Terrible about Samira Bellil. A difficult life and then an early and very nasty death – thanks a lot. What godawful luck some people have. I know; no kidding; but it’s worth pointing out anyway. It’s worth registering these futile protests that don’t go anywhere. Worth shaking our puny fists at the sky.

I happened on this article in Dar al Hayat, and it seems relevant, to the issues that Bellil raised and those we’ve been discussing lately. They’re all the same issues at bottom.

In this framework, there are two forms of enmity against Islamists. The first is the annoyance of the wide spreading Islamic thought in comparison with other trends, to the extent that people wish to wake up one day and see no single woman wearing a headscarf on earth!

Well, yes, as a matter of fact. I do wish that. Though I suppose I could imagine other utopian scenarios in which the hijab had shed every last trace of connotation of subordination, inferiority, blame for male sexual attention, coercion and control and ownership, and had become simply a piece of clothing like any other. I can imagine such a scenario, but that’s not the same thing as thinking it’s going to happen, so until and unless that does happen, yes, I would be delighted to wake up one day and find every last woman on earth free of the requirement to wear it. And that is indeed one reason I am not pleased about wide spreading Islamic thought, why in fact I think it’s a bad thing.

There is an excellent article by Irfan Khawaja on this larger subject on Ibn Warraq’s Secular Islam site. Khawaja discusses the way nonsense about ‘essentialist’ claims works to deflect critical discussion of Islam.

What Staerk is telling us is that it’s easier to generalize rigorously about the behavior of 1.25 billion existing Muslims plus all the Muslims who have ever existed in the 1400 years of the existence of Islam—than it is to generalize about the claims of a handful of Islamic texts! That is the unavoidable implication of his claim that those who use the Qur’an as the basis for claims about the essence of Islam generalize “sloppily,” while those who rely on Gallup polls for information about “the” behavior of “Muslims” generalize with rigor.

Just so. This is why I keep pointing out that religion is not the same thing as race. Religions do have texts and/or rules, laws, truth claims. Religions are systems of ideas, and thus both can be and must be criticized, disagreed with, analyzed. To pretend that it’s a kind of racism to disagree with Islam or any other religion is an absurd category mistake, a confusion of terms, and a pretext for allowing a supernatural belief system to run people’s lives on the basis of unfounded claims.

…when it comes to the fundamental clash between Islam and its rivals, our half-hearted secularists almost always find an excuse to beg off. Does God exist? “Let’s not look.” Does faith supersede reason? “Let’s change the subject.” Do the demands of the afterlife supersede the requirements of this one? “It’s a matter of perspective.” Are the claims of the Qur’an true? “Depends on how you define ‘truth’.” Does Islam provide a basis for a viable political order? “Sorry, that question is too divisive.” Is there a connection between the precepts of Islam and Islamic terrorism? “Sorry, that question is too essentialist.” At the end of the day, according to this crowd, the only claims you’re allowed to make about Islam are the recycled pieties of PC toleration, followed by claims so “nuanced” that they cease to mean or imply anything of significance. But I don’t see Muslims constrained by the same imperatives…

Great stuff. Read the whole thing.

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