Islam: Europeans are talking . . .
I try to read broadly in the newspapers, both on- and off-line, so that I can keep up with developments around the world. I'm most interested in the North America, Europe, and Asia because I've lived on these continents longest (or maybe I'm just 'north-hemispherocentric'). Of these three, Europe has often been my focus as its recent, close encounters with Islam offer the most noteworthy items, for they portend even greater changes within Europe's not-so-distant future.
Europeans are also taking note -- and taking notes!
And talking, or beginning to, about whether Islam itself is the problem, rather than just the ideological extremism within Islam that we usually call "Islamism" and generally prefer to consider a phenomenon on Islam's margins.
Just this morning, I read the British columnist Ron Liddle's remarks in an article titled "We should not absolve Islam of the crimes committed in its name" (January 27, 2010), written for Britain's Tory paper, The Spectator:
[B]y and large you cannot escape the conclusion that the most repulsive invasions of human rights that we see in the world today take place in countries where the national ideology is devolved from Islam. And the more directly or purely it is so devolved, the more primitive and savage it is.Mr. Liddle sounds rather suspicious that so-called 'monstrous' interpretations of Islam might actually be the most rational understanding of Islam, and that worries him -- as it should if he's right. Is he right?
This should not be a shock to us, but we have got ourselves into a twist over Islam in the UK. We have absolved the ideology of all blame by enacting legislation which demands that the rest of us 'respect' it, and therefore resist ad hominem attacks upon it as if they were in some way racist. They are not, of course. And at the same time as doing this we have been forced, as a consequence, to distinguish between those whom we think of as being representative of 'Good Islam' and the increasing numbers of those whom we place in the box labelled 'Bad Islam'.
. . .
I asked a representative from the Muslim Council of Britain if he agreed with the sentence handed down in Bangladesh on that 16-year-old girl [who was to be punished with 101 lashes for the 'crime' of being raped]. He was pretty clear that it was a 'monstrous interpretation' of Islamic law regarding the strictures against sex outside of marriage. But it is hardly an uncommon monstrous interpretation, if it is a monstrous interpretation at all, rather than a perfectly rational interpretation. In any case, he accepted that it was an attempted interpretation of Islam -- in other words, that the inspiration for the lashing of that abused child was drawn from the ideology, even if it was an inspiration based on a misapprehension.
Europeans are talking . . .
And one of them is the sociologist Necla Kelek, a German citizen of Turkish Circassian origins who speaks out in "Islam has a Problem" ("Der Islam hat ein Problem," Europe News, January 7, 2010) against what she refers to as conservative Islam:
Moscheen bauen die Konservativen, sie betreiben auch die Koranschulen, in denen sie nicht nur den Koran auswendig lernen. Das sind nicht mehr als zehn Prozent der Muslime, aber die sind gut organisiert und bekommen Geld und Anleitung aus dem Ausland. Diese Verbände vertreten den politischen Islam, sie sind meist konservativ, propagieren die Scharia, die islamische Lebensweise und wollen im Prinzip eine andere Gesellschaft. Nicht jeder Muslim ist ein Terrorist, aber die Täter, von denen wir sprechen, nennen sich Muslime. Und die meisten kommen aus dem Umfeld von Moscheen oder Islamvereinen. Das ist ein ernstes Problem der islamischen Gemeinschaft, das sich nicht mit "Wir haben damit nichts zu tun" abtun lässt, denn alle berufen sich auf die Scharia, den Weg der Rechtleitung.Here's my somewhat loose translation, along with some bracketed additions to clarify Kelek's meaning:
. . .
Der Islam hat ein Problem. Er will Leitkultur sein und nicht nur das Leben der Muslime regeln, sondern auch bestimmen, wie sich die übrige Gesellschaft gegenüber den Muslimen zu verhalten hat. Der Islam trennt zudem nicht Religion und Politik, ist also nicht säkular. Gleichzeitig hat diese Weltanschauung aber keine einheitliche Lehre davon, was diesen Glauben überhaupt ausmacht. Er ist alles und gleichzeitig nichts. Ein Gespenst. Der Islam ist in diesem Sinne verantwortungslos, weil der Gläubige nur Allah gegenüber verpflichtet ist.
Conservative Muslims build mosques, and they also run Koranic schools in which they not only learn the Koran by heart [but are also indoctrinated in political Islam]. They are no more than ten percent of the Muslims, but they are well organized and receive money and guidance from abroad. These groups put forward political Islam -- they are mostly conservative, propagate sharia (the Muslim way of living), and in principle want a different society. Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but the perpetrators [of terror that] we are talking about call themselves Muslims. And most come from the environment of the mosques and Muslim societies. This is a serious problem within the Muslim community that cannot be excused [by repeating]: "We have nothing to do with that." [This serious problem cannot be excused,] for all [Muslims] appeal to sharia, the path of correct guidance.From these two recent articles -- by two rather different writers from two rather different countries (though both Liddle and Kelek, fairly or not, are considered controversial) -- I sense that the discussion in Europe about Islam is shifting from a focus on radical Muslims as extremists on the outer fringe of Islam to a focus on radical Muslims as extremists at the very core of Islam.
. . .
Islam has a problem. It intends to be the leading culture and not only regulate the lives of Muslims but also dictate to the rest of society how it should behave toward Muslims. Moreover, Islam does not separate religion and politics, and thus is not secular. At the same time, despite having this [integralist] worldview, Islam has no unified teaching as to what Muslim belief comprises. It is simultaneously everything and nothing. A spector [haunting Europe]. In this sense, Islam is irresponsible [with respect to society], for the believer has a duty to Allah alone [not to society].
Looks like those among us who are non-Muslims will need to become experts on Islam to make our judgements on a sound basis.
As should anyone who is talking . . .