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03 May 2012


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The article referenced a read-in. Were they reading books in French because there are so few new books published in Arabic?

yusuf al misry

Just think of Saleh Amara, the father of Ibrahim in the Post piece you quoted,why did he disagreed with his son? If it was indeed a solid rock unchangeable and always equals itself the father would not have been so upset with the fanaticism of his son..Egypt's, and Tunisia's were dominantly Sufi culture..the wave of fanaticism is relatively new..a gradual rise that followed the first world war and the fight against colonialism, hance searching for a "national" identity. Then this wave gor a tremendous boost by the rise of the Gulf petro countries and the end of Arab Nationalism as an ideological identity..I am a Muslem, and I consider myself a good Muslem, but Islam is interpreted in any given period according to many other worldly factors..this very fact is not exclusive to Islam..you reminded us with the reform which was called for by many factors other than the Church though it emerged from within. The moderate Islamic culture will certainly make a come back in the Arab World..this is one dimension of the fight that is going on there now.



The Arabs are much given to writing books in Arabic often in beautiful leather bindings with gold embossed covers. Tunisians would read books in French because the previous generations are so completely bi-cultural, pl



I have been urging the US government to hope for the triumph of Sufi Islam. The Salafi Wahhabi types hate the Sufis. They cannot tlerate the triumph of feeling (batn) over rules (qawa'id). Sufism in popular Islam in Iraq played a major role in the reversals suffered by AQ there. Do you favor a parfticular Tariqa (order)? I have known many Naqshbandiyeen and like their way. pl

Babak Makkinejad

yusuf & Col. Lang:

Sufi Islam - "Tariqat" - was always predicated on conformity with the Law - "Shariat".

Positing Sufis as an alernate to Muslim Orthodoxy is a delusion; in my opinion.

Neither among Shia nor among Sunni Muslim sufis can defend their position against Legalistisc Muslims on the plane of ideas since Legalistic Islam is Islam par excellence.

Sufis were triumphant in Liya when the Senussi Order gained power in 1949. But it singularly failed to supply a Sufi response to the Modern World that could engage the Muslims there.

The Safavid Sufi order created modern Iran in the 16-th century and ruled it for more than 200 years with equally dismal absence of Sufi political ideas.

The only Sufi Muslim that I am aware of who actually was both a Sufi and a Dr. of Religious Science of Islam and who broke with orthodoxy was Ayatollah Khomeini.

Babak Makkinejad

Yusuf al Misry:

Jews also face the same predicament since Orthodxy defines that religion in its current form.

That is, there is a body of doctrine and law that the degree of conformance to them is considered the very definition of the goodness of Jew.

The Christians never faced this issue since one of the doctrines of the Gospels was the negation of such religious legalism.

If I recall correctly, it was St. Paul who stated: "Everything is permitted...".

yusuf al misry

Pat..Grand Father was a follower of Sayed Albadawy in the delta (Tanta)and have some grand uncles who are still loyal, but father and sons did - me included - not have direct affiliation with the Torok (plural of Tariqa as you know). Sufism was badly defeated in Libya and Algeria. It is still resisting in Morocco and Egypt. It should be observed that contol of the state during the Nasser period over Al Azhar weakend this great institution, hence paved the way to the spread of Salafism and Wehabism ..it is not yet a done deal..Al Azhar should be preserved, strengthened and allowed a totally opened debate. Such a process can lay the base of reform the moment its time will come

yusuf al misry

by the way Pat, I do not think that the father of this young man in the Post's story could read at all, neither Arabic nor French. And in any case, the Egyptian case negates the supposed influence of the English culture. We still have very similar environment to what the Post's piece showed. Saleh Amara (the father of Ibrahim in the Post's piece) is coming from another epoch of these countries journey in time

William R. Cumming

NOW A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER! It is now clear that the economies of both the USA, Europe, and Japan and others cannot generate enough jobs even for their educated classes. Nor can China. Nor can MENA! So here goes! Probably a shot in the dark.

