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Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

An irony of Islamism

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So to follow up on this post, I read Robert R. Reilly’s Closing of the Muslim Mind in hopes of gaining a better understanding of what Reilly is all about. But before I start criticizing his understanding of Sunni Ash’arite occasionalism—something to be saved for later posts—I’ll say that he wrote a pretty good book. Not only is it an extremely accessible primer on Mu’tazilism and Ash’arism, but it also has an interesting take on modern Islamism as a totalitarian ideology. The only real problem is his thesis—that there is a causal link between Ash’arite ascendancy and modern Islamism.

But, ignoring that for a moment, here’s an interesting bit that relates to a recent post about Turks’ inability to break out of a Western framework, even when criticizing the West. Reilly seems to think that this inability plagues the entire Muslim world (p. 176):

As already stated, the Islamic world was jolted out of its several centuries of torpor only by intrusions from the West. By the early nineteenth century, the West had demonstrated such a decisive superiority over Islamic culture that Islam’s defensive attempts to recover from its influences have been indelibly marked by the very things against which Muslims were reacting. To resist the West, they became, in a way, Western. As Raphael Patai pointed out in The Arab Mind, the very standards by which Muslims measure their own progress are Western. This is amply evident in the UN Arab Human Development Reports, written by Arabs themselves. In a final irony, the most rabid ideological reactions against this state of affairs in the Muslim world are also infused with Western ideology. Islamists practice a perverse kind of homeopathy which uses the very disease from which they are suffering to combat it, but with dosages that are lethal.

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Written by M. James

June 1, 2012 at 11:19 am

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