judgement by deeds

Steven Den Beste thinks that I think that Islam, as a social, political, and cultural entity, is immune to the actions of its extreme fringe. He points to the phrase "Religion of Peace" as an example of this "wishing-it-away" syndrome and raises the repeptition of the sarcastic "Religion of PeaceTM" moniker at LGF[1] as a valid countering ploy.

The problem is, I have never used the phrase Religion of Peace[2]. In fact, I find the extensive use of that stock phrase to be precisely the kind of PR sinkhole that I have been stridently advocating against in my silence of the media series.

Steven is right when he says in his recent post that:

It assumes there's a single Islam. It assumes that that single religion is actually peaceful. In reality, different forms of Islam are to a greater or lesser extent warlike and violent. Some are indeed peaceful. Some are intensely hostile and violent.

But then why has he been consistently treating Islam as precisely such a monolithic entity? He says in a preceding post:

I've been wondering for a while, and have sometimes voiced the possibility, that indeed one way for this war to end is for us to shatter Islam itself; not Islamism or pan-Arabism, but Islam outright.

I addressed the problem with his Catholic-Protestant analogy in detail. What he wants is to create a Neo-Islam, one that has zero possible violent interpretations[3]. But the Protestant analogy of a "Islam as a personal faith, interpreted as the result of individual study and thought" is exactly the situation that caused Wahabism to flourish. Few Christians, even Protestants, tend to their religion as a careful construct in individual thought. Most simply subscribe to a aggregator - a denomination - and rely on that framework for their guidance. This is human nature, though perhaps since Steven has spent so much time analyzing his own self-philosophy he is unaware that he is an exception.

My own faith, the Bohra Ismaili Shi'a variant of Islam, has a very rationalistic ethos which is very akin to Steven's call for self-analysis and personal understanding. But it also takes the preference of most people for a guiding franework into account. But the theology of my sect is not really relevant, as Steven noted. We aren't talking about Bohras, we are talking about Islam as a collective sum, an integration over the limit of all Muslims.

The reason I introduced historical evidence of tolerant Islamic societies throughout history was to counter this specific SDB claim:

... the western concepts of tolerance and sympathy (which manifest in the most extreme form now as "multiculturalism") are in fact relatively modern, and that the Muslims who embrace those ideals learned them from the West (mainly from Christian missionaries), and are in the minority.

(emphasis mine). This is a very specific claim. Steven is saying:

[1]. tolerance and sympathy are Western concepts (and he excludes Islam from his definition of Western)
[2]. muslims only acquired tolerance from Western sources, not from any Islamic source
[3]. that most of the world's muslims are intolerant

I think that my counterexamples are very relevant in addressing these blatantly false claims. I was strictly on target, and was not claiming that there are no intolerant Muslims today, or that the existence of these past tolerant societies somehow negated the existence of intolerant (and violent) Muslims today.

Steven emailed to respond:

That was Warren's point, not mine.

Demonstrably false. Warren made no such broad assertions as numbered points [1-3] above. Warren actually said the following:

For the sad truth is that the only people to whom we can appeal for "mutual understanding" from the other side, are the people who have themselves been Westernized, or "Enlightened".

But Warren assumes that Enlightenment first arose in Christendom, when my historical examples already served as a counterargument to that assertion. Tolerance and Sympathy did not arise exclusively for the first time in the history of the world during the European Enlightenment. Warren has an ultimately provincial view of history. This is analogous to asserting that "Democracy was invented by Americans" (hint: where does the word, "Senate" come from?).

Steven goes on to say,

**Warren** said that the particular Muslims in the area where he grew up had only learned about tolerance from the Catholic schools where some of them went, and it was him and not me who generalized about that to the culture more commonly. What I said was "If he's right about this then..."

If Warren was making a point about particular muslims in a specific area, then why is Steven extrapolating it to all Muslims, throughout all of history? Look at points [1-2] above again and see if Steven's characterization of his words is accurate, for yourself.

And the fact that there have been Islamic societies which were tolerant doesn't mean that the people in the area where Warren grew up didn't learn tolerance from westerners.

Well, true. But this is irrelevant to what we are discussing, and what I responded to : points [1-3] above.

What Steven has done is make an assertion (actually, three). It was general, and it was stated factually, extrapolated from Warren but stated as fact, not "If true, Then". I proved those assertions to be demonstrably false. Steven took my response and applied it to a straw man argument. This post points out that I never endorsed that straw man, and that my remarks were aimed at what he actually wrote, not what he thinks he wrote or even what Warren wrote.

in other words, judge Steven's writing by his words. Just as he would have you judge a group by its actions.

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus recycles some polemical accusations about how intolerant the Abbasids were. While I concede that Bartleby has some polemical nuggets scaterred throughout (especially with regard to Shi'a history), I still prefer the common framework of a respected historical source like Bartleby to a political magazine like Front Page Mag (not exactly a reputable source). Still, I didn;t claim that ALL Islamic (or Christian, or Jewish) nations and empires were tolerant, but simply presented some counterexamples of a few that were (to the satisfaction of historians at least, frontpagemag partisans aside) in order to debunk SDB's specific claims [1-3].

[1] I don't pretend to know anything about Charles, but I do know that his use of the phrase Religion of Peace TM is understood to mean "typical violent behavior from Muslims" in the comments section. Applying Steven's own "a group is what it does" arguments, it doesnt matter what Charles intends by using the phrase or repeating it. The LGF commentators DO assume the phrase to mean "all Muslims are murderous bastards who'd as soon slit your throat as look at you".
[2] Though I will address the specific question of the Religion's basic message, as opposed to the cultural and social collective entity, in the following post.
[3] Existing Sunni Islam (the equivalent of Protestantism) is uniquely open to personal interpretations. In fact, one Abdul Wahab had such an interpretation, and look where that got us. Steven's call for breaking up Islam away from centralized religious interpretation actually contradicts his desired end result, a logical fallacy.

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