They did have a Reformation

It is odd indeed to hear the former Prime Minister of a country descended from scalawags and convicts speak with greater moral clarity and accuracy on the subject of dar al-Islam's 14-century war against everyone else than the President of the United States of America.

Then again, that would probably be because, unlike President Odoofus, Mr. Tony Abbott actually has a brain between his ears:
“We’ve got to work closely with live-and-let-live Muslims because there needs to be, as President (Abdel Fattah) Al-Sisi of Egypt has said, a religious revolution inside Islam. All of those things that Islam has never had – a Reformation, an Enlightenment, a well-developed concept of the separation of church and state – that needs to happen, but we can’t do it; Muslims have got to do this for themselves, but we should work with those who are pushing in that direction. 
The other thing that’s needed is a restoration of cultural self-confidence in those who are supporters of Western civilisation. All cultures are not equal and, frankly, a culture that believes in decency and tolerance is much to be preferred to one which thinks that you can kill in the name of God, and we’ve got to be prepared to say that.
Mr. Abbott is a rare bird among his fellow politicians. He is willing to take tough stances that run contrary to the politically correct narrative. He was, at least for a while, decidedly against the notion of taxing Australians to satisfy the whims of the world's anthropogenic global warming- sorry, sorry, climate change- doomsayers. He was willing to foster closer ties with Australia's historic Anglosphere allies, rather than continuing the alignment with a Chinese-led Pacific hegemony that his Labour predecessors sought to implement. He wasn't terribly interested in letting the sexual deviants of the Pink Army have their way by twisting and defiling the definition of marriage. And he has been refreshingly outspoken on the subject of refugees entering Australian waters attempting to achieve a better life by openly flouting Australian law and sovereignty. He also didn't appear to have much patience, at all, for the ridiculous idea that convicted terrorists should be allowed to stay in his country.

There is, however, one very big problem with Mr. Abbott's call for an Islamic Reformation. And it comes down to the fact that the Islamic world already went through one. It is precisely because Islam already underwent that ideology's version of the Protestant Reformation that Islam is as toxic, as misguided, and as deadly to everyone and everything else as it is today:
In order to prevent a clash of civilizations, or worse, Islam must reform. This is the contention of many Western peoples. And, pointing to Christianity's Protestant Reformation as proof that Islam can also reform, many are optimistic. 
Overlooked by most, however, is that Islam has been reforming. What is today called "radical Islam" is the reformation of Islam. And it follows the same pattern of Christianity's Protestant Reformation. 
The problem is our understanding of the word "reform." Despite its positive connotations, "reform" simply means to "make changes (in something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it." 
Synonyms of "reform" include "make better," "ameliorate," and "improve"—splendid words all, yet words all subjective and loaded with Western references. 
Muslim notions of "improving" society may include purging it of "infidels" and their corrupt ways; or segregating men and women, keeping the latter under wraps or quarantined at home; or executing apostates, who are seen as traitorous agitators. 
Banning many forms of freedoms taken for granted in the West—from alcohol consumption to religious and gender equality—can be deemed an "improvement" and a "betterment" of society. 
In short, an Islamic reformation need not lead to what we think of as an "improvement" and "betterment" of society—simply because "we" are not Muslims and do not share their reference points and first premises. "Reform" only sounds good to most Western peoples because they, secular and religious alike, are to a great extent products of Christianity's Protestant Reformation; and so, a priori, they naturally attribute positive connotations to the word.
As that article goes on to point out, the Protestant Reformation was in fact an attempt to get back to the roots of the Christian faith, and to do away with the ritual, corruption, and indolence (at least, as the Protestants saw it) that had slowly crept into the Christian church and its theological practices. And in this respect, the Reformation succeeded, quite admirably.

What would a rediscovery of the Christian faith look like?

Well, given that the New Testament preaches that men should have unwavering resolve in the face of eternal evil, it would teach us to be strong and steadfast. It would also attempt to make us more humble, more tolerant of each other's flaws, and more willing to acknowledge the primacy of a higher Power that rules over the Universe as its Creator and Judge. Ultimately, a rediscovery of Christianity's roots would restore our faith in God, our brotherly love for each other as His children, and a healthy respect for the differences between the things that we can change, and the things that are simply out of our hands.

Scriptural literalism, in the case of the Christian faith, might well prove to be unworkable in real life- I'm not theologian enough to speculate about that. But there can be no question that going back to the roots of Christianity would involve a lot of charity, kindness toward our fellow man, and unbending adherence to a structure of moral principles rooted in eternal truths.

