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The Pope and the Imams: The end of Moderate Islam?

09/21/2006

Once again, the Middle East has been in an uproar over something that someone in the West said about Islam. Last time it was Danish cartoons of Muhamed that caused rioting and a wave of hate. This time it is remarks of Pope Benedict quoting Emperor Manuel II Paleologus.

The most frightening aspect of the new controversy is not the violence itself, but the lessons it holds for the future. Moderate opinion in the Middle East is the hope of all those who wish to see an end to radicalism and intolerance and the construction of liberal societies that can bring the Middle East into the 21st century on its own terms. Instead, moderate opinion has joined the fanatics in condoning wanton hooliganism and pogroms against Christians, and has devised a rather transparent litany to excuse its defection.

We should begin by understanding what the Pope said, and the context in which he said it, and we must also understand the context of the Emperor's words. We bring an extended excerpt of the speech. It was not directly about Islam, but rather about use of reason rather than coercion in discussing matters of faith. Was Benedict really discussing Islam in a roundabout way? Perhaps.

The Pope said in part:


The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the whole of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical skepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Munster) of part of the dialogue carried on-- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara-- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian.

The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point-- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself-- which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Quran, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the Book and the infidels, he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.
God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes:

"For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality."

Manuel II Paleologus was in the midst of being besieged by the Muslim Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I when he wrote the quoted words, and this circumstance no doubt colored his opinion of Muhamed. The Pope could have looked for other, more effective and relevant examples regarding compulsion in faith. He did not not have to look so far as the Muslim religion.

Both the Christian and Muslim religions profess that there is no compulsion in religion; both violated this dictum with impunity at different times. The infamous Spanish inquisition and the expulsion of Jews and Muslims who would not convert from Spain is only one example of many on the Christian side, whereas the Almohad dynasty in Spain forced Jews to convert to Islam. Beyond these egregious examples, we may note that wherever Christians or Muslims conquered, whether it was in the land of the Wends east of Germany or in Palestine under the Muslims or the Crusaders, or in Ottoman Yugoslavia, large numbers of people converted to the faith of the conquerors. The members of the conquering religions no doubt attributed this conversion to the workings of reason or divine intervention, but we are allowed to speculate that perhaps there were other reasons.

The Pope, in any case, should have remembered that he is the Pope, and not just a Catholic scholar, and he should have been more careful in what he said. That in no way explains, justifies or excuses the violent reaction of Muslim extremists to his words.

The accusation of Paleologus was that Islam imposes itself by force. Some Muslims apparently missed the irony of their attempts to disprove and protest this accusation by burning churches and murdering nuns. Others were ashamed of this reaction, and some attempted to put the blame on Israel.

However, the reaction of Rami Khouri in the Daily Star was far more typical and most instructive. It is instructive because Khouri is not a religious fanatic, but a moderate who professes his commitment to democracy and secular society. His reaction illustrates the gravity of the problem and the huge gap that exists between Muslim and Western norms of free speech and behavior. Khouri wrote:


If this issue passes away soon, as the Danish cartoons controversy did, we should all learn from it. The single most important lesson from both cases strikes me as relating to the place and role of religion in people's public and personal lives. The anger that Muslims often express when their faith or prophet are insulted goes beyond their reverence for their religion; it touches on another important element that Western leaders and ordinary people need to appreciate more clearly: religion replaces many of the attributes of statehood in societies where the role, credibility and legitimacy of the state are often thin.

It is Khouri who missed the point. Khouri goes on to ask how the Pope would

react if the world's top Muslim religious leaders recommended screening the "Da Vinci Code" movie in all schools?

Indeed, how did the Pope react when the Da Vinci Code was screened in the West? Did he order Catholics to burn movie houses and kill projectionists? How did Jews react when Yasser Arafat and the Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrema Sabri, insisted that the Jews have no historic claim in Jerusalem? Did they burn mosques and murder Imams?

