There have been a number of responses to my post suggesting that
Islamic tradition, as opposed to the Koran (with which there is also considerable fault), is what has given the Islamic world five centuries of underachievement and brutality. It is something to be contextualised and reformed, not perpetuated with absolutist and fundamentalist fervour.They can all be read by following the above link. I'll try to respond to every point made by Ismaeel, while at the same time being as brief as I can.
I find this contradictory:
Mecca was not conquered by the sword, the people of Mecca surrendered the city to the Prophet (PBUH) and most of them became Muslims voluntarily despite being given a very long amnesty in which they were allowed to carry on with their pagan rituals. Yes those who were pagans had to eventually choose to leave or convert. That is because for 23 years they had been at the forefront of waging war upon the Muslims.They weren't conquered, they surrendered? I think you just dislike the sound of the word "conquered", while being unable to deny the military aspect of the occasion. By way of contrast, St Patrick landed in Britain without a sword, and converted people who were heavily armed. You know I'm not a cheerleader for Christianity, of course, I'm just pointing out the difference. Islam was spread by the sword, even in what is now Saudi Arabia. You acknowledge this in your next sentence, with the word "war":
They however lost the war and they were treated in a far better manner than any contemporary victor treats it's enemies. Can you imagine Saddam Hussain or Mullah Omar being forgiven and recruited into high office by the US govt? No neither can I.I have no idea how the Meccans were treated, but no I can't imagine the US government behaving like that. Unlike you, and this is something I'll come back to, I don't feel attracted by the "yes but" line of argument. I do feel that our experience in Northern Ireland, and that of the South Africans, shows the wisdom of letting even what might feel like unforgivable conflict, violence and oppression be forgiven, if not entirely forgotten, in order to find peace, and I feel this is a lesson that Israel has yet to learn. Even continuing terrorism by fringe or splinter groups should not be allowed to derail a more general peace.
As for the land of Sham (modern day Palestine/Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria)it is instructive to note that the Muslims were seen as and welcomed and aided by the indigenous population who wanted to be well rid of the oppressive intolerant and corrupt Byzantium Empire who had indeed spread the Orthodox faith by the sword persecuting any other form of Christianity within it's borders- I remember actually discussing this with you in Oxford and you agreeing.I'm afraid I don't recall that detail of our conversation, but you're making a rather false distinction here. I said that this land was Christian, and you acknowledge that. As we both know, it is characteristic of different traditions of any given religion that they fight one another. But every reference I have been able to find considers the Islamic occupation of Jerusalem and the surrounding lands to have been a conquest. Every single one. If you want to maintain that it was not a military exercise, I'd appreciate a reference. What I suspect is the case, is that you are cherry picking some evidence of a particular response to the Islamic military invasion, and omitting the context.
Your discussion of the conquest of Constantinople doesn't tally with the accounts which i have read, it is important to note however that it was again the Byzantines who provoked the attack on Constantinople by encouraging crusaders to enter the lands as they felt the young Sultan Mehmet was not skilled enough to withstand a strong military attack. In the interests of securing the security of his state Mehmet had to attack Constantinople- a pre-emptive strike shall we call it?The final, ninth crusade was in 1271/2. The conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans was in 1453. To suggest that pre-emptive action was taken in 1453 to protect against an attack in 1272 is completely absurd. But just as absurd is the suggestion that the conquest by Islamic armies of vast areas of land suddenly became pre-emptive when they reached Constantinople.
I will not pretend that there have not been tyrants amongst Muslim sultans and caliphs there have been and i will not pretend there have not been atrocities and intolerance perpetrated by such people either in the name of Islam or otherwise.That's fatuous, but it's a very commonplace fatuity. Whereas some atrocities have been, and continue to be, committed in the name of Islam, it is ludicrous to suggest that the communist and fascist atrocities were committed in the name of secularism, or atheism.
However it would be foolish of you to suggest that we could not find parallels in western tradition whether Christian or Secular. It is blatant denial of the facts to suggest that Facism and Communism weren't the children of an atheistic, secular modern world in the west.
In fact, religion, communism and fascism have this in common: they are all totalitarian. They all claim the whole (the totality) of every person alive, their thoughts, property and actions, in the name of some greater good. Totalitarianism is the enemy, whatever clothes it might be wearing at any given time.
As you also know and again we have discussed, it was Muslim scholars who preserved, applied and expanded on the very same Greek philosophy which was then retransmitted by means of Islamic universities in Spain into western Europe which were the means of the succession of reformation, renaisance and enlightenment.Nope. Those imperatives don't seem to have been very, er... imperative in the past half millennium. The scientists of the "Islamic" golden age were enjoying a period of religious abeyance. It ended in a context of war - Mongol invasions - but what actually brought it to a close, specifically, were the suppression of the tradition of ijtihad (independent reason) and the promotion of the tradition of taqleed (imitation), by religious authorities in the twelfth century. The religious shutters that continue to limit the power of the Islamic world slammed shut all those centuries ago, and there has been stagnation and barbarism ever since. It was your version of Islam, Ismaeel, that killed the Islamic golden age*.
