Thursday, February 28, 2008

saint david with halo

Nalbandian @ abierto mexicano


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

pathetic plea to respect Islam

The West will be pleased to learn that nine out of ten Muslims are moderates – good news for those optimistic about co-existence. Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims, respect Islam and re-evaluate foreign policies.

from John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed: Who speaks for Islam?


meanings of god

The human idea of God has a history, since it has always meant something slightly different to each group of people who have used it at various points of time. The idea of God formed in one generation by one set of human beings could be meaningless in another. Indeed, the statement "I believe in God" has no objective meaning, as such, but like any other statement only means something in context, when proclaimed by a particular community. Consequently, there is no one unchanging idea contained in the word "God"; instead, the word contains a whole spectrum of meanings, some of which are contradictory or even mutually exclusive.

from Karen Armstrong: A History of God @


Friday, February 22, 2008

on this and the "other" view

Mystical Meaning of "Daylight"

God has named the resurrection "that day;"
Day shows off the beauty of red and yellow.
Wherefore "Day" in truth is the mystery of the saints;
One day of their moons is as whole years.
Know, "Day " is the reflection of the mystery of the saints,
Eye-closing night that of their hidden secrets.
Therefore hath God revealed the chapter "Daylight," [Koran XCIII]
Which daylight is the light of the heart of Mustafa.
On the other view, that daylight means "The Friend,"
It is also a reflection of the same prophet.

Masnavi I Ma'navi Book II, Story I, trans Whinfield

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

93:1   By the white forenoon
           and the brooding night!
           Thy Lord has neither forsaken thee nor hates thee
           and the Last shall be better for thee than the First.

93:5   Thy Lord shall give thee, and thou shalt be satisfied.

           Did He not find thee an orphan, and shelter thee?
           Did He not find thee erring, and guide thee?
           Did He not find thee needy, and suffice thee?

93:9   As for the orphan, do not oppress him,
           and as for the beggar, scold him not;
           and as for thy Lord's blessing, declare it.

XCIII The Forenoon 93:1-11, trans Arberry

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satan complete

Another book completed: T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley: the birth of satan. As with the Ondaatje novel, I was enthusiastic to begin with but tired of this book about half way through. It was wonderful to learn about the latest findings in Biblical research, especially as told in such an entertaining or "engaging" (Spong's word) style. However, beyond the Hebrew Bible and into the chapters on foreign, intertestamental and New Testament sources, I started to lose interest. The most fascinating part of the book are the sections on the very, very beginnings of the satan idea.

book cover

The authors' conclusions are not outstanding or original: frequent and annoying notes acknowledge this. The full text of the concluding pages is available online - Postscript: Is Satan Real? - with the final two paragraphs here:

Finally, we return to the perennial question: Is Satan real? The theological and scriptural arguments for and against the existence of Satan are as vast and as formidable as are the variations in personal beliefs concerning Satan. Yet whether Satan is to be taken as a metaphor, as a symbolic, or literal being, Satan is real in the sense that evil is real. Indeed, the fearsome red demon who pursued so many of us in our childhood nightmares pales in comparison to the real and palpable evil at work in the world today in the form of murderous regimes, maniacal serial killers, and suicide bombers.

When we dismiss the biblical Satan as a primitive or outdated concept, when we effectively edit him out of the theological equation and ignore the truths of the stories about him, we run the risk of missing the great lessons the biblical writers were trying to impart. They did not try to explain away evil, for evil was then, and is now, a reality that cannot be denied. And yet, in the final analysis, the Bible reassures us that God is on our side, that the Devil can be resisted, that love wins out in the end.

I want here simply to review the very few references to Islam, besides the mention above of "suicide bombers" who, in their more terrifying and immediately threatening forms, have tended to emerge out of the Islamic world.

There are two mentions of the Qur'an. In the first (p.109), the story of Satan's fall in verse 2:34 is characterized as preserving a tradition established in a first-century C.E. work titled Life of Adam and Eve in which "Satan is banished because he refused to genuflect before the newly created Adam".

