Friday, June 23, 2017

Kinder gentler Islam

During the debate between Robert Spencer and James White, White said:

The question becomes, if we're using laws of abrogation to come up with all of this type of interpretation to begin with, what do you do with the people that you live with today who look at the stories of Muhammed and they emphasize the stories when he was a minority prophet, when he himself was seeking religious freedom, upon what basis are those abrogated and if they do believe those things to be relevant to their faith today, do you say to them, you're not a true Muslim, or do you just simply say, well historically the large portion of your leaders in the past have not taken the same perspective that you have (21-22 min.)

Presumably, White is using that as a hypothetical example of how Muslims could legitimately develop a nonbelligerent version of Islam, given the range of sources available to them. Or perhaps he's appealing to his anecdotal experience of individual Muslims who actually say they take that approach. 

But there's a fundamental problem with his paradigm-case, because it plays straight into Spencer's argument that there's a progressive strategy in Islam: 

First phase:       tolerance, 
Second phase:  defensive jihad, 
Third phase:     offensive jihad 
(7-8 min.)

Muhammad's irenic message when he was a minority prophet was a tactical pose. When you're outnumbered by potential adversaries, you advocate religious freedom. You bide your time until you gain the upper hand. Once the balance of power shifts in your favor, you drop the pose and switch to jihad. Since that example is just a cynical stratagem, that's not a genuine alternative to the jihadist interpretation of Islam. To the contrary, that's a softening up exercise. Lulling potential adversaries into a false sense of security, then striking when it's too late for them to strike back. How does Muhammad's ruse de guerre present a genuine, irenic alternative to the jihadist tradition? It doesn't. Just the opposite.


  1. I'd add even if White is basing what he said above on his personal experience speaking with Muslims, and even if these Muslims sincerely believe what they say, it's not as if these Muslims (if they remain Muslim) stand to lose as much as non-Muslims if it turns out it truly was a ruse de guerre. Our Westernized Muslim friends and acquaintances may not like living in a predominantly Islamic society or a society where Muslims make most of the rules, set the agenda, and so forth, and our Muslim friends in the West may be forced to lose much of their Western lifestyle, but they won't be considered second class citizens like Jews or Christians, nor will they be punished or executed like many others. In short, the costs for non-Muslims are higher than the costs for Muslims if it turns out it truly is part and parcel of the progressive strategy of their fellow Muslims after their fellow Muslims have seized enough power.

    So at a minimum I think it's quite reasonable for non-Muslims to be more skeptical and continue to wait for evidence that it's not a ruse, that Muslims are genuinely seeking to foster a non-belligerent version of Islam, for we have much more to lose than Muslims if it's a ruse.

    In other words, rather than letting the Trojan horse past our city gates as White seems to advocate (and perhaps White thinks Christians shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth), I think we ought at a minimum take precautions in case it turns out to be a ruse. We would do well to heed Laocoön's counsel to beware Greeks (or Muslims) bearing gifts (of peace and non-belligerence).

  2. Steve,

    Downstream you mentioned that the debate was focused mainly on Jihad, whereas there are other unpleasant aspects of Islam such as honor killings, rape gangs, etc. This is an important point that it overlooked. France is 10 percent Muslim. France's prison is somewhere between 50 and 70 percent Muslim. (I got this figure from a Muslim writer in the NYT.)

    In fact, many of the Jihadists started out as petty (or not to petty) criminals and getting themselves killed while killing other people seems to have been the culmination of their sad lives.

  3. And another point: Jihad appears to be endemic to Islam. Consider the religous violence in nations that are entirely or almost entirely Islamic (such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey). I'm not an expert on Islam so I don't know if this recent or the result only of certain ethnic or sectarian disputes.

    Violence and corruption is part of Islamic life. I know a couple people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and said that the "Islamphobes" in the West don't know the half of it. David French wrote a couple of essays in National Review about this (he served in both places, if I recall).

    1. Or another case would be Iran. There recently was an ISIS-inspired attack on the Iranian parliament which killed 19. I don't think Iran is on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage.

    2. Not of course that this would justify blowing up the Iranian parliament, but you get my point.

  4. I can see how this debate would be relevant from a national security/ public safety perspective, but how is it relevant to Christians witnessing to Muslims? Are Christians called to witness only to people who don't want to kill them? Even if Muslims are only being kind and engaging in dialogue as part of a plot, so what? God uses evil intentions for good all the time. Is the concern that Christians would become duped into giving Muslims a foothold? I fail to see how that's likely. Muslims are very good at influencing secular areas with no solid worldview, but do far less well in communities with a solid belief system of their own. Christians have an alterior motive in dealing with Muslims too, that being to win them to Christ. And Christianity has always been more effective at spreading through peaceful discourse than has Islam.

