“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Iranian Islamism challenges the West again. Is it part of a last gasp?

..."as soon as the Islamists come to power: All islamist regimes end up in dramatic failure. That some Islamists today turn violent and even suicidal, is only an indication of their failure to realise their plans. Eventually Muslims will have to wake up to the reality that they are no longer the masters of history, but a deprived and underdeveloped minority in the global community. Only when Muslims face this reality, they will be able to proceed."

Iran has its reasons for taking the British hostages.It is clearly not to impress the West. Is it possible that it is for their bigger goal of rallying Islam behind them? Iran is after all the bastion of Islamic purity. This article from Radio Netherlands

"Muslim reformers intellectually dishonest"

by Michel Hoebink
Muslim modernist reformers are intellectually dishonest. Many are merely using religion as a means to mobilise people for their modernisation projects. That is the bold claim made by secular Syrian thinker Sadiq Jalal al-Azm. But he nevertheless admits that reform of Islam is badly needed.

He jokingly calls himself the 'official atheist of the Arab world'. Since the publication of his book Critique of Religious Thought in 1969, Sadiq Jalal al-Azm is one of the most prominent secularist thinkers in the Muslim world.

The now retired professor of European philosophy at the University of Damascus belongs to a generation of western-educated intellectuals who, contrary to their expectations, gradually saw the Muslim world turn more and more religious. Being an atheist became increasingly dangerous, but Sadiq al-Azm never felt the urge to leave.
He divides his time between Damascus and Beirut and universities in Europe and the US. He also spent a few months in the Netherlands, at the NIAS research institute in Leiden. In the Netherlands, he is a well-known figure because some of his work has been translated into Dutch and in 2004 he was awarded the prestigious Erasmus prize, together with two Muslim modernist thinkers: the Moroccan Fatima Mernissi and the Iranian Abdolkarim Soroush.

What is the difference between you and modernist reformers such as Fatima Mernissi and Abdolkarim Soroush?

"People like Mernissi and Soroush pretend to reform Islam from the inside. They reform Islam as good Muslims. The group to which I belong does not do this. I want to reform the thinking of Muslims too, but I never pretended to do this from inside Islam or as a Muslim. I never made a concession on this matter."

So they are pretending?

"Since the 19th Century, modernist thinkers have been haunted by rumours that they are not real believers, that they merely use religion as a means to mobilise people for reforms. And they even say so themselves: Until today, many of these reformers argue that, if you want to convince the people, you have to speak to them in their 'own language', that is to say: in religious terms.

This may be a valid argument, but it also reveals the instrumental way in which they think about religion.

I admit that it is easy for me to criticise them: I am a man of ideas, a public intellectual who is sometimes called upon to give his supposedly studied judgement on matters of public interest. I'm not involved in organising people and directing movements and so on.
Let me put it this way: In my view there is a division of labour in this effort of modernising Muslim societies.

Both approaches are valid. We need people who work on the inside and we also need people who work from the outside. But personally I think there is a certain intellectual dishonesty in this claim to reform Islam from the inside."

Can Islam be reformed at all?

"I think so, but it requires a departure from the literal text of the Koran. That's a radical step, because the Muslim masses cling to the idea that the Koran is literally true. But it is obvious that the literal text of the Koran simply cannot be applied in modern society.
Take for instance the corporal punishments prescribed in the Koran. Radical Islamists want to impose them, but they are a minority.

The majority of Muslims have split personalities on this matter: They insist that this is the penal law of Islam and at the same time they admit that it is inapplicable. What I propose is to resolve this contradiction and officially state that the shari'a corporal punishments are obsolete.

The problem is that most of my colleagues who claim to reform Islam from the inside do not address this problem, probably because they fear it will alienate them from their audiences. Modernists such as Fatima Mernissi keep playing this game of quoting texts of Koran and Prophetic Traditions in support of their case, implicitly assuming the literal truth of these texts. And if they do not find anything that supports them, they twist and torture the meaning of the text until it suits their demands.

But what about more radical reformers such as Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd who look at the Koran as a historical text and admit that it can no longer be literally applied?

People like Abu Zayd are more honest in asking the question: What can the Koran mean to us today, in light of modern scientific knowledge? But what annoys me is that they keep speaking in the name of the 'real Islam.' Historically speaking, Muslims are divided among hundreds of groups who all claim that they possess the 'real' or 'true' Islam.

