web analytics
August 23, 2014 / 27 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Ayaan Hirsi Ali’

Brandeis Honorary Degree Recipients Disappearing Fast

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Less than two months ago, Brandeis University publicly released the names of the people who would be given honorary degrees at its 2014 graduation, scheduled for Sunday, May 18.

Who could have predicted that within the short time-span between the announcement and the awarding of the honorary degrees, the two women slated to be honored by Brandeis would both be scrubbed from the event?

One woman – Ayaan Hirsi Ali – was scrubbed by Brandeis. The other – Jill Abramson -  just pulled out because, as explained at the faculty meeting by Brandeis President Fred Lawrence, she “was not looking to take part in the celebratory nature of the weekend” due to her having been fired as executive editor of the New York Times this week.

However, Abramson is apparently a rapid healer as Wake Forest University confirmed that Abramson will be the commencement speaker at that school’s graduation on Monday, just one day after Brandeis’s ceremony.

Geoffrey Canada, the current (he’s leaving sometime this summer)  president and CEO of  Harlem Children’s Zone is still slated to be this year’s graduation speaker. Canada will also be receiving an honorary degree, along with Eric Lander, one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, and longtime Brandeis University Trustee Malcolm L. Sherman.

But the two women on the original list of 2014 Honorary Degree Recipients, international women’s rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Jill Abramson, first female executive editor of the New York Times, will not be joining the Brandeis graduating class of 2014 in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Brandeis unceremoniously dumped Hirsi Ali in April. That happened after members and fellow travelers of the school’s Muslim Students Association, in cahoots with a myriad of leftist professors – including a huge chunk of the women’s studies department – brought tremendous pressure on Brandeis University President Fred Lawrence to punish Hirsi Ali for “insulting Islam.”

And now Abramson, in the wake of having been fired, has decided the Brandeis gig doesn’t fit in with her weekend plans.

One Brandeis student is especially disappointed with what has transpired.

“I’m graduating from Brandeis this year and had the university not exercised bad judgment by disinviting Hirsi Ali, we would not be in the position we are in now,” Josh Nass told The Jewish Press by telephone. “How can it be that in 2014 there will not be a single woman honorary degree recipient from Brandeis?”

Rumor has it that the NYT fired Abramson in the wake of her having recently hired a lawyer to represent her in discussions with the paper after discovering she was paid less in two positions at the paper than had the people whom she replaced.

Brandeis junior Daniel Mael commented to The Jewish Press that “beyond the issue of Abramson not showing up at Brandeis’s graduation, it is ironic that the New York Times has become the new icon for the leftist war on women.”

First Amendment Hypocrisy: Muslims and Israel

Friday, May 16th, 2014

At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Muslim student leaders and their leftist allies are pressuring candidates for the student senate to pledge that they will not take a sponsored trip to Israel. And those who have taken such trips are being “outed” as Islamophobic.

You can run for the UCLA student senate and travel to any of the countries in the Islamic world where kings and emirs arbitrarily control people’s lives; gays are strung up on construction cranes; women who are raped are further punished for the offense of being a rape victim; the honor killings of women are celebrated, and child slavery flourishes. You can go to any of these regimes where human rights cease to exist and still be fit to be a UCLA student senator. You just can’t go to the Jewish state.

Eager not to offend those who are perpetually offended, a majority of student senate candidates signed on to the pledge, yielding not just their First Amendment rights but also their rights to think and experience for themselves.

On college campuses, you can’t be a champion of human rights that is critical of Islam like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose own life is a testimonial to its misogyny. Invited to receive an honorary degree at Brandeis University, Ali’s invitation offended a gaggle of leftist professors and Muslim students, who compelled Brandeis’ cowardly president to rescind the invitation.

Invited to be Rutgers University’s commencement speaker, Condoleezza Rice, one of the world’s most accomplished African American women, was forced to decline because of opposition from Muslim students and leftist faculty.

I attended a Daniel Pipes’ lecture at UC, Berkeley a number of years ago. To get into the lecture, we had to pass through airport-type security. A phalanx of police surrounded the interior of the hall. A safe room had to be set aside for Pipes and an exit strategy had to be created to get to it. The lecture was punctuated with verbal and physical disruption. Pipes had to stop while police ejected the most confrontational protesters.

