Friday, February 24, 2006

No God But God...

As I wrote earlier, I had the chance to hear Reza Aslan speak on the topic of the state of Islam and its future.  It was a great lecture and an interesting Q&A session.  Here are some notes from the discussion:

·        The current phenomenon of Jihadism is a modern and wholly new idea in the Muslim world

·        The current era is best understood as a parallel to the Protestant Reformation - the era of the islamic reformation

·        The conflict is not primarily a result of a clash between cultures of east And west, but a battle within the Islamic world

·        The Christian Reformation was a violent and bloody argument that spanned all of Europe for nearly a century - and was primarily about who had the power of decision; where was the locus of power - the church or the individual

·        The islamic parallel is further complicated by the fact that neither side of the argument has  a central authority but instead there are thousands of self-appointed leaders and clerics

·        With the wide availability of the Koran in various languages and the use of the Internet (the Islamic Reformation's parallel to the printing press of the Christian Reformation), even the mosque has lost its unifying power

·        Think of Bin Ladin in light of Luther's pro-war stance in the German peasant war of 1525

·        Jihadism portays the West and Israel as "the far enemy" while those within Islarn who refuse the radical puritanism within Islam are referred to as "the near enemy"

·        Bin ladin has essentially said that individual Muslims can trump all recognized clerics and scholars within Islam if "the truth is on their side" - saying that he or any other Muslim can declare fatwas or jihad - a capability previously reserved only for recognized leaders within Islam

·        Regarding democritization within the Middle East, we must tread lightely.  Look at the IRA- this is an example of disarming a terrorist organization by political empowerment. We must bear this lesson in mind to avoid a serious mistake with Hamas

·        he Israel issue has become really the only thread running through much of the arab world - they have little else in common - it's used as a tool by dictators to draw attention and criticism away from themselves

·        The victory of Hamas was a victory not about religion or hatred Of Israel but about who built the hospitals and cleaned the streets

·        The primary messages were that the conflict raging within Islam now is first and foremost an internal conflict - not first and foremost a "clash of cultures - East and West" (though there is certainly a place for this - primarily in response to Colonialism and as a tool used by despots and dictators within Middle East governments to direct criticism away from themselves).  And that this "Reformation" within Islam will have to be resolved within Islam.


Eric Livingston said...

Sounds like an interesting lecture. I would take issue with the notion that all Muslims include Israel under the label of "far enemy" - especially among the Palestinians. There are still some Palestinians that remember when the deed to their family's house became invalid when Israel stopped honoring those deeds. Religious and racial issues aside, if someone evicted my family out of my house and said my deed was worthless, I'd have a hard time not holding a grudge. In fact, I might even consider the evicting authority a "near enemy".

Then when one considers that Israel would have surely fallen in her War of Independence which began the day after her statehood was declared, except for the assisstance of the U.S., the tie between the countries is clear. Couple that with the facts that Israel is given more financial aid from the US every year than any other country, and you can see how an Israel hater might dislike the US. Further complicate matters with the fact that Israel's American made helicopter gunships are the trademark of the violent suppression of the recent 4 year Intifadah, and the lines between Israeli and American aggression towards the Palestinians blurs even further.

I know this is exceedingly long. Just wanted to comment that I think labeling Israel and the US as the "distant enemies" of Muslims is somewhat of a simplification. I think their somewhate justifiable anger goes directly to Israel and thereby to the US.

CJR said...

Eric -

Thanks for the comment.

I think Aslan would agree that this is a simplification - and he said as much in the lecture.

I think the primary point he wanted to make is that this is a lot less about us than we think it is. It isn't "Christianity v. Islam" or even "East v. West" - though these are real issues. It is primarily a battle for the heart of Islam - who will lead this religion into the future.