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August 10, 2005

Is Islam due for Reformation? Is Islam able to reform?

A recent leader article in one of the national dailies postulated that Islam is overdue for a Martin Luther style "Reformation". I rather doubt that such a thing could happen within Islam. I take this stand for several reasons, the main one being that, unlike the Western Christian Church in 1500, Islam has no central leadership. Each Imam is more or less independent, in much the same way that their Jewish counterparts, the Rabbis, are. While they all subscribe to a general central understanding of doctrine and interpretation, they are all essentially independent and answerable only to the local mosque committee.

Luther's famous "Articles" were aimed at a centrally controlled and extremely doctrinaire heirarchy in the Catholic Church. Ironically, his counterparts in the "Protestant" movement of the time, Calvin, Knox, and others of the extreme and fundamentalist view of religion, could, in many ways, be likened to the Ayatollahs of today's Islam. Certainly their espousing of extreme positions and their outright condemnation - and often violent outbursts - against Catholicism and anything and anyone who remained loyal to the Catholic teaching, is not unlike the attitude of the extreme Muslim vision, today, of anyone who tries to moderate their world view.

This brings me to my second reason for doubting whether a "Luther style" reformation could take place within Islam. Firstly, it is a religion based entirely on a single tract. The Quoran, and here I risk incurring a Fatwa, is a reworking, for the most part, of extracts from a large range of "extra-canonical" Jewish and Christian writings owing more to the Docetist and Gnostic heresies of Christianity and some of the more extreme sects of Judaism from the 1st to the 7th Centuries than to anything else. It has been "prettied up" and made more poetical, but its origins are still visible if you know the source materials. It is also fundamentally and very clearly opposed to any compromise at any level - even the stricture which forbids its interpretation and insists that only the pure Arabic text is "authoritive" restricts access and debate. Although Islam's Prophet declared that Muslims must acknowledge the "People of the Book" as following a debased and, in his view, invalid, form of the "true" religion, he does encourage his followers to use every means to convert them to his version of the truth. Thus, there can never be a compromise and there can never be a peaceful co-existence. The myth that such a state existed in Spain in the AD 1000 - AD 1400 is just that, a myth. Christians were tolerated but barred from any position of authority, Christian children were routinely seized as slaves and forcibly converted to Islam and any Christian merchant could expect to pay more "tribute" than any Muslim in the same trade.

As John Quincy Adams put it rather succinctly:

"The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force."

Now this is interesting, and I am sure that there will be those reading this, who will declare that Christianity has itself followed this course, and yes, it did, for a brief and disasterous period in the Middle Ages and again under the Imperial banner in the late 18th and 19th Centuries. The major difference is that it is not a tenet of the Christian Faith to convert by force, deceit, or treachery and never has been supported by the scripture on which that faith is based. Islam, by contrast, sees no problem with dishonesty and violence if that will achieve a conversion. Nor does it have a problem, as the Christian reformers of the 19th and 20th Centuries did, with slavery. In many Islamic countries slavery is still practiced; it may be hidden, and it may be very covert, but it is still practiced and allowable under the tenets of the Qoran.

So, could Islam be "overdue" for a "Luther Style" reformation? If it is, it is in the middle of one at present. There is a war going on for its heart and soul - and the forces of violence are winning. Those who pontificate on the needs of Muslims and the disadvantages that Muslims face in the UK, are generally totally ignorant of the fact that Islam is almost as deeply divided between some factions as Christianity. While most people recognise the terms Sunni and Shi'a, few would realise that "Assassin" is actually derived from the name for a small Muslim Sect from Northern Iran and Afghanistan. Nor would many understand the terms Wahabi or Sufi and these are just the most well-known of the various sects vying for superiority within Islam.

Given, then, that Islam considers that deceit and violence are legitimate tools for the conversion of the "heathen" - everyone who does not subscribe to their view of God - I seriously doubt that any meaningful dialogue can be held between this faith and any other. Equally, I seriously doubt that it is "overdue" for Luther-style reformation - because it is already undergoing the much more fundamentalist Calvin style form of reformation. That should worry everyone, including "moderate" Muslims (and that is an oxymoron if ever there was one since, by Islam's own definitions, you cannot be "moderate" and Muslim!) as, given the precept that world conquest is to be achieved by any means available, if it undergoes a Fundamentalist Reformation, which it appears to be doing, a major conflict will shortly ensue.

And no-one can ever win in that one.

To make matters considerably worse, agnostic and secularist politicians in Western Governments are now rushing to put in place legislation which will stifle and prohibit any debate between people who do not accept the Islamist view of religion. Legislation in Australia is already being used to prosecute Christian preachers who dare to express a tenet of their faith - that Salvation is through Jesus Christ and not through any "prophet" before or after him. In the UK we face a similar law coming into force under Blair (who for all his famous declaration of his "Christian" faith and principles behaves in a remarkably Secularist manner!) which will soon see Christian preachers here being prosecuted for expressing views that a Muslim promoter might find "offensive" or "stirring up religious hatred".

Unless the West wakes up to its danger soon, and puts a stop to the active aid it is giving to those who are spreading the reformation of violence and deceit, the future is likely to be violent and very, very dangerous.

Posted by The Gray Monk at August 10, 2005 10:07 AM


It will take a lot to wake the West up fully to the danger posed by Islamic extremism. While the Islamists clearly see themselves engaged in a religious war with the West, the West cannot even admit to itself with whom it is at war, preferring to say it is a "War on Terror," rather than a "War on Islamism."

And the left has used this squeamishness to its advantage: The left argues that there is no war at all, really, and that the whole thing is manufactured by neocons for there own nefarious ends. They are able to assert this by saying that we cannot wage a war against a tactic (terror). War is waged against nations, they say, using a now anachronistic pre-Westphalian idea. Terrorism has no nation, the argument goes. To accuse Muslims of being terrorists is racism, they further assert, because not all Muslims are terrorists. Terrorists are very few in number and are just misguided souls, souls made misguided by Western depredations. Since we must not be racists, we must not fight Muslims. Since we must not fight Muslims and we cannot fight a tactic, we cannot be fighting a war. Since we cannot fight this war, we cannot go invading sovereign nations, like Muslim Iraq. Such actions will only create more terrorists which cannot be fought. Terrorists can only be accommodated. (Look at the reaction to Israel's wall, designed to protect their small country from Muslim terrorists: Even self-defense is prohibited when it comes to terrorism. Not convinced? Look at the leftist outrage at the US Patriot Act. Still not convinced? Look at Western promises to continue to not "racially profile" Muslims, promises made right after terrible terrorist attacks and before the dead are even buried.)

No, says the West, we are not at war.

Too bad nobody told our enemies ... because they still want to kill us. Our only alternative is to become Islamist ourselves. Why not believe our enemy when he has said as much time and time again? The people of the world will become Islamist -- or they will die. We are "too rational," it seems, to believe a fanatic no matter how many times he tells us his intentions. We prefer to believe that "its all about” oil or "all about” Palestine and the Jews.

So, I also fear we will not recognize our peril until the Islamists unleash truly terrible weapons against us. Only then will we wake up. And then, after hundreds of thousands of Westerners are dead and our cities are ruined, millions of Muslims -- most of them innocent -- will die too.

Posted by: Nomennovum at August 10, 2005 04:32 PM

I agree entirely with your summation. We do have a problem if the Liberal Left continue to deny the truth; war knows no boundaries, and it acknowledges no sovereignty. We are at war already whether the Left like it or not - and their appeasement tactics will bring us all to ruin.

Posted by: The Gray Monk at August 11, 2005 06:35 AM