After the lecture, we had to exit nearly single file through one door. Waiting for us outside was a gamut of Muslim students and their leftist sympathizers, who shouted in our faces and spat at us. We offended them. We dared to avail ourselves of the right to assemble guaranteed us under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

At the University of California, Irvine in 2010, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s address was loudly interrupted numerous times with personal attacks. He could not continue. The audience was deprived of hearing him. Eleven Muslim students were arrested and convicted for repeatedly disrupting the address.

The benefit of a diverse campus culture is that exposure to different attitudes and behaviors enrich us. But there is no enrichment when a culture, political or religious, arrogates to itself what the rest of us can hear.

Ironically, when it comes to bringing speakers on campus that will denounce America or openly call for the killing of Jews, Muslim student leaders are quick to invoke their First Amendment rights to hate speech as protected speech.

Radical Muslim or leftist speakers can come on campus and say the most offensive things, as is their right. And they will need no phalanx of police to protect them, no insults will be hurled, and no physical intimidation will take place. An escape plan or a safe room will not even be part of the security calculus.

Lurking in the back of the minds of campus administrators over who gets to be heard and who doesn’t is the potential for violence. Through physical intimidation and confrontation, Muslim students and their leftist allies raise the specter of violence while judiciously moving up to the line but only occasionally crossing it. Nonetheless, the prospect of violence often guarantees their right to use the First Amendment while denying it to others.

Brandeis’s Dishonor Diaries

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Imam Suhaib Webb was a happy man last Wednesday. The radical Islamist leader of Boston’s Saudi-funded mega mosque boasted that his Muslim community persuaded Brandeis University President Fred Lawrence to withdraw a Brandeis honorary degree from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the courageous, Somalia-born human rights activist who fled – and who campaigns against – the horrors radical Islam inflicts on women.

Webb blasted out thanks to his tens of thousands of social media followers, to the Brandeis Muslim Student Alliance and to Brandeis Professor of Islam Joseph Lumbard for their activist work. He cheered: “Great job, Umma!” Umma is the Muslim community.

If you watch the videos of his sermons, If you watch the videos of his sermons, you might conclude that Webb is homophobic, anti-Semitic and a misogynist, a man who claims that uncovered women are “bad people.” His mosque’s website once had instructions for men on how to beat their wives.

Ali’s brave words expose this kind of abuse of women in the Islamic world. She threatens to contest – and to expose – Islamist ideology for what it truly is. So Webb sought to have her silenced. And he succeeded. If Brandeis President Fred Lawrence lived in a world not drenched in post-modernist political correctness, he would be Ali’s most natural champion. But he is owned and ruled by that canon.

It’s a topsy-turvy world. Most Jews older than 40 don’t have a clue about the fast-flowing river of politically correct thought that runs beneath and undermines our society’s foundations of history, reason, morality and logic. They do not fully understand that the mental world in which our children – and our elites — are steeped. They don’t know that the 1960s ideologies were the victors in the culture wars, so much so that our public schools and popular culture rehearse and extol them daily. That’s why so many were shocked that a “Jewish” and “liberal” university could publicly dishonor a black woman who fights for human rights.

Only by knowing today’s secular theology with its complex hierarchy of values could one understand how Webb, a white man, can call a black woman an idiot, question her qualifications to teach at Harvard and not be relegated to social hell.

Only threatened by the twisted idea of “Islamophobia” – that you are a racist if you object to an unreformed medieval way of life — could Lawrence publicly shame and dishonor a woman who escaped her medieval society – after having been genitally mutilated, forced by her devoutly religious family into marriage, and threatened with death – and who now bravely faces down her murderous enemies. Only under PC insanity can Webb, the white son of an Oklahoma bank executive, claim greater victimhood and moral sanction from Lawrence than a brutalized but brave African woman simply because he adopted a fake accent and converted to Islam while Ali converted out of it.

Parents considering the huge tuitions that colleges now fetch are persuaded to pay through the nose in part because, yes, they deem it practical, but also because they are moved by glowing phrases about the glory and power of ideas. They have yet to understand that the ideas in power on today’s campus can turn on a black heroine and give victory to an Islamist because the president of a “Jewish,” “liberal” center of learning needs to be in line with the Islamist, even though this particular Islamist is on record claiming that Jews were Muhammad’s “greatest antagonizers” and that animosity toward the Jews is understandable.