Khouri has testified against his own religion and blasphemed Islam far more effectively than Manuel Paleologus did, for he tells us that the expression of "religion" in Islam is to murder and riot. The man who attempted to assassinate Pope Paul II has now warned that Pope Benedict should not travel to Turkey, as he may be assassinated. Presumably this would be another expression of "religion."

Khouri tells us:

The sad fact of modern history is that the post-colonial European retreat from many Islamic societies left behind nations that did not truly reflect existing ethnic and demographic realities. For reasons that historians will long debate, many Islamic countries have also suffered economic stress and political autocracy, leading to the sort of extremism and militancy that we witness today in many parts of the Middle East and Asia.

The harsh reality is that in many Islamic societies, ordinary people find themselves living in police states, gangster states, failed states, or occupied or sanctioned states. In such abnormal conditions of chronic distress, tension, deprivation and vulnerability, religion emerges as the central instrument of protection in personal and public life. Religion provides identity, a system of justice, hope, and communal solidarity, and the sense of security that accompanies faith.

If people do not like living in police states, what do they gain by trying to institute police-state censorship in other states? There are many poor Christians all over the world, in Africa and in South America. Some live in police states and gangster states, and some of the human catastrophe in Africa must be a legacy of the Muslim slave trade, as well as of western imperialism. Yet these unfortunates do not take out their anger at their lot on Muslims. The Qur'an (Sura 3, Verse 59) states the Muslim belief that Jesus was not divine,

"In fact, the example of the birth of Jesus in the sight of Allah is like the example of Adam who had no father and mother, whom He created out of dust, then said to him: "Be" and he was."

This denial of a central tenet of Christianity has not caused poor Christians to burn down mosques, to murder Muslims, or to riot in the streets.

The really sad fact of history, is that fanatics perverted the message of Islam, and now they are perverting and subverting the movement for democratic reform. Khouri has provided us with the intellectual rationale for the sell-out of reformers to repression and intolerance, that is intended to turn the moderates into the cheering section of the Jihadists.

Khouri concludes:

Religion for many Muslims who live in dysfunctional states remains the central organizing and defining principle of their lives. It should not be treated lightly, especially if we aim to promote sincere dialogue in a spirit of respect.

If assassinations and murder are the way that "religion" is expressed in Muslim society, and if that is the "central organizing principle," then indeed it cannot be taken lightly. However, it is not a basis for dialogue. It is compulsion in religion. There is no dialogue to be had with people who murder nuns and burn churches, and there is no respect for the opinions of others in Khouri's notions or the violent preachings of the fanatics or the even more violent actions of their followers.

For the west, there are important and ominous lessons to be learned from the previous cartoon crackup and the violent reaction to Benedict's scholarly address. Apparently, radical Muslims are attempting, and succeeding, in imposing a kind of remote one-way censorship on the west. Imams can preach about Jewish sons of dogs and Christian sons of pigs, this is covered by "freedom of censorship" and "legitimate self-expression." But no non-Muslim is allowed to say anything that might be construed as bad about Islam. Any such utterance or public expression will generate a violent reaction and self-righeous demands for apology, not only by fanatics who want to provoke a "war of civilizations" but by moderates who profess to uphold liberal values.

The radical Muslims are attempting to muzzle free debate and free expression in the west, and apparently they are succeeding. Pope Benedict XVI apologized several times for his innocent remarks, in terms that were never used before by any Pope, according to a Washington Post Op Ed. The inquisition and the crusades were not the subject of such an explicit apology.

Two incidents do not in themselves make a trend, but we should be on guard. If the "religion" of Muslim countries today demands the death of nuns for an utterance of the Pope, tomorrow it may require the death of western university professors for teaching the 'heresy' of evolution. And what if someone dares to question the Muslim historical narrative? Is it permitted to discuss the historical veracity, for example of Muhamed's visit to Jerusalem on a flying horse, or is that heresy punishable by death? Can we question the merits of the hadith which insists that at the end of days the Muslim will slaughter all the Jews, the hadith that is included in the Hamas charter, or would too be an insult to Islam?

