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View Diary: 'Islamist' As Coded Language (41 comments)

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  •  Pardon me, let's not be naive. (1+ / 0-)
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    GoGoGoEverton

    It sounds to me like you haven't lived in a Muslim-majority county for any period of time, is that correct?

    'Christianist' works very well, also. Although Dominionists are extremely rare, compared to the prevalence of Islamists in Muslim-majority countries.

    In the first Egyptian presidential election, for example, Islamists won 60% of the vote: the Muslim Brotherhood FJP got 36% and the even more conservative Salfists got 24% (a coalition of Al-Nour, Authenticity Party (Hizb el-Asala), and al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya's BDP). 60%.

    Among native Arabic (and Farsi and Urdu) speakers, such groups are most-often referred to simply as Islamic parties -- obviating the nice distinctions you're trying to make. Press a little further, and they may refer to them as 'political Islam' (إسلام سياسي‎), or critics may joke and call them mutaween (singular mutawa) -- after the Saudi religious police.

    (Wait, wait: don't forget to tell me that more Muslims live east of Pakistan than west of it...)

    >as there is no one "Christianity,"
    *laf* Tell that to an Islamist. ;-)
    >Such "ism" labels falsely create an illusion of sameness where there is none.
    All words create an illusion of sameness. (There's a wonderful short-story by a famous Latin American novelist -- I'm blanking on his name -- of a man who begins to use a different word for each different object or idea, then a new word for them at different times, etc. Communication becomes rather difficult. ;-) )  But in fact, there is a great deal of similarity among the various groups who call for government to be based on Shariah Law, etc. It's fascinating to me that two such arch-enemies as Iran and Saudi Arabia, the centers of rabidly-opposing Shiite and Sunni Islam, respectively (some Sunnis consider Shiites as non-believing infidels), have so many similarities when it comes to their view of the Quran as a political model. As the AP definition states, the term encompasses a wide range of moderates and militants.
    >because Quran, like all scriptures, is open to interpretation
    C'mon, this is a 1960s argument. It's 2013. Yes, there are different interpretations (of anything), and yes there are many commonalities even among those who strongly disagree (or even fight each other).

    The AP is correctly focused on current behavior, and on the behavior of the vast majority of practitioners, not on the possibilities of small (fringe) movements, nor on those who live outside of Muslim-majority regions.

    >you'll never find an honest agreement among individuals about what a proper "political model"  ...
    Nor such honest agreement among Democrats, nor Republicans, nor USA-Americans, nor North Americans, nor South Americans, nor Europeans, nor Arabs, nor Hindus, nor Buddhists, nor Confuciasts, nor Chinese, etc. Yet, somehow, we still find these words to be useful.
    >the "laws of Islam" too are open to interpretation
    Yes, but there is also much agreement (at least compared to Western laws), even among those who disagree violently at say Al-Azhar (Egypt), Al Akhawayn (Morocco), in Mecca (KSA), or Qom (in Iran).

    And yes, one can imagine and hope for far greater latitudes in interpretation -- a Reformation of Islam, in which the four main schools of jurisprudence that have governed shariah for 700-1,000 years are revolutionized, and suddenly it is acceptable to offer new interpretations of what is written in the Quran (a practice that today would get you condemned as a blasphemer and quite possibly killed in some places). Gay marriage in Islam? Bigamy illegal in KSA? Legalization of alcohol? Open pre-marital sex for women, without being treated as sluts and whores? Equal rights to build synagogues, Hindu temples, and atheist meeting houses throughout the Muslim world, and to openly proselytize these beliefs without fear of repercussions? Sure, why not? Perhaps in another 1,000 years?

    AP may well have other words, by then.

    >The major problem with the label is its possible misleading effect on the persons who are not familiar with the many faces of "Islam" and its followers.
    Ah, perhaps this is where we disagree most sharply: I argue the exact opposite: to hide the fact of the similarity of so much of political Islam is to delude naive, politically-correct liberals into tolerating or even supporting ideologies which they would find abhorrent if they knew more about them.
    >In other words, there are many "Islams" as there are many individuals who call themselves "Muslims." "Isms" create false realities.
    This implies that one can make no generalizations about Islam. (Or about any religion?) As a teacher might respond: "OK, that's one view. Who else has an idea?" Or, "What do the rest of you think about that?"

    Does the same hold for other social distinctions? So there's no capitalism, no socialism, no Republicanism, no Libertarianism, no Tea Party-ism, no democratism, just us individuals, living free and happy (under Shariah Law?)...

    >A good number of Christian fundamentalists in U.S. would also disagree with these.
    A 'good number' is not 60%. And we do in fact call them Xianists, and Dominionists, and other 'ists/'isms.

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Join us at RASA: Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment. (Repeal will not ban guns, just help regulate them.)

    by Sharon Wraight on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:48:32 PM PST

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    •  Actually, I was born and raised in Turkey (1+ / 0-)
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      Terra Mystica

      ...which means yes I have lived in a Muslim majority country. A good size one, too.

