Jonathan Meddings: freethinker with ... a groupthink opinion

(*** UPDATE: Jonathan is not a victim of groupthink, this is just a misunderstanding)

Meddings is "the Queensland State Convener of the Freethought University Alliance, President of the James Cook University Society of Atheist Philosophy, contributor to the Young Australian Skeptics".

Let's see how much freethought he has brought to the Islam debate ...

Jonathan Meddings, RE: Baroness Warsi says Muslim prejudice seen as normal
It is important to understand the difference between Muslims and Islamists. Muslims are adherents of the religion of Islam, whereas Islamists are followers not only of the religion, but also of political Islam. It follows that Islamists are non-secular, theocratic, and support Islamic Sharia law...

I do not have any prejudice against Muslims ...

I do not respect Islamists though, because they are the ones flying planes into buildings, carrying out suicide bombings, treating women as property, mutilating the genitals of little girls and then forcefully marrying and raping them, murdering homosexuals and adulterers, and fighting a global Jihad in order that this kind of barbarism one day rule the world.
So, freethinking Jonathan believes that Islam excludes political Islam and violence. Does freethinking Jonathan back up these assertions with any evidence? Nope, it's groupthink all the way. But he's young, so we'll just give him the facts and see how his freethinking brain reconciles this dilemma. It'll be fun to watch.

Review of Dr Andrew Bostom's The Legacy of Jihad By Alyssa A. Lappen
The leaders of the free world have taken pains since late 2001 to explain that Islam is a religion of peace. But in this far-ranging, 759-page collection of Muslim and non-Muslim eyewitness accounts, scholarly Muslim theological treatises and superb historical surveys, it appears that Islam has actually practiced a grisly jihad campaign against non-Muslims from its earliest days, in the hope of satisfying the Prophet Mohammed's end goal: forcing the "one true faith" upon the entire world...

After viewing these accounts, histories and art works, it is hard to continue to believe that radical Islamists are in fact all that radical. Rather, in the most logical way, this collection shows that September 11 was not an aberration, but that Islam at its core seems a faith bent upon the conquest and subjugation of non-Muslims...

Maliki jurist and philosopher Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), so often quoted as a peaceful, likewise adopts a warlike tone: "In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam by persuasion or by force.... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense....Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations."
Bat Ye'or, author of Islam and Dhimmitude
The basis of and prophet of this new version of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance was Edward Said who established in all universities and in academia this Islamic vision of peace. On this basis, the whole history of dhimmitude and jihad disappeared.
Robert Spencer, What the West Needs to Know
The real burning question in the world today is "Does Islam and Islamic civilisation actually sanction the violence that we are seeing being perpetrated in its name around the world?". And to that we have to answer, if we're going to be honest about it, an unqualified 'Yes'. The Islamic sources, the Islamic texts, starting with the Koran, but not limited to the Koran, the Islamic texts including the hadith, Islamic tradition, Islamic theology, Islamic law, the traditions of the interpretation of the Koran throughout history and Islamic history itself, all bare witness to the fact that Islam has a developed doctrine, theology and law that mandates violence against unbelievers.
From Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, by Rudolph Peters, 1995:
During the second half of the eighth century the first comprehensive treatises on the law of jihad were written by al-Awza’i (d. 774) and Muhammad al-Shaybani (d. 804). The legal doctrine of jihad was the result of debates and discussions that had been going on since the Prophet’s death and through which the doctrine had been developed. The period in which the doctrine of jihad was gradually formulated coincided with the period of the great conquests

The doctrine of the jihad, as laid down in the works on Islamic law, developed out of the Koranic prescriptions and the example of the Prophet and the first caliphs, which is recorded in the hadith. The crux of the doctrine is the existence of one single Islamic state, ruling the entire umma. It is the duty of the umma to expand the territory of this state in order to bring as many people under its rule as possible. The ultimate aim is to bring the whole earth under the sway of Islam and to extirpate unbelief …

(sourced from Andrew Bostom’s Legacy of Jihad)
Robert Spencer, Bible and Qur'an: equally violent?
Violence in the Qur’an?

