Response to Ali and LouLou
I got several important responses to my questions from both of you. Particularly here http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=22177206&postID=114314175910216253
I'd like to look a little closer at what each of you said here, and then maybe take another post to respond to your other comments.
Ali, your comments are interesting and important, but not fully responsive. While I did mention the problem with civil authorities moving against 'barbarous practices' my complaint was far more that Islam has not succeeded, or attempted, to extirpate them in the process of Islamizing a society. Here, i will use a comparison to Christianity. Christianity has shown itself remarkably flexible and able to absorb certain types of local customs and to "Christianize them." (Christmas, for example, local pagan heroes turned into Christian saints, and many other examples.) But I can think of very few places where they would permit a newly Christianized pagan society to retain 'local customs' that were, in Christian eyes, immoral and against the basic principles of Christianity. To take an extreme example, certainly no society would have been permitted to maintain human -- or even animal -- sacrifices. Some people would argue that Christianity was too strict in abolishing pagan customs of dress, of sexuality, the classic picture of the tribe dressing in muumuus instead of, as previous, having little shame about their bodies. Yet Islam, despite a tendency in many places to extirpate a culture's preIslamic history, has never attempted to proclaim such practices as haram. Pork is haram, alcohol is eliminated (supposedly), but honor killings are not, and in fact, as I pointed out, actions like these, like female genital mutilation, like slavery, like forced marriages, like the idea that being raped is shameful, are in fact, protected by the clerics. (Some civil authorities HAVE attempted to wipe them out, but over the stong and usually successful opposition of Islam as expressed by the local clerics.)
Why has Islam, in this and so many ways, simply failed to 'make men better'? Christianity, with all its faults HAS done this in many ways. Few of us would enjoy living in a true pagan or barbarian society -- despite the occasional romantic fictions about such places.
Loulou, you make much the same case, with a number of interesting additions. (Btw, I was under the impression that the 'millet' system referred to groups of 'people of the book' such as Christians and Jews who were allowed to exist as separate societies within Islam -- provided they paid the requisite tax -- and not to tribal or ethnic groupings.)
You make a number of othe rimportant comments, but those will have to wait until (hopefully) tomorrow to discuss, since it is getting late, I lose an hour to daylight savings, and i'm losing coherence as well.