What political Islam for an imaginative and creative Islamic world could be: Debate Brainstorming

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Bala Pillai

Nov 12, 2007, 2:40:04 AM11/12/07
to sangk...@googlegroups.com, skle...@googlegroups.com, yixin...@gmail.com, has...@gmail.com, Hwa, Yang Jerng

Could you use this conversation, to put us on a roadmap towards organising a debate titled "What political Islam for an imaginative and creative Islamic world could be"?

Hasnol: Can you give suggestions to Yixing?

Bala Pillai
016 291 1985

craighubleyca: well people keep coming to me with strange propositions for very weird tech projects
Bala: hehehe -- wonderful!
Bala: good to hear that they are imagining
craighubleyca: an epidemic of it actually
craighubleyca: the long awaited downfall of John Howard, then Bush, then also hopefully Stephen Harper, changes the whole game
Bala: Craig -- Howard Bloom  is unusually online..
craighubleyca: ok, is this the Howard Bloom of "The Lucifer Principle" or the one who writes about Shakespeare?
Bala: Lucifer Principle
Bala: his main effort now is using Space programs (TV productions) to raise imaginativeness
craighubleyca: oh goodie
craighubleyca: I have plotted out three sci-fi series with some female friends who have a very feminine perspective on that genre
Bala: i c
Bala: lovely -- my intuition tells me they will be rich
craighubleyca: none of them could have been made even three years ago - but "Battlestar Galactica" and "The Sopranos" and "Desperate Housewives" have remade television somewhat
craighubleyca: I have samples I can send you, narrated...
Bala: please do
craighubleyca: after this chat obviously
Bala: sure
craighubleyca: I'm trying to just annotate and not alter the flow at all, it's a fun thing to try to do... enabling...
Bala: It is -- it is very enabling
craighubleyca: explore the "question chain" idea in philosophy of science... will be very useful to you...
Bala: great lead Craig -- will do
craighubleyca: hm
craighubleyca: well Howard simply has some facts wrong and his spelling choices indicate that he has no interest in the modern view of Islam... (who uses 'Moslem', 'Mohammed' any more?)
Bala: I suspect u and Howard will clash more on Islam which is good -- very needed
craighubleyca: it's not in historical dispute that Arabs were the ones who preserved ALL copies of Greek and Roman documents while the Christians neglected and burned them... the Irish recoverd them from the Arabs and started the tradition of Christian scholarship
Bala: he takes some warming up and he will Craig
Bala: bear with him/that part of him
craighubleyca: so the burning of the Library of Alexandria was not a typical event, it's a aberration, and the religion is VERY clear about that:  "seek knowledge even as far as china"
craighubleyca: well his theory is one thing, but a genuine theory has to be subjected to counter-examples.. the Mongols and Huns and maybe Goths and Vikings are good examples, Islam is more complex and should not go into the same category
Bala: I think the most powerful thing in the Muslim world would be a debate between you and Howard on "What political Islam for an imaginative and creative Islamic world could be"
craighubleyca: for one thing we do not see modern Mongol, Hun, Goth or Viking movements of any seriousness... Islam had legs because it was not simply an invader's justification but also a way to glue together a real society...
craighubleyca: well I would want Ziauddin Sardar in that debate
craighubleyca: and Irshad Manji
craighubleyca: and Seyyed Hossein Nasr
craighubleyca: and Osama bin Laden, who would lose miserably to any of us
craighubleyca: and Salman Rushdie and the former VP of Iran who encouraged all the candidates in the most recent election to start blogging - making Farsi the fourth-most blogged language in the world
craighubleyca: (that former VP is a cleric by the way, and in the Holy City of Qom the Shia answer over 10 million queries a year by email and have for 15 years)
Bala: wow!
craighubleyca: it's 1.3 billion people, it can't be characterized from the outside in any pat way, no more than India or China could be
craighubleyca: and it's a more diverse group, racially and culturally, than any other religion... that is a lesson in tolerance that cannot be overstated... as Malcolm X put it, he had to abandon racism of all kinds in Macca, because "we all snore in the same language"
craighubleyca: err Makka, it's spelled either Makka (now) or Mecca (older)
Bala: hehehe!
