DELUSIONS OF ISLAMIC DEMOCRACY:
"CULTURALLY AUTHENIC" LESSONS FOR NOAH FELDMAN
By Dr. Andrew G. Bostom
My major concerns are two in number.
Firstly, Professor Feldman embraces a completely uncritical acceptance of the most sanitized, sacralized version of “classical” Islamic history, from Muhammad’s con- solidation of control over Arabia, through the extensive jihad conquests of Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Feldman's writings are disturbingly reminiscent of Professor John Esposito’s pres- entations, which suffer from these inappropriate biases, as lucidly described by the scholar Bat Ye’or:
Secondly, Feldman's analysis contains moral equivalences that range from the de- liberately disingenuous to the frankly absurd. Here are just a few examples:
This warped historiography and unacceptable moral equivalence are melded in a clumsy, callow manner yielding roseate, if not downright reckless, predictions about the presumed actions of socalled “Islamist-democrats.” Indeed, the bizarre concept of “Islamist-democrats” epitomizes the profoundly flawed premises of Feldman’s analyses. He specifically cites Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the influ- ential Muslim Brotherhood as an example of such an "Islamist-democrat," calling him “complex”. Again, this is eerily reminiscent of John Esposito’s utterly discredit- ed reasoning. During a January, 1998, interview, Sheikh al-Qaradawi, using unfet- tered Medieval terminology, stated his belief that Islamic law divided the People of the Book--Jews and Christians--into three categories--(1) non-Muslims in the lands of war, (2) non-Muslims in lands of temporary truce, and (3) non-Muslims protected by Islamic law, that is to say, the dhimmis. Sheikh al-Qaradawi, made it clear that Islamic law had established different rules for each of these categories. The good Sheikh had thus summarized concisely the theory of jihad war (unfortunately ignored by Feldman, Esposito, and their ilk) which regulates the relations of Muslims with non-Muslims.
Feldman also appears to have great faith in disgruntled “former” Islamists who now profess to be “liberal Muslims”--at least in their writings. One such example is the Iranian writer Abdolkarim Soroush, who previously participated in the forced Islam- ization of Iranian universities under Ayatollah Khomeini. But, perhaps most telling, is that Feldman provides no analysis of the human rights tragedy engendered by the failed Iranian theocracy and its experimentation with Shari'a-inspired, "culturally authentic" Islamic "democracy." We must hope that the scholarly insights of Pro- fessor Reza Afshari, an Iranian secularist, will penetrate Feldman's hubris. At any rate, the following excerpt from the Preface (page xvi) to Afshari's Human Rights in Iran--The Abuse of Cultural Relativism (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/ 081223605X/qid%3D1054153224/sr%3D11-1/ref%3Dsr%5F11%5F1/002-9808946 -2229627), should be required reading for Feldman. The except is as follows:
"...Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran has presented an almost perfect case. Who is more culturally and religiously authentic than the Ayatollah's? Who is more credible to say what relevance Shiite culture has or does not have for the major issues of our time? The issue is not Islam as a private faith of individuals. It is about what state officials claiming Islamic authority might have to say about the state's treatment of citizens. Islamic cultural relativism in human rights discourse addresses Islamic cul- tural preferences for the articulation of public policies within the contemporary state. In Iran, liberal Muslims or any other new interpreters of Islam did not come to pow- er. When and if they do, we will have their record to examine. What we have from liberal Muslims today are only ideological claims punctuated by expressed good intentions. A sector of the traditional custodians of religion, the ulema, politicizing Islam, did come to power; therefore it is logical to assume what we faced in the 1980s and 1990s was the result of Shiite Islam (at least an authentic version of it) injecting itself into the politics of a contemporary state. They created a record of what the "culturally authentic" rulers did. The Western cultural relativists deserve to know the details of that record...."
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Dr.Andrew G. Bostom, MD, is Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School, Providence, Rhode Island, and is an occasional contributor to Na- tional Review Online.
Dr. Bostom's article is republished here with the permission of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society (ISIS), an
organization formed to promote within Islamic society the ideals of rationalism, secularism, constitutional democracy and human rights,
including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of thought and belief, freedom of intellectual and scientifiv inquiry, and freedom
of conscience and religion. The article was originally published on the Institute's website, located at http://www.secularislam.org.
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