Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rose Wilder Lane's Give Me Liberty

I have just finished reading Rose Wilder Lane's splendid little book Give Me Liberty. Here are some of the key aspects that attracted my attention that I wish to shed some light on:

(1) On the Separation of "Mosque and State": I came across this passage on pp. 10:
The Reformation reduced the power of the State, the priests, so that common men were free to think and speak as they pleased.

This sentence inspired me to think of a proposition many Western non-Muslims (and some Western and non-Western Muslims) make in attempt to reform Islamic nations: Islamic countries have to separate religion from state to attain a liberal democracy. At first sight, this statement may make sense, even among Muslims, but especially among Westerners. However, eventually, many a Muslim will be baffled by such a statement. For the Muslim will ask: How can we separate religion from the state if the mullahs/imams are not supposed to (1) be heads of state, nor (2) have any religious and nonreligious authority over us? Unlike, say, the Catholic Church, imams are not supposed to hold power and construct a structure called "The Mosque" that rules over people. In Islam one speaks directly to God, without the need for any intermediaries. However, there are wise elders among the people. Their virtue of wisdom may imply that they would naturally be religious persons (e.g., imams), especially when virtue draws a lot of substance from religious scripture. However, religious scholarship has rarely been a prerequisite to "state leadership".

In fact, most caliphates were hereditary, except for the first four "rightful Caliphs" (according to the Sunni tradition), who themselves have been, strictly speaking, elected (through a democratic process called bay'aa). The first four Caliphs were indeed individuals of virtue and possessed religious knowledge, but two were, for example, also businessmen (Abu Bakr and Othman). While their highest virtue is probably religious expertise, they also were excellent statesmen and successful and popular individuals in society. Later Caliphs simply came to power through hereditary systems, regardless of their religiosity, virtue, or success as people in society. In essence, I believe, many of the Caliphs did not have to have a certain prerequisite amount of religious knowledge and virtue. To many Muslims, they only had rules, pretty much like Europeans had kings. The only (major) difference is that Muslim Caliphs never had "divine support". While a Caliph is to be followed as the leader of Muslims, the Caliph could be deposed and replaced, his authority challenged or ignored. Neither could Caliphs, for example, and in contrast to European Kings, endow any person or entity a monopoly. As such, Caliphs had limited powers unlike their European counterparts, which brings me back to my original point. In many ways, it does not make sense to demand that Islamic Nations separate "Mosque and State", because they simply were not supposed to be integrated in the first place. The role of religion in the "state" is only through legislation (through consensus [shoura] and the input or religious scholars, which is exactly how much of Western democracies make laws [i.e., through the legislature]), but I hope to comment on that in the future.

(2) On the Abrahamic Faiths and Liberty: Another interesting passage that mentions Islam is this (pp. 17):
I began at last to question the value of this personal freedom which had seemed so inherently right. I saw how rare, how new in history, is a recognition of human rights. From Brittany to Basra I considered the ruins of brilliant civilizations where peoples had never glimpsed the idea that men are born free. In sixty centuries of human history that idea [that men are born free] was an element of Jewish-Christian-Moslem religious faith, never used as a political principle. It has been a political principle to only a few men on earth, for little more than two centuries. Asia did not know it. Africa did not know it. Europe had never wholly accepted it, and was now rejecting it.

In this passage, after Ms. Lane had described her experience in fascist Italy in 1927, she highlights how the idea of Liberty, while it is new in the political sense, has been in existence and appreciated among the three Abrahamic faiths in a religious sense. I will probably return to Ms. Lane's ideas on, specifically, Islam and Liberty after I am done reading her book Islam and the Discovery of Freedom.

(3) A Comment to My American Friends: In this small book there are gems of wisdom, written in a warm story-telling style, on how very radically different this American phenomenon is from its European counterparts. This book is a must read for every American (and non-American) who wishes to preserve American liberty and American individualism. Rose Wilder Lane is one of millions of reasons to be proud to be American.

(4) Ms. Lane and Ludwig von Mises: Interestingly, on pp. 50, Ms. Lane also has a quote from von Mises' Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and the Total War (pdf). Apparently, Rose Wilder Lane was a Misesian!

Finally, let me close this post with a quote made by Ms. Lane (pp. 57) that many Muslims (and, in fact, many theists and atheists) could benefit from:
Americans are thinking politically again, as they have
not thought for eighty years [the book was written around WWII], and they have not forgotten that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God. They are answering the question I should have known better than to ask, ten years ago. They are answering it now in Europe and Asia, and tomorrow they will answer it at home. The answer is:
Yes, individualism has the strength to resist all attacks.

