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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You Can’t Reform Islam Without Reforming Muslims

Every few years the debate over reforming Islam bubbles up from the depths of a culture that largely censors any suggestion that Islam needs reforming.

But Islam does not exist apart from Muslims. It is not an abstract entity that can be changed without changing its followers. And if Islam has not changed, that is because Muslims do not want it to.

Mohammed and key figures in Islam provided a template, but that template would not endure if it did not fit the worldview of its worshipers. Western religions underwent a process of secularization to align with what many saw as modernity leading to a split between traditionalists and secularists.

The proponents of modernizing Islam assume that it didn’t make the jump because of Saudi money, fundamentalist violence and regional backwardness. These allegations are true, but also incomplete.

If modernizing Islam really appealed to Muslims, it would have taken off, at least in the West, despite Saudi money and Muslim Brotherhood front groups. These elements might have slowed things down, but a political or religious idea that is genuinely compelling is like a rock rolling down a hill.

It’s enormously difficult to stop.

Muslim modernization in the West has been covertly undermined by the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood, but for the most part it has not been violently suppressed.

It suffers above all else from a lack of Muslim interest.

Muslims don’t spend much time fuming over a progressive mosque that allows gay members or lets women lead prayers. Such places occasionally exist and remain obscure. They don’t have to be forcibly shut down because they never actually take off. The occasional death threat and arson might take place and the average ISIS recruit would happily slaughter everyone inside, but even he has bigger fish to fry.

The best evidence that Muslim modernization has failed is that even the angriest Muslims don’t take it very seriously as a threat. The sorts of people who believe that Saddam Hussein was a CIA agent or that Israel is using eagles as spies have trouble believing modernizing Islam will ever be much of a problem.

They know instinctively that it will never work. Instead Muslims are far more threatened by a cartoon mocking their prophet for reasons that go to the heart of what is wrong with their religion.

Islam is not an idea. It is a tribe.

Talking about reforming the words of Islam is an abstraction. Islam did not begin with a book. It began with clan and sword. Even in the modern skyscraper cities of the West, it remains a religion of the clan and the sword.

The left has misread Islamic terrorism as a response to oppression when it is actually a power base. It is not the poor and downtrodden who are most attracted to the Jihad. Instead it is the upper classes. Bin Laden wasn’t a pauper and neither are the Saudis or Qataris. Islamic terrorism isn’t a game for the poor. It becomes the thing to do when you’re rich enough to envy the neighbors. It’s a tribal war.

To reform Islam, we can’t just look at what is wrong with the Koran or the Hadiths. We have to ask why these tribal calls for violence and genocide, for oppression and enslavement, appealed to Muslims then and why they continue to appeal to Muslims today.

The modernizers assume that Western Muslims would welcome a reformation of Islam. They are half right. The reformation that they are welcoming is that of the Wahhabis trying to return it to what it was. It’s hard to deny that ISIS touches something deep within Muslims. The gay-friendly mosques don’t.

Understanding Islam only in terms of the Koran makes it seem as if Muslims are unwillingly trapped by a tyranny of the text, when the text is actually their means of trapping others into affirming their identity.

There is no reforming Islam without reforming Muslims. The reformers assume that most Muslims are ignorant of their own beliefs, but even the most illiterate Muslim in a village without running water has a good grasp of the big overall ideas. He may hardly be able to quote a Koranic verse without stumbling over it, he may have added local customs into the mix, but he identifies with it on a visceral level.

Its honor is his honor. Its future is the future of his family. Its members are his kinfolk. Like him, it ought to have been on top; instead it’s on the bottom. Its grievances are his grievances.

The rest is just details.

The progressive diverse mosque is the opposite of this tribal mentality. It is the opposite of Islam. Its destruction of the tribe is also the destruction of the individual. The Western Muslim who already has only a shaky connection to the culture of his ancestral country is not about to trade Islamic tribalism for anonymous diversity. Islam tells him he is superior. The progressive mosque tells him nothing.

Whether he is a Bangladeshi peasant watching soccer matches on the village television or a Bangladeshi doctor in London, it is the violent, racist and misogynistic parts of Islam that provide him with a sense of worth in a big confusing world. That is how Islam was born.

Islam began in uncertain times as empires were tottering and the old ways were being displaced by strange religions such as Judaism and Christianity, when its originators mashed bits of them together and then founded their own crazy wobbly murderous empire built around a badly plagiarized religion.

It was horrible and terrible for everyone who wasn’t a Muslim man, but it worked.

