We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

None of the real difficulties are to be discussed. And yet it is just now, in Islam’s encounter with Western democracy, that discussion is most needed. Muslims must adapt, just as we all must adapt, to the changed circumstances in which we live. And we adapt by putting things in question, by asking whether this or that belief is true or binding, and in general by opening our hearts to other people’s arguments and attempting to meet them with arguments of our own.

Free speech is not the cause of the tensions that are growing around us, but the only possible solution to them. If the government is to succeed in its new measures to eradicate Islamic extremism, therefore, it should be encouraging people to discuss the matter openly, regardless of who might take offence.

Roger Scruton

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42 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Ljh

    Islam holds that every person is born Muslim and falls into error should they follow “distorted” Judeo-Christian beliefs in which case they should be subservient, humiliated and pay jizya; deserve death for apostasy, belonging to any other religion or none. No one converts to Islam, they “revert”. The relationship of believer to Allah is that of slave to master, rationality and science propose limits to the power of Allah, whose power by definition is limitless unknowable and unpredictable, so that debate is not possible. The Koran is Allah dictated and therefore immutable and not subject to contextualisation as the recorded dreams of an illiterate merchant, slaver and warlord.

    I don’t think Roger Scruton will find any takers who are also believers. All reform within the Muslim world was achieved by strong men who encouraged secularisation and who used extreme measures to curb the power of the ummah.

  • PhilB

    If you think that “The Powers That Be” will allow free discussion about Islam, then you;’ll believe that you have a chance of shagging the Pope by next weekend.

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Ljh probably has it about right, and thus Roger Scruton would be well-advised to cease his apparently wishful thinking and go study the Koran a bit more – which study will then probably enlighten him as to a rather more awful reality than what his pontifications would seem to lead to.

  • Alisa

    Ljh, there is Islam, and there are individual Muslims – they are not the same. The debate must be had as the quote says, and it should be up to each individual (Muslim or otherwise) to decide whether he or she wants to take part in it or not, and on what side. Naturally, he or she also should end up living (or dying) with the consequences of their decisions.

  • There is no such thing as Islamic extremism and as long as the discussion centers around this there will be no resolution until the Caliph of Eurostan issues a fatwa demanding death to any who continue to use the phrase. It’s not extremism. It’s fundamentalism and nothing more. You are not eradicating Islamic extremism, you are eradicating Islamic fundamentalism which means you are eradicating Islam. This is unlikely to happen in a debating hall.

  • Dom

    Who is the “we” in “just as we all must adapt”. Westerners? I must come to grips with FGM, killing apostates, full burkas, honor killings, forced marriages? No deal.

  • I must come to grips with FGM, killing apostates, full burkas, honor killings, forced marriages? No deal.

    The notion Scruton thinks that or is suggesting that in the linked article is quite mistaken.

    Moreover he is correct, ‘we’ must indeed adapt. We need to become more proactive in confronting and challenging things like FGM, killing apostates, full burkas, honour killings, forced marriages. We need to become far less tolerant of intolerance by Muslims. We cannot just assume such things do not need to be said in the civilised west, and that means we must adapt to the new reality in which it is now imperative such things be said loudly and often. We need to be willing to get in people’s faces when necessary and impress upon oeiole who think otherwise that there are certain core values that are nether optional nor negotiable.

  • and thus Roger Scruton would be well-advised to cease his apparently wishful thinking and go study the Koran a bit more

    Then you clearly did not understand the article. He is saying that everything must be up for debate and not put off limits (such as the truth about the Koran).

  • Ljh

    Alisa, any person willing to debate the underpinning worldview of Islam with the possibility of revision cannot claim to be a believing Muslim. The Muslim community would regard them as apostates. A lack of conviction among cultural Muslims, while probably widespread, is best kept to oneself unless one is very brave or foolish or suicidal.

  • Alisa, any person willing to debate the underpinning worldview of Islam with the possibility of revision cannot claim to be a believing Muslim. The Muslim community would regard them as apostates.

