Monday, July 03, 2006


Some more excerpts from the TROUBLE WITH ISLAM by IRSHAD MANJI

MAYBE THE GRIP OF DESERT TRIBALISM IS WHY pALESTINIAN SUICIDE BOMBERS RELY ON HANDOUTS FROM Arab despots. The paternalism of the desert tribe means that welfare trickles down at the discretion of the sheikhs. And maybe the desert personality of Islam is why a muslim woman in pakistan can be raped to compensate a dishonoured clan, even if that clan's honour was violated not by her but by someone else. Because a woman belongs to her family, raping her is shaming her family, making the woman a fitting pawn in family blood feuds. In Jordan the justice minister can say with cool detachment, "All women killed in cases of honour are prostitutes. I believe prostitues deserve to die."

"That's not Islam." some of you will protest. "Laws in Jordan and Pakistan, like laws throughout the Muslim world, combine religious and non-religious traditions." Fair enough, which is why the question becomes: Can the norms of the desert be dislodged from Islam? If not, we have no hope in hell of reform.

"As you think about that I challenge you to answer this: Why would Islam be so hard to exgtricate from local customs -- tribal customs-- if there wasn't something profoundly tribal about the religion to begin with? Every religion has its insular types, in tribes of the soul and mind. What must be stripped from Islam is its desert strain of tribalism, which takes the act of closing ranks ot a crushing level.

"Gaber Asfour is an Egyptian writer who winces at how the "Islam of the desrt" is creeping into his own country's tradition of boisterous back-and-forth exchange. Desert Islam, he points out, opposes "the pluralistic, haggling life of the el-haraa-- the urban alleway bazaars. It is fanatic." Like seventh-century Bedouins, who anticipated a vendetta against them at every turn, desert-inspired Islamists immediately suspect, even hate, the "other". This means Jews. It means Westerners. It means women, whom Asfour says are regarded by the desert culture as a "source of temptation and evil." He claims that Saudi Arabia's oil money has helped spread the harsh habits of the desert. No doubt. But I think these habits have shaped Islam for a lot longer than we let on.

Write the wrfiter back at who looks forward to an honest discussion.


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