      Your response is indeed impressively wordy and lengthy which I appreciate very much. But the question I have here is that have you lived in a Muslim majority country? Have them as your relatives, family members, neighbors, community leaders, movie stars, teachers, artists, poets, writers, soldiers, janitors, judges, lawyers, street walkers, police officers, drunken hobos, homeless ones, prisoners, business people, cooks, maids, hotel managers, bus drivers, yacht owners, etc.etc.?

      I have.

      If I may analyze the following lines then...

      Gay marriage in Islam?
      It is as welcome as it is in traditional Christianity and Judaism :)
      Bigamy illegal in KSA?

      It is illegal in Turkey.

      Legalization of alcohol?

      It is legal in Turkey. I had my share of "college age" drinking yaaahooos!(It was fun, believe me :)

      Open pre-marital sex for women, without being treated as sluts and whores?
      There is no law against it in Turkey. Treated as sluts and whores? Attitudes similar to the West.  Progressive Turks vs. Conservative Turks. Example: My mother is uneducated and backwards thus for her it is "unladylike" for her while a good number of my relatives wouldn't give a hoot.
      Equal rights to build synagogues, Hindu temples, and atheist meeting houses throughout the Muslim world, and to openly proselytize these beliefs without fear of repercussions?

      Ey. Turkey has many synagogues, Jewish citizens, Churches, Christian citizens, plus a number of Turks are openly atheists (Facebook is full of them).

      Sure, why not? Perhaps in another 1,000 years?
      Instead of waiting 1000 years, I recommend you visit Turkey and spend some time there.

      Regards.

      ps# As a teacher, I make sure that my students learn not to generalize about anything. It is a well known logical fallacy, as you must know.

      "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

      by zenox on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:42:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've not heard anyone characterize Turkey (0+ / 0-)

        as an "Islamist" country, although some of the political parties have been characterized that way. But given that the leading political party there is an Islamic party, I'd say that the political atmosphere may have changed in recent years.

        "Let's do this!" - Leeroy Jenkins

        by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 09:06:46 AM PST

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        •  True but the fact is Turkey IS a majority (1+ / 0-)
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          Terra Mystica

          Muslim country. Indeed the leading political party of the recent times identify its political views as "Islamic," which was and still is to a certain degree a concern of mine but there is something interesting about this politically "Islamic" party of Turkey: They are staunchly secular. More on the market and business friendly, they seem to steer clear from any "sharia" implementations. In other words, despite the politically "Islamic" leading party being in power for over a decade, Turkey is still majority Muslim and proudly welcoming of all religious worship, no worship, alcohol sale and purchase, men/women dressing whatever they like to choose and an increasing tolerance about people living together without being married.

          Are things perfect? Not even close. Especially problems with freedom of press, speech, etc. need improvement, to put it lightly. But to claim that one has to wait 1000 years to see alcohol being sold freely (in addition to the other ones) in a majority Muslim country one must pretend Turkey does not exist.

          This approach reminds me of a friend of mine, British, who is well meaning but a bit on the racist side, telling me that she never thought of Colin Powell as black.

          Well my dear fellow, Colin Powell IS black and Turkey IS a majority Muslim country thus such generalizing labeling like "Islamist" fail to represent reality.

          It is a slur based on ignorance and prejudice.

          "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

          by zenox on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 11:50:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Just saw this, on Turkey. (0+ / 0-)

        Sorry I hadn't replied earlier, I hadn't seen your reply.

        As you well know, Turkey is not the major thought-leader for the Islamic world, despite the wishes of many Turks for it to regain its former heyday, and it is the most liberal and secular of all Muslim-majority countries (and I wish all were more like it!!).

        Certainly there are some Turkish writers and thinkers who are influential among broader Islamic religious circles. Perhaps the best-known of these is Fethullah Gülen. But as you also know well, the Gülen (Hizmet) movement is more akin to a business mafia than a religious reformation.

        Your response is indeed impressively wordy and lengthy which I appreciate very much. Regarding your question, yes, I have lived in a Muslim majority country, and have Muslims as relatives, neighbors, community leaders; movie stars, artists, poets, writers, teachers (none of these are my favs); soldiers, janitors, judges, lawyers, police officers, business people, cooks, maids, hotel managers, bus drivers, yacht owners, etc. etc.  (I don't know about street walkers, drunken hobos, homeless ones, and prisoners; presumably them as well but I don't want to overstate my familiarity, so I trust your judgement that you are more familiar with these, than I. ;-) ) Among the Muslim-majority countries that I have traveled, researched, and worked in are Turkey, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Mali, Senegal, Guinee, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Muslim regions in India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. How about you?

        If I may analyze the following lines then...

