Friday, March 28, 2008


And so Fitna, Geert Wilders' film, is not as dangerous as expected. I just watched it and felt nothing in particular beyond a certain hopelessness. It links Islamic terrorism directly to verses in the Koran and compares Islamicism with communism and fascism. We defeated those threats to European freedom, now we must defeat this one. Of course, we must - 'we' includes Muslims  - but this is a very different kind of campaign in which it is impossible to assess the extent and nature of the threat. And it is, primarily, cultural rather than military. Pursuing internal terrorism through body counts would be absurd and counter-productive; pursuing it through an absolute refusal to compromise our freedoms will, in the long run, work. In that context, Fitna is no help at all. It calls on Muslims to tear offending pages out of the Koran and implies that Islam is intrinsically violent. It thus pushes its viewers towards a blasphemous and potentially murderous absolutism which is the mirror image of Islamism - hence the feeling of hopelessness. I guess we'll carry on killing each other as we usually do. Like I said, completely stupid.


  1. I agree that expecting Muslims to edit their sacred text is implausible and self-defeating. That's really asking them to stop being Muslims.

    The answer is to "reform" Islam, by which I mean water it down so that it is as weak as Christianity now is. There are plenty of horrific passages in the Bible, such as the genocide perpetrated by Joshua against Canaan under orders from God. But very few Christians, or Jews for that matter, let that affect their political or social attitude towards non Christians nowadays. The text is not the thing, interpretation is. Once Muslims actually start to value things like religious freedom and tolerance, then the theology will take care of itself.

    Call me cynical, but you could build a tolerant, humane world religion with a phone directory as your sacred text - if you were tolerant and humane to begin with.

  2. the problem I'm having with the bible, and I expect it is the same with the koran, is it is too long to finish in one go. no one I know has ever read it from cover to cover. therefore excerpts are taken out of context. I think it might benefit from a few pages ripped out. In fact they should rip all the pages out except the one that says, 'respect, treat everything as you would wish to be treated'. It could be made into a bumper-sticker or a fridge magnet.

  3. i read the Bible cover to cover, though not in one sitting. It's a strange kind of novel, very post-modern - fragmented perspectives, multiple authors (who reference each other) and in some way there seems a meta-author called YHVH. It's pretty confusing because YHVH SEEMS to be inspiring these other authors but they also sometimes attack him for not being around, which seems a bit...odd.

    Chronicles is tedious, the rest is fun.

    The problem with the Koran, i gather from what little i know of it, is that it can't be theologised or interpreted as the NT and much of the OT can be. Maybe because the NT is itself a theologising, interpretation, of the OT, Christianity has grown up with the idea of metaphor (indeed, religion is necessarily to do with metaphor, which is one reason i think why poetry is declining along with religion), of interpretation, whereas Islam seems to be about submission, the text as a literal authority.

    It's true there are many passages in the OT that resist interpretation; but they seem relatively few, whereas i gather the Koran is mainly made up of these passages - tribal tabboos etc. i'm open to correction here from anyone who's actually read the Koran.

    A mosque leader told a friend of mine, "I dress like the Prophet because it makes me holy." That kind of literalism, Phariseeism (whitened sepulchres) is so at odds with the message of the Gospels, and of later Xian theology...can you imagine a Xian even 700 years ago saying "I wear a long beard like Jesus because it makes me holy"?

  4. May I suggest, Bryan, that while it is primarily cultural, it is not necessarily exclusively so, since "an absolute refusal to compromise our freedoms" may - and almost necessarily will - entail responding to violence, which in turn often entails a resort to violence. Having once actually told someone who was coming at me with a knife - I was armed with a very stout walking stick - to "go ahead, make my day," I can assure you that making it crystal clear to someone intending to do you harm that you are quite prepared to do him some as well can be quite effective. He put his knife away and walked off.

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