It was almost exactly a year ago – just after Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Boston’s Temple Israel publicly endorsed his “depth, sincerity and religious scholarship” in an expression of Jewish interreligious “tolerance” — that Webb attacked Ali. He did it from the podium at the annual banquet of the Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR), the extremist Hamas front group that led the hateful campaign on Brandeis to snub her. Webb called Ali – a black African woman who converted away from Islam – an “idiot” and wondered: “How can she teach at the University of Phoenix, let alone Harvard?” (Ali is a fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.) Perhaps the endorsement from the rabbi of Boston’s largest Jewish house of worship gave Webb the confidence to call a black female intellectual “stupid.” The Jews, he might well have thought, would never criticize him for it. They’ve been “Islamophobia-d,” mentally mutilated, rendered capons.

Would HaLevi have Turned in Rushdie? Or Banished Spinoza?

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

My esteemed colleague, Yossi Klein Halevi, together with the Muslim chaplain at Duke University, Abdullah Antepli, have penned a defense of Brandeis’s decision to disinvite Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “What Muslims and Jews Should Learn From Brandeis.”

They write that Brandeis President Lawrence has provided an “essential teaching moment,” one that they hope will “prevent our descent into a holy war which would desecrate our faith and devour us all.”

In service to this messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli support the dishonoring of Hirsi Ali as a “renegade;” they do not see her as a “dissident” whose rights they might otherwise respect.

I wonder whether Halevi would have argued for the ex-communication of Spinoza on these same grounds. Perhaps, “renegades” are radicals and dissidents are “reformers.” We certainly need both points of view.

My colleague Yossi is truly a dreamer.

His most recent prize-winning book has “dreamers” in its title,  (and it is a book that I love). A previous Halevi book envisioned interfaith harmony between religions. Its title: “At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for God With Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.”

I remember a lunch we once had in the East 50′s sometime after the Al Aqsa Intifada and certainly after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. “Yossi,” I asked, “how is your interfaith work coming along in Ha’aretz?

Sadly, he told me that it was no longer possible for him to visit Gaza or parts of the West Bank safely.

Has Halevi found some new interfaith partners in America?  I am in favor of such alliances and am proud of my own.

But really: Who gets to decide who is a “renegade” and who is a “dissident”?  And do Halevi and Antepli honestly believe that this symbolic but resounding gesture of Brandeis’s can stop Al-Qaeda, Hamas, or the Muslim Brotherhood?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an important ally in the battle against Islamism–just as important as are religious Muslims such as Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser. Most of all, Western concepts of freedom of speech and academic freedom should protect, not banish truth-tellers who stand for women’s rights in fundamentalist cultures.

Halevi and Antepli go further and almost–but not quite–view the Jew-hatred in the Muslim world as morally equivalent to the kind of alleged insult to Islam represented by one woman. One woman. Who offers us reasoned argument and personal experience.

Hirsi Ali does not rant and rave, she is very cool and careful.

Sadly, neither Halevi  nor Antepli are “dissidents” or “renegades.” I am sorry that they cannot extend their generosity and compassion to a genuine hero at a moment of potential peril.

Reprinted with permission of the author.

Brandeis Caves to Pressure, Withdraws Honor to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

In a complete collapse of rectitude, Brandeis University’s president Fred Lawrence issued a statement on Tuesday evening, April 8, announcing the withdrawal of women’s and human rights champion Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a recipient of an honorary degree from the school at this year’s commencement.

For two days Muslim students and supporters raged against the decision to honor Ali because, they claimed, she is Islampohobic.

Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. In 1992 she escaped an impending arranged marriage to a relative, running to the Netherlands, where she learned the language and established a life. She rose to become a member of the Dutch parliament, where she worked to further the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society.

In 2004, Ali made a film with her friend, Theo Van Gogh. That film, “Submission,” is about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures.

After “Submission” was aired on Dutch television, an Islamic extremist murdered Van Gogh who was enraged by the portrayal of Islam.  A letter pinned to his body contained a death threat to Ali. She eventually fled Holland and Ayaan Hirsi Ali now lives in the United States.

Ali evolved from being a devout Muslim to one who questioned her faith, to ultimately and resolutely rejecting it.

“I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and forced marriage for the world of reason and emancipation. After making this voyage I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values.” That is a quote from Ali’s book, “Infidel.”

Ali has been extremely and indeed harshly critical of the Islamic world in which she suffered, both as a child in Africa, and also as a hunted creature, in Holland, from the angry immigrants who brought with them to Europe a profound inability to accept criticism of Islam.

And now, here in America, Ali is still being hounded by those who refuse to live by the standards of the West, of tolerance, of robust confrontations, but ones not knife-edged with intimidation.

