* Western leaders invariably respond to Islamist violence with pronouncements about Islam’s peacefulness.
* But the claim that Islam is a “religion of peace” first appeared less than 100 years ago.
* Mark Durie: The West is in the throes of acute cognitive dissonance over Islam, whose brands are at war with each other. On the one hand we are told that Islam is the religion of peace. On the other hand we are confronted with an unending sequence of acts of terror committed in the name of the faith.
* The slogan “religion of peace” has been steadily promoted by Western leaders in response to terrorism: Bush and Chirac used it after 9/11, Blair after 7/7, Cameron after British tourists were slaughtered in Tunisia, and Hollande after the Charlie Hebdo killings. After the beheading of 21 Copts on a Libyan beach Obama called upon the world to “continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam.”
* Islam was first called the “religion of peace” as late as 1930, in the title of a book published in India. The phrase was slow to take off, but by the 1970s it was appearing more and more frequently in the writings of Muslims for Western audiences.
* Words for “peace” in European languages imply the absence of war, and freedom from disturbance… [But] in Arabic the word Islam is based upon a military metaphor. Derived from aslama (surrender) its primary meaning is to make oneself safe (salama) through surrender. In its original meaning, a Muslim was someone who surrendered in warfare.
* It was Muhammad himself who said to his non-Muslim neighbors aslim taslam, “surrender (i.e. convert to Islam) and you will be safe.”
FROM THE DAYS BEFORE AIR TRAVEL WAS THREATENED BY TERRORISM
[Note by Tom Gross]
I attach three pieces below that ask whether there a “moderate Islam” and whether “Islam is reformable”.
Before that, here are two lighter items to balance the more serious ones.
Scrolling through these photos may be amuse (or bemuse) you:
(London) Daily Telegraph (December 18, 2015)
The captions on this series of photos are pretty funny.
RT 2035 PROMO: “PRESIDENT EDWARD SNOWDEN”
The Russian government-funded channel RT celebrates its 10th birthday this month with a satirical look at life when RT turns 30, in December 2035: Featuring Obama and Kerry in retirement and “President Edward Snowden”.
You can watch it here. Make of it what you will.
* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.
1. “Here’s where the phrase ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ came from. Politicians should stop using it.” (By Mark Durie, Independent Journal Review, Dec. 16, 2015)
2. “Is there a ‘moderate’ Islam?” (By Irshad Manji and Mohammed Dajani, Washington Institute Talk, Dec. 16, 2015)
3. “Is Islam reformable?” (By Amil Imani, American Thinker, Dec. 17, 2015)
RELIGION OF PEACE OR OF SURRENDER?
Here’s Where the Phrase ‘Islam Is A Religion of Peace’ Came From. Politicians Should Stop Using It.
By Mark Durie
Independent Journal Review
December 16, 2015
Days after the ISIS-inspired terrorist attack in San Bernardino, President Obama’s address to the nation concerning the threat of ISIS missed the mark. In fact, President Obama seemed at times to be more concerned with Americans ostracizing Muslim communities through “suspicion and hate” than he was with protecting innocent American civilians from murder in the name of radical Islam.
It is high time for Western political leaders to stop responding to terrorism by naming Islam as “the religion of peace.” It is time to have a hard conversation about Islam.
The West is in the throes of acute cognitive dissonance over Islam, whose brands are at war with each other. On the one hand we are told that Islam is the religion of peace. On the other hand we are confronted with an unending sequence of acts of terror committed in the name of the faith.
There is a depressing connection between the two brands: the louder one brand becomes, the more the volume is turned up on the other.
The slogan “religion of peace” has been steadily promoted by Western leaders in response to terrorism: George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac after 9/11, Tony Blair after 7/7, David Cameron after drummer Lee Rigby was beheaded and after British tourists were slaughtered in Tunisia, and François Hollande after the Charlie Hebdo killings. After the beheading of 21 Copts on a Libyan beach Barack Obama called upon the world to “continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam.”
One may well ask how “the religion of peace” became a brand of Islam, for the phrase cannot be found in the Qur’an, nor in the teachings of Muhammad.
Islam was first called the “religion of peace” as late as 1930, in the title of a book published in India by Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi. The phrase was slow to take off, but by the 1970s it was appearing more and more frequently in the writings of Muslims for Western audiences.
What does “religion of peace” actually mean?
Words for “peace” in European languages imply the absence of war, and freedom from disturbance. It is no coincidence that the German words Friede (peace) and frei (free) sound similar, because they come from the same root.
While there is a link in Arabic between salam, a word often translated “peace,” and Islam, the real connection is found in the idea of safety.
The word Islam is based upon a military metaphor. Derived from aslama (surrender) its primary meaning is to make oneself safe (salama) through surrender. In its original meaning, a Muslim was someone who surrendered in warfare.
