[lit-ideas] Re: Omar's Islamism

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2006 09:51:23 -0800

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.  





-----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



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



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.




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. 













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