As a critical intellectual you can't seriously claim that you possess the 'real Islam'. All you can say is: This is the way it makes sense to me personally."

Some people believe that religion is on the rise again in the whole world, and especially in the Muslim World.

"I think the process of secularisation is irreversible, in Europe and the US but also in the Muslim world. The present so-called revival of religion is just some sort of last spasm, a desperate effort to cling to something that in fact has already disappeared. In the Muslim world, Islamists present themselves as an alternative for western culture, but they do not really have an alternative: Their slogan 'Islam is the solution' is an illusion. Islam simply cannot solve the problems of the 21st Century.

That becomes clear as soon as the Islamists come to power: All islamist regimes end up in dramatic failure. That some Islamists today turn violent and even suicidal, is only an indication of their failure to realise their plans. Eventually Muslims will have to wake up to the reality that they are no longer the masters of history, but a deprived and underdeveloped minority in the global community. Only when Muslims face this reality, they will be able to proceed."


  1. I had this posted and took it down to correct something. Cutler posted this and I was not sure if he had seen the most and then I orphaned it so I post it again on his behalf:

    Cutler said...
    "One thing good coming from the Iranian piracy is it is clarifying people's perspectives in the problem between the Muslim world and most everyone else. This from the Washington post:

    ..."Whatever the motive, Iran is faring well in the public relations battle in the Middle East, she said. While many in the West accept the British government's version of events, a great number of people in Arab countries believe Iran is telling the truth. Khalili said many people in the Middle East are "profoundly suspicious" of the British, because of their historical role as a colonial power in the region and because of the "very recent history of false information about the Iraq war."...

    It is going a long way to ending moral equivalency and that is good for us in the long game."

    Given current trends, I'd say that our opinion makers would go out of their way to rationalize it or just ignore it. On Thursday I sat in a, we'll call it a discussion, on political Islam. The Middle Easterners in the back were quick to sing the praises of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah for delivering the, so vital services at which the governments fails, i.e. supposedly running the trains on time. The Westerners sat there or joined in while they continued with the the usual dose of 'it is all your fault.'

    The only person that openly reacted negatively to the Political Islamists as welfare saviors was the exiled Iranian in the class.

    -True story.-

    Sat Mar 31, 09:25:00 AM EDT

  2. "That becomes clear as soon as the Islamists come to power:
    All islamist regimes end up in dramatic failure.
    But when they infest the PC/Welfare State West,
    it also results in a dramatic failure of the host.

  3. The Iranian Mullahs came to power in 1979. It is now 2007. 28 years of either success or failure, that is open to debate, but "soon"...

    Failure being such a subjective a perception. Based upon whose Goals is the judgement to be made, US goals for Iran differ greatly from the Mullahs goals for Iran and the Region. Which is the Standard that should be used as a measure of success or failure?

    The Mullahs do not see themselves as failures, perhaps.

  4. 2164th: Iran has its reasons for taking the British hostages.It is clearly not to impress the West. Is it possible that it is for their bigger goal of rallying Islam behind them? Iran is after all the bastion of Islamic purity.

    Sunni Islam can be likened to Roman Catholicism, as both dominate the globe in numbers and geographic presence. (But while Catholics have a Pope, the Sunnis lack a Caliph).

    Shi'a Islam can be likened to Eastern Orthodoxy, which has much smaller numbers and is largely a collection of national churches (Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc).

    Suppose the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church gets Putin to arrest fifteen reporters for The Skeptical Inquirer magazine who were looking too diligently into reports that an icon in a Moscow church was crying tears of blood.

    Further suppose that a blogger writes the following:

    Russia has its reasons for taking the journalists hostages. It is clearly not to impress the Secular Humanist world. Is it possible that it is for their bigger goal of rallying Christiandom behind them? Russia is after all the bastion of Christian purity.

    Immediately it can be seen that such an assertion is ludicrous, on the grounds that it totally ignores the utter depths of hard-core dogmatism in the two main branches of Christianity.

  5. Doug said...
    (although I have not heard of one of them dying by taking the big one from a horse.

    Sat Mar 31, 01:48:00 AM EDT

    They breed little horses, doug,
    itsy bitsy ponies.

    I'm sure they've learned to adapt.

  6. Arabian horses, Mike "Brownie" Brown's specialty.

  7. At Newweak, they have an interview with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who I believe is Prince Bandar's daddy, but ...

