Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reza Aslan: A Coming Islamic Revolution

Tuesday, Reza Aslan, will be speaking at Xavier (both in the evening at Schiff Family Conference Center at 7:30 p.m. and in my class: Comtemporary Debates on Justice).

His take on Bin Laden's jihad was new to me and I thought you might like reading it:

A Coming Islamic Reformation

The most chilling moment in the article is the parallel between Bin Laden and Martin Luther. Look for it in the middle column. (Taken from the LA Times)


my15minutes said...

Wow Jules. Thanks for posting this article. It is jarring to see Luther and bin Laden placed in the same context; also the parallel of the printing press and the internet being the means of facilitating reformation. Since there is no centralized authority in Islam, I wonder how (if) bin Laden's ideas will be refuted? Interesting ideas....I'll look forward to what you have to say about Aslan.

Dave said...

Irshad Manji is going to speak in Grand Rapids this coming Saturday. I'm not sure if I'll be there or not - she's charging $10 to go and I might be busy elsewhere... But I have her book, "The Trouble With Islam Today." Her perspective and Aslan's may be worth comparing notes on.

Kansas Bob said...

Hmmm ... Osama bin Laden, a modern day Martin Luther ... someone must be joking ... this just looks like post 9/11 bin Laden spin to me.

julieunplugged said...

I think what you see is the Islamic reaction to how Christian see themselves. We tend to think of ourselves as peace-lovers when to Muslims, we are the architects of the Crusades. (I know, that old chestnut.) What I thought fascinating was the exposure of Luther's ideas of what constituted justifiable violence. I don't think that aspect of Luther's thinking is either well-known or reported.

So perhaps this Muslim scholar is trying to call attention to our cobwebs in our history. I'm pretty sure Reza (from my limited reading of him) doesn't support or condone Islamic fundamentalist violence. Maybe he's asking us to be more aware of the history of violence that attends any fanatical attachment to one's theological assertions.


Kansas Bob said...

I am okay to examine Luther's writings and consider how they may have contributed to the attitudes of his day (and later) but to call bin Laden an Islamic Reformer is just spin in my opinion. Tantamount to calling Hitler a Christian Reformer.

Carrie said...

Kansas Bob-

I wonder if some of the confusion is your image or definition of "reformer." Let's face it, the Catholic Church may no longer be calling Luther "Satan's spawn" but they still don't look on the reformation, as a "good" thing. The opinion of a reformer will be in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. I think the author of this article wasn't so much looking at the merits of the reform movements, but at the similarities, however limited. In other words, Luther brought individualism into a religion controlled from the top down. Access to information and materials were very limited and the general population simply believed what they were told for the most part. Luther and the coinciding invention of the printing press changed all that, for better or worse (depending on your point of view). People started striking out on their own, interpreting the religious documents individually and teaching others to do the same. Sects sprung up (we would now call them denominations ;-)) like weeds.

Aslan was making the same statement about bin Laden and others like him. They are breaking from the tradition of Islam by saying their interpretation of the tenets of the faith are the correct ones, and daring to lead the people away from the more concentrated power of the Imams and clerics. In this way, along with the development of the internet, his situation does parallel the Christian reformation. Whether or not this reformation brings reform depends on where you stand. From the point of view of the West, it is evil and violent. From bin Laden's point of view, it is necessary and "the will of God."

In retrospect, the Catholic Church admits the need for the reformation even though the Church still sees the methods used as ultimately destructive (especially to the unity of the church). And, from a purely historical position, it is difficult to stand unequivically alongside the reformers, all of whom seemed to have a violent streak just like the church they were "reforming." Sectarian violence and slaughter may not have claimed as many actual lives, but the intent and the viciousness were certainly there. Man was as sinful then as now.

So, the children of the protestant reformation shouldn't bristle at the implications that it was a violent affair. It was at times. At we can't say for certain that it was all good, or done in the best, most Christian way. Perhaps, someday, Islam will settle out into some semblance of order and balance, and the sides will get along without killing each other and others. Time will tell, just as it has for the other "reformation," whether Islam is a peaceful religion, or a violent one, or an unfortunate mixture of both.


julieunplugged said...

Carrie what a wonderfully thoughtful comment. You gave me lots to think about. I appreciate your insight based on years of study related to both reformation theology and Catholicism.


Kansas Bob said...

Thanks for the response Carrie. My concern is that we not confuse

"implications that it was a violent affair"

by saying that Luther was a violent man just like bin Laden is a violent man. It is one thing to write and speak about violence and another thing to plan and execute violence.

isaiah said...

Great article Julie- and an interesting debate here in the comments. I, too, knew little of Luther and his condoning of violence in the name of Christianity (funny how they never got around to teaching this part in school or church).

I do agree with Aslan that bin Laden has caused a reformation or revolution in the Islamic world- this fact cannot be denied: bin Laden has changed the world and the Islamic faith.

“It is one thing to write and speak about violence and another thing to plan and execute violence.”

To write and speak about violence causing others to act is tantamount to committing the act itself (In MOP).

Education is the key ingredient here, and I’m afraid we haven’t even begun to try and understand all points of views- we’ve been too focused on “our side” learning little of “the enemy”. Yes, I know there are those who want to do us grave harm (to put it mildly) but, in mass? I don’t believe this any more than I believe we should take serious and keep the Old Testament Laws of laws in Exodus and Leviticus.

The Western world has not even begun to honestly educate itself in regards to the true problems we face in our world. Islam and bin Laden pale in comparison to our inability to understand what we are doing to the Earth and each other in the name of God.

Kansas Bob said...

I disagree that

"To write and speak about violence causing others to act is tantamount to committing the act itself (In MOP)."

Don't think that view would hold up in court ... if it did Jerry Springer would be in jail :)