Friday, April 1, 2011

Evidence that GW Believed Jews, Christians, and Muslims Worship The Same God

Mary V. Thompson passed this along to me. I hadn't caught it before (neither did she). But apparently, it's not a "new" find, but existed in the record for us to discover all along.

This doesn't, of course, prove Washington was NOT an orthodox Trinitarian Christian, as other orthodox Christians, like George W. Bush, have held the same thing. Though it does reinforce what we've noted about Washington and the other "key Founders" -- that they believed most if not all religions were valid ways to God, that all good men of all religions, even if they are not Jews and Christians, worship the same "Providence." We've seen evidence that Washington, Jefferson and Madison believed the "Great Spirit" that unconverted Natives worship was the same God Jews and Christians worship. Now this is evidence that GW believed Muslims worshipped the same God.

The letter was written on March 31, 1791. The letter was addressed to Yazid ibn-Muhammed, the new Emperor of Morocco, whose father had just passed and Washington sent his condolences as he introduced Thomas Barclay as the new American consul. (Again, thanks to Mary V. Thompson of Mount Vernon for explaining to me the context.)

Here is how Washington closed the letter:

“May that God, whom we both adore, bless your Imperial Majesty with long life, Health and Success, and have you always, great and magnanimous Friend, under his holy keeping.”

Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson wrote these words for GW, but GW signed off on them. Critics may wish to dismiss these as Jefferson's words. But the two times GW ever spoke of Jesus in his extant corpus (one by name, one by example, both in public addresses as opposed to private letters) were written by aides. And in one of the addresses to the unconverted Natives, also written by an aide, GW himself crossed out the word "God" and wrote in "the Great Spirit."

Update: One reason why this quotation may not be more well known is because it is not contained in the official "Fitzpatrick edition." I asked MVT about this and she replied:

I just checked and it doesn’t appear in the Fitzpatrick edition. According to the note in the Papers, Presidential Series, 8:34n, an anonymous individual owns the original signed letter; there is a letterpress copy in the Thomas Jefferson papers at the Library of Congress; and an additional copy in the National Archives.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Mystery" has long been useful to justify some supernatural realm. But, others seek to "not go there", as superstition and all that transpires because of it tends to undermine rational debate in free societies concerning public policy.
I would think the Founders tended toward a universalistic view, regarding "God", but did not approve of creating a theocracy, as to government, nor did they want to impose some religious tests as to religious conscience when it pertained to public office. They had just left monarchial government, so relgious claims to poltiical power weren't justified means to make public policy.

Estase said...

So, what Angie, God isn't really God, but a metaphor? That's the kind of pseudointellectual claptrap that university graduates devolve into anymore.

Kristo Miettinen said...

Hi Jon!

Why does it matter what the FFs thought of Islam in their pre-Barbary state of ignorance? What does that tell us about what religions they thought [a] could be tolerated, and [b] should be encouraged, as conducive to the moral development of a free people?

As the intolerability (to Americans) of the seemingly milquetoast Canada Act shows, the FFs were really pre-Goldwater extremists in defense of Liberty, quite intolerant of threats to their vision of how a free nation should be organized.

How would the FFs have reacted to a Barbary-style Islamic pirate state governing, e.g., Florida in the 1780s? Would such a state be admitted to the union? Would mosques teaching its dogma be permitted in Philadephia or Boston? Granted it's a counterfactual, but is "well, we'll never know" really the best answer?


Tom Van Dyke said...

It's an error to assume that what Washington said as a statesman and president is necessarily a personal belief.

That said, I imagine Washington accepted other religions at face value [and without much actual knowledge of their content], that as long as they worshiped One God, it was the same as his.

Further, hijacking other Gods for Christianity is a tactic that goes back to Paul of Tarsus on Mars Hill in Acts 17. If you can't beat 'em, have them join you.

Jonathan Rowe said...


I don't think the FFs would have, at all, appreciated the more extreme elements of Islam. But what this boils down to is: Is Islam defined by those extreme elements with which we "liberals" (I mean classical liberals, a genus which captures lefty liberals, libertarians and modern conservatives) strongly disagree or is a more moderate Islam compatible with Western style classical liberalism. The Founders didn't make the negative judgment about Islam as a whole, what is at its core.

Kristo Miettinen said...


You rely too much on ambivocal use of the word “Islam”. On the one hand you use it to refer to that which the founders imagined (out of lack of experience) when they spoke of “Mahometanism”, and on the other hand you use it to refer to actual Islam.

Fischer was aware of this ambivocality; that is why he opened his article with an explication of what he meant when he used the term. He meant real Islam, not fantasy Islam.

Furthermore, you concede too little when you say “I don't think the FFs would have, at all, appreciated the more extreme elements of Islam.” My claim, and Fischer’s, which you haven’t addressed yet, is that they would not even have appreciated ordinary Islam of the real-world variety. That was the point of my setting the bar by referring to the intolerable government established for Canada under the Canada Act. If that milquetoast political philosophy was intolerable, then the major forms of Islam in the real world would have also been intolerable.

Or do you disagree? If Florida in the 1780s had been a Hanafi state with an established religion that taught Islam as it is taught in Cairo, or if it had been a Hanbali state with an established religion that taught Islam as it is taught in Saudi Arabia, what would the founders have made of that?


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I cannot see how anyone can think the Founders would agree to what we see resulting from Islamic politicalization.

The Founders wanted a free society and one based on "faith" yes, but that faith was undefined as to politics/ the real world. They understood the values of social structures that form societal values. But, they did not think that using such faith to co-erce others to believe in a certain way or to define how their political lives should look would be conducive to liberty "at large". So, while they knew that liberty was "risky", they took that risk, knowing that otherwise, the leaders would become an oligarchy. They certainly did not believe this.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky suggested my reading Federalist #10, which I did.
Factions were a source of dividing the nation and would render liberty at odds with "special intersts". The smaller the faction, the more likely an empowered group or person would gain power.

The argument about what to do with factions was to address the effects, as addressing the cause, the faction itself, would inhibit liberty.

There was always as concern for the minority or unrepresented position, as this is what justice desires.

Unity or "the Union" was what was of ultimate concern for the Founders. And some thought that the Civil War was what brought about the second revolution toward enlarging "justice". Today, it is matter of whether one believes that one can enlarge "justice" to incorporate factions that would undermine liberty...How can we limit such political power in religous sects that don't believe in liberty, or the individual's right? How do we address such "effects"...isn't this what the "war on terro" is attempting to do?

Are nations to be consdiered "factions" to the "U.N."? What do we do with corruption, those nations that aren't 'free", etc.? Won't a similar vested interests determine what "the world's" 'outcome" "should" be"? If it is science, then, what aspect of scienctific inquiry, or finding will drive the political machine world-wide?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

those that were working for "peace" with the U.N. died under the hands of religious people because of a burning of the Koran in a private home! Is that liberty? Or is it the religious "mirror" of Statism?

James Hanley said...


You hit the nail on the head when you speak about the different ways of using the term Islam, but seem to take the wrong lesson from it--that there is a "real" Islam and a "fantasy" Islam. The "real" Islam is the collection of different threads that we variously refer to with the same term.

Why isn't "real" Islam the Trinidadian girl I used to work with who wore jeans and sweat shirts, left her hair uncovered, and insisted that the hijab and all that jazz was just a cultural element grafted onto Islam by one cultural region? It is, just as much as is the Islam of the Taliban.

It's a systemic error of analysis to try to define (whether from the inside or the outside) which of the threads is "real" Islam.

I know analogies to Christianity get old, but which thread of Christianity is "real" Christianity? The one that insists the Pope is God's direct representative on Earth or that which sees the Pope as an antichrist? That which thinks women must wear long dresses and not cut their hair, and would stone homosexuals, or that which says women are equal in all ways and that active homosexuals can enter into the kingdom of heaven?

What is "real" conservatism? The old Southern Democrats, the western libertarianish Republicans, the Moral Majority, or the Chamber of Commerce Republicans?

So I think your question about the Founders is ill-formed. Would they have tolerated in Florida what we would today call an Islamist state? For purposes of national security, quite likely they wouldn't have. Would that have led them to change their tune about allowing mosques in the U.S.? Some certainly would have, others certainly would have not. But it would be false to suggest that such a state suddenly brought them face to face with "real," as opposed to "fantasy" Islam.

Tom Van Dyke said...

So nice to hear from Dr. Hanley.

One can make a meaningful attempt to describe [albeit not define] a normative Islam---not via the Quran, but Islam as practiced socio-politically by its adherents today.