According to that work, Satan said: "I will not worship one inferior and subsequent to me. I am prior in creation; before [Adam] was made, I was already made. He ought to worship me" (Life of Adam and Eve 12:3). The Qur'an also preserves this tradition ...

And when We said unto the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam, they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. He demurred through pride, and so became a disbeliever.

2:34 Pickthall

The second mention of the Qur'an (p.173) is in the section reviewing Satan's function as The Father of Lies:

This satanic function grows along with Satan himself through history. This is the Islamic shaitan who tampers with the Qur'an, inserting "satanic verses" that lead the weak from the path of sound doctrine.

For me, the most important reference to Islam arrives (at p.170) within a list of candidate conspiracy theories and I will quote it at length as it also provides a good example of the authors' entertaining style [my bold emphasis]:

We have also noted that the apocalyptic style of thinking is not only ancient. It persists, even thrives, in pockets of contemporary culture. Modern sociologists use the term "subversion theory" to describe the patterns of thought that collect the discarded pearls of medieval heretics and secret societies, and rites and symbols from pre-Christian European, ancient Mediterranean, Near Eastern, and Indo-Aryan religions, and arrange them along the thinnest strings of logic in order to fashion the jewelry of folk belief.

If the subversion theory is advanced in communities or individuals suspicious of the government, its Satan and demons are an international network of elites who purportedly control the powers that seem to be. The identity of this cabal of elites varies according to the social prejudices of the theory's adherents. Anti-Semites suspect an international Jewish conspiracy. This, by the way, is the cruelest irony: that a narrative pattern invented by ancient Jews would be reversed to make its original composers into the enemy. Right-wingers suspect a Communist or atheistic conspiracy while left-wingers fear a military-industrial complex. Protestant John Birchers fear the Vatican, and hysterical Roman Catholics fear the Freemasons. Some middle-class Americans coping with the enormous economic and cultural changes of the late twentieth-century have imagined that a network of Satanists and sexual deviants seek to abduct their children from shopping malls or violate their children in day care centers. Many Westerners see an international Islamic conspiracy dedicated to destroying Jewish and Christian culture, while some Muslims fear the reverse. There is and will always be enough evidence of human chicanery from all these alleged perpetrators to keep such theories afloat. There are also the U.F.O. enthusiasts who warn us about the advance corps of aliens that have already begun to infiltrate our atmosphere. The "thickest" subversion theories manage to combine two or more of these stocks into a hearty stew of paranormal paranoia, such as in the X-Files movie where the aliens are in league with a government elite.

However amusing this list might be - and surely "paranormal paranoia" is its most felicitous phrase - it does tend to trivialize genuine, rational concerns about real and present threats. I don't think that "chicanery" adequately sums up what Iran's current President is threatening to do to Israel and, in a different arena, I don't think that parents are unwise to hesitate before delivering their children into the care of "celibate" priests. The authors show no inclination to discriminate between an exaggerated or "hysterical" fear and a well-grounded concern for the safety of those dear to us.

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and I thought such things only happened in the Islamic world

An Italian judge has been sentenced to a year in prison for refusing to sit in a courtroom with a crucifix on the wall, his lawyer said.


Crucifixes have been present in Italian courtrooms since a 1926 justice ministry directive under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini that has never been repealed in mainly Catholic Italy.

Italian judge jailed for refusing to sit in courtroom with crucifix

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Thursday, February 21, 2008


Last night, I finished reading Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient (Bloomsbury, London, 1992). It left me feeling unresolved, the narrative having dispersed into a morphine haze with none of the usual strings tied up neatly. I felt my firm hold on reality dissolving. I guess that is partly the intent of the author.

The film corrects a lot of that and rounds things out, so it was strange to read the novel after seeing the film. It was as if the film's resolutions were undone and left hanging about in untidy heaps.

