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Monday, March 27, 2006

Can Islam moderate?

Princeton English professor John V. Fleming writes in The Princetonian, here, in "Respect the respectable" about the trouble with "moderate Islam" (HT:  Kathy Shaidle). For Fleming, the trouble with "moderate Islam" is that it isn't any such thing.  He drives home his central point by contrasting the militant reaction of Islam to cartoons published in a "provincial" newspaper in a language spoken by fewer people than live in Cairo, with the global reach of the "DaVinci Code" and the ensuing non-reaction from global Christianity.  This, even though "the Code" suggests that Jesus "got it on with Mary Magdalene."  Fleming very helpfully points us to a recent book, The Myth of Islamic Tolerance (2005), here.

I blogged some time ago, here, about my experience of visiting a Twelfth-Imam Shia congregation in Toronto about twenty years ago . . . (for more, go to Burkean Canuck).

Posted by Russ Kuykendall on March 27, 2006 in International Politics | Permalink


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As I'm sure you realize, that's an invalid comparison. The cartoon reaction in the ME vs the Da Vinci reaction can't be compared, because you aren't comparing two ideologies or similar evaluative level - i.e., moderate Islam and moderate Christianity.

If the Da Vinci book had been published in the 13th-15th century in Europe, its author would have been burned at the stake. Christianity changed and moderated and now, its author is feted and ...

An ideology is an ideology. It's a construct of the human mind. Therefore as a construct, it can change. It's not a natural physical law; it's a created ideology.

Would an extremist Islam be the same as a moderate Islam? No. You are saying that Islam cannot moderate, because then, 'it wouldn't be Islam'. Same thing with Christianity. ..and reform Judaism etc.

And remember, the reaction to the cartoons was not spontaneous but carefully orchestrated. Three false cartoons had to be added by the imams. The imams had to politicize the cartoons and travel OUTSIDE of Europe to raise a reaction.

You are dealing with illiterate and superstitious and uneducated people in the ME. And, in these ME countries, you don't get a public rally without gov't support. Those riots were staged by their gov'ts.

So- in answer, can Islam moderate? Yes. Why? Because humans constructed Islam in the first place. Therefore, since we are all one species over the globe - if we can change and moderate our ideologies (whether political, religious, educational, scientific..)..then..so can they.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 2:27:27 PM

The question isn't "CAN they moderate themselves?" but

At THIS time in history, "WILL they be able to moderate themselves?"

And judging from recent events, the answer is obvious. Moderate forces within Islam are irrelevant to the majority of Islam today, and are unable to tone things down and ramp down the violence.

The argument of Christianity in the Middle Ages is a good one, it also was an illiterate populace whipped on by religious leaders to commit atrocities against Jews for example in the pogroms.

Whether in 600 years Islam will have enough layers of tolerance, literacy, and sheer inertia is yet to be seen.

Right here, right now, the answer is no.

Posted by: Canadian freedoms fan | 2006-03-27 2:40:57 PM



Posted by: Canadian Sentinel | 2006-03-27 2:49:15 PM

I’ve been thinking about this too since reading a comment by Oriana Fallaci “ have you ever heard of a moderate Nazi?”

I found that comment a bit of a jolt and would not bring it up at a cocktail party in the Toronto Annex. But I have to admit; it does cut to the chase.

Up until recently I felt that I know Moderate Muslims, acquaintances even refer to themselves as such. However perhaps what they mean to say is that they are Islamic-atheists or Islamic- agnostics or Muslims-waiting-for-the-reformation?

Your Fleming article references The Manifesto; where the money quote for me is this one:
“Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others.”

So if there are no Moderates, what do we say to those that say they are Moderates? I guess the next time I chat with one I’ll simply offer my help by saying, e.g., ‘what can those of us that believe in the necessity of separating state and religion do to help Muslims in transition?’. Then what? It’s pretty tricky.

ET, I had typed up the above before reading your comments, I think a missing piece might be:
I assume Judeo-Christians have reformed a few hundred years ago and that they continue to reform. For example, I’ve recently suggested to my minister that it’s OK with me if he conducts a SSM. I would not have said that 5 years ago. Importantly, a Presbyterian Minister can decide on his/her own, without the Presbytery to conduct a SSM. So we are continually reforming and Muslims don’t have that mechanism yet. We need to encourage the Muslims in the West to get on with reformation, because yes, I agree ET, they are capable of it. Now from what I’m reading of Oriana Fallaci, she would say no, they are not capable. I disagree with that but still find her historical perspective useful.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-03-27 2:52:59 PM

Canadian freedoms fan - then, what do you suggest?

First, it didn't take Christianity 600 years to moderate; that is, it is always changing and becoming more of a 'fit' with its socioeconomic infrastructure.

IF, IF, the Islamic states were not exponentially increasing their population, beyond the 'carrying capacity' of a tribal political system that privileges an elite tribe and disenfranchises the rest of the population...

And IF, IF, this increased population were able to be completely self-sufficient from the rest of the global world..

THEN - we could say - Keep your fundamentalist Islam; it doesn't affect us.

But, that increased population, kept constrained by an out-dated feudalism (tribalism) has resulted in massive INTERNAL rage in the ME..that is exploding outwards rather than inwards. [How clever; keep your population illiterate; keep them ignorant by a fundamentalist religion..and instead of rising up in a civil war to take out the corrupt leadership..they will rise up against the West.]

And - that increased population and the global reality means that these people cannot live, isolate from us..as if on some island-in-the-desert.

So- they are now, within us. What do you suggest? Concentration camps? What?

You state that Islam cannot be reformed; that means that it is and remains extremist and fundamentalist. How do you propose to deal with this - because it affects the West?

I disagree with you. I think that they HAVE to moderate themselves, just as the West HAD to moderate its religious and social ideology in the 15th c. And, has continued to moderate its ideology...including giving the vote to various minorities who were denied the vote,including allowing women to vote..and work and..etc.

And, they are moderating themselves. More and more, they are speaking out. It's slow, the fundamenentalists are fighting back - as the church did also in the 14th c.. - but - it's happening.