I'm not in the mood to do a full abstract and neither do I expect my friends in the social science academy to ask such questions


[feel free pleasantly surprise me]

...but what percentage of the world's Muslims live in regimes the explicitly acknowledge sharia?

22 countries have criminal penalties for blasphemy:

Pakistan is currently killing politicians who favor repeal of blasphemy laws; Turkey is becoming less secular

In majority-Muslim Indonesia,

The poll of 8,000 people in the world's most populous Muslim country, home to 200 million Muslims, found that 52 per cent favoured some form of Islamic legal code, such as religious arbitration in family disputes.
Asked if women should be made to wear a head scarf 45 per cent said yes, while 40 per cent favoured chopping off the hands of thieves.

In Malaysia, there are Muslim ecclesiastical courts

and of course, there's a push by Muslim minorities in the West for a parallel ecclesiastical system.

And these are just the Islamic democracies.

It should be noted here we've touched on these parallel systems before: European Christendom also had parallel civil and ecclesiastical courts, the latter taking family matters but also sexual matters as well as disputes like tenant-landlord.

The Puritans [and America thereafter] dumped the parallel systems, in large part because the ecclesiastical courts were associated with the Roman Church and/or the Church of England.

The question in the 21st century is whither Islam?, which way will they go? In Egypt, Tunisia and likely other countries soon, this issue will be sorted, since they'll all need new constitutions. I suppose we'll have an even better idea of a "normative" Islam when the dust settles.

As for a "normative" Christianity, yes, I think we could say intelligible things about how it's practiced worldwide; although certainly Africa has some troublesome socio-political variants, in the former "Christendom," it's quite mellow and dare we say "secular," "tolerance" being an expanding normativity from Locke to the quite Calvinist Samuel Adams in his "Rights of the Colonists" of 1772.

"And it is now generally agreed among Christians that this spirit of toleration, in the fullest extent consistent with the being of civil society, is the chief characteristical mark of the Church. Insomuch that Mr. Locke has asserted and proved, beyond the possibility of contradiction on any solid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to all whose doctrines are not subversive of society. The only sects which he thinks ought to be, and which by all wise laws are excluded from such toleration, are those who teach doctrines subversive of the civil government under which they live."

Hmmm. Bingo on that, Mr. Adams, and apt in the present discussion and crisis. America's religious pluralism has so far done a better job than Europe's strict secularism, as we see in the headlines.


Tom Van Dyke said...


[It's only Wiki, so not definitive, but probably somewhat accurate and helpful:

Nations that include some level of Sharia (leniant sentences for honour killings, ban on new churches, floggings, etc):

1. Indonesia (Flogging, Caning; Sharia applied strictly in Aceh province)
2. Turkey (Restrictions on alcohol)
3. Brunei (Caning, Alcohol is illegal)
4. Jordan (2 years or less for honour killings)
5. Eritrea (Girls as young as 8 can be married, spousal rape is not recognized)
6. Syria (1 year or less for honour killings)
7. Djibouti (Sharia law regarding divorce)
8. Chechnya (Modest dress enforced, Alcohol and gambling suppressed by local authorities)
9. Niger (girls can be married off before they reach puberty)
10. Nigeria (Sharia is enforced in the northern states)
11. Kenya (Ad Hoc Sharia enforced in the east near the border with Somalia)
12. Gambia (Sharia courts decide all family matters, including for non-Muslims)
13. Qatar (public consumption is illegal during Ramadan, Alcohol heavily restricted, blood money acceptable punishment for murder, "kafala" law which is also shared by all Gulf states but Bahrain is technically slavery)

Read more:

Jonathan Rowe said...

Why isn't "real" Islam the Trinidadian girl I used to work with who wore jeans and sweat shirts, left her hair uncovered, and insisted that the hijab and all that jazz was just a cultural element grafted onto Islam by one cultural region? It is, just as much as is the Islam of the Taliban.

Perhaps I'm letting the cat out of the bag, but I'd like to think "real Islam" is that of Irshad Manji, the lesbian feminist Muslim.

But, I respect my more traditionalist Muslim friends NOT to expect them to accept this. However, I DO believe they can respect her rights, however wrong they think she is, to express herself at to peacefully dialog with her.

Imago Dei and whatever logical conclusions derive therefrom is just as applicable to Islam as it is to Judaism and Christianity.

Tom Van Dyke said...

However, I DO believe they can respect her rights, however wrong they think she is, to express herself at to peacefully dialog with her.

Imago Dei and whatever logical conclusions derive therefrom is just as applicable to Islam as it is to Judaism and Christianity.

Oh, I'd like to see you make that case from the Muslim POV. [I don't see even liberal Muslim thinkers attempt that much.]

Otherwise, you're placing a modern Western secular happy face on Islam and ignoring its actual content, sort of what Kristo argues the FFs did in their generic references to Mohametism. [And I agree.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

Its__Actual__Content__as in a monolithic sense. I want this discussion to continue to unfold but I don't have time currently to jump down the rabbit hole. I think I may have more time to get into this more in depth this summer.

But we can quote verses and chapter of scripture about stoning this or that person or group that are as bad as anything Islam currently does; but somehow Christianity or Judaism gets a philosophical excuse that Islam is not entitled to.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Not atall, Jon. In fact it's my custom---as I have done here---do explicitly argue against pulling quotes from the various religions' scriptures, and examine only what can be said socio-politically about how they are practiced normatively.

For instance, the Biblical prescription in Leviticus to put to death those who participate in homosexual acts is well-known; what's not as well known is that there's no historical evidence that the Jews, in normative practice, ever carried it out.

Unlike in the Islamic world. In the 21st century.

I resist and object to trying to make the "What is Islam" question disappear by abstracting it to mootness. We can indeed make an attempt to describe Islam normatively, what tends to be the rule and not the exception.

As for LGBT
issues in the Islamic world, I'm asking you to argue for "gay rights" within an Islamic context, not a Western one.

There are very few who do, and even for Americans, it's dangerous.

The Al-Fatiha Foundation is an organization which advances the cause of gay, lesbian, and transgender Muslims. It was founded in 1998 by Faisal Alam, a Pakistani American, and is registered as a nonprofit organization in the United States. The organization was an out shoot of an internet listserve that brought together many gay, lesbian and questioning Muslims from various countries.[50] The Foundation accepts and considers homosexuality as natural, either regarding Qur'anic verses as obsolete in the context of modern society, or pointing out that the Qu'ran speaks out against homosexual lust, and is silent on homosexual love. In 2001, Al-Muhajiroun, a banned and now defunct international organization who sought the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate, issued a fatwa declaring that all members of Al-Fatiha were murtadd, or apostates, and condemning them to death. Because of the threat and coming from conservative societies, many members of the foundation's site still prefer to be anonymous so as to protect their identity while continuing a tradition of secrecy.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm not sure I buy it, but here's a li'l something for Jon and James to hang their hats on:

Tom Van Dyke said...


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Nice sociological assessment...I am not sure what the "answer" is, and I think there is much debate about what is going to "do the job" to control or maintain the effects of radical Islam. But, it is no different in Christian fundamentalism, either.

I have seen a "call for a new theological framing", the 'Human" instead of "God" framing, where the social sciences can help inform the theological task that might speak to such religious zealots.

I have seen the history of tradition think that one can appeal to the "Golden Rule" to from a coalition among the traditions.

I have seen thsoe that believe there needs to be education of the youth to prevent such radicalization and give them real opportunities in the real world.

I have seen evangelicals call for revival and a return to the "true God"....

I've seen a secular call to reform and educate evangelicals as to the liberal Judiasm, and it humanitarian goals.

I have seen myth useful to form or frame motivations to "reach" Muslims in Incarnational theology...

There are so many and so numerous it confounds the mind. What is to help? I don't know, but in the meantime our society is suffering an identity crsis at the hands of those that don't like America, or Israel. One can think that it is wrong to believe in myth but all cultures do. Those that wasnt equalization of the playing field are not playing by the rules, but want to subvert our society and its values, sabatoging our way of life, as evil.

I really don't know what the answer is, and I don't think Washington does either. We are going bankrupt and our country is struggling within, as to who is to define our culture wars. I fear for our future, because we are so wrought with problems.

bpabbott said...


The correlation between economic development and fertility rates is well documented. For example, see the well referenced wiki articles on the Demographic-economic paradox and Fertility-development controversy.

A couple personal caveats ... While it is clear that many religions encourage fertility, it is not clear to me how successful they are, nor do I find cause to conclude religion is antagonistic toward economic development.

In any event, my expectation/hope is that economic development will lead to more civil societies and that most societies will abandon those cultural elements that impede economic development (blasphemy laws, honor killings, sharia/ecclesiastical courts, etc).