Islam is less of a faith and more of a set of honor and shame responses. It’s a cycle of oppression and victimhood. It’s the assertion of identity by people who see themselves as inferior and are determined to push back by making themselves superior. The responses are familiar. We saw it in Nazi Germany as the defeated nation became a master race by killing and enslaving everyone else.

But it’s not those at the bottom most driven by such dreams. It’s the desert billionaires who have money, but no culture. It’s the Western Muslim doctor who still feels inferior despite his wealth. It’s a merchant named Mohammed with a lot of grudges who claims an angel told him to kill all his enemies in Allah’s name.

It’s Islam. And it’s Muslims.

The things that we believe, bad or good, reflect the bad or good inside us. When Muslims support killing people, it’s simplistic to assume that they are robotically following a text and will follow any other text slipped in front of their faces, instead of their passions and values. Religions may make people kill, but it starts when people make religions kill.

The good devout Muslim may kill because the Koran tells him to, but he would not do so if the Koran’s justifications of violence did not speak to him on a deeper level. The Nazis were following orders, but they wouldn’t have followed them if Nazism didn’t connect with their fears, hopes and dreams.

The text is only half the problem. The other half is in the human heart.

Reforming Islam is not a matter of crossing out certain words and adding others. Religions carry a powerful set of values that appeal to people on a deep level. To change Islam, we would have to understand why its ugliness still speaks to Muslims. To change it, we have to change them.

When we talk about reforming Islam, what we are really talking about is reforming Muslims.

33 comments:

Empress Trudy said...

The Protestant Reformation was in part a revolt against abuses by the Church and a general aura of corruption and power crazed tyranny about property and wealth. In part. But that took people actively taking a stand against those faults and abuses in the Church. They had to actively object and they had to be willing to die for it. Let's face it - St Sir Thomas Moore actually had people put to death for printing the Bible in English. So unless and until you find a slough of Muslims who oppose the faith to the extent that they're willing and eager to martyrs AGAINST the faith then you're wasting your time.

RAM said...

Biblical references to Yishmael give the picture.

Anonymous said...

Yet another one smacked over the fence, Daniel.

Tom said...

Simple enough. And to reform America we must first reform Americans.

mementoil said...

I disagree with the notion that Islam is a tribe.
If it were truly a tribe, it wouldn't be attracting (and accepting) so many converts.

No, Islam is an idea.
It's the fantasy life of a violent man, who wants to rape for fun and pillage for a living. It's the divine legitimacy for it's followers to commit every crime they ever dreamed of. It's a sanctified gang mentality. It's Socialism with an extra dose of Testosterone.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

The converts Islam attracts are disposable. They're cannon fodder, like the ones in Canada. Or women for Muslim use.

Islam is a gang religion. The gang is a tribe.

mindRider said...

Islam is the vile subconscious desires of man that should be vanquished and repressed according to most other religions, made into laudable religious behaviour.

Edward Cline said...

Islam can produce "tribes," but it's basically a non-philosophical ideology based on an eclectic bag of concretes (Mohammad did this, Mohammad did that, and that's what we should do, too) which Muslims can emulate in various degrees of thoroughness (from passive "moderate" to active homicidal) because the ideology does not require thought or reasoning or questioning. Rote memorization, yes, that's the limit, reducing even an IIslamic cleric's ability to recite line for line the words of the Koran and other related texts to the status of a trained chimpanzee. Mental effort is too much of a bother, and that aspect of Islam appeals to soulless manqués who need a "philosophy of life" but don't want it to be too complicated or reflect any kind of intellectual and ethical depth. Muslims are individuals who are not the authors of their own souls, although they are ultimately responsible for their content. They are all second-handers, vessels who allow others to determine the content of their character and minds. That Islam can take on the attribute of a "tribe" or "gang" is a mere consequence of the fundamental miasma of second-handedness on a mass scale. If one watches all the raised arms and Sieg Heils of the masses welcoming Hitler to Nuremberg in 1934, one can detect little difference between that and the mass absolutions of Muslims. Both phenomena are literal surrenders of individual selves to a Messiah-like human figure. Muslims are the most contemptible "tribe" or group in existence today. They are to be despised and boycotted and shunned should be told why.

Anonymous said...

My mother is a Filipina, my father an American. My maternal grandfather was the tribal chief of his family, he never accepted the presence of the Yanqui in the clan. I grew up wanting to embrace both but ultimately had to choose because the former identity was exclusive and the latter inclusive. While there are probably many other examples of tribal families that are benign or positive, the example set by my grandfather was negative. He was conditionally loving, overbearing, often cruel and arbitrary. Often I would consider the question while I was young: if he loved us, why is he so cruel? Later, I understood that freedom was a threat to him, like solvent dissolves glue, the presence of the Yanqui meant the eventual dissolution of the family.

