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Timothy R. Furnish: On whitewashing radical Islam

Roundup: Historians' Take




[Mr. Furnish, Ph.D (Islamic History), is Assistant Professor, History, Georgia Perimeter College, Dunwoody, GA 30338. Mr. Furnish is the author of Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads and Osama bin Laden (Praeger, 2005). He is the proprietor of www.mahdiwatch.org.]

As of this writing I am watching C-SPAN2's "Book TV." Lawrence Wright is interviewing Raymond Ibrahim, who works in the Middle East section at the Library of Congress and just published The al-Qaeda Reader, containing translations of Usama bin Ladin's and Ayman al-Zawahiri's writings. Wright is trying, at every turn, to refute Ibrahim's analysis. For example, Ibrahim was just discussing the fact that UBL and his ilk justify their violence from the Qur'an and the Hadiths. Wright interjected "but of course every religion has violent tendencies: in Christianity you're supposed to stone homosexuals." Amazing. I've read the New Testament numerous times, and I've yet to find that passage.

Wright is a noted and best-selling author and alleged "expert" on the war on terror and the Middle East--and a guest host on C-SPAN--yet he is incredibly ignorant (or simply misrepresentative) of the basic teachings of Christianity. (For those of you that don't know: homosexuality is condemned as sinful in Romans 1:18-26, I Corinthians 6:9ff and I Timothy 1:8ff, but NOWHERE in the Christian faith is stoning mandated for gays or lesbians.) Of course, this attempt to brand Christianity as equal to Islam in spawning violence is a familiar trope of mainstream media types.

Ibrahim is now pointing out, over Wright's protestations, that Buddhists don't commit suicide bombings--whereas Muslims do, and furthermore that they ground such activity in their religion. Wright is trying to counter with the example of the Japanese kamikazes, who were willing to die for the Emperor.

Wright now is claiming that "every religion has contradictions in it" and is adducing Judaism as an example. He's following this with vague, blanket statements about "fundamentalist Christians who want to bring about the end of days." Ibrahim is countering that "there is no text in the New Testament telling them to do that"--whereas the Qur'an and Hadith, according to Islamic exegetes and commentators, DO contain violent commandments. So Christians who act violently are contradicting their faith--whereas Muslims who do so are not necessarily contradicting theirs.
(I've made this point in a number of articles, and of course Robert Spencer does so, quite articulately, for a living.)

Wright has moved into claiming that this problem in Islam is because "Islam has no center of authority." Well, that may be part of it. But as Ibrahim is now responding, ijma' ("consensus" of Islamic authorities) has long said that violence is totally justified in expanding the Dar al-Islam (World of Islam) at the expense of the Dar al-Harb (World of War, literally--that is, the rest of us who are not Muslims). "Fighting is prescribed for you" is a Qur'anic dictate, as Ibrahim is pointing out.

Wright just asked an incredibly moronic question: "why is violence just now becoming paramount in Islam?" Ibrahim just told him--the "expert" on Islam--that "it's not modern, Islamic violence has always been justified and acted on to expand Islam, from the earliest days through the time of the Ottoman Empire." And to Wright's rhapsodic musings about the tolerance of medieval Islam in al-Andalus (Spain), Ibrahim just reminded him "well, the Muslims got Spain in the first place through violent conquest." He also reminded Wright that "the Crusades didn't happen until AFTER Muslims had invaded the Byzantine Christian Empire and conquered territory."

Watch yourself, if C-SPAN2 shows this again. And I highly recommend getting a copy of The al-Qaeda Reader. I'm going to stop listening to Wright's dhimmi drivel and go order the book.

Read entire article at MahdiWatch.org (blog)

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omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Is it or is it NOT possible to say the same with a slight change, namely:".....dead all caused by (Christian; or for that matter any of the other victims) violence against civilians"???


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007


Reading Furnish, Friedman, Eckstein Pipes and the rest of the Jewish herd and any of the rabid Judeo-Christian Fundamentalists about Islam one is bound to conclude that Islam is EVIL incarnate!
The matter is beyond the inanity, ignorance, auxiliary political , PR stage .
It is a sustained, orchestrated campaign.
Once more I pose the question:

What do they hope to achieve?

Is it:
a- The eradication of Islam by mass conversion?
or
b-The eradication of Islam by mass genocide of Moslems ?
or
c-The reform, reconstitution, reconstruction of Islam by likeminded people to them?
(that is according to Judeo-Christian requirements and specifications)
or
D-Rupturing all relations with the Moslem world??
(i.e. total political, economic , cultural etc disengagement with the Moslem World.)
or
e-Providing their public with a new bogeyman?
or
F-Rewriting the Koran into a Jew-Christian Fundamentalist Friendly, Subservient, Docile ,Westernized creed ?
(that is through excising, and/or rewording its objectionable features and suras.)
or
g-Engendering and furthering a long lasting enmity between their world and Islamdom?
Or
-Any other proposition?

Although we have no doubts as to their ultimate objective it would be interesting to hear them providing the answer(s)!

Dare I hope for some candid answers!

The question being: What do they HOPE to ACHIEVE?


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Tim
NOT all Christians are CRUSADERS as far as we are concerned and as, doubtlessly, you would like us to think!

Arab Christians have been , historically ,at the fore front of the anti Zionism, anti US imperialism struggle .
To name a very few: Makram Obeid, Michel Aflaq, George Habash , The Sayyegh brothers, Emile Ghoury,Wadii Hadad,the Reverend Chukri Ayyad ,Archbishop Hanna, Archbishop Qafetti,Archbishop Elia Khoury,"Coptic" Pope Shnoudeh etc etc etc!
I am happy to disappoint you, to unveil both your ignorance and pretensions and to belie your, dishonest,contention.

(As a ME spcialist you are expected to know that; however obviously your bias supercedes your "scholarship"!)



omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Professor???Eckstein
As far as Furnish is concerned whether he is a Jew, a Christian, a Buhdist, an atheist or a Moslem is immaterial as long as he is part of the cabal that defends the racist and colonialist Zionist project that Israel is.

