Thursday, April 7, 2011

Separation of Mosque and State?

I attended the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s West Coast retreat this past weekend and will be filing several reports on the various speakers and panels. This is the second; read the first elsewhere on this blog or here.

I have to give props to David Horowitz – his recent Freedom Center weekend featured a significant diversity of thought. A particularly fascinating element was a debate between Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer, author of Stealth Jihad, and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander who advocates the “separation of mosque and state.”

The crux of the debate is the million dollar question – are jihad, terrorism and sharia law inextricably linked to Islam itself, or can so-called moderate Muslims embrace American concepts of liberty and justice, independent of the political aspects of Islam?

Jasser, of course, believes that type of separation can indeed happen – that Islam on its own is not inherently violent or hateful. Part and parcel of this perspective is the whole concept of “radical Islam” being some type of extremist outworking of an overall less malevolent Islamic worldview.

Spencer, who unlike Jasser is not a Muslim, argued that anyone who studies the scriptures of Islam must come to the conclusion that so-called radical Islamists are merely acting on the actual tenets of their faith – in other words, that the Islamic worldview is indeed malevolent. And Spencer’s got me convinced that he’s a lot closer to the truth than Jasser.

History teaches that Islam has not always been aggressive, as Jasser pointed out, but Spencer noted that just because Muslims were not powerful enough to wage violent jihad at certain historical moments does not mean that their goal had ever changed.

Jasser also argued that how Muslims perceive Koranic teaching is somewhat affected by their particular imam (or teacher,) the implication being that radical imams produce radical followers. He drew a parallel between that and a Jew or Christian deferring to their rabbi’s or minister’s view of scripture. But the Bible urges followers to test any teacher’s interpretation against the scripture itself – effectively minimizing the danger of a teacher leading people astray. Not to say it hasn’t happened – virtually every cult is birthed by someone twisting the words of scripture – but therein lies the point. Jasser’s analogy falls apart because any “radical minister,” for example, is soon exposed as a teacher of anti-biblical thought. In comparison, the so-called radical imams are teaching a doctrine that is in fact what the Koran says.

Another implication of the argument that Muslims can separate some of the Koran’s teachings from their everyday lives is the idea that Islam simply needs to “grow up” – that it needs to evolve into something more compatible with modern values. An unspoken assumption behind this idea is that Judaism and Christianity have already gone through such an evolution, which is why those belief systems are compatible with Western thought.

This is nonsense. Judaism and Christianity are compatible with Western thought, all right, because Western thought owes much of its lineage – the concepts of individual responsibility, private property, and fallen human nature, among other valuable lessons – in part to Judeo-Christian thinking. But Jasser misunderstands the fundamental nature of both Judaism and Christianity. They have both maintained the same teachings for thousands of years. They have not “evolved” (although they have been bastardized, by some – but that’s a discussion for another day).

So quite frankly it seems kind of insulting to Muslims to imply that, if we just give Islam some more time, it will “grow up” and become a faith we can all learn to love. The only change that can happen and is compatible with our American system of government is when individual Muslims decide that living in liberty and freedom is of higher value to them than fully embracing Islam (which, although he might not characterize it exactly so, is indeed what Jasser has chosen to do).

Regarding sharia law in particular, Jasser says that any system of law that may be said to be “of God” becomes manmade law when humans implement it – but this is a very weak argument that somehow sharia itself can be separated from Islam. In another discussion during the Horowitz event, Jasser indicated that he thought a person could embrace sharia “just for themselves” – but this is illogical. No one can embrace any system of law all by themselves, because systems of law include such things as judgment and punishments. More than one person is required for a legal system.

In defending attacks against the prophet Mohammed, Jasser implied that other faiths look up to men who were flawed, like Abraham. Jasser of course entirely misses the point that neither Judaism nor Christianity hold Abraham to be equivalent to deity, or in any way impervious to criticism. (Nobody gets killed if you draw a picture of him, either.) And the Bible is fairly clear about Abraham’s personal failings. Spencer agreed, however, that calling Mohammed out for his pedophilia does not win over most Muslims.

Dr. Jasser, somewhat poignantly, asked what he was to teach his children if Islam could not be separated from its violent, anti-Western tendencies and political visions of conquering the world. I would argue, with great respect for Dr. Jasser and his noble but misguided mission of trying to fuse his faith with American values – that in fact Islam is not a faith that he wants to pass along to his children.

Other presentations throughout the weekend underscored that reality, as speakers like Andrew McCarthy and Karen Lugo brought home, again and again, the sobering reality of fatwas, terrorism and jihad. Watch the NewsReal Blog site for video of the Enemies Within panel, in particular.


  1. I can't believe that you actually stated that Jasser shouldn't pass his Muslim faith to his children. Thank you for exposing the inherent bigotry of the right wing. Also, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi DESTROYS 99% of Robert Spencer's arguments.

  2. Of course if Robert Spencer is correct, and there are at least a few million people who think he is, then Jasser should not pass on that faith. Has nothing to do with "bigotry."

  3. Stating that a person should not pass his religion to his children is bigotry. Robert Spencer is NOT correct. His work presents the POV of scholars like Maududi and Qutb. Progressive scholars do NOT accept their view. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi rejects the primitive views that are associated with radical Muslims today. Also, it is intellectually dishonest and foolish to suggest that all Muslims are practicing taqqiya and trying to implement sharia law in the west. I am amazed by the arrogance of the person who wrote this post. It is foolish to think you are an intellectual juggernaut when you are unaware of alternative schools of thought.