Every tribe needs a chief, and chiefs are always insecure. Gifts are given and thus incur obligations. Many gifts are needed to keep the glue strong.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the gift of freedom from G-d to mankind, a narrative that is central to the Torah, and as far as I can tell, can only be found there. I consider this to be the tent pole of Western Civilization, every other aspect of it depends on this central precept. As the first monotheism, it seems to me to be the export of the concept of the tribal chief to "the heavens", and a civilizational release from the scalar limitations of tribalist fetters. Freedom is as scary as it is exhilarating or gratifying. I think that the development of Islam is atavism incarnate, a claw back to patriarchal mores where the dudes are once again the cock of the roost.

The world has been accelerating into modernity, and the recent collapse of space made it so that there are no obscure regions in the world to hide from the modern future. The tribalists have their backs to the wall, and they are fighting a last stand. They have found strength in belief and the secularists among us believe we have found strength in believing nothing. Ultimately, Islam needs a modern reformation so that it too can come into the future with us. Indeed, we can only fight a delaying action until modern Muslims gear up to fight atavist Muslims.

fsy said...

Why is the example of the 'progressive' mosque the one which favors 'gays'? The homosexuals are also evil, just in a different way than the Moslems. Why should we normal people use the PC attitudes as our base in criticizing the evil of Islam?

Anonymous said...

Who knew ? It seemed logical, imo, that jihadists would arise from the class of unemployed, under-educated, and underfed. This article says otherwise, which makes them even more despicable, if that is possible.

sophie

Anonymous said...

Radical muslims want to kill you and enslave your children, moderate muslims want radical muslms to kill you and enslave your children. We have two choices: 1. Go to war and kill many, many muslims until they are totally defeated/broken. Not go to war and allow the muslims to kill many, many of us until we are defeated/broken. Most are not ready yet to make that tough choice. In time they will change their mind. Hopefully that will not be after it is too late.

DenisO said...

We can't "go to war" with a religion; it's not feasible. If the West decided a war was necessary, they would have to decide a new way of war, not on a Country, the traditional way of war, which is usually decisive.
It is far easier to war on Leaders who lead their followers to "kill you and enslave your children".
Regards,

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

the issue is not whether we can go to war with a religion, but whether a religion is at war with us

Jamie Sorensen said...

The Koran is duplicitous. In one part it teaches acceptance of non-Muslims. In another part, it teaches members to smite the unbelievers without mercy. This is convenient for Muslims depending on their population base within a society.

Joe Katzman said...

Edward, the Sufis, and those who know the Sufis, would disagree with you. They'd be entirely right to do so, and it would probably be done as a joke that pointed to religious truths. Which may be the best way I've ever seen for securely encoding religious lessons in an indestructible format.

"Islam can produce "tribes," but it's basically a non-philosophical ideology based on an eclectic bag of concretes (Mohammad did this, Mohammad did that, and that's what we should do, too) which Muslims can emulate in various degrees of thoroughness (from passive "moderate" to active homicidal) because the ideology does not require thought or reasoning or questioning."

mindRider said...

.....converted to anything but Islam..........

Ofay Cat said...

I am sure that you all know how difficult it is to change even one persons mind about anything .... how can we hope to change the minds of well over a billion thoroughly brain washed muslims who are want to take over the world and are in fact ... winning!

Anonymous said...

Having watched the killings in Canada and now NYC none of this makes sense without a paid and trained fifth column made up of both leftists and Moslems.

When you know the immediate playbook, that someone on the left will immediately step up after the killing and do what they do every single time and you can predict it you are not just looking at individual opinions within a general ideology.

I am not a conspiracist. A conspiracist make claims according to what he needs the facts to be and different outcomes than he predicts only prove the conspiracy.

Nothing is hidden here. The oil producing Moslem states are rich. The killings are in the open and the apologists need to be heard in the media and produce a state of confusion and paralysis. The roles of all are repetitive and predictable. Islamic apologists have a well defined role. They act immediately and the same way all the time. Its money behind it all. Not ideology. Leftist ideology is just the cover.

Anonymous said...

Islam is beyond reform, being inspired by a book that was inspired by a demon, or by satin, himself. If in doubt, remember what Jesus said of satin: "He is a lier and a murderer." and then look at the evidence so clearly displayed around the world today.
Islam, in all of its forms must be defeated.

R. Steinberg said...

Sufis do not reject the jihad component of Islam. Throughout history, prominent Sufis upheld the mandate to spread Islam by the sword.

