Even if I were a devout Muslim…


Even if I were a devout Muslim, I would dump Islam out of sheer embarrassment that it needs this calibre of defence.

Comments

  1. Steersman says

    Interesting, although I think the linked article illustrates the all too common phenomenon and problem of cherry-picking, and of drawing conclusions therefrom that the rest of the “cherries on the tree” – so to speak – don’t at all support, if they don’t actually refute or contradict it.

    No doubt there are some elements of the Quran – and of Islam itself – that might or probably do support or are at least consistent with the contention that “Islam is a religion of peace” – at least if one squints or “bends over to almost supine lengths” (as Dawkins phrased it). But the problem is that far too many insist, as apparently does that article, that because there’s some justification for that contention, therefore and inexorably, Allah wrote the Quran and everything in it, and therefore that the receiver of the supposed revelations and the revelations themselves are beyond reproach, and are to be slavishly followed and emulated. Which of course encompasses a great many manifest barbarisms, psychoses, savageries, and profound and debilitating ignorance (see, as we’ve discussed, Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science [1]).

    However, as I’ve frequently argued, the history of that modus operandi is a rather long, disreputable and problematic one, although it has only relatively recently been elucidated or described in sufficient detail to permit correctives. More specifically, P. B. Medawar in his “Art of the Soluble” (i.e., science; highly recommended) referred to the term “philosophick romance” [2] – apparently coined sometime in the 1700s – as a general pejorative to describe “wild and extravagant” and untenable hypotheses that are, nonetheless, asserted to be gospel truth. It is only in the subsequent evolution of science that “we” realized that such hypotheses need to be thoroughly tested to have any hope at all of actually qualifying as “The Truth”.

    Likewise with the claims of various religions, Islam in particular. But why I frequently argue that it is necessary to concede the credible or tenable aspects or claims of religion while refusing to accept the odious or problematic ones simply because of the former – more or less a case of separating the wheat from the chaff. So to speak. 🙂

    —–
    1) “_http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/why-the-arabic-world-turned-away-from-science”;
    2) “_https://www.hse.ru/data/2013/04/30/1296751552/25HUM2013.pdf”;

    • says

      I admire your generosity, because I tend to see the linked article as a particular way of being wrong. To be precise, a particularly stupid way of being wrong, as opposed being wrong in the way Obama is wrong, which might be a clever way of being wrong. The reason there’s such a proliferation of this sort of thing and their being so tenacious, is that they’re not created for enlightening purposes, but to provide validation or support for a priori agendas that are of very little or no inherent merit. People who gravitate (not to say flock) to this kind of stuff are not interested in whether what’s being said makes any sense or not. What is important is that a particular prejudice is reinforced. I feel validated in jumping off a cliff because, look, others are jumping off the cliff, too. That would not be so bad if those running away from the cliff were merely ignored or laughed at. But they are attacked, vilified, belittled and slandered, while whether what they’re saying makes sense or not is not even approached, let alone engaged (just look at some of the stuff that pops up in this blog). I’m still not at the point where I’d say they can’t engage. I think they can, but in having some peculiar need for security in numbers, channel their creative energies towards stifling themselves and keeping themselves in line. I think the viciousness of their attacks on people who commit “wrong-think” and “wrong-speak” belie their admission of guilt. They know they’re wrong and they must do everything to suppress that knowledge.

      • Steersman says

        I admire your generosity ….

        Thanks for the compliment, but it is less a case of being generous than one of being pragmatic: I find it unwise and counterproductive to try to assail a more or less impregnable position when the effort can be better spent attacking an untenable one – more bang for the buck for one thing. But I expect you’ve probably read Dawkins’ The God Delusion and, in that regard, one observation of his that I’ve taken to heart, in several ways, is related to T. H. Huxley’s defense of agnosticism:

        … and I suspect that when [Huxley] appeared to do so [defend agnosticism] he was bending over backwards to concede a point, in the interests of securing another one. We have all done this at one time or another. [pg 72]

        The discussion of feminism and Islam is of course a convoluted one – and I think the former is a serious chink in the armor of Islam, and one of its many fatal flaws. But I also think that refusing to concede that there are, apparently, some aspects or claims of Islam or the Quran that are consistent with the best elements of Western feminism really gives some “reason” for proponents of the latter to find common cause with Islam, even if they are otherwise kind of clueless about who their decidedly “strange bedfellows” really are.