    I agree with Spencer on much if his analysis of the political issue of Islam as a whole, but it must be remembered that he is not a gospel-believing Christian, so his motivations are different (ditto for people like Gavin McInnes, Milo Yiannopoulos, and other more secular right-wingers).

    1. i) Christians have multiple social obligations. One obligation is to evangelize the lost. Another obligation is to protect the innocent from predictable and preventable harm. One of White's failings is his dereliction in that regard.

      ii) You're attacking a criticism I never made. You seem to be shadowboxing with other critics of White.

      I don't object to Christian apologists debating or dialoguing with Muslim spokesmen who are in bed with terrorists. Terrorism is endemic to Islam. That's the nature of the beast. We should be prepared to witness to Muslims who associate with terrorists. I've said that in email to friends. 

      Where White gets into trouble is vouching the bona fides of Yasir Qadhi. That makes White look like a tool.

    2. Has White ever stated what his view of Islamic immigration into Europe and the USA should be? Has he discussed such things as the Rotherham sexual abuse ("grooming") scandal (which was ignored by the police out of fear of being called racist)?

    3. In my experience he constantly dodges that issue. I don't buy White's assurances that this is all about Gospel outreach. For instance, White is very harsh in what he says about secular progressives and SJWs. Yet they need Jesus too. Why is he so defensive about Muslims but so judgmental about atheists if evangelism is his priority?

    4. I don't know much about White's views. But it seems to me that he finds it hard to say that Islam is an unpleasant religion that produces unpleasant people.

      I'm no a fan of Catholicism and Mormonism, but the Catholics and Mormons I know off an on the web seem pleasant enough (consider what an exception an idiot like Mark Shea is to the general catholic world).

      Incidentally the British Union of Muslims recently boasted that Muslims almost gave Labour a victory in the recent elections. Now the conservatives are not socially conservative but they occasionally pay lip service to the need to weed out radicalism and even that is I guess too much for Muslims. Tolerance for Muslims is just a way station.

    5. The presence of large numbers of Muslims in the West is something of a "foce multipier" making all the bad aspects of our contemporary culture worse. For the leftists who want to show their tolerance, what could be more tolerant than allowing an anti-Christian and anti-white religion into the West. Take Linda Sarsour for eample. She admits she isn't much of a Muslim, but she can march with LGBTQ++ (or whatever they are called now) to demand "tolerance" for Muslims.

      Again I don't know much about White's view of Islam, but is he aware that the motivations of Muslims and their enablers in downplaying the violent nature of Islam isn't exactly pure?

  5. Ed Feser had an intersting disucssion of a debate between Robert Spencer and a Catholic prelate who thinks that it is binding Church doctrine that Islam is a "religion of peace."

    The debate is worth listening to because Mnsr. Swetland of course takes a different approach from White.

  6. Here's the French article:

    "Yes, they were in the middle of a war — but speaking from my own experience — the war was conducted from within a culture that was shockingly broken. I expected the jihadists to be evil, but even I couldn’t fathom the depths of their depravity. And it was all occurring against the backdrop of a brutally violent and intolerant culture. Women were beaten almost as an afterthought, there was a near-total lack of empathy for even friends and neighbors, lying was endemic, and sexual abuse was rampant. Even more disturbingly, it seemed that every problem was exacerbated the more religious and pious a person (or village) became."

    1. "Even more disturbingly, it seemed that every problem was exacerbated the more religious and pious a person (or village) became."

      If these jihadis' interpretation of Islam is valid, then it's difficult to imagine how one might create a more evil religion. The devil himself couldn't have done a better job. In fact, perhaps Satan did some of his finest work in Islam.

  7. "White is very harsh in what he says about secular progressives and SJWs. Yet they need Jesus too."

    True. Yet it is my understanding that James likes talking with people who actually believe in their faith. A conservative Muslim or Mormon is respected more than a liberal whatever who don't have strong religious conviction.

    1. That may be, but how does that attitude prioritize evangelism?

  8. I listened to the debate again and I don't get where White is coming from. He seems to play dumb when it comes to Quadi's ties to the Muslim Brotherdhood and other things.

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