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Islam or Islamism: A Distinction without a Difference?

By DAVID SOLWAY

….In other words, a lapsed Church is foreign to essential Christianity and a corrupt Temple is alien to essential Judaism. But such regressions are actually integral to Islam, bred in the unabrogated scriptures which permit, approve and ratify such depravities as slavery, child marriage, polygamy, gynophobia, deception (taqiyya), the breaking of treaties, the doctrinally sanctioned acquisition of booty and of women as the spoils of war, dhimmitude and, most terrible of all, wanton slaughter of unbelievers. As Koran 8:39 commands, “Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme.” It is not difficult, then, to see that ancestral Islam is demonstrably contemporary Islam since the Koran is understood to be an eternal book, coterminous with Allah, and thus does not allow for revision.

Further, critics of Islam who wish to spare the individual communicant, commendable as their attempt at fair-mindedness may be, are caught in a contradiction. In separating the institution of the faith, which they denounce, from peaceable and decent individual Muslims, whom they profess to applaud — even Geert Wilders has taken this route — they succeed only in undermining their own argument. Who or what can a “good” or moderate Muslim possibly be if he or she has no connection with or relation to the institution — the structure, practice, canons and prescripts — of the very faith from which he or she is said to be divorced? There is a blatant conundrum of identity at work here, which our charitable detractors apparently refuse to countenance or explain. Can there be such a chimera as a “Muslim” absent the institution of Islam? What is left but an empty jalabiya?

Muslims must be equally conflicted. Raheel Raza, whose film Honour Diaries  decries some of the worst practices of her co-religionists, remains a pious Muslim who is comforted and nourished by her faith. What, we may ask, defines that merciful and solacing faith for her if it is based on the Koran, the ahadith, the sirah, the shariah and the diverse schools of a grim and stringent jurisprudence governing every detail of quotidian life? And if it is not predicated on authoritative Islam, what can possibly be left over from so aliquant a commitment except a few abrogated tropes and a number of rituals and customs? Perhaps it is a private faith she is espousing, but a private faith is not a religion and does not merit a historical name.

The noted Islamic scholiast Salim Mansur lobbies in his 2011 book Delectable Lie for an end to or reduction of Muslim immigration to Canada, which he sees as disruptive of social harmony and democratic principles. Yet he is contemptuous of renowned and honest critics of Islam like Robert Spencer and Andrew Bostom, and cleaves to what he regards as the true core of Islam (personal communication). The question immediately presents itself: what is the true core of Islam? How much cherry-picking must one diligently perform in the orchard of the sacred text to arrive at the real Islam? How high up the cherry tree must one’s ladder climb? Mansur is surely teetering. “How great the distance is now,” he laments in an obsequious article for the Wall Street Journal, “between many of those who wear the mantle of Islam and the message Muhammad delivered.” The distance this expert mourns, as we have seen, is too negligible to be measured. The larger, Medinan portion of the Koran consists to an alarming extent of messages that would make any harbi (non-Muslim living in a country not subject to Islam) or apostate fear for his safety, freedom and very existence.

Mansur strains to justify his faith by quoting an enigmatic if not utterly baffling hadith in which the Prophet himself supposedly deplores those who will violate his message: “Islam began as a stranger and will become once more a stranger.” The trouble is that, according to Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, 1/130, among a chain of transmissions, Muhammad concludes by saying, “so blessed are the strangers.” This hadith, narrated by Abu Hurairah, an early companion of Muhammad, is best left to its obscurity since it only confuses Mansur’s redemptive folly as well as the reader he is laboring to seduce. Mansur’s predicament is an unenviable one, shared by all like him who try to rinse the mantle of its indelible blemishes. When you have thoroughly bowdlerized the historical muniments and expurgated the near-entirety of the theological, political, legal, philosophical and narrative foundations of the faith, what remains to inspire one’s devotion except an embarrassing caricature or, at best, a beautiful fiction?

One thinks of other pacifist, socially conscious and highly intellectual Muslims like Tarek Fatah, Irshad Manji, Zuhdi Jasser and the Ahmadi Qasim Rashid,* contorting themselves into conciliatory knots to justify their continued loyalty to that which stubbornly resists explicative laundering. They cannot admit that al-Qaeda, ISIS and similar terrorist outfits are the pure, Koran-abiding communicants of the faith they persist in trying to salvage. Where this leaves the Western critic of Islam who condemns the faith but extols the enlightened Muslim individual, or the devout Muslim who eschews violence,shariah, the supremacist impulse and the rebarbative dictates of scripture defies all the postulates of rational thinking. One cannot help but contrast former Muslims like Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Walid Shoebat, Ali Sina, Nonie Darwish and Wafa Sultan who, at great personal risk, did the myth, so to speak, and followed their consciences.

* – The Ahmadis derive their version of Islam from the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who believed he was appointed by God to disinter the true message of Muhammad from the darkness into which it had fallen; he is therefore a problematic spokesperson for mainstream Islam, whether of the Sunni or Shia variety….

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