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Vol. 14, No. 6, 2015
 
     
 
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reformadhists of the world unite
ISLAM DIVIDED BY TWO

by
ROBERT J. LEWIS

___________________________________



Is it time for Muslims to question their allegiance
to a religion whose "God is Great" utterance
incites universal dread in the West?

There was a time when almost all the world’s Christians (less Greek orthodox) were Catholic. By the 15th century, a significant number of the faithful had become disillusioned with what it regarded as ecclesiastic malpractice: selling of indulgences and clerical positions (simony), and the prioritizing of geo-politics and acquisition of property. In what evolved into a kind of tacit moral exceptionalism, Church leaders, like tax lawyers trained to find loopholes in the law, found ways to exempt themselves from long-standing standards of probity established by the Catholic Church. As we all know, this culminated in the great schism (it was actually the second) or Protestant Reformation, out of which evolved Protestantism, a religious movement whose numbers were initially comprised of disaffected Catholics. Protestantism appealed to Christians who could no longer abide by the hypocrisy and double-speak coming out of the Catholic Church.

In the centuries that followed, Catholicism became synonymous with a more strict and conservative practice of Christianity while Protestantism -- the work ethic -- evolved into a more flexible, less dogmatic institution that enjoyed a significantly more productive relationship with capitalism (greed) and progress. For better or worse, it also marked the beginning of the end of the great cathedral building era and iconic Christian art.

Today, another great schism is happening on our watch -- the seeds have been planted and their germination has cracked the earth asunder -- but no one has taken notice, for reasons which implicate the West no less than Islam.

Samuel Huntington has famously characterized the conflict between the West and Islam as the great “clash of civilizations,” when in point of fact the real conflict has been taking place at the very heart of Islam, as two increasingly incompatible versions of itself vie for the hearts and minds of the world’s billion Muslims.

Fatima I believes Muslim women should wear the burqa in the public domain; Fatima II believes it is her right to wear jeans. Fatima I likes to listen to music. In Taliban-held territory, it's a crime to possess a radio. Ahmed I believes good Muslims should pray five times a day facing Mecca; Ahmed II believes a good Muslim is one who lives by the Ten Commandments. Ahmed I abides by Sharia law, Ahmed II by the laws of the country in which he finds himself.

Before our very eyes that have been dimmed by fear mongering of the worst kind and a deficit of fact-based, responsible journalism, Islam is splintering into two no less than Christianity split into two in 1517. In that year, corruption and abuses within the church hit a critical mass begetting a massive protest movement that eventuated Protestantism. Today, in the early 21st century, a significant number of Muslims can no longer abide by the strict, and highly contentious (arbitrary) interpretation of Quranic doctrine as it is expounded and disseminated by Al Qaeda-ISIL and Wahhabism et al, whose backwards looking stance on religion and politics, and repressive codes of conduct have no practical purchase in the modern world.

In short, there are many practicing Muslims who no longer recognize the Islam that regards and treats all non-Muslims as infidels, that cherry-picks from the Quran in order to supply the raw materials for human bomb making factories, and for whom all murderous and treasonous ends justify the means of establishing a worldwide Caliphate.

As a reaction -- enabled by the Internet, the pipeline through which western culture seeps into the previously impervious Muslim fortress world -- to this rear-view-mirror, tyrannical fundamentalism arises the moderate Muslim, the majority of whom have been co-opted by western culture but who still look to Islam to satisfy their spirtual needs. Many of these thoroughly modern Muslims -- Islam’s first infidels -- live in the West but still speak Arabic, and, in the spirit of reform, envision an Islam that is elastic enough to allow both men and women, in their new found lands, to participate in the affairs of the modern world – without looking back in fear or self-recrimination. Presently lacking in spokespersons and a coherent narrative, this burgeoning reconfiguration of Islam has become, in a very short time, incompatible with the strict doctrinal Islam of the Quran. And while it is still too soon for history to render its verdict, this decisive turning away from the absolutism as laid out by the Quran and Hadiths marks the beginning of the great schism or what I ‘christen’ the Reformadhist Reformation, which, despite the apparent (in the short term) failure of the Arab Spring, springs directly from that initial wave of discontent that ridded plutocratic Egypt, Libya and Tunisia of their corrupt oligarchies.

