Straight talk about Islam in the Los Angeles Times

September 22, 2016 • 10:00 am

You don’t often see an op-ed on Islam this straightforward, especially in a major newspaper like the L.A. Times. So the September 9 op-ed by Shadi Hamid, “From burkinis to the Koran: Why Islam isn’t like other faiths,” is refreshingly candid—albeit worrisome. The refreshing bit is that it doesn’t pull any punches about the nature of Islam. The worrisome bit is also that it doesn’t pull any punches about the nature of Islam.

Hamid is described by the Times as “a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World.”  Because the Brookings Institution, a think tank, is on the liberal side, this makes the editorial especially compelling.

At any rate, Hami singles out two aspects of Islam that, he says, make it qualitatively different from other religions. We’re familiar with both of these, but it’s unusual to see them expressed so openly and their implications for acculturation of Muslims into Western societies made so plain.

The first is the literalism of the Qur’an, still widely accepted among Muslims:

Contrary to what many think, there is no Christian equivalent to Koranic “inerrancy,” even among far-right evangelicals. Muslims believe the Koran is not only God’s word, but God’s actual speech — in other words, every single letter and word in the Koran comes directly from God. This seemingly semantic difference has profound implications. If the Koran is God’s speech, and God is unchanging and perfect, then so is his speech. To question the divine origin of the Koran, then, is to question God himself, and God is not easily put in a box, well away from the public sphere.

This fundamentalism is worrisome, as it seems, at least now, recalcitrant to change. If you’ve read Ayaan Hirsi’s latest book Heretic, you’ll see that among the five solutions she requires for a “reformation” of Islam is the abandonment of Qur’anic literalism. Yet for now this is a futile request given the ubiquity of such literalism, shown in the chart below from the 2012 Pew Survey of the World’s Muslims (survey involved Muslim-majority countries, and didn’t include some like Yemen and Iran):


And many believe there’s only a single way to interpret God’s word:


How much better is it in the U.S? Well 50% of American Muslims are still Qur’anic literalists, and 90% believe in angels (a higher proportion of Christians, which I think is about 65%).


The second brute fact about Islam emphasized by Hamid is its fusion of religious dictates with civil governance:

Differences between Christianity and Islam also are evident in each faith’s central figure. Unlike Jesus, who was a dissident, Muhammad was both prophet and politician. And more than just any politician, he was a state-builder as well as a head of state. Not only were the religious and political functions intertwined in the person of Muhammad, they were meant to be intertwined. To argue for the separation of religion from politics, then, is to argue against the model of the very man Muslims most admire and seek to emulate.

Ergo the large proportion of Muslims who feel that sharia law should be the law of the land (I don’t have data for the U.S. or U.K.):


Hamid only makes one error, I think: when he insists that the hijab is worn largely as a matter of choice, even in places where it’s clearly not:

If you’re a Muslim woman who wears the hijab — covering the hair and most of the body — you can’t wear just any swimsuit. Some women, of course, are pressured or even legally mandated to wear the hijab (as in Saudi Arabia and Iran), but most choose to do so; it’s about their personal relationship with God.

. . .The hijab, by contrast, is ubiquitous in Muslim communities, and in some Muslim countries, such as Egypt and Jordan, the majority of Muslim women cover their hair. Again, this is often a conscious choice: Many Muslims take their religion so seriously that they want to observe seemingly restrictive and pre-modern dress codes. This is the case even in Turkey, where millions of women cover their hair despite decades of secular government and forced unveiling in state institutions.

I think Hamid needs to take a more expansive view of “choice” here, especially given the pressure that Muslim women are under, even in places like Turkey, to conform to the standards of their peers and family by covering their hair. The question of choice boils down to this: if wearing the hijab is a “conscious choice,” not compelled by social pressure, then no opprobrium will fall upon those who choose not to wear it.”  Take a look via Google Image of “women, Cairo, 1970”, and then again using 2015 as the date. You will be enlightened.

To his great credit, though, Hamid doesn’t soft-pedal these results as most American journalists would. His interpretations don’t bode well for the full assimilation of Muslims into Western democratic states:

I realize that some of my fellow American Muslims will view such arguments as inconvenient, portraying Islam in a not-so-positive light. But it is not my job to make Islam look good, and it helps no one to maintain fictions that make us feel better but don’t truly reflect the power and relevance of religion.

In the West, the common response to the challenge of theological diversity has been banal statements of religious “universality.” All too often, interfaith dialogue, however well-intentioned, is about papering over what makes us — or at least our beliefs — different. It is a tenet of our American faith that we’re all basically the same and ultimately want the same things. This is true in some ways, but not in every way.

The crisis of culture and identity — one that sees the rise of the far-right and white nativism in our own country — makes it clear that our differences and divides are real. We would all be better off acknowledging — and addressing — those differences rather than pretending they don’t exist.

I think that some of our politicians, especially Democrats, need to recognize this. The Republicans already do, but unfortunately combine it with calls for banning immigration and for the demonization of Muslims as a whole. But it won’t help matters by hiding our heads in the sand.

