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Old 08-28-2013   #1
graphei
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Default Book #1: Religion and State by L. Carl Brown

Religion and State: The Muslim Approach to Politics by L. Carl Brown is our first book. All discussions about this book will go in this thread.

If you are interested in ordering the book, it is available on Amazon. If you are so inclined, use the SWJ affiliate link to order it and help support SWJ in the process. This ISBN's are as follows:

ISBN-10: 0231120397
ISBN-13: 978-0231120395

Discussions will start September 16th to give everyone a chance to get ahold of this book and begin reading.

Reminders:
- Please give a page number when bringing up an item or quote for discussion.
- Critical reading is encouraged, but please back up your critique with a source!
- Endnotes and Footnotes are worth taking a look at.
- Same with the works cited/bibliography. It's a treasure trove of excellent sources.
- Have fun and ask questions!

There will be a lot of vocabulary and dates tossed around. I will create a list of both in a separate thread as the vocabulary and dates will carry over between readings. I will do my best to keep it current!

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Old 08-28-2013   #2
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Professor Graphei,

How far do you want us to be come the Sep 15th?
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Old 08-28-2013   #3
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I think everyone should be able to finish Part I (74 pages) by then. Part II may need to be split in half to be doable.
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Old 09-05-2013   #4
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Is it OK to post rolling comments as we read? or to finish part X and then say something?
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Old 09-05-2013   #5
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Sure. I'd focus more on questions now as others may be encountering similar things. Delving into the nitty gritty may be a touch premature.
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Old 09-19-2013   #6
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It is the 19th September. I take it the seminar was cancelled? In that case, where's the pub!
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Old 09-19-2013   #7
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I have only reached page 42 (I started reading Wolf Hall, which turned out to be a MUCH more interesting and intelligent book ) but until now (and of course, it’s still too early to say much) I am not very impressed. It’s a good summary of some basics, but the approach is too conventional and not “rich” or especially insightful.
Until now. I may change my mind later.
A few minor random observations:
Chapter one is a good quick description of where Muslims live and what sects there are (of course, population figures are out of date). But it may be unnecessary to even bring up the fact that “more Muslims live outside the middle east...” because crucial theological and ideological questions are all being fought out on a middle-eastern basis. To the extent that Islam is an issue in the political life of Muslim countries, it is an issue with an almost exclusively middle-eastern history and background.
Chapter 2: p-20’s description of the “Muslim view of Christianity and Judaism” (that Judaism and Christianity are partial revelations, later completed by Islam) is one way some Muslims may look upon this issue. But others (probably more numerous in the general public, and certainly more representative of the Salafist, Wahabist and Maudoodist view) will place emphasis on the fact that God sent an (in its own way) complete revelation to them too (maybe different in some details, but not “partial”) but they have corrupted it. What they now know as Judaism or Christianity is NOT what God sent them. This last point is crucial.
P-21: West Pakistan’s violent suppression of Bengali nationalism is a very poor example of the “narcissism of small differences” that Brown is discussing here.
P-22. This is extreme nitpicking, but really, the way Muslims see Western power today and the way Christendom saw Muslim power in the middle ages are NOT symmetrical opposites.
P-26. The principle of “no compulsion in religion” was historically NOT the basis for tolerance it is now advertised to be. Tolerance was very real in many periods, but it was pragmatic. When less pragmatic rulers decided to be intolerant, masses of clerics and divines did not stand up to say “but you are violating the principle of X”. The principle is a recent discovery.

Btw, if you are interested in comparing monotheisms, professor FE Peters is your man. Really amazing scholarship. http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/397928.F_E_Peters
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Old 09-20-2013   #8
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Default The Same God ...

From p.20:

Quote:
Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God, believe in revelation, holy scriptures, heaven and hell, and have similar attitudes toward history and the role of humankind in fulfilling the divine purpose.
If I've heard or read the bolded phrase once, I've heard or read it a thousand times. Of course, it's not true. It's impossible to square a Unitarian God with a Trinitarian God. Nonetheless, "we worship the same God" is a common piece of rhetoric for those who want to bridge the faith gap. I suspect that it does more harm than good.

Brown, while apparently oblivious of this at p.20, recognized the faith gap at pp.23-24:

Quote:
Indeed, the Islamic religious outlook makes it extremely difficult for Muslims to understand the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, even less to view it sympathetically. To Muslims the idea of God-in-man comes across as shirk (literally, association, thus meaning the linking of any person or thing with the ineffable God), and shirk is the gravest of sins in Islam.

Some years ago I sat in on a discussion between an eminent Egyptian ‘alim and an equally eminent Catholic priest famed for his rich, nuanced scholarly study of Islam. An exhilarating atmosphere of mutual respect and mutual understanding reigned, but then the ‘alim raised the issue of the Trinity, bringing in its wake a discussion characterized by misunderstanding and even animosity poorly papered over by scholarly politesse on both sides.
If I, as a "shirker" (say, a traditional Roman Catholic), tell a Muslim that we worship the same God, am I not blaspheming his God ?

That's the major quibble I found in Chapter 2.

Regards

Mike
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Old 09-20-2013   #9
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I have only gotten to page 44, but what I find interesting is the connection between religion and nationalism in general. for example, if the colonial powers had not "created" states like Egypt would the connection between religion and government not been created by the Muslim Brotherhood?

Is religious identity politicized in the process of creating a national identity?

My answer is "yes", particularly since values are tied so closely to political legitimacy and religion provides a ready-made set of values to work from or to build on.

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Old 09-25-2013   #10
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Originally Posted by omarali50 View Post

[A] Chapter 2: p-20’s description of the “Muslim view of Christianity and Judaism” (that Judaism and Christianity are partial revelations, later completed by Islam) is one way some Muslims may look upon this issue. But others (probably more numerous in the general public, and certainly more representative of the Salafist, Wahabist and Maudoodist view) will place emphasis on the fact that God sent an (in its own way) complete revelation to them too (maybe different in some details, but not “partial”) but they have corrupted it. What they now know as Judaism or Christianity is NOT what God sent them. This last point is crucial.

[B] P-22. This is extreme nitpicking, but really, the way Muslims see Western power today and the way Christendom saw Muslim power in the middle ages are NOT symmetrical opposites.

