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Fuzzy Thinking On Sharia and “Islamists”


I was directed to this blog by a couple of friends, who suggested it was worth a read. So I read it, and truth to tell, was severely depressed. The author claims to be a Lieutenant in the US Army, serving in the Middle East. He further claims to have a college degree, and have taken “post-grad” level training by the Army in Muslim related affairs. There are two broad areas in which I was disappointed.

First is what I would call “adjective” complaints. This area includes things like the author’s atrocious grammar, inability to use commas with any precision, and his inability to continue any line of thought to a logical conclusion. One would think that a college graduate would have a better command of what I presume to be his native language. Especially since language is a critical and necessary component of thought. Everything in bold is taken verbatim from the author’s blog. I haven’t used the editorial sic when quoting whole blocks, but the errors are in the original.

The second area I would call “substantive” complaints. This is really the meat of things. Here we deal with facts, implications of those facts, and conclusions to be drawn from them. This also includes alleged facts, etc. So let’s jump into the heart of his blog post.

To start with, his choice of pseudonym is funny, picked without any conscious irony, apparently. The word assassin is derived from the word Hashshashin, and it referred to the Nizari branch of the Shia founded by the Persian Hassan-i Sabbah during the Middle Ages.

Then he goes on to explain why those who oppose Muslim terrorism are actually far-right “islamophobes.” He starts by suggesting that anyone who decries “creeping sharia” is a racist, although he agrees sharia is bad. Never does he tell us, however, to which race sharia belongs.

I have asserted that the far right’s claims of “Creeping Sharia” in America are racist. This deserves some explanation from myself.

First and foremost, Sharia is a bad thing. Any religious law imposed on any culture is in my opinion inherently immoral… Not only is it detrimental to women’s rights…[a]ccording to sharia law, the punishment for apostasy is death. And that is not good news.

I would note, in passing, that he decries any religious based law as “inherently immoral.” I am curious as to how he makes a moral judgement, and how his moral judgement isn’t inherently immoral.

In my life I have come across four “types” of Muslims. First, the ones that I love, Americanized Muslims who have kept only a shred of their tenants and heritage and have taken in American culture and secular values, I call them protestant Muslims. Second, are the American Muslims who congregate in their own social groups and communities, caught at a decision point between accepting the greater American culture or holding fast to their face. Thirdly are affluent Muslims who attended my college, they were the educated youth. Lastly, there are the people of Iraq, who are mired in their often brutal culture.

I am just amazed at the number of things that are wrong with that particular paragraph. First, he accuses others of “racism,” but then goes on to divvy up the entire muslim world into four types! One he loves, and three others that he doesn’t? The ones he loves are the ones who have kept, as he puts it, only a shred of their tenants.(sic) second are the ones who are just barely holding fast to their face.(sic) Then rich ones, then Iraqis. I guess poor Indonesian or Maldivean muslims who went to college elsewhere are beneath his notice.

I look at the first group as a model for the power of secular institutions to moderate a violent faith so it may coexist in modern society. American government did and continues to moderate Christianity to a great extent, we often forget that the various denominations of Christianity did not get along that well around the birth of our nation.

First off, does he really mean to suggest that islam is a violent religion? By saying that his first group, i.e., Americanized muslims, have been moderated by the government, he is in effect, making a tacit admission that islam needs such moderation. That being the case, why does he oppose people who clamor for just that thing?

Second, his assertion that government did moderate Christianity is contradicted by the history of early colonial legislation that favored some, and hindered other, denominations. Early government was an instigator of strife rather than a mediator. One only need look at the history of Maryland.

Here also is what I view as my biggest objection to the far-right’s criticism, their apparent lack of belief in that very moderating power of our society. If America becomes on par with the United Kingdom in its treatment of Islamic law, then we have a problem.

Here again is the admission that islamic law is a bad thing. I gather that what he objects to is that some people believe that islam is beyond moderation. But if that’s the case, then he needs to take exception to the muslims themselves. For example, Recep Erdogan, who said, “”There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.” Or, closer to home, Imam Rauf of “Ground-zero mosque” fame, who stated that “The only law a Muslim needs is in the Quran and Hadith.” Hardly a moderate position.

