Friday, February 05, 2010

Islamism: Extremism at the Core of Islam?

I recently posted a blog entry in which I suggested "that discussion in Europe of Islamism has shifted from seeing it as extremism at the margins of Islam to seeing it as extremism at the core of Islam."

As support for my suggestion, one of my regular readers, an Islam expert who goes by the handle "Erdal" and who resides in Germany, posted his translation of selected passages from an article in the January 8th issue of the German newspaper Die Welt. This article,written by the philosopher and literary critic Daniele Dell'Agli, bears the provocative title, "They can't stomach Mohammad's true face" ("Sie ertragen das wahre Gesicht Mohammeds nicht").

Dell'Agli argues that the violent reactions within the Islamic world to the publication of the so-called Muhammad Cartoons in Denmark about five years ago stemmed from the fact that Muslims (but not only Muslims!) can't 'stomach' the true face of Islam's founder. Dell'Agli was moved to write this piece now, five years later, because controversy over the cartoons has again broken out. On January 1 of this year, the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, infamous for having sketched Muhammad wearing a turban designed as a bomb, was nearly attacked in his own home by an irate Somali Muslim who was wielding a large axe and chopping at Westergaard's bathroom door. The enraged Somali man didn't manage to break through the reinforced door before the police arrived and apprehended him, though they had to shoot the man twice to get him to drop the axe.

So much for the background, Now, along with some bracketed summaries and remarks supplied by Erdal, here's what Erdal translated from the article, in which Dell'Agli explains that the cartoons were satire and what that implies:
They can't stomach Mohammad's true face.

by Daniele Dell'Agli

[Intro walks through the recent attempt on the life of the Danish cartoonist Westergaard and some typical reactions.]

Now, there may be many definitions of satire [. . .] but it is always conceded that it is trying -- in a polemical or entertaining way -- to get at a kernel of truth of a scandal or a commonly known grievance. More, the common knowledge of the historical, political or biographical background is prerequisite for the satirical cause to work, it would dissipate uselessly otherwise. What's the attack's target in this case? Very simply that the founder of Islam started his career as a raider of caravans and a murderer who, as the ruler of Medina, ordered his political opponents' assassination and the genocide of the local Jewish tribe. These are undisputed facts among Muslim scholars ever since, and should also be sufficiently known among at least the educated of the northern hemisphere.

[A paragraph about how the discussion is instead steered toward issues of free speech and religious feelings follows.]

Both parties are thus not yet able to face up to the underlying issues of the caricature (which, for this reason alone is anything but "stupid" or "crass"): that Islamic assassins are not only well in tune with the spirit of many Koran suras and most of their commentary body, but can also claim the antetype of Mohammed for their bloody deeds.

For the rest of his religions's adherents who still try vainly -- together with liberal apologists -- to beat the drums of Islamophobia to veil this fatal connection, this has consequences: As long as they are not ready to critically qualify the historical authority of the prophet as they will qualify his teachings, they cannot claim for themselves a difference between Islamism and Islam, without being theological nonsensical. And as long as they think that they ought to live in 21st century Europe according to 7th-10th century Oriental rules, they should not lament that they, too, are thought capable of suddenly obeying the warlike commands of their religion's founder, or of endorsing such behaviour in others.
Strong words from Mr. Dell'Agli. In short, he argues that there is no difference between Islamism and Islam if the majority of Muslims implicitly accede to extremists' violent protests carried out to frighten non-Muslims into submitting to Islamic rules. According to Erdal, the debate over Islam within Germany (and presumably throughout Europe) is growing rather heated:
I've not seen this myself, but I've been told by people who live there, that there is a graffiti campaign, presumably by students or high schoolers, with the motto "Allah, go home!" in several southern university towns. Nothing in the media yet. Actually, a Google search for the phrase comes up with the tiniest of results. Strange that not even hardline blogs appear to have used this rather obvious line, ever.

The feuilletons of the papers and magazines are at each others throat, daily. Alliances are shifting in surprising ways and fronts harden: You can now regularly observe opinion leaders in even Die Zeit, Süddeutsche, Spiegel and FAZ call each other "imbeciles", "criminals" or "insane". The viciousness of the tone is unlike anything I've seen here since maybe the big fight in the early 80's over the nuclear Pershing-II rockets to be stationed en masse in Germany. Maybe it's the weather -- there hasn't been a winter that hard for about the same time.
Well, it certainly bespeaks a climate change of sorts. The atmosphere has definitely altered since the late eighties to mid-nineties, when I lived in Europe. I'm grateful to have Erdal as reader and commentor to keep me informed.

