Thursday, July 21, 2005

What Should I Read To Understand Islam?

To fight a war effectively, one must understand the enemy and when that enemy is motivated by an ideology this means understanding the role of those ideas in the enemy’s behavior. Yesterday that ideology was Communism; today it is Islam. To start learning about Islam I recommend the books and articles of Ibn Warraq. His path-breaking Why I Am Not A Muslim published 10 years ago is still the single best source on the subject.

Warraq, now secular, was raised as a Muslim. However, it is his scholarly study and dedication to the truth that makes Warraq’s work valuable. Warraq doesn’t hold back to avoid offending – the truth requires us to face facts regardless of how uncomfortable it is for us or others. But he also maintains perspective and a sense of proportionality; nothing he says if unfair.

To get a sense of his writing read his short essay called Islam and Intellectual Terrorism. When it comes to Islam, intellectuals fail to weigh and judge the facts according to the evidence. He notes:

But the first duty of the intellectual is to tell the truth. Truth is not much in fashion in this postmodern age when continental charlatans have infected Anglo-American intellectuals with the thought that objective knowledge is not only undesirable but unobtainable. I believe that to abandon the idea of truth not only leads to political fascism, but stops dead all intellectual inquiry. To give up the notion of truth means forsaking the goal of acquiring knowledge. But man, as Aristotle put it, by nature strives to know. Truth, science, intellectual inquiry and rationality are inextricably bound together. Relativism, and its illegitimate offspring, multiculturalism, are not conducive to the critical examination of Islam.

The damage of Edward Said’s polemic, Orientalism, has had a profound effect on academic objectivity. Notes Warraq:

Said wrote a polemical book, Orientalism (1978), whose pernicious influence is still felt in all departments of Islamic studies, where any critical discussion of Islam is ruled out a priori . … Said’s thesis was swallowed whole by Western intellectuals, since it accords well with the deep anti-Westernism of many of them. … The unfortunate result is that academics can no longer do their work honestly. …

Western scholars need to defend unflinchingly our right to examine Islam, to explain its rise and fall by the normal mechanisms of human history, according to the objective standards of historical methodology. Democracy depends on freedom of thought and free discussion. … How do they think reformation will come about if not with criticism?

Indeed. How can we talk about the need for Muslims to modernize or become moderate without being critical of any of their current practices or the religion that motivates these practices? What sense does it make to say something is wrong but refuse to discuss the details out of desire not to offend? Could we not give them a hint where they are going wrong?

Of course, our first order of business is to understand the threat to our civilization and acting appropriately. Since knowledge will lead to action – most of which are unacceptable to our 5th column in academia – the truth has political implications. And if political decisions run contrary to the post-modern leftist’s secular religion, truth must be abandoned. I’ve talked about this before in my review of Stephen Hicks’ excellent expose, Explaining Postmodernism.

Warraq understandably desires the secularization of Muslim countries. That would be the best outcome for all. However, our responsibility is our own defense. And we have to face the facts as they currently are. At present we face a savage enemy driven by a religion founded by a warrior who plundered, slaughtered, conquered and oppressed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am posting this p[iece on my new site,
My site deals with varius aspects and news about terrorism. I note that you begin by suggesting that one must read up on Islam to understand the causes of contemporary terrorism, done, it is clearn, by those with Muslim backgrounds....This may be a questionable approach. Does the Koran sanction suicide bombing? The New Testament says one ought not covet a neighbor's wife, and one should leave father and mother to follow Christ etc...does that sort of thing apply today?

7/21/05, 10:31 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I've read apologists, and I've read Ibn Warraq--and lots of material which falls in between. Oh, how I wish that I could believe that empathetic understanding (as you put it) would lead to a solution to Islamism! Due to Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam, Islamism is blatantly lacking in empathy, and therefore, tolerance doesn't have a place in Islam.

Empathetic understanding is a Western plague. The outcome of wasting time on that kind of understanding will be the downfall of Western civilzation. In one of my blog entries, I emphasized the fallacy of using Western thinking and Western logic to understand Islam.

Cognitive understanding, on the other hand, would result in an effective plan for self-defense. "Know thy enemy," [which is cognitive] but don't swallow his propaganda.

7/22/05, 12:34 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I visited your link above. I disgree with you that the concept of the caliphate doesn't matter today. Arabic, the language of allah, has no past tense as we understand it. For centuries, Muslims have yearned for the re-establishment of the caliphate, and that yearning expresses itself in Dar al-Islam: convert, die, or be subjugated into dhimmitude; Sina has pointed out that Islam stands alone in that it contains absolutely no concept of The Golden Rule, a tenet which almost all Westerner subconsciously employ. And, in part because there is no past tense, modernization of strict Islam just isn't going to happen.

As to reading modern material from Muslims (Much of this material doesn't mention the caliphate, but other material does), one has to be careful of taqquiya, which is an inherent part of Islam. Taqquiya allows for Muslims to say whatever furthers the cause of Islam. Also, any treaties are seen as temporary measures to allow for strengthening which will again lead to resuming Islamification of the world.

In sum, I disgree with Roger Cohen. All the analysis of motives will come to no avail until one comes to the cognitive understanding that Islam is the problem. Such an understanding is contrary to what many Westerners want to believe.

7/22/05, 12:56 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...


The truth is that we need to seriously extend the history and legacy of Islam to the same scruitiny the West is held to. If Jim Crowe was evil so was Dhimmi laws.

I think that our understanding of Islam is hurt by viewing it in a Judeo Christian nexus. There is no division of Mosque and state . Submission is different then salvation.

7/22/05, 8:29 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Some good comments. Thanks for stopping by Fred; come back and read more - I have written quite a bit. Also check some of the links to other websites.

Thanks AOW for giving Fred some more to think about. Beak also notes that Islam has to be open to examination. I was noticing that Ibn Warraq has a book on the historical Mohammad that sounds interesting. And Robert Spencer has a new book coming out about the Crusades.

7/22/05, 10:20 PM  

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