The paradoxical nature of Islam

Kidist Paulos Asrat at her Camera Lucida blog quotes my statement at the beginning of the entry, “Wilders on the nature of Islam”:

Readers may remember that I have disagreed with [Geert] Wilders’s statements in the past that Islam is not a religion but only a political ideology.

Now he has moved in my direction [by saying that Islam is 95 percent ideology, five percent religion]. Even if it’s only five percent, that’s enough. I’m not concerned about the percentage. The point is that our side sounds silly when we claim that Islam, one of the world’s major religions, is not a religion. To say that Islam is not a religion is like saying that a rhinoceros is not a mammal.

To which Miss Asrat replies:

Mr. Auster is very generous in accepting this move to the right (direction). I, on the other hand, am a little impatient. I see every day in our Toronto streets Muslims inching into our society, whose ideology is clearly intertwined with, and fueled by, their religion. There would be no Muslim “ideology” without Islam.

This is very well said. It is unreal to deny that Islam is a religion and that it motivates and fulfills Muslims in a deep way. The religion and the Holy War ideology are one thing. Without the religion, there would not be the Holy War ideology. The Muslims’ belief in their god, and their commitment to making war on and subduing the infidel, are one thing. This can be most clearly grasped from those passages in the Koran in which it is said that the highest spiritual fulfillment of the Muslim—those moments when he feels closest to and most blest by Allah—is when he is killing the infidel in battle or dying in the attempt. Islam is thus indeed a religion, but it is a religion of war and killing. It is a religion, insofar as it claims to teach a path for man to participate in the divine, but the specific content of this religion is that man participates most fully in the divine in the act of killing infidels. We cannot understand the unique (and uniquely threatening) nature of Islam, without seeing these two sides of Islam together.

(This entry has also been posted as a comment in the “Wilders on the nature of Islam” thread.

- end of initial entry -

Bill Carpenter writes:

Because all religions make ethical demands, all religions (in some cases with more stretching than others) can be said to be political ideologies. Thus I don’t think the argument about how Islam is more developed as a political ideology than other religions is one we want to waste time with. I think the simplest approach is to regard Islam as a religion that requires its adherents to exterminate, enslave, or otherwise suppress all non-adherents. That is, we should regard Islam as a religion that is incompatible with Christianity, Judaism, and any other religion, and, indeed, incompatible with any non-Muslim system of human existence.

LA replies:

So far in this debate, there have been those who say that Islam is not a religion, and those who, like me, say that Islam is both a religion and a political / holy war ideology. Now you come along and add a third position to the debate, that Islam is only a religion (but a religion of war and destruction). Maybe your position is best. I’ll have to think about it.

Bill Carpenter replies:

I’m not saying it’s only a religion. Only that we can’t readily distinguish it from other religions on the basis of its including a political ideology, since every religion, to some extent, is also a political ideology. Certainly Judaism and Christianity have had great careers in being intertwined with political thought.

Vivek G. writes:

Bill Carpenter wrote:

” … I think the simplest approach is to regard Islam as a religion that requires its adherents to exterminate, enslave, or otherwise suppress all non-adherents…. ‘”

This is the most important point for non-Muslims to appreciate. Any non-Muslims who wishes to survive as non-Muslim must fundamentally be concerned about how Muslims are enjoined to deal with non-Muslims. Why Islam alone? If there was any other religion A which required its adherents to exterminate, enslave, or otherwise suppress all non-adherents, it would be equally evil.

If there were many such religions then I am sure measures similar to the ones required against Islam would be needed against these too. The problem with a non-discriminatory phrase like freedom of religion is that it does not put any restriction on admissible religions. We begin with platitudes such as “All humans are good and must be equal,” or “All religions are good’,’ and then get stuck with problematic religions like Islam. For example, every constitution governs human behavior in some way. Similarly, every religion governs human behavior in some way. What are we supposed to do if these governing rules conflict with each other? So either we must allow for violation of the constitution if we insist on universal freedom of religion, or freedom of religion must be available only for some, preferably for as many as possible, but surely not for all religions.

Maybe this is the paradoxical nature of freedom of religion!

LA replies:

Freedom of religion is a liberal concept. In order not to become irrational and destructive, this liberal concept must operate within and under the guidance of a culture or constitution that is not liberal, i.e, a culture or constitution that is particular and that extends rights to religions not on the basis of their universal and generic nature as religions, but on the basis of how compatible each religion is with that particular culture or constitution. This is the paradoxical nature of traditionalism. A traditional society contains important elements of liberalism within it, but these liberal elements must be mediated and guided by the traditional character of the system as a whole.

TA writes:

An excellent analyst of the nature of Islam is Bill Warner of Political Islam. He breaks it down by percentages and explains how the parts about us, infidels, are political in nature, and are apparently much more than half—61 percent in fact. So if the Koran and Hadiths are about us doesn’t that sort of make it our business?

LA replies:

Exactly right. Insofar as your average, “Five Pillars” Muslim believer is concerned in his day to day life, Islam is a religion, but insofar as Islam is about the evil of infidels and what should be done to them, Islam is an ideology of war and subjugation. And that is the part of Islam that is of interest to us. And if Warner is right that 61 percent of the Koran and hadiths are about infidels, then it is reasonable to state that Islam is less than half religion and more than half war ideology.

But even if the parts about infidels were less than half, it would not change what Islam is for us, namely a doctrine for our destruction.

We can call Islam a political ideology for the killing and subjugation of non-Muslims, or we can call it a religion for the killing and subjugation of non-Muslims. I would say that both formulations are correct. However, at the moment, I’m leaning more toward Bill Carpenter’s definition above.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 11, 2011 02:26 PM | Send

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