Here’s a 70-minute dialogue between Hamid and Leon Wieseltier. I haven’t listened to all of it yet, but it seems to be an explication of his book’s thesis, and that book sounds well worth reading, and not at all to the liking of people like Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald. (Note that Wieseltier is wearing his signature cowboy boots, made by Pablo Jass of Lampasas, Texas.)


79 thoughts on “Straight talk about Islam in the Los Angeles Times

  1. “How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World” That’s a bit melodramatic, but unfortunately true for all non-secularized communities. Incredible that personal belief constrains personal freedom for so many.

    In the short breath that organized religion is for the evolution of our species, it’s nice to know many are beginning to or already have exhaled.

  2. We need to be able to talk about things like this honestly with open debate and critical thinking. Dave Rubin is a perfect example of how to talk about touchy topics honestly. But it’s good people beyond him are finally starting to talk about these things.

    1. //Dave Rubin is a perfect example of how to talk about touchy topics honestly.//

      Yeah, inviting the likes of Tommy Robinson and Steven Crowder on, and not challenging them. His show is becoming an alt-right puff parade.

      1. He believes that these people should express their opinions. It doesn’t mean that he agrees with them, but his philosophy is that good ideas will always beat bad ones and that people need to hear all ideas in order to fight the bad ones with facts and logical reasoning.

        1. I’ve stopped listening to Rubin. After he interviewed Tommy and did not push back on the wild generalizations Tommy was making, I grew suspicious. Then after his interviews with Milo I was just done. He does no realize, he still agrees with many liberals he despises much more than he does the alt-right. But he knows there is no audience there.

          He seems to have found an audience in the alt-right, and does not seem to intent in challenging them too much.

        2. I didn’t hear any “facts or logical reasoning” in Rubins interview with Dinesh D’Souza.
          although I stopped watching halfway through the interview, it was a complete waste of time.

    2. I like what Dave is doing, but he has some personal weaknesses that annoy me. He doesn’t understand that conducting a polite, even handed interview does not bar him from raising uncomfortable points and asking sharp questions. He comes off like he’s running for class president celebrating that we all have school spirit.

      And Dave, if you are reading, try to cut down on using the word “stuff” – it will increase the clarity of your communication and focus muddled thinking.

  3. Video: His cough would be caused by pneumonic plague, not bubonic.

    (I don’t have data for the U.S. or U.K.)
    It almost makes one wonder why Pew doesn’t have data from the places where it’d be the easiest to gather.

    1. They do have data on trends in religious belief and demographics. You can probably use them to find out who (demographically) is entering/leaving Islam in America, what the overall rate of growth or loss is, and even IIRC what percent of Muslims believe in angels. But since they cover all religions and the entire US population, I don’t think they go into the detail of ‘how many Muslims are literalist and demographically what does that faction look like.’

  4. A couple of unrelated thoughts…

    1. I thought the Koran states it was dictated to Mohammed by Gabriel, not directly by God??? So its at best a tertiary source of God’s words, relayed to humans by an angel. And we all know that according to both Islamic and Christian theology, angels can make mistakes…

    2. Call me an optimist, but your second chart looks pretty good to me. Much like political maps of the US showing red and blue states hide just how ‘purple’ the population is at a fine scale, it seems to me that the numbers on the right hand side of the second chart show that just blocking off countries as ‘literalist’ when the majority thinks that ways obfuscates the real and significant numbers of Muslims who don’t take it literally. Egypt’s 21% is still a sizeable minority, and the other numbers are bigger.

    3. PCC says:

    The question of choice boils down to this: if wearing the hijab is a “conscious choice,” not compelled by social pressure, then no opprobrium will fall upon those who choose not to wear it.”

    I don’t know many “choices” that don’t have some amount of social compulsion to them. What I wear has an aspect of social compulsion. What I eat does too (and its much, much worse for women). When I go to bed, what I watch on TV, my choice of hobbies…society judges all of them, and that judgment colors my decisions, even if only a little bit.

    So I think its wrong to imply that Muslim women only have a ‘free choice’ if no opprobrium would fall on them regardless of what they picked. Not even a decision as trivial as choosing a sports team to support would count as a ‘free choice’ under that definition. I think we have to say that decisions are still free even when there is some level of social influence involved in making them, some social opprobrium risked. The question is not “free, yes or no” but “how free, on a sliding scale.” Will the consequence be one friend angrily berating you? Well, I’d say that still counts as a very free choice. One friend berating you is not enough of an excuse to claim you’re ‘not free’ to choose otherwise. OTOH, will the consequence be exile from the community and never getting to see your kids again, or caning, or prison? That’s not a very free choice. You are socially compelled. Will the consequence be most of your friends not talking to you any more? Oooh, that’s a toughie. Its somewhere in the middle. Are such people ‘free’ to choose? Well, I’d say yes, but also that we admire people who give up their friends in that case and we don’t judge people harshly if they don’t. We accept that that is a tough choice, even if its a free one. Sadly for Muslim women in the mideast, I think their choice usually falls closer to the “catastrophic” end than the “one angry friend” end. They are not very free to choose.

