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Post Islam: Puritanicals, Conservatives, Moderates
Created by John Eipper on 04/11/11 2:30 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:


Islam: Puritanicals, Conservatives, Moderates (Vincent Littrell, USA, 04/11/11 2:30 am)

On 10 April David Gress (DG) stated, "I do not accept [Vincent Littrell's] attempted distinction of 'puritanicals' from his alleged majority of pacific Muslims. That distinction seems rather hard to see in this day and age."

VL: I've discussed the issue of "puritanicals" "conservatives" and "moderates" (and the various levels of intertwinement of these admittedly simplistic categorizations that have use for generalized discussions) at some length in this Forum over the years, and I've no desire to rehash at depth now. However, regarding the issue of "puritanicals" in Islam, I've drawn from one of the leading scholars of Islam in the West, Professor Khaled Abou al Fadl at UCLA. Below is a link to an interesting article about the good professor, whose book The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam From the Extremists is in my view "must" reading for anyone interested in the issue of Puritanism in Islam and the associated problem set of that reality.


Here is a link to a WAIS post I wrote regarding Islamic Puritanism in Europe some time ago:


DG: "I take strong exception to Mr. Littrell's rather unpleasant insinuation, namely that people who have the effrontery to adduce Sura 9,29 with its clear denigration of the infidel are somehow themselves infected with some 'tendency towards literalist non-spiritual or non-contextual interpretations of Biblical scriptures.' Be specific, Mr. Littrell. Who are you speaking of? What Scriptures are you talking about? Chapter and verse, please."

VL: I take strong exception to most of what Mr. Gress states in this Forum about Islam. Surah 9:29 is "clear denigration of infidel"? Does Mr. Gress understand the context of that Surah? Has he read the entirety of the Qur'an and interpreted that Surah with holistic understanding? How clear is it if one word of scripture is imbued with multitudes of meanings? Does Mr. Gress even care about non-literal ways of interpreting scripture or contextually correct ways with understanding of the circumstances surrounding the purpose of a particular verse? The issue of 9:29 is dealt with by many Muslim scholars (and myself as well over the years in this Forum). Is Mr. Gress even aware of the informed Islamic counter interpretations to his own of 9:29 (that matches the Puritanicals)? I challenge Mr. Gress to read Prof. Khaled Abou al Fadl, or is he so caught up in desires for what he thinks Islam should be that drive his efforts at denigrating the religion here in WAIS that he won't read informed counters to his position? I'll present some scholars of Islam who discuss these issues, and I would be interested in his informed discussion regarding their positions:

Mohammed Hussein Kamali (at Islamic University of Malaysia)

Abdulaziz Sachedina (at University of Virginia)

Seyyid Hossein Nasr (possibly the leading scholar of Islamic spirituality in the West)

Khaled Abou al Fadl (at UCLA)

Tariq Ramadan (a leading European Muslim intellectual who is admittedly controversial)

There are many many more.

Do Mr. Gress's perceptions of Muslims in this day and age come through the Western news media that he sees in Denmark and maybe European anti-Islamic polemicists? If so, those strike me as deeply impoverished sources for understanding of the wide scope of diversity of thought and religious practice that Islam is from the United States and Western Europe through to Morocco and on through to Indonesia/Malaysia and the Philippines.

DG: "I am no Bible scholar, but when I think 'Scripture,' what comes to mind is things such as 'turn the other cheek' or 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.' Or, 'he who believes in Me shall have eternal life.' This I understand. I wish Mr. Littrell would explain to me precisely how these most central assertions of the Christian Scriptures can be turned into instruments of violence by unnamed 'puritanicals.'"

VL: Since Alain de Benoist answered Mr. Gress's question regarding proof texts for Christian violence, I feel no need to address that question. I wasn't even talking about Christian violence anyway. The issue of Christian fundamentalist and evangelical violence isn't a serious one at this point in time (though non-violent intolerance of "the other" is another matter regarding some Christian sects, and this ties into very real Christian ant-Islamic polemic that feeds Muslim Puritanical argumentative positions in relation to their moderate Muslim opponents). On the global stage, Christendom as it relates to tolerance of the other in terms of violence is unarguably much more peaceful in recent years (generalized Christian recognition of Human Rights I think has been helpful here). Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals in the Protestant mainstream are very focused on non-violence as their NGOs spread and their humanitarian work increases world-wide (though Christians and Muslims in Indonesia and Nigeria mutually butchering each other has come up in recent years and is still a problem). The Journal of Faith and International Affairs has many articles that discuss issues of the humanitarian efforts of the Protestant evangelical mainstream. And, of course in the realm of formal interfaith dialogue, The Vatican, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Eastern Orthodox Patriarchies and other leaders from other branches of Christendom are involved in peace/mutual understanding oriented inter-Christian ecumenical dialogues as well as with Judaism and Islam. The dialogue over the Muslim leadership-signed document called "A Common Word Between Us and You" is a case in point (which I have discussed in this Forum).

However, the mindset of Christian anti-Muslim polemicists and the Christian literalist mindset in scriptural interpretation that parallels and even matches the Muslim puritanical interpretive way is what I am talking about. Christian literalists (like those who use Surah 9:29 as proof text for their anti-Islamic polemics) approach the Qur'an in many of the same ways the Muslim Puritanicals do. The literalists in religion, the fundamentalists of the great religions, are of the same or at least similar mindset in regards interpretation of a religion's foundational documents and they feed each other's invective and polemic. Anti-Islamic polemicists who uphold the "clarity" of 9:29 without holistic understanding of the Qur'an and proper historical contexualization, match the Muslim Puritanicals and hands down strengthen the arguments of Muslim Puritanicals. A Puritanical argument (I've seen this in the Al-Qaida Reader) is that (and I paraphrase) "see, the infidels see the Qur'an as we do...thus our interpretation must be right!" (Keep in mind the Puritanicals are locked in non-stop battles of the written word with their own moderate opponents in Islam.)

The issue of the mighty clash that sweeps most the past great religions between the literalists and those who interpret the Words of "The Divine" or divinely inspired/spiritually inspired at different levels of esotericism and historical contexualization throughout history is one I'll not dive into here, though I've described "The Circle of Dorothea" in this Forum that points to the differences in positional relationships with "The Divine" or "God" depending on the levels of esoteric and exoteric interpretation of scripture and religious practice. "The Circle of Dorothea" has play in this discussion I think.

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