[A]
Correct, indeed according to Akhtar, Quran and the Secular Mind
Quote:
With the coming of Islam, the earlier people of the book are dismissed as a failed spiritual experiment (Q:57:16–17). p. 29
And in Freidman’s words, Tolerance and Coercion in Islam,
Quote:
Islamic tradition Islam is not only the historical religion and institutional framework, which was brought into existence by the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century, but also the primordial religion of mankind, revealed to Adam at the time of his creation. This is intimately related to the conception that Adam was a prophet,16 and to the notion that Ibrahim was a Muslim in this metahistorical sense. The idea that Islam had been the primordial religion of mankind, preached by the prophets of old, created an affinity between the Prophet Muhammad [an excellent legitimating strategy on his part- T] and his predecessors in the prophetic office. Muslim tradition frequently presents the Prophet as a brother, or a spiritual heir, of ancient prophets. Numerous episodes in his traditional sıra reflect this perception. During his visit to the city of Ta’if, the Prophet met a young man from the city of Nınawa (= Nineveh) and described himself as brother of Yünus b. Matta (= Jonah) who hailed from the same city (dhaka akhı kana nabiyyan wa ana nabı). When he reached Medina and was told that the Jews were fasting on the tenth day of the first month (ashüra, corresponding to the Day of Atonement, yom ha-kippurim), because on that day Allah saved the sons of Israel from their enemies and Moses fasted on that day, Muhammad said: “I am more deserving of Moses than you are” (ana a˛aqqu bi-Müsa minkum) and fasted on that day. He is also reported to have said that he was “the person worthiest of Jesus” (ana awla al-nas bi-Isa b. Maryam). The intimate relationship between Jesus and Muhammad is sometimes explained by the belief that no prophet was sent by Allah between them.All these traditions can be subsumed under the general statement according to which “the prophets are half-brothers: their mothers are different, but their religion is one” (… al-anbiya ikhwatun li-fiallat ummahatuhum shatta wa dınuhum wahid). This is understood to mean that the prophets’ belief in the unity of God and in the principles of their respective religions (usül al-dın) is one, but they differ with regard to the particular laws ( furü amaliyyat, fiqhiyyat). This is comparable with certain changes which occurred in the religion of Islam itself: at one time the Muslims were commanded to face Jerusalem in prayer; later their qibla was changed to Mecca. Nevertheless, Islam remained the same religion. Similar developments can be discerned in the development of the prophetic religions in general. For instance, the Children of Israel had been commanded to keep the Sabbath; when Islam emerged, the observance of the Sabbath was forbidden and replaced by Friday. Thus, though particular laws have been changed by Allah in the course of time, the religion of all the prophets is still the same.
In other words, Islam abrogated all previous religions (anything that comes afterward is just madness of course). Of course, with Islam the concept of fitrah states that all people are born Muslim and are only perverted from Truth by their non-Islamic parents or the culture they live in. One of the purposes of Jihad (as a subordinate concept [ways] of Dawa [ends]) is to free them from the “shackles of self-imposed immaturity” (if I may pervert Kant). What we call the Islamic conquests were called the futuhaat (the openings) and aimed at freeing the world from Jahilliya and bringing it back to Truth. Sort of like the Yanks making the world safe for democracy and freedom (or, rather their concept of it) or even the Communists.


If I may I’d like to offer a counter-point in the form of an anecdote. In 2008 I was sitting at the library in Brunel “university” researching for an essay on Soviet security policy, sharing a table with a four Pakistani girls, one with a hijab. They were talking about boys so I ignored them for the most part (apart from when they used their mobiles…in the library!) Anyway, somewhere between Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 of Tucker’s, Soviet Political Mind, their conversation had turned to religion. One of the girls said that their father had told them that all religions were equal and that everyone had a heaven to go to. Some of the girls nodded. Except for Hijab-girl. She smiled condescendingly and said (and I paraphrase) “that’s what they say but that’s not what our deen (i.e. religion) says. If you knew Islam properly you would know that. How can the kaffir be equal to a Muslim?” Knowing where that conversation was going (not an untypical conversation for Brunel, or SOAS, or Kings, or even Oxford) I decided to repair to the bar. Sometimes having a permanent tan has its advantages you know (I wouldn’t have heard that conversation otherwise).


[B] An important point often neglected. Many people forget, or don’t even know, that up until the end of the Second Crusade the Crusaders themselves were unaware that they were fighting a rival universalist group and had been calling the Muslims “Hagarenes” up to that point. The whole collision of Europe with Islam is a messy field of, if I may borrow a phrase, perception and misperception.
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Old 09-25-2013   #11
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[C] P-26. The principle of “no compulsion in religion” was historically NOT the basis for tolerance it is now advertised to be. Tolerance was very real in many periods, but it was pragmatic. When less pragmatic rulers decided to be intolerant, masses of clerics and divines did not stand up to say “but you are violating the principle of X”. The principle is a recent discovery. [/url]
[C] Let’s not forget, firstly, that that verse is a meccan verse and was thus, in Islamic theology, abrogated by the following Medinan verses. Of course there will be those who decry recourse to Naksh as hair-splitting. Apparently, Islamic theology is irrelevant and the use of it by Mujahedeen forces globally is nothing more than opportunism (i.e., they’d do what they do anyway). But one tends not to be able to argue with people like that.

As per the Encyclopedia of the Quran, Vol. 5,
Quote:
Q 2:256, “There is no compulsion in religion . . .” (lā ikrāha fī l-dīni) has become the locus classicus for discussions of religious tolerance in Islam. Surprisingly enough, according to the “circumstances of revelation” (asbāb al-nuzūl) literature (see occasions of revelation), it was revealed in connection with the expulsion of the Jewish tribe of Banū l-Nadīr from Medina in 4⁄625 In the earliest works of exegesis (see exegesis of the Quran: classical and medieval), the verse is understood as an injunction (amr) to refrain from the forcible imposition of Islam, though there is no unanimity of opinion regarding the precise group of infidels to which the injunction had initially applied. Commentators who maintain that the verse was originally meant as applicable to all people consider it as abrogated (mansūkh) by q 9:5, q 9:29, or q 9:73 (see abrogation). Viewing it in this way is necessary in order to avoid the glaring contradiction between the idea of tolerance and the policies of early Islam which did not allow the existence of polytheism — or any other religion — in a major part of the Arabian peninsula. Those who think that the verse was intended, from the very beginning, only for the People of the Book, need not consider it as abrogated: though Islam did not allow the existence of any religion other than Islam in most of the peninsula, the purpose of the jihād (q.v.)against the People of the Book, according to q 9:29, is their submission and humiliation rather than their forcible conversion to Islam.[...]

