Saturday, February 11, 2006

Salim Mansur on Islam

Salim Mansur is, I believe, a practicing Muslim. PBS refers to him here as a "Muslim thinker". He is a writer for the Toronto Sun. I said a writer, not a reporter. And, by the way, its Doctor Mansur to you, as he holds BA, MA, and PhD from the University of Toronto and is also an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario.

Mr. Mansur is of the "spit it out" philosophy of thinkers. He calls 'em as he sees 'em. In fact, a couple of years ago I sent an email to Mr. Mansur after reading a particularly blunt column in which he had attacked al Qaeda and the Islamofascists. I suggested that he should find himself on the highway heading for a place a couple of hours southeast of Toronto called the Bluewater Bridge. Once across that bridge he might find himself protected from those who would wish to kill him for he was surely on their short list marked for death and the Canadian government of the time would be unwilling to assure his safety. I'm not so sure that it's such a short list now. Mr. Mansur responded by thanking me for the advice and assuring me that he had little to fear. He's still alive and kicking so I guess he was right and my fears were unfounded.

Mr. Mansur has written extensively on, among other things, the world-wide conflict between Islam and, well, the wide world. Here are a few quotes from some of his writings that I dug up today. I hope I have not taken anything out of context.

Responding to a questioner asking if there was something within Islam that justified the killing of innocents because of the Israeli/Palestinian power differential:
None. But people will seek legitimacy to their most grotesque behavior, including murder, regardless of how they twist the reading and meaning of the Quran.
He also wrote, as I can best remember it but cannot source it this morning:
No former Arab-Muslim leader is to be found living in peaceful retirement in his home country.
Islam is tribes with flags.
On Osama's godfathers:
Muslims in general, fundamentalists in particular, hearken back to the founding years of Islam as the perfect age when the Prophet Muhammad and his companions instituted the divine plan on Earth. In this view, what followed was a regression from belief to unbelief. This picture of Islam's early years is a myth that deprives most Muslims of a critical and rational perspective on history.

The reality, as documented by the earliest Arab-Muslim commentators on Islam's founding decades -- from Ibn Ishaq (d. 761) to Al-Tabari (d. 923) -- was one of internecine strife, bloodshed and war. Immediately after the Prophet died in 632, wars were fought to compel Arabs of contemporary Saudi Arabia and Yemen to re-submit to Islam as the only permissible religion of the new empire. Three of the Prophet's first four successors as rulers of the expanding realm of Islam -- Umar, Uthman and Ali -- were murdered as a result of grievances and factional strife. The Prophet's immediate family were the most conspicuous massacre victims in these seventh-century conflicts. The wars of succession left permanent schisms within Islam.

Ever since those early blood-lettings, Muslims have been the primary victims of Muslim violence.
Writing in The Middle East Quarterly (where he rubs shoulders with the likes of Daniel Pipes), Mansur says of Muslim orthodoxy:
From the earliest accounts of Islamic historians Ibn Ishaq (d. 761), Al-Waqidi (d. 823), and At-Tabari (d. 923) among others, it is clear that the founding of Islam was neither a peaceful affair nor did the new religion eliminate tribal and familial conflicts. Blood readily flowed. Muslims in the first age of Islam were not simply moved to accept the new faith as taught by Muhammad and by the wonder of the sublime majesty of divine revelation that descended upon him. They had to be subdued forcibly. The Qur'an itself provides testimony to the obduracy and violent resistance of those among whom Muhammad was born, lived, and preached. Islam prevailed, but the cultural predisposition of the desert Arabs remained sufficiently strong in shaping the message of Islam for posterity.
These are just a few examples that I present in order to show that the guy doesn't pull too many punches, if any at all.

Now comes Dr. Salim Mansur with a very novel and interesting viewpoint on Islam, today.
For a plausible figurative explanation consider the following: Chronologically speaking Islam is in its 15th century, Christianity in its 21st and Judaism in its 58th.

We might express the ages of these three faith-traditions in terms of human life span, with Islam being in its adolescent years, Christianity having entered into its adult years and Judaism being well past its middle age.
He goes on to remind us of what Christianity was like in its "adolescent years".
Several centuries ago when Christianity was about the same age as Islam is today, it too often showed characteristics of adolescents lacking in introspection, readily prone to committing violence and in taking offence, behaving uncharitably toward others and being self-righteous.
He speaks, of course, of things that we Christians would like to forget, like the Inquisition in France and Spain, witch burnings in Massachusetts and the like. And, I might add, some Christian areas have yet to outgrow their adolescence. To see that, one just need visit Belfast, Northern Ireland on any 12th day of July and watch the Catholics and Protestants have at it. Or listen closely to the occasional rantings of a Pat Robertson or a Jerry Falwell.

On Judaism in its late middle age:
The remarkable achievement of Judaism, from the perspective of its relatively long life, is survival against terrible odds.

This has provided Judaism with the wisdom of respectful coexistence with other faith traditions.
On the Muslim majority:
Not all Muslims are adolescents, or engage in violence and reprehensible behaviour. But it is undeniable that Muslims who indulge in violence, irrespective of the reasons they offer, have not been effectively repudiated and checked by the Muslim majority.

The majority then, troubled and saddened as it is with watching its faith-tradition wrecked by its religious compatriots, is not entirely blameless.
On the rest of the world which must deal with Islam:
This also suggests the world must find the means to adequately deal with those Muslims who behave as destructive adolescents, until they grow up and become responsible.
An interesting, albeit short, read. I would suggest that you Google Salim Mansur and read more of his writings and opinion pieces. There is a wealth of stuff out there, from his newspaper columns to his forum participation to his book reviews. It will be well worth your time.

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