Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nothing to do with Islam?

Dennis B. Ross
The Washington Institute

On the recent anniversary of 9/11, Dennis B. Ross warned us in an article, "Islamists Are Not Our Friends" (NYT, September 11, 2014), that Islamists are not our friends:
[D]o not reach out to Islamists; their creed is not compatible with pluralism or democracy.
Right. Don't do that. I agree with Ross. We should have nothing to do with Islamists. We should reach out, instead, to the non-Islamists in our foreign policy toward the Islamic world. Go read his sensible article.

But an essential question remains for those of us interested in more than the pragmatic realm of foreign policy: How does Islam differ from Islamism? The usual response is that Islamism is a politicized Islam. This raises a nearly intractable problem: Islam itself is politicized, for it is based on a legal system - the shariah - that has laws on nearly everything.

Some analysts therefore say that our argument is with Islam in general. Is this the case?

From the many, many citations of traditional sources that Islamists offer, I can't agree that Islamism has nothing to do with authentic Islam, though we often hear this said. Indeed, we hear it said so often that we begin to think maybe Islamism does have something to do with Islam.

Either that, or there are many, many, many Muslim 'misunderstanders' of their own religion who are so confused that they mistake Islamism for Islam.

But if some Muslim spokepersons insist that Islamism such as the sort practiced by the current-day 'Islamic State' is not truly Islamic, then ask them if they themselves can appeal to shariah - to the Qur'an, the sunnah, and the hadith - to oppose the Islamists, and if so, which specific sources they can cite. If they can reveal through these sources that true Islam is actually a liberal religion that, for example, supports equal rights for men and women, supports freedom of speech for everyone, supports the right for an individual to leave Islam, and so on, then fine.

But if the Islamists turn out to have the stronger arguments for what Islam is, then Islam itself is the problem.

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