BY DAVID SOLWAY
“…Islam is summed up in the dictates of Sharia law, a combination of Koranic verses and passages from the Sunna, which historian F.W. Burleigh in his massive and punctiliously researched biography It’s All About Muhammad obliquely refers to as a “fear marathon.” The Arabic word for “path,” Sharia condones infant marriage, polygamy, wife beating, male unilateral divorce, diminishment of women’s inheritance rights and court testimony, honor killings, rape, slavery, looting and taxing of non-believers, amputation for theft, and punishment by death for apostasy, denial of any part of the Koran, criticism of Muhammad, or rejection of Allah. With respect to veiling, many have argued that it is merely an element of culture, without theological ducat, but Koran 33:59 proves otherwise. Though Sharia is subject to some degree of interpretation, its basic precepts, of which the above is merely a selection, are theologically ordained and cannot be annulled.
In the long run—apart from their reasonable recommendation to crush the terrorists—the reformers tend to distract us from the intractable nature of Islam and so actually end up making us more susceptible to its depredations. This is the ultimate irony. The reformers deceive not only themselves but those among their Western sympathizers who are led to believe that Islam is essentially benign or sufficiently multifaceted to weaken its core message; that violent jihad is an aberration; that pivotal texts in the canon can be re-interpreted or even bowdlerized; and that extremists are a fringe minority, a school of barbarians or a sect of puritanical zealots who have misunderstood or violated the tenets of their faith—when in fact they are true believers, authentic Muslims, who abide by the manifold scriptures.
Placing the blame, as Hamid does, for religious-inspired violence on a radical movement called “Islamism,” which we are meant to understand as something other than genuine Islam, or condemning punitive and archaic Salafist doctrine as uniquely responsible for Islamic mayhem, or even denouncing Sharia as a draconian “human rights disaster”—all this only serves to befuddle and to sidetrack us from considering Islam as a whole, of which “Islamism,” Salafism and Sharia are supposedly parts and aspects that can be reformed or defanged.
The problem we are facing is not this or that component of Islam, but Islam as a vast communion and ordinance founded on a millennial history of conquest and domination and rooted in a divinely transmitted document resistant to change. Islam, as Director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam Bill Warner points out, is constituted by “the words of Allah in the Koran, and the words and actions of Mohammed, the Sunna”; that is, the “Trilogy Texts” of Koran, Hadith and Sira are absolutely definitive. It is hard to see how the very pith and marrow of the faith can be so easily waived. The Canadian Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, for example, opposes bigotry “in the name of Islam”; the bigotry, however, does not appear to reside exclusively “in the name.” The group cites the famous “no compulsion in religion” sura (Koran 2:256) as its guiding principle, but it neglects to inform us that this passage is authoritatively mansukh, i.e., abrogated or cancelled, by the later “verse of the sword” (Koran 9:5), which reads “slay the idolaters wherever you find them…lie in ambush everywhere for them”—unless, of course, they repent, convert or pay the poll-tax. How different is such deceptiveness from the blatantly mendacious pronouncements concerning Islam of Barack Obama, e.g.: “Here in America, Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding”?
The truth is otherwise. We need to remember that Islam may be recessive at times, active at others, but its essence cannot be changed. It is like a volcano that never goes extinct and we are wrong to regard its dormant phases as final. It is always ready to erupt. You cannot reform or re-interpret a volcano, and unless you keep a distance you always risk being buried in the lava of its natal ferocity.
In effect, the reformers succeed only in turning the credulous and ignorant among us into sitting ducks utterly unprepared for the invasive potential of a world-historical, theo-political system that has set its sights upon the increasingly vulnerable West. Admittedly, the reformers wish to do good; unfortunately they manage only to do harm. Many, if not all, are decent men and women whose reluctance to surrender the faith that has become an integral part of their spiritual and cultural lives has led them into the practice of inadvertent disingenuousness. Indeed, I suspect that the reformers are preoccupied not so much with saving the West as with preserving a form of Islam for themselves. After all, how can they recite the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith, and not cleave to the beating heart of Islam?…”