R Steinberg said...

You are apparently unfamiliar with Islam's Principle of Abrogation (naskh), which states that Mohammed's earlier revelations are abrogated by later ones. So passages in the Koran which appear to promote tolerance of, say, Judaism and Christianity, and forbearance of violent responses against Muslims' enemies, are in effect invalidated by
historically later passages which are far more bellicose. Naskh derives from at least one
passage in the Koran itself, which declares
that Allah can change his mind and replace a
verse with a better one if he so chooses. This
dualistic, contradictory feature of the Koran,
and hence Islam itself, is often used as a tool
by Muslim representatives receiving media
coverage to fool, confuse, and at the same
time reassure fearful non-Muslims that Islam
teaches peace and tolerance, and those who
act otherwise in the name of Islam
demonstrate a misunderstanding of Islam's
true, peaceful nature. Islam not only
mandates warfare against and subjugation of
non-Muslims, it also endorses lying, which is

R. Steinberg said...

(continuation of my comment, above) used as a religiously approved means of spreading the faith.

Anonymous said...

You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you.

Eric the Red said...

Anonymous FH-AM...
Your exposition almost makes sense, but you end up saying two contradictory things..

On the one hand, you state that freedom is the gift from God to humans, encompassing a narrative that is central to the Torah, and as far as you can tell, can only be found there. Of course, it is also found in the Bible, and expanded upon in the New Testament. You state that you consider this to be the tent pole of Western Civilization, and every other aspect of it depends on this central precept, in part because there is now but one perfect "tribal chief" to which all can belong without getting enmeshed in local and therefore flawed substitutes here on earth. In part I agree with you, as well as directing you to the inescapable conclusion that without it, there is no such thing that is recognizable as Western Civilization.

However, next you state that the secularists among you believe you have found strength in believing in nothing (BTW, simply a form of nihilism), which is a direct contradiction to and elimination of that 'tent pole' of civilization you cited earlier.

You can't have it both ways... either the former is a superior model and the cornerstone of Western Civilization to which all its direct inhabitants must embrace, or else secularism without an objective morality from God is now the way to not only be 'progressive' but also to be on the 'right side of history' (a somewhat laughable leftist meme), such that even the backwards barbarian Moslem can transfer his loyalties over to it. Based on this current essay from Sultan Knish, I seriously doubt that is going to happen, but meanwhile, you need to re-think your contradictory and somewhat cognitively dissonant positions.

Anonymous said...

There can be no discussion about reform of Islam without confronting the dinosaur in the room which is that half of the population, the females of all ages, are no more than cattle. They're bought and sold, beaten and stoned.

Abu Garcia said...

Islamists are just like Christians as far as religion will take them to. They take responsibility for its content, where the priests and the mullahs put their autographs. And the same gies for the jews.

Dennis said...



Re: Eric the Red,


I probably wasn't clear. I agree with you.



This "strength" that my and our secular friends have in believing in nothing, depends on that tent pole, the narrative of freedom established in the Torah and therefore the bible. This is a contradiction that they are only too dimly aware of, even as they exploit the freedom to such extremes as they do. Believing in nothing is in itself a faith, and therefore those who are atheists, agnostics, secularists or liberals have their own religion. All metaphysics is religion. And all religions rest easy under the Judeo-Christian tent pole and the space it clears for us to exercise our freedom. The hard work to keep the tent pole in place is done by the people (the ultimate or preeminent tribe) selected by G-d (some chosen, others who choose) to do the hard work to keep it aloft. Others of us under the tent can exercise their freedom, even to the extent of flying their own freak flag. What our secular friends generally don't appreciate is the gratitude they are obliged to this narrative.



How things have come to this in the West is worthy of exploring, and one source that I can point to other than our own esteemed Sultan is the Liberal intellectual Paul Berman, who wrote "Terror and Liberalism". I'm sure that Berman wouldn't agree with the tent pole argument, but he is rare in that he is alert to the fact that Liberals lack the will to fight for freedom in other parts of the world, even though they themselves indulge in the depths of liberty to the boundaries of libertinism and beyond. In this book, he tracks down the sources of extreme freedom that has soured into nihilism, all in the name of creative transgression. He traces the historical evolution of Liberalism's death wish, a death wish that mirrors that in radical Islam. It's a book I highly recommend.


Again, we can only fight a holding action until the Muslim world has their own modern reformation. In the meantime, we in the West need our own Liberal reformation, so that we can get our secular friends' mind right, where we all can finally get on the same page and press our will to live into battle against our collective foe's wish to kill and die.

Unknown said...