Unable to reform themselves, the MENA seems to be having a retreat into the mideval. The great danger it seems to me is that the Western elites needing an enemy to drive their politics, and economies, may well decide CRUSADING is again a worthy cause. Perhaps the next POPE will encourage crusades. Perhaps not. Realistically gasoline is priced too low in the USA given its real history and inflation. Try telling that to those who attend church more than once a week or various gun shows.

Even as a harder and harder depression in my area locks on specifically the 1st District of Virginia, more and more evidence of retreat into the world of God and Guns.

So what are the chances I am correct? History has not ended IMO. Does the current political campaign indicate stability or stress in the country at large? I would argue for stress wherein neither candidate feels that Americans can accept the truth on various issues or give them choices.


That's Samuel Huntington's CoC in a nutshell:


I have visited Tunisia on a regular basis for more than 30 years. I have been in contact with a fairly wide social range of people - despite my linguistic skills being limited to French. I wish to make a few points about the cultural-religious-political outlet there.

1. Tunisia "biculturalism" should be understood in terms of a multifacted modernization and not exclusively in terms of Westernization. Pat makes this point, but I would extend beyond language. I see it as an organic development of Tunisian society nowadays - not just a post-colonial phenomenon.

2. A quite fascinating survey a few years ago compared attitudes among young Spanish, Italians and Tunisians as to life style and as to identity-values. The scores on the former axis were nearly identical, Where they differed was in the idntification of the sources from which they drew their principles, ethics, social philosophy, sense of personal meaning, etc. They were Islamic and national.

3. For decades, Tunisian schools have fostered a sense of Tunisian identity that embraces not just Islam (given a central place) but salient Tunisian social ethics and sense of community of which it is one ingredient.

4. The modern youth who spearheaded the religion along with their supporters among the educated. more urban sectors of society were surprised by the strong electoral showing of the Islamist Ennaadha Party. The latter's success, though, was not overwhelming. Moreover, while it shares roots with the Islamic Brotherhood and other regional Islamist parties, it has become Tunisianized to a considerable extent.

5. The level of political consciousness and civic activism at all levels of society in Tunisia is incomparably greater than elsewhere in the Arab world. The Islamists are being monitored and challenged relentlessly at every turn.

6. Ghannoush's grown daughter does not speak Arabic - except of the most elemntary form of kitchen Arabic. She is truly fluent only in English.

7. These comments are not meant to paint a pollyanish future for the country. The relatively small but aggressively fanatic wing of the islamist movement will have to be dealt with. I expect that they will be reined in because the government could not prevail in another election unless they are. In addition, they are being confronted routinely in the streets, in the universities and elsewhere. The greatest danger, as I see it, is not the compromising of democracy or the imposition of an Islamist agenda. Rather it is that even relatively small changes such as educational Arabization could lead many talented younf Tunisians to emigrate.



I am happy that you labeled your opinion as to the relative insgnificance of Sufism as "my opinion." Mine differs. You and I had something like this conversatoin once before after you taught me much concerning the role played by Sufim in Shia Islam especially in the early period of Islam taken as a whole. I would agree that Sufism has long submitted to ulema/sharia Islam. The alternative would have been exclusion from Islam. As we know there are many sects that had their origin in Shiism that are no longer considered Islamic by most authorities. Returning to Sufism, before Ghazali made his brilliant reconciliation of Sharia/Ulema Islam to Sufism the probable fate of Sufism was extermination in the most unpleasant ways. The basic nature of his compromise was that Sufis would accept "the law" and would not claim to know God directly in mystic ways. Instead, as you know, they claim to know God through his works and in his reflection shown to their minds. They also undertake to observe sharia within the area of its "reach" as it applies to them. Thus, sufis in the Ottoman Empire accepted the authority of the sultan/caliph and his ulema, etc. That does not mean that within this form of submission there was not a lot of "room" for private understandings of Islam within the turuq or in the batn of the individual. I think that remains true. pl



