- - Wednesday, October 24, 2018


The murder of Jamal Khashoggi encapsulates the crisis which has overtaken 1.5 billion Muslims, 22 percent of world population, their religion and their scattered and widespread civilization.

Muslims are in the ascendancy, if only through the early steps of the modernization of their ancient societies. The increasing immigration to Europe and the West, which are suffering a decline of their native birth rate as well, is having a profound effect.

Mr. Khashoggi put it succinctly when he wrote, “The Arab world has been seeking renaissance for the last 100 years,” but the movement for reform had been blocked by authoritarian leaders and public rage at endemic corruption.

Islam remains for the most part retrograde, in the Arab lands and among Muslims elsewhere in the Middle East and in South and East Asia. So-called reformers, such as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Mohammed bin Salman, promise to embrace social and economic reform, and to make Saudi Arabia and its 30 million Muslims more open and tolerant. But he and others like him in addressing the things that hold back progress have instituted their own repression.

The crown prince presides over dozens of imprisoned Saudi intellectuals, clerics, journalists and social media stars — the vast majority of whom have violated no laws with their mild criticism of government. Meanwhile, many members of the Saudis’ Council of Senior Scholars (“Ulema”) have extremist ideas. Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan has said that Shiites are not Muslims. Another highly regarded cleric, Sheikh Saleh Al-Lohaidan, has told Muslim rulers they are not bound to consult others before entering decrees. Their reactionary opinions about democracy, pluralism — as with the celebrated issue of women driving — are protected by royal decree from counter-argument.

“We need to provide a platform for Arab voices,” Mr. Khashoggi has argued, “We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.”

Always the kind of journalist who annoys the authorities, Mr. Khashoggi thought the prince an impulsive hothead who undermined some of his own good ideas for reform. For all his claims at being a reformer, Mr. Khashoggi pointed out the crown prince had put dozens of Saudi intellectuals, clerics, journalists, and social media stars in prison — the majority of whom, at worst, expressed only mild criticism of the Saudi government.

The isolation, or at least one-way colonial traffic, that once marked the Muslim world and the West has been breached. The huge numbers of Turkish, Arab, and other Muslim immigrants to Europe who appear less likely than previous invaders to assimilate quickly, are inevitably putting their imprint on traditional European cultures. Conflicts over the rights of women in the public purview, for example, produce an almost constant stream of incidents, some serious. In France, there are “no go” areas for the police, Algerian and Moroccan neighborhoods are rebuilt in a version of the North Africa they left behind. In Germany, similar enclaves of Turkish immigrants have arisen that defy the traditional culture.

Furthermore, the Islam which these newcomers are bringing has yet to undergo the reformation that ended religious rule in Europe. Will this Islam, as early Christianity and Judaism did, abandon clerical authority to the civilian leadership? It was to Christ Himself that the rights of the laity were given precedence, when He said to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” And “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.” Islam has difficulty with this, and so it resists. This makes true reformation unlikely.

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