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In the last few days, I’ve been exploring slowly and surely across a greater expanse of the vast blogosophere towards those writers who inhabit the interstitial space between the West, Islam and Modernity. I can’t say that I’ve learned a lot in the small journey, it very much is still in its infancy, but there is the sense of stepping out into vaster horizons than I have previously done.

I’ve seen new ideas, perspectives and gained a better understanding I think of the more integrated Muslims in the western world who are trying to rationalise their religion in a society that has strong classical liberal roots, and is defined by it’s strong commitment to the separation of church and state, and ideal of which I’m also a keen supporter.

I’ve often said that I’d find nothing more horrifying then actually living in the pseudo-fascism that seems to be the lot of those societies in the modern world that are predominantly Muslim by faith. While I know historically that is not the case, we’re talking about where I would want to live in the current world, and a vast tolerant muslim democracy with no theological controls is currently an entirely fictional account. Malaysia and Indonesia come extremely close to fitting this definition, but they have strong theological controls and state controlled religious authorities to oversee the functioning of mosques and other religious institutions, which I see as a direct contradiction of the necessary principle of separation.

My journey started with this post by Meryam about her ashera experience, and how she didn’t feel able to put it into words sufficiently herself. She linked instead to this post on the City of Brass. It was a well written post and off equal relevance to me, and I took the opportunity to poke around more intently around the other articles.

This wasn’t the first time I had stumbled across the City of Brass, though I don’t recall what confluence of circumstances had bought me there before. I’ve always seen my faith as self contained and rather unconnected with the divisions and arguments that are put forward by the mainstream, and even marginal commentators on Islam, and by those within Islam, as my specific branch of Islam is in a very realistic way disconnected from this vast mainstream even if connected by the common bond of shared names and history This time I was in a more exploratory mood, and I stayed to take a deeper look.

While it was seemingly a slow week for the author himself, and with the back posts that caught my eye explored, there were a plethora of links off the site to other’s involved in the same niche that City of Brass occupied: Modernity and Islam. I quickly dived into Eteraz.org, Dean Esmay’s World, Austolabe, and a few other sites besides who I don’t recall at this instance.

It was an interesting journey because I seemed to have picked a propitious time to find this corner of the internet. Dean Esmay, who I gather is at least a significant player in these parts, had laid down a fatwa of his own that required those who failed a litmus test of Islamic neutrality to desist from posting and commentating on his blog, although that has since been moderated down into something that I think is far more sensible for such a high profile site. But off course I understand, that it’s Dean’s World and he’ll do as he wants too. What was interesting was the strong debates that it generated, the variety of viewpoints exposed in the fight of an ancient battle – between free speech, stereotypes, control over axiomatic starting positions and the desire for lively debate.

Conflict in this virtual world seems as frequent, and undesirable, as in the real world, and today morning there was more fireworks being launched in this ideological squabble over hearts and minds. Ali Eteraz, the mind behind the eponymous Eteraz.org, had gotten into a debate with another person I’d never heard of called Robert Spencer. It took me to his site, with the alarmist name of Jihad Watch. I gathered that Spencer’s basic premise, from a brief rummage around his site is that Muslims are out to get the Western world, and that unless the West was quickly awoken to the inalienable jihad that was being waged against it, there was no prospect of a real response to the threat that was faced. The moderate Muslim majority was a myth, like Reagan’s Silent Majority and Islam actually was the aggressive creed that its modern manifestation makes it out to be.

While I certainly am not able to rebut or explore thoroughly Spencer’s propositions myself, which prima facie appear to be at least partially reasoned and well put as my own knowledge of my religion is far from spectacular, I find it interesting as an intellectual position and they are certainly part of the vast list of questions that I need to have redressed at some level if I don’t want to end up questioning my faith if I find his arguments to be coherent and rational.

In the end this is a chronicle of exploration, tentative and determined steps out into a new world, that of Islam, Law, Liberalism and Modernity that is traditionally territory I’ve shied away from and often seen as unnecessary. To discover the context in which the broader Islamic world behaves and is perceived in a broad range of contexts, societies and what the exact goal of Islamic reformist movements are and what they specifically see as the flaws of Islam and what needs to be protected from change. Tentative steps then into a vast new world, with which I am if not connected, I am at least distantly related.

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One Comment

  1. we’ve been taking similar blogosphere journeys it seems.. we should discuss sometime


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