    1. there are many ex muslim sites some British ones I can think of – Iram Ramzan, Sedaa Our Voices, Salim Aliyaah of Faith to Faithless etc that talk about the factors stopping women resisting the hijab – honour culture means your whole family is shamed by the community – you could be sent to pakistan/elsewhere and forcibly married off to make you conform – you could be physically threatened – even killed by your family or your family could be. Sarah Haider in the US, Einyah in Canada also talks about it.

    2. Gabriel relayed from God – but its still considered God’s direct speech – since at least 9th Century when the traditionalists defeated the Mutazillah.

      1. I’m not seeing much difference with what I said. They’re saying Gabriel got it exactly right, okay, but Gabriel is still not the same entity as God. So he’s delivering a second-hand message, and Mohammed is delivering a third-hand one when you read his Koran.

        And unless they don’t believe in Satan, they at least tacitly accept that angels can make mistakes.

        1. I agree its weird and I suppose the difference from Judaic/Xtian scriptures is the whole lot is supposed to be related via Gabriel from Allah – not just the occasion chat to God by Moses or Jesus or Abraham relaying verbatim some small bits of the scriptures

          – logically it should be second or third hand from Allah- but this was a huge early theological debate with the Mutazalites those who believed the scriptures were pure divine revelation won and they keep saying its directly from god. I suppose its an assertion thing – Christians and Jews allow a dialogue and a story type interpretation (or at least have come to allow it) And Christian theology is pretty messy – with the Trinity and all.

          1. I suppose the difference from Judaic/Xtian scriptures is the whole lot is supposed to be related via Gabriel from Allah – not just the occasion chat to God by Moses or Jesus or Abraham relaying verbatim some small bits of the scriptures

            I’m still not seeing as how that is “directly” from God. Its just not direct. But I suppose Muslims insisting it is, is not any more of a linguistic and philosophical abuse than the Christian insistence that the trinity is one singular and indivisible God.

            I forget who might have noted this first, but it really does seem that some of these theological claims were developed just to be a ‘Taming of the Shrew’ type loyalty test. I’m gonna tell you the sun is the moon. And if you disagree or argue with me, I know you’re not yet completely part of my tribe.

    3. Even if Gabriel were to make mistakes, it would be irresponsible for God to leave them uncorrected especially since he also promises to preserve the Quran himself. He challenges skeptics to try to write even one similar verse.

      There’s simply no way for a Muslim to demote the Quran. The whole religion rests on the inhuman perfection attributed to it.

      1. I would not dismiss any hypothetical interpretation of any religion as “simply no way”. 🙂 Pretty much any radically different interpretation of a faith is only, in principle, one generation away.

        1. Europe and the UK have had significant Muslim populations for generations now. Its a different sort of population overall from what the US has = in US most muslims are migrants who are skilled, come with english originate from urban areas etc. Im not saying life has been easy for these Muslims but I feel that unless SJWs stop blaming most of their ills on western imperialism and pandering to illiberalism, Muslims have no incentive to move out of their old tribal norms. I think there is a tipping point numerically/percentage speaking where the host society has to adopt a coping strategy of either start adapting to be like them or move towards reversion to their own traditionalist Christian religion in order to maintain uneasy coexistence.

          1. If you look at Christianity, there were several significant revolutions that came not from Christianity being the minority in a more enlightened society, but just from internal political changes or changes theological thought. The protestant revolution (giving the Germanin princes a reason to go independent). Henry VIII making the church subservient to the king. No outside force or culture turned Spanish thought from Torquemada good to Torquemada bad over the course of a couple hundred years – Spanish Christians did that themselves.

            In Islam, you had a similar attempt with Ataturk. It apparently didn’t stick, but that doesn’t mean it can’t stick. While no such revolution or change in Islam is guaranteed, its also not impossible, and I find all these implications about how the Koran makes it impossible to be blinkered bullflop. Humans are remarkably flexible in how they will interpret their scriptures when it suits their personal interests to do so (consider the modern American evangelical “prosperity gospel”. Just think about the mental gymnastics one has to do to get to the conclusion ‘Jesus preached that he wants me to be materially wealthy.’) We just have to find the right levers, the right social forces to use. Now it may be a hard slog. And it may be that the more hardcore atheists are right and it’s just faster and easier to deconvert people rather than trying to ‘pacify the interpretation.’ But the point I’m trying to make here is that there’s nothing magical about the Koran. Its just a book, like the bible, and people are very very good at mis- and re-interpreting books to suit their own self-interest. I reject the notion that Islam is unique amongst religions in being immune to interpretive change, because I see no real foundation for that claim. Certainly “look at their 1,400 year history” doesn’t cut it – consider where Christianity was after 1,400 years. Did that mean the religion couldn’t be changed? Obviously not.

            One thing to think about when considering making Islam more pacifistic is that the largest Muslim country is Indonesia. The next big change may have nothing to do with what Imams in Mecca or Cairo think, it might have to do with what Imams in Jakarta think.

            1. Hear hear. No matter how hard some Muslims, Christians, or (for some reason) atheists find this to believe, no book interprets itself. Interpretations change. Often for political or economic reasons. Or even personal/family reasons, as with Henry VIII. Look at Jerry’s own example: women in Cairo, 1970. It’s not like Islam was less prevalent in Egypt in 1970.

