Today’s Jesus and Mo is particularly relevant in view of our discussions (and the apologists’ denials) about whether ISIS represents “true” Islam. That denial is bunk, of course: one can make a case that ISIS is one of the truer forms of Islam. Regardless, it’s certainly representing the principles of one form of Islam. The J&M cartoonist’s note says this: “Jesus is reading this article.”
The article is by James Brandon at the site Left Foot Forward, and is called “By denouncing ISIS as ‘not Muslims,” moderate Muslims are making things worse.” A quote from Brandon’s piece:
Just as non-Muslims who try to tackle Islamism through defining moderate interpretations of Islam as the sole ‘true Islam’ actually undermine liberal Muslim attempts to develop a pluralist understanding of religion, so moderate Muslims’ use of takfir – the process of denouncing rival Muslims as apostates or non-Muslims – reinforces the ideological underpinnings of the very movements they are seeking to tackle.
Takfirism is the root and enabler of all modern jihadism; takfirist doctrine enables any ‘true’ Muslim to label those with a rival interpretation of Islam as no longer Muslim.
This, combined with traditional Islamic jurisprudence that mandates death for apostates, is taken by jihadists as an open license to denounce and then kill their enemies.
When moderate Muslim groups use takfirism to tackle extremism, this dangerous and intrinsically intolerant doctrine is therefore not challenged but is instead reaffirmed. Illustrating this, one British fighter in Syria, explaining why he regarded the MCB as his enemies, said: ‘The Muslim Council of Britain, they are apostates, they are not Muslims”, ironically the same argument that the MCB itself makes against ISIS.
A better approach is to accept that Islamist extremists, however distasteful their view of Islam, remain Muslims, however much other Muslims, and non-Muslims, might dislike their version of Islam.
AGREED! But of course neither the U.S. nor moderate Muslims will go that route, for it seems to tar all religion. My one quibble with Brandon is that he thinks the way to eliminate extremist Islam is to “de-fang” the poisonous verses in the Qur’an:
Take, for example, militants’ fondness for beheading captives; jihadists typically justify this practice through referencing the Quranic verse 47:4 ‘when you meet those who disbelieve, strike at their necks’ (and variants of this, according to different translations), often supported by many centuries of warlike, and literally medieval, interpretations.
Rather than seeking to effectively re-contextualise and de-fang this verse for the modern era, a blunt rejection of those who cite it as non-Muslims removes all scope for critically engaging – and dismantling – their arguments. This ostrich approach that extremists’ actions ‘have nothing to do with Islam’ not only fails to recognise how deep-rooted some hardline jihadist interpretations are, but it also effectively cedes such key theological battlefields to the extremists.
By “re-contextualise and de-fang this verse for the modern era,” Brandon means to say either that it no longer applies (which is anathema for most Muslims, who see the Qur’an as the literal and eternal word of God), or that the verse, and others like them, were meant as metaphor. The latter won’t wash either, for the verse in question sure doesn’t look metaphorical! And, in truth, there are few Muslims who read the words of the Qur’an as being a metaphor for something else.
No, the way to de-fang Islam is the way to de-fang all religions: show that they are man-made, that there is no evidence for their deity or their God-given moral strictures, and then try to inculcate believers with Enlightenment values. That will take a long time—decades for Islam—but it’s the only way to rid religion of its malevolence.
But I fulminate; on to the cartoon:
BTW, Sean Hannity asked me to be on his Fox News show this week to discuss my contention that ISIS was indeed Muslim, but of course he’d also want to go after me for my remarks about Catholicism. I declined politely, saying that I prefer civil discussion to having my viscera gnawed by the host. In other words, I’d prefer to be interviewed rather than mocked, interrupted, or yelled at.