Bala: oh i c -- it has been pronounced Makka here for eons. Havn't seen the new spelling.
craighubleyca: the history of the Sufi tariqa in Africa is particularly amazing... it had side effects like letting 'female circumcision' slip into religious practice though it was never advised by or in Islam itself
Bala: Is the tudung in Islam?
Bala: tudung = shawl
Bala: and being clothed to the ankles
craighubleyca: the way the Catholics converted Latin and Central America, by accomodating local festivals and practices, mirrored the way they had absorbed pagans in Europe, making gods saints etc... and the Sufis learned from this example and the Catholics in the new world learned from both..
Bala: I hear contradictory views
craighubleyca: Islam says only that women should dress modestly
craighubleyca: that is, the Qu'ran says that
craighubleyca: and Muhammad had some opinions himself but he said very very clearly that they were only his opinions and only for his time... there is a process for adapting Islam to a society's own customs
craighubleyca: the Sufis used/abused it in Africa
craighubleyca: but Islam is supposed to be an operating system not a distro
Bala: right on!
craighubleyca: so what's "modestly"?
Bala: that is open to interpretation and that I like
craighubleyca: we would agree that Britney Spears is not modest when she forgets her panties and walks down the stairs... then again is it her fault that hundreds of photogs are at the bottom of every set of steps she goes down?
craighubleyca: one could interpret the instruction simply as "don't flash your tits to just anyone"
craighubleyca: "at least not all the time"
craighubleyca: I mean, you can be modestly dressed and still provocative in your movements or selectively expose yourself... and even if that's just an ankle, that's still enough to drive men who never see one quite mad
Bala: then we have to look at the intent of Muhammad's words
craighubleyca: right now on my TV is a gymnastics competition - the tunics are short and high on the legs, showing off the legs and butt... the gymnasts have no breases to speak of... is that "modestly"?  dunno
Bala: whether he intended to kill the energy that comes from courting and kindling courting
craighubleyca: they are practically dressed for what they are doing, and they don't dress like that on the street...
craighubleyca: Islam was never against love poetry for instance, nor sensual experience, unlike Christianity - it was the more sensuous of the Western religions
craighubleyca: look at it this way - every other culture on Earth sends women to the Olympic Games to compete... some Muslim nations do to, notably in running events
craighubleyca: this being a natural motion, it's hard to imagine it's inherently sexy
craighubleyca: gymnasts, pole vaulters and high jumpers might however be inherently sexy, but this is idiocy... they're as sexy as any other animal doing amazing things
craighubleyca: I cannot imagine that Muhammad would have intended that women do not ever get to do inherently amazing feats... that doesn't seem right...
Bala: Hey Craig -- check this out -- let me know if it resonates
Bala: Root Causes

A Review of Sexual Selection and Human Evolution:
How Mate Choice shaped Human Nature

In sexually-reproducing species, all genes must propagate through the gateway of sex, and mate choice is the guardian of that gateway. For this reason, sexual courtship was probably central in human evolution, and remains central in modern human life. However, sexual selection has long been overlooked in the human sciences, partially because evolutionary biologists themselves were skeptical about Darwin's most innovative theory until quite recently, and partially because various ideological biases kept sex marginalized as a topic too messy, too mystical, too embarrassing, and too arousing for scientific analysis. We have to face the pos
Bala: We have to face the possibility that if human evolution was a film, it would be X-rated.
craighubleyca: yes of course - why do women have breasts at all?  other Great Apes don't
craighubleyca: they emulated the buttocks which are the strongest mate signal
craighubleyca: classic example of runaway evolution
craighubleyca: the other being the Pleistocene horned gophers LOL
craighubleyca: the horns on the males grew so long the gophers could not walk and were eaten and fall out of the fossil record completely and suddenly
craighubleyca: but females  evidently liked the longer and longer and longer horns...