  5. I would be interested to see more analysis of what is held to be the *content* of Sharia. This in itself is likely very variable, and simply asking “Sharia” likely provokes a “well, that’s a good thing, right?” by itself for many Moslems, without much reflection on what it entails.

    1. At least 75% of muslims are Sunni. After the Quran, there are key books of hadith (Bukhari number 1 for all Sunni Muslims, then Muslim and then a couple of others like Maliks Mulwatta) The sunni schools share 80% of belief in common but otherwise emphasis some hadith more than others and have different emphases in their methods of interpretation of how these things are applied. They each have a key book setting our their main interpretations of everyday law and ritual practise. (also) Hussein Qurimi The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence) The clerics of each school are called scholars and must train in the accepted hadith, rulings and interpretive methods of their school for years. They can issue fatwas (answers to questions from the faithful which should be followed) Fatwas may vary between scholars but the basics don’t vary. Those who vary too much are in danger of being labelled innovators and guilty of shirk (idolatry) – go too far too often and they could be punished as heretics. Even for the Muslim Brotherhood Its ok for an ordinary muslim to be a secret apostate if they appear to at least believe in Allah and Mohammed, but if they are public about this is when they could get into very serious trouble. For example in the Syaafi handbook (Guidance of the Traveller) even a mild criticism of Islam (like saying its nonsense that one has to do a ritual specified in Islam, like wudoo (washing) during prayer) carries serious penalty or even death. Even sufis are orthodox but they just add a layer of mystic practises and some saints to the orthodox beliefs, rituals and laws – or nearly all of them do.

      Wahabists more or less follow the (most conservative) hanbali school. Salafists are new too – but they try to emulate what they think the Prophet’s followers did without much reference to schools. They especially dislike Sufis and mystics. Shias are somewhat different – they cut out some of the hadiths – narrated via people allied to the side they don’t like, and adding the teachings of the descendants of Ali – who died out hundreds of years ago. Plus rulings of some very senior imams.

      1. Right, but there’s what they “should” follow based on what their affiliation says, and what they *actually* believe. Christians are supposed to believe the Nicene creed, and we all know that isn’t actually the case, after all.

  6. I’ve followed Shadid on twitter for some time. It’s been fascinating. First a few of us have tried to make the point that some of his arguments seem to support the far right, in that they seems to say that Islam is not necessarily compatible with Western Values, and we should not expect it to change. He does not agree with that.

    Also, I think Brookings affiliation needs to be considered. You mention that they are liberal. I’d agree. But I do think you have to look at how portions of Brooking are being funded lately to truly interpret their bias. I would argue that Brookings is very pro-islamist in many ways right now. Is that liberal?

  7. To paraphrase Lincoln, Islam can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time.

  8. The problem as I see it as that many think of Islam as just another religion. It’s not. It’s also a political system and for a majority of Muslims currently, the religion cannot be separated from society. That’s why liberal Muslims get such a hard time and are often rejected within their own communities as not being “real” Muslims.

    It is this mindset that reformers are trying to challenge to drag their religion, kicking and screaming, into the modern world.

    Until the regressive left understand that for many Muslims, Islam is NOT “just another religion” they will continue to get it wrong. It’s shocking to see, for example, how many so-called liberal, feminist, and LGBT rights groups express support for organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood and oppose ones like the Quilliam Foundation.

    1. I agree this is very overlooked or stubbornly ignored. Patricia Crones book God’s Rule Government and Islam : Six centuries of Medieval Islamic political thought is brilliant on putting a watertight case for this – she is not someone with an axe to grind re Islam. She studied Islamic origins and history all her career and was fluent in arabic – half her references are arabic language sources.

      1. I haven’t read her book, but I’ve read some others, including a biography of Muhammad. Just looking at the way he went about spreading Islam shows he was one of history’s great imperialists.

          1. I didn’t mean to sound critical. I looked up her book and it looks good. There’s another by her on a similar topic that looks even better.

    2. Agreed. Not only is a religion of beliefs, it is also a political/judicial system, plus it is a set of practical rituals that confirm a sense of belonging to a particular culture.

      Even if you could successfully challenge one aspect (and this has been done in ‘secular’ governments) the other two aspects drag Muslims back into the triple-lock fold.

  9. The Support for Sharia chart makes me wonder what are Russia, eastern Europe, and the central Asian countries doing differently? Muslims there seem to agree it’s not the best way to live.

    1. In my Eastern-European country, very few non-Muslims ever say that Islam is good, school textbooks portray the Ottoman invasion as a disaster, and women covering their hair (mostly foreigners) are looked upon like square eggs.

      1. So, are you saying they integrate into the local culture there better or more than in the West? Do you know which Islamic sects tend to immigrate there?

        I wonder if it’s simply a lack of Sunni and Shia Muslims? That eastern Europe. etc tend to receive sects that are predisposed to disliking Sharia law. Or if it’s how they’re integrated into society and the locals non-acceptance of certain practices.

    2. Maybe because Russia, eastern Europe and those central Asian countries ( ex Soviet Republics )had communist regimes in power for quite sometime?

