Beware of a religion without irony

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Haydnseek
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Beware of a religion without irony

Post by Haydnseek » Sun Aug 20, 2006 8:47 am

'Islamofascism'
Beware of a religion without irony.

BY ROGER SCRUTON
Sunday, August 20, 2006 12:01 a.m.

The term "Islamofascism" was introduced by the French writer Maxine Rodinson (1915-2004) to describe the Iranian Revolution of 1978. Rodinson was a Marxist, who described as "fascist" any movement of which he disapproved. But we should be grateful to him for coining a word that enables people on the left to denounce our common enemy. After all, other French leftists--Michel Foucault, for example--had welcomed the revolution as an amusing threat to Western interests. It is only now that people on the left can acknowledge that they are just as much a target as the rest of us, in a war that has global chaos as its goal.

The word has therefore caught on, not least because it provides a convenient way of announcing that you are not against Islam but only against its perversion by the terrorists. But this prompts the question whether terrorism is really as alien to Islam as we should all like to believe. Despite his communist sympathies, Rodinson was a peaceful soul, who spent seven years teaching in a Muslim school in Lebanon and wrote a biography of Muhammad in which the prophet is portrayed as a mild-mannered campaigner for social justice. But this biography was denounced by the Egyptian authorities as an offense to Islam, was withdrawn from the curriculum of the American University in Cairo, and has ever since been banned in Muslim countries.

This readiness to take offense is not yet terrorism--but it is a sign of the deep-down insecurity of the Muslim psyche in the modern world. In the presence of Islam, we all feel, you have to tread carefully, as though humoring a dangerous animal. The Koran must never be questioned; Islam must be described as a religion of peace--isn't that the meaning of the word?--and jokes about the prophet are an absolute no-no. If religion comes up in conversation, best to slip quietly away, accompanying your departure with abject apologies for the Crusades. And in Europe this *** is now being transcribed into law, with "Islamophobia" already a crime in Belgium and movements across the continent to censor everything at which a Muslim might take offence, including articles like this one.

The majority of European Muslims do not approve of terrorism. But there are majorities and majorities. According to a recent poll, a full quarter of British Muslims believe that the bombs of last summer in London were a legitimate response to the "war on terror." Public pronouncements from Muslim leaders treat Islamist terrorism as a lamentable but understandable response to the West's misguided policies. And the blood-curdling utterances of the Wahhabite clergy, when occasionally reported in the press, sit uneasily with the idea of a "religion of peace." All this leads to a certain skepticism among ordinary people, whose "racist" or "xenophobic" prejudices are denounced by the media as the real cause of Muslim disaffection.

Now of course it is wrong to give gratuitous offence to people of other faiths; it is right to respect people's beliefs, when these beliefs pose no threat to civil order; and we should extend toward resident Muslims all the toleration and neighborly goodwill that we hope to receive from them. But recent events have caused people to wonder exactly where Muslims stand in such matters. Although Islam is derived from the same root as salaam, it does not mean peace but submission. And although the Koran tells us that there shall be no compulsion in matters of religion, it does not overflow with kindness toward those who refuse to submit to God's will. The best they can hope for is to be protected by a treaty (dhimmah), and the privileges of the dhimmi are purchased by onerous taxation and humiliating rites of subservience. As for apostates, it remains as dangerous today as it was in the time of the prophet publicly to renounce the Muslim faith. Even if you cannot be compelled to adopt the faith, you can certainly be compelled to retain it. And the anger with which public Muslims greet any attempt to challenge, to ridicule or to marginalize their faith is every bit as ferocious as that which animated the murderer of Theo Van Gogh. Ordinary Christians, who suffer a daily diet of ridicule and skepticism, cannot help feeling that Muslims protest too much, and that the wounds, which they ostentatiously display to the world, are largely self-inflicted.

To recognize such facts is not to give up hope for a tolerant Islam. But there is a matter that needs to be clarified. Christians and Jews are heirs to a long tradition of secular government, which began under the Roman Empire and was renewed at the Enlightenment: Human societies should be governed by human laws, and these laws must take precedence over religious edicts. The primary duty of citizens is to obey the state; what they do with their souls is a matter between themselves and God, and all religions must bow down to the sovereign authority if they are to exist within its jurisdiction.

