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Seven Seeds of Freedom In Islam

Islam contains concepts or practices that express religious freedom in a significant way but that fall short of a full and broadly respected human right of religious freedom.

My new book, Religious Freedom In Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World Today, argues that the Muslim-majority world is not religiously free in the aggregate but that it does contain some religious freedom and that where religious is lacking, Islam is not always the reason for its absence. Does Islam carry the potential for expanding religious freedom?

Through most of Islam's history, it has lacked religious freedom of the sort that today's human rights conventions set forth: a recognition of every person and religious community's right to practice and express religious faith free from overt coercion, heavy forms of pressure, discrimination, or penalties. This is admittedly a high standard and evokes this question: Compared with what? Much the same generalization could be made about any of the major world religions. It is quite late in history that we find any religious body espousing a stable, enduring, principled commitment to religious freedom. When the historian Bernard Lewis wrote in his book, The Jews of Islam, that "[f]or Christians and Muslims alike, tolerance is a new virtue, intolerance a new crime," he might have extended his observation to every world religion.

If Islamic history predominantly lacks religious freedom, however, the same history suffers great distortion if this dearth becomes the leading headline. Islam also contains "seeds of freedom," that is, concepts or practices that express religious freedom in a significant way but that fall short of a full and broadly respected human right of religious freedom. If nurtured, these seeds might grow into religious freedom in full bloom.

In the book, I identify seven seeds of freedom. Each seed contains potential for religious freedom. Each is also subject to skepticism about this potentiality. Only the future can tell us how this potential will develop.

The seven seeds are:

[1.] First, verses in the Qur'an and their interpretation. One verse in the Qur'an more than any other conveys the importance of freedom: "There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error, so whoever rejects false gods and believes in God has grasped the firmest hand-hold, one that will never break." There is no compulsion in religion. The statement is striking for the directness and simplicity with which it forbids the very coercion that religious freedom prohibits. It is rare to find such a direct exhortation of freedom in the central texts of any religious tradition. The verse—Qur'an 2:256—has not been forgotten or stranded in the Qur'an's 114 surahs, or books, but rather has been asserted by proponents of freedom time and again through the Islamic tradition. In the early centuries of Islam, for instance, the Mutazilite school, which stressed rationality, argued on the basis of this verse that faith must be an "action of the heart" and thus unhindered. Freedom undergirds this school's understanding of the world as an "Abode of Trial" in which peoples' choices carry consequences for the hereafter. Tenth-century philosopher Al-Farabi applied this Mutazilite insight to the political realm, which he thought should be one of complete freedom. Today, "the verse is being used constantly in order to substantiate the notion of religious tolerance in Islam," writes scholar Yohanan Friedmann in his book, Tolerance and Coercion in Islam.

There are other verses in the Qur'an that lend themselves to sanctioning violence against non-Muslims. Scholars debate whether these involve calls for permanent struggle or can be situated in historical contexts where Muslims were at war with non-Muslims. The book explores these debates and points to 2:256 as the most important seed of freedom to be nurtured.

[2.] The second seed of freedom is the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims regard the life of the Prophet—what he said, what he did—as recorded in hadith to be nearly as important as the Qur'an as a source of faith, law, and morals. In his life, we can find pointers to religious freedom. The Prophet's life following the first revelations to him in 610 is typically divided into two periods: one in the city of Mecca (610–622) and one in the city of Medina (622–632). During the Meccan period, his followers increased but they remained a minority and were persecuted. The real test of whether the Prophet Muhammad's life points to religious freedom lies in his behavior when he wielded the power of a political ruler and conqueror. That test would come in the Medina portion of his life.

The book finds evidence for religious tolerance in this portion of his life, including the Constitution of Medina, a pact that sets forth tolerance for religious minorities, including Jews, while also noting episodes of conquest and execution of opponents.