I found the novel's opening pages intriguing and so I wandered into Ondaatje's world but in the end I was tired of the novel and wanted it to finish. At the last page, I was relieved but bemused.

In sum, I was finally left unconvinced, unsure even of what I should have been convinced of.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

friendly welcome to Israeli tennis star


©Getty Images
Doha, Qatar (February 18): Player Welcome Ceremony
Shahar Peer reacted to applause as she was introduced to the stadium crowd.
@ wta

Update: In a ynet report, Peer becomes first Israeli to play in Persian Gulf region, I learned that Peer was actually prevented by Israeli authorities from previously playing in this Muslim country. That is, she was not directly barred from playing by Qatar itself:
Peer was barred from playing in Doha for two years when she underwent military training in the IDF, as the Israeli government prevented her from competing in countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rumi on speech and silence

People have three spiritual states. In the first they have no thought of God at all, but worship and pay service to everything else: friends and lovers, wealth and children, stones and clods. Once they gain a little knowledge and awareness, then they serve nothing but God. Yet, after learning and seeing more they enter a state of silence. They do not say, “I serve God,” nor “I do not serve God,” for they have transcended both. No sound issues from these people into the world.

"God is neither present nor absent,
For God is the Creator of both."

All words, all sciences, all skills, all professions derive their flavor and relish from Speech. The end of that chapter cannot be known, however, for they are only expressions, and not the state of itself. This is illustrated by the man, who in seeking the hand of a wealthy and beautiful woman, looks after her sheep and horses, and waters her orchards. Though his time is occupied with those services, their flavor derives from the woman. If the woman were to disappear, those tasks would become cold and lifeless. In this same way, all professions and sciences derive life, pleasure and warmth from the rays of the Saints’ inspiration. But for their inspiration, all tasks would be utterly without relish and enjoyment.

from Rumi: Discourse 53

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an echo in hollow places

Having recently watched the film, I'm now reading Michael Ondaatje's "The English Patient" (Bloomsbury, 1992) and I was curious about the line at p.21 of the text: "For echo is the soul of the voice exciting itself in hollow places." It comes from a long poem by 18th century poet Christopher Smart, written during a spell of madness. Here is an excerpt containing the line Ondaatje used:

For applause or the clapping of the hands is the natural action of a man on the descent of the glory of God.

For EARTH which is an intelligence hath a voice and a propensity to speak in all her parts.

For ECHO is the soul of the voice exerting itself in hollow places.

For ECHO cannot act but when she can parry the adversary.

For ECHO is greatest in Churches and where she can assist in prayer.

For a good voice hath its Echo with it and it is attainable by much supplication.

For the VOICE is from the body and the spirit -- and is a body and a spirit.

For the prayers of good men are therefore visible to second-sighted persons.

from Christopher Smart: Jubilate Agno via

There is a curious resonance with the passage below from Elizabeth Lash, who simply happens to be the mother of the actor, Ralph Fiennes, who played the titular role in the movie.


live cantata of silence

There is a very clear echo in the valley. During the day, while I was writing out on the terrace, I heard voices calling R O C A MAD OOOUURRRR. On the last midnight, after the bells had sounded, I walked out to the end of the valley. I called aloud, one by one the names of the children. Mick, Ralph, Martha, Magnus, Sophie, Jacob and Joseph. The sounds flew round the valley, several seconds of clear, uncanny call. The best two, the sounds going on and on, were Jacob and Joseph ... It felt as if those names sped into the midnight rocks, and would remain there, in some way, to guide the named. Rocamadour remains for me, above all else, this spirit of the place; something complete and tangible by the sheer force of its intangibility. Within that simple, listening experience, there seemed to be all I sought and all I would ever find. A continuous, live cantata of silence; the hinge and sum and fulcrum of the rest.

from Jennifer Lash: On Pilgrimage via NOJ


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

free speech or hate speech?

