Rennaisance, not Reformation

I'm not one to insist that you must be muslim to discuss Islam, but most of the time when non-muslims do discuss Islam the result either provokes anger or amusement in the muslim observer. Which, is really the choice of the muslim observer in question. I've decided it's better for my long-term sanity to adopt the latter.

There are however times when someone makes what I consider an honest attempt at inquiry. One such is by a new jewish blogger, Dafydd ab Hugh, who makes an analogy to "Methodist" Islam. The comments devolved quickly into the usual jafi cesspool, despite a truly noble but ultimately failed attempt at restoring perspective by Dean Esmay.

I intended to leave a short comment, but am not keen on registering with TypeKey, so I'll just post my comment here and send a trackback ping. Basically, in a nutshell, Wahhabbism IS the Reformation of Islam, sort of - and we should be discussing an Islamic Rennaisance, not a Reformation, anyway.

Here are a number of posts from past archives, both here and at other sites, that I think are relevant to the discussion. I think that given how much attention has been paid to the question of an Islamic Reformation in the past by muslim and non-muslim bloggers alike, that reading these past discussions is really basic due diligence for someone honestly interested in the topic today.

Wahabism IS the Reformation?
A dialouge of unprovable assertions
Wahabis/Salafis Again (by Zack)
Reformation this

Note, Bill Allison took some exception to the Reformation/Wahabism analogy. He also has pointed out that the Reformation was NOT a "progressive" vision of faith (contrary to Dafydd's assertion). If anything, Luther sought a return to even stricter orthodoxy!

I also think that the recent Brass Crescent Links Roundup would be useful counterweight to the more hostile commentators at Dafydd's blog. And this little Primer on Islam post has even more linkage.

No I don't really expect the jafis among us to read let alone appreciate the nuances of these previous discussions. However, it may be useful to bring them to the fore, in terms of stimulating more honest inquiry. I hope that Dafydd at the very least takes an interest.

And you know what, as long as I'm plugging old stuff, here's one of my favorite posts: Islam and Freedom. Enjoy.

Note, Tarek Heggy is beginning a series on Islam at Winds Of Change that should at least be noted. I disagree with nearly all of his assumptions and postulates. I don't know if Heggy is mulsim or not and it's not really relevant, but figured I'd just mention it for completeness.


Razib said...

"an erasmus, not a luther"....

Dean Esmay said...

....but ultimately failed attempt at restoring perspective by Dean Esmay.

It was not a failed attempt. You and your fellow muslims must stop treating such things as failures.

(Okay, it's arrogant for me to say what "you and your fellow muslims" must do, but stick with me please.)

An extraordinarily important fact about online discourse that is completely missed by more than 90% of those of us who do this is that the vast majority of people who read what we write either rarely post their own comments, or never do.

I am going to repeat this for emphasis, because I can prove it to you with empirical evidence: the vast majority of people who read written online discourse either rarely or never write anything in response.

If you write things in a comment thread strictly in response to someone who you disagree or agree with, to a certain extent you are behaving as a fool, for in truth the people who are reading your words will rarely ever say or write a single word in response.

In the heat of battle it is very easy to forget that. You shouldn't.

So what did I do in Dafydd's thread? Did I act the part of the "troll?" Perhaps a bit, for I certainly set off a bomb. But what I really did was make a series of arguments that most of those reading had not read before. The explosion of angry denunciations were seen by all. But who came off best in the exchange? Perhaps my critics, but perhaps not--the silent majority will not tell us, although eventually that silent majority will decide the future. For they are the majority.

Muslims in America are a very small minority. They face the difficulty that all small minorities face. There are two ways to react to that situation: be angry and resentful and accusatory about it, or, to stride forth and represent yourself with honor and dignity even as dishonors and indignities are occasionally thrown at you.

There is much virtue in striding forth and saying, "yes, this is who I am, and I am being misrepresented by others, and I want to tell you my story." The scorn of the LGF-commenter crowd be damned. Don't shy away from engaging! Engage! Even if you are outnumbered, so what? Nothing is flying toward you but words you don't like. The silent majority can see when a lone voice stands up against a howling sea of critics, and respect it. Walking away and saying "they just don't get it" is a way of disrespecting most of your audience and giving up on the value of reason.

Dean Esmay said...

A shorter way of putting it:

"They just won't get it, why bother?" is just an excuse.

Aziz Poonawalla said...

Dean, I basically agree with you. I am eing a bit more cynical than is warranted, I suppose. And I am making an effrrt at engagement by posting to DW (to a muslim audience) and here (to a muslim audience). I think that of the two, the effort here is more important in the long term, but if I believed that engaging the broader audience was a waste of time, I wouldnt be doing it at all.

that said, if the thread got you steamed, you can appreciate its effect on me :)

Dean Esmay said...

Yeah well, joke 'em if they can't take a fuck.


Dean Esmay said...

Nothing is flying toward you but words you don't like.