  10. Some of the discussion about the latest NY/NJ terrorist attacks and the FBI’s actions or failures to act are examples of the issues. If this terrorist had been purely home grown and a Methodist we have no problem understanding why the FBI knew nothing about this fellow and he was not on any list or any radar. But, that is not the case and there was background events that, along with the fact that he was a Muslim from Afghanistan who had committed crimes and his own father called in the FBI. It is not unreasonable to believe this guy should have at least been on the list and observed from time to time. Maybe he still gets by with producing a few bombs and setting them off – but to be a completely blank slate? Some hard review is in order.

    We are 15 years past 9/11 and a lot of people still don’t get it.

    1. This is why I disagree with Prof. Coyne about immigration from Third-World Muslim countries. It would have been so simple if this family hadn’t been let in in the first place.

      1. Well, let’s see. His family came to the US in 1995 – six years before 9/11. But let’s ignore that and just talk population. PEW reports that the total muslim immigration population to the US since 1992 (conveniently, close to 1995) was about 1.7 million. That’s an awful lot of babies you’re willing to throw out with the bathwater. You really think we should’ve stopped roughly 1.6999 million good and honest people coming into the country to just to stop this guy?

        What’s more, if we say the total terrorist count from that population is about 30 (20 from 9/11, a handful since) that makes about 2 bombers or terrorists per 100,000 immigrants. Just to put that in context, St. Louis, MO, has about 15 murderers per 100,000. Seven times as many killers! So if you think the risk from Muslim immigrants is too high, what do you propose we do about the population of St. Louis?

        1. The population of St. Louis gained international notoriety in 2014. It is not easy to give advice what to do about it, but I’d suggest removal of cultural support for arsonists and crime supporters.

          The first bombing of the World Trade Center was in 1993. The same year, there was a shooting in Virginia (2 victims). More important to me, however, is the 1988-89 Rushdie affair, which showed that a worrying proportion of Muslim immigrants wish to impose their culture over the host society by force, that is, they are not true immigrants but invaders with the ambition to subdue the host population.

          Here is a list of Islamist terror attacks and failed plots on US soil after 2001, taken from Wikipedia:

          2002 Los Angeles Airport shooting
          2002 José Padilla (Abdullah al-Muhajir) Plot
          2002 Buffalo Six
          2004 financial buildings plot
          2005 Los Angeles bomb plot
          2006 Hudson River bomb plot
          2006 Sears Tower plot
          2006 Toledo terror plot
          2006 transatlantic aircraft plot
          2006 UNC SUV attack
          2007 Fort Dix attack plot
          2007 John F. Kennedy International Airport attack plot
          2009 Little Rock recruiting office shooting
          2009 Bronx terrorism plot
          2009 Dallas Car Bomb Plot by Hosam Maher Husein Smadi[32]
          2009 New York City Subway and United Kingdom plot
          2009 Fort Hood shooting
          2009 Colleen LaRose arrested (not made public until March 2010)
          2010 King Salmon, Alaska local meteorologist and wife assassination plots
          2010 Alleged Washington Metro bomb plot
          2011 Alleged Saudi Arabian student bomb plots
          2011 Manhattan terrorism plot
          2011 Lone Wolf New York City, Bayonne,NJ pipe bombs plot.
          2012 Car bomb plot in Florida.[33]
          2013 Boston Marathon bombing
          2013 Wichita Airport bombing plot
          2014 Queens hatchet attack
          2015 Boston beheading plot
          2015 Curtis Culwell Center attack
          2015 Chattanooga shooting
          2015 San Bernardino attack
          2016 Orlando nightclub shooting

          Source: Wikipedia. The list is non-comprehensive; it does not include the Vaughan Foods beheading, which was successfully classified by the establishment as workplace violence.

          Extremist Muslim immigrants are successfully imposing their cultural taboos on Americans by threats of lethal violence, as exemplified by the fate of cartoonist Molly Norris who proposed an Everybody Draw Mohammed Day:

          “On July 11, 2010, it was reported that the Yemeni-American al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki had put Molly Norris on a hitlist… FBI officials reportedly notified Norris warning her that they considered it a “very serious threat.”… As of 2015, Norris is still in hiding and jihadist threats against her life continue.” (Wikipedia)

          I do not see how these debilitating and ever-escalating attacks can be put on the same balance with the “danger” of not letting good people from the same populations into the USA.

          1. My beef, if I had one, is not about emigration and all that. We should have the ability to properly and safely bring in much more than we do. However, everyone must be aware of the signs and behavior that indicate problem individuals, certainly the FBI. I think they need to review what they did wrong that caused them to miss this guy and be very thankful he did not kill lots of people with the bombs he made. I am not a Trump fan in any definition of that person.

              1. I think well chosen migrants will be mostly pretty moderate. Refugees by definition aren’t chosen and if from Afghanistan they are unlikely to be migrants. We have a duty to take some not all. I do think a country has a right to determine how many migrants and refugees come to the country especially if from a culture or section of a culture that is especially resistant to humanist/secular values.