Not unlike the very early disillusioned Protestants who nonetheless continued to believe in Christ, the Reformadhists continue to believe in Allah, but they no longer identify with the Islam that throws up an arbitrary wall between itself and the modern world. They argue that wearing a baseball cap and jeans, or a skirt above the ankles, or enjoying a glass of wine with a meal doesn’t make them any less Muslim: “every generation is equidistant from God,” writes Leopold von Ranke.

Reformadhists reject the directives disingenuously attributed to the Quran that oblige them to regard the other as “the infidel” or the West as “great Satan,” just as many question the presumption that the Almighty blesses ‘all’ acts carried out in his name and honour. Among the movement's non-negotiable first principles is its position against the barbaric androcentricism that excuses rape and infidelity if it is carried out by a man and stones to death the fallen woman for the same; that women hold up half the sky is a given, and not something to be got.

It is moot whether or not there is such a thing as the moderate Muslim since he represents the leading edge of the great schism. What the movement currently lacks is a coherent vision and a broad consensus of principles that will provide Reformadhism with the clarity and confidence required to defend itself against an increasingly isolated and vengeful fundamentalist Islam. The challenge of the West is to first of all grant Reformadhism the status is deserves, encourage its development, recognizing that a potentially powerful ally is at hand in the ongoing war against the pyschopathic Islamist machine.

When the Reformadhist's break from radical Islam is complete, the latter’s position will look less like a war against modernity and more like a last stand.

However, as the movement gains momentum it should be wary of support coming from western extremists and their dubious agenda, convinced that the blight and scourge that is Islam derive 'directly' from the Quran. They argue that for the sake of the greater good of world peace, the only proper (moral) course for Islam to follow is to self-negate itself out of existence. With sword-pen in hand, they will man the front lines and profess solidarity with the Reformadhist movement but only in so far as it serves their hegemoniacal ends: replacing the fertile "East is East and West is West" binary with the "West is the Best" categorical -- and to the manor another fundamentalism is born. Both Camus and Fanon warned against this as Algeria (1962) took control of its destiny.

The West should encourage Reformadhists of the world to unite while recognizing that the enemy is chameleon and every enlightenment a work in progress.

 

 

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COMMENTS

user-submission@feedback.com
Very interesting and original perspective. I don't think it's ever going to happen but idealistic thinking is refreshing -- and you never what's going to happen in the future except that our experts are way off the mark..

user-submission@feedback.com
Islam already divided into two and look where that has got us. We don't need another split and another war and more refugees. Nice try.

ncatalano@pace.edu
So impressed with this essay - historical insight, perspicacious ideas, wonderful articulation - it's all there....congrats!

rfilip@videotron.ca
I've enjoyed reading your essays on Islam.

user-submission@feedback.com
Well, I hope you're right, and the sooner the better for the entire world.

also by Robert J. Lewis:
Pedophiling Innocence
Grappling with Revenge
Hit Me With That Music
The Sinking of the Friendship
Om: The Great Escape
Actor on a Hot Tin Roof
Being & Self-Consciousness
Giacometti: A Line in the Wilderness
The Jazz Solo
Chat Rooms & Infidels
Music Fatigue
Understanding Rape
Have Idea Will Travel
Bikini Jihad
The Reader Feedback Manifesto
Caste the First Stone
Let's Get Cultured
Being & Baggage
Robert Mapplethorpe
1-800-Philosophy
The Eclectic Switch

Philosophical Time
What is Beauty?
In Defense of Heidegger

Hijackers, Hookers and Paradise Now
Death Wish 7 Billion
My Gypsy Wife Tonight
On the Origins of Love & Hate
Divine Right and the Unrevolted Masses
Cycle Hype or Genotype
The Genocide Gene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
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