I’ll admit up front that I did not read the article as thoroughly as I might, for my concern is more general than specific to the article which has reminded me of it; The term, “Islamism,” as used here.
I wholeheartedly desire to combat the phenomenon to which the author is referring, and I would never defend the inhuman actions of those designated by this term, but I want to be clear about the nature of this insanity, for it cannot be said to depend on Islam in any critical way. The problem, it seems to me, is that the term connotes that Islam is, itself, the root cause of the problem at hand. Islamists are often characterized as a group of people who have taken Islam “too far,” perhaps, or worse, that they are the ones who take Islam truly seriously and who arrive at their wild fundamentalism on account of their devotion. It is often held that this position is rejected by so-called “moderates” who are thought to be in the know when it comes to the insanity of their faith but temper said insanity with the reason required of those who wish to live decent lives.
It may come as no surprise that I reject this position, having written amply on the subject of the endless contradictions between the Koran and the behavior of the so-called Islamists. The relationship between Islam and “Islamist” atrocities is assumed purely because said self-described Muslims proclaim it to be so. The author of the article to which I link above takes as true that which is spoken by utter psychopaths and asserts that religious revival has proven to be a stimulant of fanaticism. Inexplicably, our media is all too willing to listen to violent psychopaths when they describe themselves while simultaneously rejecting their insanity when it comes to understanding anything else. These fools may believe the Koran supports their ways, but we need not fall victim to the same ignorance.
Further, on what ground do we infer that such fanaticism would be lessened in the absence of Islam? How can we know it would not simply find another platform from which to mount its oppressive nonsense? The allegation that this fanaticism has its root in Islam is one which I will not easily allow, for I have read the Koran, the Gospel, and the Tanakh, and I do not find in any of it ground for the behavior referenced by the term “Islamism.”
People commit violence in the name of just about everything. The root cause of this fundamental human problem is obviously not dependent upon any particular ideology. Of course, some ideologies demand violence in their name. If we can show that an ideology incontrovertibly promotes certain violent acts, one might simply refer to those who commit said acts as members of said ideology. No “-ism” suffix would be necessary, for it would be objectively true that the ideology demands the acts in question, and it is not a particularly afflicted subset of a greater movement which makes this demand on its own.
Nazism, for example, shares the suffix but for different grammatical intent. To be a Nazi is to be taken by Nazism (as to be a Muslim is to be taken by Islam), and Nazism genuinely demands much violent oppression in its name. Fascism demands oppression and control, for that is its essence. Even despite his protestations to the contrary, one would not be permitted the title of “Nazi” if one were actually a peaceful anarchist. I have absolutely no worry that such a person would be called a fascist by the media in our country.
And yet, when faced with a similar situation in relation to Islam, the term “Islamist” is created. Given the prevalence of the connections being drawn between Islam and psychotic criminals, it seems many in the country are too cowardly to simply allege that Muslims endorse the disgusting behavior of the likes of ISIS. However, they do want to breathlessly assert the relationship between said psychopaths and the religion which they assert guides their acts. “Islamism” strikes me as a sort of compromise among a people struggling to reconcile their ignorance of Islam (or merely their knee-jerk prejudice) with the claims of lunatics who believe themselves to be Muslim. Were the former issue resolved, none would consider these fools Islamic extremists, for their acts fly in the face of the essence of the Koran. So I ask: on what ground is everyone speaking under their breath about the problem of Islamic extremism? I argue that this concept fails to actually apply to the phenomena being referenced in these softened utterances.
If someone were to slay his family, saying that Jesus said one had to hate one’s family in order to be his disciple, shall we really grant that this is Christianism? The mere fact that someone can find support among one’s own incomprehension woven into a self-fulfilling collage of scripture should surprise no one. It is unreasonable to defer to the lost among us matters regarding our conceptual cartography.
We would not grant the title. We would point out that this seemingly harsh phrase is a translation of a Hebrew idiom in which words translating into “love” and “hate” can be used to indicate preference in a softer manner. The person believing Jesus is commanding him to violently hate his family is misunderstanding the text, and therefore, he is not related to Christianity in any meaningful sense beyond his incomprehension. For a real-world example, we don’t call Warren Jeffs and his depraved followers “Christianists.” Rather, and despite his protestations to the contrary, we understand his insanity to be of a different source than the Gospel. I argue that this is the same condition which faces us among the vast majority of “Islamists.”
If one simply studies the Koran, one knows clearly that in it lies no support for the abuse and murder of the innocent. If one reads Averroes, or Avicenna, or Abul Fazl, one knows that this is not an uncommon impression of the Koran. And yet, constantly, over and over, I read in our media the incessant chatter labeling pure evil as “Islamism” and “radical Islam” and “Islamic extremists.” And yet, the myriad sins which they commit are directly and unambiguously prohibited by any honest reading of the Koran which they proclaim to follow. It is not Islam which is causing this insanity, and so I reject the applicability of “Islamism” to the actions of those in whose hearts is swerving. If we are merely responding to the fact that depraved marauders make lies of themselves, surely we shan’t endorse the lies.
While I believe the Koran taken as a whole is an incredibly beautiful work of immeasurable philosophical and religious value in which there is no support to be found for the sins of mankind, I do not deny its genuinely vague portions or potential ground for shortcomings to take hold. Those who permit themselves descent into sin upon finding any ambiguous phrase or potential wedge upon which they might dishonestly or neglectfully rest their transgression, they might be said to be suffering of Islamism, and I would assert that every religion has its portions which are sufficiently ambiguous as to seemingly lend facility to sins of those whose lot is greater moral strain. Surely, the Koran attests that God causes the sickness of wickedness to grow in the hearts of those who turn not from their sin.
It is unsurprising that every major religion I have encountered contains its controversies and arguments over ambiguities and matters of scriptural interpretation. But if Islam is to mean anything at all, it should surely at least require coherent interpretation of the Koran where it is abundantly clear. If the Koran explicitly and clearly forbids, without any hint of contradiction or exception, that one murder the innocent, and yet some come along claiming to follow the Koran by murdering the innocent, how shall we call them? Shall we permit them the title of Muslim? It is well known that it is forbidden to declare someone an unbeliever lest he declare it of himself, but how is it that they believe? Have they not waged groundless, merciless war of violently aggressive oppression and coercion against God’s children? Where is their belief?
Surely we must admit that we have to hold at least some rational standard for our understanding of religion. We have to be able to define conceptual boundaries along real, meaningful divisions. With religious thought, I am drawn to a comparison with biology, for there is much evolution of thought which converges and diverges throughout ancestral patterns similar to those of biology. For that reason, I have often thought that classification of religious thought might learn and take much from cladistics. Often, similar if not equivalent conclusions are reached by those who are on to the truth, but the paths by which said conclusions were reached provide the ancestral context within which the religious group might be meaningfully established.
Whether you agree with this or not, surely you agree that being a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim must be more than simply proclaiming it so. In previous posts I have gone over the endless contradictions between the behavior of so-called Islamists and the Koran, so I won’t recap that here, but for the love of God let us not call them Islamists. Their actions are so vile and so distant from the Koran as it itself makes explicitly clear that we shall afford them no banners under which they might fight.
So while I agree with the author’s call for the condemnation of the insanity of the so-called Islamists, I refuse to allow the terrorists to commandeer the name of Islam. In this way we may be clear and respectful in the course of our joint effort to combat this sickness, and we shall know one another as siblings and not merely those who share mutual enemies.