By contrast, what would a rediscovery of the Islamic faith look like?

We don't actually have to imagine this. We know what it would look like. We see it around us every day now:
This vulnerability has now reached breaking point: millions of more Korans published in Arabic and other languages are in circulation today compared to just a century ago; millions of more Muslims are now literate enough to read and understand the Koran compared to their medieval forbears. The Hadith, which contains some of the most intolerant teachings and violent deeds attributed to Islam's prophet, is now collated and accessible, in part thanks to the efforts of Western scholars, the Orientalists. Most recently, there is the Internet—where all these scriptures are now available in dozens of languages and to anyone with a laptop or iPhone. 
In this backdrop, what has been called at different times, places, and contexts "Islamic fundamentalism," "radical Islam," "Islamism," and "Salafism" flourished. Many of today's Muslim believers, much better acquainted than their ancestors with the often black and white words of their scriptures, are protesting against earlier traditions, are protesting against the "medieval synthesis," in favor of scriptural literalism—just like their Christian Protestant counterparts once did.
And that is what well-meaning but sadly ignorant conservatives fail to understand about Islam.

They do not realise that Islam is an ideology rather than a religion. It is remarkably prescriptive about almost every possible aspect of a man's life- right down to how a man should clean himself and when it is and is not permissible to have sex with a woman.

They do not know that violence, intolerance, and a massive racial superiority complex is built directly into Islam's roots.

They do not understand that paedophilia, consanguinity (if not outright inbreeding), polygamy, and all manner of other practices that Christians regard as abhorrent in the extreme, are not only sanctioned within Islam, they are encouraged- because if the "prophet" did it, then that is what Muslims should do.

They do not see that lying, deception, and outright treachery are perfectly permissible within Islam when dealing with non-Muslims. They have not been taught that Islam offers precisely three choices to non-believers: conversion, enslavement, or death.

By contrast, the far greater access that modern Muslims have to their own "holy" books makes it possible for them to see exactly what those texts actually say. Now, more than ever, it is simple and easy for any inquisitive Muslim to simply go to the nearest public library, pick up a copy of the Koran, and try to puzzle through a book that even its admirers and supporters in the West admit is very, very hard to understand.

As the example of the Mughals shows, at least for certain long stretches, the most odious aspects of Islam, which provoked such hostility, destruction, and economic stagnation wherever they were implemented, were simply dropped because it became impossible to maintain and run an empire if doctrine was strictly adhered to. But the Mughals could get away with that, because the average Muslim under their rule was not particularly literate and did not have any real access to the Islamic texts.

That is no longer true.

And, with all due respect to Mr. Abbott, we have already seen what it looks like when Muslims go back to a very literal reading of their texts and decide to start putting that literal interpretation into practice.

It is called ISIS.


  1. "What would a rediscovery of the Christian Faith look like?"

    We've seen it, too. Process started about 1525 with a German priest and continues to this day to those of us who are Reformed by conviction and not by convenience. Semper Reformanda!

    BTW, +1 on the Islamic Reformation post. Nobody seems to understand that when the Christians did it, we left the Roman church and its manmade traditions and went straight to the Book. Islam threw off Anwar Sadat, Qaddafi, Hussein of Jordan, Assad et al and went straight to suras 4 and 9: the last ones allegedly given to the child molester.

  2. I would question whether he has a brain between his ears, actually. Why? Why because if he actually understood Islam he'd realize that the separation of church and state is not possible. Islam, where Islam rules, _is_ the law. Islam, where Islam rules, rules in accordance with the divinely inspired word of God (so a Moslem must believe), and no state can contradict it.

    1. That is a fair point which I missed in my remarks.

      The only example that I, personally, have seen of an Islamic nation operating with a (relatively) clear division between mosque and state was Indonesia, back when I lived there. This was damn near 20 years ago, and things have changed dramatically since then. That separation worked only the country was ruled by one family with near-absolute power and was, for all intents and purposes, basically a single-party state.

      The Suharto family was far more interested in money and power than in scriptural literalism, and as such enforced a clear division between political and religious Islam.

      The former was anathema and struggled greatly to make any kind of headway outside of isolated pockets like Aceh and parts of Sulawesi. The latter was openly encouraged, which is why, at the time, Indonesians had a reputation for being laid-back and tolerant about their faith.

      But that separation is not inherent within Islam, as you say. Islam has no equivalent to the Catholic (or more generally Christian) doctrine of the "two swords". Within Islam, historically, such a separation has had to be enforced by the state, in order to keep the mosque from destroying it.


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