These tolerant attitudes toward the non-Muslims of Arabia were not destined to last. After the Muslim victory in the battle of Badr (q.v.; 2⁄624), the Qur_ān started to promote the idea of religious uniformity in the Arabian peninsula. q 8:39 enjoins the Muslims “to fight… till there is no temptation [to abandon Islam; fitna] and the religion is God’s entirely” (cf. q 2:193).Once this development took place, the clauses in the _ahd al-umma bestowing legitimacy on the existence of the Jewish religion in Medina had to undergo substantial reinterpretation. The clause stipulating that “the Jews have their religion and the believers have theirs” was now taken to mean that the Jewish religion is worthless (ammā l-dīn fa-laysū minhu fī shay.[...] According to them [spiritualist theologians], q 2:256 is not a command at all. Rather it ought to be understood as a piece of information (khabar), or, to put it differently, a description of the human condition: it conveys the idea that embracing a religious faith (q.v.) can only be the result of empowerment and free choice (tamkīn, ikhtiyār). It cannot be the outcome of constraint and coercion (qasr, ijbār). Phrased differently, belief is “an action of the heart (q.v.)” in which no compulsion is likely to yield sound results (li-anna l-ikrāh _alā l-īmānlā ya_i__u li-annahu _amal al-qalb). Religious coercion would also create a theologically unacceptable situation: if people were coerced into true belief, their positive response to prophetic teaching would become devoid of value, the world would cease to be “an abode of trial” (dār al-ibtilā_; Rāzī, Tafsīr, vii, 13; Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād, iv, 67; see trust and patience; trial) and, consequently, the moral basis for the idea of reward and punishment would be destroyed. This argumentationuses the verse in support of the idea of free will. p.292

Similar was the fate of q 109:6, which was declared abrogated by q 9:5 (āyat al-sayf ) or interpreted as a threat against the polytheists. This new attitude was also expressed in the prophetic tradition according to which “no two religions will coexist in the Arabian peninsula” (lā yajtami_u dīnāni fī jazīrat al-_arab). Despite the apparent meaning of q 2:256, Islamic law allowed coercion of certain groups into Islam. Numerous traditionists and jurisprudents ( fuqahā_) allow coercing female polytheists and Zoroastrians (see magians) who fall into captivity to become Muslims — otherwise sexual relations with them would not be permissible (cf. q 2:221; see sex and sexuality; marriage and divorce). Similarly, forcible conversion of non-Muslim children was also allowed by numerous jurists in certain circumstances, especially if the children were taken captive (see captives) or found without their parents or if one of their parents embraced Islam. It was also the common practice to insist on the conversion of the Manichaeans, who were never awarded the status of ahl al-dhimma. Another group against whom religious coercion may be practiced are apostates from Islam (see apostasy). As a rule, classical Muslim law demands that apostatesbe asked to repent and be put to death if they refuse.
P. 292


As Friedman explains in, Tolerance and Coercion in Islam,
Quote:
Concerning the question of abrogation (naskh), two exegetical trends can be discerned in the Quranic commentaries. According to some traditionists and commentators, Quran 2:256 initially applied to all people, and was one of the “armistice verses” (ayat al-muwadafia).75 Eventually it was abrogated. Quran 9:73 abrogated it with regard to the polytheists, and Qur√n 9:29 did the same with regard to the People of the Book. According to numerous other traditions, it was abrogated by “the verse of the sword” (yat al-sayf ), a term normally used for Quran 9:5. In other words, Quran 2:256 was revealed as universally valid and prohibited religious coercion with regard to all humanity. After the revelation of the two later verses, however, it was abrogated and the ruling included in it has not been in force ever since. This view of the doctrinal development can be supported, at least in part, by the jurists’ perception of the history of Islam during the Prophet’s lifetime: according to this perception, the Prophet fought the Arab mushrikün, forced them to embrace Islam, and did not accept from them anything except conversion. It is inconceivable that the Prophet would have done this if he had been obliged to follow Quran 2:256.

Both verses that are said to have abrogated Quran 2:256 speak about jihad. It can be inferred from this that the commentators who consider Quran 2:256 as abrogated perceive jihad as contradicting the idea of religious freedom. While it is true that religious differences are mentioned in both Quran 9:29 and 9:73 as the reason because of which the Muslims were commanded to wage war, none of them envisages the forcible conversion of the vanquished enemy. Quran 9:29 defines the purpose of the war as the imposition of the jizya on the People of the Book and their humiliation, while Quran 9:73 speaks only about the punishment awaiting the infidels and the hypocrites in the hereafter, and leaves the earthly purpose of the war undefined. Jihad and religious freedom are not mutually exclusive by necessity; religious freedom could be granted to the non-Muslims after their defeat, and commentators who maintain that Quran 2:256 was not abrogated freely avail themselves of this exegetical possibility with regard to theJews, the Christians and the Zoroastrians. However, the commentators who belong to the other exegetical trend do not find it advisable to think along these lines, and find it necessary to insist on the abrogation of Quran 2:256 in order to resolve the seeming contradiction between this verse and the numerous verses enjoining jihad. p. 102-3

I am also a fan of Peters work BTW.
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Old 09-25-2013   #12
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If I, as a "shirker" (say, a traditional Roman Catholic), tell a Muslim that we worship the same God, am I not blaspheming his God ?

That's the major quibble I found in Chapter 2.
You’ll be fine if you’re a Nestorian or a Julianist.

The point you’ve made is not just a quibble but a major criticism and one I find recurring in many such texts (usually those with a polemically multi-cultural axe to grind).

The Christianity with which Mohammed was familiar, as were his contemporaries and many of his successors was that of the Arian, Monophysite and more importantly the Nestorian varieties with an admixture of Ethiopian Copt. Arabia and the Levant contained the major and significant (at the time) communities following heterodox variations of the Christian theme/tradition (“Christianity” if there is such a thing, unlike Islam, has a much more complex origin, who, for instance knows anything about the early Jewish Christian movements!). When Muslims speak of Christianity as having become perverted they do so on the basis of the understanding of Christianity that Muhammad himself held. In the Islamic worldview Trinitarian conceptions of Christ elevate him to the status of equality with God and thus approach polytheism(shirk) but only because their own understanding is based on sources inimical to that concept already. After the Islamic conquests many “Christian” communities actually found it easier to live under Islam because Muslims did not persecute them for refusing to tow the Constantinian line of Trinitarianism (but also because in holding such views they did not undermine the foundations of Islamic power given the Trinitarian outlook was associated with Islam’s major rival Byzantium). The role of these early heterodox communities in providing Islam with many of its conceptions of who and what Christ is/should be is interesting in terms of the history of ideas. Of course, Muhammad and Muslims only chose those aspects of these traditions that did not undermine Muhammad’s self concept or his vision for his followers.

