Saturday 11 April 2015

Weekend Reading: a Pithy Essay on Fundamentalist Islam

This essay could be read alongside the earlier weekend recommendation on understanding ISIS.  The title of this pithy second piece is Sayed Qutb, Islamic Extremism & Philosophy and the author, one Arif Ahmed, is a lecturer in philosophy at Cambridge.  Not so sure about its specifically philosophical credentials; but it's an illuminating summation of key doctrinal points with a crisp, rationalistic critique.

Particularly salient is his comparison between what Qutb espouses, and communism and other systems that brook no constitutional constraint or higher authority:
 ... there is no deity except God. It is supposed to follow that all political authority belongs only to God. There is no other legitimate authority. ‘No sovereignty except God’s ... no authority of one man over another, as the authority in all respects belongs to God.’ The effect of this doctrine is to render illegitimate every political system that has ever actually existed on Earth*, with the sole exception—Qutb thinks—of the very earliest generations of Muslims ... the affinity of the Islamic fundamentalist movement with totalitarianism, by which I mean a political arrangement in which the state ideology controls all aspects of its subjects’ lives.
He's drawing attention to something alien.  This is not merely so because we are prone to wilful individualism and sometimes outright disorder (although we are): in Christian lands we have been specifically sanctioned to render unto Caesar, meaning that there can indeed be legitimate spheres of secular, temporal authority.  Since at least Cromwell's Commonwealth (if not quite Magna Carta), this has had concrete and practical validity for us.

Ahmed himself would take matters still further: he is an atheist, and doesn't mince words on the system he's explaining for us. 
This difference has nothing to do with the materialistic values of the West. What it reflects is the spiritual superiority of the West. In aspiration if not always in fact, each man or woman is a free individual who should be able to choose both what matters to him and how to pursue it. ...When George W. Bush said in his address to Congress that they hate our freedoms, he put his finger on the deepest difference between Western and religious fundamentalist views of life.
Not everyone would regard GW as a definitive source on the maintenance of freedoms, but the point is made.  As with the ISIS essay, one could imagine those whose beliefs are being summarised would agree with the account: but they may not take kindly to the critique.  Perhaps intellectual life in our better universities isn't so craven after all.

* see, for example, this recent piece from the Inde: or search on Muslim and vote



Electro-Kevin said...

There are plenty of peoples whom ISIS hate and kill - not just free and wealthy westerners.

That they are wealthy westerners and rich precisely because they are free and are rich because they do not adhere to austere religious beliefs must especially stick in the craw.

They are indoctrinated to believe that their truth is the one truth, that they are the chosen.

Their thinking, by design, functions within a limited framework - a mass ego (meme) is created. These emotionally stilted people are slaves to their own, easily hurt, mass-ego and are full of hatred against anyone who challenges it - and that challenge might simply be by daring to live successfully and independently of it, let alone by directly criticising it or becoming wealthy without it.

How else to redress the balance but by through convincing themselves that they love failure and destruction (death), more than they do creativity and joy (life.)

What they truly lack is the freedom to be talented and creative.

Without this freedom there can only be dark.

James Higham said...

Not the most fun weekend reading, Nick.

Suffragent said...

Thanks Nick for holding a torch to those that would roll back the enlightenment.

As always the answer is education and the freedom of speech, judgement and thought. We get called bigots for not understanding the ways of the religion of peace and racists for pointing out what they have hidden behind the curtain. Education is about learning ALL sides of a situation, not the state lead propaganda, pushed at the drones, in our corrective learning centres. I’m sorry to say, you go to school to get qualified and you go to the internet to get educated.

Anonymouse- Yes there are authoritarians of all stripes and not just in religion. The Moors were more advanced than us in most of the fields but as the west, through education, broke away from the despotic rule of the church, during the enlightenment, the Moors went the other way and turned inward. Which way was best, can be clearly seen by the quality of life of its citizens.
The wests biggest problem is no longer the church, it’s the common purpose institutions that want close down debate and freedom of thought.

