T Nation

Roots of Islamic Terror

A fantastic piece, read it twice:

[i]The Trouble With Islam
Sadly, mainstream Muslim teaching accepts and promotes violence.

BY TAWFIK HAMID
Tuesday, April 3, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Not many years ago the brilliant Orientalist, Bernard Lewis, published a short history of the Islamic world’s decline, entitled “What Went Wrong?” Astonishingly, there was, among many Western “progressives,” a vocal dislike for the title. It is a false premise, these critics protested. They ignored Mr. Lewis’s implicit statement that things have been, or could be, right.

But indeed, there is much that is clearly wrong with the Islamic world. Women are stoned to death and undergo clitorectomies. Gays hang from the gallows under the approving eyes of the proponents of Shariah, the legal code of Islam. Sunni and Shia massacre each other daily in Iraq. Palestinian mothers teach 3-year-old boys and girls the ideal of martyrdom. One would expect the orthodox Islamic establishment to evade or dismiss these complaints, but less happily, the non-Muslim priests of enlightenment in the West have come, actively and passively, to the Islamists’ defense.

These “progressives” frequently cite the need to examine “root causes.” In this they are correct: Terrorism is only the manifestation of a disease and not the disease itself. But the root-causes are quite different from what they think. As a former member of Jemaah Islamiya, a group led by al Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, I know firsthand that the inhumane teaching in Islamist ideology can transform a young, benevolent mind into that of a terrorist. Without confronting the ideological roots of radical Islam it will be impossible to combat it. While there are many ideological “rootlets” of Islamism, the main tap root has a name–Salafism, or Salafi Islam, a violent, ultra-conservative version of the religion.

It is vital to grasp that traditional and even mainstream Islamic teaching accepts and promotes violence. Shariah, for example, allows apostates to be killed, permits beating women to discipline them, seeks to subjugate non-Muslims to Islam as dhimmis and justifies declaring war to do so. It exhorts good Muslims to exterminate the Jews before the “end of days.” The near deafening silence of the Muslim majority against these barbaric practices is evidence enough that there is something fundamentally wrong.

The grave predicament we face in the Islamic world is the virtual lack of approved, theologically rigorous interpretations of Islam that clearly challenge the abusive aspects of Shariah. Unlike Salafism, more liberal branches of Islam, such as Sufism, typically do not provide the essential theological base to nullify the cruel proclamations of their Salafist counterparts. And so, for more than 20 years I have been developing and working to establish a theologically-rigorous Islam that teaches peace.

Yet it is ironic and discouraging that many non-Muslim, Western intellectuals–who unceasingly claim to support human rights–have become obstacles to reforming Islam. Political correctness among Westerners obstructs unambiguous criticism of Shariah’s inhumanity. They find socioeconomic or political excuses for Islamist terrorism such as poverty, colonialism, discrimination or the existence of Israel. What incentive is there for Muslims to demand reform when Western “progressives” pave the way for Islamist barbarity? Indeed, if the problem is not one of religious beliefs, it leaves one to wonder why Christians who live among Muslims under identical circumstances refrain from contributing to wide-scale, systematic campaigns of terror.

Politicians and scholars in the West have taken up the chant that Islamic extremism is caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict. This analysis cannot convince any rational person that the Islamist murder of over 150,000 innocent people in Algeria–which happened in the last few decades–or their slaying of hundreds of Buddhists in Thailand, or the brutal violence between Sunni and Shia in Iraq could have anything to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Western feminists duly fight in their home countries for equal pay and opportunity, but seemingly ignore, under a fa?ade of cultural relativism, that large numbers of women in the Islamic world live under threat of beating, execution and genital mutilation, or cannot vote, drive cars and dress as they please.

The tendency of many Westerners to restrict themselves to self-criticism further obstructs reformation in Islam. Americans demonstrate against the war in Iraq, yet decline to demonstrate against the terrorists who kidnap innocent people and behead them. Similarly, after the Madrid train bombings, millions of Spanish citizens demonstrated against their separatist organization, ETA. But once the demonstrators realized that Muslims were behind the terror attacks they suspended the demonstrations. This example sent a message to radical Islamists to continue their violent methods.

Western appeasement of their Muslim communities has exacerbated the problem. During the four-month period after the publication of the Muhammad cartoons in a Danish magazine, there were comparatively few violent demonstrations by Muslims. Within a few days of the Danish magazine’s formal apology, riots erupted throughout the world. The apology had been perceived by Islamists as weakness and concession.