  4. It is your opinion that Robert Spencer is not correct. Just because people disagree with you does not mean they are unaware of alternative schools of thoughts. They may have both considered and rejected them, no? With just as much authority, I could state "Robert Spencer IS correct." What's more, I certainly don't think all Muslims in the West are practicing taqqiya - I certainly don't think Dr. Jasser is. That is a straw man argument, since I said nothing of the kind.

  5. "In comparison, the so-called radical imams are teaching a doctrine that is in fact what the Koran says."

    So "real" Muslims are the primitive radicals? You have also stated numerous times that ISLAM is at war with the west. The implication of these statements is that all real Muslims are devious sharia advocates who want to warm the United States. As far as logical fallacies go, I've presented you with an entire school of thought that REJECTS the primitive views associated with Radical Muslims. It is not my opinion that Robert Spencer presents a one-sided and intellectually dishonest argument. Rather, it is a factual statement. As I stated before, Robert Spencer relies almost entirely on the works of Maududi and Qutb. They interpreted the Quran literally. Scholars like Ghamidi reject literalism and champion pluralism. Right wing activists like you and Robert Spencer completely ignore scholars like Ghamidi because their views do not fit your narrative. Ghamidi's interpretation of the Quran is compatible with Western society.

  6. For those of you who actually value intellectual honesty and growth, here are some of Ghamidi's views.

    1. There is no form of Had (Prescribed Punishment) in Islam like flogging, cutting hands, stoning etc.

    2. Hadith can not be trusted alone. Hadith is to be seen in the light of Quran and common sense of Muslim ummah.

    3. Jesus died a natural death.

    4. There is no penalty for an Apostate (Murtad) in Islam.

    5. Claims the 7 recitations of Quran to be wrong.

    6. Music and Dancing is permissible in Islam.
    Music is allowed in Islam. Ghamdi gave a number of ahadith to prove the allowance of music and dance in Islam.

    7. Jihad against oppression is the only jihad allowed.

    8. The Shahadat (testimony) of a man and woman are equal

    9. There is no concept of Purdah (Hijab / Veil) in Islam.

    10. Democracy is real system of Islamic state.

    11. There would be no jaziya on non-Muslims in Pakistan.

    12. A woman can be the prime minister of Pakistan.

    13. A non-Muslim can be prime minister of Pakistan.

    14. Keeping beard is not mandatory to Muslim men.

    15. Only moral teaching should be given in Islamic studies in Pakistan.

    16. Jihadi verses were only for those days and now those verses will be used in war time by soldiers.

    17. Pakistan was not founded on Islamic bases, but for economic reasons.

    18. Pakistan should be neither Islamic nor secular but a democratic state.

    20. Quran accept evolution but rejects macro evolution of human beings.

    21. Only way to spread Islam is “dawah”; sword can not be used any way.

    22. Woman can also divorce as can a man.

    23. Islamic government can not enforce Muslims to have beards and do jihad.

    24. Clash of civilization never happened in history.

    25. Non-Muslims are brothers of Muslims, because all people are descendants of Adam.

    26. Pakistan should have foreign policies on economical, not religious, bases.

    27. Helping the needy is better then performing hajj.

    28. All kinds of fine arts and funs are halal in Islam.

    29. There is no punishment of amputations in Islam.

    There is no prescribed punishment in Islam. It is an obligation of the democratic government of Islamic states to make laws according to the conditions of the state.

    30. Pictures are totally halal in Islam.

    31. Sex education is inevitable. Sex education should be given to the youth of Pakistan. It is completely allowed in Islamic sharia.

    32. “Killing of people, not in the state of war, is called terrorism.”

    33. Kashmiri militants are not doing jihad. A war can be deemed Jihad when ordered by the head of state.

    34. American attacks in Afghanistan is not terrorism. It will be called terrorism if they target civilians.

    35. Muslims should accept Israel, because Jerusalem was a Jewish land before the Muslim invasion.

    36. Zakat can be given to non-Muslims.

    37. Having slaves in Islam is haram.

  7. You said it yourself. Those are Ghamidi's views. Too bad much of the Islamic population doesn't buy them. And we can all read the Koran for ourselves. And you can argue until you are blue in the face that your OPINION is FACT, but that is no more true than of anyone else's opinion. Good grief, the very existence of millions of Muslims who do NOT agree with your friend Ghamidi rather militates against you stating that what he says is fact. I certainly agree with you that Ghamidi's interpretation is far more comparable with the West. But it is only that - an interpretation. The words themselves indeed seem to say something else, as is evidenced by suicide bombers who are willing to give it all up in the name of Allah. Furthermore, it is YOUR interpretation that I think all Muslims are devious sharia advocates. I stated quite plainly that for Muslims who value liberty above Islam, peaceful coexistence and even an embracing of the West is perfectly workable. If you prefer to word that last sentence exactly the same but insert the word "primitive" in front of "Islam," so be it. We will have to agree to disagree. But insisting that your opinion is fact, in light of considerable disagreement and evidence to the contrary, isn't winning any converts to your opinion.

  8. Also, cheap shots like implying that those who hold a differing opinion do not value intellectual honesty and growth - well, that is how leftists argue. If you are a leftist, I guess it's to be expected. If you are not, I suggest you improve your politeness quotient.