craighubleyca: so someday human females may fall over and be eaten LOL
craighubleyca: I go further than that
craighubleyca: much further
craighubleyca: ask yourself thi
craighubleyca: what is the most important differentiator between unicellular and multi-cell organisms?
craighubleyca: the multi-celled must find the right mate!!!!!  everything relies on it
Bala: so then how can we convey to Muslims that they need a creativity and imaginativeness questions inspiring energy base which calls for greater thinking on role of courting and invoking courting
Bala: cos this would become a big issue in the Malay-Muslim world
Bala: where their malayness has them to be hot and sex hungry and their Muslimness has them to repress it
craighubleyca: all our cognitive complexity thus seems to exist ONLY because of this one need... we respond strongly to sights, sounds, smells because OUR WHOLE SENSORY SYSTEM IS BASICALLY EVOLVED FOR THIS and doing anything else with it (music, building, etc.) is a hack
Bala: so much energy is so wasted on neurosis
craighubleyca: well consider French Catholics
craighubleyca: same story
Bala: ok we might do the exercise on French Catholics and then extend it to the Islamic world
Bala: hey by the way I trust I can send this convo on to Sang Kancil -- the mother of trolls in Malaysia hehehe
craighubleyca: the answer they found was to be Catholics in their official life, and devout ones, but to have loopholes for yoru private life... the 'official mistress' for instance, and private clubs where anything goes and nothing is reported, and prostitution as an institution
craighubleyca: but if you leave your wife for your lover, you're shunned
craighubleyca: you can't screw up your family, period
craighubleyca: yes there is always a mother of trolls isn't there... heh....
craighubleyca: the Japanese have similar two-faced rules
craighubleyca: Ancient Greeks had a quite complex and intricate set of rules... mostly regarding the way relationships had to evolve
craighubleyca: for instance it was fine to romance boys and bugger 'em, but you then HAD TO help them become good soldiers, good citizens and find a wife and have children... you weren't allowed to monopolize them
craighubleyca: and lifetime homosexuality was viewed much as the postmodern view seems to have evolved - a poncey, effeminate, indulgent lifestyle
craighubleyca: i.e. use of the word 'gay' to mean, basically, 'lame'
craighubleyca: not banned but again, rather shunned
craighubleyca: parents would steer their boys away from such men not because of fear of homosexuality as such, but because such men weren't trusted to keep the social deal
craighubleyca: the Greeks thought, simply put, that romantic relationships and sex enhanced mentorship
craighubleyca: and created obligations and love for the young among the old... made the old likely to spend lavish resources on the young, achieving a transfer of wealth among generations, etc.
craighubleyca: official religions however created alternative ways to do this, though the old ways (buggering priests etc.!) still continued
craighubleyca: oh and side note:  this applied to women as well - in Sparta in particular there are hymns to female teachers written by female students that are decidedly erotic
craighubleyca: I imagine Arabia was much the same before Islam
craighubleyca: anyone reading the Old Testament would have a negative view of homosexuality (though the Sodom story is about rape really) but certainly could approve of wife-swapping, polygamy, pimping, sex slavery, rape in the furtherance of the master race, genocidal extermination of everyone including the women and children, etc.
craighubleyca: oh and incest!  Lot's daughters for instance, and obviously who did Noah's grandchildren marry?
craighubleyca: Christianity and Buddhism don't contain such doctrines at their root, nor Confucianism, but Judaism and Islam certainly both do
craighubleyca: (sorry for ranting but the history of sex taboos and religion is very complex)
craighubleyca: (and without dealing with all these questions, one isn't dealing)
craighubleyca: (and who has dealt with ALL of them except maybe Foucault?)
craighubleyca: you still there?