However the question was:
"Dare I hope for some CANDID answers!"
But that, of course, would be way beyond you and would tax your modest sholastic and mental capacities beyond your abilities and ,possibly, beyond repair.
I DO pity your students!


A. M. Eckstein - 10/1/2007

We are talking about actions taken IN THE NAME OF RELIGION, Lorraine. You can discount the MInister of Religious Affairs if you wish, but he's the son of the previous dictator ul-Haq. MANY MANY Muslim acts of violence have occurred in recent years, huge numbers of innocent civilians murdered (34,000 in Iraq alone last year) ALL DIRECTLY IN THE NAME OF RELIGION, FOR THE SAKE OF ALLAH.

NO other religion acts this way. NONE. Govts use violence, yes, for govt purposes. This is different. This is the use of violence, indeed ultraviolence, for RELIGIOUS purpose.

As for 'Hitler's Pope", it is a very controversial book and not nearly accepted everywhere among scholars, as you apparently think. But then, as you say, you haven't actually read it.


Lorraine Paul - 9/29/2007

What alarmed me the most about Furnish's article was its underlying theme of racism and the fact that there was a definite thread running through it of Christian superiority.

A dangeous mix.


Lorraine Paul - 9/29/2007

Art, priests were blessing the planes taking off to bomb England. If that is not 'active involvement' by the Catholic Church then please re-define it for me! There is a book, which I have not read myself, called "Hitler's Pope". It is my understanding that that book presents evidence of Pius' collaboration with Nazism.

As for the statement made by the Pakistani politician. Come on, Art, he was talking rubbish. You know it and I know it. Politicians make statements all the time, who ever believes them. I think Americans call it 'grand-standing'! On the other hand they, that is the un-elected Pakistani government, is keeping a foot in both camps.

I also never equate what politicians say with the wishes of their electorate. Doesn't the electorate in the US want to get out of Iraq whilst the government, including the Democrats, is digging in there?


Lorraine Paul - 9/29/2007

Art, you don't need me to tell you that wars of conquest are always wrapped up in a 'higher purpose'. Although I don't know as much about the Ottoman expansion as I would like too, by using my knowledge of the rise of other empires it must be clear that the name Allah would be used as one of these spurious 'higher purposes'.

I am very flattered that both you and N should give my post such lengthy replies. It is annoying to me that I can't "visit" this website as often as I would like. Unable to continue my formal studies I like to think that you keep me on my toes.

To a certain extent you have both made me re-think the causes of the rise of radical Islam. On the other hand, I am still convinced that this is not divorced from the actions taken by the west, and especially the invasion of Iraq, to secure dwindling resources.

The Vandals and the Goths 'vandalising' of the Roman civilisation is as nothing to what is happening in Iraq today. The plundering of the cultural heritage and the archaeological sites in the area is a blot on all of us. Apart from the deaths, one particularly poignant news story was that there was hardly any book shops open in a street which once had dozens. I cannot imagine a world where one could not buy books! It is as hard to imagine a world where one could not breath freely or have a cup of tea. I believe even the libraries are closed.


Lorraine Paul - 9/29/2007

Thank you for taking the time to write such a lengthy response.

ALL empires have internal troubles, look at what is happening today in the US. It seems to be inherent in an empire's core to rise and fall, (which makes one wonder why they bother in the first place). In their falling there is dislocation, disruption, corruption, what is now called 'ethnic-cleansing', and many other ills too numerous to be enumerated in the short space available. Although it was a virtually bloodless fall, we can see all of this happening in the empire of the former USSR.

We can also see the effects of that disintegration rippling out into the rest of the world. The largest of these ripples was that the 'west' and in particular the US, lost its raison detre.

As I have said previously it regained it by demonising the Islamic religion. Although now it appears that it isn't just an ideological battle, it has been wrapped up as a battle for souls.

Is there anyone else here who sees the ludicrousness of all this??

Memories are long in some of the more ancient parts of this world. Others here will know more of the details of what I am about to relate. Apparently at the end of the Great War a General, who had fought with the allies, stopped at the grave of Saladin to gloat over their victory.

Just before the fall of the USSR a gentleman visiting Australia from Lithuania told me that now there could be a return to the time of the Greater Lithuania of the 14thC.

In the eyes of this Australian, living in arguably the oldest of the continents, and with one, if not the one, of the oldest of living cultures, these two attitudes left me feeling slightly puzzled, and, indeed, embarrassed for them.

Your statement regarding the area now called Israel, as being a 'backwater' with all that that description implies, before the arrival of Jewish refugees from other ME areas was a little too subjective and cliched. I am surprised you made such an allegation. The British Empire made the same weak excuses when it colonised Australia. In fact, it even had the audacity to declare Australia terra nulius!!

As for Dr Mahathir, as you said, he is now retired. It would seem that his rhetoric has retired with him.

Again, thank you for your reply, however, we will have to agree to disagree in our respective analyses of events leading up to the tragic situation which the world is in today.












Lorraine Paul - 9/29/2007

Firstly, I should correct my sloppy sentence construction regarding 'sabre rattling'. It should have read...and US sabre-rattling...


N. Friedman - 9/27/2007

Lorraine,

You write: "In your analysis of the problems in the middle-east you fail to mention the ill-effects of European imperialism."

I do not discount the imperialistic actions of Europeans vis a vis Muslims. They obviously play a role in how Muslims think. The nature of that role, however, is difficult to understand with reference to current events, which, as I see it, relate more closely to the fate of the Ottoman Empire and its fateful decision to ally with Germany in WWI. Had that not occurred, it is not impossible that the Empire might have addressed some of its underlying problems.

At the same time, I am not all that sure that a reinvigorated Ottoman Empire would have been such a great thing. The Empire was immense and extremely imperialistic. See the following map of her conquests up to 1683 - and the map does not show that the Empire had reached Vienna before being turned back. Would the world, including even the Muslims of that Empire, really have been better off if the stand-off between Europe and the Muslims had perpetuated? Or, instead, would there have been an ongoing clash of imperial forces, going back and forth as to territory held.