Western civilization can spend the next decade ( if we last that long )
Trying to contain and defeat the Jihadist forces of Islam.
We can keep struggling in the quest for the Democratization of Islamic states which we already did and failed at after investing billions in money and blood.
We can try to strengthen the so-called 'moderate branches of Islam, if there is one. They're either being cowed Into silence or winking and nodding to their Islamist brothers.
We can continue to use drones and special forces and police actions but so far That hasn't been effective. The violent Jihadists reproduce faster than we can neutralize them.
We can try making nice with the organizations of 'Soft-Jihadists' who advance Sharia and Jihad through usually peaceful and legal
Means (like the Muslim Brotherhood Obama's been backing for
The last six years) but that backfired.
The problem of violent Islamic Jihad is more widespread and virulent today than it was even at the height of its glory days when Hordes of Jihadists Advanced on Spain and other parts of Europe, something happening again even at this moment. For Over 1400 years of Jihadist violence, of murder and enslavement, forced conversions, and abuse Of women and children ...and yet still In this modern day and age Islam remains more a retro-sixth century ideology of bloody conquest than anything resembling a religion of peace and harmony.
The world can't wait for this backward cult of Muhammad to somehow 'reform' itself.
Not when nuclear and chemical weapons of Jihad very soon will be within the reach Of religious psychopaths and end-of-days fanatics who yearn for martyrdom.
When a beehive is burnt the surviving bees are disoriented
And dispersed. Certainly there are many angry bees initially but then they lose their ability to sting and just Disappear and scatter into the countryside and soon die.
There's a lesson in this. The hive is in Mecca. It's called the
Kaaba. Or we can continue getting stung for the rest of history!

Unknown said...


Western civilization can spend the next decade ( if we last that long )
Trying to contain and defeat the Jihadist forces of Islam.
We can keep struggling in the quest for the Democratization of Islamic states which we already did and failed at after investing billions in money and blood.
We can try to strengthen the so-called 'moderate branches of Islam, if there is one. They're either being cowed Into silence or winking and nodding to their Islamist brothers.
We can continue to use drones and special forces and police actions but so far That hasn't been effective. The violent Jihadists reproduce faster than we can neutralize them.
We can try making nice with the organizations of 'Soft-Jihadists' who advance Sharia and Jihad through usually peaceful and legal
Means (like the Muslim Brotherhood Obama's been backing for
The last six years) but that backfired.
The problem of violent Islamic Jihad is more widespread and virulent today than it was even at the height of its glory days when Hordes of Jihadists Advanced on Spain and other parts of Europe, something happening again even at this moment. For Over 1400 years of Jihadist violence, of murder and enslavement, forced conversions, and abuse Of women and children ...and yet still In this modern day and age Islam remains more a retro-sixth century ideology of bloody conquest than anything resembling a religion of peace and harmony.
The world can't wait for this backward cult of Muhammad to somehow 'reform' itself.
Not when nuclear and chemical weapons of Jihad very soon will be within the reach Of religious psychopaths and end-of-days fanatics who yearn for martyrdom.
When a beehive is burnt the surviving bees are disoriented
And dispersed. Certainly there are many angry bees initially but then they lose their ability to sting and just Disappear and scatter into the countryside and soon die.
There's a lesson in this. The hive is in Mecca. It's called the
Kaaba. Or we can continue getting stung for the rest of history!


Yoelarry

Matsini said...

Daniel Greenfield, well spoken!
There is a need of understanding the different social languages between our modern secularized western society and an at least 1.500 year old behavier!
We have been there! BUT it so loooong time ago, further than WW2 (which we now living of today seems not to remember) so which way do we take?
The way of '40 year in dessert' or the way of strategic marketing?
I missed the 'road sign' at your article!

Anonymous said...

This is so depressing...Such barbarism, in the name of God. God is always silent anyways...he only spoke in secret one last time to Mohammed and a whole bunch of people mindbogglingly believed his gossip..not only that, they did not even try to become worthy of finding this God and having God speak to them to confirm..Not even one!!!!!!!!! What a genius

Anonymous said...

Reforming Islam presents huge problems for muslims. There is only two basic ways to reform a religion that was formed by a person claiming to have (or be) a revelation from God. Method one is to return to the founders teachings. Method two is to change some of the founders teachings. the latter method is considered to be at least a corrupting of the founders teachings, if not apostasy. We dont want Muslims to return to their founders teaching because his final instructions were ones of violence against and forced submission of unbelievers wherever you find them. We want muslims to depart from Mohammads violent teachings, but that to a sincere muslim is a corruption of Islam as handed down by Gods last messenger, if not outright apostasy.

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