If we are all going to live together, then surely dialogue is absolutely vital. This dialogue, however, must be based a free and honest intellectual discourse, not on fawning appeasement of rabid fanatics, who find this or that excuse to try to impose their ideas on the world.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 11 comments

The scholarly and insightful article by Ami Iasseroff concludes with the single prescription: "If we are a ever going to live together, then surely dialogue is absolutely vital. This dialogue, however, must be based on free and honest intellectual discourse, not on fawning appeasement of rabid fanatics, who find this or that excuse to try to impose their ideas on the world."

One further prescription can be added as a prerequisite for dialogue dealing with violence and terrorism and for promoting brotherhood between people of all faiths. That is, for each person according to their own religious persuasion to learn how to use their Holy Word -- God's name -- in such a way as to first enter a common ground of "Grand Silence" before engaging in dialogue.

CONVERGENCE OF SILENCES - WORLD'S RELIGIONS CAN FIND COMMON GROUND
http://pentagonmeditationclub.org/Convergence%20of%20Silences__world_religions.htm

Rationale for reaching this common and higher ground of being can be found at the web site cited above, and is based on the premise that peace is an inside job, and that the Source of Peace lies inside each of us but in a domain of consciousness beyond the faculties of the mind. Transcending on a sacred name is an appropriate way to take the mind to that most sacred space of human conscioussness and divine presence.

Posted by Pentagon Meditation Club @ 09/21/2006 06:33 PM CST

This is an extraordinarily interesting, full and closely-argued analysis of the intellectual aspect of the conflict between parts of Islam and the West, even though it is marred in its later paragraphs by a welling-up of bitter irony. It is worth reading carefully and stopping to investigate one's own reactions to each stage of the discussion.

What it fails to analyze (though hinting at it) is something that came vividly to light during the Salman Rushdie ('The Satanic Verses') affair. It is something to do with psychology and, no doubt, with the history of different societies.

For thoughtful Christian and Jewish believers, faith is a matter of truth versus falsehood. Thus if someone insults God or Christ, the Judeo-Christian believer regards that person as being wrong (in the epistemological, not the ethical, sense) and therefore to be pitied and — if possible — convinced of the falsity of her/his views and be persuaded to change them. (Not always, it must be admitted. Whenever it is suggested that Jesus might have been homosexual, atavistic rage seems to take over, just as it did in medieval and even post-medieval Christianity when confronted by heresy, e.g. under the Inquisition.)

If someone insults Mohammed or Islam as a whole, the Muslim believer seems unable to say 'the God and the Prophet that I believe in are unassailable; their dignity is not touched by the insult; it is the insulter who is wrong, who is thus an inferior person'. S/he has to leap to the defence of Allah and Mohammed, as if they, and the believer's own faith in their dignity and truth, are not strong enough to withstand the insult and have to be won back from the insulter by threats or perpretations of violence.

Psychologically, it seems that the former attitude is one of self-confident security — closely related to the liberalism of 'I disagree with your views, but I shall defend to the death your right to hold them' — whereas the latter is one of self-doubting fragility. Culturally and historically it is doubtless, as Khouri tells us, because '[t]he sad fact of modern history is that the post-colonial European retreat from many Islamic societies left behind nations that did not truly reflect existing ethnic and demographic realities. For reasons that historians will long debate, many Islamic countries have also suffered economic stress and political autocracy, leading to the sort of extremism and militancy that we witness today in many parts of the Middle East and Asia.

The harsh reality is that in many Islamic societies, ordinary people find themselves living in police states, gangster states, failed states, or occupied or sanctioned states. In such abnormal conditions of chronic distress, tension, deprivation and vulnerability, religion emerges as the central instrument of protection in personal and public life. Religion provides identity, a system of justice, hope, and communal solidarity, and the sense of security that accompanies faith.'