    There is no such thing as “the Muslim community”, much as certain Islamists wishes there was. There are a great many of them, some highly toxic whilst others are largely indifferent to the reality of the Koran. If you think Muslims in Sarajevo, Erbil, Ankara, Tehran, Rabat, Jakarta, Riyadh and… London, Paris and New York… are all the same, then you are quite incorrect.

  • Alisa

    Indeed, Ljh, and it is their – the Muslims’ – problem. Or at least it should be. Avoiding the debate because ‘it won’t solve anything’ or because ‘there is nothing to debate’ will only continue making it our problem.

    Perry:

    If you think Muslims in Sarajevo, Erbil, Ankara, Tehran, Rabat, Jakarta, Riyadh and… London, Paris and New York… are all the same, then you are quite incorrect.

    Indeed, and so it is high time for those who are different and think of themselves as such, to stand up and make their positions known, or face the consequences. Yes, I know neither choice promises a happy ending for many of these people, but such is life. And, that goes for the rest of us as well.

  • Alisa

    I do think there is a war going on, and even though most of us, including Muslims of one sort or another, may not be interested in it, it sure seems to be interested in us.

  • Ljh

    The degree to which Muslim communities resemble each other depends upon the degree of influence of the ummah. Whereas the Bosnian community pre Yugoslav breakup was largely nonobservant, post the 90s the return to Islamic roots means it has fielded a disproprtionately large contingent of Isis combattants, turkey of the 80s and early 90s was far more secular than it is now. Indonesia and Malaysia have become increasingly intolerant of religious minorities and keener to impose Muslim values on everyone. These values reducing women to chattels, stigmatising people of other faiths and the persecution of heresy are common to all Muslim countries and are on the increase.
    http://jihadwatch.org is very good at collecting the stories the msm chooses to ignore from across the globe.

  • staghounds

    Mr. Scruton ignores history when he suggests that free speech has always been a bedrock principle of British life. In times of existential war, governments have always tried in every way they could to prevent speech they considered helpful to the enemy of the day. Locking up Oswald Moseley and Eugene Debs, the persecution of the Copperhead editors, DORA and EP(D)A, are all examples of the Anglo-American tradition of shutting up dissenters who might help the enemy, or hurt the war effort, in times of critical military danger.

    These aren’t peacetime measures. The Government acts like it’s in a war. And judging from these laws, they have picked a side.

  • Alisa

    And judging from these laws, they have picked a side.

    Oh yes, they did, as they always do – and it’s not your side, or mine either.

  • Ellen

    Free speech is not the cause of the tensions that are growing around us, but the only possible solution to them. If the government is to succeed in its new measures to eradicate Islamic extremism, therefore, it should be encouraging people to discuss the matter openly, regardless of who might take offence.

    Unfortunately, the Islamic reaction to offense is, all too often, to kill the offender. This puts a damper on debate.

  • RRS

    It is surprising there has been no mention of, or allusion to, our daemonic shared with Sir Karl Popper.

    What our useful exchanges, observations and examinations are about on every perception, concept, ideology and all scientific conjectures, is the extraction of what is false; and how that falsification is established.

    If the possibilities for extracting the false are limited we can not come closer to the validation of what remains. Among the limitations discussed are communicating observations, conducting exchanges – and carrying on unfettered examinations.
    With those limitations the erosions of what is valid by the intrusions of what is false can, and does, destroy human understanding and the capacities for its development.

  • RRS

    On the “extremes” of Religions (taken as something more than “the worship of a Deity”):

    We tend to overlook what can be observed from what we have of history; such as, the long periods of conflicts amongst Taoism,
    Confucianism and Buddhism; much earlier evidence of similar conflicts in ancient Egypt, bringing us forward to more recent periods when we can compare the function of ideologies in bringing cohesion (military, social, economic and often territorial) for fragmented groupings of peoples.

    Taking just the more recent functions of the adhesions of the Jewish faith in pulling together fragmented (and disordered) tribal systems; the functions of Christianity in a fragmented Europe (and to lesser effect amongst the Eastern Slavs) and the same of the “Islamic” in multiple areas of fragmentations, we can begin to observe changes that occur in the ideologies when the need for those cohesion functions decline, or those functions are displaced by other developments.

