Can Islam Be Rescued from Islamism?

By Mordechai Nisan, AMERICAN THINKER May 12, 2019

Islamic terrorism in its violent expressions coexists with Islamic terrorism in thought. The blatant and barbarous aspect of Islamism, its murderous activities in New York and Jerusalem, Bali and London, Paris and Nairobi, Argentina and the Philippines, Madrid and Mumbai, Syria and Sri Lanka, mesmerizes world attention. Yet the terror of thought is no less, and perhaps more, menacing and paralytic: it constricts freedom of consciousness, intimidates free speech, and submits and smothers society under conformist Islamist religious forces.  Islam from its beginning promoted both jihad warfare “in the path of Allah” and dawa missionizing to advance the new religion and make it supreme, if not exclusive, in the world.

Salim Mansur, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario, is a believing but dissident Muslim. Among Muslim reformers and free thinkers in the West, like his fellow-Canadian Irshad Manji, also Nonie Darwish and Boualem Sansal, are those who categorically denounced Islam, pointing to the obscenity of compulsory female genital mutilation and “honor killings,” beheadings, and brutal massacres. Some left the fold; among these apostates are Ibn Warraq, Mohamed Sifaoui, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Some dissidents in Muslim lands fled into exile and required police protection. A noteworthy and particular case was that of Nobel Literature laureate Naguib Mahfouz, a Muslim secularist, who was assaulted by fanatics in Cairo, survived the attack, and remained in his country.

In The Qur’an Problem and Islamism, published by Mantua Books in Canada, Salim Mansur offers an exceptionally courageous and principled Muslim narrative of his personal beliefs and philosophy of life in a world where Khomeinism, Al-Qaeda, Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood, and ISIS, dominate and suffocate the Islamic conversation. Islamism is a “monstrosity,” affirms Mansur, reflecting the rot in the Muslim world. Its savagery in murdering thousands of innocent human beings in Nigeria and Pakistan, France and Spain, Egypt and Iraq, has brought shame upon many good Muslims globally.

Which Islam?

As a classic liberal and modern-day political conservative, Mansur is an intellectual savant whose worldview includes rationalism, individualism, and enlightenment, buoyed by loyalty to Canada and her roots in liberty and law. In his quest to sustain Islam as a religion embodying morality and humanism, Salim Mansur reads, with an open and critical eye, the Qur’an and the life of Muhammad, who spread “the Word of God.” Manifestly explicit passages in the Islamic holy book call upon believers to practice righteousness, to give alms to the poor, to treat orphans with fairness, and honor and show kindness to parents; faith demands belief in Allah and the final Day of Judgment. Muslims are to attend to their prayers and reject idolatry. They are obligated to refrain from imposing their faith on non-Muslims.

With support from the Qur’an, Mansur reaches out to “one human family” with a universalism to encompass all people and believers – not only Muslims — in the One God. The Qur’an that “makes things clear” is part of the prophetic legacy in monotheism. Islam is one path and not the only one toward this truth. In his writings and interviews, Salim conveys his love for humanity whatever people’s background or faith. This is for him the message of Islam writ large in daily life.

So where is the problem? It is in the totalitarian ideology of Islamism, this “crippling of Islamic culture and civilization,” which abandoned philosophy and reason, and formulated a “fascistic” and perverted version of Islam. Great Muslim thinkers like Al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd (Averros), and Jalaluddin al-Rumi, have been ignored or rejected. The infamous preachers advocated jihad, militancy, and martyrdom. Among the radical fundamentalists were Ibn Taimiyya, Hasan al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb. Islam, now reduced to warfare and blood, metastasized into Islamism. This is Mansur’s central claim and he is therefore at one with non-Muslim authors like Bat Ye’or, Robert Spencer, and Andrew Bostom, who have elucidated the warlike and expansionist ambitions of a conquering Islam pursuing the vision of a world caliphate.

One chapter in the book deals with Muslim anti-Semitism that, for Mansur, is a diabolical strand that has no inherent foundation in the Qur’an and Islam. Anti-Jewish bigotry is foreign to the holy text and Jews indeed survived and even sometimes flourished in Muslim lands. There are ways to interpret the Qur’an through the method of abrogation (naskh) and contexualizing to invalidate the contemporary relevance of harsh Qu’ranic verses.  The text then becomes subject to the meaning the reader gives to it. Yet, radical Muslim preachers today are rife with blistering Qur’anic-based attacks against Jews as cursed, vile people, murdering prophets and breaching agreements, to the crescendo of likening them to apes and monkeys. For Mansur, the Qur’anic demand that Jews be reduced to “humiliation and misery” (Ch.9, 29) is limited to an earlier period of history alone.

When Muslims promote hatred for Jews and Christians, this is in the view of Mansur a deviation and distortion of Islam’s basic tolerance for other monotheistic religions.