The following provides a compressed introduction to this fascinating subject….

Irfan Shahid, “Islam and Oriens Christianus: Makka, 610-622 AD” in Grypeou, “The Encounter of Eastern Christianity with Early Islam”

Quote:
“After the fall of the Ethiopian house of Abraha around 570 ad and the occupation of south Arabia by the Persians, the Ethiopians were scattered as communities in western Arabia, and it was in Makka that a strong Ethiopian colony was to be found in the forty years or so that followed the Persian occupation. They fought for the Makkans and protected them from external threats, guarded their caravans, and performed certain menial duties for them. More relevant for the theme of this chapter is to emphasize their assimilation into Arab and Makkan society. Ibn Habib has a chapter on Makkans who married Ethiopian women, and so some Makkans were sons of Ethiopian parents. Even more striking is the Ethiopian participation in the highest forms of Arabic culture in pre-Islamic times—poetry. The Ethiopian community in Arabia produced some poets, including the celebrated ‘Antar, whose Qasida was counted among the famous Mu‘allaqat, suspended odes. With important trade relations between Makka and Ethiopia across the Red Sea, and a strong Ethiopian colony in Makka itself performing various functions for the Makkans and contracting marriages with some of them, it is natural to suppose that the Makkans should have acquired some knowledge of Ethiopic, and that some Ethiopic words entered into the Arabic of the Makkans. It is also natural to suppose that this colony of Ethiopians must have had an Ethiopic Bible and a place where they could conduct their religious services, if not a church at least an oratory, and they must have had a cleric to celebrate their weddings and officiate at their funerals.[...]” p. 13-14
[...]
“great Christian Arab centre to the south of Makka, Najran in south Arabia, the city that was the scene of well-known martyrdoms which led to its rise as the great centre of pilgrimage in the peninsula. Most relevant for our question its emergence as the location of so many non-orthodox Christian denominations which gave the peninsula the reputation of being Arabia haeresium ferax, ‘Arabia the breeding ground of heresies”. P.18
[...]
“The following are the various Christian denominations which flourished in Najran and south Arabia, a region close to Makka and, what is more, Arabic speaking. They shed a bright light on Quranic Christology:

1. In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantius (who was an Arian like his father Constantine towards the end of his life, and like his successors down to Theodosius the Great) sent his emissary Theophilus Indus to convert south Arabia to Christianity. There the latter succeeded in founding three churches. The Arians, as is well known, emphasized the humanity of Christ and rejected his divinity. Although condemned by the Council of Nicea, Arianism lingered long mostly in the Roman occident, and it is just possible that it lingered also in the orient, in south Arabia, until the sixth or seventh century, as it did until that time among some of the Germanic tribes of western Europe.

2. More important are the Monophysites who dominated the entire Red Sea area, including south Arabia and Najran in particular. The moderate form of Monophysitism, that of Severus of Antioch, prevailed, but this could not have been the provenance of the Quranic rejection of Christ’s divinity, since it accepted the epithet Theotokos applied to the Virgin Mary, which also emphasized his divinity. What is relevant in bringing Monophysitism into this
discussion is to give attention to the appearance of a group within this larger Severan mainstream Monophysitism, namely the Julianists, followers of Julian of Halicarnassus, called the Aphthartodocetae, also related to Docetism, which in one of its forms held that before the crucifixion, Judas Iscariot or Simon of Cyrene was substituted for Jesus who thus miraculously escaped death. Docetism is derived from the Greek verb dokein, ‘to seem’, and the Quranic phrase on the denial of the crucifixion and the substitution of someone else for him, in the phrase wa-lakin shubbiha lahum, is practically a calque of the Greek docetic phrase of the substitution; the root of the Arabic shubbiha is identical with the Greek dokein, and this clearly points to a translation of this docetic view into Arabic in the sixth century, known in Najran where the Julianists lived. They and other related groups had flocked to Najran after being ejected from Orthodox Byzantium and it is there that they spread their teachings.

3. Then there were the Nestorians. The church in Najran owed its origin to Hira on the lower Euphrates, when one of their merchants, Hayyan by name, accepted Christianity there and brought it to Najran. Hira was not then Nestorian, but it became later the centre of Arab Nestorianism in the Land of the two rivers and it kept close relations with Najran and south Arabia. When the Nestorians were firmly established in Nisibis and became the great missionaries of Christianity in Asia, Najran was one of their targets (and so was south Arabia) and their presence in that region is established without doubt. To them may be ascribed the most striking phrase that described Jesus in the Quran, namely ‘Isa Ibn Maryam, ‘Jesus son of Mary’, a phrase which implies more than it expresses, that ‘Isa was not so much the son of Mary as that he was not the son of God”. p.19-20
I think when simple-minded apologists or their well meaning religious counter-parts want to try and initiate a dialogue with Muslims they really need to be aware of the subtle, but important differences and the origins of those differences. It’s not enough to say that we all believe in G-d (well, I don’t but that’s beside the point) and that therefore we should all get on with one another. That is not really the definition of a well formed formula. It is the equivalent of saying that we all believe in peace so why can’t we be peaceful? Well, as the late great Hans J. Morgenthau said, we all believe in peace, but what that peace is exactly, and what it means in reality, is why we have wars (or words to that effect). Yes Muslims want peace, but a peace on their terms. Just like we do. “Peace” or whatever word one is trying to find a homologous signifier for becomes meaningless shorn of it’s symbolic meaning within a chain of cultural signification (that didn’t sound so pompous in my head).