Essentially my expectation is that (in the long run) people are generally rational, and will choose alternatives that offer improvement to their lives.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

You have a lot of hope that I personally don't think is grounded in reality, as to the hold that religious cultures hold over the minds and hearts of those under their influence.

Maybe you would be interested in a book written by a woman who dealt with those in cults. Her work shows how hard it is to de-program such people, and even with their consent, much less it will occur without their consent.

The whole problem of cultish thinking is that it is irrational! The very irrationality sometimes affirms the validity of it! believe me, as I know from what i have experienced personally and with others as well as what I have read.

I have mentioned Aayan Hirshi Ali, a Somalian woman that escpaed Somalia and an arranged marriage. She describes how hard it was for her to break free, even with her strong determination and education! Her sister who came with her to the West, left to go back to her comfort zone.

Neuroscience has shown that conservative religious types have anxiety about leaving their faith/understanding. This is more than just their learning, as it becomes internalized into who they are, their very being or personhood/identity.

So, I doubt that the "Enlgithenment project" will hold much hope of changing such a culture.

bpabbott said...

Angie, I'm a bit confused. As I've formed my opinion based upon evidence, why is it you think it isn't grounded in reality?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

When one is viewing such radical faith, one cannot assess it with our realities, as these formulations are not their context or undestanding. Sociological theory says that humans act as rational animals, but that is not always the case, especially for those that have been conditioned to another way of life and values.

The "personal" aspect of such a culture is what I am speaking of, as it is a "collectivist/tribal society. Trade has been suggested as a means of transforming such a society.

Bifucation of life is a devaluing of the material/natural life in the here and now for another life, either one yet to be in the here and now, through spiritual performance, or the "sweet by and by". Such a view is what deforms the ability to even talk in real world terms, economic, social or otherwise.

bpabbott said...

Angie, I've come to my opinion by examining historic changes to the western word, the middle east, and the far east.

The data I focus on is birth rates, GPD per capita, life expectancy, and others. A google will provide many sites that offer such info. One that provides a lot of information is here (most info is from the IMF or World Bank).

I'm not claiming that all individuals are rational, or that all societies at all points in time are rational. But the history of the west, the middle east, and the far east are all consistent with societies being rational of the long run (albeit some more than others).

Tom Van Dyke said...


I'm tentatively OK with your and Philip Jenkins' analysis.

However, I have strong reservations that when it comes to religion, one size fits all. That would be the secularist's method, that religion is religion and content doesn't matter.

If there's one hard-core religion in man's history that normatively and historically defies getting put into the "religion" box, it's Islam.

I make this argument because Islam---via al-Ghazali---rejected philosophy, Greek philosophy nearly 1000 years ago in favor of fideism.

The modernist, the historicist, maintains that religion and revelation is more a passing phase in man's history to be "progressed" past than "belief" is an elemental part of man's nature. [Let alone that God, revelation, Providence or natural law are actually real things. But we don't discuss truth claims hereabouts.]

Christianity and "Christendom" have largely bit the dust in any formal sense in the Western world. Islam, not so much in the Muslim world and not even as it enters into the Western world. If you're up on fideism, I think you'll agree that if religion is the cockroach of history, Islam will be the one that sustains. It is fideism incarnate.

I think Jenkins, et al., try to apply the history of the Western world [Christianity and Greek philosophy] to the Muslim world which rejects not only Judeo-Christianity but Greek philosophy as well, ever since Ghazali's Tahafut al - Falasifah (The Incoherence Of Philosophers).

Aquinas' guiding light, the Aristotelian/Muslim Ibn Rushd---Latinized to Averroƫs---tried to answer Ghazali with the cleverly-named "The Incoherence of the Incoherence."

But it didn't take. Ghazali won the Muslim world, and Ibn Rushd and Aristotle went on to take the Christian world. [And not in small part due to Aquinas.]

It's a fascinating story, Ben. True, too.

bpabbott said...

I think that faith over reason is a good (best?) representation of where religion goes bad.

For me, this is the greatest tyranny of authority (the individual surrenders his mind to a human authority claiming to an agent for God).

I have friends/colleagues from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Afganistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and one working in Saudi Arabia.

In part, due to the stories I've heard on economic and social progress confirm (for me) that the religious authority is loosing its grip.

I hope we'll see at least one nation make a dramatic shift and bring democracy and free-enterprise to North Africa.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm withya on that, Ben. But my own studies make me not optimistic---Turkey, that bastion of Muslim Westernism, is backsliding.

bpabbott said...

The Turks, I neglected to mention I have many friends from Turkey as well. There are a great many who have immigrated from their home land to Europe and the US.

Perhaps too many?

Daniel said...

Ghazali was tremendously influential, but did not entirely defeat the Aristotilian approach. Shari'a is not simply a handed-down-from-heaven compilation of rules. It is derived using Aristotilian approaches. The Ayatollah Khomeini was one of the foremost living Aristotilian scholars of his time because Islamic scholarship is rationalistic in the tradition of Aristotle.

Problem is, Aristotle and revelation are sometimes in tension. The brilliance of the Thomist tradition is in its ability to harmonize reason and revelation. In Islam, it is more clear that (as Jon puts it) revelation trumps reason. In a sense, it is similar to Calvinist Scholasticism, where rationalist methods were used not to derive first principles but to help derive meaning and application from the Biblical first principles. The method is Scholastic but not really Thomist.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Very nice, Daniel. I shall give it some thought.

In Muslim tradition---and I'm not sure if Ghazali's victory over Averroƫs wasn't total---Aristotle was called the "First Teacher." Aquinas followed by calling him "The Philosopher," as though the only one of primacy.

I must admit I'm not up on my

on which I believe Brother Kristo is quite conversant.

On the other hand, the Muslim world was where it was at until it exiled the "falisifas," and Christendom started running on all cylinders when it rediscovered them.

Jason Pappas said...

Daniel, I find that hard to believe. Let me reach for my copy of Majid’s Fakhry’s “Averroes: His Life, Works, and Influence.” If Islam has a strong Aristotle influence it must also have a strongly influenced by Averroes. As I re-read the book I see page after page of Jewish and Christian scholars who were influenced by Averroes. But where are the Islamic scholars? Wait, wait, ... here it is (page 168). “In the Arab World, Farah Antun published in 1903 a book ...” That’s about it.

Averroes is a key figure in Aristotelean history. He corrected previous Arab/Persian philosophers who mistakenly lumped a neo-Platonic work with the Aristotle’s corpus. Sadly, even Averroes didn’t have important Greco-Roman works on social philosophy. Neither Aristotle’s Politics nor Cicero’s politico-ethical works were known. Arab/Persian scholars got their political theory from Plato’s Republic and Laws. Perhaps that’s why Shar’ia Law looks like it could have been lifted from Plato’s Laws!

You are still right, Daniel, in one respect. Al Ghazali used classical philosophical analysis ... to attack philosophy! The method is rationalist but the purpose is to destroy and discredit reason. Perhaps he should be credited with inventing post-modern philosophy.

James Hanley said...

I previously tried posting this reply to Mr. Van Dyke, but it apparently disappeared into the ether, so let's try again.

One can make a meaningful attempt to describe [albeit not define] a normative Islam---not via the Quran, but Islam as practiced socio-politically by its adherents today.

This doesn't get you to a single "true" Islam, either. "ISlam as practiced socio-politically by its adherents today" has innumerable variations. The question about my Trinidadian friend, whose socio-political practice of Islam is so at odds with those of the fundamentalists, still stands. Mr. Van Dyke's argument about socio-political practices reinforces, rather than undermines, my argument. At least for anyone who's willing to take an honest look at the diversity among actual Muslims rather than just dishonestly cherry-pick the examples that fit their preconceived impressions.

...but what percentage of the world's Muslims live in regimes the explicitly acknowledge sharia?

A wholly irrelevant question, because the percentage who live within those regimes tells us nothing about how many actually support those regimes. It's a terrible proxy measure.

The poll of 8,000 people in the world's most populous Muslim country, home to 200 million Muslims, found that 52 per cent favoured some form of Islamic legal code, such as religious arbitration in family disputes.

So 48% didn't favor any kind of Islamic legal code--nearly half. And if we move to something more substantively harmful than religious arbitration in family disputes (I know lots of Christians in the U.S. who think that's a good way to approach things), we can predict that the percentage falls. So what Mr. Van Dyke seems to suggest is "real" Islam is something supported by at best half the population of one particular Islamic country?

Asked if women should be made to wear a head scarf 45 per cent said yes

And 55%, a majority, said no. So what percentage does it take to make "real" Islam? Whatever minority percentage you find convenient for the moment?

while 40 per cent favoured chopping off the hands of thieves.