    There does appear to be a reaction by those who have experienced the “refuge” of cohesions to attribute that benefit to the ideology that performed that function, resulting in “extremes” to preserve the ideology (with the sense that it is essential to continued cohesion).

    We have recognized Collectivism (yea, even unto the Totalitarian) as an attempt at a displacing function for particular cohesion forms ( to yield particular results from cohesion). We observe periodic “revivals” of ideologies seeking to retain, reinforce, or re-establish various evidences of cohesion. And yet, fragmentation goes on.

    Amongst a large segment of the world’s people whose only experience with social cohesion has been in an “Islamic” or similar ideology there seem to have been no displacing functions for cohesion (a sense shared by many Western Christians). Perhaps there are none for some of those societies and they are due for absorption into others. Some are likely to “cling” (by reactions and force)to what they think they know and understand. We live in interesting times.

  • nemesis

    I did sit up and listen when I heard this by Roger Scruton on ‘thought for the day’ on R4 this morning.
    The Muslim thing apart, I thought this sentence (in a general context) had a particular poetic ring to it;
    “It is not falsehood that causes the greatest offence, but truth. You can endure insults and abuse when you know them to be false. But if the remarks that offend you are true, their truth becomes a dagger in the soul – you cry “lies!” at the top of your voice, and know that you must silence the one who utters them.”

  • The great thing about free speech, as about other kinds of freedom, is that the outcome is not predictable. Some commenters think it unlikely (to use English understatement 🙂 ) that muslims will endure, let alone allow themselves or fellow believers to benefit from, free speech. Others are more hopeful as regards individual muslims.

    The battle for free speech could create a more coexistable-with muslim culture or it could precipitate a more violent confrontation. As the latter possibility is one of the excuses used to kill free speech, I can see why some are shy of stressing it. If Roger regards the year 1939 as one in which we ‘adapted’ to the idea that maybe the war to end all wars didn’t, then his phrasing could cover all eventualities. These days, it is sadly understandable that people put their grimmer thoughts in a mild-sounding way.

    The more people say, “Free speech; let’s have it back”, the better. So I think I’ll spend my time agreeing with the post rather than criticising it, even though I grant some of the points of the critical commenters.

  • PapayaSF

    I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Islam. Since I’ve read it I’ve come to believe that the way to defeat Islam is to discredit its primary sources through some form of memetic wafare. There’s plenty of evidence that the Koran was a heavily-edited creation of humans, and no more perfect than the Bible. (Muslims believe the Koran is perfect, and that Allah has the master copy in Heaven.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    For the record only: I see nothing whatsoever wrong with Mr. Scruton’s statement.

    All he’s saying is that we can’t let Muslims, or any subgroup of Muslims, or any other person or group including governments, set the boundaries of what may be talked about, and in what terms (and, in context, I’m sure Mr. Scruton did not mean to disallow all restraints on speech, such as for instance taking out ads proclaiming that Campbell’s Chunky Beef Soup is really made from roasted and diced rat meat).

    He’s saying, Don’t be cowed into silence, especially not now and especially about Islam — and don’t let our governments declare suspension of the right of free speech when it comes to expressing thoughts and opinions upon it.

    Strikes me as forthright common sense.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    While I largely agree with Scruton and the comments above, I think there are some notionally Muslim adherents who stress rationality and reasoning: the Nizari.
    My limited experience left me feeling that they weren’t Muslim at all, but who am I to argue?

  • Alisa

    Well that is what scares me, Clovis: that when this whole thing gets totally out of hand, all those rational and non-violent Muslims (however large or small their numbers are), will be the first to suffer from the ignorance that always fills the vacuum left by an absence of an honest debate such as suggested by Scruton.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, the first (but it is only the first) tactic to protect the rational and non-violent Muslims is to back them up by exercising our right of free speech to discredit the less rational and more violent Muslims.

    It has been pointed out many times that part of the reason those non-apostate Muslims who in the privacy of their own heads deplore the actions of jihadis “soft” or “hard” is simply that they don’t trust the society they’re in to support any pushback they might make against said jihadis.

