Thursday, March 30, 2006

a delicate lover

My beloved is not as lovers are:

Beyond body, undying, without end.

If some fool wants to mock this, let him talk.

No lover is more delicate, more kind.

#288: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

I've just finished reading Irfan Khawaja: Academic Apologists for Shariah: The Real Meaning of the Abdul Rahman Case. It is shocking to me to learn from this article just what a parlous state they are in, our Western institutions of learning. Khawaja quotes a vacuous and venomous rant from a professor, no less, at UCLA School of Law, Khaled Abou El Fadl. I can't believe that this type of rant can issue from an academician of such high rank. Khawaja also pleas for real academic challenge of Islam, not just of so-called Islamism (the ultra-conservative or fundamentalist versions of the faith) and not just mincing about under the constraints of a political correctness that never held back the scientific scholarship applied to every other set of sacred texts and sacred beliefs in the world. As he puts it himself:

I mean scholars capable of entertaining the hypothesis that Islam is false and irrational as such, and are willing to deal with it accordingly.

He ends his article with the following quote from Ayn Rand (from Atlas Shrugged):

The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.

She is simply saying that morality is not something you can impose on people, not something you can command. You can only present it and hope that it will be understood. This is - or should be - above all a gentle process. And this, I believe, is the process that Rumi refers to today as expressed through a lover (always God for Rumi) who is most delicate and kind.

Still, there remains a dilemma here. There is no doubt that force was used to rescue Abdul Rahman from his immediate fate. There is no doubt that international pressure but especially pressure from the most powerful nation on earth was needed to ensure that rescue. There was no time for gentle persuasion, no time to teach the Afghans a better way to do things.

This has been a hugely symbolic event in my eyes for I also see Christ as an essentially subversive figure, indeed as the very embodiment of revisioning subversion. We need this energy very badly today and we need it strongly entrenched in our universities. It is a gentle strength on the physical plane but a powerful unflinching strength on the intellectual and spiritual planes. It does nothing brutal to people's bodies, it should never threaten lives. However, it should be encouraged to do its delicate but relentless work demolishing brick by brick the ridiculous edifice that is Islam today. Many other religions and worldviews (most notably Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and even Judaism*) have benefited greatly from the effects of such scholarly research and comparative analyses. The dissecting has revealed many hidden treasures. Islam must trust that its hidden treasures really are there and, if not, it should die a little more gracefully than it is currently doing.

* It should go without saying but it's probably worth adding for clarification that no religion has been picked apart more than has Christianity and by a scientific scholarship arising from within its own body. This is in fact its greatest strength and the source of its greatest promise.


At Friday, 31 March, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Although even as late as the late 1600's early 1700's it was dicey to pick too incisively into Christianity. And Xianity has certainly had its inquisitions and martyrs. Islam just seems to be a few hundred years behind Xianity in assimilating with the modern world.

As Sam Harris writes in
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason : the problem is not in extremism, the problem is in the extreme texts of the Bible and Koran themselves which modernity overlooks (but which fundamentalism doesn't overlook.)

At Friday, 31 March, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

True: historically, those few centuries don't amount to all that much separation between Xianity and Islam. A lot of that difference could be accounted for by Islam's slowness to take up the printing press technology, perhaps simply because its script didn't readily lend itself to typesetting. It's funny what small details can make such a large difference.

At Saturday, 01 April, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

>Islam's slowness to take up the printing press technology, perhaps simply because its script didn't readily lend itself to typesetting.

An interesting point I never thought of.


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