The second group, like the Muslims of Dearborn Michigan, highlights a different issue… Now undoubtedly in concentrated community of any faith, the hard liners and extremists will find that it is easier to thrive in those environments than in a secular one, but not exclusively so. As often as not, American Muslim extremist spawn from secular societies as much as cultural enclaves as a response to rabid perceived or real racism.

Again, the charge of racism. Still without any identification of what race muslims belong to. Are Catholics a race, or Presbyterians? But that begs the question. If, as the author asserts, American muslim extremist(sic) spawn from racism, why is it that we hear the terrorists themselves claim islam as their motivation? None of them cry racism, but they universally yell “Allahu Ahkbar” as they begin their killing.

The third group is the most mixed bag of the bunch, the young foreign students. Some were fervent believers in their faith but other were secular, often it depended more on geography than anything else in how they interpreted the primacy of sharia law. And that geography was representative of their politics.

What? This is the most tortured of all the author’s paragraphs and is almost completely bereft of sense. I guess what he means is that some people are different from others, and it sometimes depends on where they’re from. Which, if you ask me, is a subtle form of racism.

Lastly, there are the people of Iraq. One of the more secular places in the Middle East, the insurgency has given the Islamists much more power, so much so that I fear for the Government’s ability to resist in the coming years. But here we see how culture affects religions. Islamists are a product of both culture and religion. From what I have experienced, even if you were to vanish religion from the region in the blink of an eye, the culture would still be Islamist. But if you are able to vanish the culture from the religion, if you are able to move the moral zeitgeist in a progressive direction, then the Islamists may be exorcised from Islam and Sharia will die with it.

More secular, but the Islamists have so much more power that he fears for the Government? Interesting. But then he goes on to attempt to differentiate between “culture” and “religion” as if they were independent of each other. And he does a poor job of it. He suggests that if religion was gone from the region, there would still be Islamists. But if you removed the culture from the religion, the Islamists would die on the vine. I believe that he thinks that culture and religion can be separated, and I believe he is wrong. You can not separate them without doing mortal damage to both. Even in America, we still speak of the “protestant work ethic.” How would one separate the Pilgrims from American culture without doing damage?

But his final sentence in the above paragraph is the most telling. He suggests moving the “moral zeitgeist” in a progressive direction, and then islamists and sharia would both die. This again, is an explicit admission that sharia and islamists are bad. So why are the people who object to sharia and islamists bad?

So the right needs to be careful of how it engages this issue, you can no more solve the problem of Islamists by destroying Islam any more than an atheist can solve the problem of Christian extremists by destroying Christianity.

And once again, there is a problem with islam, but it is no different than the problem with Christian extremists. Pray tell, where is the equity? Where is the equivalence? Since 9/11, there have been some 18,000 muslim-committed terrorist acts. What can the anti-Christians point to? Two or three over the same time? This, to use the author’s own criteria, is just rank “racism.”

The battle must be waged primarily by our culture and not our arms.

Agreed. It is a culture war.

In painting all Muslims with a wide brush that implies that they are all terrorists, you do more to create extremists than you extinguish, when a moderate Muslim encounters hate at every corner, he or she can be driven to dark places.

I don’t know of anyone who has said, or even implied, that all muslims are terrorists. The argument that if you call someone a terrorist they become one lacks evidence at best, and at worst, is specious.

Secular societies that stand up for every person’s inherent human rights are better societies. And by bringing more under its fold rather than shunning whole ethnicities for the actions of a few actors inside our state and the actions of cultures half a world away, we will win.

Agreed. America is better than a state that uses sharia. Therefore, it is better to promote American ideals than sharia. Opposing sharia is what every person who supports a human’s inherent rights should do. And the author has failed, again, in his attempt to pin the label of “racist” on those who would oppose sharia. Nobody advocates the “shunning” of whole ethnicities. What people do, however, is oppose the encroachment of a theo-political movement that denies that every human being is a repository of an irreducible dignity.

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