While a clear majority of 60%, thank god, were not barbaric fools.

The numbers are, we can agree, depressing. But they say nothing at all about what constitutes "real" Islam. They're just thrown out there with no real context, no analysis, and consequently, no actual bearing on the question.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Dr. Hanley, write a defense of LGBT rights for your Islamic think tank and get back to me.

Of course there are norms, just as there are exceptions to every norm.

Jason Pappas said...

Why can't we just answer James' question--"I know analogies to Christianity get old, but which thread of Christianity is "real" Christianity?"--in the obvious manner:

The "real" Christianity is the one in the New Testament. The "real" Islam is the one in the Koran and Hadiths. The "real" Marxism is the one in Marx's books. One only has to understand those texts. Seems simple to me! Why not?

Daniel said...

I don't know of any real influence of Averroes in Islamic though over the past 800 years. And, yes, in a just world, any good Aristotelian scholar should study him.

But Avicenna is studied and, unless I am mistaken, is very important within Islam. Avicenna is not as good an Aristotelian as Averroes or Aquinas in that he had no apparent hesitation about 'correcting' Aristotle. But his methods were certainly Aristotelian.

I agree with your observation about Ghazali and post-modernism, Jason. Most Aristotelian would agree that using reason alone to derive first principles is, at best, an exercise in tautology.

I am delving into territory where my knowledge is thin, so I am happy to be corrected if I am mistaken or coming to wrong conclusions.

Jason Pappas said...

Daniel, damn good for “thin!” I shelved my reading in this area as I’ve become absorbed in Anglo-American Whig history, Grotius, Locke, Sidney, etc.

Daniel said...

"Thin" is correct. In our culture, "thin" is more than most, though. BTW, a bit of rooting around leads me to say Aristotle is respected and studied within Shia Islam. Within Sunni Islam, perhaps more as Tom described Ghazali: Aristotle's methods are used, but only in a limited fashion and with no respect paid to Aristotle or to Greek philosophy. Of course, there are many schools within Sunni or Shia Islam, so I am sure any statement of that nature is a gross simplification.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The "real" Christianity is the one in the New Testament. The "real" Islam is the one in the Koran and Hadiths. The "real" Marxism is the one in Marx's books. One only has to understand those texts. Seems simple to me! Why not?

I still demur, mostly because interpretations of the various scriptures vary among their adherents. [Let alone outsiders like us! I would not presume to tell a Muslim what a Quranic passage means.]

I argue that the normative theology and practice is the only measure, esp by measured by socio-historians. As previously noted, the "real" Judaism never normatively executed its homosexuals, although the imperative is in the Book of Leviticus.

“Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” (Hadith Al Buhkari vol. 9:57)

But this is not the normative practice in the Muslim world, as noted above.

Despite the absurd box James Hanley persistently tries to hammer me into ["ALL Muslims blahblahblah, except for that girl in Trinidad"], I quite respect Islam and the Muslims who try to hold to its principles. I only question how reconcilable its normative principles are to Western-style bourgeois secular democracy.

Which is not to say "normative" principles don't or can't change either. That's where theology comes in. None of the Abrahamic religions are practiced exactly as they were in their founding days.

But I find the "liberal" Islamic theologians in this century seem to have little traction. A "moderate" is someone like Tariq Ramadan, who's not all that moderate by Western standards.

Paul Berman, to Michael Totten: The Western liberals, some of them, defend Ramadan for two reasons. If you listen to Ramadan for fifteen minutes, you will learn that he says all the right things, whatever a liberal-minded person would want such a man to say.


Unfortunately, the sixteenth minute arrives, and, if you are still paying attention, you learn that he wants us to revere the most vicious and reactionary of Islamist sheikhs -- the people who promote violence, bigotry, totalitarianism, and terror. The sixteenth minute is not good. The liberal quality of his thinking falls apart entirely.

However, his liberal admirers in the Western press stop paying attention in the fifteenth minute, and they rush to acclaim him. They do it by mistake. That's one reason.

But they are motivated also by something else. I think a lot of people without Muslim backgrounds have a hard time imagining how vast and complex and huge and finally ordinary the Muslim world is. There are a billion and a half Muslims, and they do have more than one opinion. But I think a lot of journalists and intellectuals whose experiences are mostly European or Western somehow end up imagining that the whole of Islam constitutes a single thing. They imagine that some single terrible error has occurred within Islam. And they imagine that the single terrible error is going to be undone and corrected by a single messianic figure. So they go about surveying the horizon looking for the grand good guy, the single person who is going to rescue us from the single terrible error.

On this basis, we have ended up with a lot of liberal-minded journalists who proclaim themselves to be the enemies of racism and bigotry, and who engage, even so, in the worst sort of stereotyping of a vast portion of mankind, in their enthusiastic quest for the great Muslim hope. These people hear the first fifteen minutes of Tariq Ramadan's presentation, they leap from their seats and they say, "There he is. We found him." And they rush into print to proclaim the good news.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jason, this brings to mind my riff that the Locke of the Founders is what's important, not the Locke of modern scholars.

The Founders got their Locke in bits & pieces [Trenchard & Gordon, for one], and so you see Alexander Hamilton placing Locke firmly in the Natural Law camp along with Grotius and Puffendorf, although modern scholars find Locke quite ambivalent [or equivocal] on Natural Law.

It's the Locke of the Founders' understanding, of Natural Law and in the same Thomistic tree as Richard Hooker, that is our concern. The "normative" Locke, not the "true" Locke of modern scholars.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ah, yes, Tariq Ramadan....ironically, I had bought a book by Aayan Hirshi Ali and was reading it when we travelled to Spain for a Metanexus conference. (My husband also got interested in the book). It is the story of this Somalian girl's escape from an arranged marriage and what happened to her after her Western education with Islam...she is an atheist. She worked for the Dutch Parliamant and is now assoicated with the American Enterprise Institute.

Anyway, the conference was about the science/religion intereface. We were baffled by the appearance of none other than Tariq Ramadam, who was intereviewed by a Swedisnh Anglican priest, moderated by Willim Grassie (I think I remember correctly)...We were a little taken aback by several things...body language...the fact that the U.S. had denied Tariq a visa, even though he had gotten a position at Notre Dame (I believe now that has been granted). ...and the fact that Ms Ali talked about him specifically in the book...saying he is the grandson of the Founding Father of the Muslim Brotherhood.

I have been following on ocassion Gert Wilders and Pamela Geller's news about Islam...I don't think that we can understand such a culture, unless we have experienced a fundamenatlism so radical that it is intrusive into the very being of Personhood, does wonder what neuroscience will find out about our cultural environment and its impact upon the brain...and how that conditions the mind.

Ms. Ali shares about how difficult it was for her to come out of Islamic thinking, being...and that was with a concerted effort and rejection of such a faith. Her sister went back into one wonders how that is to be understood when Western ideals leave room and openness to religious conscience, but we dont' value religious domination over all of our cultural values...

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Angie, I'm usually the only defender of the Christian fundies around here, too. I think the closest "normative" Islam could come to Westernity in our lifetimes is something like the fundies, and I think even that's a stretch.

But that would be pretty good.

I don't think that we can understand such a culture, unless we have experienced a fundamenatlism so radical that it is intrusive into the very being of Personhood

Well, that certainly explains why you're always sounding the alarm on Islam.

I don't think secularists can understand it atall, which is why they're so far off the mark, treating Islam like some sort of Kiwanis Club that happens to pray 5 times daily.

But there's something about praying 5 times a day that separates a religion from the Kiwanis Club.

Me, I'm not a fundie and have never been one. Perhaps growing up in the Roman Church has given me some understanding of the mindset, because although normative American Catholicism isn't fideistic, there is a hard-core who are, the ones going to daily mass and taking communion, etc. Not too different from praying 5 times a day.

I'm not alarmed much at Islam in America: I think most who came here fled the fideism, and have come to terms with our secular democracy much as the fundies have. [They stomached Roe v. Wade, and their opposition has been limited to seeking political change to reflect their values. The charges of Theocracy! during the Dubya years were BS.]

Europe is another story. There is unquestionably a strong current of Muslims who want an Islamic society-within-a-society. They didn't flee Islamic fideism as much as the political dysfunction and poverty in the Muslim world.

As for Aayan Hirsi Ali, as a self-professed apostate, she is dead in the eyes of the Muslim world: she cannot speak for it, she cannot speak to it, anymore than Chris Hitchens can speak to Christianity. There's really no point in mentioning her, and it's questionable that her experiences in Somalia---the fourth-world butthole of not just the Muslim world but the entire world---tells us much that's useful about Islam normatively or otherwise.