    And on the question of Iran’s nuclear program?

    al-Faisal- "On the nuclear issue, we warned him: “Don’t play with fire. Don’t think the threat [of an American attack on Iran] is a nonexistent threat; think that it’s a real threat, maybe even a palpable threat. Why do you want to take a chance on that and harm your country? What is the rush? Why do you have to do it [enrich uranium] this year and not next year or the year after? Or five years from now? What is the real rush in it?”

    Do not enrich now, enrich later.
    The Sauds always consoul later, we listen, the Iranians ... time will tell.

    It’s been said that Saudi Arabia may force oil prices down to punish Iran.
    al-Faisal- "They’re not going to be brought down."

    al-Faisal- "No. People need oil."

    Quite interesting.

  8. How We Fund Hamas University
    By Joel Mowbray

    How could the U.S. government be funding Hamas's university in Gaza? It's the question that has been asked often since my front-page story in the Washington Times earlier this month, from Capitol Hill to the State Department's daily press briefing.

    No good answer was provided--but in fairness, no good answer exists for supporting a college controlled by Hamas. The alternatives, though, aren't much better. The sad reality of Palestinian society is that almost any university the U.S. might choose to support at a minimum has student chapters of terrorist organizations on campus.

    Whereas Americans have College Republicans and College Democrats, Palestinians have College Hamas and College Islamic Jihad.

    Even Al Quds University--embraced as the bastion of moderation by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)--engaged in a weeklong celebration this January of the terrorist credited with developing the first suicide belts more than a decade ago.

    Given how much leverage the U.S. has--just through money alone--officials could have demanded that at least some of the support or glorification of terrorism be put to an end. There's no indication, though, that any such pressure was applied.

    Rather, it appears that USAID, most likely with guidance from State, decided to fund Palestinian universities with troubling terrorism ties--including the Hamas-controlled Islamic University--and simply hope that no one would catch on. That might have been the case--if not for the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which keeps a watchful eye on everything from school textbooks to television shows and newspaper articles.

    Schools are open, but who defines the syllabus?

  9. The other day amigo mio, habu, asked about Schools and Hospitals in Iraq, he inquired as to these two public institutions as sign posts of success in Iraq.

    Well, the Health Ministry has been in the hands of al-Sadr's minions for the past year. That I had known, but what of the schools?

    google search "schools iraq"
    sixth from the top
    " ... I became a target for a variety of twisted reasons. I was editor of the Baghdad Mirror, the only English-language weekly. Zealots who mistakenly assumed we were aligned with Western sensibilities bombed our building in March 2005, causing extensive damage but, mercifully, no loss of life. It was too dangerous to continue operating, and I reluctantly closed the paper the next day.

    At the time, I had just started as dean of the College of Arts at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Several weeks after the newspaper bombing, I was surrounded by students dressed in white shrouds and chanting death threats at me. Being a secular person, like most scholars, I was getting a chilling message of intimidation and violence.

    Today the Mahdi Army is running university life in Baghdad, installing its political agenda by canceling classes, altering syllabuses to include its version of religion courses and ultimately driving away professors and students alike.

    Virtually overnight I became an editor without a newspaper and a professor without students or a university.

    Dated 27 Nov 06.

    I'll keep looking.

  10. According to the ministry, at least 180 professors have been killed since February, when a mosque bombing in Samarra sent sectarian violence skyrocketing around the country.

    "There are even more on the ground. We can't really deny that," conceded Basim al-Abdili, professor of sociology at Baghdad University. "But in most cases, teachers have been killed outside the university. Sometimes, they get killed while they are shopping."

    It's difficult to tell who is killing Iraq's academics. Nabil al-Tikriti, an assistant professor of history at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, said it's difficult to tell, but the killings are carried out in a different way from much of the violence.

    "They're very professional assassinations," he said. "'Professional' meaning that they're only going after the person they're going to get. So they're not dying in car bombs or sectarian killings where a checkpoint is being set up and everyone is being killed that goes through that checkpoint that's from the wrong sectarian background. They're not getting killed in those random ways. There are assassins that go up to them and kill them and only them."

    The killing of so many professors has compelled those still alive to flee the country. The Ministry of Higher Education estimates at least 3,250 have fled since February.

