Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald discusses the significance of the fact that so much jihad violence is inspired, according to its perpetrators, by the Qur’an — and what can be done about it:
When one looks around the world, one is not struck by the numbers of Muslims rushing to denounce Bin Laden, nor Ayman al-Zawihiri, nor Al Qaeda, nor Hamas (landslide victor among the “Palestinian people”), nor the Muslim Brotherhood (quintupling its representation in Egypt’s Parliament, and certainly, in a free and fair election, the likely victor in Egypt), nor the F.I.S. in Algeria (well, they won the last time they were allowed to run), nor Lashkar Jihad, nor Jaish-e-Mohammed, nor — well, here you can fill in the name of any group you wish, a half-dozen in Pakistan, another half-dozen in Indonesia, a few al-Sayyaf groups in the Philippines, and so on around the world. One looks at how Hindus are treated in Bangladesh, at how Christians are treated in Indonesia and Pakistan and the Sudan and in the new, improved, and freer, and therefore more Islamic Iraq, and is impressed — impressed with how closely the behavior of Muslims, feeling their new power, both real and imagined, mimics that historically of Muslims toward all non-Muslims subjugated by them, over 1350 years.
And one asks oneself: what prompts this behavior? What prompts Muslims all over to think it right and proper for them to engage in boycotts, in recall of ambassadors, in death threats to all Danes everywhere, to violent demonstrations thousands of miles from Denmark to protest the exercise of the Western right of free speech, as exercised by Westerners in their Western land, by Muslims who presume to impose their own notion of what can and cannot be expressed? What prompts Muslims all over the world either to approve, or to remain silent, or to attempt to mislead Infidels about the real source of the death sentence that the convert to Christianity Abdul Rahman faced in Afghanistan, and that only Western pressure managed to force the government to prevent (at least so far) by coming up with an obvious face-saving technicality as an excuse?
It looks a lot like those who base their views squarely on Qur’an, Hadith, and the example of Muhammad, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, have it right — or at least right enough for hundreds and hundreds of millions of Muslims. Khaled Abou El Fadl, whose website lists Books You Should Not Read (among them Robert Spencer, Bat Ye’or, and Ibn Warraq, whom he may believe lack the “credentials” he thinks so necessary — the “credentials” of the likes of John Esposito and Michael Sells, whose scandalous apologetics and omissions — those “Lyrical Suras” that so misleadingly make up Sells”s “Approaching the Qur’an” — have been abundantly documented) — he is the one who doesn’t understand.
We can take Khaled Abou El Fadl’s measure. Perhaps he managed, for a brief shining moment to claw his way to a position at his present post, but Yale Law School was having none of it. The jig is mostly up, even if the grant money keeps coming in, for the apologists who tell us that they are going to “reform” Islam, but never quite get around to showing us how they are going to do it. Or else they claim something still more absurd, which is that Islam needs no “reforming” because it is only these wild men, these “extremists,” who say and believe certain things, and they have no textual authority.
All the textual authority goes the other way — as Robert Spencer continues tirelessly to politely point out.
Or is there a different Qur’an, or a different set of muhaddithin, and a different set of facts about the life of Muhammad, that constitute a hermetic knowledge accessible only to Khaled Abou El Fadl, and those who seem mightily impressed with him?
So we are now being told that all the tradition of all the Islamic jurists is to be thrown overboard, although millions of Afghans and others clearly take it seriously. We are being told that we can somehow convince hundreds of millions of fanatical (or simply ordinary) Muslims to engage in this wholesale jettisoning of the Qur’anic commentators and jurisconsults, because that is the only way to lighten or sweeten the message in the Qur’an, and isn’t that what we have to do, as some of us implicitly recognize?
And then there remains the little matter of Muhammad as a personage to be revered and emulated — who is going to red-pencil a number of the most “authentic” Hadith, or perhaps throw them out altogether, and while we are at it, throw out the Sira (the biography, in the basic Muslim version, of Muhammad)? Who will declare it done? And how could it possibly be accepted? It can’t, and holding out such hope to naive Infidels is meretricious and sinister.
There are ways to limit the power of Islam and its hold over the minds of men. One way is to subject Islam to study within history — that is, to see it as a text with its own history, that can be studied as Western scholars, beginning with such Germans as Wellhausen, did for the Old Testament, and then the New Testament, and then all sorts of other texts, over the past 150 years or so, that were regarded as sacred in Judaism or Christianity. Why should the texts of Islam be permanently removed from such study?
In fact, beginning with Ignaz Goldziher’s study of the Hadith, and continuing with such scholars as John Wansbrough, and then Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, and in another line, from Mingana to Christoph Luxenberg, the Qur’an, or the circumstances of early Islam, have been subjected to such study. Everyone knows that there are many passages in the Qur’an that do not make any sense. Along comes Luxenberg, proposes to untie many of the knottiest problems by seeing through the present Qur’an to an Ur-Qur’an which, he maintains, was probably in Aramaic, or more exactly in Syriac (the Aramaic of Edessa), and that passages now read as Aramaic make sense, as they do not make sense if one continues to try to fit them into some Arabic-language mold.
If the Qur’an can be de-mystified, that will do more than a thousand Khaled Abou El Fadls claim to be doing. Simply treat Islam the way all other major belief-systems have been treated. That will do plenty, to lessen the violence, the aggression, the fanaticism. That is not a “reformation.” It is, rather, something else — the spirit of the Enlightenment, allowed at long last to enter the minds of many Muslims.