[Except that normative Islam should be a little more revolted by it than they seem to be...]

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am not arguing for Christian fundies, they are the bane of our society, and many have suffered under their hands, with their "good intentions".

As to Islam, you just stated you did not know how compatible Islam was/is to Western boureogsie society. This is what was the understood premise of my last post.

Do you and others here on theis blog have some reason to promote Islamic "understanding"? As everyone seems to be defending Islam....I would rather believe those that have been pawns of such a society, not the leadership. It is not compatible to American liberal ideals.

Pietism is usually practiced by those that "fear" a "real God". And such 'fear of God' makes one do crazy things, and expect certain things from others as well. These are not convinced that 'God' doesn't exist, they truly believe that he does...and that heaven and hell are real places! Catholicism is no different? All of the talk about "God" is useless and brings about contentions that can't be proved, or disproved. As the blog has stated before, religous ideology was to be kept to a minimum in creating the Union. But, Islam thinks of itself and its faith as interchangeable...that isn't leaving one's faith to conscience!!!

bpabbott said...

Re: " Do you and others here on theis blog have some reason to promote Islamic "understanding"?"

I don't mean to speak for Tom, but I'd like to think the blog (we) try promote understanding, in general. Regarding Islam, a proper understanding requires a proper context.

I agree with Tom that "Islam" depends upon the context of the individual, and that the context of Muslims who desire/prefer living in the US is quite different than that of those who desire/prefer living under Sharia law.

(Tom, pls correct me if I've read you incorrectly)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, Angie, you're putting me in a position where I have to defend religion, fundies, Muslims, burning Servetus and jailing Galileo and Godknowswhatelse.

Brother James must be chortling right now, but it should really make him red-faced.

Until you/I/we recognize what freedom of religious conscience really means, and tolerance and pluralism and all that stuff, we don't even understand the Founders, let alone the Muslims.

This isn't to say anyone of any religion should be entitled to live outside the law. Christianity has returned to Romans 13 in that way; religious folk have largely swallowed Roe v. Wade, except to protest it and hope to change it. The American constitutional order is, by the Roman church's and the Calvinist ones too, a justly constituted order.

Islam has a Romans 13, sort of. IIRC correctly, the Quran says if you accept the protection of a non-Islamic state, you must leave it first before returning to make war upon it.

Islam has its ethics, and they are rigid and they are principled. We do it a disservice---and a disservice to ourselves---to not listen to it as it understands itself.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

So, you choose not to believe Ms. Ali's assertion that the Islamic ideal is to infilterate the West through religious tolerance, and then promote a change to law to gain power to practice Islam under Sharira...

My husband's bro-in=law was a principal in a local Christian school in the Netherlands, that under tolerance allowed Muslims to attend. Then, the manevuering began. Is he mistaken, too?

And the fact that Islam has caused so many difficulties in Europe should forewarn us. But, has it?

As many asked Tariq during the conference, why is there no tolerance to other religions in Islamic states?

Terror is a means to manipulate others to do what you want. Is this how we want to live our lives? without the 'rule of law" that protects liberty of conscience?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ben, thx. You get me fine. Understanding is all we're here for. We're not here to change the world. Well, we are in our small way, but via clarity and understanding, not as prophets.

The world has had plenty enough supply of prophets, good, bad, and evil. Rarer still are those who can figger out what the hell they were talking about.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

" who can figger out what the hell they were talking about." EXACTLY. this is what makes fundamentalists/evangelicals so dangerous, because they think they know everything they "need to know" to live a "godly life" and what they want the world to look like is contained inside their head..without their even knowing it!!

Jason Pappas said...

I don’t buy this “understanding” stuff in the sense of a “sympathetic understanding.” Nor do I buy the idea that we don’t have views about the “true” Christianity. I don’t have to go back very far to find examples. As a child, my wife learned from the nuns that Lutherans were heretics that would burn in hell. It was only in 1983 that the Missouri Synod officially repudiated Luther’s anti-Semitism.

I continue to see conservative Christians hint or explicitly express the view that liberal Christians aren’t true Christians. And I’ve seen liberal Christians mock the notion that conservative Christians follow the example of Jesus. We are divided as ever. Unlike the Foundering, where the country could unite on natural rights, the current state is one of deep division and religion is part of that division. People are different and they have strong feelings about those differences. We can "cognitively" understand those differences but and "empathetic understanding" is utopian. Don't you think?

bpabbott said...

Re: "So, you choose not to believe Ms. Ali's assertion that the Islamic ideal is to infilterate the West through religious tolerance, and then promote a change to law to gain power to practice Islam under Sharira..."

I don't find Ms Ali's position to be so simple. I agree that such a perspective is consistent with her experience, and it is obvious that some Muslims do embrace such activity. However, it improper to extrapolate specific examples to reach general conclusions about Islam as a whole (note: I'm with Tom regarding normative Islam).

My thought is that the lives of many Muslims lack the opportunities afforded to those living in a free-enterprise social/economic society. And that such lives become disproportionately dominated by religious activity.

I expect western influence (free-enterprise) will be a positive force for Muslim societies. I expect to see (1) Muslim populations continue to be imported into free-enterprise societies, and (2) the export of free-enterprise to muslim populations to accelerate.

I also expect the near term growth of free-enterprise in the Muslim world to rely heavily upon how the social/economic revolts in Africa play out.

As free-enterprise grows, and the Muslim world becomes more affluent, its societies will invest more money and resources into securing their economic gains. I expect this will be the means which brings terrorism to an end.

bpabbott said...


Regarding the danger of fundamentalists / evangelicals, I'm of the opinion the problem comes when individuals allow religion to become corrupted by materialism. But my take is very different than that of the fundamentalist / evangelical crowd.

For example, those who desire the 10 Commandments to be part of the civil code. Or those who wish the government to actively support Christianity and to actively suppress other faiths.

I see these as religiously inspired material goals with no material value. Ignoring prideful effect on ego, I don't see a spiritual value either (admittedly a wolf in sheep's clothing).

Angie Van De Merwe said...

People have given to the nations out of humanitarian compassion. But, still, without proper government AND the desire on the part of those in leadership to public service, then there is no hope, no matter how much we try to "evangelize free enterprise". The same goes for our own country. Those in power do not seem to care about the middle class, and that is a sign of the demise of a free society.

I am sorry to be so adamant about fundies and evangelicals, but what they believe to be scriptural is what they think everyone should believe. There is nothging wrong per se about "following Jesus" if that is what you deem to be important, but don't transport it as if it were a universal truth for everyone. And it is because they believe in inerrancy of a text, without understanding it fuller contextual/historical "coming of age"....

Sentimentality has gotten us into messes becasue rhertoric is useful for manipulating emotions. Rational principles are about what one personally understands as their interests, goal or focus in life. This protects from Utopian/Ideology and makes for the context of following one's own consceince regarding one's life. Whether Marxist/Liberation theology or Piestic/Devotional theology, both are attempts at a universalization of life and all that is. One makes for equality of mankind under political auspices, while the other makes equality dependent on one's "personal relationship" and behavior...

The Founders gave room for conscience regarding "faith", and understood that without character, we would war with one another over the working out of faith and values. This happened in our Civil War over the text and social contexts. One side believed that the slave should be freed, while the other side felt that they had a deserved right to maintain their slaves for the viability of their States. I really don't see much difference today, in what is happening in our poitical climate!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

One cannot judge another by how much they have or don't is an American value that we protect private property, because the Founders understood that without private property, there would be a devaluation of liberty. Private property is incentive to work and make a living, knowing that what one's labor produces also increases prosperity for oneself. But, our society has gotten to the point where we are sentimentalists about "the poor", without thinking through our actions. Do we enable behavior that is unhealthy for our society in doing so? I think so. What should be our stance toward the poor. Certainly, we should be concerned about their ability to "make a living". Entitlements have gotten us nowhere, and have undermined our nation's work ethic.'

On the other hands, those that are in the higher escaleons of social status believe in the value of work, but do so at the costs to the family, esp, the children. This undermines our nation's foundation of stable homes for children to grow to maturity!

James Hanley said...

@Tom Van Dyke,

Dr. Hanley, write a defense of LGBT rights for your Islamic think tank and get back to me.

Boy you sure walked into that one! They totally agreed to let me write one, I just never finished it when I got really busy last year and took over a year to finish the policy brief Jon and I were working on. I may or may not ever get back to it, but, oh, yeah, they agreed to it. And it was my friend Muqtedar Kahn who encouraged me to write it.

Of course there are norms, just as there are exceptions to every norm.