Thus, Islam did not stand for the absence of war, but for one of its intended outcomes: surrender leading to the “safety” of captivity. It was Muhammad himself who said to his non-Muslim neighbors aslim taslam, “surrender (i.e. convert to Islam) and you will be safe.”
The religion of peace slogan has not gone uncontested. It has been rejected by many, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Melanie Phillips writing for The Times, who called it “pure myth.” Even among Muslims the phrase has not only been challenged by radical clerics such as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, but also by mainstream Muslim leaders.
Sheikh Ramadan Al-Buti of Syria was one of the most widely respected traditionalist Sunni scholars before he was killed in 2013 by a suicide bomber. The year before he had been listed as number 27 in The Muslim 500 (http://themuslim500.com), an annual inventory of the most influential Muslims in the world. According to Al-Buti, the claim that Islam is a peaceful religion was a “falsehood” imposed upon Muslims by Westerners to render Islam weak. He argued in The Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography that when non-Muslims fear Islamic jihad, their initial inclination is to accuse the religion of being violent. However they then change tack and craftily feed to Muslims the idea that Islam is peaceful, in order to make it so. He laments the gullibility of “simple-minded Muslims” who: “readily accept this ‘defense’ as valid and begin bringing forth one piece of evidence after another to demonstrate that Islam is, indeed, a peaceable, conciliatory religion which has no reason to interfere in others’ affairs. ... The aim … is to erase the notion of jihad from the minds of all Muslims.”
There does seem to be something to Al-Buti’s theory, for it has invariably been after acts of violence done in the name of Islam that Western leaders have seen fit to make theological pronouncements about Islam’s peacefulness. Who are they trying to convince?
In the long run this cannot be a fruitful strategy. It invites mockery, such as Palestinian cleric Abu Qatada’s riposte to George Bush’s declaration that “Islam is peace.” Abu Qatada asked: “Is he some kind of Islamic scholar?”
We do need to have a difficult conversation about Islam. This is only just beginning, and it will take a long time. The process will not be helped by the knee-jerk tendency of Western leaders to pop up after every tragedy trying to have the last word on Islam. This strategy has failed, and it is time to go deeper.
IS THERE A “MODERATE” ISLAM?
Is There a ‘Moderate’ Islam?
Irshad Manji and Mohammed Dajani
Washington Institute Talk
December 16, 2015
On December 11, Irshad Manji and Mohammed Dajani addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Manji is the founder and director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University and author of the book “Allah, Liberty, and Love” (2011). Dajani (a Palestinian) is the founder of the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam, and former director of the American Studies Program at al-Quds University in Jerusalem. (Both are recipients of these Middle East dispatches.) The following is a summary of their remarks.
The difference between “reformist” Muslims and “moderates” is not semantic. The latter term is misleading because many “moderate” Muslims exhibit all the traits of orthodoxy, including dogma and a fear of challenging their communities’ groupthink. The qualities associated with religious moderation are positive and desirable as a goal, but they are inadequate as a means to realize positive change in Islam. Although Islam has the potential to be wise and tolerant, it has been deeply corrupted, and rooting out this corruption requires something more potent -- even radical -- than moderation. It requires reform. As Martin Luther King Jr. said about a racially segregated America, moderation in times of moral crisis is a cop-out.
The good news is that a new generation of Muslims is increasingly using the word “reformist” to describe their pluralist and humanist aspirations for Islam. Their vision for “reformist Islam” is not one that merely abstains from terrorism. It includes dignity for gays and lesbians, full equality for women, respect for religious minorities, and tolerance for different points of view. In all likelihood, a critical mass of this generation’s Muslims will provide audible calls and visible evidence for each of these principles.
Society should seek out and support budding reformists, just as humanist Christians and secularists in eighteenth-century Germany rallied behind reformers of an insular, walled-off Judaism. Muslims must lead the movement for Islamic reform and prepare for the inevitable backlash from Muslim elders and self-appointed community leaders. Their success will also require mainstream backing.
Steeped in group identity, many Muslims fear they will be ostracized if they speak out in their communities. This dynamic inhibits them from naming imperialism within Islam, even though Muslim imperialists target and kill fellow Muslims in far greater numbers than foreign powers.
The fear of stigma is cultural more than religious. The Quran contains plenty of passages about the need to display moral courage by standing up to abuse of power inside one’s own tribe. Islamic scripture also calls on Muslims to think rationally. There are three times more surahs advocating introspection and analysis than blind submission. In this sense, reformist Muslims are at least as authentic as the moderates and, quite frankly, more constructive.