The way, though, to help people, nations and cultures to overcome their self-doubting fragility is not to rub their noses in it. What is the right way? I don't know, but it seems of the greatest and most urgent importance to try to find out, perhaps with the help of psychologists as well as of politicians. And it isn't going to happen overnight.

I have to add that in my opinion faith and reason cannot be reconciled, whether in Islam, in Judaism, in Christianity or in black magic. Kant, the high priest of Enlightenment rationality, held that vast areas of possible intellectual enquiry were inaccessible to reason. Faith enters where one does not and cannot know or argue, and it cannot be argued with.

Michael Graubart, London, UK.

Posted by Michael Graubart @ 09/21/2006 07:02 PM CST

I have only read through Ami Isseroff's piece rather quickly, but I got the impression that Rami Khouri was taken to be a Muslim. The name Khouri leads me to think that he is more likely to be a Christian or a secularist. Would this change the conclusions Ami Isseroff would draw?

Posted by Marilyn Sutton Loos @ 09/22/2006 05:56 AM CST

Indeed Rami Khoury is a Christian as far as I know, but the same reasoning, or quite similar is presented by Muslims. Look around the Web. I only point out the targets out there, but I cannot lead you to each and every one.

Thank providence for all the helpful people who show their knowledge. One pointed out that the Rhineland belonged to Germany. In his view, (without benefit of a dictionary) that meant I was wrong, and the Germans had not invaded the Rhineland.

For Michael Graubart. Since you adopt the same line as Khoury, about failed states, you are further proof that you don't have to be a Jihadist to love apologizing for violent intolerance. As I pointed out, lots of Africans and Latin Americans live in failed states, but they don't go around blaming other religions and burning things down. Face it, Africans have a very long account with the West, as well as with Arab slave traders.

The way to fix it is not to repeat the same lie, but to see the problem for no less (and no more!) than what it is.

A.I.

Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 09/22/2006 03:34 PM CST

What Pope Benedict said in his homily during the opening of the conclave in which he was later elected as the successor of Peter is becoming more evident in the recent hurried reactions which seems to be unguided and which might be caused irresponsible reporting. What he said could be a right diagnosis of the world today:

“How many winds of doctrine we have known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many fashions of thought? . . . . from Marxism to liberalism, to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, etc.”

” . . .Relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of “doctrine,” seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the “I” and its whims as the ultimate measure.”

Certainly there was “brusqueness” in what the byzantine emperor said, and this could even be evident in historical blunders of the crusades.

Yet, it seems to me that the Holy Father wants is to topple down this “dictatorship of relativism” which all ideologies and doctrines are prone, in order establish some fundamental principles and standards for a fruitful dialogue with other cultures. He is faithful to the conviction when already in the opening of the conclave, of what he told the cardinals. His first encyclical is about Charity. But as he said, “charity without truth is blind. . . and truth without charity would be a clanging cymbal.” Here the Pope, because he loves humanity and each one of us, wants to present some fundamental truths of faith which is not an exclusion of reason and reason should not limit itself but is invited to open itself to the absolute. The great divide faith and reason could be catastrophic, like to use violence in name of God be it state sponsored or ideologically sponsored.

Without the right understanding of faith and reason, without a great awareness that rationality is not incompatible with faith, but on the contrary, in fact rationality is part of faith, whether be it Islam, Christianity or Judaism, this “dictator” in the world would continue to dominate our mentalities. There should be an objective standard in the human world: reason. Call in common sense, rationality, good sense, human understanding, whatever, what is needed in the world, in whatever camp: politics, law, jurisprudence, economics, technology, communication, education, etc. there must be a moral standard, outside of us, of our intellects but also intelligible and reasonable in order to allow the world go ahead. Take away God and religion from reason and “reason” will lead us to great disrespect to man to the point of eliminating man himself. Take away reason from God and religion would also be catastrophic.

Positively, it was good that the Pope’s words struck a controversy and you could find an array of positive and negative comments in the web and blogosphere. This would mean that a greater interest would arise from this. Our muslim brothers who are sensible, do not agree to the quotation: this means that they have the common sense to voice out that Islam is not violent. Otherwise, the more they take violent protests, the more the words of the Pope becomes true.