But, for some reason, many Muslims seem to have forgotten that resisting tyranny requires as a prerequisite a retention of individualism. For many of the troubles Muslims find themselves in today are due to, mainly, the collectivist obedience some young radical Muslims have when they give up their individualism and blindly listen to the extremist ideology advocated by a few to control the minds of the young and weak at heart, similar to what Fascist and Nationalist European dictators did leading up to WWII.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Champions of Liberty on Islam Posts

Following up on my Lord Acton on Muslims Post, I will be posting more such threads to shed light on some of the literary and popular views (positive or negative) of the champions of liberty on Islam. Coming up will be a long thread on Rose Wilder Lane's book on Islam and the Dicovery of Freedom, and another shorter one on Laurence M. Vance's article Mises on Islam, just to name two. Stay put!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lord Acton on Muslims

I came across this passage in John Dalberg-Acton's ("Lord Acton", 1834-–1902) book The History of Freedom (pp. 186):
If we give our admiration to tolerance, we must remember that the Spanish Moors and the Turks in Europe have been more tolerant than the Christians.

It is worth noting that the other two instance in which "Mohammedans" (i.e., Muslims) were mentioned were in regards to the "Catholic and Protestant Theory of Persecution". Regarding the "Catholic theory", Lord Acton says (pp. 169):
Where a portion of the inhabitants of any country preferred a different creed, Jew, Mohammedan, heathen, or schismatic, they had been generally tolerated, with enjoyment of property and personal freedom, but not with that of political power or autonomy.

On the "Protestant Theory", Lord Acton says (pp. 179):
They [Catholics], as well as the Jews and the Mohammedans, must be allowed to live: death was only the penalty [for apostasy] of Protestants who relapsed into error; but to them it applied equally whether they were converted to the Church or joined the sects and fell into unbelief.

It is time that we all, Muslim and non-Muslim, try to revive these eras of tolerance by Muslims and toward Muslims.

Note: I am currently reading Lord Acton's book, which is available for download at the Online Library of Liberty (OLL).

Note 2: If you do not know who Lord Acton is, here is a brief description of him on OLL:
Lord Acton was one of the great historians of the Victorian period and one of the greatest classical liberal historians of all time. His theme was “the history of liberty” and even though he was never able to complete his magnum opus of that name he did write numerous essays, book reviews, and lectures. He also was the inspiration behind the multi-volume Cambridge Modern History.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Challenge to Muslim Leaders

I recently came across this video of Congressman Ron Paul. If Muslims think hard enough about their religion, it should not be hard that one of them rise to the level of discourse that this honorable politician displays.

Friday, November 23, 2007

On Islam's Capacity to Evolve

I recently came across a January 2005 article in The Atlantic entitled "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Islam" by Sage Stossel. It is a flashback on whether "democracy [can] take root in a predominantly Islamic part of the world". It is an overview of Atlantic contributions on the topic from the early to the late twentieth century. The highlight of the article is the conclusion:
How democracy will fare in a region where the West is viewed by many with hostility and suspicion remains to be seen. But as [Toby] Lester points out, "Islam became one of the world's great religions in part because of its openness to social change and new ideas." If Islam can rediscover its innate capacity to evolve and adapt without losing its essential identity, then perhaps its followers may realize that Islam is in fact better equipped to encounter the West in a peaceful and enriching way than is currently imagined.

The best mechanism to revive the Muslim world is to rediscover this "openness to social change and new ideas". And in this paragraph, the point that is most interesting, is that to fight Islamic extremism, it is not necessary to fight Islam itself. By reviving an important, now forgotten, aspect of Islam (that of openness to change, and new ideas and challenges) "without loosing Islam's essential identity" is the easiest path to defeating extremism and making liberty and democracy of value among Muslims without offending their religious sensibilities.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Islam & Suicide Attacks

It is very sad to hear many people believe that Islam condones suicide attacks. I find this very odd for several reasons.

Firstly, suicide itself is never condoned in Islam. Taking one's own life is a big no-no:
Destroy not yourselves. Surely God is ever merciful to you. Qur'an 4:29

Secondly, there are instructions in the Qur'an that specifically prohibit terrorism (i.e., the killing of non-combat forces in battle, and by extension, in peace), and that promotes non-violence:
Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Qur'an 5:32

Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and in the race for a garden wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the righteous- (the righteous are) those who spend whether in prosperity or adversity, who restrain anger and who pardon all people. For God loves those who do good. Qur'an 3:133–134

