To Dream the Impossible Dream

OK, I know I’d said I’d try and play nice, but sometimes…

Today, ‘The Daily Moonbat’ reproduced a ‘Washington Post’ article by Salman Rushdie on the necessity of reform in Islam.

Rushdie recites the well-worn litany of problems that Muslims have faced when integrating into Western societies. He stops short of blaming multiculturalism (each man must worship his own god), but instead he calls for "a move beyond tradition -- nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air."

Sorry, Salman, try again.

To see Rushdie write of a ‘Muslim Reformation’ almost makes one fall off the chair. A Muslim, he more than most knows the extent to which Islamic belief can be manipulated into a tool for the advancement of propaganda – he lived with the consequences of Khomeini’s for many years.

However, regardless of who is making it, any call for a ‘Muslim Reformation’ is bound to fail because of the nature of Islamic belief and lack of either knowledge or understanding of the Reformation.

The sword that led to the Reformation cut both ways. Firstly, it entailed significant disputes about the nature of Christian practice and belief. Is the spiritual authority of the Pope absolute? Are the Scriptures open to interpretation or must they be read literally?

In other words, there were existing grounds for disagreement. It is one of the cores of Islamic belief that the Koran is the literal word of Allah. As a religion, Islam does not possess the same scope for interpretation as Christianity. Although this makes it a very easier religion to teach, it also reduces the likelihood of a serious doctrinal disagreement emerging of the kind that might lead to a ‘Reformation’. Lacking any central doctrinal authority, there is no power in Islam that can gainsay or authoritatively contradict as being in error those mullahs who say that you get the 72 virgins if you blow yourself up in Tavistock Square.

There can therefore be no Islamic ‘Reformation’ of the kind that Martin Luther triggered in Germany. If somebody tried to start it, it would lead to the same level of religious bloodshed as Europe saw in the Middle Ages, except that it would be conducted all over the world and would involve significantly higher numbers of Muslims than the current campaign of Islamist terrorism.

Rushdie follows this up with a plea for Islam’s ‘modernisation’. Again, how can such a thing be possible? The word of Allah is the word of Allah, regardless of the time and place in which it is being read and practiced. One might as well ask for the Bible to be re-written by JK Rowling as for Islam to be modernized. Talking about the ‘modernisation’ of Islam looks good in the ‘Washington Post’, and I’m sure goes down a treat at society dinner parties in the Hamptons, but as an answer to the problems faced by Muslims trying to reconcile an archaic faith with an ultra-modern world from which they feel excluded it’s a non-starter.

But he goes from the sublime to the ridiculous with,

“If, however, the Koran were seen as a historical document, then it would be legitimate to reinterpret it to suit the new conditions of successive new ages. Laws made in the seventh century could finally give way to the needs of the 21st. The Islamic Reformation has to begin here, with an acceptance of the concept that all ideas, even sacred ones, must adapt to altered realities.”

I’ve worked it out! He’s looking for a ‘living Koran’ the way that some liberals talk about the ‘living Constitution’!

But he trips over himself almost immediately. One of the difficulties of tackling the sacred is that it tends, by its nature, to be timeless. Being timeless, it exists in a realm beyond the constant flux of physical reality, and thus doesn't really have to bother itself with how hard those who profess to follow it find it in the times in which they live.

This is true of all the major religions – and it will do little to aid community relations to see so prominent a secular Muslim as Rushdie insist that Islam follow a higher standard of self-examination than all the others.

Ultimately, Rushdie was probably being well intentioned, but his vision for the future of his faith owes less to the man from Mecca than the Man from La Mancha, because he’s dreaming the impossible dream. And if I were a betting gnome, I’d wager that we’ll still be seeing articles like this for the remainder of my lifetime…


Blogger Canadi-anna said...

You're absolutely right about this. It seems Rushdie is applying Western rationale to an ideology and culture entirely opposed to such things.
I suppose that's what we do though, isn't it. We toss ideas out into the ether like radio waves, hoping they find an open frequency. In this case it is in vain, not because the idea itself is wrong, but because where there is rigid dogma, there can be no receivers.

2:37 AM  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...



Which is why we are both 'unprefixed conservatives'.

1:15 PM  

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