Bala: yes I am
Bala: just checking up on what's happening to John Howard
craighubleyca: i hope he goes down in flames
Bala: and am cutting and pasting this convo for Sangkancil
craighubleyca: go ahead... my understanding is that the prostitution and underage relationships and homosexuality questions are especially complex in Southeast Asia in general and I'm sure Malays are no exception
Bala: want to needle more on the "What political Islam for an imaginative and creative Islamic world could be" debate
craighubleyca: well some pretty obvious constraints
craighubleyca: 1. no more than four wives
craighubleyca: 2. stop obsessing about sex, it's everywhere anyway, ignorance is no answer, your society doesn't have to be pornographic like Europe or North America but if it becomes that it's not necessarily a disaster
craighubleyca: who would have believed that really vile nasty porn could be everywhere and accessible to children and it would matter so little?
craighubleyca: obesity is far more of a problem
craighubleyca: commercialism is far more of a problem
craighubleyca: ignorance remains much more of a problem - pornography does at least have some educational value
craighubleyca: the plain fact everyone likes to dodge is:  oral sex doesn't spread disease even 1/100 as much as other kinds
craighubleyca: and it doesn't make women pregnant either... so why don't we ENCOURAGE IT as a society?  because it would lead to those other kinds?  or because we don't want anyone to have fun sexually other than procreation?  (see Howard's argument re: competitive reproduction, encourage oral sex and your birthrate goes down)
craighubleyca: however once again the kids have 'figured it out', in NOrth America many DO NOT CONSIDER IT TO BE SEX AT ALL (!)
craighubleyca: I guess they can cite Bill Clinton
Bala: hehehe!!
craighubleyca: anyway enough of that topic
Bala: Way to go
craighubleyca: 3. re-open the fiqh - no one else uses 15th century rules and neither should Muslims
craighubleyca: restore ijtihad - tha'ts Irshad Manji and Ziauddin Sardar's agenda
craighubleyca: banish taqlid
craighubleyca: go through the hadith again, re-examine every isnad
craighubleyca: using modern historical method
craighubleyca: do what Christians did under Luther, and then again in the early 20th century
craighubleyca: re-examine the fundamentals
craighubleyca: look at the historical figures and records
craighubleyca: find the originals (Dead Sea Scrolls)
craighubleyca: Howard has the right idea going as far back as possible, but he did it to prove his own point rather than disprove it
craighubleyca: that's not science
craighubleyca: 4. restore the idea of cultural adaptation - look at the Sufi example in Africa, the tariqa - figure out where it went right and wrong
craighubleyca: look at the diversity of Islam as a shining example of tolerance at least among Muslims
craighubleyca: restore the history of Islam as the original multicultural faith
craighubleyca: make everyone acknowledge Muslim and Arab contributions in their history books
craighubleyca: in China, in Europe, in India
craighubleyca: hell Muslims ruled India for centuries before the British
craighubleyca: 5. find ALL the parallels between the Islamic methods and modern ethical investing and banking and sustainable development - Seyyed Hossein Nasr has made a good start on the latter - the interest-free banking system of the middle ages was a micro-capital network of venture investors (not debt dealers) - the world needs that again but on the Internet
craighubleyca: and Muslims were setting aside oases, areas just for wild species, etc., before anyone else
craighubleyca: Nasr is very clear on this, as is Sardar
craighubleyca: Muslims in Cambodia invented the system of lending water buffalo - the buffalo comes back but the calf remains with the family - to give the calf to the lender would be 'interest'
craighubleyca: the Buffalo Bank it's called
craighubleyca: there's no contradiction between the green sustainable service economy and the original Muslim venture micro-capital networks run in the bazaars by venture matchmakers who knew each and every branch of Islam and knew exactly who could invest in what
craighubleyca: it was very transparent
craighubleyca: it's what the world needs agian
Bala: Craig -- expect a friend's request from 'thesaturnine' -- that's 24 year old Han Yang Jerng who's a main man in my team here in Malaysia
craighubleyca: 6. make clear and rational compromises with tradition to allow for absolute essentials like women's athleticism and recreation... the paranoia about sex must be limited, if necessary ban men from seeing women's soccer games except for parents and relatives and international competition
craighubleyca: what does Han Yang Jerng do?
