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January 13th 2015 print

Peter Smith

From Wittenberg to Mosque Doors

If Islam is not reformed – root and branch - the very notion of moderate Islam becomes an even more glaring contradiction in terms. If you belong to a club whose very rules condone bad behaviour, the only moral and logical option must be to change the rules or get out.

mosque doorsMemories are short. Charles Lane of the Washington Post said that the events in Paris were ‘a wake-up call’. Weren’t we already well awake before 9/11, never mind since? Charles Krauthammer said that the events reflected a new ‘third phase’ of internally planned and executed attacks, following the externally planned attack of 9/11 and the recent ‘lone-wolf’ attacks. He must have been snoozing when, as just one example among many, the London Underground was bombed.

No doubt the killings in Paris will also fade from mind as Islamic terrorists continue their murderous rampages. One reason memories are so short is that immediately the dust has settled each terrorist event is dealt with discretely, as though it were a law and order problem. The backgrounds of the murderers are analysed. One or more are bound to be identified as alienated, disadvantaged, or as having a prison record.

Then there is the subsequent soul-searching about why the perpetrators in question weren’t kept under observation as putative murderous terrorists. As if, for example, it is remotely possible to keep tabs on so-called ‘disenfranchised’ young people in a Muslim population of around 6 million-plus in France, many of whom live in no-go ghettos. Talk about fanciful.

This isn’t a law and order problem. It cannot be understood as a series of criminal acts where forensic scientists and detectives concentrate their efforts on the latest crime as though it will provide the missing clues. It cannot be stopped by arresting the Islamic equivalents of Al Capone.

Of course, efforts must be made to prevent terrorist attacks. That goes without saying. But this is a religious problem, dating back to the 7th century. Neither can it be understood in geo-political terms. Medieval religiosity in Turkey, which Ataturk suppressed in the cause of modernity, had nothing to do with the state of world affairs. Islam can only be effectively understood and fought theologically.

The solution lies in changing Islam radically or, alternatively, in encouraging Muslims of temperate mind (who hopefully comprise the majority) to leave their faith. There is no third alternative. Moderation and today’s (and yesterday’s) Islam will forever clash.

At question, of course, is whether Islam can be changed very much at all in view of it being based on God’s immutable very words. Evidently, Egypt’s President Sisi apparently thinks it can, as he showed by calling for a ‘religious revolution’. Hopefully he is right. In any event, revolutions are only ever required when something is rotten at its core. Thus, with the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo still fresh in mind, it is surely incumbent on all leading moderate Muslims to echo Sisi in ending any pretence that Islam is remotely compatible with the modern world.

Deploring the violence is not enough. Moderate Muslims must walk the walk and openly declare their opposition to those tenets of their faith which support intolerance, discrimination and religious despotism; or else lose all credibility. There is no hiding place when people are being massacred to the accompaniment of Allahu Akbar.

Maybe Jamal Rifi in Australia and Zuhdi Jasser (President of the Islamic Forum for Democracy) in America, and fellow moderate leaders, should take a lead from Martin Luther and nail their colours to mosque doors. It might read something like this:

In affirming our right to practice our religion in democratic and pluralist societies; we, moderate Muslims, renounce and reject any interpretation of our faith, whether sourced from the Koran, the Hadiths, or other authoritative religious writings, which:

  • Prevents Muslims from freely leaving their faith if they so wish
  • Discriminates in any way against people of other faiths
  • Denies equality between men and women
  • Imposes punishments for homosexual activity between consenting adults
  • Imposes punishments for adultery
  • Imposes cruel and unusual punishments (like amputations) for those guilty of criminal offences
  • Underwrites, encourages or incites physical harm to those who criticise or satirize Islam or the prophet Muhammad; while preserving a right to peacefully protest and object to such criticism and satire
  • Seeks to replace parliamentary law with religious law in non-ecclesiastical matters

This list, which no doubt could be added to and/or finessed, is at a summary level. For example, equality between men and women is meant to cover the proscription of honour killing, wife beating, under-aged marriage, forced marriage, genital mutilation, and other forms of subjugation. By the way, that this needs mentioning at all in this day and age says something about the sorry state of Islam.

When, and if, this Islamic version of Wittenberg happens (or something similar); at least throughout the Western world, it might be possible to start believing that Islam is saveable; that it can co-exist with other (sane) faiths like Christianity and Judaism and also with democracy. With sufficient momentum a truly moderate Islam would eventually undo Islamic terrorism much more effectively than ever could law enforcement.