Worst of all, perhaps, is the anti-Americanism among many Westerners. It is a resentment so strong, so deep-seated, so rooted in personal identity, that it has led many, consciously or unconsciously, to morally support America’s enemies.

Progressives need to realize that radical Islam is based on an antiliberal system. They need to awaken to the inhumane policies and practices of Islamists around the world. They need to realize that Islamism spells the death of liberal values. And they must not take for granted the respect for human rights and dignity that we experience in America, and indeed, the West, today.

Well-meaning interfaith dialogues with Muslims have largely been fruitless. Participants must demand–but so far haven’t–that Muslim organizations and scholars specifically and unambiguously denounce violent Salafi components in their mosques and in the media. Muslims who do not vocally oppose brutal Shariah decrees should not be considered “moderates.”

All of this makes the efforts of Muslim reformers more difficult. When Westerners make politically-correct excuses for Islamism, it actually endangers the lives of reformers and in many cases has the effect of suppressing their voices.
Tolerance does not mean toleration of atrocities under the umbrella of relativism. It is time for all of us in the free world to face the reality of Salafi Islam or the reality of radical Islam will continue to face us.

*Dr. Hamid, a onetime member of Jemaah Islamiya, an Islamist terrorist group, is a medical doctor and Muslim reformer living in the West[/i]

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009890

Perhaps the best, most concise editorial I have read on the issue. And from a Muslim and former Islamist, no less.

One of the best parts:

Yet it is ironic and discouraging that many non-Muslim, Western intellectuals–who unceasingly claim to support human rights–have become obstacles to reforming Islam. Political correctness among Westerners obstructs unambiguous criticism of Shariah’s inhumanity. They find socioeconomic or political excuses for Islamist terrorism such as poverty, colonialism, discrimination or the existence of Israel. What incentive is there for Muslims to demand reform when Western “progressives” pave the way for Islamist barbarity?

A fantastic point - if we constantly blame someone else, why would any of the Muslim societies choose to reform on their own? We want them to reform, obviously - but what incentive do they have to change when so many people are saying “there is nothing inherently wrong with your culture - the problems are caused by someone else, not you”…?

The liberals think it’s ok to have lower expectations for the arabs/persians. After all, they aren’t rich white folk, so clearly they are stupid, and should be held to a lower standard.

It’s the evil conservatives who expect everyone to be able to figure out the difference between right and wrong on their own. Enlightened liberal-types know that poor brown folk are inherently ignorant, so we have to appease them to make them happy. Once they are happy, they will stop killing people. Once they stop killing people, we can start giving them more of our tax money. Then they will be no poorer than us, and thus everyone will prosper and be joyful.

Yay!

What is sad is that this guy needs to say this, which is obvious. We have the media and the dumocrats sounding the surrender and tolerance trumpets because they see this as a means to gain power.

Yet, nobody gave them more fuel for the fire than bush acting stupid; almost as if he wanted to fail. Take and win one battle at a time, not spread fire around the world. Now we are faced with surrender in Iraq, where we should have never been, and enabling our enemies to do us harm. The more they do to us, the more we cower.

What is worse, the world supports surrender to our islamic terrorist brethren. Those bastards are winning and it is everybody’s fault. No one is absolved here, the left, the right and the middle. Nobody. Good thing I like babahanoosh. I have never hit a woman, but hell I guess I can try.

Now I am confused. What are we discussing on this thread; archaic practices that exist in many islamic countries or islamic terrorism?

The point made in the above article has been made many times, both in connection to islam and in connection to development aid. “The tears of the white man”, I have the book somewhere.

It’s a valid point and the same can be said about pointing out anti-americanism, but neither fault hardly qualifies as “the roots of terror”.

[quote]karva wrote:
Now I am confused. What are we discussing on this thread; archaic practices that exist in many islamic countries or islamic terrorism?[/quote]

Hmm - I think the point was both: that the one leads to the other.

The point was that ‘terror’ is nothing more than a means to try and extend ideology, and the ideology is the problem.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
Hmm - I think the point was both: that the one leads to the other.

The point was that ‘terror’ is nothing more than a means to try and extend ideology, and the ideology is the problem.[/quote]

Why? Do you really think backwardness of society is the issue? I can walk down Anytown America and see the exact same parallels with dogmatic backwards thinking applied to our culture. All religions and cultures are guilty of this. The distinction has nothing to do with religion or culture but with the nature of human interest.

