2016-10-03

Most Muslims Support Sharia: Should We Panic?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Most objections to my posts on terrorism seem to fall back on arguing how frightening or horrific the religion of Islam is. Because I don’t “blame Islam” for terrorism (I distinguish between Islam and the political ideology of Islamism that originated with Maududi and Qutb) some readers assume I am trying to “whitewash Islam”. Not so. I have frequently tried to point out that I have no time for any religion personally and acknowledge that much of the Islamic world in particular has a long way to go in terms of meeting modern standards enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the same time I reject absolutely the view that the Islamic religion is some sort of monolithic demon that has the power to possess and dehumanize anyone who succumbs to the teachings of the Quran.

whospeaksBefore I studied terrorism I tried to learn a little about Muslims and Islam. Apart from reading the Quran and engaging with local Muslims I sought out a more comprehensive understanding of Islam globally from a range of sources. The ones I found the most useful are in bold type (though the others are worthwhile, too):

  • Esposito, J. L. & Mogahed, D. (2007). Who speaks for Islam?: what a billion Muslims really think. New York, NY: Gallup Press.
  • Harris, S. (2015). Islam and the future of tolerance: a dialogue. Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Hassan, R. (2008). Inside Muslim minds. Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press.
  • Negus, G. (2004). The world from Islam: a journey of discovery through the Muslim heartland. Pymble, N.S.W.: HarperCollins.
  • Rahim, L. Z. (2013). Muslim secular democracy: voices from within. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Saikal, A. (2003). Islam and the West: conflict or cooperation? New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

I want to post some of what I learned from the above. In this post I will limit myself to just one section from Esposito and Mogahed’s Who Speaks for Islam? This volume is the result of a Gallup research study between 2001 and 2007 interviewing tens of thousands of Muslims in hour-long, face-to-face interviews in more than 35 nations. The sample included young and old, educated and illiterate, female and male, urban and rural. The sample represented more than 90% of the world’s Muslims and at time of publication was “the largest, most comprehensive study of contemporary Muslims ever done”. Results are statistically valid within a +/- 3-point margin of error.

Should Majority Support for Sharia Make the West Panic?

We would be surprised if most Christians said they did not support the Sermon on the Mount and if most Jews claimed not to support the Ten Commandments. But Sharia?

Sharia has been equated with stoning of adulterers, chopping off limbs for theft, imprisonment or death in blasphemy and apostasy cases, and limits on the rights of women and minorities. The range of differing perceptions about Sharia surfaced in Iraq when Shia leaders, such as Iraq’s senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called for an Islamic democracy, including Sharia as a basis of law in Iraq’s new constitution. (Esposito & Mogahed 2007, p. 49)

Then came the invasion of Iraq and the setting up of a committee to draft a new constitution. A Christian Iraqi member of that committee, Yonadam Kanna, warned that “making Sharia one of the main sources of law” would lead have dire consequences, especially for women.

Nevertheless, more than 1,000 Iraqi women rallied in support of Sharia in the southern city of Basra in August 2005 in response to another rally opposing Sharia in Baghdad a week earlier. (p. 50)

Many in the West confuse Sharia law with a theocracy or rule by religious clerics but the two are quite separate things. Citing Gallup Poll data Esposito and Mogahed explain:

Although in many quarters, Sharia has become the buzzword for religious rule, responses to the Gallup Poll indicate that wanting Sharia does not automatically translate into wanting theocracy. Significant majorities in many countries say religious leaders should play no direct role in drafting a country’s constitution, writing national legislation, drafting new laws, determining foreign policy and international relations, or deciding how women dress in public or what is televised or published in newspapers. Others who opt for a direct role tend to stipulate that religious leaders should only serve in an advisory capacity to government officials. (p. 50)

Women, equal rights and the data

In the West, Sharia often evokes an image of a restrictive society where women are oppressed and denied basic human rights. Indeed,women have suffered under government-imposed Sharia regulations in Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Sudan, the Taliban’s Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. However, those who want Sharia often charge that these regulations are un-Islamic interpretations. Gallup Poll data show us that most respondents want women to have autonomy and equal rights. Majorities of respondents in most countries surveyed believe that women should have:

■ the same legal rights as men (85% in Iran; 90% range in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Lebanon; 77% in Pakistan; and 61% in Saudi Arabia). Surprisingly, Egypt (57%) and Jordan (57%), which are generally seen as more liberal, lag behind Iran, Indonesia, and other countries.