Go to Irshad Manji's site:

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 3:03:05 PM

yes they DO have to moderate themselves. And yes it must be done with literacy and moving AWAY from tribal culture (which here in Canada is harming the native population badly too)

BUT I'm not sure at this time whether the moderates within Islam are strong enough to be heard.

How do you suggest we reach them and assist them to change?

Posted by: Canadian freedoms fan | 2006-03-27 3:10:06 PM

Interesting comment, nomdenet.

'Have you ever heard of a moderate Nazi'? Careful, because the definition of 'Nazi' refers to an extremist version of fascism. Fascism is a collectivist ideology that locates its origin and motivation in an a priori, essentialist ethnic identity. Nazism is an extreme version of that collectivist ideology. So, naturally, you cannot be a Nazi and be moderate; you are extremist.

Now, Fallaci cannot say that All Muslims are extremist. Just as in other religions, there are the orthodox, the literalists, the extremists, the moderates..Islam is going through an ideological crisis at the moment, for the basic reason that it has been holding up and supporting some corrupt political infrastructures. It is these corrupt political leaders, who align themselves with and promote extremist Islam, who must be fought - not only by the West but also by the moderate Muslims.

Remember, some extremist Muslims in Ontario wanted Sharia Law. Who objected? A LOT, a LOT, of Muslim women, who fought very hard to see that that law wasn't instigated. I know; I wrote letters with them against Sharia law. So- Islam CAN change.

But - the West has to reject the extremist version. The West has to stop pandering to this version and saying 'we respect your religion'. Bull. We cannot and must not respect extremism of any kind. The West has to stand up for global human rights - because we are a global reality now. And, Muslims have to stand up, themselves, and enter into this world - and moderate their religion..and get rid of the corrupt tribalism of the ME.

It has to change. There is no option. If you are one of those people who says that Islam cannot change - then - what do you propose? Concentration camps???

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 3:19:49 PM

To ET, "Canadian Freedoms fan," and my friend "nomdenet":

The 13th through the 15th centuries saw the creation (beginning in the 12th) of the university in Christian Europe, the invention of the printing press and increased availability of the printed word, and the Renaissance and the Reformation. This, while Europe was still in a defensive posture against Europe's being conquered by Islam. The much-maligned Crusades starting in the 10th century were a last-ditch effort of Christian Europe to defend and to recover Mediterranean Christendom from being completely overrun by Islam. Until Islam, the Mediterranean was a Christian lake, and the centres of Christian culture were present-day Tripoli, Alexandria, and the Sinai Desert.

Further, when Ferdinand and Isabella drove the Muslims out of the Iberian peninsula, what ensued was an effort to solidify their control. And while Iberian Jews were forced either to convert or to leave, they were INVITED by other European Christian monarchs to relocate within their borders.

When the Portuguese revived the trade in human beings in the 15th century, and concurrently the Conquistadores were massacring the Aztecs and Incans, they were the subject of the most pointed criticism from the church and Christian religious orders. One member of a religious order insisted that the Indians be treated as human beings -- as people as human as the Europeans.

The 17th century served to clarify the roles of state and church, and to strengthen the Christian notion of "evangelical freedom" -- that is, freedom of thought and religion. But these ideas were merely "strengthenings"/recoveries of ideas that go back to the sayings of Christ ("Render unto Caesar") in the earliest Christian Scriptures.

The seeds of Christian "moderation" are in the seeds of Christianity itself. That may be the key difference between Islam and Christianity.

Posted by: Russ Kuykendall | 2006-03-27 3:21:05 PM

Russ - I think we've been over this before. I disagree with your view of Christianity as having 'the seeds of moderation in it'. If it had been Arian instead of Athanasian - I might agree, but, the 'choice' of an Athanasian perspective meant a holistic and topdown authoritarianism in the religion. BUT -

Christianity is a religion. That means, it's a human construct. It can have extremist to moderate to almost invisible versions. Just like other human constructs; they too can be extreme to moderate. Christianity is not a biological entity; it doesn't contain something 'in itself' as a genetic content. It is a human construction.

The fact of the universities - which began in the 9th century and began to develop widely in the 13th and on centuries - has nothing to do with Christianity per se, but with the demographic population explosion of the era, and the concomitant requirement for innovative tactics in agricultural procedures (three field palnting, the plough, the horse harness); and the change in social structure from social and economic relations based on a fixed hereditary status (cf the ME now)..to one based on buying and selling commodities and labour. That change was required because of the increased population.

This era saw the gradual mov't out of fedual/tribalism and into a civic mode of governance and a market economy. Religion changed, to support this changed economy.

The same thing can happen in Islam. Again - the human species is the same. Or - what are you suggesting? If you claim that Muslims cannot change - then - what do you propose to do with them?

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 3:33:15 PM

Canadian freedoms fan - in answer to your question.

Yes, tribalism has to stop the isolating and inducing to welfare - result among our native peoples.

As for the Muslim community - the West has to stop dealing with religion AS IF it were not a human construct; and AS IF it were some kind of natural law.

That is, if, as happened in the UK - some Muslim complains to an ice cream manufacturer that the chocolate swirls on the vanilla ice cream cone, if turned on its side, ressemble the word Allah..and that has to be stopped because he, the consumer, is 'insulted'...well, you don't do as the UK firm did - and change its swirls. You tell him - So, don't turn the bloody ice cream on its side. Either eat it or don't buy it.

And you don't, as did a UK bank, remove piggy banks from its stores because 'pork' offends some Muslims. Tough.

And you don't apologize for political cartoons. And remember, that dictum of 'you must not imagize Mohammed' is not only invalid, but, it's a social construct ONLY FOR MUSLIMS! You, as a Christian or atheist or whatever, don't fall under their socioreligious laws. Tell them to get stuffed.

You don't blather on about 'respecting their religion'..when you don't respect their view of women, their view of other religions, their view of whatever. You tell them, openly, exactly what you think..and don't fall into the smarmy junk of thinking that a religion is intellectually 'off limits'. Why? Because it's a religion? Nonsense.

It's a human construct - and as such - every single axiom, every single twitch in its book - is up for discussion and debate. Don't fall for the 'off-limits because it's religion' junk talk.