Will it happen? It is highly improbable. Muslims, even moderate ones, are unlikely to challenge their faith at its core. But there is always faint hope to cling to.

If Islam is not reformed – root and branch – moderate Muslims in the West will need to face up to leaving their faith. People can be found who behave badly in every walk of life. But if you belong to a club whose very rules condone bad behaviour you surely change the rules or get out.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [5]

  1. Gogs says:

    “moderate Muslims in the West will need to face up to leaving their faith”
    It’s not going to happen: who want to bring on the death penalty on themselves?
    All the publicity we can give Egyptian President Al Sisi will have scant effect.
    The well and truly brainwashed average muslim will keep his head down, and insist his wife does the same.

  2. Gbees says:

    “If Islam is not reformed – root and branch”

    Round-Up would be more effective.

    • acarroll says:

      @[email protected]

      Not to mention the fact that Sisi’s address will never be given much air time in the media. Why?

      * Sisi is the president of a large muslim country
      * He was addressing a congregation of Sunni clerics representing Muslims of all persuasions
      * He was expressing his dismay at the widely held Islamic belief that, and I paraphrase (correctly I hope), “[it's] possible that 1.6 billion people [reference to the world’s Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants — that is 7 billion — so that they themselves may live”

      This is damning evidence that moderate muslims exist only in the minds of Eurocentric Leftists and those who’ve pinned themselves to the petard of a a univeralist multicultural utopia or the concept of homo economicus.

      • Bill Martin says:

        Right on the money once again Peter Smith. Alas, as you fear, Islam is “reform-proof”. It has to be that way in order to be the final, perfect message to mankind from God. It is difficult to see how Islamisation of the West, starting with Europe, can be prevented without actual warfare of some kind. It will come to that if, with the aid of “the useful idiot” intellectuals and politicians, Muslims will eventually outnumber the rest and democratically elect Islamist governments. Erdogan, the Islamist Turkish president was quoted saying that democracy is a useful vehicle on which to travel to your goal, then get off it. Let’s not forget that Hitler came to power democratically.

        Bill Martin.

  3. Geoffrey Luck says:

    Here is the full transcript of President Sisi’s speech on December 28 which puts a rather different construction on his thoughts..

    “We spoke earlier about the importance of the religious discourse.

    And I would like to reiterate that we are not doing enough with regard to true religious discourse.

    The problem has never been with our faith. Perhaps the problem lies in ideology, and this ideology is sanctified among us.

    I am talking about religious discourse that is in keeping with its times. I am addressing the religious scholars and clerics.

    We must take a long hard look at the current situation. I have talked about this several times in the past. We must take a long hard look at the situation we are in.

    It is inconceivable that the ideology we sanctify should make our entire nation a source of concern, danger, killing and destruction all over the world. It is inconceivable that this ideology – I am referring not to “religion” but to “ideology” – the body of ideas and texts that we have sanctified in the course of centuries to the point that challenging them has become very difficult.

    It has reached the point that (this ideology) is hostile to the entire world. Is it conceivable that 1.6 billion (Muslims) would kill the world’s population of 7 billion, so that they could live (on their own)? This is inconceivable.

    I say these things here, at Al-Azhar, before religious clerics and scholars. May Allah bear witness on Judgement Day to the truth of your intentions regarding what I say to you today.

    You cannot see things clearly when you are locked (in this ideology). You must emerge from it and look outside in order to get closer to a truly enlightened ideology. You must oppose it with resolve.

    Let me say it again: We need to revolutionise our religion.

    Honorable Imam (the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar) you bear responsibility before Allah. The world in its entirety awaits your words because the Islamic nation is being torn apart, destroyed, and is heading to perdition. We ourselves are bringing it to perdition. “

    (Translation by Memri TV – The Middle East Media Research Institute TV Monitor project.)

    And here is the official Egyptian reponse to the Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo:

    In a broadcast on January 9, the Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments, “Muhammad Mukhtar Guma, said:

    Al-Azhar, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, the fatwa authority, and the Foreign Ministry, and Egypt in its entirety have denounced the terrorist incident against the French magazine. I would like to tell you that these reckless terrorist acts have turned the Muslims from victims into aggressors, and have turned the magazine from an aggressor into a victim. When the magazine published cartoons offensive to our beloved Prophet, we, indeed, had to rise against it – but it should have been by means of reason and wisdom, and by demonstrating the civilization of Islam.