Very interesting, Omar. I think you would fit to the Left of Egypt?s New Islamists (assuming that the far right includes Saudi Salafists as well as Qutb and Khomeini positions). I don?t recall reading that any of the New Islamists dared to advance a symbolic interpretation of any portion of the Koran or Haddiths. They just say such things as ?Qutb was no theologian and simply got it wrong.? The term Islamism has fairly consistently been applied to Radical, Militant (especially terrorist forms of militancy), Political Islam, primarily that which derives from the teachings of Sayyid Qutb (on the Sunni side) and Khomeini (on the Shiite) side. The variations that we have to recognize can be ignored as direct threats because it was only these two forms of Islamism that engaged in terrorist activities, e.g., using suicide bombers as a form of asymmetric warfare. The strict Salafists of Wahhabi Saudi Arabia distance themselves (at least officially) from Qutb Islamism. Of course the Salafists have been a great recruiting ground for the Qutb-Islamists. A similar thing can be said of the Maududi Islamists of India and Pakistan. They have been ambivalent about engaging in political action, let alone violent political action. However, the Qutb form of Islamism (read Al Quaeda) has found ripe recruiting grounds in Pakistan. In regard to Islamic eschatology, if you held to the universal success of Islam as a goal to be achieved peacefully, then we could be pluralistic about our different beliefs. However, would you allow Christian evangelists into Arab lands just as we allow Islamic evangelists into Christian lands? By the way, I think you will find that Attaturk enshrined religious pluralism in Turkey if you check further. I think your Islamism is a long way from the Islamism causing the world trouble today. In fact if you were to move into Egypt or some other Muslim countries today and advance your ideas, you would probably end up on jail. Who you are, they would say, to advance theological views? You aren?t a Mullah so you must be a trouble maker ? off to jail with you! I don?t follow you in regard to Andalusia. Yes, Muslims did conquer the Southern portion of Spain and lived there for several generations. Then the Spanish Army got itself together and re-conquered their land. I read of Arabs living across the Mediterranean from Spain who still had relics of Andalusia, given them by their ancestors, tacked to their walls, but why should they have a right to return to Spain? It probably wouldn?t be an issue because I suspect Spain would accept them as immigrants on the (naïve Liberal) assumption that they would integrate into Spanish society, but I don?t see why they should have a right to return. As to Salman Rushdie, I must confess that I haven?t managed to make it all the way through his Satanic Verses ? cleverness tripping over itself into obscurity, at least as far as I read. Lawrence -----Original Message----- From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Omar Kusturica Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2006 8:22 AM To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx Subject: [lit-ideas] Omar's Islamism Lawrence writes: You've called yourself Islamist, but I wonder if you fit any definition I've run across. *Yes. As I said before, the power of definitions to capture reality is limited, although I would still like to know which definition you refer to in your discussions. If I would venture my own definition, I'd say that anyone who identifies with Islam and whose political views / actions are grounded in their Muslim identity can be considered an Islamist. On reflection, I guess that we would have to accept that someone like Ayatollah Sistani probably fits this definition and should therefore be considered an Islamist, which is all right as long as we remember that there are very different Islamisms. I mentioned reading Raymond William Baker's Islam Without Fear, Egypt and the New Islamists. The Islamists Baker is fond of are intellectuals of some note. They diverge from the Old Islamists in that they are not advocates of violence and while they believe in adhering to the Koran much as those who invoke the Sharia, they don't hold to the Salafist interpretations of the Koran and Haddiths and so don't embrace such troubling doctrines as Qutb's view on the Jihad. *I have heard about Egypt's New Islamists. I am different from them but I do respect their approach to Islamism a lot. Certainly non-Salafi (i.e. non-literal) interpretations of the Kuran and Ahaddith are to be endorsed, especially as they have conctituted the Islamic tradition for centuries. (Salafism being a relatively recent phenomenon.) I am of the view that the Kuran and the Ahadith should often be read metaphorically and also with the mind to the specific historical context in which they originated. The New Islamists share the Old Islamists view on Palestine and Israel. They would probably like to see the Jews out of there, but would settle for a divided state. Here they would eventually diverge from the Old Islamists who would never settle for a divided state. *My views on Palestine are, I believe, well-known, and they have not crucially changed. I don't think a permanent political solution can be accepted if it does not recognize the right of return of the Palestinians to all of the historical Palestine which they once inhabited, and the related right to return of property. If this occurs, then some form of bi-national state becomes necessary, which