            1. Keep in mind the bomber was 12 and had no record of bad behavior when he immigrated here. There’s pretty much no way the FBI could’ve reasonably assessed him as a threat at that point.

              But I do agree with you that it appears from the outside that the FBI did not handle the more recent signs (violence, having your own father call the FBI to say he’s worried, etc.) with the seriousness they should. Sure, they probably get 10,000 false alarm calls they need to investigate for every dangerous person they find. But still, I can’t imagine there are many cases where someone’s own father makes that call. That would seem to me to be unusual and rare enough to ring an alarm bell. (Even in this case, though, we have to remember we’re armchair-quarterbacking from a position of ignorance. If it turned out that they receive thousands of false alarm calls from parents, that would certainly change my perspective on what they ‘should have’ done).

          2. …a worrying proportion of Muslim immigrants wish to impose their culture over the host society by force, that is, they are not true immigrants but invaders with the ambition to subdue the host population…

            If we judge by action rather than bombastic statements, that ‘worrying proportion’ is a smaller number per capita than the proportion of non-immigrant US citizens that try and impose their own will on others by force. There are many US cities where settling muslim immigrants – terrorists and fundies and all – would be expected to lower the overall crime rate and death toll.

            Moreover, it really is amazing how parallel your comments are to 19th century comments about Catholic immigration into the US. Pundits called them “Catholic hordes.” People talked about how they couldn’t be trusted because they would secretly obey the Pope rather than US law, and they couldn’t be truly democratic because of their obedience to church hierarchy and principles.

            Here’s Morse (inventor of Morse code), in 1834:

            Surely American Protestants, freemen, have discernment enough to discover beneath them the cloven foot of this subtle foreign heresy. They will see that Popery is now, what it has ever been, a system of the darkest political intrigue and despotism, cloaking itself to avoid attack under the sacred name of religion.”

            Gee, sounds a lot like “Islam is political movement bent on overthrowing our values, not a religion” doesn’t it? Here’s another:

            I exposed in my last chapter the remarkable coincidence of the tenets of Popery with the principles of despotic government, in this respect so opposite to the tenets of Protestantism; Popery, from its very nature, favoring despotism, and Protestantism, from its very nature, favoring liberty. Is it not then perfectly natural that the Austrian government should be active in supporting Catholic missions in this country? Is it not clear that the cause of Popery is the cause of despotism?

            ‘Popery, from its very nature, favors despotism’ sounds an awful lot like “the Koran, from its very nature, is literal’ doesn’t it? And is it not clear that he Saudi Arabian government should be active in funding mosques in this country? Is it not clear that the cause of Islam in the US is the cause of Saudi Arabian wahabbism? These 19th century quotes fit your argument to a tee.

            At the time, Protestants also claimed that Catholics would destroy American culture (sound familiar?). And anti-Catholic sentiment coincided with the rise of the know-noting party (also sound familiar)?

            This is an old pattern of bigotry, repeating itself, with only the subject of the bigotry changed.

            Once again, I’m all for denying entry to violent people. But I don’t feel our immigration service or police force needs to be in the business of encouraging or enforcing cultural assimilation. That sounds an awful lot to me like what you want is the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, only substituting Mayamarkov’s opinion on virtue and vice for theirs.

            1. sorry, Islam is a more extreme religion than RC has been 4 quite some time; moreover its power in the great majority of the Western world is negligible cf the role of Islam in the lives of muslims the world over

              1. also I’m talking about damage to liberal secular culture and scientific culture, not the protestant religion – liberalism is more fragile than chauvinist trad culture

              2. I see your point but today Irish Catholics and Catholics generally in the US are more liberal than 3/4 of the Protestant churches and most don’t adhere to papal injunctions re contraception, divorce etc – if any thing they are pretty liberal. In Australia very much the case. Not that pattern for the great majority of Muslims – its way more resistant to and hostile to modernisation. The early intellectuals – Mutalazites really started going on the wane from the 9th Century and the intellectuals from there had to explain everything in terms of revelation and explicitly hostile to foreign (esp ancient Greek) thinkers and rejected any theorising as potentially dangerous. Mathematics was generally (though not necessarily) OK and, outside that, things that strictly non theoretical. Also intellectuals had to have patronage of a sympathetic ruler to protect them from hostile clergy even in the Mutazalite period
                Tanner Edris, An Illusion of Harmony, works by Pervez Hoodbhoy, also Edward Grant, A Hist of Nat Phil
                I have argued in another topic on this website that the West inherited a greek philosophical/arguing tradition in part of Christianity that never quite died and was vigorously reignited in early 13thC (Edward Grant – A history of Natural Philosophy). Islam never had universities as we would understand them – they were private schools funded by an individual and bound by law not to contradict Islamic tenets (which are extensive despite what Hamid implies). Plus in European history Universities under Roman style law were granted the status of permanent institutions – with independent law and able to levy their own curriculum, campus rules and funding – they lasted hundreds of years and Soon there were 200 of them drawing students all over Europe and based on debating ancient natural history which seen as buttressing the claims of religion with reason. Of course lots of strange ideas, but when empiricism started to come in the tradition of debating and theorising helped a lot. Some of the empiricism was driven by the need to innovate following repeated waves of plague, and massive navigation discoveries spurring interstate competition for good and ill and navigation helping to drive astronomical developments too