Is There a Non-Political Islam?

Salim Mansur and other Muslims who share his frustration and rage confront the Islamist domination of Islam’s agenda and activity that possess vast financial and educational networks with a radical program to Islamize the world, America and Europe included. Over a thousand years ago, the fanatical Hanbali Muslims in Baghdad raided houses if they found wine  and poured it away; if they found a singing girl they beat her; if they saw a man going with a woman, they charged them with immorality and dragged them to the police. These scenes of oppression sound familiar in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan of today.

However, other Muslims a millennium ago evoked a very different sensibility. Avicenna, born in Bukhara (Uzbekistan), was educated in the Qur’an and jurisprudence, also in mathematics and logic, Aristotelian philosophy, astronomy, geometry, and medicine.  He was a man of learning and open to acquiring knowledge from whoever could teach him. In Baghdad Islamists hounded the people in the name of Islam, in Bukhara and beyond Avicenna sought the horizons of scholarship in tandem with Islam. The debate regarding the true version of Islam continues until today.

Salim Mansur is a modern man, valuing reason while not discarding revelation, though choosing the former over the latter. He seeks coherence and comprehensiveness in knowledge, without sacrificing his deep faith in Islam. Perhaps he is trying to square the circle, hold the rope from both ends. He confidently recognizes the cultural continuity in evolving revelations, Muhammad’s included, throughout history. As a Muslim believer, he seems drawn to the softness and individuality embedded within the Sufi track, as in the thought of Ibn ‘Arabi who identified the “Oneness of Being” for the mystical climb to be at one with God. This is an invitation for all human beings regardless of their particular religious affiliation. God transcends all, and distinctions among men dissolve with the common quest for a god-like experience and life. Mansur’s is a personal religion rather than a political religion; the classic characterization of Islam as din wa-dawla (religion and state) is alien to Salim’s sensibility.

His nobility of character in an age of extremism is exceptionally admirable. He feels engaged in the vortex of a historical moment that imperils both Islam and the West. In Ontario, where he lives, he had to change the mosque he attends. He was threatened for his ‘unorthodox’ ideas.  No less, he is a spiritual brother to the Jews and a vigorous supporter of Israel. These convictions fly in the face of the ideological rigors of Islamism.

Overall, Mansur wants an Islam of “many faces.” He chooses the West for its modernity and openness, individual liberty and the rule of law. This he found in Canada, the country he adopted and embraces. He hopes to enter Canadian politics; as a Member of Parliament he could be a commanding voice for moderation and common sense to challenge the vagaries of multi-culturalism, religious fanaticism, and anti-Semitism.

As of today, the chicanery of Islamophobia and Political Correctness control much of the language and discussion. The West has been artfully and partly disarmed of its heritage – including Christianity, and values of equality and liberty, progress for all — choosing to privilege Islam by accommodating its parallel society separatism, sharia courts, and execrable youth marriages (as in parts of Europe today). In the East, Islam has persecuted and terrorized the Christians; but in the West, Islamist Muslims have been free to advance an Islamist agenda – in schools, in mosques, in public and political fora, in the media – successfully intimidating the weak-willed while glorifying the supremacy of Islam over all other cultures and religions.

Dr. Mordechai Nisan is a retired lecturer in Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  His most recent book is The Crack-Up of the Israeli Left, published by Mantua Books in Canada.

December 3, 2019 | 18 Comments »

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  1. “Can Islam Be Rescued from Islamism?”

    What a strange question to ask. “Islamism”, in all of its grotesque manifestations, is merely the application of Islam. Could Hitler have been “rescued” from Nazism, or Marx from Marxism? It’s a non sequitur.

    The real question should be, why would anyone want to rescue Islam at all? What lofty ideals does it espouse that would make it worthy of rescue? None that I have ever heard. Rather than asking if Islam can be rescued, we should be asking whether a quarter of the world’s population can be rescued from such a wretched ideology.

  2. Mansur may be a wonderful, kind and humane person, but his defense of Islam is nothing more than pro-Islam propaganda. First of all, “Islamism” is NOT a “perverted version of Islam”. Islam’s proclaimed goal, as plainly stated in the Koray, is to triumph over all other religions in the world by making war on non-Muslims. All of the schools of sharia law and the vast majority, if not all, Islamic religious scholars agree on this. Mansur cannot honestly deny it.

    As for Islamic Jew-hatred, if Mansur says that Muslim anti-Semitism “is a diabolical strand that has no inherent foundation in the Qur’an and Islam” and that “Anti-Jewish bigotry is foreign to the holy text”, then he is lying outright. There are books on Islamic antisemitism which quote the Koran, Muhammad and the respected Islamic religious authorities. For one or many examples, Koran 5:82 proclaims that the Jews are the Muslims’ worst enemies. If Allah said it, Muslims are required to believe it. Many reputable opinion surveys have shown the overwhelming anti-Jewish feeling in the Muslim world.

