslim for centuries. Why has Islam not been able to extirpate this type of primitivism? And why, when civil authorities attempt to move against them, are they so frequently criticized by religious authorities? If Islam is an example of higher values, why does it not fight fiercely against believers whose societies accept such things?

(I have bnot said this, but in all these questions, please answer in re Islam, and do not respond with "Well, look at what Christians do." I am an atheist and could criticize Christianity, Judaism and other religions strongly as well, but I am attempting to discuss Islam here, not compare it.)

More later or tomorrow. the next section will be on Islam and Women.


Anonymous Ibn said...

Excellent post Purp,

I hope moderate Muslims, and even Mr A would come by and answer those questions.

I myself hail from a Muslim/Arab background, but I converted to athiesm a long time back. :)


10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I practice Islam, obey the law of the country I live in (UK), work (run a cafe), pay my taxes, haven't killed anyone (or broken any other laws for that matter), or threatenend anyone with death, nor have my family or friends. Basically, I'm no danger to anyone. Now, in light of all of the above, why do I have to answer to a set of inquisitorial questions and presuppositions put by you or anyone else? Which direction is this test headed in...to ascertain whether I have the 'correct' ideological views which therefore give me the right to live in the West? If I answer wrong (as in I'm a bit too theistic and traditionalist for your liking)...pack my bags and go back to whereverstan (even though I was born in London)?

8:46 AM  
Blogger Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

I am unsure why you bothered to check this out, or why you wrote this, not to mention the total confusion your comment causes.
"why do I have to answer to a set of inquisitorial questions and presuppositions put by you or anyone else?"
You don't. I am a blogger in Brooklyn who is trying to UNDERSTAND the ideas behind 'moderate Muslims,' as you would have known of you read other posts I have posted, including #1 in this series. You have chosen to remain anonymous, which is fine -- I've asked for people to sign their entries simply because I don't like referring to "Anonymous 8:46" and you could use any name you wanted. "Muslim in London." would have been fine.
The questions are not 'inquisitorial' but seeking information, and the only answers I ask anyone to give are what they happen to believe. Yes, they are challenging, because I believe that challenging questions get good answers.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Abdullah said...

Hello Jim,

Okay, my name's Abdullah and I'm the anonymous poster (apologies for not using my name, I didn't realise you don't want anonymous posts and fully respect your site policy). First off, I came to your little questionnaire via the comments box at Aqoul. I'll do a deal, you were asked by Matthew Hogan (in the Aqoul comment box)..."The point is -- and we are asking the questions here -- what is the political outcome of your viewpoint? Or is there one? (regarding your belief that Islam cannot be reformed, jihadists representing the quintessential essence of Islam etc)..." This is a pretty simple question. Answer that and I'll answer your series of questions. How do you want the reply? In essay form? There are quite a few questions and I'm not sure whether you want one-line answers or something a bit more in-depth.


12:05 PM  
Blogger Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Matthew Hogan suggested that the political outcome of my viewpoint was 'to invade the countries, kill the leaders, convert everyone to Christianity, and burn the Qur'an and Islamic literature.'

I'd hate this -- as I pointed out, I'm an atheist and an opponent of the Iraq war, and hate the thought of book-burning.

What continually scares me is that a somewhat lessened version of this MIGHT be the result if my view is true, and if Muslims continue to provoke people. In the last six months I have seen the Indonesian beheadings, the Pakistani Church massacre, the cartoon riots, Samara, and the Abdul Rahman case, just to mention the first that come to mind. (And I also discovered the Mukhtar Mai case.)

The question though, and the reason why I have asked these questions is "Is my viewpoint TRUE." I want to be convinced that it is not true, that there are a substantial number of Muslim moderates who actually have any sort of power, and who will act to stop the 'extremists.' I haven't seen this. I haven't seen any chance of Islam being reformed -- and am still not sure what is worth saving in it, but I keep hoping someone will tell me.

My hope, if my viewpoint is correct, is not this sort of major clash, which horrifies me, but that the result will be a massive exodus from islam, and a massive attempt by those who leave to convince the others they should as well. Maybe this is a ridiculously optomistic view, but it is the only hope I have.

If this is sufficient -- yes, I know it is confused, every day gives me more information which causes me to become more worried and shakes me -- and you want to answer the series of questions -- and there's a previous batch and will be more, I think I'd like it in essay form, but whatever you'd be comfortable with is okay. (If you want to e-mail it to me and have me reprint it, that would be fine, rather than use the comment box.)

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Abdullah said...