        As I say, conceding that point about some overlap between the best elements of feminism, on the one hand, and Islam itself on the other, allows one a greater opportunity of securing better and more crucial ones – for instance that Islam is, largely, a barbaric if not psychotic ideology that well deserves to be thrown on the proverbial dustheap of history. It seems far more effective to say at the outset, for example, “Sure, Islam has a few elements that might be consistent with the best of feminism. But do you realize that the ‘mullah mafia’ [1] of Pakistan insist that it is ‘un-Islamic’ to ban child marriage? [2] Do you seriously think that that position is in any way consistent with what you would call the ideals of feminism?” I think that position more or less cuts off at the knees any Western feminist trying to defend Islam as a result of serious misperceptions of what Islam really entails for women.

        But, en passant, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that my comment at EyeWitness News making that argument was deleted, although I’ll concede that that was probably because I included a link to the WaPo article on child marriage. If you don’t mind I’ll take the liberty of posting that here now for reference or information – and have posted it again at EWN without the link:

        Steersman at EWN: No doubt there are some aspects of Islam and the Quran that are more or less palatable and of some justification – such as the right of women “to be legal owners of the money they earn and to inherit property”.

        However, I kind of wonder, do you think that justifies the claim, asserted by most if not all Muslims, that the Quran is entirely the literal word of God, and that Muhammad is the exemplar – par excellence – in all things? And therefore, do you agree, for instance, with the rather barbaric mullahs of Pakistan who insist, as reported in the Washington Post (January 15, 2016) and other sources, that it is “un-Islamic” to ban child marriage? [2]

        But I will also readily concede that many of those “running away from the cliff” – mostly ex-Muslims by the look of it – “are attacked, vilified, belittled and slandered”, a recent post by Asra Nomani [3] being a case in point. Sure have to doff my hat in respect and admiration for the many ex-and-secular-and-atheist(?) Muslims who have the courage to speak out against both the barbarisms of Islam, and the outright thuggery of many of its proponents, apologists, and devotees. Although that doesn’t mean I agree entirely with all of the positions of the first group. For instance, on the most effective way of discrediting Western feminists who support Islam. 🙂

        —–
        1) “_http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/02/01/islamicide-how-the-mullah-mafia-is-destroying-pakistan.html”;
        2) “_https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/01/15/bill-banning-child-marriage-fails-in-pakistan-after-its-deemed-un-islamic/?utm_term=.e5c26ef4d7c0”;
        3) “_https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/meet-the-honor-brigade-an-organized-campaign-to-silence-critics-of-islam/2015/01/16/0b002e5a-9aaf-11e4-a7ee-526210d665b4_story.html?utm_term=.a73fa2be3a25”;

    • says

      I’ve only now got around to reading Hillel Ofek’s excellent Why the Arab World turned away from Science. I hadn’t appreciated till now, how Christianity has a built-in capacity to adapt to science, viz., when science proves otherwise, the Biblical version becomes figurative. A Christian scientist is, therefore, not necessarily a contradiction in terms (I’m not, of course, talking about religious nuts). I might’ve figured this out for earlier, having known about Gregor Mendel since I was a kid. But Galileo’s experience kind of blocked that one off for me.

      I also hadn’t appreciated the significance of Constantine in subordinating Christianity to politics. So, in fact, Christianity had had two reformations: one at the end of classical slavery and another at the end of feudalism, the second based on an already reformed Christianity. This makes the latter Christian reformation even less of an analog for reforming Islam, contrary to what so many would have us believe. What comes across very strongly from the Ofek article is just how utterly, utterly inappropriate Islam is to human advancement. The great scientific advances that Muslims endlessly boast of where made despite Islam, and not because of it. I wonder, though, whether Ofek perhaps sees more than he’s admitting. Consider this passage near the end of his piece:

      The story of Arabic science offers a window into the relationship between Islam and modernity; perhaps, too, it holds out the prospect of Islam coming to benefit from principles it badly needs in order to prosper, such as sexual equality, the rule of law, and free civil life. But the predominant posture among many Muslims today is that the good life is best approximated by returning to a pristine and pious past — and this posture has proven poisonous to coping with modernity. Islamism, the cause of violence that the world is now agonizingly familiar with, arises from doctrines characterized by a deep nostalgia for the Islamic classical period. Even today, suggesting that the Koran isn’t coeternal with God can make one an infidel.

      If I were to be circumspect in expressing my conviction that the Qur’an itself lies at the heart of this malaise, I might write something pretty much like the above. I’m not saying that that is what he’s saying, but it’s easy to read it that way.

      Also, I hadn’t really appreciated the significance of waqf. This makes me even firmer in my conviction that there’s only one solution to madrassas: shut them down.

