The points in this article are well taken but the reality remains that the legacy religions of the Axial Age are going over Niagara Falls and there isn’t anything we can do to stop that. Ironically, the points made in this article are at once the grounds for a hard critique. The idea that the Koran is the literal word of god is no longer believable, and while we might respect the views of Muslims in one way, we must also reserve the right to say ‘bullshit’. The Koran is a mysterious gnostic finesse that is all too human, period. And the situation is unfair because we never meet the real perpetrators as concealed gnostic Big Shots. Moslems are frozen in this time warp of Islam, and external critics must respectfully reserve the right to severely expose and critique this antiquated muddle of a second rate religion. There’s a catch to such a statement: there is a hidden dimension to Islam and critics must be wary of getting their facts straight. But how many moslems ever find that hidden treasure? The real ‘islam’ is already moving to find a new secular vehicle, as the new age movement made painfully obvious. Consider sufism for instance. There really is a depth unseen to the whole sprawl of religious Islam. But that is a lost cause in the long run as the tide of secularism proceeds without mercy to strip this religion from history. That Jesus was a radical and Mohammed a very different kind of statesman merely emphasizes the point and condemns the whole mess the more as it exposes at once the inability of so many middle eastern countries to reckon with modernity. The list is grim of fake modernities still traditional painting up a false face of technological glitz using oil money, which will so run out leaving the aftermath of the spending spree in a new a uniquely muddled ruin: Iran, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and now regressing Turkey, are hybrid failures because the tenets of ‘exceptionalist Islam’ are in effect.
Islam was always a second rate religion produced in haste from gnostic sources who faked the ‘word of god’ routine to produce a rescue vehicle at the dawn of the Dark Ages. That was Islam’s moment, and the moment of its contribution. That was a long time ago, and the time has long since arrived to move on. But, in the US, Islamic communities have adapted very well to modern culture, so we should point to that as a success, the ‘reformation’ model a la xtianity. But we must also protest the right of the external culture to apply secular garbage disposal, more polite than this perhaps, to this antique lost cause.
Still, I understand why many Americans might find Islam puzzling and foreign. There’s no contradiction in the term American Muslim; but that doesn’t mean Islam is like other monotheistic faiths. It isn’t, in part because it doesn’t lend itself as easily to modern liberalism. The more I’ve studied my own religion — its theology, history and culture — the more I’ve come to appreciate how complicated it is and how much more complicated it must be for people who are coming at it from scratch. Contrary to what many think, there is no Christian equivalent to Koranic “inerrancy,” even among far-right evangelicals. Muslims believe the Koran is not only God’s word, but God’s actual speech — in other words, every single letter and word in the Koran comes directly from God. This seemingly semantic difference has profound implications. If the Koran is God’s speech, and God is unchanging and perfect, then so is his speech. To question the divine origin of the Koran, then, is to question God himself, and God is not easily put in a box, well away from the public sphere. Differences between Christianity and Islam also are evident in each faith’s central figure. Unlike Jesus, who was a dissident, Muhammad was both prophet and politician. And more than just any politician, he was a state-builder as well as a head of state. Not only were the religious and political functions intertwined in the person of Muhammad, they were meant to be intertwined. To argue for the separation of religion from politics, then, is to argue against the model of the very man Muslims most admire and seek to emulate.