■ rights to vote: 80% in Indonesia, 89% in Iran, 67% in Pakistan, 90% in Bangladesh, 93% in Turkey, 56% in Saudi Arabia, and 76% in Jordan say women should be able to vote without any influence or interference from family members.

■ the right to hold any job for which they are qualified outside the home. Malaysia, Mauritania, and Lebanon have the highest percentage (90%); Egypt (85%), Turkey (86%), and Morocco (82%) score in the 80% range, followed by Iran (79%), Bangladesh (75%), Saudi Arabia (69%), Pakistan (62%), and Jordan (61%).

■ the right to hold leadership positions at cabinet and national council levels. While majorities in the countries surveyed support this statement, respondents in Saudi Arabia (40%) and Egypt (50%) are the exceptions.

45 Carroll, J. (2005, February 25). Iraqi women eye Islamic law. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved September 14, 2007, from http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0225/p07s02-woiq.html

While Sharia is commonly depicted as a rigid and oppressive legal system, Muslim women tend to have a more nuanced view of Sharia, viewing it as compatible with their aspirations for empowerment. For example, Jenan al-Ubaedy, one of the 90 women who sat on Iraq’s National Assembly in early 2005, told The Christian Science Monitor that she supported the implementation of Sharia. However, she said that as an assembly member, she would fight for women’s right for equal pay, paid maternity leave, and reduced hours for pregnant women. She said she also planned to encourage women to wear hijab and focus on strengthening their families. To Ubaedy, female empowerment is consistent with Islamic values.45 (pp. 50-52, bolded text is repeated in box quotes in the book)

What Do Muslims Mean when they say they Support Sharia?

A common misconception about what Sharia is and means accounts for both religious militants’ inflexibility and many non-Muslims’ fears. Historically, many Muslims and non-Muslims have come to confuse and use the terms Sharia and Islamic law interchangeably. Because the Quran is not a law book, early jurists used revelation as well as reason to create a body of laws to govern their societies. But, over time, these man-made laws came to be viewed as sacred and unchangeable.

Muslims who want to see Sharia as a source of law in constitutions therefore have very different visions of how that would manifest. Though the definition of Sharia refers to the principles in the Quran and prophetic tradition, some expect full implementation of classical or medieval Islamic law; others want a more restricted approach, like prohibiting alcohol, requiring the head of state to be a Muslim, or creating Sharia courts to hear cases involving Muslim family law (marriage, divorce, and inheritance). Still others simply want to ensure that no constitutional law violates the principles and values of Islam, as found in the Quran. (pp. 52-53)

Sharia is not to be confused with Islamic law? Esposito and Mogahed distinguish the two by explaining that Sharia refers to timeless principles that are unchanging and Islamic law (fiqh) as the application of those principles in specific times and places. Sharia is unchanging divine revelation and fiqh, Islamic law, does change according to time and circumstance.

This principle sounds the same as that used by Christians trying to reconcile modern values with adherence to writings millennia old.

Many reformers claim that the challenge today is distinguishing what comes directly from the Quran (rituals for prayer, fasting, pilgrimage) and is universally binding, from scholarly interpretation of revelation (specific regulations regarding marriage or divorce, and so on) that varies within specific social contexts. The challenge is to differentiate the time-specific and the timeless.

sistersinislamMuslim reformers today argue that Islamic law should be reviewed in light of changing social circumstances. For example, Sisters in Islam, a Malaysian-based NGO for women’s rights, lobbied the Malaysian government to impose restrictions on polygamous marriages. Citing Quranic verses and prophetic traditions, the NGO advocated women’s right to list a polygamy condition in their marriage contracts. If a husband decides to marry a second woman, he would then be legally bound to divorce his first wife and pay her deferred dowry and alimony.