Recall: before the its dramatic decline - caused not principally by European imperialism per se but by extraordinary internal problems (e.g. failure to integrate the large group of Christians and Jews as even remote equals, failure to introduce the printing press for religious and political reasons, failure to introduce a scientific curriculum into the education of its people, failure to show much in the way of any real interest in the great revolutions in political and scientific thought that were occurring in Europe, etc., etc. - Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire, so were the Balkans, so were places such as Budapest, etc., etc. In simple terms, this is not a question of angels being prevented from their achievements. It is a question, instead, of groups with competing claims against each other.

As I see it, the events we are seeing have to do with the interest of Muslims to restore their societal privileges, create theocratic governance - as existed in the Ottoman Empire - and recapture lands lost to them (e.g. in Europe) in pursuit of traditional Islamic aims to bring Islam to the red and the black, as the religious formula goes.

[So that you understand the forumal, the best explanation I know of is that made by perhaps the premier Islamiscist of all time, Ignaz Goldhizer, who wrote:

In addition to the religious duties imposed upon each individual professing Islam, the collective duty of the "jihad" (= "fighting against infidels") is imposed on the community, as represented by the commander of the faithful. Mohammed claimed for his religion that it was to be the common property of all mankind, just as he himself, who at first appeared as a prophet of the Arabs, ended by proclaiming himself the prophet of a universal religion, the messenger of God to all humanity, or, as tradition has it, "ila al-aḥmar wal-aswad" (to the red and the black). For this reason unbelief must be fought with the force of weapons, in order that "God's word may be raised to the highest place." Through the refusal to accept Islam, idolaters have forfeited their lives. Those "who possess Scriptures" ("ahl al-kitab"), in which category are included Jews, Christians, Magians, and Sabians, may be tolerated on their paying tribute ("jizyah") and recognizing the political supremacy of Islam (sura ix. 29). The state law of Islam has accordingly divided the world into two categories: the territory of Islam ("dar al-Islam") and the territory of war. ("dar al-ḥarb"), i.e., territory against which it is the duty of the commander of the faithful ("amir al-mu'minin") to lead the community in the jihad.

This formula is something taught to this day in places such as the famous al-Azhar University.]

You write: "However, the worst examples would be the manufacturing of arbitrary nations, including Israel, to suit the imperialists, both new and old."

I do not know what an "arbitrary" nation is. I do know that Jews needed a homeland and that they, not the Europeans, pushed for it. If anything, Israel was an anti-imperial project, as it was the product of refugees from Arab countries (from where the largest group of Jews came) and Europe who built a modern country on land that, for all practical purposes, was the absolute backwater of all lands ruled by Muslims. It certainly was not a project of European Imperialism.

You write: "Certainly there is a good case to be made out of the current incursions into the area, Israel's attack on Syria and the sabre-rattling towards Iran, as being a marvellous breeding ground for hatred by the peoples towards those of us in the west."

One might ask why Israel would feel the need to rattle sabres? Could it be the behavior of Muslims who threaten to kill Jews wherever they may be? Or, are Muslims angels who merely react to what Israel does? Has it not occurred to you that Muslims use Israel as a focal point in their own ideas of how to unify themselves and not due to what Israel does? Might it not be the things that Muslims say that scare the Israelis and make them rattle sabers?

Note these comments by now former Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the opening of the 10th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference on Oct 16, 2003:

To begin with, the governments of all the Muslim countries can close ranks and have a common stand if not on all issues, at least on some major ones, such as on Palestine. We are all Muslims. We are all oppressed. We are all being humiliated. But we who have been raised by Allah above our fellow Muslims to rule our countries have never really tried to act in concert in order to exhibit at our level the brotherhood and unity that Islam enjoins us.

And:

It cannot be that there is no other way. The 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews.

And:

We are actually very strong – 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today, the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.

We may not be able to do that. We may not be able to unite all the 1.3 billion Muslims. We may not be able to get all the Muslim governments to act in concert. But even if we can get a third of the ummah and a third of the Muslim states to act together, we can already do something. Remember that the Prophet did not have many followers when he went to Madinah. But he united the Ansars and the Muhajirins and eventually he became strong enough to defend Islam.


So, the issue, as this well educated Muslim leader sees it (and to which he received a standing ovation of approval by his audience) , is for the Islamic regions to unify themselves and, for that project, Israel is central. Notwithstanding your understanding of things, here is Ahmadinejad's formula, which sounds rather similar to that of Mahathir:

We need to examine the true origins of the issue of Palestine: is it a fight between a group of Muslims and non-Jews? Is it a fight between Judaism and other religions? Is it the fight of one country with another country? Is it the fight of one country with the Arab world? Is it a fight over the land of Palestine? I guess the answer to all these questions is ‘no.’

The establishment of the occupying regime of Qods [Jerusalem]was a major move by the world oppressor [ the United States] against the Islamic world. The situation has changed in this historical struggle. Sometimes the Muslims have won and moved forward and the world oppressor was forced to withdraw.

Unfortunately, the Islamic world has been withdrawing in the past 300 years. I do not want to examine the reasons for this, but only to review the history. The Islamic world lost its last defenses in the past 100 years and the world oppressor established the occupying regime. Therefore the struggle in Palestine today is the major front of the struggle of the Islamic world with the world oppressor and its fate will decide the destiny of the struggles of the past several hundred years.

The Palestinian nation represents the Islamic nation [Umma] against a system of oppression, and thank God, the Palestinian nation adopted Islamic behavior in an Islamic environment in their struggle and so we have witnessed their progress and success.


Note that he does not support Palestinian Arabs as Palestinian Arabs but as part of an effort to rekindle the effort to recapture land lost in Europe. The issue, even to this supposed champion of Palestinian Arabs, is to use Palestinian Arabs and Israel for an Islamic struggle.

In the case of WWII, the cause normally cited is the Versailles Treaty and its harshness toward Germany. The issue with appeasement is that the appeasement policy played a substantial role in extending the territory held by Nazis (e.g. the conquest, without a fight, of Czechoslovakia) and it played a substantial role in Hitler's decision to keep on extending the territory. As noted by Churchill, had the first violation of the treaty, to the extent of Germany re-arming, been dealt with directly, it is less likely that a war would readily have occurred. Moreover, when Germany began pushing into territory, had the Europeans acted to prevent such, it is reasonably likely that a serious war could have been prevented.


art eckstein - 9/27/2007

Lorraine, this is to ignore 1400 years of violent Islamic imperialism, all the violent political expansion done in the name of and for the sake of Allah.