    In other words, we Westerners are mighty dainty about what free speech we feel (feel!) free to use and what we’d best avoid since it might stir up Group X, the libruls and Left generally, and The Gov against us. And some of the comments here leave me wondering if we’re not also claiming cold feet in the name of Muslims in the West who are sympathy with Western, and not hard-core Islamic, values.

    Also: Some of the comments seem ambiguous to me. So if I have misinterpreted anyone, I apologize.

  • Alisa

    Well, the first (but it is only the first) tactic to protect the rational and non-violent Muslims is to back them up by exercising our right of free speech to discredit the less rational and more violent Muslims.

    Well yes, but how do we know who they are? Think of it this way: how many Germans really, in their heads and hearts supported the Nazi ideas? I submit that there is no way of knowing, as most of them remained silent. Understandably so, but rather unfortunately, as eventually the allies (for the most part) had no choice but to “kill them first, and sort them out later”. And I am not ignoring the risk moderate Muslims are facing by speaking up against the nutcases in their midst, but what other way is there for us (non-Muslims) to tell who among them thinks what?

    None of that means that I support attacking Muslims just for being Muslims, but I do hear too many voices that suggest just that, and I’m afraid the “democratic process” may just bring some of them to the top some time soon.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    The major difference between Christianity and Mohammedanism is that Christians are not commanded to try to take over other countries, or their own country, by force. The sharia does command its’ adherents to try to physically rule this world, so is peace really possible?
    As for pointing out the flaws within the Koran, here is a major flaw- if Allah indeed cannot be chained, even by a prior promise that He has made (Surah 2, verse 108, re ‘abrogation’), then the whole Koran could have been abrogated, and it is not a sure sign at all! Also you could point out the contrast between Surah 4, verses 157 to 159, and the Surah 19, verse 33. Did Jesus die, or did he make false prophesies about his death whilst claiming to be a true prophet?

  • PapayaSF

    More differences: Jesus was a rather peaceful fellow. The Bible was written by dozens of different people, all “inspired” by by God, in a handful of different languages, over hundreds of years. Very few read it in the original languages. There’s a lot of room for interpretation. Oh, and the more violent and intolerant parts are in the Old Testament, largely superseded by the New.

    The Koran is quite different. Muhammad was a caravan robber turned prophet and warlord. He supposedly channeled (through the angel Gabriel) the direct word of God, who speaks a somewhat archaic Arabic. The Koran gets more violent in its later parts. Muslims are expected to read it in the original. All this means there’s far less room for interpretation.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, I agree with every word. 🙂

    And, yes: How do we know the difference? It takes a wiser head than mine. I don’t know what one can go by except the track record of individuals, and a certain precautionary wariness — as when one walks in a not-too-great neighborhood, only (perhaps) even more so.

    I have an online pal who lives in California (but aside from that, I find him quite a savvy soul) who has told the Individual-Sovereignty Yahoo group that among his friends he had counted something like a couple of dozen Muslims. He thought they were perfectly amicable people, interested mostly just in living their lives — salt of the earth, never gave the slightest hint of being Death-to-America types.

    But then came 9/11, and out of these 24 Moderate Muslims only two resisted the urge to cheer and celebrate the event.

    You know, if Pres. Bush had had a better knowledge of Islam and its history he might not have led with that “Religion of Peace” line right after. But I think it’s perfectly understandable that he did, out of the same impulse that you fear: That there would be a backlash among Americans that would make it Open Season on Muslims in general — Shoot first, ask questions later.

    Anyway, we don’t want to stop being our Better Selves and indulge either in futile and stupid cowardice or else join a lynch mob. Tough for the decent Muslims, however many or few there may be; and tough for us too.

  • I do think there is a war going on, and even though most of us, including Muslims of one sort or another, may not be interested in it, it sure seems to be interested in us.

    I believe so too, and it is interesting to really press moderate Muslims to see what lies underneath. On Friday I was out for dinner in the company of a very Westernised and well-educated, middle class Turkish lady who let it slip that she was “anti-Israel” in the sense that she was “against its formation” and, presumably, its continued existence. My response was twofold: firstly, to enquire which of the other 250-odd nations on earth she thought ought not to exist and, after a mumbled reply, I said it is an astonishing coincidence that out of all the countries on earth the only one she thinks ought not to exist is the Jewish one. Secondly, I removed myself from the company in pretty short order leaving her feeling rather upset.