Morgenthau’s fifth principle of political realism;
Quote:
Political realism refuses to identify the moral aspirations of a particular nation with the moral laws that govern the universe. As it distinguishes between truth and opinion, so it distinguishes between truth and idolatry. All nations are tempted-and few have been able to resist the temptation for long-to clothe their own particular aspirations and actions in the moral purposes of the universe. To know that nations are subject to the moral law is one thing, while to pretend to know with certainty what is good and evil in the relations among nations is quite another. [...] The lighthearted equation between a particular nationalism and the counsels of Providence is morally indefensible, for it is that very sin of pride against which the Greek tragedians and the Biblical prophets have warned rulers and ruled. That equation is also politically pernicious, for it is liable to engender the distortion in judgment which, in the blindness of crusading frenzy, destroys nations and civilizations-in the name of moral principle, ideal, or God himself.
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Old 09-25-2013   #13
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I have only gotten to page 44, but what I find interesting is the connection between religion and nationalism in general. for example, if the colonial powers had not "created" states like Egypt would the connection between religion and government not been created by the Muslim Brotherhood?

Is religious identity politicized in the process of creating a national identity?

My answer is "yes", particularly since values are tied so closely to political legitimacy and religion provides a ready-made set of values to work from or to build on.
That’s a very post-Aquinas view of politics. Politics and the Political were understood by the likes of Aristotle to be the relationship of humans being to one another. That definition of man as Bios Politikos was perverted when Aquinas and his ilk translated it incorrectly (or not, depending on their purpose) into Latin as homo est naturaliter politicus, id est, socialis (man is by nature political, that is, social) thereby turning the relationship between people into something that is purely social whilst politics became merely an administrative function or process divorced from the wider populace (almost said society then, which would have been falling into that trap!). The separation of religion from politics or church and state is a peculiarly Western European, post-protestant phenomena/mania.

Nationalism is a phenomena that occurs, at least if Anthony Smith and his like are to be followed (and I think they are), when ethnic groups want control of a specific territorial space. An ethnie or ethnic group is one which has shared traditions, language, culture, dress, etc (but not race, which is a useless biological fallacy which see here, here or even here for instance). To say that Muslims have “conflated” or “perverted” Islam from a religious force into a political one is to ignore Islamic history, philosophy and theology (it is also to ignore how that conceit came to be fixed in our minds too). It also runs fowl of trying to understand or comprehend the Other is terms familiar to the self (ethnocentrism). The role of the Church and Orthodox Christianity in the Byzantine Empire, for instance, (one thinks of the causes of the Council of Nicea) is a non-Muslim/Islamic example of religion as a “political” force (isn’t it interesting how when we say “politics” we “naturally” mentally shear it away from everything else, like when we say religion, or economics, etc. Post-Enlightenment “Political science” really does strait-jacket our imaginations!). Indeed, anything, in Aristotelian terms, that concerns the relationship of beings with one another is political (pace Carl Schmitt, everything is political). The relationship of “religion” to other “spheres” of human existence (if such divisions are to be accepted; a la political “science”) remains a problem to be explained not a phenomena to be taken at face value.
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Old 09-25-2013   #14
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That’s a very post-Aquinas view of politics.
I am not so sure. As the book mentions, the separation of politics and religion can at least be traced back to Jesus' advice to render onto Caeser that which is Caeser's. This would indicate that at least the religious and the political could be considered separate.

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The separation of religion from politics or church and state is a peculiarly Western European, post-protestant phenomena/mania.
I am not so sure that Westerners have actually separated politics from the church; we have only compartmentalized their organizational charts. That was simply the result of dealing with multiple religions. India had a separation of church and state for two thousand years.

I believe that any complex society that has to deal with multiple religions either has to suppress religions not in concert with the political entities or would have to find a way to tolerate them – a defacto separation if not one sanctified by a constitutional separation. That does not mean that religion, or politics, or any other component of society are separate (or separable) from the human animal or the human condition. They are creations of the human condition and have no life without it; they are immutable from their creator.

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Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
The relationship of “religion” to other “spheres” of human existence (if such divisions are to be accepted; a la political “science”) remains a problem to be explained not a phenomena to be taken at face value.
I don't accept it at face value, and I accept the challenge of attempting to explain the phenomena.

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Old 09-25-2013   #15
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Tukhachevskii, Thank you for your very learned comments. But I just had the thought that very deep learning (which is good, which is just great) is not the level at which everyday practical politics operates.
Its not clear to me (btw, I would guess there is a deeply learned discourse about this topic too, I just dont know much about it) if the profoundest thinkers really influence events or just understand them better and laugh bitterly every night as they go to bed. At the level at which decision makers take decisions, it does not seem to matter that the actual history of Islam (or anything else) is much more complex than this thin book can encompass. So the big question may not be what the book covers and what it leaves out, but whether the WRITER of the book knew much more, understood deeply and then CHOSE (wisely?) to simplify in this manner; for the sake of actually having an impact on everyday decisions? as carefully/subtly crafted stylized facts? or is he really rather shallow and what you see is what you get?
The wise and well informed reviewer (not I; I neither know that much nor have I even read the whole thing yet) will tell us that.
I hope you will. I hope I have conveyed my rather convoluted thought process sufficiently (I know I have not conveyed it very clearly).

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Old 09-25-2013   #16
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Default An a-theistic, a-deistic (pragmatic) approach

T:

In your comment, on a multi-culturalist (cultural relativist) hypothesis:

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It’s not enough to say that we all believe in G-d (well, I don’t but that’s beside the point) and that therefore we should all get on with one another.
the phrase "...we all believe in G-d ..." is actually an improvement on Brown's statement:

Quote:
Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God,...
Asserting a widespread belief in an undefined "G-d" (a "higher power" of some kind) is different from claiming worship of the same God.

Your comment:

Quote:
After the Islamic conquests many “Christian” communities actually found it easier to live under Islam because Muslims did not persecute them for refusing to tow the Constantinian line of Trinitarianism (but also because in holding such views they did not undermine the foundations of Islamic power given the Trinitarian outlook was associated with Islam’s major rival Byzantium).
is spot on; and illustrates (your "...but also ... Byzantium") pragmatism at work - a point made by Omar in his comments and by Brown (in later chapters 3-7).

I'd be interested in hearing from a multi-culturalist (cultural relativist) on how we can "dialog" with Islam, except on matters that can be made a-theistic, a-deistic (pragmatic). Even as to the latter, we have to be able to compartmentalize our hypocracies:

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Show me a cultural relativist at 30,000 feet and I’ll show you a hypocrite. Airplanes built according to scientific principles work. They stay aloft and they get you to your chosen destination. Airplanes built to tribal or mythological specifications, such as the dummy planes of cargo cults in jungle clearings or the beeswaxed wings of Icarus, don’t.
Dawkins, p.42 pdf; link).

I'll now return to my pork sandwich, named "Lunch"; its suitably sliced sibling, with rice, will be named "Dinner".