… in contrast to the Bible, the Qur’an exhorts believers to fight unbelievers without specifying anywhere in the text that only certain unbelievers are to be fought, or only for a certain period of time, or some other distinction. Taking the texts at face value, the command to make war against unbelievers is open-ended and universal.

But aren’t you just cherry-picking violent passages?

… when I list Qur’anic passages that counsel violence, I am often accused of “cherry-picking” the worst of such passages in order to try to portray Islam in the worst possible light, and ignoring similar material in the Bible. In both cases, however, the question of whether or not one is “cherry-picking” can only adequately be solved by recourse to the mainstream interpretative traditions that have guided believers’ understanding of their respective holy books. And as we have seen, mainstream Bible commentators on both sides of the Reformation divide do not consider the Bible’s most violent passages to contain anything like marching orders for believers to make war against unbelievers.

In regard to the Qur’an, on the other hand, the situation is very different. It is not Gary Frazier – or Robert Spencer – who is “cherry-picking” violent passages from the Qur’an. Muslims themselves are doing so, or rather, have recourse to a venerable and mainstream mode of Qur’anic interpretation that exalts the violent verses at the expense of the peaceful ones — and this is one reason why the jihadist movement is growing all over the Islamic world today…

All this means that warfare against unbelievers until they either become Muslim or “pay the jizya” — the special tax on non-Muslims in Islamic law — “with willing submission” (Qur’an 9:29) is the Qur’an’s last word on jihad. Mainstream Islamic tradition has interpreted this as Allah’s enduring marching orders to the human race: the Islamic umma (community) must exist in a state of perpetual war, punctuated only by temporary truces, with the non-Muslim world.

All four principal Sunni schools agree on the importance of jihad. Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 996), a Maliki jurist, declared:

Jihad is a precept of Divine institution. Its performance by certain individuals may dispense others from it. We Malikis maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them.

Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), a Hanbali jurist who is a favorite of Osama bin Laden and other modern-day jihadists:

Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought. As for those who cannot offer resistance or cannot fight, such as women, children, monks, old people, the blind, handicapped and their likes, they shall not be killed unless they actually fight with words (e.g. by propaganda) and acts (e.g. by spying or otherwise assisting in the warfare).

The Hanafi school sounds the same notes:

It is not lawful to make war upon any people who have never before been called to the faith, without previously requiring them to embrace it, because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith, and also because the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war… If the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax, it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do.

And so does the Shafi’i scholar Abu’l Hasan al-Mawardi (d. 1058), who echoes Muhammad’s instructions to invite the unbelievers to accept Islam or fight them if they refuse:

The mushrikun [infidels] of Dar al-Harb (the arena of battle) are of two types: First, those whom the call of Islam has reached, but they have refused it and have taken up arms. The amir of the army has the option of fighting them…in accordance with what he judges to be in the best interest of the Muslims and most harmful to the mushrikun… Second, those whom the invitation to Islam has not reached, although such persons are few nowadays since Allah has made manifest the call of his Messenger…it is forbidden to…begin an attack before explaining the invitation to Islam to them, informing them of the miracles of the Prophet and making plain the proofs so as to encourage acceptance on their part; if they still refuse to accept after this, war is waged against them and they are treated as those whom the call has reached…

These are all extremely old authorities – such that one might reasonably assume that whatever they say couldn’t possibly still be the consensus of the Islamic mainstream. The laws of the United States have evolved considerably since the adoption of the Constitution, which itself has been amended. So why shouldn’t this be true of Islamic law as well? Many observers assume that it must be, and that Al-Qaeda’s departure from mainstream Islam must be located in its preference for the writings of ancient jurists rather than modern ones. But in this, unfortunately, they fail to reckon with the implications of the closing of the gates of ijtihad.