Western imperialism did not cause the massive expansion of the Islamic caliphate between 632 and 732, by which time the Muslims, starting out in western Arabia had conquered everything from Syria and Egypt and North Africa and Spain to Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan. It was all done in the name of Allah, it was very violent, and it was only stopped by military victories over Muslim armies in France and before Constantinope. All this imperial expansion, the fastest and one of the greatest in world history was done for the sake of religion and was uniformly encouraged by Muslim religious leaders.

Western imperialism cannot explain the Muslim conquest of India in the 10th-16th centuries A.D., which was accompanied by very great violence and the deaths of millions of Hindus and the murder of tens of thousands of Buddist monks--all done in the name of Allah. Ask any Hindu about this and listen to what you hear.

Western imperialism does not explain the publci execution by torture of Sikh leaders by the Muslim Emperor Aurangzeb, ca. 1600, for failing to convert to Islam and urging Hindus to remain Hindus and not convert to islam. Remember--this was officially done in the name of religion, for the sake of Allah (not for the sake of the Mughal State), and it was encouraged by Muslim religious leaders.

Western imperialism does not explain the vast expansion of the Ottoman Caliphate, which seized what is now Turkey, took Constantinople, converted the great Holy Wisdom Church into a mosque, and advanced as far as Vienna, the last time in 1683 (less than a century before the Declaration of Independence). All done for the sake of Islam.

In seeking to argue "it is the West's fault, or Israel's fault", you deny agency to the enormous forces WITHIN Islam itself that are impelling what we now see. Lorraine, it's actually a form of western paternalism to argue as you do.

(Western imperialism was three times longer in India than in the Middle East, but Indians don't hate the West and haven't developed a culture of hate of the West--just the opposite; Western imperialism was twice as long in Africa as in the Middle East, but Africans don't hate the West and haven't developed a culture of hate of the West. Western imperialism was indirectly in China for as least as long as in the Middle East, but the Chinese don't hate the West and haven't developed a culture of hate of the West--as I know since I deal with Chinese public offficials all the time.)

Western imperialism has no doubt been an important modern irritant to the Muslims, yes. And there is a reason. Leaving aside that imperialism is always an irritant and seen as an injustice (though the Muslims have a far longer history of imperialism themselves than does Europe), for a culture which possesses an enormous sense of *entitlement* based on its correct worship of God, the loss of power has constituted an enormous *narcissistic injury*, and the advancement and power and prosperity of Europe, America, and even Asia so that these areas are more prosperous than the Dar al-Islam (the region controlled by the Muslims) is a profound *theological* insult and problem: for how could Allah have allowed this hideous development, when it is *the Muslims* who should have the power? And this trauma is then explained by an evil *conspiracy theory* (the West, led by the Jews, is out to get us), and not as a problem of Islam adjusting to modernity.

This trifecta of sense of temendous sense of entitlement, tremendous narcissistic injury and explanation by conspiracy theory has all been encouraged in islam by Saudi money: the Saudis have spent $100 billion since 1980 on prosyletizing their particularly narrow and hate-filled form of Islam. (The seizure of Iran by violent Shiite extremists in 1979 has had a similar effect in terms of putting huge amounts of government money into the prosyletizing of a particularly nasty form of Islam for the past 30 years.) None of this need have occurred, and if it hadn't occurred, modern islam might well be very different in tone from what it is.

But it has in fact occurred. For instance, in places like Pakistan, where secular education has collapsed through government incompetence (ask Benazir Bhutto, who gave a speech about this aspect of the crisis in her country last week), the Saudi-funded extremist religious madrassahs are becoming the main form of education.

I wish all this wasn't so. But this is an analysis of both the past and the present that you need to consider.


art eckstein - 9/27/2007

Fine--Islam is on this analysis of Lorraine's is 1,000 years behind Christianity in moral development.


art eckstein - 9/27/2007

1. The Nazis acted not in the name of Catholicism, or in the name of Christianity in general, but in the name of German NATIONALISM (that's what "Nazis" means), and in the name of RACISM, the purity of the German race.

2. Pius XII did little directly in a pragmatic way to stop what was going on. That was a tragedy. It is not clear how much he could've done (the condemnation of the Nazis by Catholic bishops in occupied Holland led to an intensified persecution of Dutch Jews). Pius XII issued a famous stern condemnation of racism on Christmas eve 1942--it wasn't an accident. Too little and too late, yes--but hardly collaboration with the Nazis. Many Catholics helped Jews directly--most famously the future Pope John XXIII. Even the future Paul VI, a cold man, expressed horror at what was going on. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest, hid 2,000 Jewish refugees in Poland, was arrested by the Nazis, died at Auschwitz, and was declared a saint and a martyr of charity by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Meanwhile, the famous Protestant clergyman Dietrich Bonhoffer was at the center of a plot to kill Hitler (and he was executed for it).

This is not to whitewash what was going on, many terrible things occurred in which German Nazis who were titular Catholics and Protestants were the perpetrators, but as far as the history of WWII is concerned, Lorraine, you are way off base.

3. I repeat a challenge I made above:

In response to the awarding of a knighthood to Salman Rusdie in Britain, the Minister for Religious Affairs in Pakistan publicly announced that "the insult to Islam" here would justify suicide bombings in Britain. This man is not a marginal figure; he is an important Pakistani govt official (and indeed, he is the son of a previous Prime Minister of Pakistan).

I defy anyone to show me anywhere else in any other religion anywhere in the world where a govt cabinet minister justifies suicide bombings--that is, murder--on the basis of an "insult" to his religion


Lorraine Paul - 9/26/2007

You all seem to forget the devout CATHOLICS who were part of the system which which murdered 6m Jews and untold numbers of Gypsies, communists, trade unionists, progressive thinkers etc etc.

You seem to forget Pope Pius XII, known to have collaborated to smuggle out Nazi war criminals.


