The Protestantization of Islam???

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This article in Beliefnet strikes me as rather strange. The author is a Muslim who is a medical doctor-not someone who has specialized knowledge in Islam-and his rendering of the faith (all the stuff about God’s forgiveness and ability to redeem humans, etc.) strikes me as very Protestant, in the American context, almost Evangelical. The author also asserts a place for Free Will in the Islamic conception of the God-human relationship, and yet my understanding is that the orthodox Islamic position rejects Free Will in favor of predestination. I’m not going to snipe about how the author is not schooled in the religion of his profession, many lay Presbyterians do not delve deeply into the denial of Free Will that serves as a point of separation for their Calvinist tradition from that of many other Protestants, nor do many Lutherans contemplate much over the muddle that is their doctrine on this issue. Rather, most American Protestants, even the Evangelicals, as well as Catholics and to some extent Jews, have become participants in a vague form of theism that rejects excessive formulation of doctrine and rigorous scripture study in favor of emotional devotion and personal redefinition of “what it means to be Fill-in-the-blank.” The Protestantization of American Islam is surely a good thing, a move away from Islam’s current standing as a cult-sect that is shifted far from the American mainstream and to some extent religiously at odds with it, to one denomination among many that partakes of the standard public pieties without excessive self-reflection on the axioms of the faith.

Related note: See this ParaPundit article on the various attempts to bring the Koran into the umbrella of textual analysis that the Bible has been subjected to since the 19th century. Note that modernist criticism of the Bible lead to the emergence of Fundamentalism in the early 20th century in the form of pamphlets like The Five Fundamentals. Unfortunately most of the scholars that work in this new field have to go under pseudonyms because of the nature of their endeavour. And just like the investigation into the Bible, the inquiry seems to be driven by German scholars….

Update 2: Zack comments (a lot).

Update 3: Bill Allison weights in.

19 Comments

  1. Here’s the link to my article that Razib was trying to link to.

  2. fixed….

  3. From the Economist:”Luxenberg, a professor of Semitic languages at one of Germany’s leading universities, has chosen to remain anonymous because he fears a fatwa by enraged Islamic extremists.”

    It´s really preposterous that a western scholar has to conceal his identity in order to publish a work of scolarship. We should make it clear to muslim countries that our toleration of Islam in the West (free worship, building of mosques, etc), should be reciprocal.
    For instance, Saudis found the erection of the majority of mosques in the West, while it is still illegal to build a Christian church in Saudi Arabia.
    PC is one thing, ludicrous as it may be, but wholesale surrender of our values and legality is quite different, and should never be condoned.

  4. “We should make it clear to muslim countries that our toleration of Islam in the West (free worship, building of mosques, etc), should be reciprocal.”

    To be honest, I don’t think any of them would care.

    Except for, perhaps, Turkey. But extremist Turks are almost non-existent. I suppose the sensibility of Turks goes back to their roots in the late Roman Empire, hmm?

  5. I think we shouldn’t let Muslims immigrate to the West. To do so just creates more trouble in the future.

  6. Johnny Rotten:”To be honest, I don’t think any of them would care.

    Except for, perhaps, Turkey. But extremist Turks are almost non-existent. I suppose the sensibility of Turks goes back to their roots in the late Roman Empire, hmm?”

    Well, at least we should try to make them care. Enforce political and economic sanctions. Make their nationals in the West discard those parts of Muslim law at odds with our own laws (which is a large part, I am afraid).
    The moment we let them rule what can or cannot be published in the West (see the recent Houellebecq case in France), we are finished as a civilization.
    To answer R. Parker, it is not the mere presence of Muslims in any given country in the West that´s a threat, it´s when we allow them to change our laws and ways.
    Then maybe Turkey may be an example of Islam restrained by the rule of secular law. Hopefully, it can be done if the will is there.

  7. I’m a cynic. First of all, I don’t think the other so-called “Islamic nations” give two shits about how Turkey keeps its house – or if they even consider it a valid “Islamic country”.

    Second, I’m not sure their nationals in the West are putting Sharia above good ol’ English common law, assuming they’re in USA/Canucka whatever. Of course, if you’ve got some examples of islamic-american brides being put on fire for marrying a whiteboy, do tell.

    Third, the arab world as a whole is stuck in a sort of pre-Enlightenment quagmire. I don’t think they’re going to get out of it anytime soon. Whether or not America is succesful in whatever it is trying to accomplish in Iraq is irrelevent. I just don’t believe Arab society has what it takes (right now) to make the jump to a free-market system AND/OR a secular democracy. Notice I said society, not people. I’m not a racist and I think that individuals are pretty much capable of anything. But changing a society is a completely different beast. I don’t think the use of force (war) OR “feeling sorry for them/understanding them” (the leftist perspective) will make a difference…

  8. Eufrenio, Yes, their mere presence is a threat if they are either terrorists or giving aid to terrorists.

    Also, the more that come the more that will become voters. Also, some will send their kids to fundamentalist schools and will attend fundamentalist mosques. The larger the population concentration they form in any one urban area the more likely they will form a critical mass of mosques, schools, and other institutions needed to propagate their beliefs into their offspring.

  9. I was going to reflexing jump in and argue against Randall, but I have decided not to. He can keep his prejudice. I don’t care.

    Regarding free will Vs determinism, I don’t think it’s that simple in “orthodox Islam”. Different sects have differing viewpoints. Also, most people really don’t care about it.

    You are right that a lot of the work on analysis of the Quran is being done by or in collaboration with German scholars.