Regards

Mike

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Old 09-27-2013   #17
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I am not so sure. As the book mentions, the separation of politics and religion can at least be traced back to Jesus' advice to render onto Caeser that which is Caeser's. This would indicate that at least the religious and the political could be considered separate.
My short rebuttal would be to mention ... the Divine Right of Kings. A longer (though still to short) response is...
Like the forgoing passage about coercion in the Quran that saying attributed to Christ has been as misunderstood and abused as it has bandied about for all number of political purposes (usually shorn of its context and transformation over the centuries). The adventure of that particular idea is complex. The meaning of that phrase had changed over the centuries and meant one thing to the Church Fathers (and Augustine), another thing to the pre-modern Princes in their conflict with the Pope and yet another to the post-Lockean generation (and Americans in particular). Its easy to forget the context of the statement and also how it was understood at the time. It has everything to do with Pilate and the attempt to “frame” Christ as a political authority in opposition (and that’s the key) to Rome. That is how St. Paul understood that phrase and how many of the later saints understood it. Once Rome itself became Christian the temporal and spiritual powers are united in the form of the Pope and the Emperor, one a lord temporal and the other a lord spiritual (so to speak). That is not a division of church and state it is a division of powers toward the same end. Again, it is not until Luther and the Reformation that the meaning attributed to that phrase begins to resemble what you Americans (via Locke) understand it to be.
Christian political theory can be said to begin (in terms of its codification) with St. Paul (during the Roman era) and find its ultimate conceptual maturity or culmination with St. Augustine and begins its long, slow unravelling with St. Aquinas. We can divide it, for convenience sake, into three periods; 1) formative, 2) consolidation (and I use that word deliberately), 3) sundering. However, the pre-Christian era needs an honourable mention so I’ll let Robin Osborne (“The Religious Contexts of Ancient Political Thought” in the Blackwell Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought), do it for me;
Quote:
“Not only was there no single voice with religious authority, but there was no separate sphere of ‘‘religious’’ matters held to be outside the authority of the state. In the modern western world religious convictions are held to be fundamentally a private matter and in the liberal state religion provides the key example of a private matter in which political interference is regarded as inappropriate. In both Greece and Rome religious life was public life and religious behaviour as proper for political control as any other form of behaviour.”p.119
The formative phase (the periodisations are all mine and for convenience only) lasts from the Roman Empire to its conversion under Constantine (however, Constantine’s belief that the Emperor reigns over the church rather than vice versa is what leads to the next major development in the West, although Eastern Orthodox Christianity virtually accepts that concept especially later, in Russia when it becomes the “third Rome”, but we are getting ahead sidetracked).
I’ll let Carlyle, The History of Medieval Political Theory in the West, Vol. 1 speak for me,
[quote]“The most important passage in the New Testament which is connected with this subject is that in the thirteenth chapter of St Paul's epistle to the Romans. "Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers : for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore lie that resisteth the power withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same : for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are the ministers of God's service, attending continually upon this very thing. Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." This passage, which is of the greatest importance throughout the whole course of medieval political thought, being indeed constantly quoted from the second century onwards, is indeed pregnant and significant in the highest degree. It defines in the profoundest way the Christian theory of the nature of political society” p.89-90

The central issue in the formative phase is therefore centred around authority over the body and soul of the body politik. Does the soul take precedence or the body? It is not a question of separation of purpose but rather division of labour. With specific reference to the magic phrase “Render unto....”(&c), it really didn’t figure too prominently in writing of the time except polemically.

In a letter to the Emperor Constantine, Hosius of Cordova uses the phrase in its commonly accepted meaning; that temporal powers have no business interfering with God’s representative but that that does NOT apply the other way around (the Church therefore, supervenes, on the affairs of the Empire);
Quote:
(from, Francis Young, ‘Christianity’, Cambridge History of Greek & Roman Political Thought) Intrude not yourself into ecclesiastical matters, neither give commands unto us concerning them; but learn from us. God has put into your hands the kingdom; to us he has entrusted the affairs of his church... It is written, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.' p. 658
Bishop Ambrose (of St. Augustine fame) is similarly dismissive in AD386 when, angry at Imperial interference over the question of the Arian heresy, he writes to the political powers in Milan that
Quote:
'the emperor is within the church, not above the church'. ”p. 658 (my italics, from, Young, “Christianity”, Ibid)
In the consolidation (Early Mediaeval) phase Christian political theory further develops and the theory arises that the church administers to the soul and the state to the body but it is a functional differentiation only. They are both doing the same job, the sheparding of Man (what Foucault in “Security, Territory and Population” called the pastoral mode of government or “the government of souls”). One administers to the transcendent the other to the temporal (the “long arm of the church”) but both as aspects of the same reality and project. If the early church fathers had believed in the separation of church and state the concept of the divine right of kings would never have come into being nor would it have been needed in the first place (the king, as Kantorowicz tells us, had two bodies). Using a British example the relationship between church and state is analogous to that between the Queen and Parliament, or a president and prime minister, there is a hierarchy (in fact, Iran probably represents a homologous case....another thread needed there methinks!). A cavalry squadron and an artillery battalion may be functionally separate but both have the same mission (with God in this schema being the Commander-in-Chief, who has other non-military responsibilities, and the Emperor/Monarch the Chief-of-Staff). To Understand this one needs to understand the imagery, culture, symbolic references and other stuff they thought with (such as the metaphor of the body, hierarchy of spheres, corpus mysticum, which is where we get the phrase “body politic”, etc.). The very role and purpose of a Monarch is derived from and legitimated and regulated by Christian doctrine (a feat modern day doctrine writers can only envy). In Figgis’ words (Political Thought from Gerson to Grotius),
Quote:
“In the Middle Ages the Church was not a State, it was the State; the State or rather the civil authority (for a separate society was not recognised) was merely the police department of the Church. The latter took over from the Roman Empire its theory of the absolute and universal jurisdiction of the supreme authority, and developed it into the doctrine of the plenitude potestatis of the Pope, who was the supreme dispenser of law, the fountain of honour, including regal honour, and the sole legitimate earthly source of power, the legal if not the actual founder of religious orders” p.8
[...]
the medieval mind conceived of its universal Church-State, with power ultimately fixed in the Spiritual head bounded by no territorial frontier; the Protestant mind places all ecclesiastical authority below the jurisdiction and subject to the control of the “Godly prince,” who is omnipotent in his own dominion. It was not until the exigencies of the situation compelled the Presbyterians to claim rights independent of the State, that the theory of two distinct kingdoms is set forth”p.45
Cont/. below....
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Old 09-27-2013   #18
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Or, alternatively, in Gierke’s words (Political Ideas of the Middle Ages), according to Christian political theorists in the early to mid medieval period (what I have called the consolidation phase),
Quote:
“the Emperor, and likewise all other Rulers, derive their offices but mediately from God, and immediately from the Church's Head, who in this matter as in other matters acts as God's Vice- Regent-this became the general theory of the Church. It was in this sense that the allegory of the Two Swords was expounded by the ecclesiastical party. Both Swords have been given by God to Peter and through him to the Popes, who are to retain the spiritual sword, while the temporal they deliver to others. This delivery, however. will confer, not free ownership, but the right of an ecclesiastical office-holder. As before the delivery, so afterwards, the Pope has utrumque gladium. He has both Powers habitu, though only the Spiritual Power actu. The true ownership (dominium) of both swords is his, and what he concedes in the temporal sword is merely some right of independent user, which is characterized as usus immediatus, or perhaps as dominium utile. In the medium of feudal law the papal right in the Temporal Power appears as neither more nor less than a feudal lordship. The Emperor assumes the place of the highest of papal vassals, and the oath that at his coronation he swears to the Pope can be regarded as a true homagium". In any case the Emperor and every other worldly Ruler are in duty bound to use in the service and under the direction of the Church the sword that has been entrusted to them'. It is not merely that the Pope by virtue of his spiritual sword may by spiritual means supervise, direct and correct all acts of rulership". Much rather must we hold that, though in the general course of affairs he ought to refrain from any immediate intermeddling with temporal matters, and to respect the legitimately acquired rights of rulers, he is none the less entitled and bound to exercise a direct control of temporalities whenever there is occasion and reasonable cause for his intervention (casunliter et ex rationabili causa).Therefore for good cause may he
withdraw and confer the Imperium from and upon peoples and individuals": and indeed it was by his plenitude of power that the Imperium was withdrawn from the Greeks and bestowed upon the Germans (translation Imperii)”p.14
Let’s not forget too that even as early as the fifth century Pope Leo I (440–61),
Quote:
had attributed monarchical powers to the popes as successors of St Peter and had attached to the papacy the old pagan imperial title of “supreme pontiff” (pontifex maximus) not long since abandoned by the emperors themselves (in Oakley, Kingship: The Politics of Enchantment, p. 111)
That’s not to say the Kings went along with it, their grumbling and contestation of the role of the Papacy would continue until the Treaty of Utrecht (or thereabouts)