When some Islamic legal scholars (muftis) accused the NGO of violating “Islamic law,” the NGO charged back with Quranic verses and prophetic traditions that establish monogamy as the norm.They also cited that the Prophet Muhammad’s own great-granddaughter, Sakina binte Hussain, put various conditions in her marriage contract, including the condition that her husband could not marry another woman if he wanted to remain married to her. In a press release, the NGO wrote:

46 Sisters in Islam. (2003, March 16). Campaign for monogamy; by the Coalition on Women’s Rights in Islam. Retrieved September 14, 2007, from http://www.sistersinislam.org.my/pressstatement/16032003.htm

It is therefore clear that giving a wife such an option for obtaining a divorce through the marriage contract or ta’liq is not against Islamic teachings. It is not a new interpretation which has only arisen in these modern times. On the contrary, it is supported by traditional practices from the early days of Islam.46

This example provides a glimpse into the wide and diverse range of interpretations that characterize Islamic law. Thus, when Muslims say they support the application of Sharia, what that means can drastically vary from one person to another. (pp. 53-54 – my own bolding)

A free market of religious thought

I drew the comparison with Christianity above. Islam is no different with respect to having to resolve archaic texts with a changing world. The same applies to Judaism, too. Advances in the science of genetics pose questions to which no ancient book has a ready-made answer. Science has also thrown a completely different understanding on the nature of sexuality that was unavailable in the past. Similarly with modern economic systems and the function of interest and monetary policy. Political systems are different, too. And so on and so forth.

With no clear text in the Quran and no central religious authority, the expert legal opinions (fatawa) that muftis give can differ substantially depending on how conservative or reform-minded and how politicized or apolitical they are as individuals. In the end, legal answers depend on who your mufti is just as the advice from your rabbi or your minister depends on who he or she is. A fatwa, however, is a non-binding legal opinion, and Muslims choose which fatwa they will and will not apply to their lives. In this regard, Muslims participate in a “free market” of religious thought — a flexibility that may account for both the resilience and diversity of Islam across time and geography. (p. 55)

 

24 Comments

  • Tony
    2016-10-03 07:49:25 UTC - 07:49 | Permalink

    I am no wiser as to what Sharia is

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-10-03 09:19:59 UTC - 09:19 | Permalink

      It sounds like you are confused because the popular notion of Sharia (a singular set of rules for all times and places) in the Western media and discussion is a misconception. Sharia is expressed differently according to different places, times and circumstances according to the authors discussed in the post.

    • pastasauceror
      2016-10-03 23:32:42 UTC - 23:32 | Permalink

      Tony: That’s because the entire post is an exercise in equivocation on the word.

      Neil: You are desperately trying to avoid the truth here. I hope these straws save you as you slide down the cliff of inanity (not a typo).

      • Neil Godfrey
        2016-10-04 04:32:18 UTC - 04:32 | Permalink

        Do be specific and tell us precisely what is wrong with the Gallup Poll study and the arguments presented. If you are simply determined to close your mind to any view other than the one that stirs your viscera then I don’t see any point in you reading or commenting here. Just go somewhere else if you cannot handle opposing views and open discussion.

        • pastasauceror
          2016-10-04 07:59:56 UTC - 07:59 | Permalink

          There’s nothing wrong with the Gallup Poll study…as such. Depending how the questions were asked, it is probably fairly accurate.

          The question you have raised is whether Sharia being supported by Muslims is something that should make us “panic” (according to your title). You then skip very quickly over the most worrying parts of Sharia with a mere hand-wave and proceed to quote a poll on women’s legal rights, ability to vote, hold a job, and leadership – which noticeably leaves out all of the worst parts about women’s rights under sharia. Such as: testimony being worth half that of a man’s, the ability for a man to have multiple wives (without the reverse being true), mandatory covering of women in public, ability for a man to divorce his wife by saying “I divorce you” 3(or is it 4) times (with no reverse law being available), death for adultery (while the male adulterer goes free), and the list could go on just on women’s issues, let alone all the other rubbish laws Shariah entails.

          1000 (wow! really only 1000) women coming out in support of Sharia in some Islamic stronghold country doesn’t mean squat. (Also, were they in burkas? If so how do you know they were even women?)

          You also compare Sharia to the Sermon on the Mount and the 10 commandments, neither of which present any penalties regarding the breaking of these laws, while leaving out the fact that no modern Jew or Christian would support the original penalties for the Jewish laws (death for picking up sticks on a rest day, homosexuality, and talking back to your parents once too often), unlike Sharia in modern Islam (eg. Saudi Arabia) where the penalty is non-negotiable.

          It’s not me who can’t handle opposing views and open discussion. I only took a break from commenting here because I didn’t want to make it seem like I was hounding you. But this post stirred me from my slumber. Your defense of Sharia has told me enough about how far you’ve gone into the murk. Please come back Neil, you’re worrying me.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2016-10-04 09:45:00 UTC - 09:45 | Permalink

            You have missed the point entirely about the nature of Sharia that was presented in the post. My interest is in evidence-based understanding through trained and respected researchers and a broad spectrum of Muslim leaders. And to date the evidence they cite in support of their explanations coheres with my own experiences with and observations of Muslims.