Religion is a scapegoat just like the Christian religion was used to invade the Middle East a thousand years ago. People with influence use that influence for political advantage. Pawns. That is how poor people are used. This is not about winning a war of religion, though doubtless, many idiots believe it is.

By the way, terrorism wasn’t invented in the Middle East. Talk to Sinn Fein about the roots of terrorism and they will retort with the evils of the British Empire. It is far too complex an issue to blame a particular religion.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
karva wrote:
Now I am confused. What are we discussing on this thread; archaic practices that exist in many islamic countries or islamic terrorism?

Hmm - I think the point was both: that the one leads to the other.[/quote]

Those practices have existed for millenia in those parts of the world. Actually it can be argued, that Muhammed championed the cause of women with his rules of inheritance and by allowing women to witness. Hopelessly outdated improvements now, though. There is a connection, but I don’t believe it to be of cause-effect nature.

The ideology and it’s manifestations - terrorism and oppressive practices - is the problem. Why are ideologies extended? Why and in which conditions do they get adherents? Those are questions that interest me.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

Why? Do you really think backwardness of society is the issue? I can walk down Anytown America and see the exact same parallels with dogmatic backwards thinking applied to our culture. All religions and cultures are guilty of this. The distinction has nothing to do with religion or culture but with the nature of human interest.[/quote]

No, it is not strictly “backwardness”, because so much of it is based in substantive ideological viewpoints that are not necessarily dependent on where they fit on a historical “timeline”. Many Buddhist sects in Tibet are a little “backwards” from a modernity standpoint, but that doesn’t mean they are the same as Islamists.

Your second point is patently ridiculous - a stroll down the street in Anytown will not reveal similarities between small town types and Islamists. Again, you want to relativize societies that happen to not be at the front of your “progressive society” spectrum (a sketchy spectrum to begin with), but as stated earlier, it isn’t purely a matter of being “behind the times” - it is a matter of the specifics of ideology with no chance at reform.

It isn’t purely a matter of winning a war of religion, but religion is most certainly implicated in the fight, because it is a fight over societal values - and for Muslims in particular, the societal values are largely inseperable from religion.

As the author mentioned, Islam doesn’t have to include this pathology, there need not be any inherent conflict between the Abrahamic religions - but it does. The question is how to change that.

No one is suggesting terrorism was invented in the ME. Why bother explaining that?

Terror is nothing but a tactic - it dates back to antiquity. Islamists just happen to use it almost exclusively (being non-state actors).

And, “terror” isn’t a complex issue at all - it is the simplest of the issues. It is a way to attack people you don’t like.

This ties in beautifully with my own thoughts on the issue…

As with over here, when people believe something, it makes it very easy to justify things.

Combined with the fact that there are religious factions that actively promote terrorism, you have a populace that has a widespread hatred of the west. They “want” to believe bad things about the west. The west has been demonized via media propaganda for their entire lives.

Of course, when someone brings what appears to be a theologically sound interpretation of their religion that tells them to strike out at the west, they want to embrace it. It fits well with the feelings of hatred already present.

We can see clearly in our own societies how political cheerleaders simply “want” to believe anything an administration might say, no matter how duplicitous or lacking in credibility it may be.

I suspect the radical elements would have a lot less luck if the people weren’t softened up in advance to demonize the citizens and countries of the western world.

Unfortunately, the radical elements know full well the value of controlling the media, or of silencing moderate voices, and actively work to do so.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
We want them to reform, obviously - but what incentive do they have to change when so many people are saying “there is nothing inherently wrong with your culture”…?[/quote]

Your statement is really saddening. It claims that there’s something inherently wrong with the Islamic culture, when it’s some extremists that give it a bad name.

Your “article” talks about stoning of women, clitorectomies and hanging of gays and tries to pass it as something common in the Muslim world. This is laughable. Those sights are the exception rather than the rule in the Muslim world.

I don’t see where you’re going with your Islam-bashing posts so I have a question; Do you seriously consider killing, converting and/or persecuting a billion and a half people because of their faith? If not, and assuming your vision and that of Dr. Hamid is right, what would be, according to you, an appropriate solution to the “problem” in Islamic culture? I’m seriously inquiring here.

[quote]lixy wrote:

Your statement is really saddening. It claims that there’s something inherently wrong with the Islamic culture, when it’s some extremists that give it a bad name. [/quote]

Well, you will need to remember - these are the thoughts of a Muslim who is part of the society.

Second, extremists certainly give Islamic societies a bad name, but the overall condition is sympomatic of a very bad, broken culture.