A sobering article on the difficult choices we face today when it comes to speaking our minds on Islam:

Of one thing we can have no doubt: Short of a firing squad, there is nothing that the Canadian government can do that will have any effect on what Ezra Levant or Mark Steyn will say and write in the future. You couldn't have picked worse people to try to cow. But unfortunately, it is the nature of the nanny state to bring up citizens who have been trained not to rock the boat. Under a nanny regime, the good citizen is one who is reluctant to speak his mind merely out of fear of what other people might think. For people already this cowed, even the threat of a minor bureaucratic hassle would be a powerful argument for keeping one's mouth shut, and for standing by while our hard-won liberty of discussion is steadily eroded. Canada still has uncowable men like Levant and Steyn; but where will such men come from a generation hence?

from Lee Harris: Speaking of Islam: Liberty and grievance in Canada

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sheilas breeding for the jihad

Last night I succumbed to watching the much pre-publicized ABC News Special titled Jihad Sheilas. The main impression I was left with is that the two women "stars" of the show, Rabiah and Raisah, are great breeders for Islam, not only in the literal sense of making lots of Muslim babies (14 between them if I've kept count correctly) but in the metaphoric sense of inciting others to their own Islamist-inspired worldview. Here are some representative quotes [the first two from the program]:

Rabiah Hutchinson: I would defend Islam with my life, so that makes me a filthy, dirty, subhuman terrorist that deserves anything that anybody and everybody wants to do to them. Does that mean I'm going to go and lob grenades out of the bus in Lakemba? No, it doesn't.

Raisah Bint Alan Douglas: We hear a lot, "They're oppressed those poor darlings? Are you hot in there?" Well I say look, it's hotter in hell, so you know what, I'd rather wear this now and if I am a bit hot, it's hotter in hell. So I'll just do what God told me to do.

Rabiah Hutchinson: You know what's so intolerable? The lies. If they've decided we're not allowed to exist, then at least be honest about it. If they've decided we must be exterminated, don't lie about it. Don't make up all these slogans like the 'war on terror'. Just say, 'We don't like them and we're going to wipe them off the face of this earth'. [source: Sally Neighbour story]


Rabiah Hutchinson under there somewhere

Despite their defiance, both women come across as desperate attention seekers, forlorn failures in love and life, projecting the cause of every distress onto the non-Muslim "others" who persecute them. They find their paranoia reflected in the Koran into which Mohammad poured his own delusions of divine victimhood. These women were so pathetic that I was almost relieved to discover that "the enemy" has such sorry sisters among its camp followers. Glad, too, to know that ASIO keeps tabs on them.


Raisah Douglas talking of hell and hijabs

Related sources:

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Rumi on Jews

Sometimes Rumi comes across as a "good Muslim", complete with the arrogance and ignorance we've become used to; sometimes he transcends that partisanship and heads toward his mystic universalism. Either way, his characterization of Jews is telling.

In the first passage below [my emphasis], from the Mathnawi, Rumi portrays the Jew as the archetypal non-Muslim: infidel, undiscerning, in the wrong, like a base coin, in the dark, with dust in his eyes, a hater of the light, and so on. The Jew is the Evil Guy or Baddy, the dark side of existence where all ugliness, deceit, folly, and blindness reside. This is just how most mainstream Muslims view modern Israelis (with the ever loyal exception of Salim Mansur). In the second passage below [my emphasis], Rumi emphasizes the One God that Muslims, Jews and Christians share and affirms the mystic union of the three.

Why the prophets were sent.

God sent the prophets for this purpose,

Namely, to sever infidelity from faith.

God sent the prophets to mankind

That they might gather the pure grain on their tray.

Infidel and faithful, Mosalman and Jew,

Before the prophets came, seemed all as one.

Before they came we were all alike,

No one knew whether he was right or wrong.

Genuine coin and base coin were current alike;

The world was a night, and we travelers in the dark,

Till the sun of the prophets arose, and cried,

"Begone. O slumber; welcome, O pure light!"