        Gay marriage is emphatically not as welcome even in Turkey as in traditional Christian and Jewish countries. And I'm not speaking merely theoretically, I'm speaking of the reality of walking down the street or in the office, as an 'out' gay couple -- especially outside of Istanbul. The only countries which recognize gay-marriage are Christian- or Jewish- majority. It may not be recognized in traditional Christianity or Judaism as a holy union, but in Israel and many Christian-majority countries, there are civil unions (if not marriage) and legal protections. In Turkey, by contrast, as an EU Commission report noted:

        There have been several cases of discrimination at the workplace, where LGBT employees have been fired because of their sexual orientation. Provisions of the Turkish Criminal Code on ‘public exhibitionism’ and ‘offences against public morality’ are sometimes used to discriminate against LGBT people. The Law on Misdemeanours is often used to impose fines against transgender persons.
        Also as you well know, in most Muslim-majority countries, homosexuality is illegal, and in some Muslim-majority countries it is a capital offense. A map of public opinion about homosexuality also shows a correlation with the most opposition residing in Muslim-majority countries and the most support in Christian-majority countries: http://en.wikipedia.org/...  Less than 20% of Turks surveyed agreed that homosexuality should be accepted in society; even in the US it is more than 40%, and in Europe and most of Latin America it is more than 60%.

        Bigamy illegal in KSA?
        I wrote "KSA," I think you know this means the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Why did you reply about Turkey, when I singled out KSA for the "1,000 years" joke?

        In fact, bigamy is legal in the following countries (and illegal in most others): Egypt, Iran, India (legal only for Muslims, up 10 years of imprisonment for others), Malaysia (permitted for Muslims, illegal for others), Maldives (permitted for anyone; Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution), Morocco (permitted for Muslims, not others), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa (legalized for indigenous, black traditionalists in 1998).

        Do you recognize anything in common among these countries? If you answered "with the exception of indigenous South Africans, they are all Muslim-majority, or Muslims as singled out in India," you are correct!

        You're also correct that I didn't specify "in KSA" for the other issues, such as legalization of alcohol, though I had it in mind. But KSA is hardly ephemeral to Islam; it is the origin of Islam, the home of Mecca and Medina, and every Muslim in the entire world should make a pilgrimage (haj) to Mecca if they are able, indeed this is one of the five pillars of Islam (along with avowing the shahada, daily prayers, zakat alms, and fasting). The haj is not to Istanbul (although it's a wonderful city! :-) ).

        Besides your Turkish origins, why your focus on Turkey when discussing Islam, when you acknowledge it is one of the very few secular-Islamic states?

        In the following countries, any form of sexual activity outside marriage is illegal: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Oman, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Sudan, and Yemen. Spot a pattern?  

        There are only 7 Jewish synagogues outside of Istanbul, and antisemitism is common -- although certainly less so in Turkey than in much of the Muslim world. In Saudi Arabia, of course, it is illegal to publicly practice any other religion than Islam. In most Muslim-majority countries, one needs official government permission to open a church/temple etc., and it is often difficult to obtain. (The 'liberal' UAE, for example has only 2 Hindu temples, for the roughly 1 million Hindus living there.) In KSA,  non-Muslim worshipers risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes torture for engaging in overt religious activity.

        I was joking about 1,000 years; in fact it is difficult for anyone to see beyond 30-50 years in most places, as so much can change. One hopes for the best...

        I've certainly visited Turkey (the Archeology Museum in Istanbul is one of my favorites, anywhere), had very close Turkish friends, a best friend is Turkish (born Muslim, loves to drink), and spent some time there.

        How much time have you spent in the Arabian Gulf, the epicenter of Islamic thought, with its funding of Al Azhar, Al Akhawayn, and madrasses and mosques throughout the world? I recommend you visit and spend some time there.

        the leading political party of the recent times identify its political views as "Islamic," which was and still is to a certain degree a concern of mine
        Mine, too! I'm glad we found common ground. :-)  Tell us some of your concerns about it?

        Surely you know that Turkey is the main exception when it comes to sharia law, and that in fact for most Muslim-majority countries (now even including Egypt) shariah is explicitly mention in the Constitution as the basis of law? Is it not misleading, to our readers who have not traveled throughout the Muslim world, to pretend that Turkey is the norm, rather than the exception? Even if one would like to see the more liberal Turkish interpretation and practice of Islam (and even more liberal, than that!) spread elsewhere in the Muslim world, isn't it more intellectually honest and more pragmatic to acknowledge reality, to be globally-minded and reality-based?

        problems with freedom of press, speech, etc. need improvement, to put it lightly.
        We agree, on this! :-)

        Generalizing is what much of social science social science does, it is not a slur, and it is not based on ignorance.

        Regards.

        ps# As a professor, I make sure that my students learn to  generalize when and as appropriate, to avoid the ecological fallacy, but also to recognize that 'data' is not the plural of 'anecdote'.

        Join us at RASA: Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment. (Repeal will not ban guns, just help regulate them.)

        by Sharon Wraight on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 07:51:21 AM PST

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