Notes on Islam

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at
Sun Sep 14 16:40:25 MDT 2003


Thanks for taking the time to read my little effort. A few replies:

>>I understand the DSP is working on a document covering some of the
history of "political islam' which I think is a term to be preferred to

I will be very interested to read it. Not all “fundamentalism” is
political, so my own preferred term for the wider context is “Islamism”.
But I often use “fundamentalism” because these days everyone uses it,
including the Muslims I know.

>>I would emphasise more about how religion is part of the ideological
struggle - there are competing interpretations/translations.<<

I agree, and that is the point about the two translations of the Surah on

>>I tend to approach the issue of radicalising people by encouraging them
to take their own views seriously (rather than adopting mine) so rather
than converting Christians to socialism 
I'd rather convince them they
should be Christian revolutionaries like Jesus.<<

Well perhaps we differ a bit here. I certainly don’t see converting them to
atheism as a priority; by and large it just introduces unnecessary
obstacles to dialogue about politics. But I do think Marxists need to argue
consistently for Marxism as a totalising method, and that includes
ideology, science and religion.

>>the challenge is to take the exisiting interpretations and challenge them
in a way that draws people into action as in liberation theology.<<

My experiences of liberation theology are mixed. I went to mass at the
famous church in Managua where it is/was centred). And I hated it. It was
touchy-feely liberalism, at a time when a US invasion seemed to be on the
cards. On the other hand a couple of years later in the Philippines, I
spent a bit of time with a young Catholic labour activist, who had a nice
sharp militancy about him. More recently in Indonesia, I’ve found it a
maddening diversion. If I get told one more time that “socialism is present
in the Qur’an
”  Hmm – well, my response is to say: “Yes, socialism is
there, but it’s not scientific socialism.” Maybe my position isn’t very far
from yours at all!

>>I am less comfortable with Tom's exhorting us to be "uncompromising
materialists" and "opponents of religion" 
Materialism (and science) are
not merely the opposites of idealism (and religion) they are social
products and fighting over them is part of the ideological struggle.
Science can be used to promote tyranny and justify inequality as much as

I’m tempted to say: if it does that, it’s not scientific. But of course
that gets us into facile tautologies. Instead I’ll say this is like the
issue of the Englightenment. There is good and bad in it, but I will still
defend it fiercely against the postmodernists.


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