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February 16, 2008
Response to Dr. Tawfik Hamid interview
Please permit me a response to the thinking of Mr. Hamid.
Mr. Hamid believes he has a reinterpretation of Islamic text that offers hope that Islam can be reformed to peacefully coexist with non-Islam. He describes this hoped-for reform as "thinking at a conceptual level, ... a complex theological approach, ... not an easy process, ... [requiring] careful analysis".
Mr. Hamid must recognize that such reinterpretation is revolutionary (=radical) since he says it is not "part of mainstream teaching". I submit that with the complexity he describes, such reinterpretation is beyond the experience of his people. I call AT reader attention to Alinski's Rule 2 for radicals;
Never go outside the experience of your people. The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
Regardless of Alinski's politics, groups following his rules have a track record of success (ex. the American left). Does Mr. Hamid believe this rule does not apply? If so, why? Does he believe it should be modified? If so, how?
A close paraphrase of Mr. Hamid describes his hoped for reform as a complex process using the power of religion to replace negative brain links with positive links in millions of individual brains coordinated with media and education and "other areas".
I suspect AT readers are wondering how practical this is. The level of control required to effect the scale of reform required is mind-boggling, especially in view of the resistance to change Mr. Hamid acknowledges is present.
Speaking of this resistance to change, Mr. Hamid claims it is based on "fear that their whole religion will collapse". Mr. Pruder's account of the interview indicates no exploration of this fear, a violation of "know your enemy" doctrine. Permit me to explore this fear.
First, the texts of Islam, Qur'anic and otherwise, document that the founder of Islam was a murderer, a thief, and a deceiver. There may be dispute as to the label (murderer), but not the action (killer).
Second, numerous passages in the Qur'an specify that the founder of Islam is to be revered and obeyed. Qur'an 33:21 claims he presents a beautiful pattern of conduct for anyone to follow.
If we play Mr. Hamid's word game, then the murdering, thieving, and deceiving was only acceptable in the early days when Islam was threatened. Islam is threatened today by people rejecting Islam for Western freedom. The non-Islamic West is a threat. If unethical behavior was acceptable for the founder under threat, who presents a fine example, who is to be revered, then rejecting his example today when Islam is also threatened fails to show him the reverence commanded by Islamic texts. Irreverence towards the founder of Islam strips Islam of divine authority. It becomes a backwards tribal belief system best avoided. In the words of Mr. Hamid, the whole religion collapses. This is more or less the same thing that would happen to Christianity if the resurrection of Christ is no longer part of Christian doctrine. Without the resurrection Jesus is just another nice guy with a few good ideas, as opposed to the divine authority of his claims.
In summary, the complex reform Mr. Hamid suggests is difficult for the average person to understand, beyond human ability to effect, and trivializes the divine component that underlies religion. The chances for success are extremely remote. No policy towards the conflict between Islam and Western freedom should be based on hoped-for reform of Islam to comport with the West.