Tawfik Hamid

Sometimes one realises where one has gone wrong or misunderstood. I have just finished reading the article by the wonderful Tawfik Hamid in the Jerusalem Post. The problem with Islam and the West (indeed the rest of the world and muslims too) lies in the challenge posed by Salafi Islam.
This reminds me of the intellectual conflict in 12-14th century Christian Europe between the scholastic schools and the schools of mystical thought as personified by Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux, between the thinkers and the believers. Hamid reminds us that the school of thought within the Muslim world represented by Salafi Islam is one of absolute belief, absence of self-critical analysis and the importance of ritualism. Compared to the rigour of the Salafi school, none of the other old schools of thought and practise can withstand the emotional, intellectual and physical violence of the Salafis. What Hamid represents in a sense is the impact of Western and Greek rational and sceptical thought on the Muslim world.
This impact is precisely what the Salafis’ hate and wish to exterminate within the Muslim world, since it calls into question so much of their own belief. Where the conflict seems to come from is the Salafi insistence that deviation from their understanding is un-Islamic, and therefore marks the practitioner out as an infidel – even an apostate, therefore marked for death. It was the same intellectual impact that tore Christianity apart and ultimately began to destroy religion in the West, often from inside. In their hearts, the Salafis understand this but recognising the eschatological tradition that runs though traditional Islam, they must redouble their efforts to convert the world and purify the Muslim world or all will burn in hell.
So what we must and are fighting in the West is the most puritanical of the traditional Muslim sects, reinvigorated by the re-establishment of Muslim states, by the impact of the West on the Islamic world and by the incorporation of the hatred and bitter energy of the Nazi movement from the 1930s onwards. But thanks to the intellectual bravery of people like Tawfik Hamid, we can recognise that we are fighting the Salafis and not all Muslims. Where this will lead I cannot tell at present but a great weight feels lifted from my shoulders, thanks to Dr Hamid.

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