      Ofek’s really sharp on the political economy of the Translation Movement, especially that it was about access to Persia. A weakness, as I see it, is this sentence: “The Abbasids did not bother translating works in subjects such as poetry, history, or drama, which they regarded as useless or inferior.” This is true, but it is, in my opinion, far too quickly passed over. There’s a utilitarianism behind this mindset that can be explored and shown to tie back to the Qur’an as well (yes, I know. It’s my hobbyhorse!).

      Thanks very much for the link. I really got a lot out of it.

      • Steersman says

        Thanks for some interesting and cogent observations, particularly on aspects that I hadn’t considered, and on the history of Islam that I’m not very knowledgeable about, or that I had skimmed over in reading that article. Although I’m not sure that it is entirely the case that “Christianity has a built-in capacity to adapt to science”.

        Seems that Christianity, or at least notable segments of it, has frequently fought, still fights, tooth and nail against many of the perspectives of science, from Galileo’s cosmology, to Darwin’s evolution, to the findings of modern geology and archeology. Seems too that both Christianity and Islam found science of use as long as it supported or advanced the cause of dogma and ideology, but were quick to anathematize it as soon as it called that into question. Although I will concede that Christianity at least has more or less learned that it is unwise to challenge the positions of science, something that Islam is unwilling to face. But as a case in point, consider something we’ve discussed periodically on Twitter, this observation of Churchill’s on the topic (from WikiQuote):

        … Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

        As Churchill suggests, now that Christianity has more or less pulled in its horns, it might well constitute a valuable ally in the battle against Islam. Even if Christianity’s support for anti-blasphemy laws may periodically make them an uncertain one.

        Anjuli: What comes across very strongly from the Ofek article is just how utterly, utterly inappropriate Islam is to human advancement. The great scientific advances that Muslims endlessly boast of were made despite Islam, and not because of it.

        Amen to that. You later argued that the “Quran itself lies at the heart of this malaise” which I largely agree with, although that in turn seems to depend on the “philosophy” on which it is based. From that article of Ofek’s:

        With the rise of the Ash’arites, the ethos in the Islamic world was increasingly opposed to original scholarship and any scientific inquiry that did not directly aid in religious regulation of private and public life. ….

        The Ash’arites believed the Koran to be coeval with God — and therefore unchallengeable. At the heart of Ash’ari metaphysics is the idea of occasionalism, a doctrine that denies natural causality. Put simply, it suggests natural necessity cannot exist because God’s will is completely free. Ash’arites believed that God is the only cause, so that the world is a series of discrete physical events each willed by God.

        Which seems to speak directly to Churchill’s observation on the “fearful fatalistic apathy”, the dogmatic determinism of Islam. Which seems in notable contradistinction to Christianity wherein Jehovah has granted his creations the “boon”, the blessing and curse of free will, from whence come such aphorisms as “god helps those who help themselves”.

        Rather different kettles of fish, but which may well provide some justification for your argument about “Christianity’s capacity to adapt to science”. Many have argued, with some justification and much evidence, that the entire concept of the laws of nature, on which science is based, has its roots in Biblical perspectives – Moses’ Ten Commandments for example, and in Einstein’s “God does not play dice with the universe”. If there is an intrinsic affinity between science and Christianity in their views on law, one that isn’t present with Islam, then it is maybe not surprising that Christianity might be more willing to “adapt” to science than Islam has shown itself able to do.

        And, relative to your reasonable point about the “great scientific advances that Muslims endlessly boast of”, it seems clear from the article that “Arab science” was due more to the contributions of Persian science and culture than to that of the Arabs. What the latter may have contributed most was to, at the point of a sword, distribute that science and culture over a broader area, and provide the opportunities for it to grow. At least until that science conflicted with Islamic ideology and dogmatism.

        Anjuli: Thanks very much for the link. I really got a lot out of it.

        My pleasure – I got more out of it the second or third time around too. 🙂 But I think it is vitally important that people understand the roots of Islam, its “fatal flaws” – forewarned is forearmed. And articles such as that one by Ofek make important contributions to that understanding so I’m happy to see them become common knowledge or distributed as widely as possible.

        • says

          Although I’m not sure that it is entirely the case that “Christianity has a built-in capacity to adapt to science”.

