23 September 2010

Will the Real Islam Please Stand Up

In a previous post (What is Moderate Islam?) I claimed that Islamofascism will eventually be overcome by real Islam. This raises the question of just what is real Islam?

The easy answer, attempted by the Salafists, is  that real Islam was what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Companions (the Salafs, may God be pleased with them) practiced. But even those Salafists who live on the Arabian peninsula are separated from the Salafs by 1400 years of time. Even though there are records from that time (the Qur'an and the Sunnah - deeds - and Hadith - sayings of the Prophet) and a continuous living practice of Islam, not everything from that time can be recorded, and traditions change subtly or not so subtly over time. If they did not, the Salafists would not be calling for a return the Islam of the past.

The Salafists consider the past 1400 years of change to be contrary to the Will of God. But God created Time, and God ordained that the Prophet and his Companions should die after living ordinary lifespans. It is apparently God's Will that these people should be no longer with us, and that traditions should evolve.

Given that, the accident of geography seems insignificant. After 1400 years, why should Arabian Islam be considered superior to the Islam of Malaysia, or Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion? Indeed, the saddling of religion with the baggage of culture has always been an impediment to the adoption of religion. Christianity did not become widespread in China, India, or Japan because Christian missionaries for the most part insisted that converts to Christianity practice European Christianity, with European cultural values. Had they been flexible enough to let Christianity take on the cultural accoutrements of Asia, world history might have been different.

Islam on the other hand, has taken on the styles and interpretations of the cultures in which it has become widespread. There are many Islams, and all of them are authentic, including American Islam.

As Paul Johnson notes in his History of Christianity, American religions may differ on matters of faith, but all agree to minimum standards of public moral behavior. This consensus has become strained as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered lifestyles are accepted into the mainstream, and as premarital sex and abortion have become common. But there is still wide consensus that there should be a consensus. American Muslims participate in and help shape this consensus along side American Christians, Jews, atheists, and all other Americans.

In other words, the battle lines are drawn up around a minimal rule set (an idea taken over by Thomas P. M. Barnett in The Pentagon's New Map). Matters of religion itself are not part of the fight - they are in the realm of persuasion, or dawa, as Muslims call it. Living under the more numerous and stricter rules of a particular religion (e.g., Sharia for Muslims, Halacha for Jews) is voluntary for the members of that religion, and simply does not apply to members of other religions.

It is the willingness to coexist, neither dominating other religions nor being dominated by them, that American Muslims can take to the world. This, it seems to me, is what Imam Faisal Rauf is trying to promulgate, despite his unfortunate choice of location for the finger he wishes to stick in the eye of the Islamofascists.

There is a great deal of talk about peace in Islam. Muslims greet one another with "Peace be with you." American Muslims have an idea of how to make that peace a reality.

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