Now the eye sees how to distinguish colors,

It sees the difference between rubies and pebbles.

The eye distinguishes jewels from dust,

Hence it is dust makes the eyes smart.

Makers of base coin hate the daylight,

Coins of pure gold love the daylight,

Because daylight is the mirror that reflects them,

So that they see their own perfect beauty.

Rumi: Mathnawi Book II, Story I, trans Whinfield

Everywhere the secret of God is coming -
see how the people are coming uncontrollably;
From him for whom all souls are athirst,
to the thirsty the cry of the water carrier is coming.
They are milk drinkers of divine generosity,
and are on the watch to see from whence the mother is coming.
They are in separation, and all are waiting
to see whence union and encounter are coming.
From Moslems, Jews, and Christians alike
every dawn the sound of prayer is coming;

Blessed is that intelligence into whose heart's ear
from heaven the sound of "come hither" is coming.
Keep your ear clean of scum,
for a voice is coming from heaven;
The defiled ear hears not that sound -
only the deserving gets his deserts.
Defile not your eye with human cheek and mole,
for that Emperor of eternal life is coming;
And if it has become defiled, wash it with tears,
for the cure comes from those tears.
A caravan of sugar has arrived from Egypt;
the sound of footfall and bells is coming.
Ha, be silent, for to complete the ode
our speaking King is coming.

Rumi: Ghazal (Ode) 637, trans Arberry via Sunlight

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Monday, February 04, 2008

three princes from India

fairy tale illustration

Illustration by J. D. Batten to the story
"The Three Princes and Princess Nouronnihar"
in E. Dixon (ed): Fairy Tales from the Arabian Nights (1893)
@ Wollamshram World

In this story, each of the three princes contributes to achieving the end of saving the princess from a near fatal illness: the eldest acquires a tube that allows him to see at a great distance (and hence learn of her fate), the second has a carpet that allows the princes to travel quickly to her bedside, and the youngest has an artificial apple that is a panacea or universal remedy for any ailment.

In determining which prince will take the maiden in marriage, the sultan orders that each shoot an arrow with the one shooting farthest obtaining the princess as wife.

The sultan did not make them wait long; and as soon as he arrived, Prince Houssain, as the eldest, took his bow and arrow, and shot first. Prince Ali shot next, and much beyond him; and Prince Ahmed last of all; but it so happened, that nobody could see where his arrow fell; and, notwithstanding all the search of himself and everybody else, it was not to be found far or near. And though it was believed that he shot the farthest, and that he therefore deserved the Princess Nouronnihar, it was necessary that his arrow should be found, to make the matter evident and certain; so, notwithstanding his remonstrances, the sultan determined in favour of Prince Ali, and gave orders for preparations to be made for the wedding, which was celebrated a few days afterwards with great magnificence.

from E. Dixon (ed): The Three Princes and Princess Nouronnihar

This is a really odd ending. It seems contrived and unfair, especially when compared to the outcome of almost every other known fairy tale of its sort. I certainly know of no other exception to the rule that gives the bride to the youngest of the three sons. I'm not sure - just now - what to make of this curiosity.

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the cup gets a bad press

Be not intoxicated with these goblets of forms,
Lest you become a maker and worshipper of idols.
Pass by these cups full of forms, linger not;
There is wine in the cups, but it proceeds not from them.
Look to the Giver of the wine with open mouth;
When His wine comes, is not cup too small to hold it?

Rumi: Mathnawi Book VI, Story IX, trans Whinfield

These are the opening verse lines of a story called "The King and his Three Sons". It has a classic fairy tale format in which the eldest and middle sons fail in an important quest but the youngest succeeds. Rumi left the story unfinished with little elaboration on how the third prince achieved what the first and the second did not.

