I am on the road, as assiduous readers of the comments here already know, and so I don’t have time to give this the evisceration it deserves, but a brief note. The Wall Street Journal has outdone itself, following up the piece of puffery it published in December by the former President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, with a new piece of puffery about his daughter, Yenny Wahid.
She is active in the NU’s political wing, the National Awakening Party, and an adviser to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The job most dear to her heart, however, is running the Wahid Foundation–named after her father–which works to promote, in the words of its Web site, “democratic reform, religious pluralism, multiculturalism and tolerance amongst Muslims” and reflects “a universal Islam [that] desires justice and prosperity for all.”
That’s wonderful. In effect I suppose she means that she wants to see the dhimma officially renounced and never revived. I would applaud that, and support her wholeheartedly. But there is also this:
Like her famous father and other influential clerics in Indonesia, Ms. Wahid is trying to hold the line against this trend. Their task, as she sees it, is to remind Indonesians of the true teachings of Islam and its sacred texts. “One thing for sure is that [radicals] have a very distorted view of what religion should be,” she says. “Killing people meaning glory? It’s lunacy. We do discuss these things, we hold conferences, for instance on the word ‘jihad’ and how it’s been used and abused throughout history. The prophet Muhammad said the greatest jihad is against yourself, how to make yourself a better person. It’s not . . . running to kill people.”
When I read this sort of thing, crab that I am, I get the sneaking suspicion that this is framed more for Western non-Muslims than for Muslims. For when she says, “the prophet Muhammad said the greatest jihad is against yourself, how to make yourself a better person,” she is referring to a tradition that does not appear in the collections of hadith considered most reliable by Muslims, and she takes no account of the polemics by Hasan Al-Banna, Abdullah Azzam and others that make exactly that point, and are influential among Muslims. Muslims in Indonesia who have been recruited into jihadist groups have very likely been taught that. Does Yenny Wahid think that blandly restating what they believe to be a weak hadith will disabuse them of the jihad ideology that is based on a strong foundation of Qur’an and Sunnah? Or is she just trying to reassure jittery Westerners that they have nothing to fear from Islam?
Whichever, it would be better just to tell the truth. She can fool people who don’t know Qur’an and Sunnah into thinking they don’t teach warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers, but she can’t fool Muslims who might be attracted to jihad groups. And those are the ones she really needs to convince.
I have written things like this many, many times before, and I have often been told that it is positively Luciferian of me to do so, for we need to support Muslims who teach peace and tolerance. The obvious answer I always give is that of course we need to support Muslims who teach peace and tolerance, but I don’t think it is asking too much of them if I ask for a little honesty. If you are trying to create an Islam of peace and tolerance, I am all for you. But don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes and tell me that Islam teaches peace and tolerance. I have read Qur’an innumerable times. I have read Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Muwatta Malik, and others. I have read the tafasir of Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Jalalayn, and the modern tafasir of Qutb and Maududi. I have studied the fiqh on jihad of all four major Sunni madhahib. I know what the teachings of the Islamic schools of thought are on jihad warfare. I didn’t create this material myself. I obtained it from Islamic sources, Islamic publications. I have detailed some of this evidence in Onward Muslim Soldiers and my other books. So when I hear that the real Islam teaches peace, I have trouble believing that the one who is saying it is being fully honest, or is fully informed about the situation. I would be happy to support a reformer who acknowledges that the teachings on warfare exist, and rejects them. But someone who tells me they don’t exist at all — well, that just makes me suspicious.
Someone said to me after I wrote the piece about Andurrahman Wahid, linked above, that we had to support such people because the prospects for the future become just too bleak if we say the problem is within Islam itself. Here again, it’s really very simple: if you won’t admit it’s broken, you’ll never be able to fix it. Unfortunately, however, comforting fantasies are the rule not only at the Wall Street Journal, but in much of official Washington.
I am catching an early stagecoach back to Secure Undisclosed Locationville soon. Heavier blogging will resume upon my return.