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13 April 2013


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William R. Cumming

Should or can Islam be reformed?

no one

I see the current Egyptian situation with regards to instances of tribalism where once there was cosmopolitanism being somewhat analogous - in a lite kind of way - to what happened in Turkey (and the larger Ottoman Empire) during WW1 with its violent purges of Christians.

Turkey has bounced back within a hundred years, but only after paying a price.

Societal experiments of this nature just happen from time to time?


IMO yes, and probably there is a real need to, but what does that mean? For orthodox Muslims the proposal is outrageous, heresy. People have been killed for less. The resistance to change is formidable.

Also, the idea of an need for an Islamic reformation - or worse, the necessity of generating one - turns my stomach, in light of the rivers of blood Christian reformation spilled in Europe.

To the truly orthodox Muslims everything has been said about the world, the door of Ijtihad has closed, and anything meaningful can be found in the Koran and the medieval commentaries on it.

In contrast, the Shia are far more open to
Ijtihad than for instance the Wahhabis, but perversely, the West, under the leadership of the US have made the fateful choice to ally themselves with the latter - spreading in places like Libya or Syria at gunpoint 'liberty' and 'freedom' in alliance with the most repressive and reactionary of the Gulf states. If there is a reasoning behind it it appears to me to be awfully confused.

different clue

I hope Yusuf al Misri offers a comment on this. He'd have a lot to say of high value.

All I can think of is that if broader multi-input Egyptianism is fading and narrower mono-input Arabic Islamism is rising; Egypt may be left less able to bring many streams of thought and knowledge to bear on adapting to future pressures. Since I think Global Warming will be one cause of those future pressures, I wonder how a strictly Islamist Egypt will cope with unstable Nile flow from year to year, rising sea level attriting its best Delta agricultural land, upstream countries with rising populations making more claims on Nile River water, etc. Will a strictly Islamist Egypt be able to think of all the implications and possible mitigations that a semi-secular Egyptianist Egypt perhaps could?



Don't expect it. He is trying to deal with his trauma over this predictable turn of events in Egypt. We discussed this at the time of the revolution and I assured him that this would be the outcome. The liberal Egypt of the monarchy was a fragile plant and all of you who yearned for "authenticity" in Egypt are to blame for what has happened and what will happen. pl



"Also, the idea of an need for an Islamic reformation - or worse, the necessity of generating one - turns my stomach, in light of the rivers of blood Christian reformation spilled in Europe. To the truly orthodox Muslims everything has been said about the world, the door of Ijtihad has closed, and anything meaningful can be found in the Koran and the medieval commentaries on it." Sanctimonious self hating bull shit. the European reformation was hundreds of years ago. This is NOW. Grow up! the Gate of Ijtihad is not closed in Shia Islam and any amount of change is possible in ijma' circles in Sunni islam if they wish it. you sound like a high school student. pl

Abu Sinan

There are a lot of average Muslims, Sunnis, who practice Ijtihad in their own lives. I know, I am a part of this community and have seen it in action in the USA and Europe. Aside from the Shi'a, Muslims dont have a clerical system set up as do many of the Christian sects, so many go it alone in choosing what to do, think and how to practice their religion.

A Muslim reformation would be much different than a Christian one. I dont see major fault lines within Islam as there was within Christianity. The major differences are between Sunnia and Shi'a, but within their own sects the differences are not large enough to see armies crossing borders to battle it out over tenets in the religion.

The differences are rather small. Any such civil war within the Muslim communities are going to be tribal or political in nature.

As to the article, I would agree, and I would add that the process really started when the Jewish community in Egypt all but disappeared. I wouldnt want to get involved into a discuss as to WHY, or under what circumstances they left, but the steady errossion of Egypt diversity started then. The Jewish community played a small, but important role in Egyptian society, especially in places like Alexandria.

Babak Makkinejad

Should or can the United States be reformed?

Can the Republic, circa 1823 be restored?

Can the Federalists be rebutted on the plain of ideas and be politically put back in the bottle?


Mr. Lang, you are probably fully aware that the Middle Eastern Christian population will be road kill if events continue to unfold the way they are.

IMO we are looking at a modern equivalent of the 30 years in the Middle East, and we are in the early stages. Probably the Middle East will enter modernity at last.

I have little illusion about the price though. How many people have already been killed in the Iraqi, Libyan and Syrian civil wars (though the Iraqis themselves gave their state the coup de grace by looting)?

There is a value in stability. Revolution is one of the more unpredictable ways to achieve change. So the US offed Saddam to get Maliki. Afghanistan will probably fall back to its tribal ways once the US leaves. Egypt, well, at the moment it looks as if there is a backlash against Morsi? The West traded Ghaddafi, who had surrendered to the West, for ... the barely governable new Libya, incidentally and accidentally leading to chaos in Mali. When or if the opposition eventually unseats Assad, we'll in all likelihood get gulf sponsored nutters instead. In all these cases, the cure here appears to be worse than the ailment. Why is that? Quack medicine?

