Noah Feldman: “The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State” — Alex

And yet there have been times when the public – private distinction was upheld, and what unislamic things were done in the privacy of people’s homes didn’t compel the powers that be to act. The remnants of ummayyad tolerance in Andalusia, for instance. I don’t think their penchant for wine songs and erotica was entirely academic!

Even then, though, there was a sort of understanding that the public square is where you conform, while the private space is your business as long as you’re not in open rebellion against the state.

I’m not sure I can conceive of a religious government, at least from among the world’s existing options, that can go a step farther and condone blasphemy in the public square.

And really, without the ability to blaspheme without violent consequence, who is really making the choice to commit? Faith as the path of least resistance, as the state’s heavily favored option, strikes me as a poorer instigator of ethical revolutions than faith chosen as an alternative to an existing order.

I think in our time, and maybe at all times, faith needs a secular framework to be a meaningful social catalyst. And is maybe at its most valuable when that framework is failing to protect the weak from oppression.

Can we think of a prophet who wasn’t railing against a morally objectionable status quo? Sometimes the objects of criticism were the establishment religion (Jeremiah’s fellow priests, Jesus’ former colleagues, the pagan aristocracy of Mecca). Sometimes they were openly godless, and greed alone ran their society (Sodom, the Noah’s generation).

It seems like religion becomes a lot less potent as an ethical force when it’s given the powers and responsibilities of running a government. I don’t know if that that inevitably means it yields bad government and bad religion… But that’s been pretty much every data point of recent memory.

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Noah Feldman: “The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State” – Colin

After living under a version of Sharia for the last 4 years, I’ve reached the conclusion that the popularity of Sharia has less to do with constraining the excesses of power and more to do with a desire for what I call “the dictatorship of the village gossip.”

The dictatorship of the village gossip has no limits. All notions of privacy and confidentiality are eliminated; your neighbors and community members demand to know everything about your lifestyle choices, your ideas, and especially your vices. The Sharia rules are very clear about which choices, ideas, and vices are acceptable, and which are forbidden. These rules apply to everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Armed with the knowledge of your choices and failings, the dictatorship of the village gossip can leverage it against you should you ever cross them.

Imagine you live in an apartment building and your noisy neighbor is keeping you up at night. You rightfully complain to the building security or landlord, but to no avail, your neighbor’s cousin is a sheikh and he cannot be reasoned with. The only thing you’ve succeeded in doing is making an enemy. After one dreadfully loud night, you hit the breaking point and call the police to file a complaint. When the police come to investigate, your vengeful neighbor turns the tables. Armed with the knowledge that you have a bottle of scotch on the shelf and a girlfriend in your bed, your neighbor informs the police of your haram behavior. Instead of a quiet night of sleep, the police arrest your for adultery and consumption of alcohol and the neighbor continues his noisy shenanigans. Depending on which version of sharia you live under, you’re facing a lengthy jail term, the lash, deportation, or the sword while your neighbor is commended as a defender of the faith. I’ve seen variants of this example occur countless times in the Gulf.

Sharia is inexorably tied to parochial conformism/tribal homogeneity and cannot meld with a multi-cultural, multi-confessional cosmopolitan civilization. It’s a fairly common global phenomenon that when economic migrants leave the village to find a job in the big city they bring their village culture with them. In the late 19th century US or modern day China, the migrant worker gradually adapts a laissez faire “mind ya own friggin business” attitude to survive the metropolis and gradually unlearns the old village rules. The problem with busy-body Sharia is that it is an integral part of religious belief and cannot be easily jettisoned when a villager moves to London, Paris, or Dubai. Combined with the developments in surveillance tech and the popular acquiescence to a snooping nanny-state, Sharia is actually finding fertile ground in modern cities…

On Mon, Oct 26, 2015 at 7:12 AM, Alex Schindler <schindler91589> wrote:

The taliban (among many other Mujahideen, including secularists like Ahmed shah messoud, gunned down by opponents) got their weapons from the CIA. The ideology was all their own. And that ideology was, “this land has been ruled by Western powers, westernized communists, and pashtunwali, but what it really needs is God’s own law. And we are the jurists who define and apply it.”

Its not a unique ideology in Islamic history. That’s a form of the story every time! What varies is the displaced enemy and the means of implementation.

