I can't help but thinking of the Public Image song (Public Image? Yes, you know, Johnny Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols), Rise:I could be wrong I could be right
I could be black I could be white
I could be right I could be wrong
I could be white I could be black
Why am I thinking of this song in relation to our friend Eteraz?
Because, one of the biggest reasons I invited Eteraz here in the first place was that Eteraz shares the same, "I could be wrong, I could be right" spirit that I try to make my credo for life. Because, when it comes to ultimate questions in life (What is right, and wrong? What is beautiful? What is meaningful?) we all proceed by faith, which means we, ultimately, do not know if we are wrong or right?
Additionally, Eteraz seemed to be pursuing a course of reformation, not only of himself, but in the sense of making an attempt to define an Islam of human rights. Therefore, the latter part of the verse for the Public Image song applies as well:Your time has come your secong skin
The cost so high the gain so low
Walk through the valley
The written word is a lie
The reality that many of my fellow Infidels seem to deny is that Judaism, and thereby Christianity, have had to redefine the words of our very own scriptures, rendering them a kind of lie. Our Bible very clearly calls for us to stone adulterers, homosexuals, and apostates. There is no equivocation. And yet, over a course of years, prophets and Rabbis gradually redefined these commandments, by redefining the notion of the sacrifice which must take place to atone for sin.
Initially, the sacrifice was death, and ultimately, yes, the wages of sin are death. But, read your Bible closely. From the time of the prophets on, the human sacrifice which was called for to atone for sins was for us to lay down our lives for the widows and the orphans. In other words, the wages of sin are self-sacrifice, through the practice of helping those in need.
The ultimate wages of sin, death, were to be paid for by the lamb, which God would provide. Abraham said it himself, as he stood on the mountain with his kneeling son Isaac.
Sorry to do a little Bible Study here, but I feel the need to go, once more, into why I believe that Islam can be redefined, and why I think Eteraz is one of the Muslims who could help bring about such a redefinition.
Just as the Jews gradually redefined the verses which called for stoning of adulterers, homosexuals and apostates, I believe Islam can redefine its primitivism as well. A new definition of stoning the apostate needs to be proposed. It would have to be something along the lines of, "We must stone the hardened heart of the apostate, with a torrent of wisdom, which will soften him to the rationality of following Allah."
The notion of Jihad needs to be mystified, so that it applies only
to inner struggle, towards the attainment of wisdom, and a closer understanding of Allah.
But, guess what, while I can throw out ideas, no Muslim is going to listen to me. Why?
Because I AM NOT A MUSLIM.
Eteraz is. And, he's giving it a shot.
The first time I met Eteraz was in the comments section of Gates of Vienna. Eteraz made an ignorant comment saying the reason Europeans traditionally hated the Jews was because the Jews charged the Europeans exhorbitant interest.
I became angry with him and accused him of anti-Semitism. I, or some other commenter (I can't remember) pointed out to Eteraz that Europeans abhorred money-lending as an industry, because they thought money was dirty. But, that didn't stop them from wanting to borrow money on a regular basis. Because the Jews were locked out of almost all possible means of employment by the anti-Semitic European governments, money-lending became one of the few ways for Jews to make a living.
And, because Euros hated the idea of money-lending, any interest charged would have been deemed exhorbitant. We, who are capitalists, understand that demand controls price. Therefore, the Jews in the money-lending could not have charged interest higher than demand would allow, in the first place.
Once this was pointed out to Eteraz, he accepted it with good humor, which made me realize that I had encountered a supple intelligence which was tempered by a good nature and a willingness to learn. He could be wrong, he could be right. It didn't matter to Eteraz. He wants to learn.
Now, back to the noble cause of reforming Islam. It seems as if many people think the only way to reform Islam would be for a guy like Eteraz to write a list of complaints on a long sheet of paper, and tack to the Ayatollah Khameini's front door.
Yes, Eteraz' 96 Theses.
1) The Ayatollah is a pussy who hides behind his long, flowing robes.
2) Ahmadinejad is trying to make up for his lack of endowment.
3) Mo had fleas.
As funny, and downright incendiary, as that might be, that is not the way it's going to happen.
Instead, people like Eteraz, people in love with their religion, and with the culture from which it sprang forth, need to redefine Islam in a spirit of love. They need to grow it with care, and develop it from their vision. Sure, Eteraz is an apologist for his religion (as I, and most Christians are apologists for ours), because he loves Islam and he wants to extend it. But, at the same time, he wants to modernize it, and make it more humane. Read his posts.Here's an excerpt
:Unlike some of my fellow believers I don't think that the recent glut of Westerners calling for the reformation of Islam is due solely to an imperial Western ambition. I believe that much of non-Muslim engagement with Islam is premised upon a well-intentioned impulse. I believe that some Western antipathy towards Islam is due to decency.
It is quite plausible that a generation that faced off against two totalitarianisms might be right about a third. It is also plausible that for every Westerner who calls for the destruction of Islam in order to defend the Western status-quo, there is another Westerner who agitates for change in Islam because has a Muslim friend who has been hurt by what passes for Islam, or has a glimpse (in Hafiz, perhaps in Ibn Rushd), of what Islam could be; and as such, is upset by what Islam today is not.
