Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Objectivist and a Thomist on Islamic Reformation

"The call for an Islamic Reformation presumes that the theocratic rulers of Iran and Saudi Arabia—and the wannabe theocrats in al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood—are the counterparts of the medieval Catholic Church;" notes David Kelley, "and that reformers who oppose them are the contemporary equivalents of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other Protestant reformers" — Does Islam Need a Reformation? "This is very nearly the exact opposite of the truth," he rightly argues, continuing:
    It is the Islamists who most resemble the early Protestants... They called for a return to the spirit and practices of the early Christian community, without the formal organization or intermediation of the Church—just as Islamists call for a return to the simple faith of Muhammad and the “rightly-guided caliphs” who followed him in the seventh century. Like the Protestant reformers of the 16th century, Islamists today are fundamentalists. The Protestants wanted to abandon the edifice of scholastic thought, the efforts by Catholic theologians and philosophers to make sense of the religion, and return to a literalist reading of the scriptures—just as Islamists want to bypass the edifice of learned interpretation in “the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists” in favor of reliance solely on the Qur’an. In philosophical terms, both the Protestants and the Islamists represent movements away from the values of reason, the pursuit of happiness in this world, and political freedom.
Similarly, Edward Feser, back in 2003, argued that "if the problem with Islam is that it seems constantly to give rise to sects violently hostile to secular institutions, to reason, and to cultured sentiment; that the countries in which it predominates have a chronic tendency toward theocratic despotism; and that as a religion it exhibits no institutional structure that might finally impose some discipline on the chaotic and lawless spiritual impulses that it generates -- if all that is the problem (which it surely is), then it is absurd to hold that the solution is for Islam to find its Martin Luther" — Does Islam Need a Luther or a Pope?

"[Islam] has already had its Luther, not to mention its Calvin and its Henry VIII, all rolled into one: his name was Muhammad," he concluded. "What Islam needs is a Pope."

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