            2. People say such things about groups of immigrants all the time. See e.g. what the head of Britain’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips said in a BBC interview in 2006:

              “…As we’ve seen over the last two or three years, you know, the legendary Polish plumber, the Czech carpenter, and so on, they have benefited our society. The point I’m making here is while they’re benefiting our society economically, we need to make sure that we don’t have a social problem that goes with that.
              One of the things that we’ve been concerned about recently has been reports that some of the Eastern Europeans who come, frankly with attitudes towards black people which date back to the 1950s, that we need to make sure that they understand when they come here they’re coming into a society where that is unacceptable and where that doesn’t work. And that’s why I think this issue of integration is so important.”

              At that time, Phillips supported Muslim immigration. He published a report titled “Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All”, popularizing the term. Now, he says that new data shows “a chasm” between Muslims and non-Muslims on fundamental issues such as marriage, relations between men and women, schooling, freedom of expression and even the validity of violence in defence of religion.
              British people, for now, seem to agree with his former opinion – that Eastern European immigration should be restricted while Islam is OK.

              Everyone is entitled to his opinion, and to expressing it. You say that those who were against Catholic immigration were dead wrong. Someone else, however, could say that he is unhappy about young Americans being molested by Catholic priests, about Catholic gangs, or about the USA becoming a bilingual country.
              If American citizens like large-scale Muslim immigration and its consequences, OK. However, the support for Trump suggests otherwise.

  11. A “prophet”, “politician”, “state-builder”
    and “head of state”.

    Straight talk? Hardly.

    Yes, Muhammad was all of those things. But he was also a murderer, a child abuser, a serial rapist, and he personally incited, organized and brought to fruition the ethnic cleansing of all Jews from Arabia. Unless those tiny details are mentioned, I really don’t see it as “straight talk”.

    In fact, I found the article decidedly “crooked” in its intentional downplaying of the more nefarious aspects of the Islamic faith.

  12. “in other words, every single letter and word in the Koran comes directly from God.”

    Anyone who believes that Christians DON’T also believe this is ignorant about modern Christianity in the US.

    Of course, there are other reasons why Islam and Christianity are qualitatively different. But suggesting that Muslims believe that the Koran is the word of god and Christians don’t is ignorant. (eg, “there is no Christian equivalent to Koranic ‘inerrancy,’ even among far-right evangelicals.”) This is not true and therefore is not evidence supporting the idea that there are qualitative differences between the religions.

    I accept that more Muslims believe in the inerrancy of the Koran than Christians/Jews believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, but the difference is quantitative, not qualitative. And and the quantitative difference is largely the result of the differential influence of the Enlightenment upon Western culture compared with Middle Eastern culture.

    Hamid clearly gets his information about Christianity from liberal Christians.

    We are not going to make progress combating religion when those who comment about it don’t characterize it accurately.

    1. “Anyone who believes that Christians DON’T also believe this is ignorant about modern Christianity in the US.”

      I tried to make that same argument with Shadid, he does not want to believe it. Sometimes his argments sounds like he only talked with liberal Christians. Which I see you said also 🙂

    2. Indeed.
      While Christianity has oscillated back and forth over the centuries over how much or how little of the Bible is allegorical, the self-labeled fundamentalist movement that was launched in the 1920s (as a backlash against ‘modernism’) declared as their first (of five) fundamentals
      “1.The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.”
      and essentially declared that the text of the Bible itself is the ‘word of God’.

    3. Anyone who believes that Christians DON’T also believe this is ignorant about modern Christianity in the US.

      I think the point of the contrast is to say that while literalism is a significant minority in Christianity, its a significant majority in Islam – and that is a difference with social consequences.

      Much as he’d like to be, people like Ken Ham are not representative of US Christian beliefs. According to Gallup’s last survey, about 30% of USAans take the bible literally. I think it’s safe to assume everyone answering that way was Christian. With 75% of our population being Christian, that means the nonliteralist Christians still outnumber the literalist Christians 60%/40%.

  13. In Islam there’s also an honour/shame culture attached to women’s roles and ensuring absolute certainty of male lineage so that female behaviour in particular reflects on the (sometimes violently enforced or punished) “honour” of the whole family in a way that I don’t think is present in the other Abrahamic religions – or at least not since ancient times. As in the obsession with covering and not allowing interactions with males who are not the husband or not relatives.

    Even if in the cases where its the mother in law rather than male relatives making the girl behave a certain way (because she must go and live with the husbands family) – its still because in the culture women only get status and a modicum of comfort when they get older, have produced sons who are supposed to look after them in old age, and can have their daughter in law wait on them, and produce more progeny who will enhance the status of the family. And even if they have to obey males they can at least boss around the daughter in law until her children are grown. Of course its not generally so tribal in the cities – but it still persists. Theres even an inbreeding thing in South Asia and Saudi to keep tribal links.