    I realised this a long time ago, but even in “moderate”, educated Muslim society, extreme points of view regarding things like Israel and the Charlie Hebdo massacres are perfectly acceptable and mainstream. If it comes down to a serious confrontation, I’m not sure which way even the moderates are going to jump. I’ve written about this before, believing that the lack of principles and convictions shown in the West will deter any moderate Muslims from siding with us should a proper showdown occur. But I will only believe there are moderate Muslims around when I push them on sensitive subjects and I don’t hear them reciting lines that Hezbollah would be proud of. So far, such people are as rare as hens’ teeth.

  • It has been pointed out many times that part of the reason those non-apostate Muslims who in the privacy of their own heads deplore the actions of jihadis “soft” or “hard” is simply that they don’t trust the society they’re in to support any pushback they might make against said jihadis.

    This, time 1,000. That was my point exactly.

  • Paul Marks

    As others have, by implication, pointed out above…..

    The difficulty that even that good man Roger Scruton is failing to see is as follows…..

    He seems to be assuming that Muslims can and should “adapt” to “circumstances”.

    But Mohammed taught what he taught – and he was either right or he was wrong.

    A follower of Islam is someone believes that Mohammed was correct (that he was not in error).

    Islam can not “adapt” in a fundamental way – without not longer being Islam.

    This people who see religion from the point of view of modern (post Thomas Hobbes and David Hume) philosophy do not seem to see this.

    People who believe in a religion do NOT see it as a “way of life” or whatever.

    Someone who believes in a religion really does see it as a series of “truth claims” – of basic statements of fact.

    And, in the case of Islam, this include that the doctrine that God and his prophet Mohammed must not be insulted – the penalty for this is death (insisted upon by Mohammed himself – even in the case of an blind poet and a pregnant female poet) and once a Muslim always a Muslim – again with the penalty of death.

    There can be no “adapting” (other than tactically) on these points.

    Mohammed was not Jesus or Buddha – Mohammed taught certain basic things that his followers believe to be true.

    “Modern” philosophy (which is not really modern at all – even the Ancient Greeks had plenty of sceptics) had better get a grip on this.

    I apologise if I have misunderstood Professor S. and he does in fact understand this.

  • Paul and others… this is not about what Muslims think or what the Koran says. This is not about anything other that free speech. Scruton is simply saying that there must not be exceptions to what is amenable to free speech. Offence does not trump free speech. Anything else is missing the point.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    What Alisa and Julie said!

    Of course Perry is clearly correct, but the wider discussion was fun too.

  • Edward

    @PapayaSF – the book you recommend is clear BS – the oldest extant non-Islamic references to Muhammad are in the writings of Thomas the Presbyter, a Christian. He describes the conquest of the Levant by the Rashidun Caliphs and clearly refers to the “Arabs of Muhammad”. The reference dates to c. 640AD, a mere year or two after Muhammad’s death. There are other non-Muslim works of the time that also refer to the Arabs as the followers of Muhammad.

    The current rise of the Salafi in Sunni Islam and the velayat-e fahiq in Shia Islam is a recent and revolutionary thing. Boosted by Saudi and Iranian gold. A good use of our own gold would be to reinforce traditional Sunni Islam (which is accepting of other faith traditions) and Shia Islam (in which the ulema renounce political involvement). Roger Scruton is entirely on the right track. We need to push the idea that the reasonable Muslims; the Bosniaks who’ll raise a glass of slivovits with you or the guys right here in Bradford who’ll serve you a damn fine curry; are the TRUE Muslims. Because they are. “…There is no compulsion in religion…” (Quran 2:256).

  • Watchman

    To back up Edward here, we now have a (carbon-?)dated page from a seventh-century Qu’ran showing that at least some of the text was clearly pretty-well contemporary with Mohammed. Indeed, it is difficult to see how Islam could have spread without the Qu’ran being copied from an early stage – Islam has always been a religion of the book, not the man (unlike Christians, Muslims do not confuse prophet and god…).