That insistence on reason, on analysis..will do a lot to help the Muslims moderate themselves..while the smarmy multicultural political correctness - will dig them deeper into their cave.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 3:51:30 PM

Russ you and ET are not going to agree.
Here’s an out that will save a lot of broadband,
Are you saying that unless it’s “in the seeds” it can’t become moderate?
Do agree moderation can be learned?

Personally, I think it can be learned, and that your comment about the treatment by enlightened clergy of First Nations is very relevant. Canada should also embrace Muslims open to change. But not extremists.

There is enough of a connection with Muslims recognising Christ as a prophet to build on here. Reformed Christians and Jews are very much at the same table these days. There is no reason why Muslims cannot join in IF they desire moderation. ET makes the point that Muslim woman have already proven their moderation in connection with adopting one law for Ontario and not Sharia law. There’s good reason to be hopeful here.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-03-27 3:53:38 PM


Having flogged the term "tribalism" to death, now you inflict "human construct" upon us. Do you get a dollar every time you write those phrases?!

You've been down this road before and ended up as equally lost.

The problem with Islam, as I, Tim Denton and many others have written, is that it actually proposes itself as a closed system. If one's universal frame of reference is by definition delivered as the unaltered word of the Divine Being, then logically one cannot rewrite the terms which establish it. A program of submission (which by remarkable coincidence is the translation of the word "Islam") has little room for the exercise of free will.

And before you froth at the mouth again, no, that does *not* make Islam's adherents non-human: it means that they are trapped within a belief system that denies them their rightful full potential as human beings, namely the undiminished capacity for free will and self-determination.

Back to your drawing board, old son.

Posted by: Paul Canniff | 2006-03-27 3:57:19 PM

ET, your comment about the ice cream in the UK reminds me of Fallaci again. She makes the interesting observation (The Force of Reason) that the UK (at 2.5 % Muslims) is in worse trouble than France (10%) because in the UK the big brain imams are the driving force there for all of Europe and they have bought up all kinds of assets and are big fund raisers etc.
Whereas France is less multi-culti, i.e. the headscarf crackdown etc.
An interesting point that I hadn’t thought about.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-03-27 4:02:52 PM

Paul Canniff - I disagree with your analysis of Islam. Just because you and some others have concluded that Islam is a closed belief system, that doesn't mean that it is; just that that is your conclusion.

Tribalism is a basic term in social analysis. I didn't create it. And, as such, it describes, very succinctly, a particular socioeconomic and political mode of life. What's your point? It happens to be an accurate description of the ME way of life. OK? The fact that you don't know anything about these different modes..so???

Human construct -you don't like the term? So? It's an extremely common term in social and cognitive analysis and hardly original with me. So?

The fact that you aren't familiar with these very common terms - ???

All monotheistic religions posit themselves as based on the 'unaltered word of the Divine Being'. You aren't supposed to, as a faithful follower, interpret those words yourself. That was true in Christianity up to the 10th century..and began to change in the 12th and on.
So- there's no difference between the closed ideology of Christianity and the closed ideology of Islam - and - both can change.

Now- since you claim that the Muslims are trapped within a belief system that they cannot change - what do you suggest that they should do? Abandon the religion as unworkable? And start up a new one? Hey- wouldn't that be a change? Convert to another religion? Or change?

What do you suggest that they do - since you reject that there is any possibility of them moderating their religion?

And - how do you deal with those Muslims who assert that they ARE Muslims and ARE moderates? Do you reject them and say that they 'aren't really Muslims'???

Do you reject Irshad Manji, who asserts that she IS a Muslim and a moderate? Do you reject Salim Mansur - who asserts the same?? Do you say that they aren't really Muslims 'because, according to you, Islam can't be changed'??

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 5:03:23 PM

What isn't happening here - is any answer to my question of:

IF you assert that Islam can't be changed, THEN, what do you propose to do with all the Muslims?

No-one has answered that.

Bush answered it - and I agree with his answer. It is 'democracy', for democracy, unlike tribalism, empowers the individual. Not the group.
Democracy means that the individual has the right to think. That also means that they can think about the viability of their religion and its rules. And change those rules.

But none of you have answered the question - what do you propose to do with all the Muslims? You assert that they are 'trapped within an ideology' that cannot change. And that ideology is extremist, brutal, irrational, hostile. So- what do you suggest???

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 5:24:29 PM

Meanwhile …. even if Muslims moderate, and I believe they can, the role of religion in defining our heritage and culture leads to other questions.

ET you say “as we’ve moved from feudal/tribalism … to a market economy” and Islam has obviously not kept pace; then what happens as we continue to move from a nation-state to a market-state?

In other words the whole notion of Islamofascism being a movement and not a country that we are at war with is complicated enough, in my mind. But because the world is becoming globally connected as a result of free trade then we are gradually becoming borderless in a sovereign sense too, are we not?

One of the things I want to avoid is the Maurice Strong transnational/UN/EU buraocratic nightmare that will dilute our very souls as a nation. Yet I see a global market-economy chipping away at the nation-state. I’m having trouble reconciling that, particularly in the face of an onslaught from an Islamofascist movement. Also, in the context of our Liberals having used multi-culturalism as a vote-buying tool such that we have failed to identify ourselves and we are at risk of having to remove all “piggy banks”.

Can we be a market-state and a nation-state too? Can we have a strong enough cultural definition of ourselves to withstand the invasions of the hordes that arrive on our shores? My interpretation of people like Salim Mansur indicate he did not leave Calcutta as a Muslim to come to Canada to be part of a wishy-washy diluted culture with no backbone to fight for democracy and freedom. So I think I have some answers to my own questions, with the exception of: is the nation-state a dying concept and what will we call its replacement?
( BTW I won't check back until tomorrow)

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-03-27 5:58:26 PM

Islam is re-worked Christianity and Judaism - the problem is Islam refuses to recognize where it comes from. Christians have come to recognize that Jesus was Jewish and many have given up on "replacement theology". Thus in today's world practicing Jews and observant Christians are better friends than either are with secularists.

Islam must recognize its roots and if it cannot do this than it will continue to be at odds with Christians and Jews.

Posted by: ex-liberal | 2006-03-27 6:03:07 PM

"IF you assert that Islam can't be changed, THEN, what do you propose to do with all the Muslims?"