            If you can actually engage with the evidence and the content of the post (as opposed to just saying it is all nonsense) then you will be most welcome to continue here.

            So how about explaining the details of who, when, where etc of the worst cases of Sharia application that worry you and explain how those examples fit in with the explanation of Sharia in this post. Explain to us how your case study either nullifies or agrees with or is irrelevant to the explanation in this post. Let’s see if you have actually grasped the point. But I do expect you to establish your explanations with facts. Don’t just say what bad laws and practices we see in some Muslim countries and with ISIS. You have to actually demonstrate you are talking about Sharia, and not various laws.

            The point of these posts is, after all, to engage with an attempt to understand and know what we are talking about when we discuss Islam. One point at a time, yes?

            • pastasauceror
              2016-10-04 11:17:15 UTC - 11:17 | Permalink

              I know what your point was, you’re somehow saying that Sharia is not as bad as we morons think, because look at the enlightened position Muslims take when you ask questions that don’t have anything to do with the precepts of Sharia. If you want the real truth look at the numbers for those who agree with the women’s (non-)rights I listed in my first post, or those who agree with cutting off a theif’s hand, or killing an apostate.

              I’m not going to do a case study on Sharia. It’s been done, many times, and with better questions than the selective ones you’ve lobbed here to support your case. How about you look at stuff that doesn’t support your case for once, it’s always good to try to dis-confirm your preconceived opinion. (Yes, kettle. I do it all the time, I read more pro-Islam material than anti every day of the week. If I didn’t have this policy I wouldn’t still be subbed to your site. I just find none of the pro stuff accurate, honest or convincing.)

              It will suffice to ask you:

              Do you deny that the things I stated about women’s rights are part of Sharia? (If you don’t answer this I won’t reply to anything else you say in this thread, it would be pointless).

              BTW, the so-called “Muslim leaders” you refer to have no more and no less authority than a Muslim leader of ISIS. There is no one body that appoints leaders in Islam, and there is no one body that has the right to enforce who can and can’t call themselves a Muslim leader, just as there is no body that constrains what the so-called Muslim leaders can and can’t teach. This is why treating Islam as a Monolith is doomed to lead anyone doing so to failed conclusions like the ones you are touting here. (And most importantly why quoting “majority” statistics is totally meaningless, it is the minority in Islam that causes all the problems, precisely because there is no authority to stop them, as I just noted)

              My points are especially true with the discussion of something like Sharia; it has to include everything that can be considered Sharia by any single part (even single individual) of Islam, or you are ignoring positions that are considered valid by numerous followers, and those people or their followers could be the ones who set up Sharia when it eventually finds its way to the previously non-Islamic country that you used to call home. And if that happens the so-called majority will follow, just like they have in all the majority Muslim countries around the world. (Just look at Erdogan’s previously secular Turkey, currently free-falling into fundamentalism, for the most recent example of this)

              • Neil Godfrey
                2016-10-04 14:29:56 UTC - 14:29 | Permalink

                You have no idea what the post is saying about Sharia. It says or implies nothing like what you are suggesting. It actually explains why some people enforce barbaric laws in the name of Sharia while others oppose them in the name of Sharia. But you would have to understand what the post is explaining Sharia is to grasp that. You are out of your depth here entirely.

                Try reading the post and you will see that your question about women’s rights is covered in the explanation. If you can’t see that you need serious remedial reading comprehension classes.

                Any more ignorant comments and you go into my spam folder.

  • pj
    2016-10-03 11:30:05 UTC - 11:30 | Permalink

    Esposito is a notorious apologist for Islamist violence. It is quite telling that confirmation bias would lead you to find him “most useful.”

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-10-04 04:23:16 UTC - 04:23 | Permalink

      What statements are misleading or wrong in the above post?

      Where have you found Esposito apologizing for “Islamist violence”? Is Dalia Mogahed also an apologist for “Islamist violence”? Is the Gallup Poll also an apologist for Islamist violence?

      What do you understand by the term Islamist? Do you distinguish it from Islamic? Nothing in the notes I posted from Who Speaks for Islam addresses Islamism, you know.

