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Nasr describes him as "the Anwar Sadat of Middle East studies. Nasr says the new dissidents run the same risk: "Are you there because you want a job at Yale? Are you there because you want a MacArthur award? They support the Palestinian cause and are bitterly critical of many aspects of U. And while many neoconservatives see Islam as an obstacle to democracy, the Muslim dissidents believe that reform can draw on the Islamic tradition itself. New Paradigm Key to their project is a call for a rethinking of the role of the Muslim intellectual.

The Arab intelligentsia has failed to challenge the region's "wildest and most paranoid fantasies," wrote Kanan Makiya in a recent essay in Dissent. Norton, , the Iraqi-born scholar argues that instead of undertaking "the hard work of creating a modern, rights-based political order," Arab intellectuals have helped fuel a "conspiratorial view of history" that ascribes "all the ills of our own world to either the Great Satan, America, or the Little Satan, Israel. The dissidents believe that such studies soft-pedal the reactionary, repressive politics of the Islamists and obstruct the transformative, self-critical work that needs to be undertaken in the Islamic world.

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One representative of this current is John O. Voll, a professor of Islamic history and associate director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, at Georgetown University. In , he testified to a Congressional subcommittee about the Sudanese regime, an amalgam of military despotism and Islamic theocracy, that seized power in a bloody coup in He described it as "an effort to create a consensual rather than a conflict format for popular political participation.

Even so, to judge the Sudanese government as undemocratic, he said, was Eurocentric. That kind of thinking, says Mr. Qureshi, the independent scholar, is deeply problematic. Regimes like Sudan's should be unequivocally condemned and opposed, he argues, not rationalized and defended. It is the responsibility of the intellectual, he says, to condemn authoritarianism in all its forms, whether secular or religious. Voll concedes that the Sudanese regime has committed human-rights violations, but says he was defending the "conceptual basis" of its rule.

While Islamic fundamentalism is deeply authoritarian, in recent years many of its adherents have adopted the leftist rhetoric of anti-imperialism. Many scholars of the Islamic world thus identify Islamic "militants" with the politics of protest and opposition, he says, portraying them sympathetically as grassroots rebellions against U. While he agrees that U.

As an example he cites scholars' failure to recognize what he sees as the menace of Wahhabism, the highly puritanical sect of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia. That was brought to the fore by journalists, not academics, in the aftermath of September 11, he notes. Overstating the Case?

Critics of the dissident scholars say they are overstating their case. Said dismisses their argument that Arab and Muslim intellectuals have largely avoided critical introspection.

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While there is "some justice" to the claim with respect to Muslim scholars in the West, where, he says, Islam "has been attacked and vilified," he doesn't think the argument holds up abroad. Said agrees but adds that "we need a lot more of it over here, too. Hashemi regards such an attitude as "inadequate and disappointing. Said's most insightful work, he says, is "not about the internal problems facing the Arab-Islamic world, but rather the West, its literature and culture, and the legacy of its empires. Said's generation and for younger scholars influenced by his landmark book, the new thinkers see their task as different.

For them, the critique is a given; it's been done. He does not expect scholars whose intellectual projects have revolved around the critique of Orientalism to suddenly shift their focus. Abou El Fadl, Mr. Hashemi, and Mr. An-Na'im is a devout Muslim who confronts the tensions between traditional Islamic law and universal standards of human rights, and who believes that reform can be grounded in Islam itself.

He acknowledges in his writing that Sharia, or Islamic law, involves "drastic and serious violations" of the rights of women and non-Muslims.

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  • The real question is, what god is actually being worshiped? However, the question is not simply one of belief, but of behavior. Matthew personifies Mammon as a rival god, not in the conviction that such a divine being really exists, but from the empirical observation that people have a tendency to treat all sorts of things as absolutes.


    Suppose we apply an empirical test to the question of absolutism. Now let us ask the following two questions: What percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christians would be willing to kill for their Christian faith? What percentage would be willing to kill for their country? For most American Christians, even public evangelization is considered to be in poor taste, and yet most endorse organized slaughter on behalf of the nation as sometimes necessary and often laudable.

    In other countries or other traditions the results of this test might be very different. So-called secular ideologies and institutions like nationalism and liberalism can be just as absolutist, divisive, and irrational as so-called religion. People kill for all sorts of things. If the conventional wisdom that religion causes violence is so incoherent, why is it so prevalent? I believe it is because we in the West find it useful. In domestic politics, it serves to silence representatives of certain kinds of faiths in the public sphere.

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    The story is told repeatedly that the liberal state has learned to tame the dangerous divisiveness of contending religious beliefs by reducing them to essentially private affairs. In foreign policy, the conventional wisdom helps reinforce and justify Western attitudes and policies toward the non-Western world, especially Muslims, whose primary point of difference with the West is their stubborn refusal to tame religious passions in the public sphere.

    The liberal nation-state is essentially a peacemaker. Now we only seek to share the blessings of peace with the Muslim world. Regrettably, because of their stubborn fanaticism, it is sometimes necessary to bomb them into liberal democracy. The conflict becomes explicable in terms of the essential qualities of the two opponents, not in terms of actual historical encounters. So, for example, Juergensmeyer attempts to explain the animosity of the religious Other toward America:.

    Why is America the enemy? This question is hard for observers of international politics to answer, and harder still for ordinary Americans to fathom. Many have watched with horror as their compatriots and symbols of their country have been destroyed by people whom they do not know, from cultures they can scarcely identify on a global atlas, and for reasons that do not seem readily apparent. This has often put the United States in the unhappy position of being a defender and promoter of secular governments regarded by their religious opponents as primary foes.

    Third, corporations that trade internationally tend to be based in the United States. Yet, to dislike America is one thing; to regard it as a cosmic enemy is quite another. They employ guilt by association. They have paranoid visions of globalization. They stereotype, and blame easy targets, when their lives are disrupted by forces they do not understand. They blow simple oppositions up into cosmic proportions. This is no less than a clash of civilizations—the perhaps irrational but surely historic reactions of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both.

    The West is a monolithic reality representing modernity, which necessarily includes secularity and rationality, while the Muslim world is an equally monolithic reality which is ancient, that is, lagging behind modernity, because of its essentially religious and irrational character.

    The new crusades : constructing the Muslim enemy - Ghent University Library

    This opposition of rational and irrational, secular and religious, Western and Muslim is not simply descriptive, but helps to create the opposition that it purports to describe. As Roxanne Euben writes in her study of Islamic fundamentalism, this opposition is part of a larger Enlightenment narrative in which defining reason requires its irrational other:. If they were the voices of modernity, freedom, liberation, happiness, reason, nobility, and even natural passion, the irrational was all that came before: tyranny, servility to dogma, self-abnegation, superstition, and false religion.

    Thus the irrational came to mean the domination of religion in the historical period that preceded it. The problem with grafting Islamic fundamentalism into this narrative, according to Euben, is that it is incapable of understanding the appeal of fundamentalism on its own terms.

    Does Religion Cause Violence?

    It dismisses rather than explains. At root, the problem is epistemological. Locke and the founding fathers saved us from the curse of killing in the name of religion. In theory, we have the opposition of a cruel fanaticism with a modest and peaceloving tolerance. Sullivan is willing to gird himself with the language of a warrior and underwrite U.

    On the surface, the myth of religious violence establishes a dichotomy between our peaceloving secular reasonableness and their irrational religious fanaticism. Harris condemns the irrational religious torture of witches, but provides his own argument for torturing terrorists. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.

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