  11. Sabah al-Jaf, Director-General of Evaluation and Examination at the Iraqi Ministry of Education, was killed by unidentified gunmen in the Al-Karradah district of Baghdad on 22 May.

    2006-05-26 3:00 pm

    “I categorically condemn the murder of Sabah al-Jaf,” Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, declared today. “The escalating violence against Education Ministry officials and academics is intolerable. It marks an assault not just on individuals but on society as a whole”.

    Mr Matsuura added that education is a basic human right and a key to sustainable development and peace. “By targeting educators, the perpetrators of such violence are undermining the reconstruction of Iraq and jeopardizing the future of the country and of democracy,” he said.

    According to a recent study, close to 200 academics have been killed in Iraq since 2003 and thousands have been driven into exile.

  12. "The message I want to send is I think everyone regrets that this position has arisen. What we want is a way out of it."
    ___Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett

    Britain regrets Iran's "sabre-rattling"

    Madame Beckett is a tough negotiator. By this time next week, she may be in tears. That always breaks the will of hardened terrorists.

  13. kermit the frog, GI video content will soon be part of the days' rotation, on FOX.

    This is just one wat to send a message. To explain the Mission to US, direct from the Front, by E3s and '4s.

    $10 million USD, would get a thousand firstclass productions units in the country. No embeds required. Let our guys loose in the propagada wars. No need to hire it out, overtly.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. In the now fabled movie "300" good King Leonidas sent one Spartan away from the last battle at the pass. With a new Mission:

    "Go speak of our Victory"

    Go tell the tale
    Go tell the Spartans.

  16. Define the message
    become the messenger

    Control the content, let the GIs do it themselves, no Bill Mauldin required, now we can go GI direct to the public.

    Our men know the deal, give 'em the chance to fight in the new battlespace. $10 million is all it'd take.

  17. d'Rat,

    The media is the message.

    Access to the internet will liberate minds, those minds that want to be liberated anyway. What responsible government needs to do is break apart and delegitimize illegitimately subsidized big media like the IBA, BBC, CBC, al-Jazeera, etc. You do that be denying them government funding, an operating license, and the personnel that worked there professional credentials. It would be good to see class action suits filed against these illegitimate pseudo-government propaganda entities to get this rolling.

  18. Another thing needed is the requirement of outside ombudsman to investigate for possible political and financial corruption when local marketshare for a given media entity exceeds 3 percent.

  19. Bobalharb: They are talking about the New Doctrine, and one counselor says, 'O King, our life is like that sparrow that flew in from the window over there, from the dark and cold, here to the light and warmth, and then out the other window there, to the cold and dark again. We don't know where we came from, or where we go. If this New Doctrine can teach us more of these things, we should consider it'. And they did.

    Perhaps the difference between Christianity and Islam is that the conditions of the afterlife are left relatively vague in the former and quite explicit in the latter, such that they even give the number of the paradaisical houris who will serveice you, and in what manner. The end result is that Islam sees living this life as luke the sparrow in the cold and dark, and the next life as the one with the light and warmth...thus has no shortage of volunteers for suicide belts.

  20. No disagreement with the sentiment, but the reality, mat, is that it won't happen until the International War or Clash of Civilization becomes US policy.

    Until the International War is recongnized there will not be War Time behaviours from the Government.

  21. d'Rat,

    This is a basic anti trust issue. Nothing more, nothing less. These monopolies need to be broken up and closely monitored. Furthermore, there's great potential for enterprising lawyers to make their name and fortune pursuing this issue.



    There's something terribly wrong at the BBC. Their habitual Orwellian practices just keep getting more and more outrageous.

  22. Nonsense 'Rat:
    No one kummunicates our massage as well as the inscrutable
    Master Poker Player.
    ROP Be With You.

  23. T and Bobal should get a gig on the new
    Dennis Miller show.

  24. Ex-Partner Of Giuliani May Face Charges
    Kerik Counts Said To Include Deception During Cabinet Bid

    Washington Post Staff

    Federal prosecutors have told Bernard B. Kerik, whose nomination as homeland security secretary in 2004 ended in scandal, that he is likely to be charged with several felonies, including tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wiretapping.

    Kerik's indictment could set the stage for a courtroom battle that would draw attention to Kerik's extensive business and political dealings with former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who personally recommended him to President Bush for the Cabinet.
    There have been more politically motivated prosecutions against REPUBLICANS under BS Bush's New Tone "Justice" than any in my memory.