  • 2016-10-03 17:04:30 UTC - 17:04 | Permalink

    “At the same time I reject absolutely the view that the Islamic religion is some sort of monolithic demon that has the power to possess and dehumanize anyone who succumbs to the teachings of the Quran.”

    People who do this are succumbing to what’s called the Out-group homogeneity bias

    • Greg
      2016-10-03 20:03:44 UTC - 20:03 | Permalink

      Whoops. My reply to this
      |
      v

  • Greg
    2016-10-03 20:00:45 UTC - 20:00 | Permalink

    As the narrative goes, because Islam falls too far from Western values, it can only induce fear, hate, and helplessness in its followers in contrast to the wholesome community-enriching institutions we offer such as Christianity. It’s difficult to ignore the similarities in the way the American Indians and the Africans were all seen as victims for whom civilized behavior and meaningful living were foreign. Our influence could only improve their lives, though the former tragically resisted learning how the world worked and the latter needed to earn their keep after being so graciously taken under wing.

    Ethnocentrism- the varying degrees of despair, destitution, and barbarity to which all humans suffer the farther they get from your culture’s standards.

    • james
      2016-10-04 20:56:31 UTC - 20:56 | Permalink

      Because I don’t “blame Islam” for terrorism (I distinguish between Islam and the political ideology of Islamism that originated with Maududi and Qutb) some readers assume I am trying to “whitewash Islam”.

      Jihadists were acting exactly as they do now well before Maududi and Qutb came on the scene. Whatever you mean by “Islamist” – it’d be useful for you to spell that out, it’s usually just content free slang which means “Muslim I disapprove of” – there are plenty of examples of Muslims behaving like Islamists throughout history. The problems we are having are not of recent origin. The reason I think you’re trying to whitewash Islam is that you absolutely refuse to acknowledge this behaviour, which did not originate with Maududi and Qutb.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aceh_War
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahdist_War
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wahhabi_sack_of_Karbala
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fula_jihads
      Etc etc etc.

      • Steven C Watson
        2016-10-06 03:49:24 UTC - 03:49 | Permalink

        The Aceh War was straight up Dutch imperialism. Any resemblance to Gulf Wars One and Two is entirely because they are much the same phenomena.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2016-10-06 09:10:18 UTC - 09:10 | Permalink

        Would you be able to explain how any of those wars you link to in any way refute my point that you quote at the beginning of your comment?

        I have posted here a review of a couple of books that covered a range of Mahdist rebellions and wars. I have also written about the Wahhabi origins. The Aceh war I know quite well from my general interest in history and travel in the region where I have seen some of the forts and remains of those days in that part of the world. It’s been a long time since I looked at African tribal history, though, but there is nothing new in the article that revolutionized my recollections of that history.

        As for Islamism, I have addressed that before in some detail so I think you are quite unfair to say I use it as cheaply and meaninglessly as you suggest.

        Would you like me to set out the links to verify each of my above claims or can you find them all yourself?

        Meanwhile, why do you seem to assume that Islam should be any more monolithic than any of the other abrahamic religions? Why do you seem to assume that any historical war involving Muslims is naturally to be blamed on Islam? Don’t you think that’s a rather shallow assumption? Would you suggest that any war involving American Indians was the result of either the savage nature or primitive (non-Christian) beliefs of the Indians?

        You should read my posts (or better still Said’s book and others works) on Orientalism. Your opinion of Islam and Muslims is a classic hang over from Western Orientalism that has been with us now ever since the days of western conquests of those dark savage races without the true faith of the God of love and peace.

        • james
          2016-10-06 21:19:52 UTC - 21:19 | Permalink

          “As for Islamism, I have addressed that before in some detail so I think you are quite unfair to say I use it as cheaply and meaninglessly as you suggest.”

          I assumed the reason I didn’t understand you is that you were perhaps just throwing meaningless words around without thinking. I now think I was wrong so I apologise.

          Looking at older posts you seem to have a clear view of what Islamist means, for instance:

          “Islamism This refers to the ideology or political goal that a society should be subject to Islamic laws. It’s counterpart in Christianity would be political movements attempting to ban things that are deemed immoral by the Church. Many Islamists seek to achieve Islamic rule through democratic means, or if not outright rule, at least a place in government from where they can influence legislation. Other Islamists believe in violent means. These are the jihadi extremists.”

          http://vridar.org/2015/11/15/debating-islam-islamism-and-human-rights/

          My problem is you also often claim Islamism is recent (“I distinguish between Islam and the political ideology of Islamism that originated with Maududi and Qutb”, you reference the “seminal Islamist writing by Sayyid Qutb: The Founder of Islamist Extremism and Terrorism.”)