Well again, the commentator is a Muslim himself, but a larger point looms - there isn’t a liberal Muslim society in the world, and these practices and their justifications are far often not the exception, but the regular rule.

Moreover, it stands to get worse. As modernity passes Islamic society by, its flaws become more and more visible, which provides even more humiliation to the societies themselves.

Is faith causing it? Without question, yes, to some degree, particularly aggravated by the fact that faith is inseperable from other social values for the most part. Faith and ideology cannot be practically segregated.

Never forget - Islam has never grown up with an Enlightenment, a Reformation, or a Renaissance. It is not tempered by classical values nor has it had the critical examination afforded by the advantages of Western philosophical self-audit.

Anything resembling that has been stillborn at best - so Islam remains swimming in its own incestuous juices.

If there be a solution, it is for Islamic societies to undergo some version of these critical aspects with this mantra in mind: our misery is our own fault, and it is up to us to fix ourselves. Anything else is just scapegoating.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
Never forget - Islam has never grown up with an Enlightenment, a Reformation, or a Renaissance. It is not tempered by classical values nor has it had the critical examination afforded by the advantages of Western philosophical self-audit.[/quote]

Religion used to adapt with the growth and development of humankind. Then, with the advent of the printing press, religion has become a brake on the development of humanity.

This is not a rejection of religion, on my part, but a rejection of fundamentalist thinking which attempts to lock in the writings of men from thousands of years ago, written at a time when they did not have the insights now available to us.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:

Well again, the commentator is a Muslim himself, but a larger point looms - there isn’t a liberal Muslim society in the world, and these practices and their justifications are far often not the exception, but the regular rule.[/quote]

I alluded to my buddy in a thread a few weeks ago who is married to a Persian girl (Iranian) and has been to Iran twice to visit her family. He lovs Iran and the people. According to his descriptions, Iran is a very liberal muslim society.

People have complete freedom of religion (they have a vibrant Christian and Jewish population) and the majority of college students and grads are women. While men dominate the high-ranking postions in the job force, their women actually have a majority in mid-level jobs.

They are quite a bit more liberal on many social issues than we are- for example, they actually give heroin to heroin addicts in their rehab centers while tapering them off and have “rehabilitation” centers to help prostitutes.

Also, Singapore is a muslim country and is among the most advanced in the world. Malaysia and Indonesia are pretty developed as well.

I think its important to distinguish between the Arab and non-Arab muslims countries. The Arab countries tend to be dominated by despots and “backwardness”, while Iran and some of the SE Asian muslim countries are nice places. Turkey is a very liberal muslim society. I’ve been to Istanbul and its a really cool city.

[quote]vroom wrote:

Religion used to adapt with the growth and development of humankind. Then, with the advent of the printing press, religion has become a brake on the development of humanity.[/quote]

I would disagree, at least in part - while religion has had a mixed bag, it has also served to put a brake on some of humankind’s worst natural attributes. Both Reason and Religion have played a role in steering the craft away from the excesses of superstition (fundamentalism) and nihilism.

[quote]This is not a rejection of religion, on my part, but a rejection of fundamentalist thinking which attempts to lock in the writings of men from thousands of years ago, written at a time when they did not have the insights now available to us.
[/quote]

To some degree, but throwing away ideas from a thousand years ago just because they are from a thousand years ago make as much sense as believing things from a thousand years ago just because they were created then.

And I don’t share a rigid linear version of Progress among societies that would automatically discard “old ways” because of where we are on some historical spectrum - societies advance, and societies can most certainly rot.

I am careful not to think we are automatically “so far ahead” of older societies in terms of our cultures - especially given what has happened to previous societies when they thought they had achieved the top of civilization.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
To some degree, but throwing away ideas from a thousand years ago just because they are from a thousand years ago make as much sense as believing things from a thousand years ago just because they were created then.[/quote]

Of course things don’t need to be discarded because they are old, but this is why I made sure to point out I am not trying to reject religion.

We have however discarded the notion that women are second class people, though they had to fight for that change.

We need to make sure we work to discard the things that are no longer relevant to society. There is no systemic conflict caused by having women achieve equality though it was certainly a resisted change. I think the same will be true with respect to acceptance toward homosexuality.

There is no outward damage or conflict caused by it, though it is causing strife as society adjusts to the notion. Religion provides guidance towards behaviors based on the conditions at the times, as well as moral or other issues.