More Muslims need to read -- not simply recite -- the Quran. Instead of reading, grappling with, and understanding it, many moderate Muslims simply repeat stale cultural shibboleths. Among the most damaging of these is the Arab custom of group honor, which intimidates moderate Muslims into silence lest they be accused of selling out their communities and dishonoring their families by sowing internal chaos and division. Group honor narrows the possibilities for individual liberty, freedom of thought, and personal responsibility. It victimizes women because they are assigned the burden of carrying familial shame. Men also face cultural pressures to conform to low expectations of behavior, which leads to their infantilization. In this way, both genders experience limited choices and lack of empowerment.
Arab cultural norms, with the assistance of petrodollars, have colonized the faith of Islam, undermining even traditionally pluralist and tolerant practices such as those of Indonesia. This reality is all the more disturbing given that 80 percent of Muslims worldwide are non-Arab. Yet instead of exposing the cultural imperialism that emanates from Saudi Arabia and its oil-rich neighbors, “moderate” Muslims tend to obsess about American, Israeli, and Indian colonialism. Out of defensiveness, they practice a dangerous form of distraction. This highlights the shortcomings of moderation -- in theory, it is an admirable end state, but in practice, it is incapable of reclaiming Islam’s better angels.
Practically speaking, then, moderation may be the objective, but reform is the means to that end. Moderation as a destination is beautiful and Islamic, but only reform will generate the creative tension necessary to push Muslims out of their comfort zones and engage with the critical questions facing Islam.
In pursuing this goal, reformist Muslims can be assured of their religious integrity. Muslims are obliged to worship one God, not God’s self-appointed ambassadors. Because nobody can legitimately claim a monopoly on truth and knowledge, the paradoxical conclusion is that Muslims have a spiritual duty to build societies in which we can disagree with each other in peace and with civility. In short, commitment to one God obliges us to defend human liberty.
Islam needs to transition away from the past. The concept of “reform” implies a return to the original. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are religions of moderation, reconciliation, and peace. Because these qualities are essential to the human pursuit of felicity and security, these religions are part of the solution to conflict. Unfortunately, all of these faiths can be perverted and abused by extremists, who cherry-pick verses to support their own agendas. Would-be peacemakers need to remember that their religions share the same moral values, including the golden rule, the prohibition against evil, and encouragement to do good deeds. Moderation is a core human virtue that can cultivate social harmony and peaceful coexistence.
In this sense, moderation is fundamental to Islam, with a clear basis that can be found in many surahs and hadith. Justifications for religious freedom, gender equality, and abolition of the death penalty can all be found in Islam. Only rational analysis of religious texts and principles enables one to reach a moderate and righteous version of Islam. Moderate Muslims also need to learn that jihad is the spiritual struggle within themselves against evil and sin, not a struggle against nonbelievers.
While extremists can select surahs and hadith to support their narrow interpretations of Islam, proper religious study looks at the intention of the text and teachings. Strictly literal interpretations do not provide true meaning -- Islam should look at the Christian reformation, which distanced the religion from literal interpretations of the Bible. Islam’s ultimate aim is the betterment of humanity, so it must be studied with a human heart, not a heart of stone.
Moderates are also impelled to stand up against extremism committed in the name of Islam. Extremism will not be eradicated by a war of hatred, but by moderates conquering fear and promoting reconciliation. Muslims, Christians, and Jews know little about each other’s religion; thoughtful interfaith dialogue can combat ignorance and highlight the good in all sides. Government, civil society, and think tanks also have a role in combating extremism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.
While Arabs have monopolized Islam and imposed their terminology and interpretation, extremism promoted by the likes of Ibn Taymiyah, Sayyed Qutb, Hamas, and others is not cultural. For example, the veil is not traditionally Arab or Islamic, yet Hamas tells poor female students that unless they wear it, they will not receive scholarships. Similarly, female genital mutilation, enmity toward Jews and Christians, the stoning of adulteresses, and the killing of apostates and homosexuals are not prescribed in the Quran, nor are they traditionally Islamic, yet they are being practiced by extremists today. Moderate Muslims do not advocate or practice these backward views.
(This summary was prepared by Patrick Schmidt.)
IS ISLAM REFORMABLE?
Is Islam Reformable?
By Amil Imani
December 17, 2015
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, and a host of others believe that Islam can and should be reformed. But how?
The idea of reforming Islam is not entirely new. But Islam cannot be reformed the way Christianity was. For one, Islam claims that it is the perfect eternal faith for mankind. Divisions have happened and will continue to occur in Islam. Yet reformation has not happened in nearly 1,400 years and is not going to happen. In the mind of millions of Muslims, Islam is carved in granite, just the way it is. No change. Allah’s book is sealed.
About the only universal agreement that exists among Islamic scholars is that every word of the Qur’an is the word of Allah and is not subject to human modification, ever. The Hadith enjoys a similar sacrosanct standing. And of course, the faithful Muhammad’s conduct as recorded in the Sunna is the model to be emulated. Hence, one can pick and choose, but one cannot discard or revise any part of the Islamic scripture. For this reason, a Martin Luther-type reformation has not happened and will not likely ever happen within Islam.