    If Mansur tries to finesse the issue of Islamism by claiming that certain verses in the Koran have to be seen in historical context, he is saying that those verses were once valid, but that they are no longer valid. This is outright blasphemy because Allah’s words are eternal. They did not become invalid at any particular point in history.

    Mansur seems to be fighting a losing battle between his conscience and his Islamic faith. The only way out of his dilemma is to abandon Islam like many other Moslems have done and are doing.

  3. Islam vs. Islamism is just like The Third Reich vs. Third Reichism.
    Here try this: Koran = Mein Kampf. Two books by two Pyschopaths.
    I mean there was a nice German or two in 1939.
    The clown who wrote this garbage is an utter dunce.

  4. You have to add the ism to avoid being cancelled or worse. It’s like the Silly Sally Jokes I learned as a boy.

    Silly Sally likes swimming but hates water, likes mirrors but hates her reflection, likes running but hates to run.

    (she likes words with double letters.)

  5. @ Adam Dalgliesh:

    Many of them already DO have a Western Lifestyle without interfering with their Qu’ran inspired Jew-hate…and infidel-hate generally. They will drink alcohol and partake of all the “good things” in Western life. But…..as they get older, their “wicked” past increasingly intrudes on their thoughts, and they turn devout, and back…. to “Gimme that Old Tyme Religion” etc.etc,

    Generalizing of course ….. but I know from much reading as well as a few personal experences that it is rather an accurate outcome….

    I’ m far more concerned about the possible Jhadi capture of Europe and what it would mean to Israel and Jews generally..

  6. @ Edgar G.: Your right, Edgar. Any effort to reform Islam is a longshot at best. Maybe it will happen 100 years from now. Israel may just have to hold on until then.

    I know there are some Muslims, even in Saudi Arabia, who have a secular outlook, and who advocate ignoring Islamic teachings when it comes to their countries laws, politics, and international relations. They think the Western democracy is a more viable model in today’s world. While they would not openly say that they are no longer Muslims,(which would be very dangerous), they don’t consider their ancestral religion as very relevant to modern life. I do think it is possible that eventually, the political influence of the Muslim clergy may decline and young people in the Muslim countries may opt for a Western lifestyle, whatever the imams say. But it will take a long time for this to happen. If secularization of Islamic society ever occurs, it may make peace between Muslims, Israel and the non-Muslim world possible.

  7. @ Adam Dalgliesh:

    Well be that as it may…your description of the Sufi remind me-in a way- like the Kabalists …and all it means it that after the Jews, they’ll go to the chopping block. I really don’t see what use they would be..except as neghbours -with a garden wall between us .

  8. Ted, I just posted an comment about the Sufi movement in Islam, and its more positive approach to Israel and the West than other mUslims. But it got trashed somehow. Could you please find it and post it here? Many thanks.

  9. @ Edgar G.: Edgar, Regrettably, true of Mainstream Islam. Nisan and Mansur are rationalizing and evading the facts.

    However, the Sufi movement, a small minority of mystical Muslims into meditation and yoga-like practices, is the only Islamic stream that over the centuries has made efforts to distance itself from the warrior-jihadist tradition. Even the Sufis have never gone so far as to declare the jihad doctrine completely invalid, since Muhammed advocated it; but their theologians have argued that only a war of self-defense against an aggressor could be considered a legitimate jihad. It is the Sufis, not other Muslims, who coined the saying that the “internal jihad” against one’s own sinful tendencies was more important than the “external jihad” against against enemies of the faith or nation. The mainstream theologians have all rejected this saying as inauthentic and invalid. The Sufi movement has now been banned in nearly all Muslim countries; the jihadists consider the Sufis heretics, bomb and blow up their mosques, and murder them. In Ceylon, the jihadists have bombed Sufi mosques as well as churches, Also inEgypt.

    Nevertheless, I have a feeling that the West and Israel could make use of these Islamic dissidents, who have their own semi-pacifist tradition going back ten centuries, to undermine the jihadists. Many “ordinary” Muslims do respect the Sufis despite the efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists to stamp them out. Some Muslims even rely on Sufi imams as therapists or counselors for their personal problems, because of their more humane view of life than the orthodox Muslim imams. I think the Western nations should subsidize the Sufi mosques and madrassas, and give Sufis imams a platform on their radio broadcasts direced towards Muslims, in order to capitalize on this potential for anti-jihad propaganda that would have some degree of legitimacy among Muslims

  10. @ Adam Dalgliesh:

    How could Islam “now be reduced to warfare”.. and all that euphemistic drabble. It only existed and succeeded through constant warfare and treachery from it’s very inception. So Adam is right…showing Mansur’s weakest assertion. Mansur is acting as an apologist…. glossing over the fact that it was steeped in real evil from it’s very beginning-and that this has never changed one iota.

