Saturday, March 04, 2006

Is there such a thing as "Islamism"?

I used that word in a post recently, to describe the more militant, political aspect of what I have been calling "Radical Islam". But I've not been completely comfortable with the word.

Islam has no separation of church and state; politics and religion are very intertwined. So if we talk about "Radical Islam" or "Islamism", as being somehow more political or distinctly separate from the religion of Islam, are we just deceiving ourselves? I recently read a thread called ’Islamism’: A Concept invented by the infidel for the infidel! at the blog "A New Dark Age Is Dawning".

The consensus there seems to be that we are decieving ourselves, by talking about moderate Muslims. Are moderate Muslims really nothing more than Muslim slackers? I've known moderate Muslims who drink alcohol and such, and you might well call them slackers. But then what do you call the opposite of a Mulsim slacker? A Muslim Fanatic, I would say. Look at the Wahhabi's, who even Winston Churchill warned about:

A large number of [Saudi Arabia's King] Bin Saud's followers belong to the Wahabi sect, a form of Mohammedanism which bears, roughly speaking, the same relationship to orthodox Islam as the most militant form of Calvinism would have borne to Rome in the fiercest times of [Europe's] religious wars. The Wahabis profess a life of exceeding austerity, and what they practice themselves they rigorously enforce on others. They hold it as an article of duty, as well as of faith, to kill all who do not share their opinions and to make slaves of their wives and children. Women have been put to death in Wahabi villages for simply appearing in the streets.

It is a penal offence to wear a silk garment. Men have been killed for smoking a cigarette and, as for the crime of alcohol, the most energetic supporter of the temperance cause in this country falls far behind them. Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and blood-thirsty, in their own regions the Wahabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account, and they have been, and still are, very dangerous to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina..."

I have to admit, I really don't like the religion of Islam, and don't respect it. I might find it tolerable (for other people) if it reformed; there have been attempts to reform it many times, but the reformers were usually slaughtered by fanatics like the Wahhabis.

Writers like Stephen Schwartz maintain that there are moderate forms of Islam, and truely moderate Muslim groups in the USA like, that are not associated with Wahhabi extremism. In Europe, you have Nasar Khader, member of Parliament in Denmark, and others.

I don't claim that truely moderate Mulsims are in the majority. But I don't doubt that they do exist, as well as muslims who are somewhere in the middle. So why not encourage them, instead of caving in to the demands of fanatics? Why not encourage reform, and condem extremism?

I do think there is a danger that we can fool ourselves about the danger of the threat we are facing. We do have to be realistic. I'm not sure wether words like "Islamism" are a misnomer or not. But I do think that there is some diversity even in Islam, in it's interpretation and application, that could be encouraged and supported, rather than the totalitarian vision that sects like the Wahhabis are trying to enforce as universal in the Muslim world.

In my own life, I'm as tolerant of other people, as they are of me. I don't see why that same attitude should not be applied to our dealings with Islam and it's adherents as well.

H.T. to The Autonomist blog, for the Churchill quote.

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