Just back from Stockholm: a complicated journey – tunnelbana, flyggbus, plane, train, tube, train, taxi, all the way dragging a case full of heavy Xmas pressies – which always leaves me pretty shagged out. I arrived to find a request to write a piece for the LRB in just three days, including reading the book, which is pretty tight. Hence no posts. I should finish the review tonight (the deadline), when normal blogging service will I hope be resumed.
In the meantime, Facebook reminded me this morning of a message I posted there three years ago, which I thought worth re-posting here. It may be thought provocative. I should perhaps hasten to add that I’m against all monotheisms, which insist that their Gods are the only ones, and so indulge in proselytising or worse. That’s the underlying problem of ‘religion’. I’d like to be free to choose mine – and everyone else to choose theirs – off the shelf, to suit us individually, from a panoply or Olympus of Gods; like the Greeks, the Romans and the ancient Nordics – all far superior to us in this regard.
Here’s the original post.
‘I’ve never bought into the idea that Islam is a religion of peace and freedom which is being perverted by a few extremists. Here are two good posts I found on a Guardian blogsite this morning [11 Jan 2015]:
The problem, is that many followers of Islam (the majority in fact according to many polls) believe that the Qur’an is the one and only interpretation of God’s will, and to suggest otherwise is blasphemy, punishable by death.
This seems pretty unambiguous:
Qur’an (33:57) – “Lo! those who malign Allah and His messenger, Allah hath cursed them in this world and the Hereafter, and hath prepared for them the doom of the disdained”
Qur’an (33:61) – [continues from above] “Accursed, they will be seized wherever found and slain with a (fierce) slaughter.”
Islam needs a reformation of its holy text to remove such sentiments, ironically, moderate imams and clerics who advocate change of it are gunned down/killed, whatever.
Ironic really that the country of Diderot, Bayle, Voltaire and Descartes, leading lights in the age of Enlightenment and Reason should be plagued by the forces of darkness, intolerance and ignorance.
‘Of course this applies, in varying degrees, to all dogmatic religions or ideologies. It’s just that today it’s Moslems, or self-styled Moslems, who are representing “the forces of darkness, intolerance and ignorance”.’
Today, three years later, one might add Trump and his like.
“Ironic really that the country of Diderot, Bayle, Voltaire and Descartes, leading lights in the age of Enlightenment and Reason should be plagued by the forces of darkness, intolerance and ignorance.”
The irony dissolves, I think, if one understands the Enlightenment as a not-always-successful attempt to combat the forces of darkness, intolerance and ignorance that were so dominant in France in both the lead up to and the course of the French Revolution and its aftermath.
The contest between rationalism or rationalised modes of thought and various forms of traditionalism has been an unending feature of French political and social life. For example, very powerful propertied and reactionary forces in France welcomed the Nazi occupation as preferable to the alternative of indigenous godless socialism.
Marine Le Pen and her Front National and Islamic extremism are just the latest foe for the proponents of Enlightenment principles. Perhaps to the former category could be added the radical proponents and exponents of neoliberalism.
LikeLiked by 1 person
“In the meantime, Facebook reminded me this morning of a message I posted there three years ago, which I thought worth re-posting here. It may be thought provocative.”
Well, I have been provoked, Bernard – yet again!
You quote a passage from the Qu’ran, which you describe as ‘unambiguous’. The implication of your post is that understanding the Qu’ran does not involve interpretation, rather, its words can be taken literally. However, there is a problem with this conception.
The passage you outline is expressed in English, which necessarily entails translation from the original Arabic. I am assured that Arabic is no different from other languages in that it contains words which have multiple meanings. Sentences written in Arabic thus require an act of interpretation, which necessarily implies the mobilisation of the prejudice or standpoint of the translator. The idea of there being an unambiguous translation is problematic.
I am also assured from my scant reading on the topic that, like the Christian Bible, the reader’s idea of the meaning of the whole of the Qu’ran is used to interpret individual passages; thus an interpretation of the meaning of the whole, itself contested, would be used to interpret the particular passage you quote – which becomes a complex and doubly contested operation. Where the Qu’ran appears to contradict itself, the believer has to make a decision about which ‘line’ they will accept based on their conception of the whole. Again, Christians also do this when reading the Old and New Testaments.
Bernard you also write that: “I’ve never bought into the idea that Islam is a religion of peace and freedom,” which assumes that the religion possesses a straightforward essence, either a religion of peace or a religion of violence. Judging by the multiplicity of Islams, the ‘essentialism’ you ascribe to the religion is an idea you unwittingly appear to share with the extremists.