[lit-ideas] Re: Islam vs the Islamists

  • From: "Lawrence Helm"<lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 23 Jun 2007 04:02:06 +0000

Phil writes, "I think it is fairly obvious that Lawrence underestimates the 
moderate element of Islam."  I would feel more kindly toward such gratuitous 
condescension if it were backed up a bit.  This is a subject I've been 
discussing off and on through scores of books and hundreds of articles -- all 
to be dismissed as my "fairly obvious" error.  Even my challenge to Omar to 
produce some Moderates came to naught.  He didn't find my error "fairly 
obvious" though he believed in it.   I conceded all along that there were 
moderates, just not in the Middle East.  There are a lot of people who share my 
viewpoint; so it is not fairly obvious to them either, and I see you singled me 
out for the "fairly obvious" error and ignore PBS about which the article was 
written -- that is, about their decision not to produce the film comparing 
moderates with radicals.  PBS decided to concentrate upon the radicals and 
ignore the moderates -- perhaps because they didn't exist as a viable voice in 
the Middle East.

It is "fairly obvious" to me that every time someone produces a lot of 
"moderates" to refute me they find them either in the United States or some 
other place outside of the Middle East.  As to Indonesia, I read Clifford 
Geertz two books, "Islam Observed, Religious Development in Morocco and 
Indonesia," and "After the Fact, Two Countries, Four Decades, One 
Anthropologist."  Geertz is all over the place in these books, but if there is 
a trend in regard to Moderates vs Radicals, it is against the former and in 
favor of the latter.  Why is that?  Why is an area that was once a haven for 
Sufis embracing, more and more, the radicalism made popular in the Middle East. 

It is fairly obvious to me that Phil hasn't been paying attention.  The center 
for radical Islam is the Middle East.  The horrors of Islamic radicalism 
originated there with such seminal thinkers as Sayyid Qutb and Ruhollah 
Khomeini.  The Arabs of the Middle East and the Persians of Iran and Lebanon 
have advocated a great revolution and many there believe it is on the march and 
unstoppable.  Viewing areas outside of the Middle East with equanimity is a 
serious error.  Wherever there is Islam, Radicalism is making progress -- 
Wherever Moderation exists it is losing ground.  The Moderates don't speak out 
in the Middle East; they most go elsewhere to do that, and when they do speak 
out it isn't heard in the Middle East -- with some obvious exceptions like Iraq 
and some of the Gulf States. 

Some time back I encountered a moderate professor teaching in Pakistan.  I 
admired the moderation expressed in an article he wrote and told him so.  He 
responded and I questioned him further.  He wrote his article in English.  The 
radicals we read about that may be housing Osama bin Laden and other members of 
Al Quaeda don't speak English; so the "moderation" expressed by this professor 
was not confronting the radicalism to be found in the countryside.

Congratulations on your appointment, but don't overestimate the moderation you 
believe is there.  Remember what happened to Malcom Kerr.

Lawrence Helm
San Jacinto 

 ------------Original Message------------
From: "Phil Enns" <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Fri, Jun-22-2007 7:50 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Islam vs the Islamists

Lawrence Helm wrote:

"There may be a lot more moderates out there than I realized ..."

I think so.

In September I will be taking up a teaching position in the Graduate
department at Universitas Islam Negri in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  This
Islamic University, the oldest and preeminent Islamic University in
Indonesia, self-identifies as being "very moderate and rational"
emphasizing "critical thought and objective enquiry; understanding
other religions; a participatory, democratic and inclusive approach to
development; and respect for the humanistic, tolerant, egalitarian and
open traditions of classical Islam."  I have been asked to teach
Philosophy and Christianity with an emphasis on developing an
understanding of the peaceful role religion can have in society.  I
will be the first non-Muslim to teach at the university so I am not
exactly sure how it will work.  I also have to teach in Indonesian, so
I have a bit of language work to do as well.

.  Indonesia has its radical element but this school,
with over 10000 students, stands in explicit opposition to extremism.
Just think Lawrence, a Christian pacifist teaching Philosophy and
Christianity from a peace perspective to Indonesian Muslims at the
request of an Islamic University.


Phil Enns
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