However, it is also during this period that we see St. Aquinas (forgetting Tertullian’s admonition 'What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?') tinkering around with Aristotle and once again the adventures of ideas takes centre stage. Says, McClelland A History of Western Political Thought
“Thomas’s [Aquinas] problem was to try to reconcile the polis of the Greeks with Augustine’s city of fallen men. Again, it has to be emphasised that ignoring the Politics of Aristotle was out of the question. The reputation of Aristotle was so much a part of the intellectual landscape of Thomas’s time that Aristotle did not even have to be mentioned by name in philosophical treatises. When Thomas’s contemporaries wrote ‘as the Philosopher says’, or even ‘as He says’, everybody knew it meant Aristotle.”p.106
His resolution of that would have profound consequences for political theory and practice during and after the reformation (to which I have alluded in a previous post).


In fact, had the Roman empire not adopted Christianity as the official legitimating discourse and market of belonging (in the Greek and Roman sense, which see opening quote) then the modern concept of separation of church and state we see germinate during the reformation may, I stress, may, have occurred earlier. But it didn’t. It is precisely the concept of divine right of kings that causes the problems we see prior to the reformation and which come to a head with the Thirty Years War. After all it was Luther’s complaint that religion has no business in politics (or being tainted by it) that led him to reformulate the phrase “Render unto Caesar”. Toward the end of the early-modern period (the sundering phase) then the legitimacy (and purpose) of a Monarch rests less on the Papacy and more on a nascent conception of the popular will which is a story for another time/thread. It is with John Locke’s Two Treatise on Government, however, that the legal constitutional formulation for the separation of church and state as it is understood today first arises (especially in the American case). It is, however, false to take that concept and apply it retrospectively. The foregoing is also a gross oversimplification of what is a hugely complicated and confusingly entangled set of processes.

Suffice to say and more to the point,...we can’t simply say “what about Render unto Caesar?” without understanding what the phrase meant to the people who used it or how it changed. Just like the passage in the Quran about coercion. However, unlike Islamic theology which has relatively strict (hermeneutic) rules about how things are to be interpreted (think Hadith, Naksh and Shari’a scholarship in the Islamic case) most conceptual systems tend to suffer from a sort of semantic drift in which meanings can be lost, changed or just perverted. “Render unto Caesar” may be all things to all men which why we need to situate its usage to divine meaning. Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics, Vol. 1 calls this process of (deliberate) semantic drift “paradiastolic redescription” (not one for catchy phrases old Quentin) and calls the people who practice this “innovating ideologists” that’s a simplification but I hope you’ll forgive me for it). Skinner uses Weber as an example (please read Skinner in the original, he is worth the effort);
Quote:
Focusing on the early capitalists, Weber [in the Protestant Ethic] shows how they represented their behaviour in terms of the concepts normally used to commend an ideal of the religious life, emphasising their dedication to their calling and their careful and painstaking lives. As he indicates, this was undoubtedly a rational choice for them to make. Not only were they right to see that, if they could apply such concepts to their own behaviour, this would provide them with a powerful legitimising device. They were also right to see that it was plausible to make the attempt. The Protestant conception of the calling echoed their own worldly asceticism, and there were many affinities between the distinctively Protestant ideal of individual service and devotion to God and the commercial belief in the importance of duty, service and devotion to one’s work. p. 150-1 [...][Another] example is provided by the history of the word commodity. Before the advent of commercial society, to speak of something as a commodity was to praise it, and in particular to affirm that it answered to one’s desires, and could thus be seen as beneficial, convenient, a source of advantage. Later an attempt was made to suggest that an article produced for sale ought to be seen as a source of benefit or advantage to its purchaser, and ought in consequence to be described as a commodity. For a time the outcome of this further effort by the early English capitalists to legitimate their activities was that commodity became a polysemic word. But eventually the original applications withered away, leaving us with nothing more than the current and purely descriptive meaning of commodity as an object of trade. Although the capitalists inherited the earth, and with it much of the English language, they were unable in this case to persuade their fellow language users to endorse their attempted eulogy of their own commercial practices. p.169

I don’t mean to be flippant but time and more importantly, space precludes a deeper discussion of this (in fact I don’t even know if I said what I wanted to say or if I flew off on a tangent! The latter me thinketh). I pray you read the references above. They can explain things better than this mere mortal can! I also have not meant to be condescending in any way either. It’s a hazard of our medium that emoticons just can’t ameliorate. However if you are ever in town we can have a good old pagan symposium and thrash it all out conversationally (always my strongpoint).


