Update: Synchronicity With TigerHawk

TigerHawk has two recent posts up that address the same issues Gates of Vienna has been discussing of late. There must be something in the air.

The first post, “Regarding Mohammed and the prospects for ‘respect’”, seems to be following the same themes as we have repeatedly regarding the Great Cartoon Caper.

He begins with Eugene Volokh’s take on the issue and politely disagrees. TigerHawk says the real problem here is:

…that Muslims care a lot that non-Muslims do not regard Mohammed the same way that they do.

At the risk of earning a fatwa, let us speak a simple truth. With regard to Mohammed, there are three sorts of people in the world. First, there are those who have never heard of him, or know too little of him to have an opinion. Disregard them.

Second, there are the Muslims, who believe him to be the messenger of God, the true Prophet.

Finally, there are those of us who know who Mohammed was, and have chosen not to regard him as a prophet, the Messenger of God, or as having any religious significance at all.


Religious people who think deeply about their beliefs will never “respect” the other. To believe otherwise is a fool’s errand. Neither the right of freedom of speech nor the right to freely exercise one’s own religion — both of which are sacrosanct to Americans, if not all Europeans — have anything at all to do with respect. They are rules of engagement that are preferable to war for dealing with people that we do not respect. Get used to it.

“Get used to it?” TigerHawk, see “Respect Must Be Earned” to learn how things are progressing.

“The Muslims of invention” follows on Gates of Vienna’s post, “So What’s This About Muslims and Patents?”

TigerHawk expands greatly on the theme, warming to his topic as he points out:

Of the twenty putative inventions that “changed the world,” all but one occurred during the Middle Ages, from roughly the 9th to the 11th centuries (Western calendar). The only “invention” that is even arguably modern is “shampoo,” which was “introduced to England by a Muslim who opened Mahomed’s Indian Vapour Baths on Brighton seafront in 1759 and was appointed Shampooing Surgeon to Kings George IV and William IV.” And 1759 is not the date of the invention of shampoo, but its introduction in England, which surely says more about the English than Muslim ingenuity.

There is a reason for the great antiquity of the Muslim inventions that “changed the world.” The umma persecuted its own Thomas Aquinas.

TigerHawk points to Ibn Rushd Averroes, the Andalusian Arab who translated Aristotle. For this and other intellectual accomplishments he was banished. Though TigerHawk doesn’t mention Hafiz, he well could have. Many of Hafiz’ poems were destroyed by the anti-intellectual, anti-mystic, and fearful authorities in 14th-century Persia.

TigerHawk backs up his assertions with a quote from Oriana Fallaci:

Islam has always persecuted and silenced its intelligent men. I remind you of Averroes who for his distinction between Faith and Reason was accused of heterodoxy by the caliphs and forced to flee. Then, imprisoned like a criminal. Then, confined to his home and humiliated to such a degree that when rehabilitated he no longer had any desire to live and died within a few months. Not without good reason, in his famous lecture held in 1883 at the Sorbonne, Ernest Renan said that attributed the merits of Averroes to Islam would be like attributing the merits of Galileo to the Inquisition.

I agree with TigerHawk that Islam’s greatest weakness is its failure to reconcile faith and reason:

It persecuted its geniuses. Christianity did too, but the Inquisition was a losing rearguard action against the Age of Reason, which had already been ratified by Saint Thomas Aquinas and other theologians. Islam’s own inquisition persists to this day.

It’s nice to be on the same page(s) as the illustrious TigerHawk.

13 thoughts on “Update: Synchronicity With TigerHawk

  1. Again, within the Muslim community there is a spectrum of attitudes. We know too well the wahabists who hate everyone but themselves, and even then…

    At the other extreme are Sufi mystics, who the wahabists REALLY REALLY hate and want dead.

    These are also the famous whirling dervishes. They form a whole culture unto themselves. Their own literature, music, dance, folk tales, you name it. In fact, they are what attracted me to learning more about Islam.

    Mystics represent a segment of religious urges that is difficult for many. They tend to see what is the same and overlook the differences. Those more inclined to organized religion tend to focus on the differences and ignore, or at best pay lip service, to what is the same.

    Obviously, this is an issue that remains unresolved.

    No, we don’t live in “one world”, but mystics come the closest to making it possible.

  2. Man I love Ibn Rushd. He’s made quite a comeback in the 20th century. So has Mu’tazila Philosophy (glorified rationalism). I cite Rushd in just about every Shariah debate I ever engage in with conservatives.