The Ottoman Empire evolved systems of law which to some extent replicated that wise provision. But after the Ottoman collapse the Muslim sects rebelled against the idea, since it contradicts the claims of the Shariah to be the final legal authority. The Egyptian writer and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, went so far as to denounce all secular law as blasphemy. Mortals who make laws for their own government, he argued, usurp a power which is God's alone. And although few Muslim leaders will publicly endorse Qutb's argument, few will publicly condemn it either. What to us is a proof of Qutb's fanaticism and egomania is, for many Muslims, a proof of his piety.

Whenever I consider this matter I am struck by a singular fact about the Christian religion, a fact noticed by Kierkegaard and Hegel but rarely commented upon today, which is that it is informed by a spirit of irony. Irony means accepting "the other," as someone other than you. It was irony that led Christ to declare that his "kingdom is not of this world," not to be achieved through politics. Such irony is a long way from the humorless incantations of the Koran. Yet it is from a posture of irony that every real negotiation, every offer of peace, every acceptance of the other, begins. The way forward, it seems to me, is to encourage the re-emergence of an ironical Islam, of the kind you find in the philosophy of Averroës, in Persian poetry and in "The Thousand and One Nights." We should also encourage those ethnic and religious jokes which did so much to defuse tension in the days before political correctness. And maybe, one day, the rigid face of some puritanical mullah will crack open in a hesitant smile, and negotiations can at last begin.

Mr. Scruton is the author, most recently, of "A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism," just published by Continuum.


Copyright © 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial ... =110008822
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

jack stowaway
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Post by jack stowaway » Mon Aug 21, 2006 10:13 pm

Excellent article. It is refreshing to see a breech appear in the taboo against writings critical of Islam.

Too often we apologise in advance for criticising the malignant aspects of Islamic culture (religious supremacism, intolerance, bigotry, radical misogyny) or prettify our objections by drawing invidious distinctions between Islam and 'Islamism'. But the plain truth of the matter is that Islam itself, not perverted interpretations of it by fanatics, is the root cause of Islamic terror. Far from being --as its apologists claim-- a peaceful religion, The history of Islam is characterised by militancy, conquest and intolerance for other beliefs.

The future for Western civilisation is bleak given the overwhelming number of Muslim migrants to Europe and the failure of host societies to assimilate these migrants. The continuing mass influx of people from a culture so alien and oppositional to our own is a certain means of demographic/cultural suicide.

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Aug 21, 2006 10:26 pm

jack stowaway wrote:Excellent article. It is refreshing to see a breech appear in the taboo against writings critical of Islam.
Don't expect a trend. I did notice that the "chapel" at Charles de Gaulle Airport, so out of the way tha tit could have been imitating a restroom there, had bare signs for the trraditional Catholic services but was wide open for Muslim daily prayer.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:06 pm

Scruton wrote:Whenever I consider this matter I am struck by a singular fact about the Christian religion, a fact noticed by Kierkegaard and Hegel but rarely commented upon today, which is that it is informed by a spirit of irony. Irony means accepting "the other," as someone other than you. It was irony that led Christ to declare that his "kingdom is not of this world," not to be achieved through politics. Such irony is a long way from the humorless incantations of the Koran.
Well, that's a very nice tribute to a pair of 19th Century philosophers on the other side of two centuries of religious wars that finally squared western civilization away. And Christ's quoted comment might very well have been ironic. However, there were some pretty grim centuries, starting about the 4th century when religion married up with political power, when there wasn't much ironical, good-humored, or tolerant about Christianity's approach to either non-believers or believers who didn't accept the orthodoxy. Althought I posted the artcle as well (but Haydn's garnered more responses so I deleted mine), I'm skeptical that this is a Muslim problem more than a Middle Eastern/Pakistani problem.
Last edited by Corlyss_D on Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:18 pm

The Eastern Church never accepted the Papacy, nor the Inquisition etc, and it was quite as dangerous for St Maximus to be a champion of Orthodoxy: for his writings and his preaching his hands and tongue were removed, hence his title "the Confessor."

