Thursday, November 6, 2014

Can Islam Change?

Gary Fouse

Hat tip Gates of Vienna

Yesterday ( on Fousesquawk), I posted a video of Geert Wilders' speech in Copenhagen. In the latter part of that video during the q and a (at about the 37 minute mark), Wilders had an exchange with fellow panelist Daniel Pipes on the question of whether Islam can change. Briefly stated, Wilders said that there is no moderate Islam; there is only one Islam. Pipes on the other hand maintained that Islam has changed over centuries and can change for the better.

Below is Pipes' own speech to the audience before the q and a. Here he describes how support for an open discussion of Islam has declined since the time of Salmon Rushdie's, The Satanic Verses, when Rushdie had wide support from the left to now when the left does not really support  criticism of Islam, partly due to the rise of multi-culturalism.

 What I want to address here is Pipes' idea that Islam can change for the better, which he argued during the q and a. Let me start by conceding that Pipes has probably forgotten more about Islam than I know. In addition, I admittedly need to learn more about Ahmadiya Islam and Sufi Islam because it seems to me that these two branches of Islam appear not to be involved in the violence and terror that we see among Sunnis and Shi'ites. At the same time, the former two branches do not represent any majority and indeed are often the target of rejection from the latter two groups if not outright persecution.

But can Islam itself change (without most Muslims embracing Sufism or Ahmadiya Islam)?

First of all, what would it take for Islam to change? Sure Muslims could simply ignore the hateful and violent aspects of the religion and/or the political ideology that is also Islam. But that would leave the Qu'ran and the life of the Prophet Mohammad as they are.

Many argue that the problem with Islam is that unlike Judaism or Christianity, Islam has never been exposed to a Reformation or the Enlightenment. One could answer that it is being exposed to the "enlightenment" of the modern world now. As for a Reformation, keep in mind that Martin Luther never rejected the Bible or the teachings of Jesus Christ. He rejected the corruption of the Vatican.

It seems to me that for any meaningful change to occur, Muslims would have to come to grips with many of the verses in the Qu'ran that non-Muslims view with alarm. It is not enough to try and convince non-Muslims that this or that verse has been misinterpreted or to quote contradictory verses that speak of peace and forgiveness. Those who are knowledgeable of the religion are aware of the principle of abrogation, which in effect means that contradictions are resolved in favor of the latter verse in time, and it is those that are more violent reflecting the time that Mohammad was a warrior.

In addition, for Islam to really change, there must be a coming to grips on the life, especially the Medina period, of the Prophet Mohammad. Indeed, those who are committing acts of terror are following what they perceive as the teachings of Mohammad and the teachings of the Qu'ran.

So I am skeptical. Yes, individual Muslims can live peaceful lives in mutual respect with non-Muslims and millions do. Many would call them, "bad Muslims".

I tend to come down here more on the side of Wilders. Islam is what it is. Mohammad is what he is and the Qu'ran is what it is. One of the members of the Copenhagen audience, in disagreeing with Pipes, said that we cannot wait for Islam to change. By the time that happens, they may well have already destroyed Western civilization. I couldn't agree with that more.

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