The only “fresh air” the ayatollah brought to Iran was the sound of millennia of civilization vacuumed out and superseded by a totalitarian ideology. Papacy with an army. Not to play the sectarian, but it’s as islamically perverse as it is offensive to democracy. And it’s been “allowed to govern” for almost four decades now. There was even the pretense of free (if controlled) elections for three of them.

The AKP has accomplished a lot more than its early promising move away from forced secularism and toward mild rapprochement with the kurdish minority. You’re selling them short! (Well, I suppose that’s much wiser than taking a long position on them.) To wit, it has made journalism increasingly dangerous for all but the regime’s allies, consolidated executive power into one man in a putin-medvedev redux maneuver, turned on the Kurds in a major way, and bought astounding quantities of oil from Daesh. The last time anyone with a primary goal of maximizing human liberty has seen the AKP as a force for good in the world was before the Ergenekon hoax, the better part of a decade ago. Everyone knew then what a loyalty purge looked like, and the events that followed in Turkey have been less and less surprising since. Assassination of Armenian genocide scholars, imprisonment and violence against journalists, open war on Kurds away from urban centers…

This is your champion of liberal islamism? They’re only islamist in the sense that the lawmakers are themselves religious. They’re only liberal in the sense that this sentence is a lie, and a Cretan paradox to boot.

MB had its chance to govern in Egypt. They were undermined from the start, no doubt. Their response to the undermining was the predictable government oppression that comes from giving guns to people who have been on the wrong side of them for too long. That doesn’t inspire confidence. The people rose up. More than half of the *national* population were in the streets, a staggering phenomenon. is a revolution only authentic when it goes your way?

Hamas is an islamist government, fwiw.
Oh yeah and then there’s Daesh. Nice people. Also being undermined by others! I’m sure if not for those insidious secularist or Zionist or oil chasing interests, all these governments would permit public criticism, open debate, religious pluralism and an evolutionary, progressive Islamic jurisprudence… Right?

Come on! There are multiple phenomena going on at once. There’s the “homelessness” of shari3a, sure, but there’s also the power of fundamentalist movements striving toward an idealized past in place of an idealized future. Their form of messianism aims at retrogression instead of a futuristic utopia. (talk about religion without imagination!) there’s also a reflexive opposition to liberal values perceived as “western”, after a combination of imperialist sins and native orthodoxies have compounded to render liberalism itself suspect. And there’s poverty, illiteracy, misogyny and an excessively young population – good old demographic guarantees of strife to come.

as Feldman observes, Islamic law is, in most places, a counter – cultural movement, revolutionary and in no mood to compromise, never having been forced by the responsibilities of government to be, well, grown up.

But not all! In Saudi Arabia, shari3a ostensibly is the law. And they have taken a stand against law growing up. They ideologically oppose letting things “decay” much further than the 8th century.

Thanks to the overwhelming success of wahhabi propaganda in exporting itself to the four corners of the earth, that is the vision schoolchildren get from Saudi funded educational materials (and often teachers). So much so that even here in the states, some small percentage of people can be brought to question whether, in fact, the “caliphate” is actually living a “purer” Islam than everyone else.

This “purity” myth, a cult of authenticity that pretty much defines fundamentalism in every faith in some way or another (think Israeli settlers fighting to sacrifice goats on the temple mount, Christians trying to bring jesus back by assembling the Jews in Israel for our great reckoning…), has not proven itself to dissipate with political power. It just gets guns and victims with power.

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On Oct 25, 2015 10:25 PM, “Anam Farooqui” <aufarooqui> wrote:

“Fwiw, sharia as a check on secular tyrants has been the platform of lots of Islamist parties. It’s what the taliban ostensibly stood for.”

The Taliban were a militant group encouraged by the CIA. Not a political party against a secular dictatorship. — Feldman here describes the danger of law without the structure of the state. Law becomes “homeless” he says and therefore extremely dangerous. Hence Taliban and ISIS idea of Islamic law is like revolutionary justice aka not justice as we understand it as law at all.

” It’s written into the MB agenda. “

MB has never been allowed to govern.

“It’s why even secularists briefly took the akp seriously as a progressive force for turkey. “

Every election Islamists won in Turkey prior to 2000 was cancelled. So yes it was a breath of fresh air.

“It was why foucault had positive things to say about the Iranian revolution.”

