7/11/2005

Islam had its Gandhi

In the aftermath of the London bombings, a head of steam in building on the Internet for this piece by Charles Moore, ex-editor of the 'Daily Telegraph', entitled 'Where is the Gandhi of Islam?' (hat-tip Logical Meme).
One has three perfectly natural reactions to that question. The first is to say, 'Who cares?'
The second is to parse Moore's reading of Sura 8 of the Koran. Moore writes,
"If you look at the Koran, you will find many glorifications of violence. In Sura No 8, for example, God is quoted as saying: "I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers!" This punishment comes to them for having "defied God and His apostle". It seems reasonable to ask Muslims what this sort of remark means in the modern world."
I couldn't care less about what Muslims think this passage 'means in the modern world'. I'm interested in going slightly deeper.
Christianity, with all its Trinities and trans-substantiations, is a profoundly mystical religion in a way which Islam does not seem to be - indeed, it would be interesting to know whether the Islamic concept of 'theology' has anything in common with the Christian version. But in comparison to Christianity, it is remarkably efficient.
For example, Our Lord had 12 apostles while Allah only had one. At the risk of inviting my death fatwa (which would boost the readership no end and work wonders for my career), did he invent multi-tasking?
But the third arises in relation to one of Moore's final paragraphs. He writes,
"When a nation, a race, a political movement, a group of workers, the followers of a religion have legitimate grievances, there generally arises amongst them a champion who can command respect for his advocacy of peace, his willingness to fight without weapons and to win by moral authority. There may be many such grievances for Muslims in Britain, and in the West, but we are still waiting for the Gandhi or the Martin Luther King to give them the right voice."
While restraining a powerful urge to vomit at the idea that a former editor of the 'Daily Telegraph' could seriously suggest that the Muslims of the western world are somehow proscribed by law from holding full civic status (the only possible construction that can be put on the phrase 'legitimate grievances') , the idea that they need a Gandhi or Martin Luther King somehow implies that the UK is like Imperial India or the Jim Crow South. That just ain't so, and Moore insults his country's history even by suggesting it.
Because Islam has had its Gandhi. His name was Mohammed Ali Jinnah, an associate of Gandhi's, like Gandhi a London lawyer and the man most directly responsible for the partition of India in 1947, an event designed to create a Muslim state which resulted in the deaths of millions of people caught on the wrong sides of the new borders between India and East and West Pakistan.
If you've already had one Gandhi, surely having another is overkill.

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