Lorraine Paul - 9/26/2007

I hope everyone here is also aware that that Crusades were also not about religion. Trade (as in wealth) and land for the land-poor younger sons of Europe and the political situation between the Pope of the day and the crowned heads of Europe are acknowledged to be at the heart of the first one. And every Crusade thereafter had its own little dirty secret. Just as this latest one does.


Lorraine Paul - 9/26/2007

In your analysis of the problems in the middle-east you fail to mention the ill-effects of European imperialism. I'm sure I don't have to list them all to you. However, the worst examples would be the manufacturing of arbitrary nations, including Israel, to suit the imperialists, both new and old.

Certainly there is a good case to be made out of the current incursions into the area, Israel's attack on Syria and the sabre-rattling towards Iran, as being a marvellous breeding ground for hatred by the peoples towards those of us in the west.

Iraq has gone from being one of the most 'westernised' and secular countries in the area to a 'failed state' fast approaching civil war. Where is the religous basis for that?

Surely, all the law-abiding and 'secular' Muslims deserve better than to have their religion put forward as the basis for all conflict.

Many on the right are quick to use the appeasement of Hitler as the cause of WWII, those of us who are lucky enough to have half a brain merely laugh at this scenario. Just as we laugh at religion being presented as the basis for the conflicts in the ME.

I have heard only one Muslim of my acquaintance speak out against the US invasion of Iraq in what may be called a violent manner. On the other hand, I can walk down to my local shopping centre and find many Christians speaking out quite forcefully against Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice et al. They don't view Islam as the problem, they clearly see that it is a fight for dwindling resources.


N. Friedman - 9/26/2007

Omar,

I hate to break it to you. There are no "Crusaders" - as in none - alive, unless there is some football team that employs that language. The crusades went out of fashion centuries ago. They have no religious or other support. And, Christians have moved on to other ideas.

It is, however, interesting that you would employ traditional Islamist propaganda.


N. Friedman - 9/26/2007

Art,

You think that Omar would present a less obviously ridiculous argument. --- NOT


N. Friedman - 9/26/2007

Professor Furnish,

No offense was intended. I hold you in very, very high regard and as one of the well informed writers about Islam.

My point, instead, is about triumphant views, in which I noted that religious texts, even Christian religious texts, are subject to more than one reading.

On the other hand, it is perfectly apparent that the Islamic texts are, to considerable extent, preoccupied with issues of war. Your former colleague (or mentor?) David Cook has shown that to be the case, rather definitively, in his masterful book, Understanding Jihad. And, that is certainly something different from either Christian thought or, so far as I know, the thought of any other major religion.

But, we ought not take a triumphant view that our religions are truly religions of peace. I think that is a mistaken approach, if that is what you intend. By contrast, to the extent that the goal was merely to back up Ibrahim's point, I think you are correct.


A. M. Eckstein - 9/26/2007

Here's another example of what concerns me--another (dare I say it, Omar?) fact:

In response to the awarding of a knighthood to Salman Rusdie in Britain, the Minister for Religious Affairs in Pakistan publicly announced that "the insult to Islam" here would justify suicide bombings in Britain. This man is not a marginal figure; he is an important Pakistani govt official (and indeed, he is the son of a previous Prime Minister of Pakistan).

I defy anyone to show me anywhere else in any other religion anywhere in the world where a govt cabinet minister justifies suicide bombings--that is, murder--on the basis of an "insult" to his religion.

Is this ALL of Islam? No, it is not. But is this man merely a marginal figure: No, he is not: he is the Minister for Religious Affairs of a nuclear-armed state. Like Bin Ladin, like the leading Muslim cleric in Britain whom I quoted, like Ahmedinejad the President of Iran, this man is an important figure. So, does this man represent a large strain in Islam? Well, how can anyone deny it? Is this a different situation from what occurs in any other religion? How can anyone deny that, either?

These are uncomfortable facts. But facts are facts.


A. M. Eckstein - 9/26/2007

Omar stands revealed all to clearly again. I gave the readers here some facts--that Tim Furnish was not Jewish, plus a long direct quote from Bin Ladin, who is hardly a marginal figure, plus a disturbing story from the London Times about the prominent Riyadh ul-Haq and HIS violent opinions, plus some comments on what the ludicrous madman Amedinejad said in New York yesterday.

Omar's response? Personal insults. There you go.


art eckstein - 9/26/2007

Tim, that Omar instinctively thought you were part of--in his phrase--"the Jewish herd" tells everyone here all they need to know about Omar.






Tim R. Furnish - 9/26/2007

Gents,
As a Christian and a historian, I am all too well aware of my own faith's imperfect record. And yes, Art, you have understood exactly what I was saying.


Tim R. Furnish - 9/26/2007

Omar,
Sorry to disappoint you, but although I am a staunch supporter of Israel I happen to be a Christian--or "Crusader," in your world view, no doubt.


A. M. Eckstein - 9/25/2007

Oh, you think the common denominator here, Omar, is that Muslims are being attacked by all these groups and their civilians intentionally blown up on busses, in subways, on airplanes, in office towers, in grade schools, in discos, beheaded on the internet?

Is that it?


N. Friedman - 9/25/2007

Lorraine,

I certainly agree with you that the dead are surely dead, whatever brings about their death.

On the other hand...

To follow the view of the great atheist, Friedrich Nietzsche, God is dead, for most Christians - even among believers, on his view. Which is to say, the organization and thought structure of their minds and world is not religious in any real sense. Rather, it is shaped by other things. Our so very Christian president, whatever notions he may occasional express, acts for secular purposes.

Whether his fights are any better for the world than those of others, is a fair question. But, his objectives are plainly not religious. So, that is to be well understood, if one is to make a serious comparison

By contrast, to note the view expressed by the great Orientalist, Maxime Rodinson, God is not dead for most Muslims. The organizing notions among Muslim true believers, that Islam is the one true faith which is the property of all mankind, with the world divided between the House of Islam and the House of War, with the call to bring Islamic rule under Islamic law to all mankind, etc., etc., remains more than a dead dream.

