UI – Part 554 – Is Islam Reshaping the World?
Recently Shadi Hamid, senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Project on US Relations with the Islamic World in the Center for Middle East Policy and the author of Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World, spoke with Robert Nicholson, Providence editor (9/25/2018). I plan to write several blog articles discussing his comments.
Islam Being Exceptional
From Nicholson’s discussion he noted that Hamid argued “that Islam, in both theory and practice, has proven resistant to secularism and privatization. In much of the Muslim-majority world, Islam continues to play an outsized role in politics and public life. I don’t think this, at least on its own, is a problem, since unlike most liberals I see nothing inherently wrong with people not wanting their religion to be merely a private concern.”
There is a great deal in this package to un-load.
First, as to Islam proving itself “resistant” to secularism and privatization, he references Muslim-majority countries. In these countries Islam prevails. Schools and mosques ply the trade and Scripture of Islam and seek to have cultural Muslims, born in those countries, become more theocratic and in turn more political, more radical and jihadists. Muslims are in the majority. Other religions are suppressed, as there is no freedom of religion. And know that apostasy laws, where in these areas there is punishment for leaving Islam, and in some instances “death,” make it difficult for independent minded persons to even think about following a religious path, or no path at all (atheism), other than Islam.
Second, in the areas referred to he says that “Islam continues to play an outsized role in politics and public life.” I am not sure this even requires commentary. But of course Islam does. Governments, the ruling class, have the laws of Islam incorporated into their nation’s laws. Sharia Law lite or more concentrated dominates. Christians and Jews are not given the same consideration as Muslims as to punishment for many crimes. For a non-Muslim the law in these areas forbids them to speak out against Islam, the Quran, the prophet Muhammad or Allah. In addition Islam in almost every case is acknowledged as the religion of the land, which includes financial support and protection. There are those that continue to require a jizya tax be paid by non-Muslims, as protection from the government. Woman’s rights, freedoms by individuals, separation of boys from girls, limitations on education, and other manmade moral judgments cast into law (drinking alcohol, gambling, pedophilia, adultery) using Muhammad as the example and the Scripture of Islam as a guide, have a massive impact on public life. There are even Islamic police enforcing dress and grooming codes. Common law is uncommon in Muslim majorities.
Third, as to “nothing inherently wrong with people not wanting their religion to be merely a private concern,” but there is. What is wrong is a lack of freedom of religion. Religion as a public concern unites mosques and state. It plays into the hand of Islamic dominance. That is inherently wrong! An interpretation into what Hamid is saying is that having restrictions on your freedom, to love, to live, to pray and to choose your religion is just fine by his standards.
Policy in Non-Muslim Nations
Hamid suggests greater tolerance be offered Islam in non-Muslim majorities. He soft peddles this idea suggesting “policy must discover a kind of humility about cultural and religious change, while becoming more ambitious about political change.” The direction in which he is aiming is towards more Islam on the whole world, or as the Quran stresses seeking a world “All for Allah.” What is a ‘key’ to the reform he seeks, engaging pluralism, but only in non-Muslim areas (not so in Muslim-majorities as then you would see more churches and synagogues there), is ‘politics,’ capturing the minds, even altering the minds, of political leaders to accommodate “Islam’s role in everyday politics.”
Does Islam have to be accommodated anywhere?
As I have written in the past the majority of Muslims appear to be peaceful, but then they are ‘cultural’ Muslims, not well versed in the tenets or history of their inherited or adopted ideology (religion). As they engage through their mosques or madrassas they can be ‘radicalized.’ This suggests that a student of Islam that becomes more convicted in his or her ideology is less tolerant (or simply intolerant) of others, to include Muslims, the heretics that do not follow Islam in its most strident form, and infidels (non-Muslims). A convicted Muslim in its most dedicated form is a ‘jihadist.’
To think Democracy is possible in the Middle East is to demonstrate a lack of understanding of Islam, not just its tenets, but its history. Autocracies, monarchies, and totalitarian governments have dominated in what would be viewed as the Muslim world. Within countries there are tribes and clans that have their own leaders too. It is and has been a historical norm. Governments change by revolution, death to the dictator, and death by natural causes as families then battle within for successors (those battles include killings). There are few instances of free elections to choose a ruler. Iran, the only theocracy within the Muslim-majority nations, has elections for President. The persons running, however, are hand-picked by the Khomeini, the ideological leader and ultimate ruler, to insure their wants are met. The role of the President becomes one of oversight of infrastructure as the clerics, mullahs, imams focus their daily lives on prayer, Islam, and their own treasuries. Afghanistan, Tunisia, even Turkey have elections, but those elected either cater to the ulema, or battle daily the jihadists within (such as the Taliban and mujahadin), or rig the elections in their favor (think Erdogan, and push an Islamist agenda).
Hamid said, “Democracy in the Middle East is only possible if you allow diverse parties the right to participate, and this would include non-violent Islamist parties, just as it would communists, secularists, and anyone else.” It must also include Christians and Jews, the Yazidi’s and Atheists, but can it, has it, will it, or might that ever be possible. Probably only when pigs fly in those areas.
And reading into Hamid’s comments, to accommodate Islam’s place in public life, in non-Muslim as well as Muslim majorities, will require financial aide because of the extensive amount of poverty, underdevelopment and rural-urban migration needs to be addressed. Lack of productivity, even the incentives to produce more than pray to Allah, or simply believe that Allah will provide, is an obstacle that needs to be overcome too. Unfortunately the characteristics of Islamic populations as non-productive, which carries over into free nations where Muslims now reside and have a high percentage living off of welfare, does not provide a welcome mat for more immigration.
Must any nation be required to allow Islam, more an ideology than religion, more as communism and fascism, to impose any of its politics or theocratic rules into the laws of the land?
Grace and Peace