Saturday, April 14, 2012

Book Pondering:  The Closing of the Muslim Mind, by Robert Reilly - The Sources of Islamism, The Crisis.

Finishing the book, there are a number of thoughts expressed and many examples of the ideology of violence.  Reilly ponders and dismisses some of the solutions that are proposed, such as the belief that fixing poverty will stop Islamism.  Islamism he admits is a bad term, and defines it as a mix of western revolutionary conceptions grafted onto a framework that is loosely derived from Islam.  This has me pondering the oft repeated assertion that the Soviets weren't Marxist and the like.  I am still waiting for someone to assert that the NAZI's weren't true fascists.  It would be fun to see where that goes.

One prescription that is popular today is the notion that conflict could be reduced if only Islam could be mainlined - i.e. the theology needs to be gutted and replaced with something more sensible by altruistic intellectuals, like was done to Christianity.  He doesn't leave much hope for this.  

Reason is where Reilly places his hope, and cites the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle as a good starting point.  I am not so sure.  In this book Aristotle defines Political Science as the science of the souls of men, and declares that this is the most honorable science.  Another prescription for tyranny?  Democracy - which Reilly idolizes - is condemned by Aristotle as a licentious perversion of a constitutional Republic.  Finally, Reilly finishes with a call to reason:

"The recovery of reason, grounded in Logos, is the only sentinel of sanity.  This is imperative for the East as well as the West. 'Come now, let us reason together.' (Isaiah 1:18)" - The Closing of the Muslim Mind.

I look at the quote and agree - sort of - because Logos is understood to be Jesus Christ, and the passage from Isaiah is inviting men to reason with God to avoid his wrath.  That means repenting, turning from their sins and worshiping God alone.  But Isaiah writes this a little further:

"He said, 'Go and tell this people: "Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving."  Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." - Isaiah 6:9-10

In other words, God promises to block their reason due to their sin.  This is a glimpse of the spiritual dimension that Reilly never mentions.  I will finish with a classical Greek rebuttal to the notion that reason leads in the direction he hopes:

"This villainy which he employed was clearly buttressed by the utmost use of reason. It is not merely the stage that abounds in such crimes; even more, our daily life is studded with examples almost as outrageous. The households of each of us, the law-courts, the senate, the voting-booths, allied communities, the provinces - all have experience of how reason lies behind right conduct, but also behind evil-doing. Right conduct is practiced rarely and by the few, whereas the second is constantly performed by a host of people. It would therefore have been better if the immortal gods had granted us no use of reason whatever, rather than to have it bestowed with such a baleful outcome." - On The Nature Of The Gods, Book 3.69


Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

I wrote down the title of this book: a must read, no doubt.
Of course, I totally agree with the author, Robert Reilly: I also dismiss poverty and humiliation as justifications for Islamic terror.

"This has me pondering the oft repeated assertion that the Soviets weren't Marxist and the like. I am still waiting for someone to assert that the NAZI's weren't true fascists."

Society is not far from reaching this stage. It is just almost getting there.
So, if we are not to use Islamism as a term to define Islamic Terror; what term should we use? Muslim Terrorism? This would be far much worse, because it would assume that ALL Muslims are terrorists. Islamism is a good term because it describes terror based on Islamic principles (or misrepresentations of those principles, nevertheless Islamic misrepresentations).

That Isaiah passage: I make a slight different interpretation. God sends Isaiah to talk to people because although they were gifted with sight and hearing they do not use it to see and hear beyond what their senses tell them (i.e. they make no use of reason). By making them "blind and deaf" they will be forced to turn inward and see the Truth (i.e. turning to their Essence, through reason and connect with God). This is basically the same as saying that humans get distracted (and corrupted) by their senses.

I think most people do not make use of Reason although they think they do; hence the chaos.

Excellent article. I will look for this book.


Looney said...

Max, my remarks on the book really didn't address Islam. Mainly Reilly's misunderstanding of the West. I should put a concluding post up to explain a bit more of what I think.