Much orthodoxy is based upon the implicit irony of paradox, of accepting a divine Unity that is a Trinity, in an infinitely unfathomable mystery utterly Other to humanity that was born of a woman and walked the earth as Jesus of Nazareth etc. As N.T. Wright shows in The New Testament and the People of God, the NT stories are structured in fine balance between tragedy and comedy: the story of the Son of God, the Incarnation of the Ultimate Mystery no one recognized and executed as a common criminal.

Irony isn't the same thing as humour.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:32 pm

Brendan wrote:Irony isn't the same thing as humour.
I'm sure you're right. I associate it with humor, or at least harmless sarcasm, as opposed to lethal hypocrisy. I suppose the opposite of irony is literalism?
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:38 pm

I would suggest missing the irony leads to superficial literalism (not the same thing as an adherence to, or belief in, scripture). But that's just MHO.

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Post by jack stowaway » Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:21 am

I'm skeptical that this is a Muslim problem more than a Middle Eastern/Pakistani problem.
If only the problem were confined to those regions. But Islam is an issue for most countries in the world. China has its 'Muslim' problem, as does Russia, France, the UK, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Italy. And as the West continues to accept record numbers of migrants from Islamic cultures it imports also their portfolio of grievances, resentments, expectations, intolerances etc.

In fact, reaching an accomodation with Islam --both strategically and internally-- is likely to be the issue for the remainder of this sorry century. The effects for Western Civ. will be profound and decisive.

In Australia, for instance, there is steady pressure on the government to alter its stance towards Israel and to rethink its alliance with the US. Domestically, it has become almost impossible to voice open disapproval of muslim actions. Australian newspapers fell over themselves not to reprint the Danish cartoons, offering up all kinds of self-righteous reasons for their moral cowardice. Cartoons lampooning Christianity, however... quite another matter.

LIke it not, self-imposed censorship, for fear of giving offence, is now a fact of life in most Western countries. Arab countries, of course, feel no such compunction in their savage and relentless criticism of Christianity, Judaism, and the West generally.

'Tolerance' has been elevated to the supreme place in the pantheon of virtues. But Western civilisation may require a measure of intolerance in order to save it from those who despise it and wish it harm.

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Post by Teresa B » Tue Aug 22, 2006 6:27 am

I am not in any respect a religious scholar, and would be the last to defend Islam (or any religion), but I'm not sure the use of the term "Islamism" is totally PC and not somewhat accurate.

There are Muslims who believe in a more dynamic interpretation of the Quran rather than a fundamentalist view that is absolutely unswerving. Thus passages that are interpeted literally by "Islamists" in terms of eliminating infidels, etc, may be viewed as archaic or reinterpreted such that more tolerance is advocated.

The problem is, I have never heard this view expressed except by scholars who were highly educated, at least partly in the western tradition. As long as the madrasas are being flooded with ever-increasing numbers and the rigid interpretation of the Quran is continually taught to the exclusion of everything else, progress seems unlikely.

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Agnes Selby
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Religion

Post by Agnes Selby » Tue Aug 22, 2006 7:04 am

Not only to the Australian newspapers fear reporting
the crimes commited by Muslims in this country, but recently
a bizarre request was made by the Muslim community to
the Prime Minister of Australia to declassify the Hezbollah
as a terrorist organisation and instead declare it as a legitimate
political party.

-------------

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Post by mourningstar » Tue Aug 22, 2006 12:07 pm

I do not favour Islam, However i do think that Islam is not that bad (as they say it is) .. the Media is exaggerating. The silence side do not automatically endorse "their actions" .. i think we should see Islam is an individual religion. judging people by their moral views and of course, their inclinations to favour certain organizations (political party's )..
"Desertion for the artist means abandoning the concrete."