    I was confused by Tigerhawk’s use of the word “antiquity.” He says, “… the great antiquity of Muslim inventions…” Is he trying to say they are old? In which case you wouldn’t use ‘great.’ Or is he saying there is a lack of them? In which case I think ‘paucity’ or ‘dearth’ is the better 8 dollar word. Stylistic point but the section confused me.

    Re: Hafiz, point taken. Some of Rumi’s work was destroyed too. He was just as crazy as Hafiz. Yet his Masnavi is called the Persian Quran. It is sometimes more raunchy than anything Hafiz ever wrote. I bring it up to ask: why did Rumi never suffer the fate that Hafiz suffered?

    I do think that Muslim orthodoxy has always pushed away its greatest thinkers (look only what they do to me 😉 But, let’s think about the counter-point. It’s greatest thinkers have more often than remained within the fold of Islam and continued to improve it, reform it, work with it, and believed in it. This is true even today. Allama Ghamidi, the great Pakistani reformer, probably the greatest legal genius to emerge in the last thirty or forty years, remains in Pakistan (with two bodyguards at all times). Why is that? Let me put it like this: it’s not because he can’t afford an airplane ticket. Islam’s thinkers are criticized by its orthodoxy; but we stick it through with Islam nevertheless. The point being: there must, therefore, be something beautiful in the kernel; otherwise people as astute (and as persecuted) as Ibn Rushd, Hafiz and Rashid Rida, would have just absconded to other philosophies.

  3. eteraz: Thanks for the needed perspective. Something that old Prof. Haddad tried to pound into me. You must forgive some of us our unavoidable tunnel vision. It happens when you are scanning with the spotting scope trying to discern the threats and their axis.

  4. eteraz–

    When a man has to live with two body guards in his own home country, he is not free, nor is his country.

    As for those who do not leave Islam, look at Galileo. He was silenced and stayed in Catholicism: where else could he have gone? Or where was Hafiz supposed to go? Or where are the academics of today in the US supposed to go…do ya think Larry Summers is going to get anything close to his former job at Harvard??

    For Hafiz and Rumi, home is where when you have to [be]there, they have to let you [stay]. Now, apostates have a chance by fleeing to the US or Australia, as did the psychiatrist in California, as did Ali Hirsi, and so on.

    At this moment, Scientology and Islam are the only religions that it can be dangerous to leave, even if you actually leave the vicinity.

    Perhaps some Islamic countries could take the example of Ireland. They finally rose up, threw off the shackles of Catholicism, and quickly became a booming economy with a highly educated populace and a low tax rate.

    Islam is fighting a rear guard action and they wouldn’t be doing so if it were not for Wahhabi money. Such are the quirks of history.

    Did you ever read “Seeds of Change: Five Plants that Transformed the World”? Petroleum is not a plant — I guess it’s more like dead plants. But it certainly changed the world.

    Now the House of Saud wants to do the same. I hope there is the will and cunning to stop them. If their flow of $$ to Pakistan and Hamas and Iran and Hezbollah stopped, things would change very rapidly…

    Islam is not fighting Wahhibism. I wonder why (rhetorical question — power is seductive).

    Judging by what happened to the Catholic Church over time, the best thing that could happen to Islam would be thorough defeat. Then Islam would eventually flourish because it would mean that reason made faith go back into its proper channels.

    BTW, I’m reading Hafiz for Lent. A friend of mine, who is a more-or-less Sufi married to an Episcopal priest, introduced me to him. He’s the perfect antithesis to my usual Catholic thinking. I could stay within my tradition and read, say, St. Francis of Assissi, but I don’t have to…anymore.

    I hope Islam gets that chance. But it won’t if it doesn’t stop imitating the Inquisition. You know George Santayana’s dictum, right? Well, Islam is a living example of that.

    You, eteraz, are a lightning rod. You defend the indefensible and bring the skies down on yourself. Isn’t there an easier way to live? Or is this your calling? (Not a rhetorical question)

  5. “The only “invention” that is even arguably modern is “shampoo,” which was “introduced to England by a Muslim who opened Mahomed’s Indian Vapour Baths on Brighton seafront in 1759 and was appointed Shampooing Surgeon to Kings George IV and William IV.”

    Sorry, even that does not appear to be true. The recent excavation of a Bronze Age Briton revealed him to be in possession of a hair cream apparently of French origin!