But I concede that in the Middle East there is little choice but to ride the tiger, or camel.

I'd really wish they'd chose wisely what to ride. I'd prefer that the West chose the Persian Tiger over the Arabian Camel, since the tiger is more intellectually capable of reform, for the reason you named. Yet, the west, under US and Israeli influence, apparently in the erroneous belief that Arabian Camels are more docile than Persian Tigers, do their very best to cage the tiger.

I watched Argo a couple months ago, and when I had finished, I wondered why it got an Oscar. Sure, it was good, but it wasn't _that_ good. Here's my theory as for why: I always had the feeling it was because in that flick, at last, the US won over the Iranians. There's something to get over for everybody I guess, not just in movies.


PS: I forgot to mention my underlying premise, which is that the nature of the conflict resulting from an Islamic reformation will be sectarian. Europe's smaller reform movements (Cathars, Albigenses etc) were persecuted and wiped out. In light of what happened in Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis, and what's happening in Syria, have little reason to believe that Islam's orthodoxy will be more moderate than Christendom's was, with reasons that very often very little to do with religion itself. That is not blaming Christendom for anything by the way.

It is also not a reflection of me not having gotten over the reformation of the 30 year war, but the idea that to act along such lines is inherent in human nature, and that history can suggest patterns of human behaviour, and suggest what are by their very nature cataclysmic events. IMO an Islamic reformation will be just as cataclysmic as the Christian reformation was.



"an Islamic reformation" Babak will be here shortly to tell you what you can do with that. The mere fact that change within Islam in its multiplicity of forms is possible does not mean it will occur in the sense that Europe was "reformed." there have been any number of attempts at such "reformation" within Islam. The carcasses of these efforts are either dead and gone or exist today I=as splinter groups. There is no inevitability to change. "Nothing is written." pl



"you are probably fully aware that the Middle Eastern Christian population will be road kill if events continue to unfold the way they are." You may not have noticed that I am entitled to the letters KCHS following my name. Check my CV. I was active in this papal organization for many years. We were engaged in what amounted to hospice care for the remaining Christian communities of what was once Outremer. I gave up on this when it became evident that nothing we did could halt or even slow the process of emigration, impoverishment and persecution throughout that sub-region. The sole exception to that pattern was in Syria where there existed what amounted to a coalition of minority interests resisting Gulf money and American blindness to "difference" among the peoples. You have been here a long time. You know that I said from the beginning that the "Arab Spring" was a bad thing that would inevitably lead to the 30 years war simulacrum that you mention. Why would it inevitably lead to such an outcome? Well, there is religion as philosophy. that aspect of religion produces people like Mo, Abu Sinan, brigadier Ali and Babak. Then there is religion as sect. Religion as sect is a killer, everywhere and at any time. The Sunni masses are already orthodox and that orthodoxy is committed to the notion of the inferiority and second class status of the dhimmi peoples. The post-colonial, semi-western regimes suppressed and held in check that deeply embedded mental framework in the masses. The "Arab Spring" destroyed or is destroying those restraints and what is revealed is the support of the Sunni masses for what amounts to theocratic rule. IMO Libya is a special case in which Qathafi was nothing like one of the post-colonial governments. King Idris was the post-colonial leader of Libya and he was quite moderate. Qathafi was anything but moderate and his surrender was meaningless. He had been trying to surrender ever since we bombed him in 1986. pl


"Yet, the west, under US and Israeli influence, apparently in the erroneous belief that Arabian Camels are more docile than Persian Tigers, do their very best to cage the tiger."

I'm under the impression that it is not docility the US perceives in the Sunni, but an exploitable volatility.

I recall discussions early in the Iraq War about the true aim of the Bush II administration, centering around the idea that Iraq was the beginning of the cracking open of the Islamic egg, ham-handedly and puposely inducing a birth that tore the mother asunder, i.e., creating reality on the ground. While the Bushies may have believed their rhetoric about spreading democracy, (and they have, after a fashion), what they have accomplished is sectarian strife. The question always in the back of my mind is how this will play out in the grand scale of time. In 200 years will this be looked at as the turning point that lead to the 'modernization' of Islam?

William R. Cumming

ALL: Some facts! All the NILE RIVER dams will be useless by the end of the century. Why? SILT!

And I have no real expertise on immigration law but to the extent I understand current US policy almost any Christian seeking permanent resident status in the USA and now living in MENA could qualify for asylum!

Note however that the US has never granted aslyum to followers of any religion solely on that basis.