We should make sure we don’t confuse the messages, which is what fundamentalist interpretations do. They put the religion into the time based behavioral aspects, granting them the same significance as spiritual issues.

That, in my view, is a mistake. We can see the damage it causes to people, such as women when they are unequal, or to homosexuals who have been castigated by society for centuries.

Whether or not you like the linear model, it is a truth that from time to time new thinking occurs or new technologies and living realities occur, that cause adjustment to issues of family, sanitation, disease, economics, communication, rights and so on.

Some of these changes negate or indicate that changes in behavioral codes are due… and resistance causes the potential for conflict, while fairly much none of them have any impact on the spiritual aspects of a religion.

These types of thoughts allow me to have no concern when science supplants sections of commentary in religious text discussing the nature of creation and so forth.

If you don’t cling to a fundamentalist or literalist interpretation, and you don’t try to live in the past, then you aren’t forced to reconcile such very conflicting issues.

To return to the topic at hand, some sects of various religions, notably Islam, are very tied to the written texts and the very outdated behavioral guidelines they provide… some of which we find morally reprehensible.

However, to be clear, I am not one of those that believes that all Islam must be fought and eliminated. That is not the case… though some of the posts around here would promote that viewpoint.

[quote]vroom wrote:

(homosexuality example)[/quote]

I decided to move past this example not because it doesn’t deserve a discussion, but because I am afraid it will drift from the main topic. To the next one…

Right, but it is also a truth that from time to time new thinking occurs that cause adjustments to society but make society worse, not better.

That is where the linear relationship breaks down.

That isn’t to say I think there is no “progression”, I just simply don’t think it is as neat and simple as others suggest. Nor do can I point to a utopian endpoint that Linear Progressivists envision: lines have to head somewhere. I am not convinced about that “somewhere” for a number of reasons.

Just as a society can make changes to make the society better, it can make changes that make society worse ? and in fact, we have an awful track record of doing just that.

Well, that would be a hard part to sustain, because religions have their own set of moral norms that are tethered to spirtuality. Few religions opt for a “if it feels good do it” approach - there have always beem moral opprobria attached to things that would undermine the important things the spiritual society holds dear.

Of course, a balance has to be struck, but suggesting that spirituality has nothing to do with terrestrial behavior misses the point of many religions, particularly those that measure your behavior for entrance into the afterworld.

The problem is - and much of this is the creationists’ fault - is that science doesn’t really “supplant” religious thinking. The two areas ask different questions.

And an important point I think is that science is very limited in the questions it can answer about us, our societies, how we behave, etc. It can help, but suggesting science provides the way, say, for morality, is an invitation to disaster. I want no part of that world.

They do, and there is little incentive to go beyond that literalism which you abhor. They have no historical impetus to do so, and no modern reason to either - it is politically incorrect or intolerant to point a finger and shame these barbarian cultures for the reprehensible things they do. Shame can do a lot to inspire change - but it is largely off-limits, at all levels of society.

I don’t either actually: Islam is capable of reform. But one of the measures of reform is to teach these cultures - the easy way or the hard way - that old notions of wanting war and conquest against non-believers (or supporters of non-believers) is a bad idea. They keep opting for the hard way.

After they abandon the idea of enmity toward the West (whose ideas and principles they must largely adopt to reform), then it is a perfect time to say “what next?”. But not until then.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
Right, but it is also a truth that from time to time new thinking occurs that cause adjustments to society but make society worse, not better.

That is where the linear relationship breaks down.[/quote]

I think you are getting very subjective. It’s not always about better or worse as you are implying. For example, with the discovery of bacteria and the gain in knowledge with respect to sanitation, a lot of diseases and problems can be avoided.

You’ll find that a lot of religious “morals” are/were based on avoiding high risk behaviors for disease. Given the level of knowledge about sanitation at the time, it’s no wonder many things we aren’t as worried about today were forbidden at the time.

As for other types of changes, you have to apply your criteria to changes outside moral bounds as well. The fact that parents live in economic systems that require them to abandon their children to daycare facilities can be seen as a negative.

The real point is that change happens. When something new “works”, such as cash money instead of bartering, it has a whole series of effects that will be felt. Whether or not we like these effects, nobody is going to be able to push back adaptations to society as they are being forced by “progress”.

Anyway, to get back to the point, religious morals that were based on health risks and so forth, may very well be greatly significant to followers of that religion, but, that is what I’d presume to be mankind’s addition to the religion.