I have no quarrel with your argument except to say to you and Yusuf both that without the colonial experience neither Tunisia nor Egypt would have anything like the westernized segment in their societies that they possess. pl

yusuf al misry

Babak..it is an interesting point that you raised. But it is not either or (when talking about sufis and wahabis), Pat mentined the name of Imam Al Ghazaly whom I believe contributed a great deal to adapting Sufism to the changes occurring in Islamic thinking. There is another example. Hassan al Bana, the founder of the Muslem Brotherhood. He was a Sufi (The Hassefi Tarequa) and his father was as well.
Will that mean that Sufism will have to gradually move closer to the position of whom you called "the legalists"?. This should be the conclusion if you consider all the other elements of the equation equal zero..that is if they do not exist. But all these thoughts move like living creatures in the real world..and by the way, the history of Christianity has a long episode of the total control of "the legaists" in spite of St. Paul unfortunately..Life shapes man's ideas, and as life changes these ideas change as well..and here, nothing is sacred

William R. Cumming

Why so little discussion of what US has been doing nation-state by nation-state in MENA since 2009? Has the ratio of USA military assistance to non-military assistance in MENA changed much since 2009?

What is Russian and Chinese policy towards their ISLAMIC minorities?


The other day I received a text message from my bank, Bank Muscat, offering me a home loan at 4.5% interest. You know, I always believe that Islam is a kind of dialectic - think fitna and jihad - but some things cannot have a synthesis.

I think most Muslims, the vast majority, welcome a dynamic reading of Islam - but some things are non-negotiable. I recall your argument about the Catholic bishops here, Col. which I might paraphrase as there being some lines that simply cannot be blurred or crossed. To do so would make the Catholic faith an artifact.

It is up to the Muslims to decide what they want. What's important is that we do not accept the Western secular model as somehow right or inevitable. Similarly, if the push towards reform is motivated mainly by economic interests, pun intended, then resistance can and will be forthcoming. You really can't serve G-d and Mammon.

I have been a weak murid in the Naqsbandi way for many years. Like attracts like, it would seem.


"That high culture is ancient and potent. In the Sunni countries, it is still locked in what to my judgment is an artificial devotion to pietism and rejection of "reform" in the religious sciences..."

I couldn't have found better words to describe my feelings about the piety and devotion I have encountered among many Muslims.
What I sensed with many is that it was not so much the rejection of some sort of reform in religious sciences, if at all possible and necessary, that was the problem, but rather the arrested development that was imposed on them by history in the natural spiritual progression that any individual follows in his quest for God.

The goal of any act of worship, any cultual ritual is to lead to a higher spirituality and get closer to God. So what appears to the outsider as "artificial pietism” is just to those pious the only way they know and grasp to reconnect with their spirituality and pick up where their ancestors have left.

And to me that explains the opposition between the father and his son. There is among the older generations in North Africa a tremendous level of acculturation coupled with a high sense of embarrassment and shame for anything that relates to old traditional ways, opinions and customs. People who wanted to matter in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco didn’t read books in French because they were completely bi-cultural but rather because it was the "cool" thing to do. It was what was expected of elites and people of social status. Just like many countries that experienced colonization in Africa or South America. But with that particularity that world events like the Iranian Revolution and its gruesome aftermath as much as the wave of terrorist attacks of the 70's by the Palestinians just reinforced this feeling of shame and embarrassment.
The new generation resent that self-hating attitude and find clashing with it liberating.


When talking to Muslim scholars, Imams or people who are studying Shari'a I never heard them refer to themselves or to others as "good Muslims". The terminology here is indicative of a certain mindset that is not native to the Islamic tradition. They would rather say "this opinion is not correct, this attitude is not correct based on this or that evidence" rather than evaluate one's faith.
So in line with that mindset, I would gladly appreciate if you could explain to us what you mean by " a dominant Sufi culture" in Egypt and Tunisia and what is your evidence? And how you define moderate Islam?



