Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Call For A Islamic Reformation
And A Tangential Discussion Of Some Key Ways
In Which Christianity Also Needs To Be Reformed

Last night on Little Green Footballs, reader NogenDavid (Comment #49) touched upon a subject I have been meaning to address for a long time here on CUANAS. That is, the fact that The Bible contains some very vicious law which can be compared to the frightening strictures of the Koran:

There is some ferocious stuff in part of the Jewish bible as well. (Death penalty for violating the Sabbath? Stoning rebellious sons?) Part of the glory of Jewish religious development is that this material was tamed through interpretation and supplementation (the Talmud).

Different versions of Christianity have taken different paths to adapting scriptures to evolving scientific knowledge and moral insight. One branch viewed some of the strictures of the Jewish tradition as having been supplanted by the arrival of Jesus.

The orthodox Jewish approach was in one sense more intellectually demanding, because it required that the older traditions be incorporated, without deletion, into the new. Not an easy challenge, but one that has been addressed with great imagination and rigour now for at least two millenia.

There is no reason, other than the perverse "you're better than we are" prejudice of some left-wing ideologues, to expect that Islamic scriptures are, taken literally, free of ideas that should now be considered ill informed or morally repugnant.

Literalism does not have to be the "real" Islam, any more than "real" Judaism is only the five books, read literally, or only the bible, real literally, and not the Talmud, midrash, bible commentaries or halachic rulings for the rabbis.

The challenge Islamic thinkers face is to find a way to reinterpret and adapt scriptures. This reform has to come from within that faith community.

It is not helpful for those outside, however, to pretend (or insist out of pure ignorance or bias) that Islam does not need to go through a reformation. It is even worse, of course, for those on the inside to harry, censor or even kill those within the Islamic tradition who are trying to creatively adapt it to the new world.

When my friend TVD, of Philosodude got booted off Someguy's very excellent blog, Mystery Achievement, this, as I recall, was the point he was trying to make.(The guys at Mystery Achievement didn't understand his point, and believed he was bashing the Jews.)

I have my own doubts and concerns about the religion of Islam as a basic structure. For instance, the way in which Islam seeks to negate the two main stories of the Jewish Bible (Abraham was going to sacrifice Ishmael, not Isaac) and the Christian "New Testament" (Christ didn't die on the cross. Instead Judas did.), while at the same time, almost psychotically, asserting the power of all things Islamic; that Allah is the greatest, Arabs are superior, Muslims are predominant over the infidel, who ought to be "humiliated" into submission.

From my Christian perspective this insistence upon power and submission, combined with the negation of the perfect sacrifice stories of the Bible, runs absolutely contrary to everything I believe in.

But, whatever. I can live with their twisting of the truth of the Bible. I can live with the negations, the belief in submission, the belief that Allah is the greatest. I can even live with Muslims thinking they are better than us in Allahs eyes. Really, who cares.

What we can't live with is Jihad, the abuse of a woman's right to be a free human being, the idea that infidels must be humiliated.

I agree with NogenDavid that Islam can reform itself, and I agree that we need to insist that Muslims do, indeed, reform their religion. As it is, wherever Islam reigns supreme it holds people in slavery, and promotes Jihad. This is a state of affairs the human race can not live with.

Just to be clear, I believe also that Christianity needs to reform itself in various ways. The truth is, the ways in which Christianity is currently working against human rights are minor compared to the outright obliteration of humanity that Sharia is committing in countries like Iran, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia.

But, just for the record, I think Christianity needs to get over it's issues with homosexuals. Homosexuality may be not be the preferred way to live, but it is clear that some men and women are just not born with the same inclinations as most of us. Who cares? Are they hurting anyone? Are they not capable of loving their neighbor as themselves, and loving the Lord God with all their heart, mind and soul?

Yes, clearly they are.

Another area in which I believe Christianity needs to reform itself is in the area of it's relationship with it's older brothers and sisters in the faith; the Jews. The book of Romans clearly lays out the Jews role in history, and warns us gentiles against "arrogance." In fact, not only does Paul warn us against arrogance, indeed, he lays out the penalty - which is to be cut off from the root of the tree entirely.

That's a frightening prospect, and one we ought to fear.

In the book of Romans, Paul says that the Jews experience a hardening of their hearts which causes them to be unable to recognize that Jesus (Yeshua) was their messiah. Does this mean that the Jews will not be saved? No, in fact, Paul says that "all Israel will be saved."

The reason for this hardening of the heart is spelled out very clearly as well. Judaism is not by it's very nature a evangelical religion. Instead the focus of Judaism has always been on maintaining the Jewish traditions, in order to be set apart. Paul explains that the Jews were set apart to carry the Word of God, the Law, through the ages. If they had not been set apart, if they had assimilated, the Law could not have been carried forward as perfectly as it has.

So, the book of Romans tells us that the Jews will continue to carry God's Law forward until the "fullness of the Gentiles" has entered in, and it is at that time that "all Israel will be saved."

In other words, the Jews have a specific part to play in the progression of God's plan. It is obviously both a blessing and a burden beyond all imagination. The Jews seem to be like Frodo in The Lord Of The Rings, except instead of a ring, they carry the Torah, and as a result the eye of evil is always upon them, and devising ways to destroy them.

Christians need to learn to understand this piece of God's puzzle. Christians need to learn to have profound respect for the burden and the suffering of the Jews.

But, I digress.

The main point of this post is that Islam needs to reform itself in the worst way. We infidels can not reform Islam. Those Muslims who look out on humanity and see that we are all children of Allah, need to speak up within their mosques and say no more will we look down upon the infidel. No more will we accept the preaching of violent Jihad, and martyrdom. No more will we accept anything less than full and free humanity for our women.

As Ledeen says, "Faster please."

UPDATE: This Imam from the Dar al-Hijrah Mosque, "one of the largest mosques on the East coast," doesn't agree with me. He says "The call to reform Islam is an alien call." And he supports Hamas.

He sounds like a maniac and a dangerous person to me, but I guess he's just another "moderate" Muslim.

Good Muslims have got to put these guys out of their community.

Oh, and yes, Imam, the call to reform Islam is an alien call, because people like you have everyone in your community too intimidated to tell you to shut up and get out.

So, it's left to us non-Muslims to remind your people that it isn't acceptable to call for violent Jihad.