You suggest that religion has nothing to do with all this. But, in fact, those on the Islamic side seem to differ with you. That is the point presented by Professor Furnish. And, as I understand it, Mr. Ibrahim has elucidated this by showing what the Islamists say to their own - which does not remotely match what is said to non-Muslims. Hence, to non-Muslims, arguments about the injustice of Western behavior is asserted. To Muslims, the argument made is religious not only in tone but in conception and goal.

On the third hand...

Religion is not the only problem in the Middle East. There is the lack of secular thinking, the dictatorships which deflect societal failures onto scapegoats, the lack of education and literacy, the poverty, the unwillingness to address problems, etc., etc..

Nonetheless, those who claim that "Islam is the way" - as the Islamist saying goes - and who call upon the faithful to fight in the path of Allah are central to preventing any solutions to any societal problems. And, for those of us who are not Muslim, the Islamist formula is bad - very bad - for us, as the call to fight us is religious and, hence, driven by fundamental forces that seem, thus far, to be rather difficult to contain.


art eckstein - 9/25/2007

Addendum:

1. I forgot to say: Furnish isn't Jewish, Omar. Sorry to spoil your paranoid racist vision.

2. My own view is that the only way to help the moderates within Islam deal with the increasingly numerous and self-confident Jihadists is to confront the latter barbarians directly and tell them what they are. To treat them with the respect they don't deserve only increases their power and decreases the leverage of the moderates. Call the Jihadists nihilistic barbarians with a totalitarian vision, yes: Sort of like what Bollinger (surprisingly) did to Ahmedinejad yesterday at Columbia.

3. Let's see: Ahmedinejad, who said (a) there are no gays in Iran, (b) no Holocaust happened, and (c) 9/11 wasn't done by Muslims. And WHO is it, again, who is making Islam look bad?


art eckstein - 9/25/2007

It is not Omar's "Jewish herd"--a repulsive phrase--that is demonizing Islam. It is Muslims who are, by their words and actions.

It wasn't enraged Episcopalians who flew airplanes filled with screaming civilians, including women and children, into office buildings filled with peaceful workers. This was done as a specific act of worship of Allah.

It wasn't enraged Catholics who murdered (by U.N. estimate) 34,000 Muslim civilians in Iraq last year--each and every murder a spcific act of worship of Allah.

It wasn't enraged Hindus, or Jews, who blow up schools filled with 150 children, at happened at Beslan--as a specific act of worship of Allah.

As Omar well knows, since he is a constant contributer to HNN, my own view is that the narrow, violent and hatefilled Wahabi-Salafist version of Islam is becoming increasingly the default mode of Islam primarily because of the massive infusion of Saudi money. This means that Islam, as I have repeated stated, is reformable into a more peaceful mode. But it is foolish to close our eyes to what it is increasingly becoming at the moment. And the Jihadists, as they always emphasize, have a lot of Koranic texts on their side.

Lorraine and Omar, here's Bin Ladin himself:

"As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High's Word: 'We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us--till you believe in Allah alone.' So here is an enmity, evidence by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility--that is, battle--ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed, or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy! Allah Almighty's Word to his Prophet recounts in summation the true relationship of Muslim and infidel: 'O Prophet! Wage war agains the infidesl and hypocrites and be ruthless. Their abode is hell--an evil fate!' Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the Muslima ndthe infidel. Battle, animosity, hatred--directed from the Muslim to the infidel--is the foudnation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and a kindness to them."

So, it's all-out hatred, conflict and not only war but ruthless war (and we all well know what the brute Bin Ladin means by that) until every Infidel converts to Islam. Period.

Or are you going to argue that Bin Laden is a marginal figure?

Here's another sample of what Furnish is pointing to:

From the London Times Online, Sept. 7, 2007:

"Almost half of Britain’s mosques are under the control of a hardline Islamic sect whose leading preacher loathes Western values and has called on Muslims to “shed blood” for Allah, an investigation by The Times has found.

Riyadh ul Haq, who supports armed jihad and preaches contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus, is in line to become the spiritual leader of the Deobandi sect in Britain. The ultra-conservative movement, which gave birth to the Taleban in Afghanistan, now runs more than 600 of Britain’s 1,350 mosques, according to a police report seen by The Times.

The Times investigation casts serious doubts on government statements that foreign preachers are to blame for spreading the creed of radical Islam in Britain’s mosques and its policy of enouraging the recruitment of more “home-grown” preachers.

Mr ul Haq, 36, was educated and trained at an Islamic seminary in Britain and is part of a new generation of British imams who share a similar radical agenda. He heaps scorn on any Muslims who say they are “proud to be British” and argues that friendship with a Jew or a Christian makes “a mockery of Allah’s religion."

And:

"The Times has gained access to numerous talks and sermons delivered in recent years by Mr ul Haq and other graduates of Britain’s most influential Deobandi seminary near Bury, Greater Manchester.

Intended for a Muslim-only audience, they reveal a deep-rooted hatred of Western society, admiration for the Taleban and a passionate zeal for martyrdom “in the way of Allah”.

The seminary outlaws art, television, music and chess, demands “entire concealment” for women and views football as “a cancer that has infected our youth”.

Mahmood Chandia, a Bury graduate who is now a university lecturer, claims in one sermon that music is a way in which Jews spread “the Satanic web” to corrupt young Muslims.

“Nearly every university in England has a department which is called the music department, and in others, where the Satanic influence is more, they call it the Royal College of Music,” he says."

I didn't write these quotations, and I didn't make them up, nor do they come from marginal Islamic figures in Britian. These Islamic figures say it's not poverty but "corruption", i.e., Schools of Music, uncovered women, and the sport of soccer, that leads them to homicidal jihad.


N. Friedman - 9/25/2007

Omar,

I did not demonize Islam. That is in your head.

In fact, I said that other religions, most particularly, Christianity, can be - and, to note, certainly has been - understood in a variety of ways, some of which are rather nasty. Regarding Islam, I said that its texts could be read that way rather easily, as many are doing today.

So, do not lie about my position.


Lorraine Paul - 9/24/2007

Sir, the reason you present in 'e' seems a sound one to me!