craighubleyca: given the evidence in science, Muhammad himself would clearly and without doubt have REQUIRED women to take care of their bodies and if competitive sport or training helped, he'd be for it - remember his first wife was in business and much older than him
craighubleyca: he liked competent women
Bala: he did his BA at Bates College in Massachusetts not too long ago. And last jobs he had were with a social policy think tank here and then after that in Quant-wannabe at a bank here.
craighubleyca: 7. re-invigorate the arts especially film (as in Iran they already have) - stop interpreting the rule about not showing Muhammad and his companions, which is to prevent idolatry and useless controversy, as meaning no portrayals of any human figure...
Bala: off and on first hand cantankerous banter (wasn't that your term) from you will enable me to bond him with my team and take us to higher levels faster
craighubleyca: and certainly revive musical traditions that were Arab and Muslim to begin with
craighubleyca: ok, what's in it for me /
craighubleyca: ?
craighubleyca: ;-0
craighubleyca: why will I like him?
craighubleyca: 8. be ruthless in correcting political Islamists who stretch the doctrines, invent hadith that don't exist or are discredited, make up racist nonsense in general, preach hate on racial grounds or justify dictatorship - none of which has any basis in the religion - for instance Muhammad did not specify his successor and required that the community ELECT someone
craighubleyca: the Shia believe this was a mistake and Muhammad's relatives through Ali (the Fourth Caliph) should have been the rulers, but they are in the minority
craighubleyca: but paradoxically the Shia in Iran have more democracy than the countries that surround them!
Bala: hehe -- you might not. Just do me a favour. What's in it for you? -- It'll speed me up pulling you into the thing we wanted to organise -- that teleconference
craighubleyca: ok fine
Bala: you have a way -- I am too soft on folks hehe
craighubleyca: 9. EDUCATE WOMEN in the religion so they can toe to toe with men
craighubleyca: and not always take their word for how to interpret things
craighubleyca: (even Buddha resisted that one!)
craighubleyca: anyway that's nine off the top of my head
craighubleyca: does that help?
Bala: Very much so Craig!
Bala: Very very much so
Bala: Yang Jerng's roomate is Yixing -- she's deep into gender and sexuality issues but I suspect she is too academic and not influenced by risk-taking enough
craighubleyca: I also think it's sexist to view a harem as just a baby farm - the women in harems were often female relatives of rulers and necessarily treated well, held as "hostages" yes but also as legitimate wives, and of course the harem served as a think tank on diplomacy since the women came from everywhere and usually had some exposure to powerful households
Bala: Yixing will be energised by this debate
Bala: working on making this debate happen
craighubleyca: very simliar to the European courts except for the lack of monogamy (which was abused like hell, royal bastards were officially recognized, women who had unrecognized bastards were shunned and ineligible for high marriages, etc. - very abusive and centralized power, plus droit de seigeur etc - raping the peasantry )
craighubleyca: Christians whined about Islam because it generally worked, and often worked far better than Christianity as a way to bind people together in common cause
craighubleyca: anyway I want ruthlessly honest history
craighubleyca: sorting out what was religion versus culture versus sex urges versus family versus military doctrine... yes yes Islam / hadith said things about all of this but Christian theology and Judaic was equally extensive, even more so, things Muhammad said weren't under the domain of religion (like one's personal sex tastes at home) were tightly controlled in Judeochristian doctrines
craighubleyca: Islam had the reputation for being licentious as a result...
craighubleyca: for your debate, try Irshad Manji, Ziauddin Sardar and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, but I really should stay out of it... not my role...