It's been answered by the Germans in the mid 80s. Repatriation incentives and containment in their own countries. It's been answered by Enoch Powell, the Danish People's Party, Geert Wilders, and many, many others.

"The seeds of Christian "moderation" are in the seeds of Christianity itself."

Yes but the seeds of moderation planted amongst a genetically unique people that resided in Northwestern Europe. The same moderation did not appear in the Orthodox East. Those people evolved to de-emphasisize extended kinship relationships and its correlative, a relative lack of ethnocentrism.

Posted by: DJ | 2006-03-27 6:06:58 PM

I've noticed that most of the comments are by an atheist, ET, who doesn't know Shiite from Shinola when it comes to religion.

Her comments are akin to a congenitally deaf person discussing music or a congenitally blind person beaking off about the differences in painting styles by the Masters.

She bases everything on the premise that religion is a man-made construct. It is NOT.

She does not recognize that there is a universal spiritual war being fought out through the ages under her willfully ignorant nose.

Islam is NOT reformable in the sense Christianity was reformable.

Christianity was corrupted by Roman Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation brought it back to it's spiritual roots, which existed for over 200 years prior to the conterfeit brought in to imitate Christianity, by Constantine, the first pope, in 313 AD.

Osama bin Ladin, by comparison, is in fact bringing Islam back to it's spiritual roots.
He is a reformer.

If the prophet Mohammad were alive today Osama bin Ladin would be his right hand man.

Posted by: Speller | 2006-03-27 6:08:17 PM

"Islam must recognize its roots and if it cannot do this than it will continue to be at odds with Christians and Jews."
Posted by: ex-liberal

Islam IS recognizing it's roots. That's why we have Al Quaida, The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.

Almost all of the Christians in the New Testament of the Bible were Jews and the majority of converts for over two centuries were almost ALL Jewish until the first pope Constantine, a Roman Emperor, declared all of his pagan people to be christians in 313 AD.

There is NO connection between Mohammad's Islam and Judaism except where Mohammad's followers swords connect with Jewish necks.

Posted by: Speller | 2006-03-27 6:23:55 PM

nomdenet - in answer to your question, I think two things will happen, as we become globally networked, both economically and informationally.

I think that the nation-state as a sovereign (economically, informationally, ideologically) entity is over. BUT - that doesn't mean a global unity! That socialist dream would be a disaster. All innovation would stop. Innovation emerges from differences; we must retain differences.

Where do these differences come from? From reality. Our planet is not ecologically homogeneous. It's different - everywhere. We adapt to those differences.

What I think will happen is the development of regional economic zones that are relevant to the local environmental realities: the realities of the local soil, the water, the climate, the type of vegetation etc. These regional zones evolve a cultural identity that will be embedded within a global networked alliance of the economy, shared information, common human principles.

I'm working from basic principles of organization in the physical, biological and informational realms..and there's no such thing as EITHER an isolate local reality OR a strictly universal reality. It's a combination of both.

You see it happening everywhere, all the time. A city develops, but it never develops as a holistic commonality. Instead, neighbourhoods develop with their own identities. You live in a neighbourhood, not in the whole city. But, you can interact with other neighbourhoods. That's how I see the global network.

So, for instance, Harper's movement towards decentralization in Canada, with more power going to local regions that will self-organize their economies adapted to their local realities..and not centralized make-work projects funded by the taxpayer in some other province...That's exactly right.

The question with the Islamic nations is - how do they fit into this global network? They can't remain isolate. It's too late for that, and their populations are too large. They don't fit in now, and the West must not change to be 'like them'. Why not? Because science will come to a screeching halt. There is no science in the current Muslim world.

The Muslim mindset could not dominate the world, unless the global population could be decimated by more than half. They have no science, no technology, no means of dealing with diseases, new bacteria. Nothing. Therefore, their ideology cannot, given the global population, dominate.

So- they have to change. No choice. And the West has to refuse to change ITS mindset, its tendency to ask questions, to speak freely, to dissent, to critique.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 6:24:15 PM


I am certainly familiar with the terms "tribalism" and "human construct". Unlike you, I have moved beyond a first-year university class in anthropology and do not recite those terms like incantations against the forces of informed reason.

People like Manji and Mansour can certainly deem themselves moderate, having demonstrating as much through their writings. But note that such moderation had to result from coming to terms with the Western liberal tradition.

It is just such external forces that provoke change in the adherents, not your beloved "Islam as human construct" strawman". You will find that the redoubts of the Wahabbist and the Salafists offer neither comfort or room for such possibilities. That is the basis of our contention: the faith system itself has no capacity for progressive moderation. Change must necessarily result from other quarters.

Here endeth the lesson.

Posted by: Paul Canniff | 2006-03-27 6:26:00 PM

Thanks to Protestant Reformation, Christians began to read the New Testament in their own language and they began to read the Old Testament. This paved the way for the accord that exists today between practicing Jews and Christians. The Christians did not throw out the old book in the way that Islam has totally banned the reading of the old and new Testaments.

Muslims need access to the older books including the Talmud, so they can see the origins of the Koran. then maybe there will be moderation among Muslims.

Posted by: ex-liberal | 2006-03-27 6:30:00 PM

Really, Speller? Religion is not a man-made construct? Then what is it? No- I don't believe in metaphysical agents thundering down at me about 'what to believe'. No god or gods. It's a human construct.

You are erring in moving into 'identity politics', which asserts that only someone born into a group can know that group. So, only a member of the Mbuti tribe can understand a Mbuti; only a member of the English can understand the English. I don't buy that argument.

I'm an atheist and I can think. So- I can understand both religion and atheism.

And, no, this is not a spiritual war. It's a social and economic war. AS Blair said ' - it's about modernity'. Will the Muslims join in with modernity or remain in the tribal era?

DJ - what a joke. 'Containment in their own countries'. Are you planning on building giant walls around all countries? So, you really think that countries are defined by religion? Remember, there's no such thing as race. And no such thing as 'national IQ' (what a joke that is!) Oh Gosh - what are you going to do with atheists??? Dump us in some well?