    Interesting though that a lot of what people say about what Muslims believe is entirely what Muslims are being told they should believe by those who wish to control Islam. Any study of the history of Islam will instead show that there has not been any more standard set of beliefs than Christianity, Judaism or any other religion has managed – indeed, less so in the main, because Islam rarely has a professional class of clergy to mediate beliefs. If you remember that for a few hundred years the dominant sect on Qatar believed the Hadj was a sin (so much for the pillars of Islam…) and attacked it regularly, you’ll get the idea.

    The problem here is simple – assuming that Muslims are different from people, as they are defined by only one aspect of their being (religion in this case). It is as stupid as assuming that because I am medium-height, I must act in a certain way. Muslims need to be able to think about themselves as people fully, not be pigeon-holed by the ignorant – for if you tell people they can only be Muslims, they will only be Muslims; if you tell tell people they can be anything they want, then they may choose to be Muslims, but that is their choice…

  • PapayaSF

    @Edward: I’ll grant that the title itself is a bit flamebait-y, but overall the book seems quite solid to me. It gathers the work of many scholars who have found errors and inconsistencies in official Islamic dogma. For example, parts of the Koran have pre-Islamic (even Christian) sources, and early coins depict a crescent moon along with a cross.

  • Runcie Balspune

    UDHR Article 18, it already exists, and has done for a very long time, and it is all that is needed, just plain enforcement of this Article alone will bring the downfall of any fundamental religion as it is today, with the violent coercion gone, the only adherents will be the true believers and they wont be bothering anyone, especially with a dwindling flock, the more the religion is dependent on coercion, the more it will suffer, and if one belief thinks it is being unfairly targeted, then we all know why. Recognizing that certain citizens are hell bent on violating this basic Article, amongst many that Britain signed up to nearly 70 years ago, should be enough, and if we want to have discussions on human rights and western culture then this is where it needs to start.

  • Alisa

    People who believe in a religion do NOT see it as a “way of life” or whatever.

    That is an extremely gross generalization, Paul. Each person interprets their religion in a way very specific and particular to that person. Of course there are many similarities with others like him or her, but there are also many differences. To brush all Muslims, or all religious people with the same brush is to ignore the individual behind each such person.

    None of this is to say that I disagree with someone like Tim above – to the contrary, I very much agree with him. But still, each person is a different case, and only that person knows exactly what he or she feel about their particular religion, or any other matter come to that.

  • Alisa

    Indeed, Watchman – hence the great importance of free speech and open debate.

  • Edward

    @Watchman, @Alisa. Amen, אָמֵן, إن شاء الله‎

    Judaism and Christianity have evolved over the years, but they’ve been able to state, through their founding texts, that the evolution is both right and proper.

    Islam will do the same, because, historically, it has done the same. Forcible conversion is haram, persecution is haram, other faiths can exist alongside Islam is halal, Islam should exist in peace in the world alongside those of other beliefs is halal. Islam is the religion of peace; Muslims should practice peace and abjure warfare, that’s halal too.

    All the above can be backed up by the Quran, and there are hadith to reinforce them. It’s not original, many if not most Muslim preachers have said the same. We need preachers to get that message across; and to give them the gold they need to defeat the Saudi Salafi hate merchants, and the Iranians who follow the “heretic” Khomeini.

    We should not wage a war ON Islam, but a war FOR Islam. For the Islam of Avveroes and Avicenna. For the Islam of the Abbasid Caliphate of Harun al-Rashid; of the Umayyad Caliphate that allowed Jews, Christians and Muslims to live together in peace WITHOUT any sort of legal discrimination. That’s the way the West, and free people everywhere, win.

  • Alisa

    Sorry Edward, but I’m not in a war against or for Islam, or any other ideology for that matter – to me these are just labels used to justify the universal human drive for power over others. In the large scheme of things I don’t really care if someone is out to kill me or rob me because I’m a Jew, a woman, or a “capitalist”, or simply because some thug is unhappy with me not doing what I’m told.

    Don’t get me wrong, these labels have great practical use towards identifying the enemies, their strengths and weaknesses, etc. But other than that, I’m fine with people believing whatever crap they choose to believe, as long as they leave the rest of us alone.