[3.] The third seed of freedom is the history of Muslim toleration of non-Muslims. From Muhammad's rule emerged one practice that can be regarded as a seed of freedom: the creation of the status of the dhimmi, a permanent arrangement for non-Muslims living under Muslim rule that allows them to practice their faith freely while paying tribute to the government. Again, to call this practice a seed of freedom is to say that the glass is both half full and half empty. A measure of freedom exists but falls well short of the full human right of religious freedom. Optimists and skeptics towards religious freedom in Islam respectively claim the glass as half full, viewing the dhimmi status as a laudable tradition of tolerance, and half empty, regarding it as a demeaning plight of second-class citizenship, one that can sometimes take brutal forms. Both perspectives can find evidence. Minority status alone, though, is not religious freedom. A development into equality of citizenship is needed.

[4.] The fourth seed is liberal Islam. In certain pockets of history, certain Muslim countries have hosted liberalism. Liberalism here means a constitutional regime marked by the rule of law, equal citizenship, an elected legislature, civil liberties, free markets, and, yes, religious freedom. The locales where liberalism has most gained ground are the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century; Iran in the early 20th century; Egypt in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, especially the period 1923–1952; Tunisia in the mid-19th century; and heavily Muslim regions of the Russian Empire—what are today known as the Central Asian Republics—in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

[5.] The fifth seed is contemporary Muslim advocates of religious freedom. While early experiences in liberal Muslim regimes were swept over by one or another form of illiberalism, today there exist Muslim scholars, jurists, clerics, and activists who advocate religious freedom as an Islamic principle. They are a seed of freedom. Their arguments admit of variation. Some focus on abolishing the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy, issues that have pervaded the global headlines in recent years. Some call for abolishing the death penalty for these infractions but retaining other legal sanctions. Others call for religious freedom in full: no criminalizing apostasy and blasphemy, no dhimmi status, no discrimination. Consonant with the concept of a seed of freedom, religious freedom is partially and variously realized.

[6.] The sixth seed is freedom in law and institutions in Muslim-majority states. As the book generally argues, only about one-fourth of Muslim-majority states protect religious freedom in a robust way. Many have signed on to international law conventions that articulate religious freedom but others have developed alternative conventions like the Universal Declaration of Islamic Human Rights of 1980, whose protections are weak. One can say, though, that a legal deposit of religious freedom exists that can be expanded upon.

[7.] A seventh and final seed is the separation of religion and state. As historian Ira Lapidus argues, in the history of Islam, except for a few periods, including the founding period, religious and temporal authorities have been differentiated. There are many varieties of this differentiation, and at times, religious and temporal authorities have interpenetrated each other thoroughly. Differentiation has not always meant what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote of a wall of separation between church and state in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. What differentiation means is that two separate authorities exist and are not fused into one. And, as with Christian history, this is a foundation on which the more robust separation of religious freedom can be built.

These seven seeds of freedom reflect the book's combination of honesty and hope. The Muslim world is broadly lacking in religious freedom but contains the potential for far more.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    For some reason Islam is 'distorted' over and over and over into a violent, intolerant, restrictive, and fanatical religion followed by hundreds of millions of lunatics.

    The more moderate Muslims don't seem to be very religious.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    "hundreds of millions" hyperbole doesn't help your argument. A few thousand, a million, beyond that is silly.

    The same argument is easy for Christianity. The crusades, the inquisition, the religious wars before 16xx, they were all as crazy as anything Muslims have done.

    Japanese Buddhists had some pretty nasty wars. I suspect the Chinese had religious wars, but I don't know enough Chinese history.

    It took Christians 1600 years to settle down and stop the religious barbarity. They had a 600+ year head start over Muslims. No one could have predicted the Christian "peace" 100 years ahead of time; no one can predict if/when the Muslim "peace" will commence.

    Singling out Islam as especially barbaric is silly.

  • AmosArch||

    Bu-bu-bu-but THE CRUSADES!

    The distinctive call of a Muslim apologist at the end of their tether.

  • mad_kalak||

    And the Crusades were themselves only a response to Jihad.

  • David Friedman||

    And to what was the large scale forced conversion of pagans under Charlemagne, well before the crusades, a response?

  • mad_kalak||

    Moving the goalposts eh? Regardless, yes, in some ways they were a response to raiding culture. The scale at which you portray them, as "large" is somewhat mistaken, at least compared to the Crusades and Jihad.

    If you want to portray Christianity as (pick your poison) it's not very hard. First, it's been around 2000 years and all sorts of things have happened in culturally Christian nations and under ostensibly Christian rulers.

    Secondly, its particularly dumb to conflate the Christian religion with secular ruler-ship. For all the blah blah about the divine right of kings, the Church and the medieval West were symbiotic, but not one and the same. It was secular rulers who committed pograms for Jewish money, and so on.

    At best, one can blame Christians for killing each other in the name of suppressing heresies or during the Reformation, but that was often about political power as much as it was the salvation of one's soul.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    That's a pretty selective parsing of history. I doubt the dead and tortured cared much for such a distinction without a difference.

  • MKE||

    Not succinct enough for you? Hmm, how to express on your level? How about, you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs? Or, sh#t happens?

  • bernard11||

    its particularly dumb to conflate the Christian religion with secular ruler-ship. For all the blah blah about the divine right of kings, the Church and the medieval West were symbiotic, but not one and the same. It was secular rulers who committed pograms for Jewish money, and so on.

    The church approved of and encouraged many, many, anti-semitic acts and laws. It was the Pope who gave Ferdinand and Isabella the title "The Catholic Monarchs" shortly after they expelled the Jews from Spain.

    It was popes who set up and continued the ghettos in Rome. It was crusaders who sacked Jerusalem, and centuries later, Constantinople.

    It was the church's teachings that encouraged the participants in the pogroms, and the church did zippo to condemn them.

    So kiss off.

  • gormadoc||

    A minor nit: the religious wars were most violent *after* the 1600s.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Hundred Years war was in the 1300s and 1400s. Thirty Years war was in the early 1600s. Cromwell's civil war was the mid 1600s. The Treay of Westphalia which ended most religious wars was in 1648 at the end of the Thirty Years war.

    I stand uncorrected.

  • David Friedman||

    The hundred years war wasn't a religious war. It was a war between two Catholic states over who would rule France.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    You mean two Catholic states which had no disagreements at all? Sounds like religion at the heart of it.

    Nitpick or not, the most violent religious wars, and most of all religious wars in Europe, were before 1648.

  • ThePublius||

    Singling out Islam as especially barbaric in the 21st century is sensible.

    FIFY

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    I'll agree with you on that. But it doesn't justify denying that Christianity was just as barbaric.

  • mad_kalak||

    "...Christianity was just as barbaric"

    Not so, quite a big difference in level of "killing in the name of" between the two religions.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Between current Muslims and 1500 Christians, not so much. To pretend Christianity was not in the same ballpark as Muslims is pathetic grasping.

  • AmosArch||

    Anybody who follows history beyond what their Communist professors tell them will find out very quickly that Islam has violence and domination embedded into its Scriptures and has characterized its rule per capita to a much greater extent than Christianity in particular and other religions in general. This is a fact that Muslims who understand the religion best, the fundamentalists, openly admit and are proud of. The WHATABOUTCHRISTIANITY? and WHATTABOUTOTHERELGION? act is tired and doesn't befit anybody above the age of 10.

  • MKE||

    What more can be said in response to yet another article that appears blind to reality? Again, I would ask, how many mosques/Imams are actually preaching/teaching anything close to religious freedom? Actually, let's take one step back. How many are just preaching: don't commit acts of violence? It's one thing to argue conceptually that the faith, as properly interpreted, can accommodate freedom, but where is this actually practiced in real life Muslim communities to any significant degree? How many of any so-called tolerant communities every actually denounce violence? Please spare me historical references and state actions (signing onto UN declarations). As I noted, the former constitution of the USSR was a font of human rights, on paper only.

  • gormadoc||

    The post is credited to the wrong author.

  • PeteRR||

    There is no religious hierarchy in Islam, so the written word in the Koran and Hadith are free to be interpreted by any Tom, Dick, or Ahmed and there is no real authority to tell them they are wrong. After all, the Koran itself says that is the literal words of Allah. Not the interpretation or witness by mortal man, but from God's mouth to Mohammed's ears to the written page. No errors and everything in it, it is all true and none of it is superseded by what is written earlier or later.

    How do you get to moderate Islam when the average Muslim can read what's on the page and act on what he's being told to do by Allah himself?

  • croaker||

    One of the reasons I call bullshit on this post. There are many more, but I'll just leave one: "Convert or die."

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    I'll leave just one more: "Inquisition".

  • Sarcastr0||

    Are you arguing that Imams have no religious authority in Islam?

  • PeteRR||

    They are just teachers. There is no Pope or Archbishop at the top to disallow or allow certain portions of holy texts.

  • David Friedman||

    One of the early Caliphs established a single official text for the Quran.

  • mad_kalak||

    And the Catholic Church says their are 73 books in the bible, but Luther didn't like some of them, so for everyone else there is just 66.

    And nevermind the many, many translations, some of which subvert the original meaning from the Greek/Hebrew. In short, while you are technically correct, you're functionally wrong, in that single official texts are only official texts as long as there is a controlling authority.

  • gormadoc||

    It's the same way Jews or Christians do it: interpretation. Sharia is the divine law and fiqh is the interpretation.

    The Quran is not "the literal words of Allah", anyway. The Quran is the transcription of Muhammad's oral descriptions of his revelations. One important matter in early Islam was that there were several versions of the Quran, with inconsistencies between them. Similarly to early Christianity, the scholars and clerics mostly agreed on one version.

    It's pretty clear, both from theological and historical insights, that there isn't just one version of Islam.

  • gormadoc||

    For those who doubt the selective interpretations of the Bible by Jews and Christians, consider the Messiah. Mainstream Jews do not believe Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and is therefore not the Messiah. Christians believe he did but in a rather more metaphorical way, like with the Israelites being reunited or the Temple being reconstructed.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    How do you get to moderate Christianity when the average Christian can read what's on the page and act on what he's being told to do by God himself?

    Are you really advocating the Catholic church as the only true Christian church?

    If anything, getting away from the Christian hierarchy taught Christians to have a little tolerance.

  • mad_kalak||

    There is no religious hierarchy in Protestantism either, every person is essentially their own Pope.

  • David Friedman||

    "it is all true and none of it is superseded by what is written earlier or later."

    That is not correct. The Quran contains three different statements on wine, and it is the last delivered of the three, the only one that forbids it, that is considered binding.

    "so the written word in the Koran and Hadith are free to be interpreted by any Tom, Dick, or Ahmed and there is no real authority to tell them they are wrong."

    That is not entirely correct. There is no religious hierarchy in our sense, but there is an elaborate scholarly hierarchy. It has been accepted legal doctrine for a thousand years or so that no modern scholar has the expertise of the founders of the four Sunni schools of law, and that only scholars trained in the schools are competent to deduce legal rules from the Quran and Hadith.

  • CJColucci||

    I am unaware of any major religion that came to adopt the modern view of religious freedom as a matter of religious doctrine, and for religious reasons. To the limited extent that one can say a religion's adherents' view of their religious doctrines is, in their own terms, "correct", (for example, a candid reading of the Bible probably supports the southern rather than the northern view on the scriptural acceptability of slavery, if anyone then or now actually cared), most religions probably don't have a sound scriptural basis for endorsing religious freedom. Adherents of major religions who now accept the modern view of religious freedom adopted it for other, secular reasons, like avoiding the inconvenience of religious war, and have cobbled together whatever bits of scripture and commentary they need to make it work for them theologically. Presumably, Islam will do likewise one of these days. Or if it doesn't, it won't be because the "true" meaning of Islam forbids it.

  • gormadoc||

    It of course depends on sect and time, but Buddhism has had positive proclamations of religious freedom, a major example being the Buddhism supported by Ashoka. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have historically been tolerant of other religions, mostly because they believe other religions to be different in practice and not purpose. It's changed for Hinduism in the last few centuries and few decades for Buddhism, largely due to ethnic tension.

    It helps that they don't have written texts that form the basis for everything they believe.

  • David Friedman||

    Islam has historically been tolerant of at least the Abrahamic religions—considerably more tolerant of Christianity and Judaism than Christianity was of Judaism and Islam. Jews and Christians prospered in Iberia under Muslim rule for centuries. After the success of the Reconquista, all Jews and Muslims were required to either convert or leave.

    And there is support for such toleration in both the Quran and Islamic jurisprudence, as mentioned in the article.

  • gormadoc||

    He's saying as a positive declaration. The only example I know of is Ashoka's Buddhism.

  • MKE||

    Just some quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right." There's a lot lot more too. And, for your further edification, the Church's views on freedom are not a modern response adopted for secular reasons but central to Church teaching. In fact, the Church's views on freedom and natural rights existed long before the U.S. Constitution was a glint in the milkman's eye.

  • bernard11||

    You've got to be kidding.

    Crusades, inquisitions, expulsions, religious wars, forced ghettoization, etc.

  • MKE||

    Well you certainly seem to have some strong views, well supported by Wikipedia I'm sure. But do you have even the slightest conception of any Church teachings? Ever hear of St. Thomas? St. Gregory? As someone once said, It's hard to argue with someone enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their own ignorance.

  • Sarcastr0||

    So what were the Church's views during the lapses bernard mentions?

    The argument is not that Christianity is bad or as bad as Islam, it's that all these broad condemnations prove way too much and may be applied to just about any large faith to condemn it as well.

  • MKE||

    I think, if you actually took the time to study the subject, you'd find that the Church's fundamental views have remained consistently the same for about 2000 years.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Notwithstanding all the infallible Popes contradicting each other.

  • MKE||

    No, you are quite mistaken. Do you actually know anything about the doctrine of Papal infallibility?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Seriously, I don't get it. The views are unchanged, so then what is the explanation for when the Church's actions contradict those views?

  • MKE||

    I agree, you don't get it.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Dark humor is like food, not everybody gets it.

  • gormadoc||

    Geocentrism excluded, I assume?

  • bernard11||

    So you have nothing to say except "church teachings?"

    Sorry, that's no argument. I suppose those same teachings mean that priests never commit sexual abuse.

    And no, my opinions are not from Wikipedia.

    I'll give you one church teaching - straight from the popes who sent Jews into the ghetto in Rome: that Jews were not to be killed, but to condemned to lives of poverty and misery, to be witnesses to the superiority of Christianity, and induced to convert.

    I'll give you another - that the pope has the right kidnap a child because his baby-sitter sprinkled some water on him.

  • gormadoc||

    During the time the Constitution was being debated, the Catholic Church was violently suppressing the Jesuits and had been for decades.

    A century before, the Catholics attempted to enforce Catholicism as the only religion within the HRE, killing Protestant leaders and leaving to the Thirty Years War.

    What a great tradition of natural rights.

  • MKE||

    I'll incorporate by reference my above comment. And advise you further that Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is not really a reliable historical text.

  • gormadoc||

    Here's a Papal brief from 1773.

    He proudly lists the religious orders previous Popes had exterminated and suppressed before stating that the Jesuits had been stripped of any authority and no Catholic could join them or believe in their teachings. Anybody who disobeyed or even delayed in promulgating the order would be excommunicated. That's not religious freedom.

    I note that you had absolutely no response to the Thirty Years War, sparked due to Catholic demands for the eradication of Protestantism.

  • MKE||

    I think my responses are more than sufficient to address the nonsense raised in the comments. As for your comments on the Jesuits, without accepting your biased characterizations, I guess one could say everyone has the freedom to decide if they want to be a Catholic or not, but they can't redefine the basic tenets of the faith to suit their own personal predilections.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Your responses are quite obviously not sufficient to address the comments you respond to.

  • MKE||

    If you say so. They're sufficient for me.

  • gormadoc||

    "one could say everyone has the freedom to decide if they want to be a Catholic or not"

    Well, except for the Wends, Swedes, Latvians, Estonians, Cathars, Hussites, Mesoamericans, and Incans, all of which done with the blessing or instigation of the Pope and this list doesn't include groups that were forced to become Catholic without the Pope saying something, like the Saxons, Jews and Muslims in Iberia, and Indians in Goa.

    For a more individual perspective on the Catholic Church and its historic lack of religious freedom, consider Edgardo Mortrara, a Jew taken from his parents by the Papal State in 1857 because a servant claimed she had secretly baptized him. The Pope refused to return Edgardo and insisted that he be raised Catholic.

  • gormadoc||

    I suppose that I'm slightly wrong in saying that the Pope "didn't say something" about the forced conversions in Iberia. He did in fact say something: he released King Charles V from his oath to tolerate and protect Muslims in Spain.

  • MKE||

    Nobody's perfect I guess

  • MKE||

    Is that it? Surely there's more in the 2000 year reign of terror. And you didn't even mention the Crusades like everyone else. You're not doing this right.

  • Mesoman||

    I don't know about the Swedes, but the Mesoamericans and Incans were not forced into Christianity by the Pope, although Spanish authorities were rather nasty in that regard. But the reason the Incans fell to a Spanish force of 200 was that a whole lot of other Mesoamericans voluntarily converted, after seeing the evils of the Incan religion, which included using subject Mesoamerican groups as sources of massive numbers of human sacrifices.

    In general, it is an error to blame the Pope for the actions of civil authorities, who may have used religion as the justifications for their misbehavior - something that has happened in pretty much all societies for all of recorded history.

  • bernard11||

    In general, it is an error to blame the Pope for the actions of civil authorities, who may have used religion as the justifications for their misbehavior - something that has happened in pretty much all societies for all of recorded history.

    In general, it is an error to absolve the Pope and the church hierarchy of responsibility for misbehavior they encouraged, supported, and promoted, as well as engaged in, much of which was in direct response to church teachings.

    It is also an error to absolve them of complicity in many crimes they could have mitigated, even if the actual criminals were the civil authorities.

  • bernard11||

    I think my responses are more than sufficient to address the nonsense raised in the comments.

    You made no substantive response. Telling people they are wrong without explaining why is BS.

  • bernard11||

    Can you say anything except "The Church is right?"

    Because that's all your comments here amount to.

  • CJColucci||

    As my name suggests, I require no instruction from you about the teachings of the Catholic Church. Its current view on religious freedom was adopted in my own lifetime. Before that, it firmly rejected the idea.

  • MKE||

    With all due respect, you add an "St" or "Ste" to your login Id but that doesn't change the fact that your positions are substantively wrong as to Church teaching and tradition. The Church has ever firmly rejected freedom of conscience? I think you are badly in need of some refresher courses. But, as I said above, it is quite difficult to argue with someone enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their own ignorance.

  • CJColucci||

    I'd refer you to the papal declarations on the topic from 1520 to 1965.

  • MKE||

    And I would refer you to St. Augustine, St. Thomas, and John Henry Cardinal Newman. But don't misunderstand, I do not accept your negative interpretations of any papal declaration.

  • CJColucci||

    Last I looked, you become a saint because a Pope says so, not vice versa.

  • MKE||

    Uh...what?

  • gormadoc||

    He's saying that stuff a Pope says supersedes whatever a Saint says. Saints don't have temporal or spiritual authority; Popes do.

  • MKE||

    Stuff a pope says supersedes whatever a saint says. OK, I guess I must have missed that gem of theological wisdom in sunday school, my mistake.

  • CJColucci||

    Matt. 16:17-19. Of course, we present and former Catholics are notorious for not reading the Bible, but we do a bang-up job of iconography. There's a reason statues of Peter show him holding keys.

  • mad_kalak||

    There are a multitude of saints, many of them likely around us on this Earth now. Only of a few of them ever get recognized and canonized as such by the Pope.

  • CJColucci||

    This makes good, secular sense if you're using "saints" colloquially to mean really good people. The world has and has had many such people, most of whom died or will die in obscurity without recognition from the Pope or any other institutional representative. But in the context of the house rules of a particular sect, here Roman Catholicism, Popes have religious authority and get to decide whether people are saints or not, regardless of whether in ordinary usage they are "saints." Likewise, Popes have religious authority over matters of doctrine, and though they may cite the words of theologians, some with the title "Saint" and some not, in crafting an explanation for whatever views they see fit to pronounce, the authority to pronounce lies with the Pope, not the saint. At least that's how the Popes have seen it, and they are in charge until someone else is.

  • mad_kalak||

    No, I'm not. I'm saying according to Catholic doctrine, there are un-canonized saints. Not just "good people", but people who lived holy lives, likely even had miracles associated with them, but that they will never gain formal recognition, which is all that the canonization process is at its heart.

    Furthermore, that Popes weren't the only ones with the authority to canonize saints if you go back in time far enough. That authority was later centralized.

  • gormadoc||

    "But, as I said above, it is quite difficult to argue with someone enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their own ignorance."

    The wonderful, wonderful irony.

  • MKE||

    Well I guess it's up to the individual, they don't really have to enjoy a sense of moral superiority in their own ignorance. Feel free not to feel morally superior.

  • apedad||

    The Church Defense Group for Christians in Central African Republic apparently didn't get the memo.

  • jdgalt1||

    The author makes a good case that there is textual support for an Islamic "Protestant reformation" that might lead to substantial religious freedom. But the case that there is popular or cultural support for such a thing has not been made. Indeed, I understand that several of the more extreme groups in Islam have the primary purpose of seeking out and murdering any such would-be reformers before their ideas can spread.

    Any such survey would also need to address the practices of "honor killing" and FGM, which are not only harmful in themselves but indicate enough militancy in the population that there may be no hope of reform.

  • Sarcastr0||

    "honor killing" and FGM, which are not only harmful in themselves but indicate enough militancy in the population that there may be no hope of reform.

    'Indicate...may' doing a lot of work here.

    'Group does bad things. Group will thus always be bad' is more demonization than prediction.

    the case that there is popular or cultural support for such a thing has not been made
    See previous posts.

  • AmosArch||

    Islam is its own complete and whole thing, the original and true form of islam is fundamentally incompatible with the metareligion and system of secular progressive values liberals keep trying to impose over it. Only deluded 'moderate' Muslims believe in a world where mohammad would be okay with LGFDKDJFLDFDLDLFLLIDLKFJI politics and originalist imams are square dancing with radical feminist womyn's studies professors. Muslims following the most original authentic teachings do not need or want this. Right wing critics and fundamentalist Muslims understand the religion far better than moderates and the majority of western politicians.

  • Sarcastr0||

    the original and true form of islam
    most original authentic teachings

    Do you talk about the most original/true/authentic form of Christianity? Of Judaism? Of Buddhism?

    So why you telling Muslims what their faith is?

  • AmosArch||

    If you're a religious Muslim, in any coherent sense, or you're looking for 'authentic and original' Islamic teachings from a religious perspective. You're probably looking for stuff like Muhammad's actual sayings directly transmitted from Allah, hadiths from an unbroken lineage of authority or an imam who follows such teachings over unsupported declarations about how Islam is cool with LGBTKDFLDJFL parades dreamed up at a random Feminist Islam conference in Poduck Community College. Same goes with Christianity and the like. This isn't only my opinion.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Where do you get this idea that all coherently religious Muslims are fundamentalists? Why does that not apply to other faiths?

  • AmosArch||

    My post directly answered your question, try reading it next time.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Your post is just ipse dixit. What's your authority or source for any of what you just said about how Islam works? Because what you say does not comport with what I've heard and read.

  • AmosArch||

    Are you seriously trying to argue that Muhammed and the Koran have no more authority in Islam than any other random person?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Way to exclude the middle.

    By that logic all true Christians and Jews must also be fundamentalists, else their holy books lack sufficient authority.

  • apedad||

    HEY! How come right wing critics get a free pass?

    'cause they're just as much basket-cases as any other fundamentalist?

  • David Friedman||

    "A seventh and final seed is the separation of religion and state."

    Putting it that way is a little misleading, since your readers, being moderns, will assume that it is the state that produces the law. A central doctrine of Islamic jurisprudence is the separation of state and law. According to conventional Sunni doctrine, law is not based on rulings by the state but on religious sources, primarily the Quran and Hadith (also consensus).

    Real world Islamic polities didn't fully abide by that theory, just as the U.S. administrative agencies don't fully abide by the separation of executive from legislative authority, but it is the accepted doctrine.

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