Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sunni Muslims in Mosul: "considering becoming . . . atheist"

Thomas L. Friedman

In an op-ed piece, "Who Are We?" (New York Times, November 15, 2014), by Thomas L. Friedman, a writer whose columns I ordinarily just skim (no offense intended, Mr. Friedman, I do a lot of skimming), I found the stunning words that I've cited above and now explain below:
Rasha al-Aqeedi is an Iraqi editor from Mosul working at Al-Mesbar. She has stayed in touch with people in Mosul since ISIS took over. "What is happening," she told me, is that the Sunni Muslim population of Mosul "has now awakened from the shock. Before, people would say, 'Islam is perfect and [the outside world] is after us and hates us.' Now people are starting to read the books that ISIS is based on. I hear from people in Mosul who say, 'I am considering becoming an atheist.'"
Why do I call these words "stunning"? Because this means that some educated Muslims in ISIS-dominated territory are looking into the sources of the Islamic State, probably in an attempt to refute ISIS ideology, but are discovering that ISIS is correctly reporting what these sources say, and the problem is that these sources are classic early Muslim writings: the Qur'an, the Hadith, and the Sunnah.

As classics, such books cannot be shrugged off, as though the Islamists who call themselves ISIS are extremists at the margins of Islam. No, Islamists are radicals at the core of Islam. Some moderate Muslims living in Mosul recognize this, and those moderates considering atheism to be a proper response have decided that Islam itself is incapable of reform.

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At 6:06 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Carter Kaplan posted:

Chilling stuff.

What I find even more chilling (perhaps) is the haze surrounding the geopolitical context. Who are the forces hiding, so to speak, behind the curtains? What (and who) are the various geopolitical actors driving all this chaos? What are their motives? What, in short, is going on over there?

And so on.

At 6:08 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sorry about accidentally deleting your comment, but I restored it.

What are we seeing?

Primarily, the rise of Islam as a politicized religion, i.e., Islamism, is what we are seeing.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be a coalition between Wall Street, London, and European bankers, left wing social engineers, and Saudi and Gulf state princes?

Does it clarify the situation any to regard it as part of a proxy war between the West and the former Soviet Union?

At 4:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I don't think there's a conspiracy of that 'Eurabian' sort - I don't even think that the various Islamist groups are all conspiring together.

Islamists are simply taking up what an expanding Islam was doing several hundred years ago, before it conceded the world stage to an expanding West.

I don't see a proxy war. Russia has no interest in assisting Islamists. Putin has his own problems with Islamism even within Russia. I imagine he's glad to see the US fighting Assad's enemies.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:10 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

There is a pattern over there of modernist--albeit totalitarian--dictatorships being replaced/disrupted by Islamists. They would be in Egypt, too, but the Egyptian Army doesn't want to go back to the 6th Century (and, ahem, who can blame them).

Anyway... *scratches head, scratches chin, scratches head again, then shrugs*

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The big losers are the minorities.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leery of inductive reasoning that generalizes anecdotes ("Data is not the plural of anecdote" is a favorite saying), I read the original piece, and it seems that you have a different interpretation than the author, whose details make clear that rejection of ISIS is not rejection of Islam for most. Below is the paragraph that immediately follows your quoted text:

She added: When a young man who has not passed the sixth grade joins ISIS and then “comes and tells a teacher at the university what he must teach and that he must wear a long gown, you can imagine the shock. I hear people saying: ‘I am not going to the mosque and pray as long as they are here. They don’t represent Islam. They represent the old Islam that never changed.’ ”

I have read that 5% of Saudis are atheists, the same percentage found in the US, where there is an undeniable trend towards a post-Christian America with rapid growth in agnostics, atheists, and vaguely spiritual people lumped together under the umbrella term "religiously unaffiliated." If current trends continue, half of all Southern Baptist Churches are forecast to close their doors by 2030. Perhaps the Muslim world will follow suit.


At 8:24 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I am also "[l]eery of inductive reasoning" based on anecdote, which is why I am careful to say in the post that "some" Muslims are considering becoming atheist.

These atheists clearly comprise a different group of 'Muslims' from those who won't return to the mosque till ISIS is gone. The ones who will return to the mosque are perhaps moderate Muslims, not atheists.

I acknowledge the heading is ambiguous. I worded it as I did because for Muslims to admit doubt is so unusual, and I wanted readers to share my astonishment. Perhaps I ought to have toned it down.

Jeffery Hodges

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