In my opinion, either this debate over Islamism as extremism at the core of Islam will be handled responsibly by European governments through treating the issue very seriously, or it will it will devolve into something very nasty in the streets.

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At 6:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This, as it appears to me, strongly relects what a mutual e-friend of ours has been proclaiming for some time.

I find the argument well founded.


At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



At 6:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, I thought of that individual as I was posting this.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Trencherbone said...

Islam cannot spread or even maintain itself without violence:
violence to those who attempt to leave Islam, violence to those who criticise Islam, and violence to those who refuse be subjugated by Islam.

Islam has been a terrorist cult since it was founded. Mohammed said "I have been made victorious with terror"

Now since Mohammed is 'the perfect man' and role model for all Muslims, it follows that terrorists have divine approval for what they do. All that stuff about a 'tiny minority of extremists' is a load of taqiyya. Terrorism is mainstream, bog-standard orthodox Islam. The more Muslims you have in a country, the greater the incidence of terrorism.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Trencherbone, I'd rather that you write a comment specifically addressing the blog post. Your copy-and-paste comment does fit the topic sufficiently for me to let it stand, but if you have more to say, please write without cutting and pasting.

Thanks for visiting.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who only want to see their preferred version and dismiss all other perspectives as "Lies" there is nothing I can do about it.

But for anyone who is interested in an intelligent disccourse---I would like to present the view of a Muslim with regards to our Prophet (pbuh).

Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was an ordinary Bussnessman (who happened to acomplish something extraordinary.) He managed a trading caravan for a bussnesswoman who later proposed marriage to him---which he accepted. He is said to be the most documented Prophet and much of his later life (biography/Sunnah) and sayings (hadith) are documented. In fact, there is so much of it that a historical-critical method of analysing the data and determining its level of authenticity was required and developed early in Muslim history. Serious scholars know of this. Some so called "experts" either have no idea---or if they do, dismiss it in favor of their own imaginative versions.

The Quran does not condone the arbitrary and voilent settling of disputes in a society/community. Legitimate grieviences should be settled in the justice system or through proper arbitration. This is what the Prophet(pbuh) set out to do when he was invited to the Medina/Yathrib community. The community had been ravaged by years of infighting between tribes. Through arbitration the Prophet was able to stop this and he set up a system of jurisprudence so that greiviences would be handled with justice.

1.5 billion Muslims are here to stay simply because the number is way too large to make it dissappear. Will we human beings extend our hand in tolerance, compassion and friendship to solve the problems together or will we prefer divisions, hate and tensions? All of us human beings live on the same planet and we are not going anywhere anytime soon.


At 2:22 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Muslim, thanks for visiting.

All non-Muslims, of course, need to learn more about Islam. In the reading that I've done in the Islamic sources, Muhammad comes across as a very complex personality, one capable of both great kindness and great cruelty.

The debate, as I see it, is partly over which Muhammad is the real Muhammad.

From your comment, I'd presume that you go with the former. Al Qaeda, by contrast, follows the latter.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watch and read mohammed T-shirt art from Sweden at,

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al-Qaeda---My understanding is that Al-Qaeda follows the writings of Sayid Qutub a 20th century writer and activist.

As I mentioned on a previous post---the situation is complex. It is easy to blame the Prophet(pbuh)or Islam. While it may appear satisfactory to do so, if we "misdiagnose" the problem---we will never find the correct solution.

For example, If the Catholic Church were blamed for the IRA terrorists, the Pope and Jesus Christ(pbuh) called terrorists, madmen or various other things, and a call for all "Catholics" to "go back where they come from"....etc....etc. Along with various rhetoric of all the voilence in the history of the Catholic Church, and how their stance on science does not "fit in" with Western on and so forth.....(you get the point?) Anyway---as we all can see---these types of assumptions would have totally misdiagnosed the situation with the IRA and Ireland.


At 9:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Mr. T-Shirt, you've already posted your message to a recent blog entry. No need to repeat yourself.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:18 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Muslim, you're correct that Qutb is an influence, but also Salafi Islam generally and Ibn Taymiyya specifically.

As for the IRA, I'm not aware that they appeal to Catholic theologians to justify their methods or aims. Al Qaeda makes specific appeals to Qur'an, Sunnah, and Hadith. The problem is thus clearly a religious one in their case but not clearly so in the IRA's case.

Jeffery Hodges

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