The Facebook Page denouncing Ali and the decision to honor her at Brandeis’s 2014 Commencement decried her for her “hate speech.” The Muslim Students Association claimed that honoring her “is a direct violation of Brandeis University’s own moral code as well as the rights of all Brandeis students.”

Most chillingly, while the students acknowledged Ali had experienced “terrible things in her life,” their bottom line was “we will not tolerate an attack at our faith.”

And so they issued a fatwa: the invitation to Ali had to be rescinded. The school newspaper, The Justice (yes, the irony!) ran both a “news article” and an editorial denouncing the decision to give Ali an honorary degree.

Brandeis University president Fred Lawrence echoed the students (and a large number of faculty members, including the Women’s Studies professors) in his statement:

Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

In other words, Ali’s decades of devotion to helping women enslaved by misogynistic practitioners of the Muslim faith – who dominate the governments of Muslim countries – was neutered by the pronunciamento by students that they “would not tolerate an attack on [their] faith.” And in still other words, on American campuses criticism of religion – which has been a fixture of campus life – is no longer permitted. What words, what thoughts will be deemed unacceptable next?

Infidel

Monday, August 5th, 2013

I’ve written about Ayaan Hirsi Ali a few times, having heard her speak two years running now at the President’s Conference in Jerusalem. Each time, in her elegant and dignified way, she put the other speakers to shame. There were quiet and short remarks – there is great beauty is simplicity.

Last year, as several American Jews, diplomats and scholars, debated the need for Israel to surrender more, Hirsi Ali was handed the microphone and now, more than 16 months later, her words remain imprinted on my brain, “Even if you give them Jerusalem…EVEN if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace.”

Many clapped for this statement and the first thing I did after blogging about her was to promise myself I would learn more. With a great many excuses, a full year past and I was back again this past June at the President’s Conference, thrilled to have another opportunity to hear her speak. The room was packed – not a vacant seat (I grabbed the last three seats and called Chaim telling him he had to come hear this session). After hearing her speak again, I fulfilled that promise by ordering two of her books – “Infidel” and “Nomad.” These contain the story of her life – up to this point, whatever she wants to tell us – but certainly in much more detail than she could provide during her short presentations.

I learned so much about Islam – about that world on the other side of my borders. To be honest, I knew a lot of it, or suspected it – but she gave depth to my knowledge and then took me way beyond. She gave reasons, deeply rooted in Islam and in the Koran. I knew the results; she taught me the cause.

So here, I have a confession – I am a mother, a wife, even a grandmother, if you can believe that…and though I have joined others in condemning it, I only realized in reading her story what female genital mutilation was. I had no idea…and a part of me wishes I still didn’t know. How these men could do this to their daughters; how they could want this in their wives – I honestly and truly don’t understand.

That is, perhaps, the curse of Western civilization – we cannot comprehend the barbarity and because we are so naive, because we cannot understand, we tend to excuse, minimize the acts. We conveniently use the words and condemn the action…but to read pages that describe the act, the pain and suffering of these young girls – then and for years after was a startling revelation, a glimpse into a world that I had never imagined.

Can a mother want to do this to her daughter, as Ayaan’s mother chose to do to hers? How? In God’s name, how? I have never knowingly caused my daughter’s pain. And when they have been in pain, I have felt that pain throughout my body.

As to Ayaan, her story is amazing…what she survived…what she made of herself is a lesson to all of us – even those of us who, by comparison, have been blessed to live with relatively few hardships. I have never known hunger; I have never been beaten. Medical care has always been available, education, food, and love.

There were several things that got to me in her story (I’ve only read Infidel so far; I’m starting Nomad tonight) on so many levels – as a woman, as a Jew, as an Israeli, as a mother.

One of the first things that struck me, even as I found myself deeply involved with her personal story, were the few references to Jews. Until she was well into her 20s, I don’t think Ayaan ever met a Jew. I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry when I read, “In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of the Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap sopped running,t he Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it…I had never med a Jew. (Neither had these Saudis.)” What I got from this was something I had already known – they really really hate us. They don’t even know us, but they hate us…go figure.

Another thing that bothered me, though I understood her reasoning, was her journey away from Islam. She describes a religion that demands absolute obedience; a religion that has no mechanism for change over time; and a religion that focuses on punishment and the Hereafter – all you do in this life is preparation for the Hereafter and there are seemingly thousands or more things for which you are regularly threatened to be condemned to hell. It seems almost as if it is impossible to get to this heaven, given the number of restrictions – in action and in thought – that are applied to Muslims.