Ijtihad is the process of arriving at a decision on a point of Islamic law through study of the Qur’an and Sunnah. From the beginning of Islam, the authoritative study of such sources was reserved to a select number of scholars who fulfilled certain qualifications, including a comprehensive knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah, as well as knowledge of the principle of analogical reasoning (qiyas) by which legal decisions are made; knowledge of the consensus (ijma) on any given question of Muhammad, his closest companions, and the scholars of the past; and more, including living a blameless life. The founders of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence are among the small number of scholars — mujtahedin — thus qualified to perform ijithad. But they all lived very long ago; for many centuries, independent study of the Qur’an and Sunnah has been discouraged among Muslims, who are instead expected to adhere to the rulings of one of those established schools. Since the death of Ahmed ibn Hanbal, from whom the Hanbali school takes its name, in 855 A.D., no one has been recognized by the Sunni Muslim community as a mujtahid of the first class – that is, someone who is qualified to originate legislation of his own, based on the Qur’an and Sunnah but not upon the findings of earlier mujtahedin. Islamic scholar Cyril Glasse notes that “‘the door of ijtihad is closed’ as of some nine hundred years, and since then the tendency of jurisprudence (fiqh) has been to produce only commentaries upon commentaries and marginalia.” …

Closing the doors of ijtihad has had extremely detrimental ramifications for the Muslim world. According to Qazwini, this decision has resulted in chronic intellectual stagnation, as thousands of potential mujtahids and scholars have been prohibited from offering workable solutions to newly emerging problems. Muslim thinkers have become captive to rules that were made long ago, leaving little scope for liberal or innovative thought…

The problem is that however much of a dead letter it became in practice during times of weakness in the Islamic world, this doctrine of Islamic supremacism was never reformed or rejected. No one seems to have told the warriors of jihad who besieged Europe through the seventeenth century that the Islamic empire had already reached the limits of its expansion centuries before. No one seems to have told the modern-day warriors of Islam from Bosnia to the Philippines that jihad is a dead letter, and that Islam isn’t doing any more expanding…

Underscoring the fact that none of this is merely of historical interest is another Shafi’i manual of Islamic law that in 1991 was certified by the highest authority in Sunni Islam, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, as conforming “to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community.” This manual, ‘Umdat al-Salik (available in English as Reliance of the Traveller), spends a considerable amount of time explaining jihad as “war against non-Muslims.” It spells out the nature of this warfare in quite specific terms: “the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians . . . until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax.” It adds a comment by a Jordanian jurist that corresponds to Muhammad’s instructions to call the unbelievers to Islam before fighting them: the caliph wages this war only “provided that he has first invited [Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians] to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya) . . . while remaining in their ancestral religions.” …

For this to end, peaceful Muslims around the world would have to confront the fact that bin Laden and other jihad terrorists are regularly justifying their violence by reference to passages of the Qur’an and the words and deeds of Muhammad. If they don’t acknowledge this and formulate new and non-literalist ways of understanding this material, it will continue to be used to incite violence. In other words, the use that jihadists make of elements of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s teaching makes it incumbent upon peaceful Muslims to perform a searching reevaluation of how they understand those elements, so as to neutralize their capacity to set Muslims against non-Muslims.

People will do evil in all kinds of circumstances, and use all manner of justification for it; but the violent passages in the Bible are not equivalent to those in the Qur’an in content, in mainstream interpretation, or in the effect they have had on believers through the ages. The fact that in Islam violence against unbelievers has divine sanction in a way that it does not in Christianity makes religious violence more prevalent and harder to eradicate in Islam than it has ever been in Christianity. To equate it to a jumble of passages from the Bible to which no one would otherwise be paying any attention at all, at least as direct marching orders for twenty-first century warriors, is specious and dangerously misleading.
I've got more evidence, but that's enough freethinking for one day.

File under: thinking on behalf of the 'freethinkers'.

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