Which conveniently avoids two questions. First, the question of what percentage is necessary to determine what is a norm--if half and more doesn't constitute a norm, what does, Mr. Van Dyke. Second, it avoids the question of whether a norm is equivalent to "the real." It's the norm in the U.S. for people to think we're superior to other countries--does that mean those who don't think so aren't "real" Americans? It's the norm among American evangelical Christians to think that homosexuality is a sin--does that mean those who don't aren't "real" Christians?

You seem very determined to insist that there is some "real" Islam, and that you know what it is, but you haven't presented any argument that's not based on mere presumptions.

James Hanley said...

Despite the absurd box James Hanley persistently tries to hammer me into

Mr. Van Dyke, You claimed there was a "real" (or "true," or some restrictive word like that) Islam. You created the box for yourself, so stop dishonestly pretending I had something to do with making it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Dr. Hanley, your friend Jonathan Rowe suggests Irshad Manji's is the "real" Islam. This seems arguable.

I don't believe I used the term "real Islam, so you are indeed constructing a box for me.

I am anxious to see your Islamic gay rights paper and what becomes of it.

As for your lengthy objections above, I used Indonesia precisely because it's non-Arab, democratic, and presumably the most "liberal" exc for Turkey. With that as a normative bookend, and that it's roughly 40-50% hardcore suggests certain conclusions about where the center, or "norm" lies in the Muslim world. In other words, more "conservative" than that.

I don't know that the norm is, but it can be searched for at least.

I have consistently said that what "true" Islam might be is a theological question, not a socio-political one. Perhaps it's Irshad Manji's, which is where your Islamic defense of gay rights would take you, I'd think. Why you, as a non-Muslim, would have any standing to comment on Islamic theology makes no sense to me, but again, I look forward to it, and esp the reaction to it.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Isn't the family structure pretty rigid? Could we say that Islamic women are discriminated against? They are not equalsls before the law, or socially? Isn't this the Islamic "norm"?

Tom Van Dyke said...

"The rights of Muslim women were given to us by Allah (SWT), who is All-Compassionate, All-Merciful, All-Just, All-Unbiased, All-Knowing and Most Wise. These rights, which were granted to women more than 1400 years ago, and were taught by the perfect example of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), were given by the one Who created us and Who alone knows what rights are best for our female natures."

"In the West, women may be doing the same job that men do, but their wages are often less. The rights of Western women in modern times were not created voluntarily, or out of kindness to the female. The modern Western woman reached her present position by force, and not through natural processes or mutual consent of Divine teachings. She had to force her way, and various circumstances aided her. Shortage of manpower during wars, pressure of economic needs and requirement of industry forced women to leave their homes to work, struggling for their livelihood, to appear equal to men. Whether all women are sincerely pleased with these circumstances, and whether they are happy and satisfied with the results, is a different matter. But the fact remains that whatever rights modern Western women have, they fall short of those of her Muslim counterpart! Islam has given woman what duties her female nature. It gives her full security and protects her against becoming what Western modern women themselves complain against: a "mere sex object."

Well, you get the idea. Judging Islam by 21st century Western-secular standards is not really up to us. Should Islam choose to do so, well, we hope it does.

But, "conservatives" argue---including women like the author here---it won't be "true" Islam anymore.

Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bpabbott said...

Tom, good answer to Angie!

I've spent a fair amount of time in Malaysia, which is a similarly liberal country as compared to its neighbor Indonesia.

Women drive, are employed, and some no longer wear the traditional head scarf. On occasion I've seen young Muslim women dressed Britney style with the hip huggers, and naval piercing. Meanwhile the glass ceiling remains firmly in place for those without a Muslim man card.

James Hanley said...

@Tom Van Dyke;

One can make a meaningful attempt to describe [albeit not define] a normative Islam-

"A," meaning a single one. The one. You did not say "one can make a meaningful attempt to describe normative Islams" plural.

You're maddening to argue with because you consistently choose fuzzy words then repeatedly run away from any application of them, without ever having the courage or intellectual integrity to explicitly state your own meaning. You argue by obscurantism, which is why I consistently accuse you of dishonesty.

Now if you want to say that we can describe "a" normative Islam, and another normative Islam, and another, and probably several more, although not one of us knows precisely how many, and that one or more of them are despicable in your eyes and mine, then we're not actually in disagreement. But I don't think that's what you were saying. You were trying to define one particular Islamic practice as the characteristic practice, and then you were trying to run away from being pinned down to that, as you always run from the implication of your own words.

Arguing with you is like fighting a tar baby.

Tom Van Dyke said...

James, since you don't speak of Islam as a reality, only as a sophistic experiment as some theoretical religion on some theoretical planet, we're not discussing anything.

I prefer to discuss with someone who has a point, not just taking potshots at mine. That's sophism.


Ben, I did a bit of work on Malaysia and Indonesia last night. Malaysia holds itself as "liberal" Islam in a number of pieces i ran across.

From the "left", Zainah Anwar, founder of Sisters-in-Islam:

The rise of political Islam in Malaysia in the 1980s where a return to “authentic” Islam means Muslim women must be treated as inferior to men, and demands for equality and justice for women were regarded as alien western values, drove me to open the Quran and to search for answers to what it means to be Muslim and feminist.

Another co-founder, Askiah Adam, started a blog which read:

There is an urgent need to place Islam squarely into the modern context. This site is surely one of many separate endeavours towards this end. The imperative here is to establish a Muslim normative that flows with progress and is at peace with itself. Objective: to create dialogue and to NOT condemn.

I wasn't shopping Google for "normative." It was just there. And I'm getting at something no different than the Sisters-in-Islam are. [They're quite devout in their Islam, BTW, not wishy-washy like some "cafeteria Christians."]


As for Indonesia, another Westernized, liberal bastion in the Muslim world, they've returned sharia courts to some heavily Muslim areas.

Fortunately, it's in dispute:

We shall see.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It seems to me that religious groups define themselves in certain ways that are normative, as this is how they frame their self-understanding.

Individuals within the group are defined by the "group's definition", so it disallows irregularites.

In a Constitutional govenment, such as ours, we allow for diverse groups to maintain their "standards", while granting the individual a separate identity, if they so choose. Our government values the individual within society, meaning that individual are free to choose their preferred associations. There are no "religious requirements to being a citizen, or being treated as one.

Religious framing of identity is monistic, whereas, the social sciences understand that there are many dimensions to the "person", than apirituality. The neurosciences are understanding more and more what makes for "the human".

So, Islam's framing of identity is Islam, in whatever context Islam is found..."A enemy of my enemy is my friend".

"Self" is defined by it reference to 'the other'. Identity is a negative, instead of a positive. It is how "God" is percieved and then reflected in the political realm...

Our understanding of Constitutional government and human rights undermine these basic premises of value, in definition of "God", in definition of "self", and in definition of government, itself!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

There NO solution to an ideal such as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", it is illogical and is ONLY loyal to those it deems as ENEMIES OF EVERYONE THAT THEY DEEM TO BE THEIR ENEMY!!! ISN'T THIS POLITICAL DOMINATION THROUGH SUBVERTING EVERYTHING EXCEPT ISLAM??? ISN'T THIS AN IDEOLOGY THAT WILL NOT BEND BECAUSE IT WANTS CONTROL!! IN ALL AREAS OF LIFE....POLITICAL, SOCIAL/MORAL!!! We cannot compromise with Islam, because they WILL NOT compromise thier religious commitments, though they are diverse in thier expressions.

Pluralism isn't allowed, because "God" is the all consuming....and holy. Islam, is not the only fundamentalist, or exclusivist view of religion. In other words, you can't come to the negotiating table when there is only one view about "God" and his claims upon life! This is not based on liberty of conscience, no, not at all!!!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ms. Van De Merwe, your personal value judgments and CAPITAL LETTERS are inappropriate on this blog. This isn't Jihad Watch.

You're also inaccurate: that there's to be "no compulsion in religion" is explicitly in the Qur'an and has been normative Islamic theology and practice from the first, far longer than it has been in Christianity and Christendom.

But there's an accuracy and a discussion point in Islam presenting itself as a comprehensive theology/social politics.

In "liberal" Malaysia, only Muslims are held to sharia and/or Islamic law. And so, from another Sister-in-Islam:

The irony is not lost: how can non-Muslim women have more rights than their Muslim counterparts in this country?

We need to understand Islam as it understands itself to discuss it normatively. In other words, Muslim sources whenever possible.

[By looking at the most liberal societies where Islamic theology is put into practice---Malaysia and Indonesia for example---I think we're being quite charitable, if not downright sympathetic.]

In fact polygamy---normative in Islam and Islamic countries---is a fine place to start. Even in Turkey, we're it's been illegal since 1926, a recent gov't official is quite bold about his 3 wives and will add a 4th. [Four is the limit.]