I believe that there are many in the West capable of recognizing beauty — and they have recognized the beauty that Islam was in the hands of Rumi, and also have recognized the potential of that beauty in Islam today, in Muslims today. This is another way of saying that I believe there are many in the West who are driven by the humanity of the Muslim, who faces daily in Iraq, in Punjab, in subversive mosques in Europe, the inhumanity of a utilitarian death theology.
We — this is the 'we that refers to all those who fight injustice — did not exclude the helpers when the evil was Jim Crow. Nor when the evil was the patriarchy which denied female equality. In fact, if reformist Islam is to stand a chance, it has to be open to those who want to help. There has never been a case in history where change has occurred without participation by some members of the dominant discourse joining in the efforts of those who agitate for change.
Man has always come to the assistance of man. The Helpers of Medina to the migrants of Mecca; Indians to the Pilgrims; Ottomans to the Sephardigm; Albanian Muslims to the Jews of Europe. There are men and women in the West who wish to be of assistance to us. So what if they sometimes say things that you find offensive or incorrect. To correct them by way of friendship is much better than to sneer at them. We must judge them, not by their ancestors' history, but by their love of the oppressed.
We are clear, are we not, that there has been one too many tyranny? We are clear, are we not, that there has been one too many Bin Laden? One too many 9/11, 3/11, 7/7, and Aksari Shrine and Shia massacre and Baha'i jailing and Jew-baiting. One too many Bamiyan Buddhas. One too many novelists accused. One too many suicides. The task ahead will be difficult enough. If, then, there are those who will link their arms with us, we must not hesitate.
Those do not sound like the words of a person who could be called an Islamofascist, as far as I'm concerned. Now, obviously, recently, many of us have thought Eteraz has been somewhat belligerent, posting about a group he called a "Christian terrorist organization", and refusing to back down when confronted with the facts that the group actually seemed to function more like a cult of personality centered around a leader who had created an amalgamation of multiple pseudo-religious ideologies, including the Wiccan religion.
It would have been a noble thing for Eteraz to have admitted he was wrong in this case. However, it seems he is now in the midst of throwing a prolonged temper tantrum because of the ill treatment he received here at this blog. I can't really say I blame him. I threw a temper tantrum at one of our fellow contributors the other night, when I thought she was comparing Christian fundamentalism to Islamic fundamentalism.
See, I told you I am a Christian apologist, even if I rarely wear that hat here at IBA. As an apologist for my religion, when someone points out its weaknesses, it is my natural inclination to say, "Yes, but ..." and then to launch into a discussion wherein I believe I am setting the weaknesses within the greater context of the overall Christian worldview. I try to show how many of my co-religionists misunderstand scripture, and misuse in ways which are hurtful, and embarrassing to me and God.
That's funny, isn't it?
But, all of my fellow-Christian IBA contributors have probably done the same thing, on many occasions. In fact, many of our Republican IBA contributors have probably done the same thing, when someone tries to characterize the Republican Party as being made up of right-wing religious weirdos."Well, no, the Republican Party stands for limited governent, because we believe in liberty for all, and that a man's property belongs to him, and should not be interfered with by the government.""Well then, what about a man's intellectual property? Should the government be in the business of censoring intellectual property such a films, books, and satellite TV? The right-wing religious fanatics of the Republican Party sure do think so.""Yes, that may be true, but, in general the Republican Party doesn't ... "
You get the picture. All of us are apologists for some ideology at some point in our life. The braver of us, think through life and make choices about our values and then we attempt to live by those values. Often, the older we get, the more clear and important these values will seem to us. We form alliances based upon the values. And, in doing so, we create mission statements, and catechisms, and platforms based upon our values, and we attempt to make laws based upon our values.
And, inevitably, some within our group will begin to attempt to stifle another group of people who we believe are important contributors to society. Still, though, we remain part of the group, because we recognize that most in the group believe in the same general thing that we, personally, do. And, besides, one can get more done as part of a group, than one can as an individual (that's the whole idea behind Infidel Bloggers Alliance, after all). So, we soldier on, apologizing for our group, when we are criticized for the bad behavior of some of those in our midst. And, we explain that that small group doesn't speak for all of us.
I'm sure many of us have even felt like that about some of the commentary here at IBA.
Obviously, my point is, Eteraz is an apologist for his religion, because he was brought up in it. It is the field from which his family bloomed. It is the backdrop of his life. It is the traditions and celebrations of the years, and of the major changes in his family.
That is an awful lot for a human to leave behind.
Some may choose to leave. But, some, such as Eteraz, may become entranced by an internal vision they have of how great it all could be, if they could only somehow figure out a way to minimize the damage that that small group (comparatively) of extremists does.
But, the problem is, within the Islamic world, while there may be just a comparatively small group of real hardcore extremists, those extremists control entire nations, universities, media outlets, and political action commitees. Those extremists control Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, The Sudan, Nigeria, Lebanon (for the most part), and Malaysia. Those extremists (through Saudi Arabia and Iran, primarily) fund Mosques all over the world, thereby distributing huge amounts of cash and ideological materials which support violent Jihad against the Infidel and the Jew.
Those extremists have gone a long way towards defining Islam as murder across the face of the Earth.
Eteraz and his fellow Muslim Reformers are but a still, small voice within an enormous squall of energy and destruction. But, we know that a still, small voice can sometimes become so powerful within our spirits that it can take over the entire world with it's peaceful message.
May the road rise to meet you, Eteraz, my friend.