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 6:32:24 PM

I agree with you that there is a huge gulf between Islam and Judaism. All I am trying to say is that Mohammed got his non-pagan ideas from the Torah, the Talmud, and the New Testament. Islam will never be able to moderate until it recognizes this. Until then it will refuse its adherants access to the very books that influenced Mohammed. Mohammed knew that the Christians found prophecies of the Messiah/Jesus in the Old Testament. Mohammed was upset when he realized there were no prophecies about him in the Torah- he then proceeded to teach that the Jews lied in their book.
This is a spiritual war and it is not based in materialism, lack of modernity, nationalism, or water rights. Ishamael is still mad at Isaac.

Posted by: ex-liberal | 2006-03-27 7:08:58 PM

Paul Canniff

Actually, those concepts of tribalism and human construct are found at all levels of social science..all the way to and after, the PHD level. Do you know why? Because they are intellectually valid.

I disagree with your suggestion that a system must contain, in itself, its future path, or it cannot change. That's determinism and viable only in a closed and mechanical system. What system is fully closed and therefore, deterministic? Especially one that is a human construct and is not natural? Even the simplest paramecium doesn't contain its future interactions entirely within itself; its changes depend on context and interactions.

No ideology is closed and therefore, no ideology can claim to be deterministic. Any and all attempts to close an ideology - any ideology - to the influences from daily reality have failed.

Christianity did not contain, in its own axioms, its future moderate path. A system adapts to its environment - to the exigencies of its economic, political and social environment - and Christianity, as an ideology, had to adapt to the realities of an increasing population, and a requirement for innovation - which required independence of thought and analysis.

The same is valid for Islam. The change doesn't come from 'other quarters' in the top down authoritarian sense that you imply. The system itself REACTS to external pressures - such as population, economic, political - and other ideologies.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 7:41:45 PM


Allow me to introduce you to intellectual validity, whose name you drop but whose company you clearly have not enjoyed.

You falsely attribute to me the argument that external change is something "top down authoritarian". I was discussing causality, pure and simple. What moderation we have witnessed in Islam is precisely because of the accommodation within adherents of other modes of thought and belief.

Again you play with semantics like Lincoln logs. You label Islam as an ideology, come up with a pat textbook definition of ideology and then propose a tautological premise to prove that it is not a closed system. When refutations based on marshaled evidence come before you, you claim they are by nature invalid, in the manner of the French philosophe who said, "Yes, I know it's eminently practical but does it work in theory?"

Of course change can bloody well occur in people and organizations as a result of external influences. By your reasoning, the French and Bolshevik revolutions were the product of healthy mechanisms for change cultivated within the Bourbon and Romanov dynasties. Show us the Muslim Martin Luther.

Get past the buzzwords and grow the hell up!

Posted by: Paul Canniff | 2006-03-27 7:57:55 PM

Paul Canniff - a change that comes from 'other quarters' into a system that has, according to you, no internal capacity for change, sure sounds like 'top down' to me - whether that authority/force/causality is from the top or side or whatever. It's external causality - and that's a force from outside that is imposed on a system. To me, that's top down.

So-now you are saying that you have witnessed moderation in Muslims..as accomodation to other modes of thought. So- someone who is Muslim can accomodate other modes; they don't reject and refuse them. A system that can accomodate to Otherness - can change. It can become moderate.

What else is Islam other than an ideology? It's a set of beliefs; that's an ideology. What tautological premise? YOU stated that Islam had no internal capacity to change. You said that it is "a faith system itself has no capacity for progressive moderation". I reject that.

You seem to think that a religion is a separate 'thing' in itself, that has to have some internal 'growth mechanism' in itself, that determines its future orientation. I reject that. Change in a religion/belief system is due to the people of that faith's adaptation to external influences. No system of belief can isolate itself from such influences. And therefore, all systems can change - They don't need some internal 'capacity for progressive moderation'. It's the people who follow that religion/belief system, that change the beliefs.

Now - you are admitting that. So- what's your point?

No- YOU were the one insisting that Muslims cannot change, that they are 'trapped within a belief system'; that they 'cannot rewrite the terms' of that system. Now - you are saying that they can. So?

Your reference to the French and Russian revolutions? I am not the one saying that a system either has, or has not, an internal capacity-for-change. You are the one who is saying that the Islamic belief system rejects change. I am saying that a religious system is held by people - and people adapt to their realities. Therefore, they, the Muslims, who follow that religion, will change that religion. Same thing happened with other religions.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-27 8:45:56 PM

What will cause the Muslims to think differently about the Temple Mount?
How to detect a moderate Muslim? Ask them what they think about Jews?
What will cause Muslims to moderate? When all of the Western world stands up and tells them to back off Israel. When all of the Western world stands up and tells them that the reason the Temple Mount is important to them is because that is where the two Jewish temples stood. When will Muslims moderate? When all of the Western world tells them we will not put up with their B.S. anymore about killing Muslims who convert to Christianity, when we tell them that the only people who called themselves Palestinians before 1967 were Jews, when we tell them to go and read the older books and learn about where Mohammed got his ideas!

oh and ET, Reform Judaism will not last long - its adherants do not propagate. Reform Judaism was a lame attempt of European Jews to try to fit in: see we don't have long side burns, and we don't go to shul, we go to temple, and we don't keep kosher, we don't wear long black coats and we're just like you - hmmm that didn't work out so well (see Germany 1930-1940).

Posted by: ex-liberal | 2006-03-27 9:05:12 PM

No. Islam cannot moderate. It's poisonous ideology must be contained until enlightened, or destroyed.

Posted by: infidel | 2006-03-27 10:29:14 PM

Can Islam moderate?


Posted by: Duke | 2006-03-27 11:47:28 PM

I see it's the ET show again tonight.

ET, you should get your owm blog. You put more words on this blog than all others combined.

Don't you have a life?

Posted by: Duke | 2006-03-27 11:48:39 PM

As one who has studied Islam for over 20 years, I can safely tell you that NO Islam cannot moderate...

That is like asking if Nazism or Marxism can moderate!

However, if we can edit the primary sources of Islam ie. Quran, Sira, Hadiths et al, then yes, we could see Islam moderate.....the problem is that that is as likely as monkey's flying out of my Albertan ass!!