    BTW I have heard claims that scholars who want to do such work have to hide behind pseudonyms. I am not sure that is correct. There are Luxenberg and Ibn Warraq (should he be considered a scholar?). But most of the others (including everyone working on the Sanaa manuscripts) use their own names. Not denying there are issues of tolerance among quite a few Muslims. Just pointing out some facts.

  10. I was going to reflexing jump in and argue against Randall, but I have decided not to. He can keep his prejudice. I don’t care.

    Regarding free will Vs determinism, I don’t think it’s that simple in “orthodox Islam”. Different sects have differing viewpoints. Also, most people really don’t care about it.

    1) i would appreciate randall clarifying his position, or pointing to a post on his blog where he does, i know some of his opinions already on this issue, but would like a public airing of this topic.

    2) zack, i would appreciate an elaboration of the “free will vs. predestination” issue-but “orthodox” i mean the 90% of muslims that are sunni. which sects advocate free will? i assume some sufi groups would…you are correct that on the personal level the free will vs. predestination has little impact, but its position in a theological context can have effects on the whole faith system

  11. Razib,

    Sorry, I didn’t see your post, I would have linked it as well. Regarding Randall, I’m rather surprised, and would be interested in seeing how he justifies this position.

  12. razib: I’ll try to dig up something later. This week is kinda busy and this requires some rereading of stuff.

  13. Folks, I’ve been arguing against Muslim immigration for some time. Recall this post and your response in the comments. Also, see my posts Terrorism and the Assumptions of Classical Liberalism and Individual Rights The Highest Value Of All People? as longer expositions of my views.

    Bill, I justify it rather easily: There are lots of people desiring to immigrate to the US. We have our pick of who we let in. We can’t let them all in. We do have to choose somehow. I say let in bright people who hold views most compatible with a fairly secular liberal democratic society.

    If you want to argue that some Muslims are not hostile to liberal democracy I would agree. But in group average terms there are groups who, due to their beliefs, would be far better to have as immigrants. The problem is that if even a small percentage of an immigrant group is either outwardly hostile or in favor of an incompatible political system that creates a big problem for us.

    Zack, If I have a negative view of Islam then am I automatically prejudiced?

  14. Randall: If your negative view of Islam results in your taking some negative action against ALL Muslims then yes you are prejudiced.

  15. Zack, what do you mean by “prejudiced”?

    Have you read the arguments I’ve laid out in my posts I link to above? See this as a practical matter. I bear no malice toward the average Muslim. I just think that the effect of them as a group is not an effect I want to have on my society.

  16. Prejudice: An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts; Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion.

    Randall: You are using the actions and beliefs of a few (or some) to act against ALL Muslims. That in my mind is bias or prejudice. You are prejudging me and denying me something because of my belonging to a group. Isn’ that the very definition of the word?

  17. Zack, I don’t see my views as irrational. I think they are in fact highly rational. I’ve examined the facts. Muslims are more likely than others to become terrorists. The more devout they are the more likely they are to become terrorists. There aren’t any Americans converting to Buddhism or Zoroastrianism and then deciding to become terroists. But that has happened with a number of converts to Islam.

    I can’t judge each person and neither can you. Immigration officials can not judge which ones are dangerous. They can’t judge which ones will raise Muslim kids who will become dangerous even if their parents are not dangerous (as Britain is finding out). Keeping them all from coming here keeps out the bad ones and the kids who will become bad later.

    If Muslims become a larger fraction of the US population the country will have more problems with terrorism. Why then should I support Muslim immigration? I see no reason to.

  18. In “Race Trumps Human Rights” (July 21, 2003; http://www.badeagle.com/journal/) Dr. David Yeagley wrote:

    Arabs have “wonderfully oil-rich” countries to go back to. That’s where they need to go…If they get deprived of the right to live in America, so be it.

    The late Pim Fortuyn wanted “to ban Muslim immigration” (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/04/26/1019441303963.html).

    For a pro-Islamic immigration viewpoint go to Latif’s Cavern. See “Yawn” (July 27, 2002; http://latif.blogspot.com/2002_07_01_latif_archive.html).

    More Moslem black refugees from Africa to arrive in the USA (http://www.aberdeennews.com/mld/aberdeennews/news/6397666.htm).

    By the way female entertainment personalities of Arab descent include Paula Abdul, Yasmine Bleeth, Shannon Elizabeth, Khrystyne Haje, Salma Hayek, Wendie Malick, Kristy McNichol, Kathy Najimy, Marlo Thomas, Amy Yasbeck, Shakira, and Tiffany (http://www.aaiusa.org/famous_arab_americans.htm). Abdul and Bleeth are also of Jewish descent. Hayek and Shakira are part Latina.

    And for balance men of Arab descent include F. Murray Abraham, Spencer Abraham, Paul Anka, Dick Dale, Dr. Michael DeBakey, Jamie Farr, Doug Flutie, Joseph Jamail, Casey Kasem, George Mitchell, Jacques Nasser, Michael Nouri, Ralph Nader, Tony Shalhoub, the late Tiny Tim, the late Frank Zappa, and John Zogby (http://www.aaiusa.org/famous_arab_americans.htm).

    Most Arab Americans are Christian (http://www.aaiusa.org/demographics.htm).

  19. I can’t judge each person and neither can you.

    But Randall I can judge myself. :-)

    I don’t think our discussion is going anywhere. You are welcome to your views. Just don’t expect me to respect them or agree.

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