The clarification of Cardinal Bertone on Islamic Reaction to Pope’s Address still maintains primarily the deep respect and esteem of the Pope to our Muslim brothers. Though the quote itself as I have said is unfortunate, I am sure that the world sensible opinion will make more evident to the truth of what he is saying and be vindicated in order to give light to this already dark world.

Posted by Am Mijares @ 09/24/2006 01:26 PM CST

The violence about the pope's message just adds more proof to what I have been saying all along on this website, and that is 99.9% of religious people are STUPID, AND INTELLECTUALY LAZY. That said, now turn on to CNN and watch them make fools of themselves. lol.

Posted by john @ 09/25/2006 02:59 PM CST

It occurs to me that the element that we are tending to forget is the degree of disparity of self-perception, power and relationship with religion. It has always struck me that the Islamic world perceives itself as male, epitomised by the noble warrior. The continually repeated imagery reinforces this and it is integral in Islamic self-perception. The problem with this has beent hat the Islamic world for the last 200 years has found itself defeated repeatedly by non-Muslims.
In terms of power the Islamic world seems to believe that it should be the natural possessors of power as the recipients of God / Allah's final word. Much of Islamic belief seems to foster this idea. This belief as with the warrior image can only lead the Islamic world to a the point of despair and anger because they simply lack the power that they believe should be theirs.
The Islamic worlds relationship with religion is fundamentally different to that of the developed world. Faith defines the Islamic world. It's nation states are impositions of western imperialism rather than the emergence of the nation state as occurred in Europe. As we can readily see in Iraq faith defines the individual beyond the clan / family. Faith occupies a centrality that has no parallel in developed world, and in the poisonous combination of inadequate self-perception and impotence this can only lead to a heightened degree of sensitivity.
I suggest that the West and much of the emerging industrial world humiliates the Islamic world on a daily basis. On a Political, Economic, Social, Technological basis the Islamic world is being left behind by the rest of the world. Beyond it's mineral wealth there is nothing that it possesses which might provide it with the means to equality with the developed world. In my opinon the Islamic world is regressing in comparison with much of the world, and is becoming weaker each year. In 1973 the Oil Embargo was enforced by the Arab League and their allies and a viciously chill wind blew across Western economies. In 2006 it is unimaginable that the developed world could be subject to such pressures again. The Islamic world's population is gorwing faster than are its economies ability to provide purposeful employment and moderate levels of wealth.
While the developed world has mutated repeatedly, assigned religion to nothing more than personal expressions of faith while nationality has replaced it and then evolved beyond the narrow racial / tribal group. Partly I believe that this was facilitated by Judaisms & Christianity's shared paradigm that perfection on earth had yet to be attained and that progress would take society there. Islam I believe looks backward to Medina and the time when Mohammed saw his religion come into being and established itself as the dominant and imperial faith.
The hyper-sensitivity that the Islamic world displays almost continually is rooted in the failure of the Islamic world to progress in pace with the primarily Christian world. It is both notable and in part very sad that Islamic spokespersons repeatedly seek to remind the West that without Islam the ancient knowledge of Greece would not been preserved and transfered to Europe. It is as though the people want to remind the West that it owes all it has to Islam. It is a sign of profound inadequacy which is better understood if one creates a parallel scenario within a domestic environment.
Even the extreme Islamic response is a source of embarrassment to Islam. It is a sad indictment of the insecurioty of the islamic world that it exhibits this hyper-sensitivity to alleged offences against itself but cannot perceive that its own behaviour is often equally offensive to others. Parallels to this type of behaviour can be readily seen amongst dysfunctional teenagers.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 09/26/2006 10:49 PM CST

Dear Ami

Its odd that you call on Muslims to stop restricting free debate. I remember the article where you ask people to sign a treaty that called for no more revisioning because it is supposedly Anti-Sematic. Now you are worried that Muslims are trying to perform similar censorship. Muslims should not use violence to acheive their goals, but neither David Irving should be put in jail for denying the Holocost. I didn't sign the agreement you ask people to sign because it infringe the rights of people to find the truth. Now you are demanding that Muslims do what you haven't done.

