Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
From Essential Rumi
by Coleman Barks
A preface, that is, to a post offering some ideas related to Islam that have come my way lately. Always a worry, as too often reason goes out the window when this topic is raised.
Yes, I am absolutely opposed to violent extremism, but then we must never forget that violent extremism does not equate with Islam nor is it a practice only of people among the billions who inhabit the Islamic world. So many people seem to forget this. I guess the only valid refutation is to point out that if the Islamic world consisted only of violent extremists then there is no way the rest of us could withstand them, but fortunately this is not the case.
It is very hard to imagine a violent or extremist Waleed Aly, for example, what with his fondness for the writings of Edmund Burke.
Waleed Aly – linked image
On Radio National’s PM recently the excellent William Dalrymple was interviewed. If you visit, take the time to hear the extended interview.
WILLIAM DALRYMPLE: The most liberal and philosophical and mystical of the shades of Islam is the various forms of Sufis, who are the mystics of Islam; in many ways represent the kind of Islamic New Testament.
The Koran has a very Old Testament feel about it. It’s about punishment and about straightforward rights and wrongs and directives and what happens to the good people and what happens to the bad people.
Sufism in many ways has the same influence on love which you find in the New Testament and is enormously influential and I think very few people in the West are aware of the importance of Sufism – a huge library of profound mystical poetry that has softened and eased Islam’s passage into non-Muslim areas such as India.
The Sufis were the main reason for Islam’s spread in south Asia and today the Sufis are in many ways, in Pakistan particularly, the frontline between the imported extremist Wahhabi Gulf model of Islam, which is a reformed Islam in the same way that sort of Oliver Cromwell or the early Protestant idol smashers…
MARK COLVIN: I’d say highly puritanical.
WILLIAM DALRYMPLE: Highly puritanical. And this Islamic reformation is powered by Gulf money and Gulf payment to madrassas, where a reformed textual Islam is taught and where the old ways of the Sufis who preach love and deal in amulets and superstitions, just like the old shrines in Walsingham and all these old pre-reformation shrines in Europe, they are taught that these things are superstitious and wrong. There’s nothing Islamic about these shrines. They say that grave worship is forbidden in the Koran.
And what one finds is that this kind of Islamic Protestantism is spreading very fast and that where it’s spreading is exactly the places where you find the violence against the West, the more extremist forms of Islam, such as the Pakistani Taliban or the Afghan Taliban…
Today, thanks to the strange freak fact that oil exists in the Hejaz, underneath where these Wahhabis triumphed, has inverted the equation and the old centres of the Islamic world, such as Lucknow, Delhi, Afghanistan, Bukhara, Samarkand, Isfahan, these places are no longer the centre of Islamic world.
The real centres of money and finance in the Islamic world are places like Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar, the Emirates and so on. And it is through the funding and the patronage of Gulf Wahhabi Islam that this far more virulent, protestant, extremist, political middle class form of Islam has spread throughout the Islamic world with the extraordinary effects that we’ve seen…
Then there is all that angst about head covering women.
Yes, it’s a worry.
I think the above – the artist is El Greco – could easily pass for a hijab. These I see around me just about every day, and so do most people in the City of Sydney. What’s to worry about? On the other hand there are the full face models – niqab and burqa, neither mandatory in Islam and neither very often seen outside the countries that practise that tradition. They are rarely worn even in France. However, should we worry about them?
There have been some good articles on this lately. See in today’s Australian Women caught in colliding cultures. The Sydney Morning Herald reports a recent Australian poll:
MOST voters favour a ban on Muslim women wearing the burqa in public, according to an opinion survey by the polling group UMR Research.
The national survey of 1000 people of voting age earlier this month found that 59 per cent supported a ban on the full face and body veil in public places.
However, 33 per cent of UMR’s respondents said they opposed a ban and the remaining 8 per cent were unsure.
UMR is the pollster for the federal Labor Party, although the survey on the burqa was carried out as part of its wider opinion research program rather than being commissioned by the ALP.
The pollster’s managing director, John Utting, said the survey found strong support for banning the full face and body veil, especially among men and older people. UMR’s results showed that 63 per cent of men surveyed would support a ban compared with 55 per cent of women.
Support rose with age. Among those aged under 30, 49 per cent supported a ban. This rose to 54 per cent for 30- to 49-year-olds; 65 per cent for those aged between 50 and 69; and 72 per cent for people over 70.
The online poll was carried out between May 12 and 17 after media coverage of a Sydney armed robbery where a burqa was used as a disguise, and calls by a federal backbencher to ban the garment.
Mr Utting said the survey showed the groups most sympathetic to the burqa were the better-educated and those who said they did not have a religion. But even in these demographic groups supporters of a ban outnumbered opponents.
UMR’s results showed that among university graduates, 49 per cent supported a ban and 42 per cent opposed it.
Among respondents who said they did not have a religion there was a 54 per cent to 34 per cent majority in support of a ban.
Mr Utting said the survey used a nationally representative sample and the results had been weighted to reflect Bureau of Statistics demographic data.
If you care to see an intelligent Saudi woman explaining to an audience at Yale why she wears hijab, and what she thinks about the burqa and the niqab, watch this.
Visit Gilles Kepel on the Future of Political Islam.
Read an interesting account of Tariq Ramadan and his critics.