    Islam became decrepit and decayed increasingly from about the 17th century onward for many reasons. Due to ii’s archaic government structure, power turned over to eunuch subordinates, and internecine feuding and assassination of potential rivals to the thrones. (The medieval Italian States were very much the same, but rulers kept power in their own hands). Also turning away from modernity.

    But it has revived in a big way..

    It did not evolve into what it is today…It has always. -except for a comparatively brief period-never progressed past it’s always present savagery and barbarity…

  11. On the other hand, since Islam is the religion of at least one and a half million people and is not going to go away, sponsoring non-violent and tolerant interpretations of Islam, even though they go against the mainstream of Islamic thought and jurisprudence, is a good idea. It is true that the Sufi movement today is much less violent and less hostile to Israel and the West than mainstream Islam. Even in past centuries, Sufis were less supportive of jihad than other Musslims, and more tolerant of non-Muslims, or at any rate Christians and Jews, than the Muslim mainstream. As a result, Sufism is now banned in most Muslim countries, and has been condemned by the Muslim Brotherhood as heretical. Western nations and Israel should promote and subsidize the Sufi movement, which still exists underground in many Muslim countries. It is the best hope for the future emergence of a “reformed,” “revisionist” Islam.

  12. Islam, now reduced to warfare and blood, metastasized into Islamism. This is Mansur’s central claim and he is therefore at one with non-Muslim authors like Bat Ye’or, Robert Spencer, and Andrew Bostom, who have elucidated the warlike and expansionist ambitions of a conquering Islam pursuing the vision of a world caliphate.

    This is false. Bat Ye’or , Spencer and Bostom see Islam as inherently warlike and antisemitic, in contrast to Mansur, who sees it as a fundementally peaceful and humane religion that has been distorted by modern Islamism. Two very different and distinct viewpoints.

  13. @ YESHAYAHU HOLLANDER:

    Your postulation is the ultimate NON-STARTER….What else could it be. Islam of all levels adheres to the Qu’ran…and that’s exactly where the deviousness, murder and everything obscene in human behaviour is laid down as an absolute decree.

    Perhaps the present Qu’ran could be used by zooming in on all the guilty passages (which anyway are only mumbled fantastic “memories” by 90 year old illiterate senility-afflicted nomads sitting around a desert fire)…and producing counter-decrees to show that Muhammed REALLY said the opposite.. A screen writer sworn to secrecy would be needed. Ideally a date-test immune “ancient” copy of the REAL Qu’ran could be unearthed somewhere by “archaeologsts”….

    As for your assessment of Mansur I agree. It would take a charismatic Mahdi-like personality with a strong “saintly” aura …. But perhaps I’m’ wrong. A benevolent personage would be the first to be slaughtered by some lunatic Arab who lusts after wine and virgins…(not in any particular order)

    So…….they use our democratic laws to infiltrate and destroy, so these must be by-passed, as they need to be stamped out root and branch with no appealing to our laws.. Like the Assassin cult was, -historically. Going further back we could find the Philistines and the Amalekites.

    No other way. The tumour needs aggressive surgery, which will never be done..so the wrong “patient” will succumb… I fear for my descendants..

    Look how quickly Europe is being overcome. Half-conquered before the politicians woke up. Like the original spread of Islam. “Blitzkrieg” tactics.

    I also agree with Carl Ph.D.

  14. Mansur may have his heart in the right place, but, by claiming that Islam is tolerant and peaceful, he is pushing the same deadly false narrative that the Muslim Brotherhood and the terrorist-linked Council on American Islamic Relations is pushing. Mansur’s personal Islam is NOT Islam, and his readers should not be misled about this. It is Islam, based on the Koran and Muhammad, that is being taught and preached in all the mosques, not Mansur’s personal Islam. It is significant that Mansur had to leave the mosque he had been attending.
    Like other “moderate Moslems”, Mansur is fighting a losing battle between his western conscience and his Islamic faith. There is no way out of that contradiction except to apostatize like other ex-Moslems have done, but Mansur apparently does not have the moral courage to do that.

  15. I don’t know, but this I do know: Unless governments 1) spend huge resources to teach tolerant Islam directly to the masses of Muslims, including by all means of “Public Diplomacy”, and 2) Protect tolerant Muslims from the usual Murderous Muslims, and 3) recapture all “no-go zones” from the Murderous Muslims, including by clerly necessary military means, and 4) strengthen the law and persecute ALL Murderous Muslims –
    there is no chance of establishing a tolerant Islam.