The Pope's problem wasn't the message he was trying to send but the choice of words. People react moment by moment. An effective communicator must not use language that will make people lose sight of the message being communicated.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 09/27/2006 09:15 PM CST

To Michael Graubart

Your comments were very insightful and explain exactly what needs to be done.

To Ami

Calling Michael "an apologist" is saying that you simply cannot argue with his reason. I too have problems with your article:

1. You claimed Khoury is a Muslim:

"Khouri has testified against his own religion and blasphemed Islam far more effectively than Manuel Paleologus did, for he tells us that the expression of "religion" in Islam is to murder and riot."

Khoury however is a Christian and therefore did not blasphemed his religion.

2. You missed Khoury's point. Khoury is not talking about justifying violence as a means of expression or the elimination of free debate. He is saying that to create dialogue between religions one must avoid issues that create anger and resentment making dialogue impossible. Like Michael said when states fail to do their duties people turn to religion for an answer. Khoury and Michael are on the right page unlike you who falsely accused Khoury of supporting violence or saying that Muslims express their religion in violence.

3. Violent acts such as burning churches and killing nuns are wrong but not unprecedented:

A. A Christian lawyer name Jack Thompson received death threats for his veiws on violent video games.

B. Americans have killed each other over racial comments made by the victim.

C. In some European countries Anti-Semitic speech or expression is a crime.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 09/28/2006 05:33 PM CST

Ami: "lots of Africans and Latin Americans live in failed states, but they don't go around blaming other religions and burning things down."

Of course one significant difference is that in those cases their religion is the same as that of their supposed oppressors. I think a more instructive example might be northern India, which was under Muslim domination for some centuries and then under Christian domination. Hindu fundamentalists like Shiv Sena can and do react violently when Hindu religious symbols are disparaged by members of other faiths, and have indeed attacked mosques and killed Muslims.

Ami's article does look to me like an attempt to tar moderate Muslims with the extremist brush. How is a Muslim who calls for the Danish cartoons to be banned any different from the Christians who successfully kept "Life of Brian" out of Midwestern cinemas? Would Ami say that all Christians opposed to abortion are terrorist sympathisers because some extremists in America murder abortion doctors? If I have misunderstood a sophisticated argument I'm sure I will be set right....

It seems to me that the great divide within Islam occurs over the issue of whether Islam is under attack. This is undoubtably what the Jihadis believe, and it's based on a sort of conspiracy theory which holds that Chechnya, Kashmir, Iraq, Palestine, Bosnia and the Danish Cartoons are all facets of the same thing. You can probably be a "moderate" in that you don't support burning down churches or blowing up trains and yet still buy into the "war on Islam" mindset, and that makes you part of the problem in my view.

Khoury's argument seems to me something different, that religion requires special consideration from secularists in the Muslim world because it has taken the place of certain roles we associate with the state. The parallel to that might be a certain softness on militant catholicism in Poland because it had become identified with the liberation struggle agaisnt Stalinism.

Posted by Spike @ 11/14/2006 03:52 PM CST

For further discussion of the idea of a "Convergence of World Religions . . ." please see http://peacemakersinstitute.org links to "Common Ground" and also "New Paradigm." This new post is in response to the following Mid-East comments.

"Posted by Pentagon Meditation Club @ 09/21/2006 06:33 PM CST
This is an extraordinarily interesting, full and closely-argued analysis of the intellectual aspect of the conflict between parts of Islam and the West, even though it is marred in its later paragraphs by a welling-up of bitter irony. It is worth reading carefully and stopping to investigate one's own reactions to each stage of the discussion."

Posted by Edward Winchester @ 10/06/2007 01:28 PM CST


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