Now, in Islamic theology, the first wife has to approve. But this fellow in Turkey doesn't care, and Sister-in-Islam's complaint is that the Malaysian sharia courts don't care either.

In fact, in "liberal" Malaysia, women's marital rights seem to have backslided substantially.

[A pal of mine was going to marry a Muslim gal, who wanted to keep an Islamic household. He asked me what I thought, and I said sure, as long as she lets you take another 3 wives.

I lost track of him soon thereafter. I'd love to know how it all came out.]

And so, as a "new" Egypt [pop: 83 million] is poised to take shape, the whole world is watching. "Normative" is definitely up for grabs.

See also

Tom Van Dyke said...

And for accuracy's sake, let's add that polygamy has been illegal in Tunisia since 1956. The Islamic parties who will be vying to form the new gov't there say they will keep the ban.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom, I never said that there was to be no compulsion to religion, as this underwrites my argument against religious claims having political clout. Those that think they are "more holy" or 'above the law" because of "God's sanction" are to be held accountable to laws that protect equality under law. Otherwise, men do whatever they want, at the excusing of their own conscience. Civl society is broad enough to not compel in the details (the "Devil" is in the details). The Judicial branch was to be separated from the political/the people (masses'opinion) because of this very reason.

There are two distinctive issues that overlap somewhat in how we understand religion and the political. Relgious claims that are exclusive are dangerous to a civil society, because it does politicize "a" understanding of "God". And when "God" is used to defend THE stance on family, one has also undermined civil society, where diverse interests must be defended.

Civil society allows for diversity in interests, opinons, and values. Otherwise the society would not be one that allowed religious liberty (diversity) or the value of conscience.

The First Amendment separates the government from intruding into the private areas/domains of religious groups. But, the protections of individual liberties are those that are defined in the Bill of Rights which defend against intrusions into private spaces of personal value, as well.

Religious sects do not unite our culutre, or nation, as there are so many ways of defining "God", and our "moral ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

Civil soceity must be defined apart from religious societies, because religon does not speak for everyone's conscience or values. AND civil law should be the norming NORM, as it defends the liberties of women, as a group, and individual women regarding issues of marriage.

I want to come back later to read your suggested sites....

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I'd hoped you'd read them before commenting. ;-)

I'm trying to get at arm's-length here without us giving opinions about what makes the best society or "regime." Perhaps the best regime in the Muslim World is not Western-style secularism.

That's certainly the argument of even Sisters-in-Islam and "moderates" like Tariq Ramadan. We in the West must listen to them, in their own context, Islam.

Sharia courts---ecclesiastical courts---are nothing new in Abrahamic religion. Israel has them, and Christendom had them long after the Puritans left them behind in Britain in the 1600s. [Not precisely because they were undesirable, but more because of their association with the Roman and/or Anglican churches.]

Ecclesiastical courts always handled marriage, divorce, inheritance, blasphemy, adultery, drunkenness, and even property disputes.

[In fact, an irony is that among supporters of gay marriage in America, some say the gov't should get out of the marriage business and leave it to religion!]

Now, back in reality---and the link to the Turkish guy fits---what you can get in an Islamic society is polygamy practiced only religiously, and the odd wife or her children end up with no legal protections. If you don't accommodate polygamy legally, you can get even worse results.

Now it appears that Malaysian law had accommodated for that, that at least the father was responsible for his children regardless of wedlock status. But again, according to the Sisters-in-Islam, this is not being enforced.

[What happens to discarded wives is another and important problem as well.]

In the olden days, in Christendom too, the church's cultural authority enforced a lot of protections.

It's not as easy as it all looks. We must shed our 21st century heads. I don't have an opinion, but mebbe women and children were better off in the olden days, when "society" was more religious, and could come down harder on men, who are dogs, let's face it.

Certainly, this is what orthodox Muslim women are saying in defense of the Islamic system. We don't have to agree, but first we should hear them out. Many of them are scared to death of the life of a single---abandoned---mother in their countries, and for good reason. Western-style "freedom" would be a disaster for them, because there is no "safety net."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The Puritans had their ecclesiastical courts, too! These defined heresy "by the book" and many were accused of being witches and burned at stake. No different than the ex-communication of Catholicism over scientific discoveries that challenged their view of the world!

As to gay marriage, that is a good case in point of allowing the separation of the "civil" and the "religious".It allows those that would not fit in certain religious sects to have a "life" as defined by their conscience, and not another's!

I don't think 'putting our heads under domination by primitive fears, ideas, and angst does anyting of value for people. I think it is like saying that terrorism is a good thing, if we can only get our "heads around it". Terrorism does not respect any other opinion, except what is in THIER heads. And if we tolerant the intolrable, then we are undermining the basis of our liberites.

I wonder if these women and men under such oppressive regimentation have come to really and truly be individuals in their own right. Maybe heteronomous societies make for heteronomous individuals, instead of autonomous ones in Western society.

Isn't there some research to the effect that personalities tend toward heteronomy or autonomy? And how do we evaluate that in light of religious communities?

Tom Van Dyke said...

No, Angie, you missed the point about ecclesiastical courts. I was speaking historically: Christendom's were no different than Islam's. [Britain kept theirs into the 19th century.]

The "witch trials," Anne Hutchinson, etc., weren't ecclesiastical courts, they were poorly run civil ones.

What I'm trying to do is navigate a course where James asserts we can make NO normative statements about Islam [that any exceptions obviate all rules] and you talking about terrorism and Somalia as if that helps any attempt to speak of Islam as it understands itself.

I've intentionally tried to set an outer bookend of Islam at its best both theologically and in practice, in places like Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, so at least we can have one end of the bracket, where anything to its "left" isn't normative. To Islam's "left" is just your type of Western-style self-actualization talk that isn't even necessarily normative in America.


Pls read the links, Angie. Sisters-in-Islam are seeking Islamic solutions, not Western ones, to the problems in the Muslim World. In best practice, I think we'll find many or most Muslims with the belief that Islam is the best and most just system for living in this world.

I might be wrong about that, but I've been presented precious little evidence to the contrary.

In the Muslim world, on the other hand, the reputation of Shariah has undergone an extraordinary revival in recent years. A century ago, forward-looking Muslims thought of Shariah as outdated, in need of reform or maybe abandonment. Today, 66 percent of Egyptians, 60 percent of Pakistanis and 54 percent of Jordanians say that Shariah should be the only source of legislation in their countries. Islamist political parties, like those associated with the transnational Muslim Brotherhood, make the adoption of Shariah the most prominent plank in their political platforms. And the message resonates. Wherever Islamists have been allowed to run for office in Arabic-speaking countries, they have tended to win almost as many seats as the governments have let them contest. The Islamist movement in its various incarnations — from moderate to radical — is easily the fastest growing and most vital in the Muslim world; the return to Shariah is its calling card.

Only source. And here I'm just talking about sharia/ecclesiastical courts as a parallel system to the civil system, as it was in Christendom.

So just try to hang in with me here and study and discuss Islam as Muslims understand it, not via 21st century Western liberal condemnations.
Above poll data sourced from an article about the flak Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canturbury, got when discussing ecclesiastical courts.

James Hanley said...

@Mr. Van Dyke,

James, since you don't speak of Islam as a reality, only as a sophistic experiment as some theoretical religion on some theoretical planet,

Actually, Mr. Van Dyke, since I am speaking of a broader range of Islamic experience than are you, I think this criticism is more accurate if reversed. I speak of Islam as the reality experienced by those many millions whose daily understanding of Islam stands outside what you claim to be the normative practice of Islam. Your definitions disenfranchise them from their own faith and religious experience, at your own whim and for your own convenience. But your view of Islam is not a view of Islam in its reality, because it is no a view of Islam in its totality.

James Hanley said...


So, Islam's framing of identity is Islam, in whatever context Islam is found.

This argument begs the question, because it assumes a single Islam (an Islam that can frame an identity) for the purpose of trying to demonstrate a single Islam.

And it also incorrectly assumes that a concept, a non-material/non-sentient thing, can act--can do the framing. But in reality only people can do that framing,* so Islam has the identity that Muslims--plural--frame for it. And since those Muslims themselves are not homogeneous, but differ significantly (if perhaps less divergently than Christians), there are as a matter of undeniable empirical reality many Islams, each as really truly Islam as the next.

*Or, potentially, God, if God exists.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Yes, empirically,there are many Islams, but each one understands itself by certain definitions.

The point I tried to make is that when one holds to a text as revealed, inspired, and infallible, there will be many variances of understandings, but Isam is still defining itself upon a text/tradition of the text. Therefore it is exclusive in its claims about its text/tradition in opposition to any other religious claim or tradition.