Ayaan’s brilliant reasoning takes all of this into consideration and reaches a conclusion – there is no hell; there is no hereafter. The Koran was written by man, not be God…and from there – she decides there is no God. I’m simplifying it. For her, it was a journey of thousands of miles and many years. She embraced Islam, searching and searching to justify her beliefs. She found contradictions and still pushed on.

It is written in the Koran that you may beat your wife…and Ayaan properly asks, what kind of God would allow that? It is written that you can cheat and lie to an infidel…and what kind of God would allow that?

And while I agree with her, it is also the point where I lose my way in following her. I won’t argue whether Allah is God and God is Allah, but I will say that the God she describes is not my God. I do believe in God – but not this Allah that she describes. My God has told us to choose life, not death. My God does not allow a man to beat his wife and the value of a life – Jew or not, is important. You cannot cheat or beat a slave and even slaves have an “out” clause to their slavery such that they must be set free after a certain number of years. These are the laws given to my people, by our God, a God we refer to as merciful and just.

A man can sell himself into slavery to pay off a debt, knowing that when the debt is paid, he will be freed. I don’t want to get into a legal comparison of Jewish law versus Islamic law – I am an expert of neither.

But I do believe in the hereafter – only different from what Ayaan was taught. We are taught that God waits to the last minute of your life to forgive any transgressions; the Islam she learned involved having two “angels” over her shoulders, each writing down the good and bad you do – and the list of bad could be as simple as being alone with a man, seeing a movie, etc. If you wear pants, if you show any skin except for your face and hands, certainly not your neck, you are sinful and evil.

I don’t blame Ayaan for walking away from a culture in which a man can take several wives and beat them as he wishes; a culture in which a man can marry off his daughter to a someone she has never met; a culture in which a woman cannot move freely unless she is escorted by a man. I can only hope that had God put me in the same culture, I would have found the courage, as she did, to escape. And she didn’t just escape, she took with her a responsibility to try to help others.

I think it took tremendous courage to walk away, to flee and save herself and thousands of other Muslim women by the work she did in Holland and now does in the United States.

I just wish somehow that along her journey, she could have found a way to keep God. It seems to me that Ayaan’s logical conclusion should have been that if Islam is as flawed as she believes it to be…she should understand that their version and vision of God is flawed too. I do not believe in the God she worshiped as a child and a young woman. Flawed, vindictive, vengeful, and promoting inequality – no, these are not traits of the God that I have known.

This Allah she was raised to worship demanded absolute obedience – compare that to the story of Abraham arguing with God to save the few righteous of Sodom. We have been in a dialog with God for thousands of years – and He listens to us. It is a relationship of love, of gratitude.

In Israel, we have seen too many miracles to do anything but believe in God. Every time a missile hits…it is a miracle because moments before a car passed by, a person left the room, a class was in the library. We have seen it all and we recognize the source. I’m sure we have atheists in Israel, but even among secular Jews here, God is pretty much accepted.

The radio broadcaster will bless the memory of someone who has died; will say, “thank God,” when no one is hurt. God escorts us through our lives here and encourages us to be better, kinder, and more charitable. We are not measured by how many infidels we kill, how many women we force into modesty. This concept of honor killing finds no home in our religion or with our God.

We have seen the horrors of what man can do to man (and to woman) but to blame God for the actions of man seems unfair. There is evil in this world – we all know that. We are given the choice – to choose good and God or to choose evil and work against God.

I can’t explain why bad things happen, but I do believe even the horrible serves a purpose. What was done to Ayaan, and so many others, were terrible, almost unimaginable and yet, didn’t these actions form her into the person she is? Overall, as I read her book, I was left with the impression that she was happy with who she is and what she has done. God, yes, I believe God, gave her a task in this life – one that she accomplishes each time she spreads the knowledge of the culture in which she was raised, each time she forces us to open our eyes and see.

Would she have accomplished what she has, without the challenges along the way? I think the answer is obvious.

What I can say is that there is tremendous comfort in believing that there is a God looking out for you, guiding you, protecting you. And I wish Ayaan could have this comfort. God has a plan – perhaps the greatest evil comes when man attempts to control or redirect that plan; when man attempts to become master of that plan.

Perhaps the irony is that the religion of Islam’s greatest flaw is not that it targets infidels, but that it fails to understand what an infidel is. I would say an infidel is a man who beats his wife, mutilates his daughter, encourages his sons to commit suicide. An infidel is one who is so busy defining God for others, he forgets to understand it is not for us to define God at all.

