How can you call me extreme just because I won't compromise on anything?
Posted by aogSaturday, 27 January 2007 at 15:42 TrackBack Ping URL

Via Harry’s Place is this post about the challenges for non-radical Muslims in the West. The basic thesis is that such Muslims face a “with us or against us” choice from both their host societies and radical Muslims who, to a large extent, control the official machinery of Islam.

The essay has some interesting points, but I was struck by the preceeding post about the incident of the female Muslim police cadet refusing to shake the hand of the commissioner. The post defends this decision. It seems to me, however, it’s a classic example of how the dilemma in the first post is reinforced. Rather than accomodate or compromise with existing customs, the cadet decided to disregard them in order to avoid a very minor religious transgression. The expectations of the commissioner, the other cadets, their families, and all those associated with the school were irrelevant even for something as minor as a hand shake. Is it any wonder, then, that non-Muslims observing that are willing to believe that the same is true for more important matters? That Muslims will brook no compromise, will respect no pre-existing custom?

It is hardly unreasonable to read this as a general attitude in the Muslim community if it is defended by other Muslims, such as this author. After all, one key property of extremism is the unwillingness to compromise. I think the author would do well to reflect on that.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
erp Sunday, 28 January 2007 at 08:51

Have you seen this post over at Tim Blair’s blog? He links to an article in the Herald Sun about Moslem-only bathrooms at an Australian university. They need separate facilities so they can wash their feet in comfort five times a day before prayers — doncha know.

Tom C. Sunday, 28 January 2007 at 11:01

Methinks that the long hoped for reformation may not be in the cards. Reform what, exactly? The only grounds for reform as far as I can see, is the academic work being done on Islamic scripture which is trying to lay the groundwork for the thesis that, because of the evolution of language and contradictory archeological evidence as well as the objective historical record, the Qu’ran, the hadith and the sunna don’t really say what generations of Islamic ‘scholars’ have always believed they say. Problematic, to say the least.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 28 January 2007 at 11:46

erp;

Yes, I read Mr Blair’s weblog regularly because he’s a friend of a friend.

I think that problem with Islamic assilimation is not so much the separateness but the apparent lack of the concept of “consequences”. Things are expected without any thought to the costs and burdens imposed on others. If you don’t conceptualize that, then you’ll never get to the concept of comprise. Islam, as it interacts with the West, has a very teen-ager feel to it.

Tom C.;

Yes, I don’t see how Islam can continue as a major faith for more than another couple of generations. It has, in my view, what we in the computer science business call “brittleness”, which is the property of being very strong until something goes wrong, at which it breaks down catastrophically. I think that is now happening.

Jeff Guinn Sunday, 28 January 2007 at 20:20

The expectations of the commissioner, the other cadets, their families, and all those associated with the school were irrelevant even for something as minor as a hand shake.

Exactly.

Sometime ago, I had the honor of assuming command of a Navy squadron. Necessarily, there is some ceremony involved in doing so.

Part of that ceremony involved taking an oath of office, which includes the phrase “So help me God.” As it happens, I find that particular phrase to be distilled superfluousness.

It was in my power to ditch the phrase, and decline to invite the chaplain to say a prayer and provide a brief homily.

However, the ceremony is about the position, and people’s expectations. It was most emphatically not about my particular beliefs.

As with this woman, the position I was assuming transcended the particulars of the personal or communal; if I couldn’t subsume my personal beliefs to expectations, than I should have declined the position.

So should she.

Ali Choudhury Wednesday, 31 January 2007 at 07:25

“Yes, I don’t see how Islam can continue as a major faith for more than another couple of generations. It has, in my view, what we in the computer science business call “brittleness”, which is the property of being very strong until something goes wrong, at which it breaks down catastrophically. I think that is now happening.”

I’d be very sceptical of that happening. Islam’s doctrines tend to be accepted as fact across Muslim societies. Wrenching debates about scriptural truth just don’t happen.

I was in Pakistan for most of December. First day I was there I was invited to a religious gathering by two of my cousins and an uncle who’s recently grown a beard and gone on a Mecca pilgrimage gave me a talk about an immensely famous pop star who’d become a celebrity evangelist.

Next day I met my best friend who wanted me to come to a New Year’s party he was arranging for the swankiest new country club in Lahore. He said he was putting on an open bar and he expected somebody there would be giving out Ectasy, and hoped nobody spilled too much booze on the furniture while they were making out. Drug and alcohol use is way, way up.

So maybe you’re likely to see a lot of bifurcation with one section getting more religious and radicalised another getting more hedonised while the middle occupies a compromise position. The future will tell how large each faction gets.

Tom C. Wednesday, 31 January 2007 at 15:55

Ali- Reforming by becoming more ‘hedonized’ is not what I, at least, was getting at. How old are these guys speaking this way? Aside from your uncle, I hope they’re college students. Simply because a large number of folks who have been brought up within a ‘brittle’ culture accept doctrine as fact doesn’t make the cultural ideology any less brittle.

I am trying to be as inoffensive as I can and mean nothing personal by my remarks.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 31 January 2007 at 17:55

M. Ali;

Islam’s doctrines tend to be accepted as fact across Muslim societies. Wrenching debates about scriptural truth just don’t happen.

That’s precisely why I consider it brittle. This kind of thing remains strong because of the unity of message until it breaks, at which point it has no recovery mechanism and falls apart in a major way.

cjm Friday, 02 February 2007 at 13:45

islam, like all doctrinaire belief systems, has no place for talented people. by definition, this makes them fragile and non-competetive.

erp Saturday, 03 February 2007 at 13:50

cjm has brought up a topic that I’ve often wondered about. How are thinking/talented Moslems who know terrorism is wrong, both because it kills innocents and because it will invariably lead to Islam’s destruction, able to navigate through daily life. We only hear about violence in the streets, hatred, killing and torture, with Islam’s only goal the destruction of Israel and western civilization.

It seems there are no Moslem countries where anything like modern life is taking place except perhaps among the extravagantly rich? Where is a Moslem society engaged in industry, science, medicine, engineering, literature, etc.? Where are the middle class entrepreneurs, the artisans, the mechanics, the tradesmen, the teachers, nurses …

Why aren’t the oil rich countries putting programs in place to educate poverty stricken Moslems in Bangladesh and other areas around the world, to teach them how to enter into the 21st century?

Just asksing.

Michael Herdegen Saturday, 03 February 2007 at 17:14

Well, one problem might be that the oil-rich nations can’t even teach themselves how to enter the 21st century.

They’re well aware that the oil won’t last forever, they just can’t bring themselves to do anything about the pending crisis.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 03 February 2007 at 17:33

erp;

The same way Old Media journalists at places like the NY Times make it through the day.

All;

As for the oil rich countries, you’re making the mistake of conflating the ruling class with the nation. For instance, the royal family of the Saudi Entity can either engage in real solutions to their societal problems, or stay in power. The power of the Salafists exists precisely because the Saudi royals found them useful as an underpining to their rule. Abandon that and their rule would likely not last much longer.

Michael Herdegen Saturday, 03 February 2007 at 22:39

If the Saudi Entity can’t fix the nation’s problems without being removed from power, then it seems to me that the root problem is with the nation, and not with the ruling class.

Although it is significant that the current ruling class will do just fine living in London after the oil runs out, whereas the nation that can’t be fixed will be left wallowing in freakish misery.

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