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Post by karlhenning » Tue Aug 22, 2006 12:14 pm

Beware of a religion without irony
Does this dogmatic exhortation bear any irony? 8)
Karl Henning, PhD
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 22, 2006 1:26 pm

jack stowaway wrote:
I'm skeptical that this is a Muslim problem more than a Middle Eastern/Pakistani problem.
If only the problem were confined to those regions. But Islam is an issue for most countries in the world. China has its 'Muslim' problem, as does Russia, France, the UK, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Italy. And as the West continues to accept record numbers of migrants from Islamic cultures it imports also their portfolio of grievances, resentments, expectations, intolerances etc.
I expressed myself clumsily. You are absolutely correct, Jack. I think the most problems in the West come from immigrants from middle eastern nations and Pakistan. For example, the immigrants in Germany are mostly Turks, and they don't seem to be much of a problem, not at all like the immigrants from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Algeria, Sudan, etc. I have begun to think it's a more complex problem than just a "Muslim" problem. For example, the bulk of the 150 million Muslims in India are not radicalized. For the moment at least, they seem to live in relative peace with their Hindu neighbors, and perhaps coincidentally they represent one of two Muslim populations that can vote in free democratic elections in an internally stable nation (the other being Israel). You would know better than I being so close to Indonesia, but I don't hear about the bulk of Muslims in that nation abusing their non-Muslim neighbors.
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Post by lmpower » Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:01 pm

Scruton's article is right on. Jack Stowaway is right to point out that Islam is engaged in conflicts all over the world. He neglected to mention the Phillipines which is one of the most serious conflict points. Militarism was part of Islam from the beginning. Christianity was supposed to be pacifist until Constantine turned it upside down by uttering "In hoc signo vinces." Oswald Spengler said that Mohammed was to Magian civilization what Cromwell was to ours and Pythagoras was to classical civilization. He represented a militant, puritan phase in the evolution of a civilization according to Spengler's philosophy. In the summer of 1957 I read the Koran, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Lao Tzu, Confucius and Buddhist Sutras. My reaction was great disappointment with the Koran. I read it with an open mind and high expectations, but I couldn't believe what a poor book it was. I have reread it three times with the same reaction. It is a shame that a billion people have made a fetish out of it. Muslims believe that virtue is more important than individual liberty. A problem can arise in defining virtue. Look at some of the extremism of the Taliban or the current Somali Islamists. Protestant fundamentalists believe that virtue is more important than science and try to use Genesis in place of a McGraw Hill textbook. John Adams thought that the constitution would never work except in a society based on Christian values, because it gave men too much freedom. Is this proving out today in our society?

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Post by mourningstar » Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:27 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
jack stowaway wrote:
I'm skeptical that this is a Muslim problem more than a Middle Eastern/Pakistani problem.
If only the problem were confined to those regions. But Islam is an issue for most countries in the world. China has its 'Muslim' problem, as does Russia, France, the UK, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Italy. And as the West continues to accept record numbers of migrants from Islamic cultures it imports also their portfolio of grievances, resentments, expectations, intolerances etc.
I expressed myself clumsily. You are absolutely correct, Jack. I think the most problems in the West come from immigrants from middle eastern nations and Pakistan. For example, the immigrants in Germany are mostly Turks, and they don't seem to be much of a problem, not at all like the immigrants from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Algeria, Sudan, etc. I have begun to think it's a more complex problem than just a "Muslim" problem. For example, the bulk of the 150 million Muslims in India are not radicalized. For the moment at least, they seem to live in relative peace with their Hindu neighbors, and perhaps coincidentally they represent one of two Muslim populations that can vote in free democratic elections in an internally stable nation (the other being Israel). You would know better than I being so close to Indonesia, but I don't hear about the bulk of Muslims in that nation abusing their non-Muslim neighbors.
exactly, Corlyss, you got it right. That's what IslamFacism means. It's an Islam based on religious chauvinistic nationalistic (hate) feelings towards other religions. (mainly christians) .. and it tends to be the ones who hate america, ..
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Post by living_stradivarius » Wed Aug 23, 2006 12:46 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Brendan wrote:Irony isn't the same thing as humour.
I'm sure you're right. I associate it with humor, or at least harmless sarcasm, as opposed to lethal hypocrisy. I suppose the opposite of irony is literalism?
Irony is what makes life interesting.
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