Islam and the West: Mustafa Akyol Responds




I felt privileged to learn three considerate responses by three smart students to my Liberty Discussion board essay on “Islam, Blasphemy, and the East-West Divide.”

Hillel Fradkin raises very apt questions on whether or not modern Muslims are actually keen to undertake fashionable methods and norms. On this, I had insinuated a activity for Western leaders, that they need to guarantee “Muslims really feel at residence within the fashionable world fairly than being ‘otherized’ by that world.” Fradkin reminds us of the opposite aspect of the coin: That “it’s Muslims who largely insist on their ‘otherness.’” Do I agree?

As somebody who has been participating each side of this nice civilizational divide for fairly some time, I’d say I partly agree. On that different aspect of the coin, there actually is a view amongst some Muslims that the world exterior of the umma (world Muslim group) is that of jahiliya, or “ignorance,” and its methods are by definition “falsehood.” However that is the view of the Islamists, whose grip on the broader Muslim group isn’t absolute—it’s in truth fraying, no less than within the West, as a current story in The Economist additionally identified.

Once you flip the coin again, there are actually deep-rooted biases within the West in opposition to any faith (or race) that appears completely different. These roots are within the very forces that excluded Jews from Europe regardless of the Haskalah, or the Jewish Enlightenment, of the 18th century, and the next Jewish effort to assimilate, with a purpose to turned “Germans of the Mosaic religion.” Whereas advocating a Muslim Enlightenment, which could take root within the West greater than wherever else, I do have this as a background concern, one which may derail a promising course of.

Nader Hashemi appears to get the Western promise for Islam properly, as he notes: “An moral and humanistic reinterpretation of Islam can solely happen in a free and democratic society.” That’s the reason Fazlur Rahman couldn’t proceed instructing in Pakistan and got here to America. (That’s most likely why, in truth, each Hashemi and myself, as Muslims who argue for “an moral and humanistic reinterpretation of Islam,” are actually in America fairly than someplace else.)

However Hashemi can also be proper to criticize the West for typically failing to reside as much as its personal beliefs. The distinction he attracts between the Western response to the dying menace on Salman Rushdie by the Iranian Ayatollah and the precise homicide of Jamal Khashoggi by order of the Saudi Crown Prince is correct on level. Such Western double requirements exist on quite a lot of points, giving the Islamists ample materials for his or her model of whataboutism. So, if the West one way or the other needs to assist the quandary of Islam, one of the best factor it could actually do is stick with its personal liberal rules.

Which brings me to the third essay, the one by Luma Simms, which might be probably the most provocative of all three. Her level is that an Enlightenment has not but come to go within the Muslim world, so “fideism” runs deep, and therefore societies are deeply intolerant. “The elemental drawback within the Center Jap world,” she frankly writes, “isn’t essentially the type of authorities, however the mental and ethical state of nearly all of the individuals.” (Emphasis in unique.)

I’m no believer in political correctness, and see what is supposed right here, and in addition see that it has some benefit. “The issue” that we’re addressing right here—the rejection of free speech—isn’t solely a political matter, however spiritual and social one. For instance, those that are wanting to execute all blasphemers in Pakistan, actual or perceived, aren’t simply authorities officers however massive segments of “the individuals.”

Nevertheless, I nonetheless can’t settle for the lesson Simms appears to be deriving from this drawback with “the individuals”: A desire for “progressive” autocracies.

Simms’s examples are the “progressive, Westernized, Zoroastrian-friendly kingdom” of the shah, and the staunchly secular republic of Kemal Ataturk. I’m no stranger to the latter one, and I have to confess that I’ve been confirmed incorrect with my preliminary hopes and desires concerning the “smooth Islamists” who had promised to take over from the secularists within the early 2000’s supposedly to show Turkey right into a liberal democracy. As a substitute, not too unreminiscent of the extra express revolution in Iran, their delicate revolution in the end tilted towards autocracy—one that’s getting worse by the day.

Even so, I don’t suppose that Ataturk’s Turkey or the shah’s Iran have been the perfect “progressive” regimes that we should always hope to see within the area. The identical goes for the brutal authorities of Egyptian President Sisi, which is discovering some undeserved leniency in Western capitals. For none of those regimes have actually given their societies what must be the bedrock of contemporary civilization: particular person freedom. They’ve suppressed dissent, changed spiritual dogmatism with nationalist fervor, and enacted cults of personalities. Furthermore, with their intolerant notions of modernity—exemplified within the feminine headband being banned within the shah’s Iran and Ataturk’s Turkey—they paved the way in which for his or her demise. Conservative Islam, on the finish, returned with a vengeance.

If there may be any good mannequin within the area, it’s what Hashemi factors out: The post-Arab Spring Tunisia, the place Islamists and secularists, with mutual compromise, made a liberal structure collectively.

In the meantime, issues of Islamic jurisprudence, along with the which means of “honor” and “dignity” as Fradkin rightly factors out, have to be completely mentioned in Muslim societies. As a result of the problem, let me repeat, is not only political but additionally spiritual and cultural. However wasn’t it precisely like that in Christendom some time in the past, when Locke wrote A Letter Regarding Toleration, and toleration was a radical thought?

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