In otherwords, their is no way any Orthodox believing Muslim will ever allow the more brutal texts and doctrines of Muhammed to be edited....it is sheer fantasy to believe otherwise...

This is why we are headed to massive warfare with the Islamic world as we have in the past 1400 years.....

Does that mean their are not millions and millions of decent moderate muslims? Of course there are...but they are in spite of Islam proper...not because of it....

Anyone that suggests that Islam can be moderate is either ignorant or a liar.....that is the simple truth......or perhaps a well meaning sincere goober...

Posted by: Albertanator | 2006-03-28 1:19:46 AM

Duke - stop with the ad hominem. It's pointless.

ex-liberal - Islam does not exist as an opposition to Israel. The Israel-Arab conflict is a completely different issue from the nature of Islam as a religion.

Palestine existed and Palestinians (non-Jews) existed long before your 1967 date. The British even called it that under their mandate.

Of course reform Judaism is going to continue! Are you suggesting that the only viable form of Judaism is the orthodox version? Most of the Jewish community in N. America and Europe is reform, not orthodox.

Well, I've studied social systems for well over 30 years - and my conclusion is that Islam will moderate. By this I mean that people who define themselves as Muslim will not be 'orthodox'; i.e., they won't follow the various ancient 'rules' about marriage, lifestyle, other religions and etc. Just as people who define themselves as Christian don't follow the extreme rules of the bible, or Jews..don't follow the orthodox.

Most of you seem to define Islam as only orthodox, i.e., extreme, and if it moderates, then - to you it's no longer Islam. That would mean that a reform Jew is no longer Jewish and the various modes of Christianity are invalid.

No extreme ideology can last for very long unless it is kept isolate. Islam is being forced into contact with the rest of the world; it can't remain extreme, with its rules that are valid only in a peasant tribal society. It has to change.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-28 6:54:56 AM

Thanks ET for your thoughts on where the “nation-state” might be headed. It is relevant to this converstion of where Islam as a movement is going. The fact is, we don’t know where Islam is going, how could we know? But with the lack of Western leadership coming from the void created by nation-states becoming consumer-based market-states, our situation looks remarkably like Churchill’s 1930’s prescient warnings about fascism.

We have on this thread anecdotes of how certain Muslim individuals have moderated but can enough of the Islamic movement moderate? We don’t know.

Those that say it can’t be moderated won’t answer the question – if you assert the Muslims won’t change, then what do we do with them?

I’m with ET; there is no other way than the democracy that Bush, Blair and Howard are attempting in the ME. But will it work? Too early to tell. But nobody has an alternative proposition. Should we get Lloyd Axworthy back with some “softpower”? Watch Gerard Kennedy as he moves into the Liberal Leadership ring, you are about to see “softpower” déjà vu as a Canadian Foreign Policy, simply because of the void of standing behind the only sensible alternative to the Islamic movement which is to help it moderate by democratizing the ME. Kennedy will have a non-Foreign-Policy to help Canadians stay in their beloved State-of-Denial.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-03-28 7:04:59 AM

Hi ET--

I get it -- I understand your preference for the demographic explanation over the ideological or religious. You suggest that the increases in the population of Europe are responsible for moves away from feudalism, the creation of the university.

But . . .

What of the depopulation of Europe in this period brought on by the Black Death -- bubonic plague? Ergo, if the explanation is to be found in population increase, how does the fact of bubonic depopulation affect that?

Further, medieval kingship was generally exercised in a conciliar fashion -- that is, with councils, AND it was checked by the church . . . think the Carolingian regime. However, after Machiavelli, Europe saw the rise of absolutism under the Borgias and Medicis, the Guises, the Tudors, the Stuarts, and the Bourbons in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. One could argue that starting with Machiavelli, absolutism was a product of the Renaissance that laid the groundwork for the totalitarianism of the French Enlightenment of Rousseau and the philosophes, whose work nurtured the thought of Marx and the totaitarianism of his followers.

Further, although there are huge demographic pressures in sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural production is suffering severe reversals. How do you explain that? ;-)

Posted by: Russ Kuykendall | 2006-03-28 7:24:05 AM

This is the best way to engage moderate Muslims …


Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-03-28 7:28:53 AM


I enjoy your posts: you display uncommon analytical thinking. In regards to your question, if Islam cannot be changed (moderate) what do you do with all Muslims, I humbly suggest that within Canada, because their "human construct" cannot tolerantly coexist with/within our society, then Islam is not a religion at all. It is really a cult, and, therefore, there is nothing that has to be done because if Islam is not recognized as a religion, then there are no Muslims. The approach is kind of like burying one's head in the sand, but there is no freedom of cult in the charter...is there? They would not qualify for tax exemptions and, one would think, after time, mosques would simply vanish into ruin. Public support and political correctness is what perpetuates this cult.

Outside of Canada, the only option is to continue efforts to spread democracy in the hope that over a long time, the cult will moderate itself to a religious status (a human construct that can coexist with all other religions and beliefs).

Posted by: Danny | 2006-03-28 7:53:55 AM

In reply to nomdenet - yes, no-one has answered my question of "if you think Islam can't change, then, what are you going to do with all these extremist Muslims'?

[Except for DJ's silly answer, which is to 'ship them all to their lands' and lock the door. As if a religion is bonded to a 'land'; and as if you can 'lock the door' in our modern world. ]

ex-liberal. By the way, only 7% of American Jews are orthodox. Most (42%) are Reform; it's the largest denomination. About 38% are Conservative - which is also adaptive but less flexible than Reform on some issues (gays, etc).
Reform and Conservative are also the mainstream in Europe. Not orthodox.

Russ- yes, I begin an analysis of a society, always, with the 'material reality'; i.e., the demographics and the biome. What's the biome (soil, water, climate)..and how many people can it support within a particular socioeconomic mode?

The ideology of a society will support its economic adaptations to that biome. The LAST thing that a society will do - is change that ideology. After all, our knowledge base is learned; it's not genetic. Therefore, we must keep it stable or we'll be, 'intellectually zipping around like random atoms'.