All of these scholars were acting on Islamic imperatives found in the Qur'aan to seek out knowledge and examine the natural world.
You know as well as i do Islamic tradition is not monolithic and it is worrying to see an intelligent man as yourself allow yourself to be drawn into such a polemic.If you read this blog you'll have noticed my support for Muslims who follow enlightened traditions, including Ali Eteraz (which is where we came in). I'm perfectly well aware that Islam isn't monolithic. It is, however, blighted at the moment in many of its traditions by backward-looking and violent forces.
Shaykh Faiz's words are particularly pertinent because they explain clearly the issues that concern you. Young Muslims who have not had the traditional spiritual training- in the jihad against oneselves in controlling one's desires and emotions, seeing a world in which Muslims are under attack and suffering horribly subject Islam to their own individual interpretation- thus the results we have seen, this is a characteristic of such things throughout histroy and of all people. Ali Eretraz's interpetations in this sense are no difference in their manner, they seek to submit the Divine to man rather than the other way around.The characteristic pattern is, and has been for one and a half millennia, that of Muslims attacking everyone else. And once you insist on the submission of man to the divine then you open the doors, if such is your interpretation of the divine, to the most horrific brutality, with no room for humanity or rational moderation of behaviour. That's what we're seeing in radical Islam today. It is repugnant.
Now, you account for the decline of the past centuries as follows:
If we look back this has been the period of great internal strife amongst Muslims- of disunity, civil war, the breaking up into states and empires- all in contradiction to the entreaties of our Prophet (PBUH) to remain united under one Imam.I agree that it has been very wrong of Western governments to support corrupt leaders in the Islamic world, and elsewhere for that matter, but scientific endeavour has never flourished under religious governance, for very obvious reasons. Science is not the process of expanding on religious thinking, because religious thinking is wrong in so many areas. Science has always conflicted with received wisdom, even that found within science itself. The most important developments of the past couple of hundred years have directly contradicted religious teachings and, more importantly, religious authority. By saying that the problem with the Islamic world is that it isn't sufficiently Islamic, you're saying that the problem with a dead horse is that it isn't sufficiently dead.
When we look at the modern Islamic world, the majority of governments are non-Islamic and even anti-Islamic and yet there is no progress materially. Instead the trend of corrupt rulers making themselves rich and fat (if not attacking their neighbours) continues whilst the people suffer.
The fact that this situation is subsidised by many western governments means that the natural inclination to identify with Islam as an alternative to this decadence means that people are inclined also to be anti-western.
Religious authorities suffocated the golden age of Islam and have kept the pillow pressed firmly to the face of people unfortunate enough to have been born into those theocratic societies ever since.
Then we have the classic "yes but":
Last century Germany tried to conquer Europe twice, Russia attempted to swallow Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the rest of the world. The British Empire, French Empire, Dutch and Portugese Empires were all dismantled last century. All of these were built on Enlightenment values and were hardly free of violence, conquest, slavery and supremicism now where they?Yes, but the West has been nasty too! Well, yes it has. But the - totally inaccurate - implication in your words is that slavery, conquest, violence and supremacism were enlightenment values. They weren't. They pre-dated the Enlightenment and it was the Enlightenment that has enabled (most of) us to shed them. The same cannot be said of Islam: they are intrinsic to an absolutist view of Islam, and this is part of the problem.
Islamic tradition, as I said before, needs to be contextualised and reformed if you are to be rid of them.
Finally, I call your organisation extremist because you are seeking to dominate, however you dress this up in nice words like "civility". You are seeking to suppress those who dissent or dislike your beliefs. You have shown an almost sadistic wish to humiliate and control those who have offended you - take your demands of the publishers of the Danish cartoons:
A full apology by the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten and all others who re-printed the caricatures for offending 1.6 billion Muslims, and:But most of all, you seek to argue that human reasoning and morality must be suppressed utterly, and that religious teachings, as interpreted by you and the authorities you consider valid, should dominate human behaviour now and forever. How much more extreme could a person be?
o To hand over the rights of the cartoons to Muslims;
o To publish one saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) every day for 1 year, promoting civility, as selected by the Muslim Action Committee;
o The proceeds from the defamatory caricatures to be given in trust to children's charities.
*UPDATE: Note that by arguing that man should submit to the divine and not seek to interpret, Ismaeel is actually advocating the very thing - the suppression of independent thought in favour of imitation (tradition) - that killed the Islamic dawn.