An-Naim’s Fantasy Islam in The NY Post

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An-Naim: Does he really believe like his mentor, Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, that the jihad-waging sword of Islam was a surgeon’s lancet, “justifying the use of the sword, we may describe it as a surgeon’s lancet, and not a butcher’s knife…We [the Muslims] have enacted fighting with the sword in order to curtail the freedom  of those who abuse it, so the sword brings them to their senses, thereby allowing them to earn their freedom and benefit from their life.” ??

Yesterday’s (3/17/08) New York Post (hat tip Lawrence Auster) ran a piece by the odd Sudanese intellectual (and Emory University Professor) Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im. As I have noted elsewhere, An-Naim’s fantasy Islam, and bowdlerized conceptions of the Sharia were inculcated by his mentor, the much ballyhooed “Koranist”—who in fact was tragically executed in a political murder by the Sudanese government in 1985, on a contrived “apostasy” charge—Mahmoud Muhammad Taha.   

An-Naim’s ahistorical claims about Iran in yesterday’s NY Post Op-Ed can only be appreciated in light of his absurd championing of Taha, whose own writings, as translated by An-Naim himself, articulate a classically bigoted and dangerous vision of Sharia.  

As discussed here, Taha was extolled in a September 2006 essay by the New Yorker’s shallow and self-important writer George Packer, for his “radically peaceful vision of Islam.” Apparently Packer never read Taha’s defining work, “The Second Message of Islam” (readily available in an English translation by Taha’s fawning acolyte, and Islamic Shari’a-promoting apologist, Abdullah an-Naim) before writing his distressingly stupid puff piece on the Sudanese “Qur’anist.”  These extracts from “The Second Message of Islam” reveal that the man whom Packer celebrated as the ecumenical “anti-Qutb” (i.e., Sayyid Qutb, the prolific 20th century Egyptian Qur’anic commentator, and jihad theorist)—Mahmoud Taha—was in fact just more disingenuous than his presumptive polar opposite, Qutb.

Taha proclaims these bowdlerized pieties (in “The Second Message of Islam”) on Islam’s violent Medinan emergence as a polity:  

Islam used persuasion for thirteen years in propagating its clearly valid message…When the addressees failed to discharge properly the[ir] duties…the Prophet was appointed as their guardian…once they embraced the new religion [i.e., by coercion]…the sword was suspended…and [they] were penalized according to new laws. Hence the development of Islamic Shari’a law…  

And Taha further had the temerity to compare the jihad-genocide waging historical “sword of Islam” to a surgeon’s scalpel—an unconscionable immoral equivalence to this physician:  

In justifying the use of the sword, we may describe it as a surgeon’s lancet, and not a butcher’s knife…We [the Muslims] have enacted fighting with the sword in order to curtail the freedom  of those who abuse it, so the sword brings them to their senses, thereby allowing them to earn their freedom and benefit from their life [note: “freedom as perfect slavery to Allah”, the Sufi notion of Ibn Arabi, perhaps? 

But Taha’s true sentiments towards non-Muslim infidels are in the end, not concealed from anyone who cares to look. He in fact justifies—consistent with mainstream Islamic jurisprudence—their historical subjugation by violent jihad: 

Suffering death by the sword in this life is really an aspect of suffering hell in the next life, since both are punishments for disbelief…for the disbelievers the law of war, and hardship of iron.  

This is the context in which to understand Mr. An-Naim’s fantasy piece, in yesterday’s NY Post (“Iran’s Islamic Out rage,” 3/17) regarding the application of Sharia (Islamic) Law in general, or within Iran, specifically, which simply will not do as history. The Safavid rulers, at the outset of the 16th century, formally established Shi’a Islam as the Persian state religion, while permitting a clerical hierarchy nearly unlimited control and influence over all aspects of public life.   The profound influence of the Shi’ite clerical elite, continued for almost four centuries (although interrupted, between 1722-1794 during the period of Sunni Afghan invasion temporary  rule, and internecine struggle), through the later Qajar period (i.e., until the Pahlavi seizure of power in 1925), as characterized by the noted Persianophilic scholar E.G. Browne, writing in 1930:  

The Mujtahids and Mulla [religious leaders] are a great force in Persia and concern themselves with every department of human activity from the minutest detail of personal purification to the largest issues of politics  

Reza Pahlavi’s spectacular rise to power in 1925 was accompanied by dramatic reforms, including secularization and westernization efforts, as well as a revitalization of Iran’s pre-Islamic spiritual and cultural heritage. This profound sociopolitical transformation had very positive consequences for Iran’s non-Muslims. By virtue of , “…breaking the power of the Shia clergy, which for centuries had stood in the way of progress”,  Walter Fischel (a pre-eminent modern historian of Iran’s Jewish minority) observed that Reza Shah, “…shaped a modernized and secularized state, freed almost entirely from the fetters of a once fanatical and powerful clergy”.  

The so-called “Khomeini revolution”, which deposed Mohammad Reza Shah, was in reality a mere return to oppressive Shi’ite theocratic rule, the predominant form of Persian/Iranian governance since 1502. Conditions for all non-Muslim religious minorities, particularly Bahais and Jews,  as well as Muslim women, rapidly deteriorated.  

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism " (Prometheus, November, 2008) You can contact Dr. Bostom at @andrewbostom.org

One response to “An-Naim’s Fantasy Islam in The NY Post

  1. Gee, I wonder if George Packer’s next article in the New Yanker will be “Why I am not a Muslim”. I am still waiting for Karen Armstrong and John Esposito to write that book as well.