Friday, November 13, 2015

Is Islam Beginning to Soften?

I heard on the news that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a new statement. Talking about the "Death to America" refrain that is repeated ad nauseum there, he said “It goes without saying that the slogan does not mean death to the American nation; this slogan means death to the US’s policies, death to arrogance.”

A good friend of mine thinks this statement, and the Iranian nuclear deal, mark a turning point. He thinks Islam is beginning to soften, moving into some form of Reformation, and may cease to be the warlike and frequently genocidal belief structure we've all come to know from the news ever since Mohammed became a warlord. He forsees Islam moving out of the 6th century Real Soon Now, coming at least a little closer to modernity.

Maybe my friend is right. Just a few days later I ran across the story of a major Jordanian sheikh, Sheikh Ali Halabi. Halabi is one of the most well-known Salafi sheikhs in Jordan and he is the head of the Imam al-Albani religious studies center in Jordan. He issued a fatwa against killing Jews, a fatwa delivered in a video that was widely distributed through social media. He said Jews may be killed only during a war and that killing them at any other time is a betrayal of Islam.

But there are some contrary indications, things suggesting Islam isn't changing at all.

The 76-year-old ayatollah also said “The slogan ‘death to America’ is backed by reason and wisdom.” He made it clear that the refrain "Death to America" will not leave the Islamic republic’s political lexicon any time soon. He also notes the irrelevance of this year's nuclear deal, saying that relations between Tehran and Washington will not be normalised.

And the sheikh got in trouble, too. His video went viral on social media and, as might be expected, caused a stir in the Muslim world, with activists attacking the sheikh. As a result, he has backtracked on his fatwa. He may be the highest-ranking cleric to try making such a statement, but he's just as likely to be killed for making it as the lesser clerics who have tried. Apparently being one of the top authorities of the religion isn't enough protection from the religion's adherents. Apparently those adherents aren't actually required to follow the fatwas issued by the authorities, in spite of everything we've been told for years / decades / centuries. Perhaps this was just another instance of Islamic taqiyya — another Islamic lie.

The bottom line: Islam isn't changing. It will continue to be characterized by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian theocracy, and the Islamic State.

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