Again, after the shah was imposed on Iran after 1953, (we’d have a leftist democracy in Iran today if it wasnt for the CIA and oil interests), a religious revolultion in Iran was a breath of fresh air.

“But has any country besides Tunisia yet demonstrated the ability of an Islamist party to peacefully share power with secular rivals in a pluralistic system. “

Has any election won by Islamists not been cancelled? AKP is on the way out, after undoing important pillars of Ataturk’s forced secularism. A decade and a half of experience by one party is hardly enough time to draw broad conclusions from one country to an entire political movement across a few dozen countries.

— as we speak, libyan is undergoing a national dialogue on the tunisian model which just won the nobel prize. I just attended a sufi philosophy conference at columbia and a woman who was attending these talks seemed so brave and optimistic. Wish them luck/ pray for their success.

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On Oct 25, 2015, at 8:46 PM, Alex Schindler <schindler91589> wrote:

Fwiw, sharia as a check on secular tyrants has been the platform of lots of Islamist parties. It’s what the taliban ostensibly stood for. It’s written into the MB agenda. It’s why even secularists briefly took the akp seriously as a progressive force for turkey. It was why foucault had positive things to say about the Iranian revolution.

But has any country besides Tunisia yet demonstrated the ability of an Islamist party to peacefully share power with secular rivals in a pluralistic system

Noah Feldman: “The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State” — Alex

Never saw the lecture, but I read his book by the same title. I realize this is blasphemy in the legal Academy where he’s a bit of a golden child, but I find him dilettantish (then again, a d.Phil is basically a dabbler’s doctorate by definition). A lot of historians didn’t think much of it either, fwiw, and I daresay historians have a much more rigorous attitude toward scholarship than law professors.

I would have liked, for example, to see a lot more backup of his notion that the tanzimat reforms of the 19th century Ottoman sultanate inadvertently froze the progress of sharia in place, an idea he’s reiterated since.

Fwiw, sharia as a check on secular tyrants has been the platform of lots of Islamist parties. It’s what the taliban ostensibly stood for. It’s written into the MB agenda. It’s why even secularists briefly took the akp seriously as a progressive force for turkey. It was why foucault had positive things to say about the Iranian revolution.

But has any country besides Tunisia yet demonstrated the ability of an Islamist party to peacefully share power with secular rivals in a pluralistic system? I don’t think that comes naturally to religious parties in places where pluralism and democracy are rudimentary ideas to begin with. I don’t think Christian parties manage it in half of Africa, and I’m increasingly skeptical of PM Modi though Indian democracy is a hell of a lot more developed than many potential countries of comparison. Hell, Israel has a pretty robust democratic spirit and their religious Zionist parties have a penchant for state sanctioned racism. So when does religious governance actually reduce state oppression?

Fun tidbit, he’s the guy they got to call me and try to talk me into Harvard Law school. They knew I had an interest in Islamic law and in Jewish law and he does both of those things in some capacity.

He also felt the need to make a big fucking public show of it when he perceived a slight from his modern orthodox Jewish high school, and retaliated with a nyt op-ed about how modern orthodoxy is a paradox doomed to failure. The proof is that he (incorrectly) thought his Asian wife was intentionally cropped out of a hs reunion picture because the small-minded parochial school disapproved of intermarriage. Of course, when you’re a prodigy in a small pond, you get used to thinking everything in the world is about you… Turns out there was no such cropping.

So, my impression of the guy preceded my firsthand experience of both his scholarship and his person considerably. On the phone he was just basically shilling for his institution. According to the plan, I was supposed to get a big ego boost and feel important from it, and therefore put myself a quarter million in debt to hold on to that preftige…

Man am I glad cults of personality underwhelm me.

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Noah Feldman: “The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State”

This 2008 lecture by a brilliant Rhodes Scholar and Harvard law professor discusses why large majorities of the Muslim world say in opinion polls they want shariah law.

He describes it as a legacy of shariah to restrict power on the executive (the caliph) and establish rule of law in the Muslim world. — Much like English nobles founded Parliament to check power on the king. — So when Muslims say they want sharia, they want a check on their autocratic dictators, protection of property and individual liberty from the State.

He also worked for the US CPA during the Iraq Invasion in 2003, and speaks candidly about his experience with Muslim democracy with the US adventure in Iraq.