I know Yusuf personally. He is an Egyptian journalist who works there and in Europe. A village born Muslim he is quite genuine. pl



-Your basic point is that I know nothing about Islam or North Africa. It is your privilege here to assert that so long as you do it politely. - You posted these articles twice. Do not do that. - Two of them are too long. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, Col. Lang; within that form of submission there is room for private understanding, but only if the Legalists permit it.

But my wider point was this: the Sufis never provided an alternative framework for what it means to be a Muslim just as the Kabalist failed to so among Jews.

Al Ghazali is precisely the person to whom one must assign blame, in my opinion, for the extinction of Philosophy - if not the Light of Reason - among Muslims. He advised them not to study Philosophy for it will render them apostates.

The only Sufi that I am aware of who actually tried to reconcile intellectually Reason, Islam, and Mysticism was Shahab ul-Din Suhrewardi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahab_al-Din_Suhrawardi) murdered almost certainly at the instigations of Doctors of Religion.

From his thought, you can draw a straight line to the thought of Ayatollah Khomeini through various Shia/Persian philosophers (the only one left in Islam).

Unless and until Legalism can be defeated on the plane of ideas, no liberal order could exist among Muslims - in my opinion.


I would never contend Sir that you know nothing about Islam. I wouldn't be following your blog. I genuinely thought I was merely adding my own perspective to your comments to which I agreed and am saddened that you didn't get anything else out of it. I also genuinely thought that I did it in a respectful manner. However if you felt insulted I owe you an apology.

PS: While clicking on the post button I encountered a problem with a verification process that sometimes appeared and sometimes did not. Hence the repeat posting. It was not intentional. I will make sure to click just once on the button. My apologies.


Id say you could be right about a Crusade with the Islamification of Europe and the secular weakness of many of the nations willing to slit their own throat in the name of multicult (the nordic countries and the UK being a prime example).

The young man in the article is responding to changing, uncertain times by embracing orthodoxy. In France, Greece, the Netherlands, and other countries we are beginning to see a turning of the wheel as the unchecked freedom and "do what feels good" mantra combined with neoliberal economic policies is being matched by a narrative that stresses responsibility, discipline and nationalism.

Perhaps this Pope will have the strength to shove aside the VII reforms and put a stake through the heart of Reclaimation Doctrine? His moves to reconcile with SPPX show definite promise. There is a generation of young men in the United States who went to war and now find themselves unwanted by their country unless it is time for a photo op. It would not take much for the Vatican to have herself an army of veterans seeking purpose.

Babak Makkinejad

I am saying that putting one's hope in Sufism is as misguided as putting one's hope in Legalist Doctrines for a better society.

I am saying that men and women live and die by ideas - and in the plane of ideas Sunni Muslim societies have nothing new supplied by the Sufis.

Will the Sufis please state if a Christian can be a President of Egypt?

Will the Sufis please state what is the basis of tolerance of Druze, Ahmadi, Ba'hai, Alawite, Yazidi and other syncretic sects of Islam?

Can an Ahmadi, for example, become a General in Pakistan's Army and thus be able to command Muslim soldiers in battle?

I am not against Sufis, Legalists or anyone else; I am trying to point out that one has to do one's intellectual homework - so to speak - before any lasting improvement could be made.

In regards to Christians: I think the European Christians were very much influenced in Thought and in Action by the ideas, habits and customs of personal Liberty which obtained among Germanic Tribes that over-ran the old Roman Provinces.

Nothing like that has existed anywhere in the East for more than 2000 years; in my opinion.

William R. Cumming

Probably off thread but SCOTUS looks like it will agree at least in part with the STATE of ARIZONA on its immigration law. Some scuttlebutt floating around that a complete history of US immigration law, both civil and criminal, both federal and state may appear in the decision or be referenced.

Why SCOTUS is under extreme pressure to save itself from more vicious attacks than experienced in its entire history.

Dred SCOTT and Plessy decisions will be dropped in rank of SCOTUS decision impacts after the end of this term. Both Romney and Obama need to be prepared to deal with SCOTUS decisions that may well influence who wins in November.

IMO of course.

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