craighubleyca: Howard calls it "whitewashing" Islam but it's not different from the re-examination of Christian doctrines
craighubleyca: which also was "whitewashing" Christianity by actually looking at what Jesus really was recorded to have said
Bala: but you can help with the rainmaking, Craig -- you already have. I too want rich debates and minimise the sophistry
craighubleyca: and thinking about him as an exemplar
craighubleyca: unfortunately
craighubleyca: fundamentalist Muslims can't do a "Jesus Christ Superstar" for Muhammad, though they should
craighubleyca: maybe there's also
craighubleyca: 10. Deliberately expose younger people to the art works on religious themes from the Jewish and Christian world, show them that religion is not beyond artistic and critical examination and re-interpretation... sticking with "Jesus Christ Superstar" it does such a good job of showing the emotional attitudes and political pressures that you could hardly do better in two hours and still be entertaining
craighubleyca: or "Kundun" about the Dalai Lama
craighubleyca: these films could be seen as propaganda FOR the faith but that's a reason for fundamentalists to want such films to also be made about Islam and Islamic figures
craighubleyca: there's an argument that idolatry is no longer a risk, and ridicule is less likely if there are more legitimized images of the religious figure
craighubleyca: there WILL be sophistry obviously but if it's labelled "fiction" or "inspired by..." it's far less damaging than claims of legitimacy
Bala: that makes sense -- "ridicule is less likely if there are more legitimized images of the religious figure"
You have canceled the invitation to start photo sharing.

craighubleyca: also I think I've mentioned it and I don't mean to recommend it as entertainment necessarily, but did you ever look up "Little Mosque on the Prairie"?
craighubleyca: it's a Canadian sitcom
craighubleyca: about a small Muslim community living in a fictional small town in Saskatchewan
Bala: yes u mentioned it. Havn't searched Youtube for it yet
Bala: that'd be a super reference for sitcoms here on how far we can go with the current censorship rules
craighubleyca: shows the racial diversity of the Muslim community quite clearly and makes fun of redneck locals and fundamentalists a lot but also takes potshots at businessmen using religion to get ahead and urban know it alls from Toronto
craighubleyca: well another Canadian show, "The Beachcombers" was a huge hit in Malaysia many years ago
craighubleyca: the plotlines are actually quite typical sitcom stuff but that's part of the lesson
craighubleyca: the only fixed-mindset bigot is more funny for being a sexist and an economist than he is for being a fundamentalist, and his daughter doesn't even listen to him... much...
craighubleyca: on HAlloween for instance he accepts a compromise by letting his kids dress up like "Islamic" things like figs but then when he goes to accompany them the well-meaning-but-ignorant locals think he's wearing a costume - they see his ordinary clothes and think he's wearing a Taliban costume
craighubleyca: then he figures out that he can scare the kids by chasing them around and saying "Osama's going to get you" - and decides he actually likes Hallowe'en...
craighubleyca: but the key line is when someone criticizes his kid's costume he says 'you know, kids these days, no imagination' which is a typical thing cranky old people say about young poeple but he's of courser a hypocrite since he forced them to dress that way
Bala: Gaad..we have to transfer the meaning equivalent to examples here
Bala: i.e. find examples here
craighubleyca: it's an indirect sting at the way women are forced to dress... dull and as if they have no creativity, unlike Africa or India or Northern Afghanistan where the women are as creative as anywhere else
Bala: it would set us onto new heights in humour
craighubleyca: well the thing to note is that the character's hypocrisy, abuse of economics as a credential, rigid sexism, is what's funny about him, none of these things hit directly at his religion, it's just a symptom of his self-importance
craighubleyca: the imam is a much more honest and devout Muslim but is an urban lawyer from Toronto
craighubleyca: who thinks much more like a social worker, which he is, and has a professional relationship with the Christian minister who owns the building the mosque is in
Bala: ok craig I'm so hungry -- must go get lunch.
Bala: will work on this
Bala: tty soon -- muchos gracias for all
craighubleyca: ok I have Han Yang Jerng now on the other line Heh
Bala: great

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