Monday, January 23, 2006

If it really is the Religion of Peace, what is there to hide?

Following is a commentary that, in light of my last response to a reader from Egypt, is quite timely (apparently I am not the only one against whom such deceitful arguments are used).

Some thoughts regarding some of the standard techniques used to try to silence Those Who Know and to discredit them in the eyes of Those Who Don't, from Jihad Watch:

There is a recurring feature of criticism of my work and this site: critics charge that in writing about Islam I focus only on the violent teachings and teachers, and ignore those that are peaceful. Of course, since what I do in my books and at this site is explore the ideological and theological roots of jihad violence, it should be obvious why I would quote inciteful texts and violent imams.

However, the claim that I "cherry-pick" violent verses from the Qur'an and ignore peaceful ones is simply false; in my books, particularly Onward Muslim Soldiers, I give examples of both Qur'anic verses that are purportedly more peaceful and ones that are violent, and I explain how both types are treated in traditional Islamic theology, explaining the traditional doctrine of abrogation (naskh) and other elements that lead traditional Islam to favor violence and subjugation over peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims as equals.

Nevertheless, many have said that I ignore scholars both ancient and modern who teach against the ideas of violent jihad and the subjugation of unbelievers, and against the idea that Abu Hamza espouses here, that one may gain Paradise by killing unbelievers and getting killed in the process. The problem is that no one has ever been able to come up with a single specific example of such a scholar or tradition within Islam. They simply deride me as ignorant and try to give readers the impression that there is a vast body of Islamic teaching that contradicts what I say.

Such putative reformers, of course, have existed and do exist. Daniel Pipes recently referred to one: Mahmud Muhammad Taha (1909-85) of Sudan. Said Pipes: "Taha argued that specific Koranic rulings applied only to Medina, not to other times and places. He hoped modern-day Muslims would set these aside and live by the general principles delivered at Mecca. Were Taha's ideas accepted, most of the Shari'a would disappear, including outdated provisions concerning warfare, theft, and women. Muslims could then more readily modernize."

That's great. Pipes neglected to mention, however, that Taha was arrested and executed for heresy. Were those who tried and executed him utterly ignorant of the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah? More of those ubiquitous misunderstanders of Islam? Were Taha actually reflecting a legitimate and established tradition within Islam, would his enemies have been able to do away with him so readily?

What my critics would have you believe is that there are many Tahas and even traditions full of Tahas within Islam, and that I am ignoring them. They would have you believe that such traditions are actually the mainstream of Islam and that they are not considered heretical by most Muslims.

Very well. I will issue this request again. I know Abu Hamza is right when he says that "religous scholars" regard jihadist-martyrdom bombing as "the highest form of martyrdom." I can readily provide examples of such.

Now: prove him wrong, please. Help me out in my ignorance. Send me specific examples not only of Islamic religious scholars condemning jihadist-martyrdom bombing, for I know that some do (but I think it is reasonable to regard only such condemnations that include rejection of such acts against Israelis and other non-Muslims, not just against other Muslims). Send me also examples of Islamic religious scholars rejecting, on Islamic grounds, jihad violence against non-Muslims; rejecting the idea that Sharia law should be instituted in the Muslim and non-Muslim world; and teaching the idea that non-Muslims and Muslims should live together indefinitely as equals. Send me rejections of the ideas that women should not enjoy full equality of rights with men.

But it would be preferable if these scholars were not lone voices crying in the wilderness, with the wolves of Islamic orthodoxy ready to pounce upon them. After all, if I have somehow missed in 25 years of study these broad peaceful traditions within Islam, I would hope that someone out there would be so kind as to enlighten me. Send me examples not of lone scholars, but of entire Islamic schools of thought or sects or traditions that eschew this ideology of violence and supremacism. Send it all to And thank you.

Oh, and by the way: spare me talk of the Sufis, please. They are aiding the Chechen jihad; Hasan Al-Banna of the Muslim Brotherhood was strongly influenced by them; and some of their most revered figures, including Al-Ghazali himself, were quite clear in their espousal of violent jihad and dhimmitude for non-Muslims. See Andrew Bostom's critically important expose here.