Jeff Jacoby's article in the Boston Sunday Globe on "What Is Islam" infuriates. It infuriates because it would take a lot of time to hold up each full or half or quarter-wrong remark for inspection and discussion. Life is short, and at this point I just don't want to spend the time. So do it for yourself.
The article follows the insistent line taken by Daniel Pipes, that is so misleading and so dangerously comforting,one more excuse to let down your guard, and one more reason not to put in place what should be the most obvious strategy of self-defense to divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam. And that line is: Islam Can Be Whatever Muslims Want It To Be. It's such a crazy idea, crazy as applied not only to Islam but to practically anything. Can Nazism, Can Communism, Can Capitalism "Be" "Whatever Nazis, Communists, Capitalists Want (Nazism, Communism, Capitalism) To Be"? Isn't it obvious that there are differences in practices, but within certain limits, and beyond those limits, it's no longer Nazism, Communism, Capitalism. The Nazi who believes that Germans should not rule the world, who despises Hitler and all his crew, and so on, is not a Nazi but an anti-Nazi. A Muslim who found the figure of Muhammad not elevating but horrifying would not be considered a Muslim.
It's unfortunate that acoby didn't listen to Ayaan Hirsi Ali dismember Pipes in a debate on this very matter, or seen fit to read Ibn Warraq on Islams 1, 2, and 3, where the actual practice of Muslims is distinguished from the fixed canonical texts of Islam, nor trouble himself to read just a few of the many devastating criticisms of Pipes who, having made his errors, has decided to double-down on his error. He may think it better not to admit, not to allow himself to believe, that others, without doctorates in Islamic history, might nonetheless be superior to him in their ability to make sense of Islam, and Muslim attitudes and behavior, including the variations in time and space that can be explained as prudential responses to the perceived greater power of non-Muslims, .
There are many misstatements and confusions in Jacoby's article that I will leave it up to you to find them. But you might start with the various "alternatives" -- in truth, not alternatives but merely variations on the essential theme -- that Jacoby claims show that 2.256, "there is no compulsion in religion," Means Whatever Muslims Want It To Mean. No, it doesn't. It doesn't mean, for example, that in a Muslim polity, one consonant with Islam, non-Muslims can ever be trerated as full equal, in every sense, to Muslims. The legal and social disabilities may vary in their application, depending on local circumstances, but that there must be some clear distinction, based on the inferiority of those who continue to reject Islam, is clear. In Muslim-majority countries where the non-Muslims constitute a very large and powerful part of the population -- as, say, in Lebanon, or Malaysia -- local circumstances may make the lot of non-Muslims, for now, less onerous. But that does not mean that Islam is "Whatever Muslims Want It To Be."
Jeff Jacoby, by the way, is a great non-believer in Global Climate Disruption. Get the picture?