So- Europe went through a series of depopulations due to disease and war, before it finally 'gave in'..and realized that it had to change its technology, which meant - it had to change its ideology.

Europe is the richest biome on this planet, permitting rapid increases in population. Far beyond the carryingn capacity of feudal peasant agriculture and beyond the organizational capacity of local feudal (tribal) politics. The first responses to population increase, if the economy and political authority remain the same - are decrease in nutrition (this can be seen in bone analysis)..and the emergence of diseases, of famine...and a slight decrease in population. You are back to 'a balance'. But, the population rises again.

More famine, more diseases. And..you might move into war. War is an attempt to obtain more resources for your population; a less-rich people will move into the terrain of a richer biome; or vice versa... The medieval era was filled with these wars.

Then, you begin to change..and the rural moves to urban..so, the economy starts to change from focusing only around the isolate feudal manor to providing a surplus for teh market exchange. That evens out the economy.

But- urbanization brings a higher population increase, and - infectious diseases. More famines, more mass epidemics..lower population..and then, higher population..and wars.

Eventually - you have no choice. You have to change the technology; you have to develop new forms of energy; to harvest more food, make more houses, more clothes. You have to reject disease as caused by the Evil Witch..and explore physical causes - medicine. That requires a change in ideology - you have to privilege the Individual as Questioner.

Changing that ideology, from a faith-based acceptance of 'all truth is known in the church' to an exploratory knowledge system based on individual observation - was a MASSIVE change. It took 400 plus years. And it was fought by the 'old guard' - the church and the hereditary monarchs..every step of the way. I always say it went on from about..1100 to 1500 AD..and the period after, saw the effects of this intellectual change, in the gradual emergence of democracy and indivdiual power.

But, collectivism as an ideology, which is faith based and rejects the individual, will always be with us; (eg marxism, fascism, socialism). It's far easier and less stressful, psychologically, to live within that mode than the eternal doubt of individualism. And again, since our knowledge is learned, we require collectivism, up to a point, to maintain the stability of that knowledge base. So, our species lives 'on the fence' - a borderline 'far-from-equilibrium' mode balancing between the stability of the collective and the instability of the individual.

The sub-Sahara has huge demographic pressures, but, instead of modernizing their agriculture and economy they are, as you know, moving back into a peasant, local or sustenance agriculture! That's disastrous.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-28 8:05:42 AM

No, Islam cannot moderate. In the same way, neither can Christianity. Islam is, by nature, is based in conquest and submission. Christianity, by nature, is based in love. This is what makes Christianity acceptable, because it permits the existence of the unbeliever, while still reaching out to him/her. Christianity for a long part of its existence has been in the wrong due to the control of Catholicism and its use in national identity. Christianity seeks the individual heart, Islam seeks control of the world (they will not deny this).

The arguments with ET are silly, and as with any atheist, you cannot understand something you do not believe in - in this case, an almighty God. ET said "That would mean ... the various modes of Christianity are invalid." and I completely agree with this. Any form of Christianity that *promotes* violence is not Christian (see the Crusades, but this does not mean war is not necessary, see WW2). Any form of Christianity that denies the inerrant Scripture (in it's original text) is not Christian. The rise of liberal Christianity is a venture forth from Jesus Christ in an attempt to make the Message more palateable to the masses. After all, nobody wants to feel convicted of sin

Posted by: Eldon Murray | 2006-03-28 8:06:58 AM

Danny - nice try, but I don't think Islam would be self-defined or defined by the gov't, as a cult. And even if it were, its financial existence wouldn't depend on its tax-exempt status, but on donations, donations, from its followers. So, it won't disappear.

The question remains - what do people, who reject that Islam can change, suggest doing about Islam?

I think that, in the ME, democracy is the answer. A democracy of equal rights and massive education and modernization.
In the West, I think the West has to reject the 'special privileges' requested by many Muslims - which amounts to an insistence on isolation, non-participation and denial of the basic civic rights of all (free speech).

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-28 8:15:28 AM


The above is from the Western Standard - and it's Mark Steyn...and it's perfect. That's how the West should deal with Islam in the West.

And, Mark Steyn again:
"In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of 'suttee'--the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands.

"Gen. Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural: 'You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.'"

That is- we, in the west, must confront attacks against the society which we have developed - which is based around free speech, dissent, questions, all operating within the rule of law and democratic representation.

If a group wishes to establish a separate set of rules, specific to that group - you must reject them if they threaten the rights of those external to the group and also the SAME rights of those INTERNAL to the group (free speech, dissent, questions etc). There are no 'closed borders' to groups. You are either a member of the whole society - or not.

What is happening with multiculturalism and political correctness, is that the whole society is being denigrated and ignored, and special interest groups, each with their own set of rules, are being set up.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-28 9:08:51 AM

"As if a religion is bonded to a 'land'; and as if you can 'lock the door' in our modern world."

Works well for Israel.

Posted by: DJ | 2006-03-28 9:17:48 AM

ET, have you only read Robert Fisk on Arab/Israeli conflict? you seem well read anthropologically, but some how blinded in your understanding of Israel and Jews. You yourself said, in many posts up, that every "axiom of their book" must be questioned. I am agreeing with you - they need to look critically at the Koran and where Mohammed got his ideas from. They need to question why the Temple Mount, Hevron, Shechem etc are important to them. This will help them to "moderate".

A discussion of Reform Judaism is way off topic here but people who are "reform Jews" tend not to have Jewish grandchildren. It just is, I can't help it. Yes only 7% of north american jews are "orthodox" (I think the number in Israel is higher), but Torah Judaism will continue through them.

and sorry, whether you want to see it or not, this is a problem that Ishmael has with Isaac.

You don't think that Muslims/Arabs have a problem with Jews and that their "moderation" will come hand in hand with their rellinquishing their lunatic ideas about Jews?

Posted by: ex-liberal | 2006-03-28 9:26:26 AM

So, ET, you're more Kuhnian than Popperian? That is, you think the historical unfolding is decisive to the ideology (as in Kuhn) rather than the ideology/rationality's shaping the historical unfolding (as in Popper)?