    Regarding males and honour – The obsession with Jihad and violent martyrdom where in Xtianity martyrdom is something experienced at the hands of others whilst showing forbearance. And the religious infusion of war – even civilians who die in war are called “martyrs”

    The Sunni author of, Principles of Islamic law mentions “Lineage” as one of the considerations of religious public good (mastlaha) and the Syaafi schools Guidance of the Traveller says that whilst muslims must not defy the devout muslim ruler, in day to day matters every muslim must police good behaviour – sometimes even by force – defending the good and forbidding the wrong. Everything is enforced and policed by shame and the community where religion and political rule are fused and not just by conscience and God – a shame culture rather than a guilt culture

  14. I now vaguely recall that when I had to read the Koran for Western Civilization, the translation was entitled “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran” since the translator insisted that only the original Arabic was really and truly THE Koran!!

    (I also fell asleep in the student lounge of my dorm with a copy of it on my chest, and recall the future founder of FIRE, Alan Kors, gently ribbing me about this the next day.)

  15. How ’bout we open a kickstarter, get Leon an estimate for a tonsorial makeover.

    I mean, keep the beatnik-black threads, man — but the hair, really? Does he not own a mirror?

    I kid, Mr. Wieseltier, I kid!

  16. Shadi is a Muslim.
    I’ve listened to many talks he’s has with people following publication of his book. There are Muslim theologians doing the hard work of reform (see those working at QuilliamF for eg) who are trying to address these literalist ideas, including hijab wearing etc. Not one interviewer so far has asked Shadi any questions about what literal ideas in Islam he subscribes to.
    Given some of his statements in his book & in interviews regarding this literalism, his ongoing belief in the religion, and his disregarding of the views expressed by reforming theologians, I find some of the things he says concerning.
    I don’t want to sound conspiratorial, but Maajid Nawaaz has described the idea of “entryism” & it is possible the ideas Shadi expresses, that to be a Muslim requires a degree of literalism, is to signal to Muslims that how they should be & to get us used to the idea.
    If that’s the case then no thanks. Muslims don’t have to be literalists anymore than Christians have to believe their Christ was crucified on a cross. And I’m certainly not prepared to get used to it.

  17. Much of the present “Sunni revolution” is the consequence of the billions the Saudi establishent has spent trying to ensure that it is surrounded by more or less friendly Sunni run states.
    The reason is simple (besides the obvious religious proselytising) the country cannot defend itself, it has a tiny population and no army worthy of the name.
    So defence as much as faith is the great concern of the Saudi dynasty
    Also as a footnote, the Hashemite family has not forgotten the illegal Saudi seizure of power and may now also be stirring the pot.

  18. We have plenty of sexism as it is without flat out denial that some cultures just are more sexist. Eg Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh Admits he’s a Muslim (and justifies his stance in cultural terms)

    Here is some pretty straight talk from Roosh – from 2.10 minutes on justifying his “rape is fine on private property” stance with Muslim Cultural reasons 10 minute video 6 Feb 2016 [split to stop embed]


    Roosh advocates actual violence but Ezra Levant of Rebel News sees no reason to censor this (interview 3 Feb 2016). Comments are a shocker [split to stop embed]


    Meanwhile some feminists say we can only talk about Western sexism
    As per an abstract of an article by Professor Lisa Wade of Occidental College California,
    Defining Gendered Oppression in U.S. Newspapers:The Strategic Value of “Female Genital Mutilation”

    “According to the logic of the gendered modernity/tradition binary, women in traditional societies are oppressed and women in modern societies liberated. While the binary valorizes modern women, it potentially erases gendered oppression in the West and undermines feminist movements on behalf of Western women. Using U.S. newspaper text, I ask whether female genital cutting (FGC) is used to define women in modern societies as liberated. I find that speakers use FGC to both uphold and challenge the gendered modernity/ tradition binary. Speakers use FGC to denigrate non-Western cultures and trivialize the oppressions that U.S. women typically encounter, but also to make feminist arguments on behalf of women everywhere. I argue that in addition to examining how culturally imperialist logics are reproduced, theorists interested in feminist postcolonialism should turn to the distribution of such logics, emphasizing the who, where, when, and how of reinscription of and resistance to such narratives.”

  19. That’s why ISIS consider themselves “true” Muslims because they interpret the Q’uran literally, so they are impossible to open a dialogue with, unless they see it as a back door to furthering their odious “Caliphate” so in dealing with them there is only one way.

  20. This shows that the Sanaa Koran is a palimpsest:

    Clearly altered, what is believed to be the fifth oldest Koran in known to exist is not the unaltered word of Allah.

    When this was pointed out to the Yemini authorities the investigation then being carried out by a German team, brought in by the Yemini authorities, was stopped and all further investigation banned.

    Why is that, are the Muslims not interested in God’s altered word?

    1. A local CFI member gave a talk to the group about this manuscript and related matters a while back. One thing he didn’t know: Do we know if the manuscripts are still accessible, what with all the bombing and such in Yemen?

      1. Sorry for the delay, Keith. Once the news got out that the Sanaa Koran, reputed to be the 5th oldest known copy was a palimpsest the Yemeni Govt stopped all research and put it off limits. The answer to your question is unclear.

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