A Reinvented Islam?

February 2, 2016 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org – Islam has and always will be exactly what it is, the sum amalgam of its constituent parts. To clarify, Muslim bedrock principles will remain the same despite efforts to present them in a less threatening manner, one which is inconsistent with reality. Outside of the conjuring of academia and the media, Islam’s “true nature” is determined by how the Ummah conducts itself on the ground, within its own sphere of influence and more importantly as it interacts with the West.

As an observed phenomenon, the inertia of normative/operative Islam is neither accommodative of Western values nor do its adherents show much interest shifting in that direction.

Despite the fact that there isn’t much that is hopeful to point to - consider the absence of a single Muslim majority nation on Earth which comes close to embracing the liberal values we cherish - earnest calls for a reformed Islam continue to issue from some very bright, well-meaning and learned people, including patriotic, secular American Muslims.

But let’s examine the proposition a bit; isn’t the hope for Islam to start conforming to ethical standards of the civilized world really a call for Muslims to be nonobservant?

Throughout its 1,400 year history doesn’t the extent to which any Muslim could be called “radicalized” depend upon the degree to which he or she is Shari’a compliant? The effect of this is profound in that Muslims who accept the entire corpus of the Qur’an as the literal and direct revelation of Allah cannot help but carry jihad in their hearts.

One of the real mechanical roadblocks to a reformed Islam is that it’s anything but monolithic. Rather it’s so multi-faceted that it might even be thought of in terms of being schismatic, three major sects, numerous schools of jurisprudence [fiqh] and dozens of sub-groupings.

Briefly in the Sunni tradition [representing over 80% of Muslims] there are 5 major schools of legal theory - Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, Shafiʿi, Ẓāhirī. Within Shia Islam one can find Twelvers, Ja'faris and Ismailis. Sufi Islam is also fractioned with well over a score of schools of thought [please refer to, The Divisions of Islam].

With nothing rivaling an Islamic Pope, how would one arbitrate differences between very factious groups [especially across the blood-feud Sunni/Shia divide] and then implement some agreed upon new doctrine on a systemic basis? If the plan is for the reformation to naturally develop in the form of an organic gradualism...a word of warning, we don’t have that much time.

Absent a general religious consensus and moreover, lacking a means whereby this newly hashed-out orthodoxy would be reflected in Islamic institutions how would “change” be imposed/enforced Yet despite this absence of process there remains the constant refrain, that “Islam must reform itself,” or that “change has to come from within.”

Understanding that there is little stomach for this among the converted and even barring the structural and doctrinal impediments to a reformation of sorts, wouldn’t such a project inherently be seen by Muslims as originating from the outside since that is where the majority of these calls are coming from? After all it’s only non-Muslims and secular practitioners who operate outside a strict interpretation of the Shari’a who are demanding that the theology be brought into concord with the ethics of the modern world.

Expecting the Muslim world to abandon jihad is absurd, there’s nothing to suggest that it’s ever been on the theological able, actually jihad is often thought of as the 6th pillar of Islam.

If there is an internally driven and authentic movement to break with the Islam’s historical intolerance, it’s certainly well hidden. To the contrary, Wahhabists, Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood have been fighting for a very long time to “purify” Islam, i.e., making it less conducive to coexistence with Western society rather than less confrontational.

It is significant that the expansionist, supremacist, triumphal doctrine of jihad which motivates all modern terrorist groups [excluding for the moment all of those Catholic and especially Episcopalian holy warriors] only really gained currency during the mid 20th century, prompted by the writings of a pious Egyptian school teacher, Seyyid Qutb in his seminal work Milestones .

Is it reasonable to assume that a religion which over the last 50 years has been moving away from modernity would suddenly reverse itself and be first in line to embrace what it now sees as a decadent, polytheistic West?

But let’s for the moment stipulate that a defanged Islam is possible; what would be the effect?

We are lectured on a daily basis that its only _____% [fill in the blank] of Muslims who are “radical” yet those people still present a grave and entirely disproportionate threat. If, for example, the percentage of “radicals” were cut in half from an estimated 20% to 10% wouldn’t 100M implacable jihadists dispersed into cells across the planet still constitute an existential danger , especially in light of all of the available ‘Net based tools which serve as force multipliers?

What if 90% of Iranian population instantly became “moderate?” Wouldn’t the fact that the Ayatollahs would still have their finger on the trigger render null such a change?

ISIS is in a historically consistent manner, imposing Shari’a by the sword. Where is the evidence that the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadis of the world would find much use in abandoning the ideologies which have made them so powerful and feared?

It seems to follow that “moderating” Islam even if possible would have no real net effect; those causing the problem would not be listening, people would continue to be slaughtered and a considerable percentage of the West’s resources would still need to be consumed trying to prevent it, so why pursue the matter at all outside the ivory towers and DC policy shops?

One aspect of this matter which the “unicorn hunters” fail to account is that even discussing how a non-threatening Islam might be structured is only possible within the ethical system which the Reformation largely made possible.

With all due respect to the dissenters, debating whether or not a moderated form of Islam is even possible is at best arguing about the number of souls which can be balanced on the edge of a scimitar, and hence, of less value than it might appear.

If those on the warpath maintain their aggressiveness and continue to subjugate the kafir, “apostates,” “heretics,” non-believers, even those who are “people of the book” as well as agnostics and atheists, what difference does it really make?

Theologically and pragmatically it’s difficult to see how a fundamentally changed but still authentic Islam would ever come into being and then be widely promulgated.

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