This is the final installment of the interview, part VI, of ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’
EDITOR: Spanish, French Portuguese and Italian derive from Latin, yet can one argue that today these are the same language? They have diverged to the point where they are mutually unintelligible and hence different languages. All Indo-European languages derive from Sanskrit (including Farsi), yet can one claim they are the same as Sanskrit? Christianity, Judaism and Islam have a common genetic origin, for sure, but over time these religions have diverged to the point of being mutually exclusive.
When you say Islam offers variations and adjustments, what does that mean? Let’s consider one example that goes to the heart of the matter. Christianity says that Christ was crucified for our sins, and he arose three days later in fulfillment of His promise to us. Islam says that at the last minute, a woman was substituted for Christ and it was she who was actually crucified. Christianity says God manifested himself as the Trinity (the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit). By definition, to be a Christian is to accept the Trinity and the Crucifixion and resurrection (you can throw out everything else). Islam says there is no Trinity, period. Now, I ask you, are these the same religions? These are mutually exclusive, diametrically opposite, irreconcilable positions.
Of course there is cultural interaction, particularly on the peripheries and borders of civilizations. But that is not the norm nor the point under discussion. I am referring to the law of the land and where it derives from. Again, to use a secular example, If I live in Detroit, I am subject to US laws, if I live in Windsor, I am subject to Canadian laws, even though these cities are next to each other and separated by Lake Superior (a 15 minute drive across the bridge). The laws of the land are well defined even at the peripheries, though the cultural practice not dealing with legal issues may in fact be muddier (i.e., music, art).
One cannot ignore 2000 years of Christianity, 1400 years of Islam, and 3000 years of Judaism when considering the origins of these systems. The weight of thousands of years of history cannot be dismissed, and this is manifestly obvious even from a cursory examination of today’s civilizations. If Islam and Christianity were so similar, why do they lead to such starkly different civilizations today?
As for your comments on Sharia, I am not referring to the process. Sharia, irrespective of how it is arrived at, is a body of law that is supreme and cannot be superseded. That is the point.
You can disagree with me or Daniel Pipes about this point, but to say that he has not studied his demons is an ad hominem argument. It suggests there is something wrong with him, which is not fair. He is not the only one who shares this opinion — as you say yourself, even Muslims (and not fundamentalists, either) have this opinion. And I again I point to 1400 years of history to demonstrate this.
The Caliphate was a political structure, to be sure, but it was an Islamic political structure. It was a direct expression of Islamic law. It began as an Islamic governance system and stayed so until its dissolution when the Ottoman empire ended. There is no legal mechanism within Islam to separate the religious from the secular, unlike Christianity, where the secular principle was expressed by Christ himself (“My Kingdom is in heaven” and “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”). The examples you provide are all because of Colonial influence. Before European colonialism, there were no secular structures in the Islamic world. Of course, the secular principle was not always applied in Christendom, but that’s a different discussion.
Again, I think we have different definition of “nation.” A nation is a group of people with a common culture, language, religion and history. It is not a race-based entity, it is a belief-based entity. Are there pure races? No. Are there pure individuals? Yes. Are there pure nations? Yes. Are there mixed nations? Yes.
I think you under-estimate the cohesive force of religion. What does a Christian in Iraq have in common with a Christian from Trichur or a Christian from Texas? A lot more than you may realize. Similarly for a Muslim from Baghdad and a Muslim from Bangladesh. Your worldview is fundamentally shaped by your religion, and ultimately I, as a Christian from Baghdad, would have much more in common with a Christian from China than a Muslim from Baghdad..
I don’t think my views are bigoted or biased. I am bi-cultural and worldly, and I don’t come to these conclusions lightly. But we are talking about different things. You are talking about the machinations of empires, which I don’t dispute, and I am talking about religions.
I am not aware of modern persecution of immigrants in Europe. Can you give me examples
In conclusion, the problem with Edward Said and his Orientalism is that it is unbalanced and dismisses legitimate Western argument, criticism and points-of-view. It’s like that old joke, just because you are paranoid, it DOESN’T mean there ISN’T anyone out to get you 🙂 Edward Said ultimately misses, dismisses, trivializes or just plain ignores the point that there are real and irreconcilable differences between civilizations and they cannot be deconstructed away are made to appear to be pathologies afflicting the West. That’s ridiculous.
As you have tried to argue that Islamic civilization is not monolithic, so is the case with the West.
END OF INTERVIEW