Okay Jim,

Some kind of essay it will be then. You'll have to give me about 2 weeks to do the thing...I have family and business commitments...plus it's been about five years since my undergrad and I want to write a 'proper' essay (university/scholarly type thing with footnotes and bibliography). I'll answer all your questions, even where I believe the specific question is fundamentally flawed (I'll nonetheless answer it and only afterwards argue why I thought your question was wrong). I must say, however, I do find the proposition of an atheist wanting to see if Islam is worth salvaging or not as somewhat strange. Surely, as an atheist you wouldn't want to salvage any systematic body of theistic thought? I'd have thought that (to borrow a phrase from Trotsky) you'd want to consign all religions to the "dustbin of history." Anyhow, I'll email you the essay (with which you can do whatever you like). Last but not least, you say that Muslims are provoking people. Yes that can't be denied (that SOME Muslims are provoking people...both non-Muslim and Muslim). What also can't be denied is that provocation is a two-way street. You say you opposed the Iraq War. Well who was provoking whom in that case? What did Iraq have to do with 9/11? Nothing in any way, shape or form (unless you believe the bullshit put out by the Bush administration regarding Iraq's WMDs and connections to Al-Qaida).

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Abdullah said...

One aside, specifically the Mukhtar Mai case. You'll be surprised to find out some of the details of this horrific case. Here are some links to this story. The first is from the Daily Times (a generally liberal Pakistani newspaper) http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2005%5C11%5C14%5Cstory_14-11-2005_pg3_3
The second is from the Chapati Mystery blog (dealing with all issues South Asian/Indian sub-continent): http://www.chapatimystery.com/archives/homistan/the_rosa_parks_effect.html

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Abdullah said...

the_rosa_parks_effect.html (you'll have to type in the link manually onto the address bar...can't seem to cut and paste it in one go)

4:32 PM  
Blogger Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Abdullah: (answering your posts out of order)

I was aware that Mukhtar Mai had given full credit to her local imam for supporting her, and this was mentioned in many reports. I was unaware of the part played by the Sharia court -- is this a special court or the name of the ordinary court of justice in Pakistan.

The second site makes several questionable assertions, most particularly the statement that 'honor killings' are not unique to Islamic socieites (and, I'll add, certain areas in India). There are examples of 'crimes of passion' where a husband kills a wife he believes is adulterous. No society, with the exception of the ones I mentioned, has 'honor killings' where a family member or a whole family acting in unison kills a daughter for dishonoring the family by having premarital sex or by marrying or living with a person of another religion or of 'improper status.' And no non-Islamic society I am aware of, in non-war situations, uses rape as a punishment, as was done with the Mukhtar Mai case -- and there the punishment was done to her because of the supposed actions of her brother. (In fact, the whole claim was to cover up the fact that the 13-year old brother had been raped by the members of the clan making the accusation.)

I made the 'war' exception not because i accept rape in wartime, but because there are societies that do practice it, most notoriously the Serbian.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

As for your other point, Abdullah, I am an atheist, but a tolerant one. Of course i believe that the world would be a saner place if all religions were abandoned tomorrow, but I am also realistic enough to know this will not happen. I also insist on people having the 'right to be wrong,' as far as their personal beliefs go.

Furthermore, I certainly accept that some religions have a substantial side on the 'positive' side of the scales, and honor the many good things that have been done in the name of Judaism and Christianity. (I would include Islam were i to, seriously, know what those positive factors were. I keep on asking people to tell me, and the only thing I get is 'well, Christians do bad things too.' Giving to charity and caring for the weak are something that appear in every religion, and other religions tend to spread this to all people, not just to co-religionists.)

But, and as I have said repeatedly, this is what i am hoping to be shown I am wrong about, the values of Islam are so much in conflict with those of the west that if Islam does not reform itself, I see a very dangerous and bloody confrontation that would, if necessary, hardly be desireable.

As for provoking, I do oppose the war. I do not accept the WMD or AlQaeda nonsense. But it is, I'm afraid, 'typical Islamic thinking' if this is seen as an attack on Islam, rather than on one country ruled by an extremely secular dictator.

But what I see happening in many cases, particularly in the Mukhtar Mai case, the cartoon crisis, and the Abdul Rahman abomination, and in many of the statements that keep appearing on Middle East media and are being highlighted by MEMRI, is that Islam is forcing people of Western values to take closer looks at Islam. And what is happening is that people (like myself a few months ago) who saw Islam as 'just another religion, not THAT much different from Judaism and Christianity,' are discovering HOW different Islam is, and are asking how it is possible for values this different to coexist.

9:02 PM  

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