In carefully defining every aspect of how you live, Islam has succeeded in defining nothing. What the Muslim man fails to realize is that when he blows up a building, murders and terrorizes – and it is he who will go to hell, not the poor woman who was seen talking to a man, not the family sitting in the pizza store in Jerusalem. There are infidels in the world – but these are the people who forsake the love of God, for a culture of death and misery.

(It’s still an incredible book and I highly recommend it…I just wish I could tell Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she is where she is in life…by her own intelligence, her own strength, and by the grace of God…if not Allah.)

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Can Islam Be Reformed?

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Originally published at Daniel Pipes.

Commentary requested an internet supplement for this article and I chose the key passage on the Medieval Synthesis from my 1983 book, In the Path of God; Islam and Political Power. To read it, click here.

Islam currently represents a backward, aggressive, and violent force. Must it remain this way, or can it be reformed and become moderate, modern, and good-neighborly? Can Islamic authorities formulate an understanding of their religion that grants full rights to women and non-Muslims as well as freedom of conscience to Muslims, that accepts the basic principles of modern finance and jurisprudence, and that does not seek to impose Sharia law or establish a caliphate?

A growing body of analysts believe that no, the Muslim faith cannot do these things, that these features are inherent to Islam and immutably part of its makeup. Asked if she agrees with my formulation that “radical Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution,” the writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali replied, “He’s wrong. Sorry about that.” She and I stand in the same trench, fighting for the same goals and against the same opponents, but we disagree on this vital point.

My argument has two parts. First, the essentialist position of many analysts is wrong; and second, a reformed Islam can emerge.

Arguing Against Essentialism

Rumi (1207-73), a leading mystic of Islam.

Rumi (1207-73), a leading mystic of Islam.

To state that Islam can never change is to assert that the Koran and Hadith, which constitute the religion’s core, must always be understood in the same way. But to articulate this position is to reveal its error, for nothing human abides forever. Everything, including the reading of sacred texts, changes over time. Everything has a history. And everything has a future that will be unlike its past.

Only by failing to account for human nature and by ignoring more than a millennium of actual changes in the Koran’s interpretation can one claim that the Koran has been understood identically over time. Changes have applied in such matters as jihad, slavery, usury, the principle of “no compulsion in religion,” and the role of women. Moreover, the many important interpreters of Islam over the past 1,400 years—ash-Shafi’i, al-Ghazali, Ibn Taymiya, Rumi, Shah Waliullah, and Ruhollah Khomeini come to mind—disagreed deeply among themselves about the content of the message of Islam.

However central the Koran and Hadith may be, they are not the totality of the Muslim experience; the accumulated experience of Muslim peoples from Morocco to Indonesia and beyond matters no less. To dwell on Islam’s scriptures is akin to interpreting the United States solely through the lens of the Constitution; ignoring the country’s history would lead to a distorted understanding.

Put differently, medieval Muslim civilization excelled and today’s Muslims lag behind in nearly every index of achievement. But if things can get worse, they can also get better. Likewise, in my own career, I witnessed Islamism rise from minimal beginnings when I entered the field in 1969 to the great powers it enjoys today; if Islamism can thus grow, it can also decline.

How might that happen?

The Medieval Synthesis

Shah Waliullah (1703-62) a leading thinker of Indian Islam.

Shah Waliullah (1703-62) a leading thinker of Indian Islam.

Key to Islam’s role in public life is Sharia and the many untenable demands it makes on Muslims. Running a government with the minimal taxes permitted by Sharia has proved to be unsustainable; and how can one run a financial system without charging interest? A penal system that requires four men to view an adulterous act in flagrante delicto is impractical. Sharia’s prohibition on warfare against fellow Muslims is impossible for all to live up to; indeed, roughly three-quarters of all warfare waged by Muslims has been directed against other Muslims. Likewise, the insistence on perpetual jihad against non-Muslims demands too much.

To get around these and other unrealistic demands, premodern Muslims developed certain legal fig leaves that allowed for the relaxation of Islamic provisions without directly violating them. Jurists came up with hiyal (tricks) and other means by which the letter of the law could be fulfilled while negating its spirit. For example, various mechanisms were developed to live in harmony with non-Muslim states. There is also the double sale (bai al-inah) of an item, which permits the purchaser to pay a disguised form of interest. Wars against fellow Muslims were renamed jihad.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/the-lions-den-daniel-pipes/can-islam-be-reformed/2013/07/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: