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Third Letter from a Fearfully Concerned Muslim to an American-Jewish Friend

As Islam makes its bloody transition to modernity, the West does well to remember its own. (Click here for Roger L. Simon's reply to Salim's original letter.)

by
Salim Mansur

Bio

February 28, 2011 - 12:55 pm
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From this it should follow that immoderate Muslims in the West, including the United States and in Canada, must be held responsible for the consequences in practice of what they speak in public. If and when a breach of peace occurs and laws are violated by immoderate Muslims pushing their politics as religion that is immoderate Islam, then the full force of the law should be brought to bear. I submit, however, that “immoderate Islam” and “immoderate Muslims” do not together represent all there is to be said of Islam and Muslims.

It cannot be said that though the principle of evolution is universal, there are exceptions which do not affect its operative principle or meaning. It cannot be said that all of nature, including man and society, is subject to the evolutionary principle and yet, amazingly, Muslims — a people of diverse ethnicity — and Islam — one world religion among several — are unaffected by the ineluctable process of change that the evolutionary principle describes. In formulating such an argument, those who insist that Islam is immutable, that Muslims as a people are indefinitely resistant to change, or that history stops at the threshold of Islamic culture and Muslim lands, traffic in their own form of apologetic and ideological primitivism, if not outright bigotry. This is true be they Muslims or not.

A judicious student of history — especially one whose inquiry relates to the religious history of civilizations — is sensitive to the reality that the change from ancient to modern is not altogether a linear or straightforward process. It was not in the case of the “great Western transmutation” that Marshall Hodgson described, and it will not be in the evolution of Muslim societies and Islam.

Yet what has been taking place in Muslim lands, since the end of colonialism and the emergence of independent Muslim states, is change, under the watchful eyes of modern man. What these eyes see is frequently disturbing — even reprehensible, despicable, and distressing. But modern man is, or should be, historically minded. If he is, he will note that what he sees Muslims doing in Muslim lands reveals a process more or less analogous to that in another time, which brought about the transition of the West from the ancient to the modern.

That transition is a story we need to keep in view — it was blood-soaked and gory, and the belief that accompanied violence across the Continent and beyond was as strange and self-righteous, as full of superstition, misogyny, and bigotry as that which is being seen to take place under the labels of Muslim and Islam. The story of great civilizational transition humbles. With humility, hopefully, comes wisdom.  And such wisdom is much in need, now — to deal effectively, and forcefully when required, with a people, and with the fanatics among them, who remain bounded by a worldview that the West once shared before at last transcending it.

Cordially,

Salim

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Salim Mansur is a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario.
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