I sometimes wonder if that great absconder MarcT wouldn’t be able to do a better, more succinct job.
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Old 09-27-2013   #19
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I am not so sure that Westerners have actually separated politics from the church; we have only compartmentalized their organizational charts. That was simply the result of dealing with multiple religions. India had a separation of church and state for two thousand years.
I don’t quite know what you mean by that unless you mean Protestantism and Catholicism are two separate religions which is what they meant at the time (I know, strange to our ears though it may be. As for India it hasn’t existed for two thousand years, it is a post-colonial creation. Prior to the Empire the geographical area in question contained kingdoms that were either Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist.

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Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
I believe that any complex society that has to deal with multiple religions either has to suppress religions not in concert with the political entities or would have to find a way to tolerate them – a defacto separation if not one sanctified by a constitutional separation. That does not mean that religion, or politics, or any other component of society are separate (or separable) from the human animal or the human condition. They are creations of the human condition and have no life without it; they are immutable from their creator.
A belief is not a statement of fact it is a desire. That sort of constitutional thinking is typical for the heirs of Locke and that “unvarnished Doctrine” splinters a little too much for my liking sir. But I cans ee where you are going (though I don't have to go there).

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I don't accept it at face value, and I accept the challenge of attempting to explain the phenomena.
You may want to investigate the Putney debates by the New Model Army during the English Civil war (itself an instructive case) to determine what is political and what religious or even if the distinctions apply. Personally, I gave up on high brow pursuits like that in favour of trying (dismally) to scratch a living so I’ll leave it to fitter minds like yourself to grapple with it.
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Old 09-27-2013   #20
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Tukhachevskii, Thank you for your very learned comments.
All I did was quote people who really are.

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Originally Posted by omarali50 View Post
But I just had the thought that very deep learning (which is good, which is just great) is not the level at which everyday practical politics operates. Its not clear to me (btw, I would guess there is a deeply learned discourse about this topic too, I just dont know much about it) if the profoundest thinkers really influence events or just understand them better and laugh bitterly every night as they go to bed.
Profound thinkers, a rare breed, often inform the zeitgeist (Hegel! [PBuH]) or have taught people who do go on to influence things; Aristotle and Alexander come to mind, or Leo Strauss’ students although I can’t personally say I’d call him profound. Of course then there are complete train wrecks like Milton Freidman who captured the (tiny) imaginations of Reagan and Thatcher. In Britain the Sociologist Anthony Giddens (whom I had liked up until that point) wrote a treatise called The Third Way. This then became New Labour intellectual property. I doubt what New Labour did with it resembles anything like what Giddens intended. Only Nietzsche (PBuH), IMHO, ever truly understood things and laughed about them too though not bitterly (and then went insane)! Then again, Professor “Sir” Lawrence Freedman, one of my former teachers and an incredibly intelligent man, ghost wrote Tony Blair’s “Doctrine of International the Community” laying down the doctrine for pre-emptive intervention/invasion (or “ethical” foreign policy)...and was awarded a knighthood for his troubles and then.... sat on the Butler Inquiry into the Iraq War fiasco! You couldn’t make this stuff up! Not many people know that either. Then again there’s one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers, Martin Heidegger, and his ill-fated flirtation with Nazism. On a more prosaic note I cannot imagine politicians, who unfortunately do seem to affect events more than most people, discussing deep philosophical concepts. That is not what politicians are for. A politician, in the words of Gordon R. Dickson in Way of the Pilgrim, “is best described as one who seeks the confidence of its fellow beasts, more with words than acts, in order to be voted into a position of power over them” [p.249]. Politicians need to preach at the lowest common denominator which is why politicians never tend to say anything meaningful at all when they speak (which is why I can’t stand presidential or prime ministerial debates). For one, the nature of democracy would not allow a philosopher-king and secondly no-one would vote for someone that way inclined. Think about it. Wouldn’t you be suspicious of someone who actually had two brain cells to rub together asking you for your vote? Would you trust him (or her)?

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Originally Posted by omarali50 View Post
At the level at which decision makers take decisions, it does not seem to matter that the actual history of Islam (or anything else) is much more complex than this thin book can encompass. So the big question may not be what the book covers and what it leaves out, but whether the WRITER of the book knew much more, understood deeply and then CHOSE (wisely?) to simplify in this manner; for the sake of actually having an impact on everyday decisions? as carefully/subtly crafted stylized facts? or is he really rather shallow and what you see is what you get?
Academics tend to write books for several reasons; 1) because they have to prove they are doing something; 2) and on a related point, to advertise their existence; 3) to make money (a paltry amount BTW); 4) to join in (when certain topics become hot the inevitable cottage industries tend to follow); 5) this could have been written merely as a course book for his students to discuss (more common than you’d think). Had Francis Fukuyama written The End of History (an execrable book if ever there was one) at any other time it would have been derided (and thankfully was later) instead of becoming a hit which spawned numerous copies and rebuttals by people who wanted the spotlight (yes, Academics also suffer from delusions of grandeur). When academics do try and influence the zeitgeist they do so either by writing books that use populist simplistic language or go in the opposite direction and feign profundity through the usage of over-complicated words. There are exceptions to that too. Some Academics often get commissioned by publishers to write on a topic that publisher thinks is going to make them money in some emerging market niche. Some are just the paid mouthpieces of others (i.e., John L. Esposito). In my experience the really good stuff hardly ever gets talked about or even mentioned or, if it does, then the author has usually been dead a while so the person ”discovering” them can take all the credit. People who are deeply versed and familiar with a subject, however, often do write introductory texts but also tend not to make sweeping generalisation unless they can back them up with proof. A Professor of mine once lamented that the Academy nowadays was more interested in quantity not quality (he himself has only ever written one book on South Africa but is an expert on International Politics and History!).

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