A society which has long been based on an 'us and them' ethos (which is probably more the religion of the US than Christianity) cannot just give this up when the enemy collapses under its own weight. Therefore, we now have 'Islamist terrorists' presenting a need for the military/industrial complex to be sustained and preserved.

I think the ordinary people of the US are beginning to recognise this and are miles ahead in their understanding of the present situation than many who are determined to make it their business to 'know' it all. It's a tragedy that their leaders, and some others who shall remain nameless (see above) still have their blinkers firmly in place.


Lorraine Paul - 9/24/2007

As an atheist with a Unitarian bent, I find that everyone likes to view, and/or present, their dastardly deeds through the prism of 'virtue'!

In what way are the Islamist terrorists' reasons for doing what they do any different to "Trotsky" Bush and his 'reasons' for bringing 'freedom and democracy' to the world?

People end up dead whatever!

Capitalists say that they have to cut workers' wages and conditions to meet the challenges from the rest of the world. Whereas, it is quite obvious that they 'are' the rest of the world! However, this specious premise gives them an excuse to do what they want to do.

Religion is not at the heart of the problems in the middle-east. I am surprised that intelligent thinkers would ever believe that it was.


N. Friedman - 9/23/2007

Art,

I agree with your point here.


art eckstein - 9/23/2007

Yes, but when Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Bhuddist, athiest, animist and Jewish dead all caused by Muslim violence against civilians, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see a pattern.


art eckstein - 9/23/2007

The vast majority of suicide bomber terrorists are not Hindus. In my view, Pape used the Tamil case to avoid the terrifying implications of the Islamic theological reality.

The thesis I offer is very simple: different religions really are different.


N. Friedman - 9/23/2007

Steve,

You make a good point that Hindus among the Tamil may well participate in the sort of slaughter more commonly associated with Muslim Jihadists.

For what it is worth, I am not so sure that Pape has a remotely viable thesis. He asserts that the goals of terrorists are typically to advance nationalist goals - to force nations to remove their armies from such peoples' homelands.

Such argument, however, assumes that Pape really knows the end goal of such terrorists. One might, for example, thinking back about Nazi terror tactics. They too had seemingly nationalist goals, namely, to come to the rescue of ethnic Germans in places such as Poland and Czechoslovakia. In fact, however, Nazis used nationalist sentiments as well as trans-nationalist sentiments. In the case of Islamists, I think it is fair to say that they do the same, with the trans-nationalist sentiment being the spread of Islam in accordance with traditional Islamic theology.

Which is to say, I think Pape's view is naive. One needs to examine not only what, to Westerners, appears to be the goal of a terrorist group. One needs to see exactly what they say, what connections they have with others and why and what the entire panoply of groups thinks. Otherwise, one can readily confuse a true for the forest.


Steve Vinson - 9/23/2007

all depends. Hindus obsessed with the Tamil situation might well become suicide bombers. Read Pape, "Dying to Win," on the *political,* not *religious* origins of suicide terror.


Steve Vinson - 9/23/2007

If they had become Hindus and developed an obsession with the Tamil people of Sri Lanka, they might well have become suicide bombers.


Steve Vinson - 9/23/2007

There's a real difference, I suppose, from the perspective of those who need to assuage their consciences and score political points. there's not much difference to the dead.


art eckstein - 9/22/2007

My friend N.F. writes: " Islam has texts well suited to espousing violence and intolerance, that does not absolve any other religions for their intolerance and indulgence into violence. I shall say, however, that Islam happens to make it a whole lot easier than do most other major religions. And, perhaps, that is what you mean, in which case I agree with you."

I agree totally with what N.F. writes here and I have not been trying to say more than this. No one has accused me, but for the record I just want to say that I am also not trying to absolve Christians of their history of violence.


N. Friedman - 9/22/2007

Professor Furnish,

As you know, I am rather sympathetic toward your analysis of what goes on in the Muslim regions and in Islamic theology. And, your book about the Mahdi was terrific.

Yes, violence is certainly exhorted in Islam in order to spread the part of the world ruled by Muslims under Islamic law. There is no doubt about that.

On the other hand, I think your view, echoed by my buddy, Professor Eckstein, that Christians, when they act bad, are always acting contrary to faith is not so. I think that there are many possible legitimate readings of the Christian Scriptures and not all of them are friendly - to put a polite term to it - to non-Christians.

One example, to make my point. Christians have, as you surely know, been known to speak with more than a little bit of hostility toward Jews. Not all Christians, to be sure. Many Christians have behaved saintly toward Jews - and that also has support in Scripture. Restorationists have been rather philosemitic so I am not saying that Christianity must be hostile to Jews; only that the texts can be read that way.

On the other hand, you are quite correct that Wright, who wrote a very good book for what it is worth, has it wrong here. He is just unwilling to go where the evidence leads. And, while I have not yet read Mr. Ibrahim's book, I have read his articles and he generally is well informed.

And, on this issue, his theory makes a whole lot more sense, as you note. I just think you also need to take the matter further and consider that, while Islam has texts well suited to espousing violence and intolerance, that does not absolve any other religions for their intolerance and indulgence into violence. I shall say, however, that Islam happens to make it a whole lot easier than do most other major religions. And, perhaps, that is what you mean, in which case I agree with you.


art eckstein - 9/22/2007

The recently arrested German terrorists Fritz G. and Daniel S., as well as John Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla and James Uzzama, were all converts to islam and moreover made a point of being very pure and devout Muslims. Whatever their personal problems, If these guys had converted to Buddhism, or Hinduism, does anyone believe they have become terrorists?


art eckstein - 9/21/2007

The problem with your analysis, Lorraine is that this, fundamentally, is not what the Islamists themselves say: their point, and their imperialism, is theological. Here's one example of what Bin Ladin himself says:

"As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High's Word: 'We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us--till you believe in Allah alone.' So here is an enmity, evidence by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility--that is, battle--ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed, or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy! Allah Almighty's Word to his Prophet recounts in summation the true relationship of Muslim and infidel: 'O Prophet! Wage war agains the infidesl and hypocrites and be ruthless. Their abode is hell--an evil fate!' Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the Muslima ndthe infidel. Battle, animosity, hatred--directed from the Muslim to the infidel--is the foudnation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and a kindness to them."

