An interesting task

Two projects for next month: I will make another Analysis programme on what the government’s policy towards domestic Islamic terrorism actually is; and I will produce a longish essay for the Guardian looking at whether it is true – as alleged by Bruce Anderson, amongst others – that real scholars are now frightened to discuss truthfully the origins of Islam.

On the Analysis question, it seems to me quite clear what we should be trying to avoid. The worst possible case for the British government – and society’s – point of view, is for the development of Islamic terrorism to follow the path of Irish Catholic nationalism in Ulster, with clan-based mafias with external safe havens and funding, a fascist ideology, and a religious penumbra setting up as the defenders of their people against an external threat. It’s very much easier to start such things than to stop them; it is also the case that once they get started, they are largely self-sustaining. The threat to all Muslims will become more real in proportion to the ways in which some Muslims threaten the rest of us. These are hardly original thoughts but I need to find the people in government or thereabouts who have been thinking them and will talk honestly.

As the for question of fear, I know that I have been frightened in the past myself. I did a long piece for the Sunday Telegraph some years ago about the oldest known fragments of the Koran, which Dominic Lawson spiked. I haven’t busted a gut to publish it since. But I now think this was wrong. There is a hugely important principle at stake. Censoring universities is much more important than censoring newspapers. We shall see what happens when I start asking questions.

Finally – what is there in common between celebrity and sacredness? They do seem to me to involve very similar psychic mechanisms, a kind of child-like magical thinking. There was a story in the Observer today about Jordan’s enormous book sales, and a woman queuing for her signature was quoted as saying that she had been through so much, so that when she, the fan, realised that Jordan had been a single parent this gave her the strength to be one too. And this kind of identification with an idealised but really powerful figure, who is just like us, only perfect, is clearly at the root of a lot of attitudes to both Jesus and Muhammed.

PS — Aaaaaaaargh!

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2 Responses to An interesting task

  1. J. says:

    Re: the Qur’an, even European scholars tend to fear applying the same sort of textual and historical analysis that they would to, say, The Bible or The Book of Mormon. There’s a deadly-dull tome called “The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Qur’an” which argues that parts were derived from earlier Christian Aramaic texts that were actually misinterpreted by Islamic scholars. The bloke who wrote it struggled to find a publisher, and eventually had to resort to a pseudonym – Christopher Luxenberg – for fear of retribution. Then there was the Palestinian scholar, Suleyman Bashir, who maintained that Islam developed gradually rather than emerging in one of those “Hey Presto!” moments from the mouth of Muhammad. He ended up being thrown out of a second-story window at Nablus University for his troubles.

    If you go ahead with your piece, place soft mattresses around your house. Or assume a pseudonym. All the best people do.

  2. strak says:

    I struggled to hold back tears of admiration for the courage of Christopher Luxenberg, the new Bonheoffer. Where do we get these men?

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