    On a more serious level one must note that where Islamic nations do pursue scientific research, as in Iran or Pakistan’s nuclear programs, it is derivative and not even connected with the real defense requirements of those nations.

  6. On the subject of the roman church, I think it’s unfair to equate the inquisition with Islamic fatwas and violence. It was a one-time event that did actually get out of control of the church, not something that they particularly wanted to do on a constant basis. It was, however, born out of both fear and arrogance – the arrogance of the church in believing it was the sole arbiter of god’s law and the fear of loosing power. The roman church has wavered between reason and irrationality throughout its existence. They persecuted Gallileo, not for his ideas, but for claiming the pope was fallible, and consequently had to ban his ideas for consistency’s sake. Yet, at the same time, the church was the single largest sponsor of astronomical observatories on the planet. Many of the church’s teachings were born from the works of Plato and the philosopher greeks. Many of its traditions, meanwhile, were simply re-moulds of roman paganism co-opted by early roman christians as a means of easing the Empire in to its new state religion. The contradictory nature of roman christianity did lead to a lot of heartache (putting it mildly) yet it’s that same contradictory nature that allowed the west to flourish and grow.

    I think it’s telling that every single one of the major figures of the enlightenment was Christian, and that the church (Eventually) moved with the flow in a slow-motion version of the Jewish tradition of re-assessing scruiptural truths in the light of new evidence. Christianity is judaism with bureacrats. 😉

    I think that’s the fundamental difference. Christianity and judaism, by and large (excepting a few notable sects) are religions of debate and discussion. Ideas are tossed back and forth, sometimes for a century or more, until a position is reached that the majority can accept. In this, progress toward rationality is made. Islam, as far as I can tell, is as dogmatic as they come and has been since its inception. This dogmatism precludes any deviation from the written laws because even discussion of what is written, in the context of re-interpreting it, is deemed to be apostasy. This is why Islam has remaind stagnant for so long. In one of those incredible ironies it’s become a living example of darwinism at work. Those people that would have leaned toward rationality are weeded out – often killed – leaving behind a pool of those more willing to accept what they’re told and not deviate.

    To put it another way: the most successful people are generally those that go out and ask questions of everything they see,. They say, “why does it have to be this way? Why not that way?” Judaism has long encouraged this questioning and searching attitude, which is why Jews are perhaps disproportionately represented in wealth, scientific endeavour and just about everything else. It’s their attitude.

    This questioning attitude does exist within Islam, as it can never becompletely eradicated from the human psyche, but it’s highly repressed. The reason moderate muslims are so notable is precisely because they’re so very rare, and there are good reasons for that; they tend to get killed off. So, even if a great many question Islam’s teachings, they keep it to themselves and effectively remove themselves from any reforming that might take place.

  7. Ya’ll,

    Simple process: It’s not terrorism . . . it’s Jihad, stupid.

    Which is why no one is gonna admit that it ain’t terrorism. To do that would mean that a superstition holds power over reason and nobody’s gonna go for that one.

    But then, whaddya expect? Six million years of human evolution and the best we can do is Dubya.


  8. nils: That’s the best you can do? A distinction with no difference? “He strained mightily and brought forth a gnat.”

    Or, were your first two paras just a setup for your lame punch line?

    Gosh, nils, thanks for playing. Too bad you lost.

  9. Nils– I’m sure you meant to say
    “Six million years of human evolution and the best we can do is” …Kerry, Clinton(s), and Kennedys. Panderers all…

    And here on Gates of Vienna, Nils, we do call it both terrorism (the strategy) and jihad (the tactic). What the politicians say is inconsequential…

    meanwhile, go bash Bush somewhere else. There are lots of blogs who would welcome you with open arms. This isn’t one of them.

    I have neither the time nor the inclination for formulaic sneers. If you’re going to engage in argument, study eteraz…for example. Or try being interesting or funny.

    Othewise, see that little refuse can under your comment? I’ll use it.

  10. Then there’s Senescent Wasp — you could imitate his style, Nils, and entertain everyone.

    SW knows how to blow the man down and he knows when to bow at the waist and apologize…these are traits you might consider acquiring.

    Of course, he’s an insane, gimlet eyed old man so watch your back.

  11. dymphna: Thank you so much for the compliment. I’m just glowing. And backs are much more attractive now that I’ve lost a step or two off my game. Old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill.

    And, so to bed since it is late in this time zone. But, I have been known to go out a rear window after the lights go down. And, I can still open my Gerber folder with one hand and no noise.

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