Numerous people have tried it in every imaginable way. The Mu’tazelis tried it, the Sufis tried it, and hundreds of old and new schools tried it, and they all failed. Many open-minded Muslim intellectuals have tried reforming Islam, including Muhammad Ali of Egypt, Sayyid al-Qimni, Nasr Abu Zayd, Khalil Abdel-Karim, Abdolkarim Soroush, Mohammed Arkoun, Mohammed Shahrour, and Ahmed Subhy Mansour. Sheikh Mansour was fired from Al-Azhar University after expressing his Hadith rejector views. Edip Yuksel, Gamal al-Banna, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Ahmed Al-Gubbanchi, Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, and Faraj Foda, Taha were hanged in 1985 under the sharia regime of Jaafar al-Nimeiri, and Foda was assassinated in 1992 by al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Persian scholar and historian Ahmad Kasravi was also assassinated by Fada’iyan-e Islam (the devotees of Islam).
Thus, Islam is not reformable for the following primary reasons:
* At the heart of the problem is the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred book, considered as literally perfect and the immutable words of Allah.
* Islam is a perfect religion.
Qur’an 5:3: Today have I perfected your religious law for you, and have bestowed upon you the full measure of My blessings, and willed that self-surrender unto Me shall be your religion.
How can fallible, limited humans possibly reform or improve the handiwork of the all-knowing, all-wise Author of the Universe?
Freedom of all forms is anathema to Islam, which is squarely based on total submission to the dictates and will of Allah. Muslims must obey Allah and His Messenger.
Qur’an 33:36: And it behoves not a believing man and a believing woman that they should have any choice in their matter when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he surely strays off a manifest straying.
* Violence is part and parcel of Islam.
Qur’an 2: 216: Fighting is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know.
* Reforming Islam requires discarding sharia, and also purging the Qur’an itself of enormous suras that are not only patently false, but totally repugnant to a civilized humanity. This line of thinking, to sanitize Islam, is explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an.
Qur’an 2:85: Do you, then, believe in some parts of the divine writ and deny the truth of other parts? What, then, could be the reward of those among you who do such things but ignominy in the life of this world and, on the Day of Resurrection; they will be consigned to most grievous suffering? For God is not unmindful of what you do.
* Islam is a super-religion.
Muslims consider Islam a super-religion and the final religion of Allah. Judaism and Christianity are the only other two religions that are granted a grudging minimal recognition by Islam. All other religions and those without religion are blasphemy and blasphemous.
In short, Islam is not reformable. Reforming Islam requires purging of its sacred book, the Qur’an. In so doing, we have a different religion, not Islam.
Muslim leaders advance to their positions of leadership in Islam Inc.’s numerous subsidiaries by cleverly and ruthlessly navigating their way through the hierarchical labyrinth of cutthroat competition. Kissing up and demonstrating unconditional loyalty to the higher-ups is required. Undeviating, total devotion to the charter of the corporation as defined and promoted by the particular subsidiary, while vigilantly exploiting any opportunity for climbing up to the next rung of the ladder of leadership is a prime requisite of staying in the game.
The individuals who attain high leadership positions in Islam have invested their all with great acumen and gone through a tortuous wringer for years to attain their positions. They deeply covet that position and will do absolutely nothing to rock the boat.
The individual who ascends to a high leadership position must craftily and successfully work his way through a maze of high intrigues for many years. These leadership positions are greatly coveted, and the person would hardly be inclined to do anything that would endanger his status. The slightest deviation by any of the Islamic high clergy entails tremendous risks. The late grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri of Iran, for instance, who was initially tapped by Khomeini to become his successor, was disgraced and placed under house arrest for daring to voice his concerns about the Islamic government’s summary mass execution of political prisoners.
The profession of a clergy is to attract a select segment of men, men who have already significantly bought into the Islamic charter and its methods. As these men undergo formal indoctrination, a culling process takes place. Hundreds of thousands of these men, for a variety of reasons, do not advance very far. A great number of Muslims function in lower positions for the rest of their lives. They are the drones, so to speak. They loyally keep working the rank-and-file Muslim believers in villages and towns, making them toe the line and pay their tributes and cash to their parasitic handlers, who continue their highly successful smoke and mirror charade. A significant number may leave the ordination altogether, for a variety of reasons, and begin earning their living like the rest of the people.
In short, those who claim that they want to reform Islam want to transform it by stripping it of a great many provisions that are anathema to civilized humanity. These people are trying to make a new religion out of the old, with none of the divine authority that was supposedly bestowed upon Muhammad to form and launch his religion.