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May 18, 2017



".... whereas before the nineteenth century the Prophet was viewed as a mystical leader, afterwards he came to be seen more as a kind of early, oriental, version of Napoleon or Alexander - a military figure. Well, Holland knows more about the early history of Islam than I do, but that did surprise me".

You shouldn't be surprised. For all his knowledge Holland sometimes expresses outrageously incorrect opinions. It's difficult to judge whether it's some kind of tactic to win over certain readers, or he really believes what he says.


I can see the Adam Curtis reference. The talk in the middle about ISIS being an un-exploded bomb. That was a weird abstract section which I thought could lead to very tenuous links - very Curtis like. The stuff about Napoleon fits into this pattern. The idea that ISIS resents the recasting of Mohamed into a Napoleonic figure only works if we assume that they want him restore to the Mystic Figure. That doesn't square with the fundamentalist Islamist views expressed elsewhere in the program.

I recall he got a lot of criticism for the Shadow of the Sword. I wonder if perhaps he has deliberately made a more ambiguous program this time. If so it won't work. The Jordanian cleric was chilling. There was no nuance or reflection. This is a man who's objection to taking slaves and murdering Yazidis was purely because ISIS did not, at that time, have a state and a recognised Caliph.


"That means there has to be ideological engagement with what Isis constitute. Otherwise it is a cancer spreading through the fabric of Islamic ideology.”

Question begging from Holland. The cancer, the malignancy, the invasive autonomy is Islam itself invading a body distancing itself from such threats by foolish historical indifference. Islam defines itself as immutable and ideological engagement as a capital offence. The murderous life of the Prophet was not mystical but terrifying and exemplary for all time.


> Epidrmoid

I assume that Holland is asking Muslims to deal with the issue. In effect he is saying "you have to stop pretending that ISIS are not inspired by the Koran, Hadith and Sura and tell them where they got it wrong. The "nothing to do with us" approach hasn't worked.

If there is to be a Islamic reformation then ordinary Muslims have to do it. They are the people who need to marginalise and reject the extremists.

Whether that's realistic or doable, is another matter. There was a program on BBC last year called 'Muslims like us'. A range of Muslims were on the show, from very westernised to fundamentalist nutter. The BBC claimed the nutter, "Haqq was constantly opposed by the other participants throughout the two episodes." That's not what I saw. Occasionally there was some reaction but in the end:

"And yet it is the fundamentalist who dominates the screen and makes his housemates change to suit him."


Thank up for that but this is question begging. No one can ask Muslims to reform Islam because Islam is not for reformation and the penalty for attempting it is death. Moderate Muslims know as much about Islam as do nominal Christians who would fade with confusion if asked about the immaculate conception and the nature of the Holy Ghost.


> Epidrmoid

If we were around in c1400 then we could have said exactly the same about Christianity. It was taken deadly seriously and they also executed "apostates" and non believers eg.

The fact is things can and do change. The error is to assume that Muslims are all the same and that the moderate (or to your argument bad) Muslims are unwinnable. To accept this is to take the side of the Islamic extremists. The literal interpretation of the Koran and Hadiths can been challenged in the same way that no one takes transubstantiation literally anymore. I'm not saying its easy or that it will be quick.

The question is how best to facilitate reform as outsiders. Currently as a society we are trying to bend over backwards to accommodate Islamists and we tiptoe around controversial issues. This has been going on for twenty years and as a process to facilitate integration (or even just to make Muslims feel welcome) it hasn't worked. In fact I believe that Identity politics, as practised to date, can only lead to more division between Mainstream society and Muslims. In particular, it validates the extremists in the idea that Muslims live in a fundamentally Islamophobic society.


Islamic reform is a real mish-mash. If you enjoy banging your head against a brick wall you can try reading some examples of modern Islamic thinking such as ““Woman’s Identity and Rethinking the Hadith” by Nimat Hafez Barazangi of Cornell University. Or try Baroness Warsi’s proposals in her “The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain”, only slightly less painful!

The greater advance will be for Muslims to understand the shaky foundations of their religion and to recognise its man-made character. I know it will take a very long time for such understanding to become widespread but it is the only real solution. It has taken Christianity more than 100 years to go through a similar process. Modern media may speed up the process for Islam. We need a lot more (and better) programmes like Holland’s effort on Channel 4.


It's taken a lot longer than 100 years for the tide to go out on Christianity! Darwin feared being a social outcast, not a victim of burning at the stake.


TDK My point is that the literal interpretation of the Qur'an and Hadith cannot easily be questioned when its potency and authority is that of God himself. Christianity always had access to reason as a gift from God. Allah has no such gifts only the demand that what he says is believed and obeyed. Questioning Islam destroys it immediately which is why the process so dangerous. What is left when the pious face the possibility that God is no more than the imperfect invention of men of limited intellectual competence and unlimited self interest? Muslims live surrounded by Islamophobia because no other state is possible when delusional foolish hate filled men dwell amongst the educated?

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