Since Rumi often uses the idea of "the King" as a synonym for God, this story effectively allows that God might have three sons or have a trinity potential that can be manifested or realized as three divine offspring. The Jungians would see this as the Self differentiating into three conscious functions with the two primary ones being inadequate to the task of full individuation. It is the third - or "inferior" - function that connects consciousness to the unconscious and ultimately leads to wholeness or a state of kingliness.

Was Rumi beginning to understand this? Was it dawning on him - or had it already dawned on him - that the Christian trinity had some validity to it? Was this why he balked at finishing this story? According to one tradition - or edition of the Mathnawi - Rumi's own son provided a commentary as follows:

Part of the story remains untold; it was retained

In his mind and was not disclosed.

The story of the princes remains unfinished,

The pearl of the third brother remains unstrung.

Here speech, like a camel, breaks down on its road;

I will say no more, but guard my tongue from speech.

The rest is told without aid of tongue

To the heart of him whose spirit is alive.

by Bahau-'d-Din Sultan Valad according to Bulaq edition of Mathnawi, trans Whinfield as above

fairy tale illustration

Illustration by John D. Batten to the story
"The King of England and his Three Sons"
in Joseph Jacobs: More English Fairy Tales
@ Sacred Texts

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reply to memo

I was urged to look anew at Khaled Abou El Fadl following a visit to the IntelFusion blog and a post with the longish title: Memo to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England: This is What an Islamic Law Expert Looks Like. It is mainly a copy-and-paste job but is also a follow-up to blogger Jeffrey Carr's clearly unpleasant encounter with the Jihad Watch people. I've had similar encounters myself in the past, so I can sympathize and report that the following description is spot on:

As I was dog-paddling in a sea of Islam-bashing commenters, the waters parted and "Hugh" appeared. Think Moses parting the Red Sea. That's how the acolytes of the Comment section responded to his entrance - with awe and reverence. Hugh launched several 300+ word posts at me and each was more irritating in tone than the one before. Apparently, neither he nor his acolytes could understand why I didn't crumble like other "dhimmies" did. Finally, when I was fed up to HERE reading the hate speech of religious bigots, I asked Hugh if he had a concrete plan to win the Long War against Jihadi terrorism, or if he just liked to talk about how evil Islam was. Hugh answered that he had written hundreds of articles and thousands of posts on the subject. I just wanted one, I said. He pointed me to Countering the Jihad.

from Jeffrey Carr @ IntelFusion: Jihad Watch - Don't be a hater

As much as I support Carr's evident disgust at the Jihad Watch commenters' (and especially Hugh Fitzgerald's) bigotry, I cannot support Carr's silly reliance on Fadl's scholarly respectability: he really needs to read Daniel Pipes (Stealth Islamist: Khaled Abou El Fadl) at the very least and possibly also my own earlier post today, patient research.

(I know, I know, it's taken me over a month to "reply" to Carr's original "memo" but the Australian Open Tennis tournament intervened and I've been distracted.)

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patient research

The latest book I've been looking at is The place of tolerance in Islam by Khaled Abou El Fadl (as main author) and edited by Joshua Cohen and Ian Lague for Boston review (Beacon Press, 2002).

book cover

I found (Abou El) Fadl's initial long essay quite reasonable, despite its apologist overtones. A main difficulty arises in his shifting of moral judgment and clarity away from the Qur'an and onto the reader (p.14-15) [my emphasis]:

In a further example, as to justice, the Qur'an states: "O you who believe, stand firmly for justice, as witnesses for God, even if it means testifying against yourselves, or your parents, or you kin, and whether it is against the rich or poor, for God prevails upon all. Follow not the lusts of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God knows what you do." [Qur'an 4:135] The idea that Muslims must stand up for justice even against their own self-interests is predicated on the notion that human beings are capable of achieving a high level of moral agency. As agents, Muslims are expected to achieve a level of moral conscientiousness, which they will bring to their relationship with God. In regards to every ethical obligation, the Qur'anic text assumes that readers will bring a pre-existing, innate moral sense to the text. Hence, the text will morally enrich the reader, but only if the reader will morally enrich the text. The meaning of the religious text is not fixed simply by the literal meaning of its words, but depends, too, on the moral construction given to it by the reader. So if the reader approaches the text without moral commitments, it will almost inevitably yield nothing but discrete, legalistic, technical insights.