Invite all to the way of thy God with wisdom and beautiful preaching. And argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious. For thy God knows best who have strayed from his path and who receive guidance. And if you do respond to an attack, respond no worse than they did. But if you show patience, that is indeed the best course. Be patient- for your patience is from God . . . Indeed, God is with those who restrain themselves and those who do good. Qur'an 16:125-128

O You who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor, for God can best protect both. Follow not the cravings of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well acquainted with all that you do. Qur'an 4:135

To those who persevere in doing good is a reward more than in measure. No darkness nor shame shall cover their faces. They are companions of the garden where they will live forever. But those who have earned evil will have a reward like evil. Humiliation will cover their faces. They will have no defender from God. Qur'an 10:26-27

The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree), but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God, for God does not love those who do wrong. But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong done to them, against such there is no cause of blame. The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice, for such there will be a penalty grievous. Qur'an 42:40-43

Thirdly, it is important to point out that suicide attacks are not a Muslim invention. See this for an informal introduction to the history of suicide attacks.

Finally, has there been Islamic suicide attacks before the use of the terror tactic (unfortunately, in the name of Islam) in the Holy Land, which started a only a few decades ago? If there has been consistent use of suicide attacks by Muslims throughout the 1400 year history of Islam, then one may claim that suicide attacks are condoned by Islam (whether wars conducted in the name of Islam are justified or not is a different story --wars are not equivalent to suicide attacks, but that will have to be addressed in another thread*). But the fact remains that suicide attacks in Islam is a very modern phenomenon, that is increasingly being used by Islamist terrorists.

Watch this portion of a debate between Dinesh D'Souza and Constitutionalist Republican nominee for President Rep. Ron Paul of Texas (as well as Larry Abraham and Doug Casey) at the Freedom Fest 2007 (specifically, see minute 7 onwards). I think the Congressman has it exactly right. But note that his explanation does not approve of terror tactics. It only explains what motivates the terrorists. The whole thing can be found here. This is a very interesting debate to watch.

And this discussion between Congressman Paul and Michael Scheuer is also very relevant to what motivates the extremists. It was a follow up of a Republican Party debate that preceded by a few days.

Related to this topic are the article's found at the Minaret of Freedom, and the website Muslims Against Terrorism.

The moral of the post:

(1) Terrorists who use Islam to justify their terror crimes are abusing the message of the Qur'an. They will use language taken out context from the Qur'an, and ignore the verses and arguments provided above that proves them dead wrong.

(2) There are those in the West who believe that the blame should entirely be placed on Islam as the core evil. To prove this, they essentially commit the same mistake that the terrorists fall into, which is to ignore the verses and guidelines from Islamic jurisprudence that clearly indicate that terrorism can not be condoned by Islam. I believe they do so out of sincere ignorance of Islamic theology. By blaming Islam, they may alienate a lot of "moderate" Muslims (alienating them does not imply that they themselves become terrorists; on the contrary, they may be less interested in helping in the war on extremism, which is, I believe, what we observe among many moderate Muslims today). However, by noting the above evidence and using it, those who want to fight the War on Terror can instead use Islam to fight the jihadis ideologically by showing them that their tactics are not justified. This does not rule out the option of taking action against criminals and terrorists who commit terror crimes.

* Since I brought this issue up, the rules of engagement in war were summarized by the Prophet of Islam in this quote:
Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.

For a brief introduction to Islamic military jurisprudence, see this Wikipedia entry.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Muhammad Asad

Hit and Run's commenter kolohe has recently asked me a few interesting questions about Islam. In the discussion, kolohe pointed me to a translation of the Qur'an by Dawood. Having not read that particular translation, I suggested that Muhammad Asad's commentary is probably way better. Admiring Asad myself, I gave kolohe some background about Asad that I thought to share with readers of Islamolibertarianism. Here it is:

I would rather trust Muhammad Asad's The Message of the Qur'an. I haven't read it, but I have read his Road to Mecca, which also gives great insight into the synergy between wahabism and the House of Saud. The book itself reads like a national geographic story. His writing is very elegant and reads like a story.

Asad's personal story (which he tells in The road to Mecca) is very interesting --way more interesting than T. E. Lawrence's. He was born Leopold Weiss (to a long line of rabbis) in 1900 in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, led an intellectual (somewhat hedonistic) life in Germany and wrote for the Frankfurter Zeitung. At some point he decided to visit his uncle in the Holy Land, at which point he discovered Arab culture, and Islam.

His journeys are very interesting. Toping it all, he helped in the founding of Pakistan (!!!) and represented it in the UN for some time. He moved to Spain and died there in 1992. One of his more interesting views is that in Islam, the veil is not mandatory. Other than that he is religiously mainstream and is probably the best person to present the story of Islam to the West. More can be found here.

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