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January 31, 2004

God(s) & state

Found this Scott Martens post via Jonathan Edelstein (via Randy MacDonald). Titled The Secular Itjihad, the post is a rumination on the relationship between the secular state and the various religious traditions that exist as subsets within it, with a specific focus on Islam. I highly suggest Conrad Barwa's "brief" (his words) comment on Martens' post!

Additionally, Martens notes asserts that:

Another thing I've learned from what I have managed to read of Islamic thought: It is so varied that it actually makes Marxism look like a tightly-knit coherent movement. Whatever it is that someone says is Islamic, you can find some significant community of Muslims somewhere who will tell you the exact opposite.

Quantification is crucial here. There are a non-trivial number of Muslims who fit in well within the liberal order in the United States. And there is a wide diversity of opinion on a variety of topics in Islam. But one must not pretend as if the spectrum is populated by groups of roughly congruent size & influence. My personal opinion is that the Muslim liberals in the form of Irshad Manji are a vanishingly small minority in the Dar-al-Islam, perhaps, small enough perhaps to be discarded from the equation. On the other hand, though the radical Salafi fundamentalists are a minority as well, I do not believe that they are trivial enough to be discarded from the equation. In a similar fashion, Christian Reconstructionists have views that would make a Salafi radical proud, but they are such a small minority within the Christian community that they can be discarded from the equation when characterizing Christianity.

If Western liberals favor the liberals within Islam, as I believe they should, they have the possibility of changing the function that characterizes Islam appreciably. In such a fashion, they are influencing and offering their opinion on how Islam should be interpreted, at least indirectly, even if by justifying a liberal order by appealing to the liberal form of Islam as substrate.

Also, I point to this review of Irshad Manji's book The Trouble With Islam by a Canadian Muslim woman who has a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard. If you read her right, dhimmis had special rights, the same rights, but not all the responsibilities, as Muslims. I agree that Manji's personal experience with Islam and her lesbianism allows her to tap into some anger-but this comment about dhimmis (which the woman repeated when interviewed with Manji) is pretty hilarious. If all the barbarism (speaking from a Western perspective) is simply because of the cultures that practice Islam, not Islam itself, I still find it peculiar as to why Islam was so successful in converting these peoples to the One True Faith.

Posted by razib at 08:26 PM