see also online: The Place of Tolerance in Islam

However, it is in his Reply to the eleven other contributors that I find him unreasonable or leaning toward an Islamist view. It is especially evident in his frequent - and often subtle - shifting of responsibility away from Muslims and onto non-Muslims. An example (p.96): "After all, isn't the real question whether non-Muslims are willing to tolerate Muslims, instead of the other way around?" Another (p.104): "[...] I believe that Muslims such as the Taliban [...] are not the outgrowth of a religious process, as much as a reaction to external secular forces, such as colonialism or corporate capitalism. "

The most serious example, however, is the moral equivalence demonstrated here (p.98) [my emphasis]:

If Americans allow the attacks of September [11, 2001] to alienate them from their moral values and from the civil liberties won in countless battles over two hundred years, then the terrorists have won. Similarly, if the Muslim response to the state terror inflicted upon them by Israel and other countries is to become alienated from their religious morality, then Muslims have lost something that is far more important than the political struggle - they have lost their moral grounding.

The exact repetition of wording here affirms that Israeli "state terror" is equivalent to the Islamist terror of Sep11, a deliberate act of murder against innocent and unsuspecting civilians. And since Israel has been indulging in "state terror" since (no doubt) at least 1967, it follows that the Sep11 attacks are what you'd expect as a justified retaliation. My own "pre-existing, innate moral sense" tells me that Fadl himself has completely lost his own moral grounding.

This is a man touted as a "moderate" and a respectable scholar of Islamic law (an identity he promotes on his own website: Scholar of the House). This kind of guy gives me the creeps. Utterly. I'm so glad that truer and better scholars like Daniel Pipes are keeping an eye on people like him:

The case of Abou El Fadl points to the challenge of how to discern Islamists who present themselves as moderates. This is still possible to do with Abou El Fadl, who has left a long paper trail; it is harder with those who keep their opinions to themselves. In either case, the key is old-fashioned elbow grease: reading, listening, and watching. There is no substitute for research. It needs to be done by White House staffers, district attorneys, university search committees, journalists, Jewish defense agencies, and churches. Failing proper research, Islamists will push their way through Western institutions and ultimately subvert them.

from Daniel Pipes: Stealth Islamist: Khaled Abou El Fadl

Finally, here is the last paragraph of Fadl's Reply (p.111):

God relegated to Muslims a moral trust. At no point in history can Muslims ignore their unending obligations to appropriately discharge this moral trust. The basic and invariable point is that Muslims - and non-Muslims - must understand that it is in the power and is in fact the duty of Muslims of every generation to answer the question: What Islam? The response must not be left in the hands of the bin Ladens of the world.

also online in draft version as: Khaled Abou El Fadl Replies

I would simply add that the response should never have been left in the hands of a man like Mohammad on whom bin Laden conscientiously - and quite precisely - models himself. Mohammad was a thief, a terrorist, an assassin, and a mass murderer. If, as Muslims believe, he is "the best of men" then it follows that Sep11 was a noble act along similarly "noble" lines. Deep down inside men like Fadl - and bin Laden - there must lie a numb and dumb and quivering mass of terrified "innate moral sense" too frightened even to squeak in the name of authentic Truth and Justice. How pathetic and pitiful are these poor Muslims, how cruel has been that Allah that led them to this dire circumstance. I can only thank God that I was not born into that world myself.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

and bread itself


Mathnawi VI: 67-76, trans Whinfield
Masnavi I Ma'navi (2000, Routledge) @ google books

Update: Barks and Nicholson versions available at Sunlight.

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