Inductive reasoning is self-defeating and that was my point, one defends one's position by one's position. I don't think the East is known to think in logical ways. It is holding to an A AND non-A position, doesn't it?

Experience is confined to tradition/text and not life, itself. There is not much belief in liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

As to framing one's reality, one is allowed such framing in Western society. That is what liberty allows. People frame the child's reality, but not the adult's. The adult must choose how he will live his life.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's a shame you don't respond to what I actually write, James. Or read it, apparently.

BTW, I just got your back @ the League. I actually read what you write, and they were unjust to you.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The point I tried to make is that when one holds to a text as revealed, inspired, and infallible, there will be many variances of understandings, but Islam is still defining itself upon a text/tradition of the text. Therefore it is exclusive in its claims about its text/tradition in opposition to any other religious claim or tradition.

Ms. VDM is correct here, with the proviso that interpretations have variations. There is no ONE sharia. Even James Hanley concedes that Islam has less internal variation than Christianity, but it's absurd to assert that we cannot speak of Christianity in a normative fashion.

As Leo Strauss once noted about the wide swath of philosophers, they still agree on more than they disagree on, more than they agree with the madding crowd.

Muslims agree on more with fellow Muslims than they do with Jews or Christians, but more with the "People of the Book"---the Abrahamic religions---than with Chinese or Hindus and especially western secularists. [Like Angie.]

Polygamy vs. monogamy---esp since the emancipation of woman is so key to Western liberality---is a starting point.

To both James and Angie I submit Sisters-in-Islam is a "liberal" starting point for the Western mind.

Until then, this is going nowhere, it's time to move on, and thx for your call.

James Hanley said...

Mr. Van Dyke,

I did read what you wrote. You regularly claim I have not read, misunderstood, or purposely misunderstood you. I try my best, but you are a very obscurantist writer. I am of the opinion that you are purposely so. Of course I have no respect for obscurantism. If you want others to understand you, make yourself clear.

If you are denying that there is "a" single "normative practice" that constitutes Islam proper, then just say so. Say "there are multiple normative practices that constitute Islam proper in the eyes of the practitioners."

This is why I say arguing with you is like arguing with a tar baby. You refuse to speak specifically enough for a person to get real purchase on your arguments, and in so doing you cleverly give yourself wiggle room to avoid ever being pinned down to a specific position.

Those who argue with integrity do not argue in that fashion.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Not really. You doggedly insist on sophistically trying to pin the other other fellow into an untenable position via language. But language isn't concepts.

Everyone else knows exactly what I'm saying. Until you discuss Islam the reality, with specifics, you're just playing word games.

In fact, you got your head handed to you at the League for arguing just the way you accuse me of. they quite saw through you. Even your friend Mr. Heath tired of your games and lack of civility, charging your interlocutors with all sorts of dishonesties and lack of integrity. you do not discuss, you attack.

And so, our work is finished here. Polygamy and women's rights is a substantive place to start on Islam. And good luck with your Islamic defense of gay rights. Al-Fatiha Foundation folks feel unsafe enough to keep their identities secret.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Don't you think the FIRST step we must take in the West is to demand assimilation concerning such issues, as dress and marriage as a start?

The recent decision in France is a case in point. This is where we can limit those that don't like our society from immigrating and those that do, must abide by our standards for women. That way we have a right to penalize, or arrest those that are not compliant.

We did stand against polygamy in the past with the Mormons didn't we?

We can't loose our own nation, forget the Islamic States. These won't change, and dead bodies will be the costs of such an attempt.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Angie, I'm speaking of Islam in the Muslim world, as a control and case study of religion and gov't, of "political philosophy."

Islam in the West is a different subject. Briefly, a) many of France's "laicite" secular laws couldn't pass First Amendment muster and b) you can make a solid Islamic case that Muslims living in non-Muslim countries must follow the laws.

And c) Polygamy isn't going anywhere in the US; as you know, that was settled with the Mormons and by the Supreme Court.

I don't envy the European nations. They're completely unprepared for this. They have no First Amendment and little experience with American-style pluralism. The fit is hitting the shan.

Even in Canada...

Tom Van Dyke said...

That was Mormons. here's some Muslims:

Mumtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims, said hundreds of members of his community in polygamous marriages have been collecting welfare for some time.

The Ontario Family Law Act recognizes wives in polygamous marriages as spouses, providing the marriages were conducted legally under Islamic law abroad.

Ali said Muslims now want the polygamous marriages to be recognized under federal immigration laws so they can legally sponsor their wives here. Immigration spokesman Karen Shadd-Evelyn said only one marriage is recognized in Canada.

Under Islamic law, a Muslim man is permitted to have up to four spouses, many who join their husband and his main wife in Canada as landed immigrants or visitors.

Opposition leader John Tory said Premier Dalton McGuinty has to clarify the meaning of the polygamy law to Ontario residents. Polygamy is illegal in Canada, but recognized in the province, he said.

Jason Pappas said...

Let's ask a Muslim: Mr. Erdogan, the popularly elected PM of the most secular and liberal Islamic nation, says: "There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it."

If we are going to do this "empirical" thing, I'm afraid Mr Erdogan has the votes. I’m met very few Muslims who see “many Islams.” Most claim there is only one “true” Islam, which, of course, is always theirs.

I used to converse with a “liberal” Muslim from Jakarta who once repeated the cliche “there are many Islams just like there are many denominations of Christianity.” I asked him why describe the differences in Islam are like the differences between Baptists and Catholics? Instead, why not say they are like the differences between Franciscans and Dominicans? He laughed and admitted the differences in Islam are far less than those of Christianity.

You say Hanbali, I say Hanafi. ... let’s call the whole thing off. Ira Gershwin?

jimmiraybob said...

There is only one true candy bar. There are just a bazillion variations and as many preferences.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, and an Almond Joy man can speak of candy bars normatively with a Mounds guy.

Because sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. ;-)

Jason Pappas said...

The “true” candy bar is, of course, in the realm of Plato’s forms. All others are imperfect knock-offs, just a shadow of the thing-in-itself. ;)

jimmiraybob said...

Almond Joy? Mounds?! Gadzooks! Where will this heresy stop? Snickers is the true candy bar!!! The true essence of the forms!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Y'know, I was gonna go Snickers and Mars with this, but the Peter Paul thing had a better riff.

Brian Tubbs said...

I think we have to be humble and cautious with general. In this thread, I've seen several things said critically about fundamentalists (or "fundies") and evangelicals. There are bad apples in just about every group, but if I may offer this...

Most Bible-believing evangelical Christians do NOT want the Law of Moses codified into civil law for the United States. They may want the United States to hew toward a general Judeo-Christian morality as expressed by many of our nation's Founders, but they very much understand the dangers of any sect or denomination seizing the levers of power and imposing its theology by law.

We can debate the nature of that "general Judeo-Christian morality" in another thread. In many ways, that's the whole theme of this blog. For now, I want to focus on how many people unfairly (I believe) criticize (even castigate) well-intentioned evangelicals for their Scripture-based orthodoxy.

If God is real, then it's logical to hold that God may have opinions different from ours. It isn't for us to make God in our image. It's the other way around. God has standards. God has opinions. God has priorities and values. And...

Christians have historically believed that God expressed those standards, principles, beliefs, etc. through prophets and apostles -- and especially through His "only begotten Son" who is "the chief cornerstone" of Christianity. See Ephesians 2:19-20. And that the divinely inspired teachings of these apostles and prophets as well as of Jesus have been accurately passed down through the generations -- even to us and will continue to be passed to our children and children's children. See II Timothy 3:16.

Now, it's well within a person's legal, social, and political right to DISAGREE with the above, but... the basic Christian doctrine outlined above is a logically coherent position that is backed up by fairly substantial evidence. And therefore...

It's NOT unreasonable for Christians today to hold to a strict orthodoxy that includes such tenets as: Jesus is God and the "Way, the Truth, and the Life"; the Bible is inspired by God; and to disagree with the teachings of the Bible is to disagree with God's revelation. These may be controversial. They may be offensive. But... They are reasonable positions to take within the context of basic Christianity.

Now having said all the above... let me add...

I believe in loving my neighbor and doing good to all. I have friends and acquaintances all over the map in terms of religion, creed, sexual orientation, political views, etc. and I strive to be kind and respectful to all of them. I'm not here to impose my beliefs on anyone. But it is my hope that people will be humble, kind, and fair when assessing the beliefs of others, including (in this case) the beliefs of evangelical or even (classic) fundamentalist Christians.

Love and Blessings!