We are on a path, a journey, that cannot be stopped or turned back. Whether or not it is utopian, we are heading down a one way path. It can lead to our extinction just as easily as it can lead to some utopia. Whatever you do, don’t lump me in with some nutbags with a utopian view just because we are in fact undergoing continual change.

If you look closely, there are spiritual aspects to religion as well as physical behavioral aspects to religion.

You may disagree, but it is a mistake to try to hold society constant in a world of changing technologies, capabilities and realities. Conditions around us change every day… a static religion ends up in conflict with those realities.

Perhaps, but I’m convinced that religion contains a lot of input from the humans that wrote the books. The central message of most religions is the same, with variations on accepted behaviors.

This leads me to believe that the accepted behaviors portion has been added on by mankind, based on the norms, customs and preferences of whoever was doing the writing. A historical look supports this.

When historic scientists are jailed for advancing notions such as the earth orbiting the sun, then obviously religious leaders feel that science is in competition with religion.

Today, we have similar issues with sections of Christianity thinking that evolution is in direct conflict with their religion. As I am describing above about behavioral issues, anyone who isn’t that sect of Christian immediately “throws out” the literal interpretation of creation and continues with their day.

Basically, this is what you and I are doing with segments of Islam that we disagree with also. We throw that out because we “know” it is invalid and useless. Unfortunately, they do that with our religion as well.

Sorry, you are already living in it. Again, religious codes are largely based on health (staying alive) and propagation. As science impacts these issues, then our behaviors change, naturally, based on individual choices, while taking advantage of ideas and capabilities.

For example, the cash machine and the computer have had large effects on society. They don’t affect our mores per se, by they do affect how we interact and allow people to do immoral things in different ways. The pressure to do immoral things comes from inside people, not societal changes.

Strangely, the problem arises because their religion allows them to point those same fingers at us. Of course, their religion is trash, while ours is correct, right?

In such a situation nobody is going to go about feeling ashamed… as their religions support them. Who is man to shame someone when God is on their side?

P.S. Be careful assuming you know what I do or do not abhor. I’d prefer if you didn’t guess at my beliefs or preferences and try to state them as “facts” in that way. I’m not a fan of such mischaracterizations.

[quote]vroom wrote:

You’ll find that a lot of religious “morals” are/were based on avoiding high risk behaviors for disease. Given the level of knowledge about sanitation at the time, it’s no wonder many things we aren’t as worried about today were forbidden at the time.[/quote]

Hmm. Under this theory, the healthier we get (or able to cure diseases, etc.), the fewer and fewer moral restrictions we have on ourselves.

I don’t buy that. I am not sure if you came up with the idea or someone else did, but that ignores the range of moral philosophy/examination we have had available since antiquity.

I don’t disagree with that, except that I disagree with the word “required”. Promoting and protecting the traditional nuclear family is an important aspect to civilization (and unrelated to sanitation, btw) that is being disintegrated for a number of reasons.

A good example of a society rotting.

This, of course, is too narrow - plenty of things “work” in the short run. And, we moderns almost always reflexively think that instant self-gratification is the highest virtue achievable, when in the long-run, whatever “change” resulted in it has made society worse.

And, of course, it depends on your definition of “progress” - as we move further away from a society that, say, gets further and further away from individual responsibility, I’d gladly “push back” to a previous spot.

Whether we can push ourselves back may be a moot point - if it falls apart of its own accord.

But history largely refutes this idea - societies have moved in cycles, less so in lines. Some progress has taken place - I don’t argue that it doesn’t, not at all - but this idea of a “one way path” really doesn’t square with the diversity of societies we have witnessed.

Why does it matter? If that path erodes and falls apart, you’re not really on the path anymore.

I don’t disagree with this at all…

I don’t disagree with this mostly, but religions are quite different.

But this merely restates this issue - of course they have been added on by mankind. Religion is done by Men - and when and where they live can certainly influence.

You say “added” like this is a bad thing - men and societies have always circumscribed behaviors (even outside of religious prohibitions) in the context of providing some cohesion to the society in which they live to reflect values, ideas, etc. That isn’t auotmatically a bad thing - I don’t want to presume your position, but you seem to give these constraints on behavior as the value of being “bad”, something worth getting away from.

That is fine if you do - I don’t share that view. I don’t necessarily believe “progress” entails moving toward absolute freedom, free of all social constraints.

I am pressed for time - I will try to respond to the other points later…

There is no reform to Islam. The disease is rooted too deeply, and cannot be treated without killing the patient. Best bet, call Dr. K to set up an appointment with each Muslim.