And YES to those who mentioned does the USA need reform? I would argue it needs many reforms but the "system" seems as closed as Islam is to reform. Like followers of Islam there is absolutely no consensus in the USA on the need for reforms. Both in ISLAM and in the USA individuals are unable to even put forth reform proposals without being sanctioned in some manner.

William R. Cumming

Senator Rubio has come out with support for immigration reform proposals. Why is this important? Because Cuban population next to Mexico most likely to benefit from the many of the proposals.

different clue

And before the dams it was this silt which delivered the annual flood-cycle restoration of mineral and organic-detritus fertility to the Nile Valley and Delta farmlands. One almost wonders whether it would pay to dredge up this silt and pump it into the river below the dams (Aswan Dam especially) together with a large enough pulse-release of water to simulate the pre-dam flood cycle just enough to restore some silt-fertility deposition again.

Babak Makkinejad


I take strong exception to the view that seeks or advises a "Reformation" of Islam.is

This view is as shallow as it is impracticable.

Behind it lies the idea that European history is normative; for Muslims as well as others.

That view is bonk.

Islam is not Christianity. The ministry of Jesus took place among Jews and other Believers; the Prophet’s mission took place among idol-worshippers.

Thus the Call to One God, necessarily, limited Freedom of Speech and Expression – they could not be protected within the Prophetic Tradition of Islam (or Judaism).

The Christian Reformation rejected the Traditions of the Church and positing that anyone can read and understand the Bible. Essentially rejected the need for learning and interpretation of the text.

Well this position is espoused by Wahabis and other Salafis in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere; there you can find the Muslim “Protestants”.

Historical attempts at changes to the Islamic Tradition only created new sects/religions: Yazidi, Druze, Alawi, Ali Allahi, Ahmadi, Baha’I, Babi, and Sikh (I am probably missing a few).

I would argue further that the opportunistic political rebellion of the German Princes, hiding behind the sanctimonious assertions of an anti-Semitic priest, causing the death s of millions does not have much to recommend itself to Muslims or anyone else.

Lastly, I think it will be a good idea to either accept Muslims the way they are t– with their own traditions and culture – or leave them alone.

William R. Cumming

Babak! You state that "Lastly, I think it will be a good idea to either accept Muslims the way they are t– with their own traditions and culture – or leave them alone."

And should any effort be made by Infidels to determine what are Muslim traditions and culture or how can Infidels leave Muslims alone inthe context of current events?

Please be as specific as possible and identify followers of Islam that state openly a preference to be simply let alone?

Ishmael Zechariah

Prof. Makkinejad,

Which "Muslims" do you mean? Which traditions? Which culture? Do you consider the Sufi Muslim?

I will happily return the favor to those who truly leave me be. I note for the record that some "ur-Muslims" will not leave us- so called apostates-alone. I once was observed eating lunch during Ramadan in Sivas (Turkey, 1974). Some folks were not happy.

What is happening in Turkey today, aided and abetted by those who should know better, can be problematic for the ME and the world in a decade or so.

Having a few arguments handy would be prudent.

Ishmael Zechariah

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

Japan and China are not experiencing the confrontation that Euro-American states have with Muslims or Muslims states.

South American states are not either.

I suggest that they are doing something right that Euro-Americans are not doing.

Start from there.

Babak Makkinejad

As I tried to state, certain cherished notions - such as the protection of Free Speech, even in principle, cannot obtain in a Muslim polity for the Tradition of Prophet began with the Call to one God against idol-worshippers.

Benign neglect of the apostates is the best that could be hoped for - if they could keep a low profile.

Note that the cherished notions of West would imply that the Prophet was wrong to oppose idol worshippers for they were just practicing a different religions.

There is no reconciliation possible between these 2 views.

Babak Makkinejad

You asked:

"...how can Infidels leave Muslims alone in the context of current events?"

Call off the dogs of war in Syria.


As many others have noted in this thread reform will only occur if people want it - and Sunnis have little interest in adopting Western norms, which is what reform amounts to. Let's pretend they did though, how would you enact reform? What hierarchy would enforce the change? You can't affect wholesale changes in doctrine without a caste of priests.

Babak Makkinejad

Which "Muslims" , you asked:

Everyone who claims to be so.

Which traditions? I have no idea what you mean.

Which culture? All cultures predicated on Islam.

Do you consider the Sufi Muslim? Yes.

Be advised that among the Shia, the Doctors of Religion, specifically the Ayatollahs and Grand Ayatollahhs in Qum, Najaf, Mashahd, and elsewhere define what Islam is.

William R. Cumming

BABAK! In western China the HAN Chinese are bulldozing mosques!

Japanese friends tell me they have never met or heard of a Japanese follower of Islam.

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