          It is obvious from Islamic history that the idea that “society should be subject to Islamic laws” and jihad for that cause did not originate with Maududi and Qutb. The Aceh War, Mahdist War, Sack of Karbala and Fula Jihads were all attempts to place society under Islamic law prior to Qutb. Now you obviously seem to be aware of at least some of this.

          So I am confused. You think Islamism is an attempt to force Islamic Law on society, you know Muslims waged war for that reason repeatedly since Mohammed, I know you are also aware that a Caliphate existed between 622 and 1924, but somehow you also seem to think that Islamist is all a recent invention which started with Qutb. I do not understand how you can believe all that at the same time.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2016-10-08 14:25:08 UTC - 14:25 | Permalink

            Good questions and I appreciate your time to set them down. Give me some time and I’ll attempt to explain where I’m coming from etc.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2016-10-08 15:56:12 UTC - 15:56 | Permalink

            Until I do, at least one of your questions was addressed in my earlier post about Caliphate myths: http://vridar.org/2016/09/07/two-caliphate-myths/

            And just one more interim point — if you look at the historical details about some of the wars to which you refer you will find that they have more to do with forces commonly found among all societies and religions etc when wars break out than they do with anything uniquely Islamic.

            What is significant is the consideration of the histories of Islamic peoples on the whole, and not just singling out a handful of battles from nearly 2000 years of history and spinning an interpretation on those to conform to a modern popular prejudice.

            Qutb was one of several Islamic intellectuals who had much to say about the history of Islamic peoples that contradicts modern Western ideas about Islamic jihad and political functions of the religion — and it is to Qutb’s interpretations that Islamists turn. Nothing about the ideology of modern Islamic extremists makes any sense if Islam has always been dedicated to violently trying to impose Islamic rule. If that’s what you think then your argument is not with me but with the Islamists and terrorists themselves.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2016-10-10 05:17:50 UTC - 05:17 | Permalink

            James, you speak of Islam as if it is a single idea or frame of mind or belief system, as if all Muslims think alike. But the more I learn about Islam the more I realize how very similar that religion is to Christianity or Judaism — there is no such thing as a monolithic Islam.

            Many Muslims were at first horrified when they learned of the ideas of Maududi etc spreading outside certain regions of Pakistan, and many today are still horrified by the Islamist view of history and what Islam means to them.

            The history of Islam has not followed a single trajectory either. In fact the Caliphate Islamic State has said is its ideal actually tolerated the drinking of wine and a royal court with boy lovers. There is variety and complexity in the history of Muslim peoples as there is in the history of Christian peoples.

            It is also fallacious and arrogant for outsiders to decide what Muslims believe by reading their texts. We would never say that Christians do not believe in war because of what we read in the Gospels — because we know that different Christians have different ways of interpreting their scriptures. It is the same with Muslims and the Quran.

            Many Muslims actually do believe government should not be run by Muslim clerics but really do believe in secular democracy as the best form of government.

            And yes, many Muslims in certain countries do tolerate oppressive and barbaric laws but at the same time they are opposed by other Muslims, especially many in the West. The differences in Muslim viewpoints is best explained by noting the different social histories of the different groups. Religious beliefs really are shaped by people’s historical experiences.

            We make a serious mistake when we think of all Muslims as being alike. That’s the same sort of mistake that led to mistreatment of blacks, Jews, …. and even “eccentric” women. It is the same mistake “we” made during the Cold War when any national liberation group was branded as a “communist devil”.

        • Al
          2016-10-07 22:45:00 UTC - 22:45 | Permalink

          Anything that Muslims do that has anything to do with violence is Islamism. That’s basically the rub.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2016-10-08 15:39:43 UTC - 15:39 | Permalink

            No, it’s not. Christians of many denominations, Jews of a wide spectrum of sub-types, have teachings that relate to and generally find ways to justify violence in various circumstances. Would we immediately label most Christians and Jews by some term that suggests they are opposed to most civilized norms?

            I use the term “Islamism” the same way it was used by those who introduced me to it — that is, those who were once Islamists themselves and know the difference between Islamism and Islam.

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