Besides this, I don't share your confidence that all civilization NECESSARILY moves upward and onward. As I point out, Europe moved from medieval kingship where the exercise of power was regulated in councils and checked by the church to absolutism which could only be checked by war -- as in 17th-c. England with the Stuarts, the French Revolution and Louis XVI, Napoleon on Robespierre's Reign of Terror, the Allies on Napoleon's imperialism, the Allies on the Kaiser's imperial ambitions, the Allies on Hitler's/Mussolini's/Hirohito's imperial ambitions, and NATO on Soviet expansionism and totalitarianism. Certain in the case of Hitler and the Soviet Union, their ambitions were justified and, to a large extent, driven by ideology.

Posted by: Russ Kuykendall | 2006-03-28 9:32:58 AM

"Duke - stop with the ad hominem. It's pointless."

Pointless to tell ET (Endless Talk) she talks too much!

I agree.

It's not that what you say is pointless, just that you say it all too much. There is something to be said for brevity ... for all our sakes.

That might be a good challeng for you ET. Try to make your point without forcing miles of scrolling to read it.

Posted by: Duke | 2006-03-28 9:36:39 AM

The differentiating factor with Islam is that unlike Christianity, Islam is a complete ideology (for lack of a better word.)

Christianity was not about temporal power. It was spiritual only (even though the church over-reached it's authority to enter the temporal sphere.) The central fact of Christianity is choice. You chose to believe. It's up to you to embrace the religion and you are rewarded for doing so. It empowers the individual while holding you responsible for rising or falling on your own.

Islam is a belief system that extends to every aspect of life - not just the spiritual. It invades the everything. It tells you how to live, gives you no choices, demands obedience. It demands its followers to conquer the political system and impose theocracy wherever they are. Islam forces those within that theocracy to convert, die, or live as slaves.

The Bible says go forth and multiply, the Koran says to conquer. Christianity is about choice, Islam coercion.

That isn't to say that the followers of Christianity have always behaved well, just that the misbehaviour of their adherents was not ordered within the religious texts themselves - as with Islam.

There can be no reformation of Islam without abandoning the majority of its teachings. It invites extremism instead of tolerance. It must be destroyed.


A doctor doesn't need to have had cancer to treat it. A person need not visit Europe to study it. A person need not be religious to discuss and understand it. As usual, you show your illogic.

Posted by: Warwick | 2006-03-28 9:36:58 AM

In reply to Russ - no, no, never Kuhn! I'm a strong supporter of Popper!

I don't think that Popper thinks that the ideology shapes the history! He'd call that 'historicism' - and he's against that. In his work on the Open Society, in "the transition from the tribal or 'closed society'..to 'the open society' which sets free the critical powers of man" he talks against ideology (laws of history) which 'shape events'. I think you've got Kuhn and Popper backwards. Popper is all about 'piecemeal' development, which is an interactive, adaptive and evolving pragmatic and ideological process.

I am certainly against the notion of necessary progress; that's Platonism and I'm hardly a fan. But, I'm working within a theory based around energy-dynamics. If your population (energy content) increases, your organization of that population must become more complex. That's basic chemistry/biology. So, since our global population has increased, our economic and social organization is more complex. It's expanded beyond local to global systems as the economic and informational requirements to support this population require such a move.

I think that ideology is a 'cover' for deeper economic and 'energy-dynamic' reasons.

Duke- yes, I agree, my posts are much too long. I'm a very fast typist and get things out without realizing how long they are. Since I'm working at my computer a great deal (research papers with various colleagues) then, since my stuff is very 'sticky' and difficult, I come 'up for air' frequently to the Shotgun.

Warwick - how do you propose to destroy Islam? The bible and the Torah have both been 'interpreted' to suit modern eras - e.g., divorce, homosexuality etc..in both religions. Islam will have to be changed by its followers, and they are already doing so. But, the West cannot and must not accomodate extremism of any kind. It has to stand up to extremist Islam (and any extremism) and reject it.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-28 10:07:21 AM

"But, the West cannot and must not accomodate extremism of any kind. It has to stand up to extremist Islam (and any extremism) and reject it."

And this of course must not happen due to external influences, as they are clearly top-down, authoritarian and hence icky.

Just pick a solution and go with it, sparing us the schizophrenic rationalizations and low-grade academic bafflegab.

Posted by: Paul Canniff | 2006-03-28 10:38:36 AM

Warwick - I just dipped back into this topic and only read the last couple posts. I appreciate your conclusions regarding Islam based on an insurmountable record of history, but I'm an optimist (and not entirely a foolish one).

The excesses of Islam have evidently frosted their female population, and the thrity or so men who came to America to get new artificial right hands sewn on (immediately after the beginning of the Iraq phase of the current War on Terrorism) also seemingly agree, that the Schria (sp?) Law system isn't all that great.

I think that the free democratic Iraq is going to provide the kicking and screaming means of creating an Islamic society with a secular government, that will allow the "moderation" that will lead to huge success.

I am a traditional Catholic, who attends the Sunday church service (Mass) celebrated in the Latin language, which I no longer use around the house (just kidding). I am as traditional and conservative as is humanly possible, but rarely do I commit Jihad.

I have been super active in local community issues (which quickly ramp up into broader, County, State, national issues) and rarely feel compelled to pray the Hail Mary in public, or other such public displays of affection...

This situation is going to work out.

Don't you know any Muslims? Do you worry about them killing you? I do, and I don't, respectively.

I don't intend to change or modify my religous beliefs, which include a great deal of still in full force and effect teachings about the Kingship of Christ, that relate to civil society and governance, yet when I served in public office I hardly ever wore priestly robes or walked around with a shepherd's stick. ;- )

The Muslims are going to really battle this out in Iraq and in Afghanistan and elsewhere and for quite awhile, but I certainly hope they retain their religious convictions all the way through to the other end of the process.

It is the RULE OF LAW and that being a law like that in the USA where Congress shall make no Law with respect to religion, is the saving grace of guys like me (and those who hold to other religions).

I will engage those folks of other religions one by one on the rare occasions when they approach me about my religious beliefs; and I will BRAG now, because they recognized that I dealt honestly under heavy pressure to do otherwise.

Posted by: Conrad-USA | 2006-03-28 10:39:59 AM

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