“sure, you’ll get some loonies” we’re not talking about a few loners who hear voices, we are talking about institutionalised indoctrination into an organisation, that wants nothing more, than to wipe our society from the face of the earth.

James- not the most fun but educating (and compared to the work I’m supposed to be preparing for Monday, an welcome break :-)

DJK said...

Anon 12:05. The problem is not theocrats of every stripe as a comparison of the sayings of the Prince of Peace --- or of the Bhudda -- to those of the founder of the religion that IS follows will show. Terrible things have been done in the name of religions but the problem with IS is that its followers have been taking you know who at his own word and doing as he did. A Christian version of IS would be a state of self-loathing herbivores.

Plenty of smiting in the old testament, I know, but not much in the new.

Electro-Kevin said...

Suffragent - Education. I don't know. After all, the 911 hijackers were all well educated, which I found most curious.

Their must be a lot of duality going on. We see that in the west too but it is tempered by the various pillars of democracy.

The problem is with their constricted ideological paradigm. Anything outside of it is heretical - especially if it is better and more productive than their own. Their only response to it is hatred.

It's our problem too now. The only way through is to ride the wave until it flattens out on the shore - matures as Christianity did.

Infact - owning to the demographics - the diluted version could be the next form of authentic cultural conservatism. Let's hope (some may pray) that the radicals are held at bay.

Suff said...

Kev- when I say Education I don’t mean the BS taught in our school system. I mean opening their minds to the other possibilities (your life or brain, really has to be in a shit place to fly a plane in to a building or a hillside for that mater) and the only way to do that, is to get them to question their beliefs. The only way to do that is educate ourselves in what their beliefs are and then question our own viewpoint.

Open Argument and debate are the answer to everything because it opens your mind to another’s perspective and at least at the end, you know where you stand (and what action you must take). Our lords and masters would use the excuse that it “offends” people, to shut down free speech. Well people being offended is damned site better than bombing the shit out of each other. When people on either side are not allowed to put their viewpoint forward, then the only other option to grab the attention of the opposition is to hit them where it hurts.

As you can see I’m an argumentative sod and there’s nothing I’d like better than for you to tell me I’m wrong.

suff said...

Just read it back and I sound like an arrogant twat.
argumentative in the sense, that I want to question my own viewpoint

dearieme said...

"Perhaps intellectual life in our better universities isn't so craven after all."

He'll be hunted down for it, poor sod. His colleagues will turn their backs.

Sebast said...

George Dubya was 100% correct about the threat the Islamo-fascists pose to western civilisation. It's a shame he came to that realisation after blundering into a stupid counter-productive war against the wrong enemy in the wrong country for the wrong reasons at the wrong time which he fought in the wrong way - only to polish the turd even further by appointing a complete moron, L Paul Bremer, to fuck up the aftermath. Between them those warmongering fools have done more to advance the cause of Islamo-fascism than Sayed Qutb.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Wtf happened there? Captcha's gone bonkers.

Sackerson said...

Oh, the seduction of having The Answer... and being able to commit sadistic acts with a clear conscience. To love God and do what you will, like one movement after another in Norman Cohn's history "The Pursuit Of The Millennium".

Anonymous said...

Yer , wtf. Far to many long words

hatfield girl said...

After reading that I feel like Mrs Pugh:

Pigs can't read, my dear.

I know one who can.

Alone in the hissing laboratory of his wishes, Mr Pugh
minces among bad vats and jeroboams, tiptoes through
spinneys of murdering herbs, agony dancing in his
crucibles, and mixes especially for Mrs Pugh a venomous
porridge unknown to toxicologists which will scald and
viper through her until her ears fall off like figs, her
toes grow big and black as balloons, and steam comes
screaming out of her navel.

You know best, dear,

says Mr Pugh, and quick as a flash he ducks her in rat soup.

What's that book by your trough, Mr Pugh?

It's a theological work, my dear. Lives of the Great Saints.