Tuesday, September 18

I really want to be fair in my evaluation of Islam. Josh sent the following email to me and I appreciate the differing viewpoint, so I will reprint it in full:

i stumbled on this commentary and thought perhaps you had not seen it.... i cannot vouch for its validity but
it seems to suggest that Classical Islam, though having a violent past (like all
religions, like all nations, our frigging species), would not condone terrorist

this quote, i think, is particularly poignant:
"a dogmatic, puritanical and ethically oblivious form of Islam has predominated
since the 1970s. This brand of Islamic theology is largely dismissive of the
classical juristic tradition and of any notion of universal and innate moral
values. This orientation insists that only the mechanics and technicalities of
Islamic law define morality. Paradoxically, it also rejects the classical
juristic tradition and insists on a literal reinterpretation of all Islamic

please don't misunderstand my writing this.... i too am trying to make sense of a terrible, terrible series of events (that i feel are just beginning).... i simply have a knee-jerk reaction to the notion that an entire faith, devoted to
God, is inherently violent.... i feel like the reflections in that post have a
subtle but problematic slant.... i'm uncertain why one ought to conclude that
Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi's comments are looking for a loop-hole..... while the
notions from Answering Islam, are not similarily examined....

i also feel like de-contextualizing the quote from the Qu'ran is somewhat
"The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the
tares are the children of the wicked [one]; The enemy that sowed them is the
devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As
therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the
end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall
gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing
of teeth."-- Matt. 13:38-43

the language of faith often has very violent overtones... this is not proof
enough to entrench an entire religion in its violent past.....

um, i've never responded to a blog before, please know that my interest in
writing is simply for dialogue.....
i was refered to your site by my friend john thirteen... and the bulk of your
writing i found measured and remarkably intelligent...... your concerns, and
insights about the occupation of Palestine were right-on.....

anyway, i hope i didn't offend.....
take good care,


Josh did not offend at all. I appreciate the dialogue and will so engage with anyone.

I think I can respond with a similarly respectful tone.

Restatement: I hesitate to conclude that Islam is originally violent.

However, I remain fairly convinced that my statements from yesterday have not been finally refuted. I guess that Mr El Fadl is a moderate Muslim and liberal/progressive in his interpretation of Islam, the Qur'an, and the history of Islamic faith. I remain convinced that the links I posted yesterday, including those under the Jihad section of the Islam Page, put Jihad within the mainstream of historical Islam. Though I haven't looked exhaustively, I have yet to read an Islamic apologist explain in light of current events where Jihad fits in to contemporary Islam, both conservative (left of fundamentalist/extremist) and moderate/liberal. I think this has not been addressed for a reason. It's going to be hard to finesse it.

Mr El Fadl says conservative Islam 'rejects the classical juristic tradition and insists on a literal reinterpretation of all Islamic texts'. But I'll bet that conservative Muslims (to the left of fundamentalists) would say that Mr El Fadl rejects Islam's history in favor of later (though still 'classic' or old) interpretations and insists on a liberal interpretation of all Islamic texts instead of the plain meaning communicated by Muhammad et al.

I'm in deep water here, because I'm not a Muslim. I remain open to correction, if I can be convinced otherwise.

Part of what is driving me here is my own foundational interest in interpretation of texts. Both in literature and regarding Scripture, I believe that the primary meaning of the text is what the original author intended to convey. In Christianity, people on the left often interpret the Scriptures in ways the original authors could never have intended. Literary, historical, and cultural conext, among others, are critical to this process. This means of interpretation has guided me well in my own faith. But it has led my to disturbing conclusions about Islam, regarding which I may certainly be wrong.

That is why I conclude that liberal and moderate Muslims are looking for loopholes regarding this event.

Also, the essay I linked yesterday - Muhammad, Islam, and Terrorism - purports to examine historical fact. How do you (Josh) and others who disagree with me treat that essay? Is it inaccurate in its depiction of history? I'm certainly no expert here.

Finally, Josh, thank you for your kind words and thoughtful commentary. I hope we can continue to dialogue about many things in the future.

Sincerely yours,

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