So, it's all-out hatred, conflict and not only war but ruthless war (and we all well know what the brute Bin Ladin means by that) until every Infidel converts to Islam. Period.

Or are you going to argue that Bin Laden is a marginal figure?

Here's another sample of what Furnish is pointing to:

From the London Times Online, Sept. 7, 2007:

"Almost half of Britain’s mosques are under the control of a hardline Islamic sect whose leading preacher loathes Western values and has called on Muslims to “shed blood” for Allah, an investigation by The Times has found.

Riyadh ul Haq, who supports armed jihad and preaches contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus, is in line to become the spiritual leader of the Deobandi sect in Britain. The ultra-conservative movement, which gave birth to the Taleban in Afghanistan, now runs more than 600 of Britain’s 1,350 mosques, according to a police report seen by The Times.

The Times investigation casts serious doubts on government statements that foreign preachers are to blame for spreading the creed of radical Islam in Britain’s mosques and its policy of enouraging the recruitment of more “home-grown” preachers.

Mr ul Haq, 36, was educated and trained at an Islamic seminary in Britain and is part of a new generation of British imams who share a similar radical agenda. He heaps scorn on any Muslims who say they are “proud to be British” and argues that friendship with a Jew or a Christian makes “a mockery of Allah’s religion."

And:

"The Times has gained access to numerous talks and sermons delivered in recent years by Mr ul Haq and other graduates of Britain’s most influential Deobandi seminary near Bury, Greater Manchester.

Intended for a Muslim-only audience, they reveal a deep-rooted hatred of Western society, admiration for the Taleban and a passionate zeal for martyrdom “in the way of Allah”.

The seminary outlaws art, television, music and chess, demands “entire concealment” for women and views football as “a cancer that has infected our youth”.

Mahmood Chandia, a Bury graduate who is now a university lecturer, claims in one sermon that music is a way in which Jews spread “the Satanic web” to corrupt young Muslims.

“Nearly every university in England has a department which is called the music department, and in others, where the Satanic influence is more, they call it the Royal College of Music,” he says."

THEY say it's not poverty but "corruption", i.e., Schools of Music, uncovered women, and the sport of soccer, that leads them to homicidal jihad.



art eckstein - 9/21/2007

The earliest Christians were pacificists--and communists, too. The tradition of communism persists (this may startle some folks) in the priesthood, monesteries, convents.

Christians have violated the precepts of the founder all too often, and grotesquely--humans being humans. Yet, simultaneously, many Christians have also sought to live by those precepts. Nevertheless, in terms of understanding the inherent violence in a particular religious belief, there is a huge difference between violence which entails the severe violation of the precepts and example of the founder (with the inherent guilt involved), and violence which entails following the precepts and example of the founder--there we find real guiltless joyful violence, even when intentionally directed at little children in a schoolyard (as two weeks ago in Sderot, Israel).

Islam is engaged in violence against Catholics in the Philippines, Buddhists (!) in Thailand, Hindus in India, Orthodox Christians in Russia, Protestants in Nigeria, animists in the Sudan, athiests in China, Jews everywhere, and in Iraq Sunnis attack Shiites in ultraviolence while Shiites attack each other.

I don't think it's hard to discern the common denominator here.


Lorraine Paul - 9/21/2007

I am astonished that Furnish, a self-professed 'expert' on the middle-east, has lowered the debate to a mere "my religion is better than yours" level!

Surely, Tim, you are aware that the issues go far beyond those of religion.

This is more like the debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin! Interesting to some, but basically irrelevant.

I would have thought exploring the geo-political, post/neo-imperialism, dwindling resources and the confiscating of same, to be of greater interest.


Steve Vinson - 9/21/2007

well, my point exactly. How can Christianists take comfort in the moral superiority of their peaceful religion and at the same time proclaim the necessity, even the morality, of violating these precepts????

anyhow, what is it that characterizes authentic "christianity" in this respect? certainly the NT is more "peaceful" than the Quran. But the Bible as a whole is certainly not. And it's pretty disingenuous to write off centuries of Christian theological *tradition* -- comparable, more or less, to Islamic theological *tradition* -- that justifies all sorts of horrible violence. Because if you want to go not only Sola Scriptura, but actually Solum Novum Testamentum, then you're going to have to be pacifists and completely non-judgmental towards your jihadist brothers and sisters. Turn the other cheek, judge not lest ye be judged, resist not evil, the whole nine yards. That I could respect.


art eckstein - 9/21/2007

Those Christians who practice violence are violating the precepts and the example of the founder of their religion.

Those Muslims who practice violence are, by contrast, FOLLOWING the precepts and the example of the founder of their religion.

Jihadists never tire of proclaiming, with specific chapter and verse from the Koran, that this is the case.

It's an important difference.


Vernon Clayson - 9/21/2007

Personally I find it ironic that modern people, with all the advances in knowledge over the centuries, quarrel to the death over the words in religious texts from centuries ago. Surely, a person with any sense of right and wrong would not kill another person over these quaint and ancient proclamations, would they? Well, they might, but they would be judged by modern standards and not by the quotations of long ago sages who may or may not have said, "smite them" or "stone them" or something as foolish sounding.


Steve Vinson - 9/21/2007

That Christian apologists like to suggest that Christianity is superior to Islam because it does not explicitly advocate violence. Of course that depends on whether you see Old Testament commandments to torture blasphemers and homosexuals, and kill and pillage the enemies of God, to be binding on Christians, but let that pass. There are real differences of opinion here, but Jerry Falwell, at least, believes such commandments are binding on Christians and are integral to Christianity.

The real irony here is that Christians who defend war seem to find themselves morally superior because they play lip-service to a "peaceful" religion while freely and wantonly *violating* its explicit tenets -- whereas Muslims is doubly evil, because Muslims who carry out violent jihad are taking their religion seriously!

Personally, I'd say that the jihadists come out ahead of the crusaders here, because at least they're not hypocrites.

"I come not to bring peace, but a sword." -- Jesus Christ, Matthew 10:34

"Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." -- God, 1 Samuel 15:3