I believe is anyway a preferable solution to two separate mono-national states. However, I accept the current position of the Hamas that a long-term truce is possible on condition that all the territories occuppied in 1967. are placed under Palestinian rule. Sunni Islamists following Qutb believe that no land conquered by Mohammad and his followers can ever be accepted as belonging to infidels. This applies not only to Israel but also Andalusia. And beyond that, it is the duty of Islamists to engage in Jihad as necessary to conquer the entire world for Allah. Where do you stand on these matters, Omar? *It's not that simple. I can accept that historical Muslim lands can belong to non-Muslims, but I am not sure that they can be alienated from Muslims entirely. This certainly applies to Palestine where we know that many Muslims lived and we know who they or their descendants are, so that we demand their right of return and the political and personal rights related to the exercise of that right. This is consistent with the internationally recognized notions of human rights etc. The things are more murky with Andalusia; however, if there are Muslims (or, for that matter, Jews) who can prove that their ancestors lived in Spain I would also advocate their right of return. It would be problematic to advocate a restoration of Muslim statehood in Andalusia and I would not demand this, but those who condemn Muslim claims to Andalusia as extremism could reflect that they are not esentially different from the Zionist claims to Palestine. If the Muslim rights to Andalusia, where they undoubtedly once had a state, are so old as to have become obsolete, then so have the Jewish rights to Israel based on the Bible. (The fact of their current presence there is of course a different matter.) In regard to conquering the world for Allah, there is a parallel with Christian Postmillennialism. That view of eschatology (which the majority of Christians don't hold to, but some do) holds that the entire world will eventually be converted (through the work of evangelism and the Holy Spirit) to Christianity. I would be content if the followers of Qutb would content themselves with accomplishing their eschaton by the same peaceful means, but they advocate a Holy War and prescribe violence as a legitimate means for accomplishing their goal. *I am sure that you know that Jihad has many meanings, including the inner spiritual Jihad, the Jihad of the tongue (i.e.) verbal, of the mind, of the hand (broader than just the armed struggle, could include also charity) etc. I don't think that the Muslims should employ the armed Jihad as means of converting the world to Islam and at any rate I think that this goal should only be seen as an ideal. That said, violence in the defence of Muslims or to liberate Muslims from patent oppression is legitimate. And where do you stand on Pluralism? I would be quite content to have you be an Islamist as long as you would be content for me to be whatever I like. *Fine. Do you believe suicide bombers are martyrs and will go to heaven? * I do believe that some of them are true martyrs. Will they go to heaven ? Umm, not sure. Attaturk insisted that Turkey be pluralistic, and so it is - sort of. Though Turkey is officially pluralistic there has been a hankering after the Islamist view of the Sharia such that the military has needed to step in and bring the country back to Attaturk's standards from time to time. *Turkey is not officially pluralistic - its constitution inherited from Ataturk defines it as a secular state on the French model and so religion has been excluded from many areas of public life. Several times the need to preserve the secular character of the state has served as a pre-text for establishing military dictatures. However, in the recent years the military seems to have become more tolerant, or less vigilant, and this has enabled the Justice and Development Party to rule with a (greatly watered-down) version of Islamism. Then there is the matter of economics. Mohammad's economic system doesn't compete well with modern Western economies. Thus Islamic nations which do want to get along with modern economies have needed to find ways around Mohammad's strictness, and have. Strict Islamist Mullahs criticize such deviations, but it seems clear that a strict adherence to the Sharia by a nation will prevent it from competing with modern Western nations. Do you believe in such a strict adherence? *I don't believe that Islam sets obstacles to establishing a modern economy. I know that there is the matter of usury which is prohibited in Islam, and this puts some limitations on banking and shares transactions, and I know that there are ways to go around this. I'm not an expert. There is also the matter of women's rights under the Sharia. Do you believe they should have rights equal to men? Should they be able to compete with men in the work force on an equal basis? *"On an equal basis" is a bit misleading. Women don't as the matter of fact compete on an equal basis anywhere. There are jobs for which women are prefered, jobs for which men are prefered etc. There are also in the recent years affirmative actions that seek to give women and other groups more than strictly equal opportunities. I support giving women maximal opportunities in work, education, political life etc. Do you believe Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk should be subject to legal action for their writings? *No, though I don't like Rushdie. O.K.