          Seems that Christianity, or at least notable segments of it, has frequently fought, still fights, tooth and nail against many of the perspectives of science, from Galileo’s cosmology, to Darwin’s evolution, to the findings of modern geology and archeology

          I’m not going so far as to say that Christianity adapts to science, only that it has the capacity to do so. As your many examples demonstrate, it doesn’t mean that Christians will exercise that capacity, only that if they wanted to or did, their religion does not preclude it, even if the clerical hierarchy did. It also doesn’t mean that they’d be willing or able to follow where their investigations lead. It is a religion, after all, and they may be doing their science for no reason but to better apprehend the wondrous work of God. Many have pursued it further, having started from the same premise, until they’ve run into the basic problem of a sentient being beyond nature, and hence, ultimately, a necessary cause uncaused. Some cannot stare into that abyss, so retreat, while others take the plunge.

          Islam, on the other hand, quite deliberately and explicitly precludes any such possibility. All that occurs in the universe, occurs by the will of Allah alone. Right there you’ve blown cause and effect out of the water. No science is possible. This does not mean that there will not be many who will do science, but sooner or later, they’ll run into that will of Allah thing, either themselves or they’ll be strongly reminded of it, very strongly. The will of Allah, of course, has a cast iron protection rooted in the Qur’an’s cast iron protection against change and against question. Islam’s defence against science (and philosophy) is many layers deep. Eventually, most would-be scientists won’t even take the first step, even if they’re not religious nuts.

          If human inquisitiveness may be plotted along a line, all religion eventually interferes with that inquisitiveness. All I’m saying is that Islam interferes much, much sooner than Christianity does. The consequence of the difference is, as they say, history. but make no mistake, this is not a trumpet blowing for Christianity. It’s horrors against science are many. The point is that there was science for it to unleash its horrors onto. Islam simply nipped it in the bud.

          By the way, if Destiny (dir. Youssef Chahine) is anything to go by, Muslims had an early form of telescope already in the 12th century. It involved a spherical glass vessel filled with water.

          • Steersman says

            All that occurs in the universe, occurs by the will of Allah alone. Right there you’ve blown cause and effect out of the water. No science is possible.

            Indeed. I think that is the crux of the matter, that cause and effect is a concept almost entirely foreign to the thinking of Islam. Although, as you argued, there are apparently exceptions as indicated in the New Atlantis article. It refers to Abdus Salam [1] as one of the two scientists from Muslim countries who have won Nobel Prizes, although he was Ahmadi Muslim which most other Muslims apparently don’t recognize as such. And his connection to the Quran seemed to have a more mystical, Sufi flavour to it.

            But Pakistan in particular seems, from the photographs I’ve seen in Wikipedia articles on the country, to be a more or less modern society with all the technological bells and whistles that that entails. And they do have “the bomb”. Doesn’t seem plausible that they can manage all of that without some degree of understanding and appreciation of science, and the laws which undergird it. Either there’s a serious degree of “cognitive dissonance” on the part of scientists and technologists responsible for maintaining those systems, or they’re separate from the bulk of the population still stuck in the barbarisms and ignorance of the sixth century.

            In any case, that dichotomy between what is essentially the determinism of Islam on the one hand, and the free-will of Christianity and the secular West on the the other seems to be part and parcel of the “exceptionalism” that Shadi Hamid has frequently talked of [2]. Sure looks like Islam has painted itself into a very tight corner, and which causes no end of problems for the rest of the world.

            —–
            1) “_https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdus_Salam#Religion”;
            2) “_http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/interrogation/2016/08/shadi_hamid_on_islamic_exceptionalism.html”;

            • says

              Doesn’t seem plausible that they can manage all of that without some degree of understanding and appreciation of science, and the laws which undergird it. Either there’s a serious degree of “cognitive dissonance” on the part of scientists and technologists responsible for maintaining those systems, or they’re separate from the bulk of the population still stuck in the barbarisms and ignorance of the sixth century.

              …or it is the will of Allah that they have this technology. After all, the great polytheist idolator from whose rib Pakistan was hewn has the bomb, too.

              • Steersman says

                Must have been. But LoL – “great polytheist idolator”; India?

                True but there again the question is what is the difference in the ability of a culture & individuals to create cutting-edge science as opposed to just using it. India obviously has some degree of a technological civilization – all the bells and whistles of one – but may lack the underlying philosophical perspective, or infrastructure, that allows the development of science. Maybe the polytheism of India is similar to Islam in not being a particularly favourable soil for the growth of science.

                You might check out the Wikipedia article on Nobel Laureates by country [1].

                —-
                1) “_https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nobel_laureates_by_country”;

  2. polishsalami says

    Sorry, but I stopped reading at the ‘Mo may have been the first feminist’ bit.

  3. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I threw up my hands when I read near the end “Another example of the Prophet’s wives […]”. Wives. As in plural.

    (I’ve got nothing against free love. Of course, I’ve got something against the standard that men can have multiple wives, and women cannot have more than one husband.)

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