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There is much more missing in this account. Sunni vs Shi'a, the shock of the Crusades, the long decline of the Ottoman Empire before its collapse, the 18th century emergence of the Saudi state, European colonialism, Pakistan, Israel (yeah they mention it but only via the reflections of an Islamic scholar), the USA and its meddling, oil, consumerism. The article sounds as if the Muslim world was largely left to itself, with only introspection to influence its development.

And the central claim:

Islamic Exceptionalism: How Religion Shapes Politics in the Middle East - The Atlantic

Islam is distinctive in how it relates to politics--and this distinctiveness can be traced back to the religion's founding moment in the seventh century. Islam is different...

That the Christian tradition seems ambivalent about law, governance, and power is no accident. Islam and Christianity are, after all meant to do different things. Law, at least in part, is about exposing and punishing sin. Yet, when Jesus died on the cross, he in effect released man from the burdens of sin, and therefore from the burdens of the law.

Delusional bullshit. Most religions, including Christianity, were quite adamant to enter the political sphere and impose laws. The Old Testament is full of laws. The New Testament describes the sectarian community of the Apostles. A few centuries later, Christianity was turned into a legitimising ideology for rulers and began to hunt heretics. It was only after the Catholic–Protestant stalemate and general disillusionment that a clear separation of politics and religion became possible, and it took more time in the Colonies where various Protestant sects and off-shoots (Mormonism, anyone?) were still busy trying to create religion-based states.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 11:08:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our intuition of religions is based on Abrahamic examples. I do not see other religions as equally adamant about enjoying highest power. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto - these religions are generally content with advisory, propaganda roles (so to speak).  

In comparison to Christianity, Islam does seem to identify itself with political and legal authority more verbatim. I give distinctiveness points here to Islam. The Western separation of Church and State originated before the Enlightenment.

An interesting psychological-superstitious suggestion in the article is that the intellectual golden age in the Middle East and Central Asia transpired to a traumatic experience, because of the "punishing" shocks of the Crusades and Mongols. It is then easier to imagine aggressive rationalization of anti-intellectual skepticism. The embrace of terrorism would be then "logical" as adaptation of a practice that works towards their implicit ambitions.

by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 12:06:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto - these religions are generally content with advisory, propaganda roles (so to speak).

Where do you draw the line between "advisory, propaganda roles" and whatever you think Islamists do? In Tibet, the Buddhist rule was quite direct. In Confucianism, running a country (as opposed to just running your private life) is a central theme. Shintoism is a special case because today it is more a collection of rituals than an ideology, but it, too, is intractably entwined with the erstwhile ruling class. Meanwhile, Salafists could argue that Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab was just an advisor, too.

The Western separation of Church and State originated before the Enlightenment.

The Treaty of Worms wasn't a separation of church of state, quite the opposite! It was a truce in the battle between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor over control of the local church. But I would agree that the foundations for the separation of Church and State were laid before the Enlightement, when Catholics and Protestants fought to a standstill and created general disillusionment in the 30 Years War.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 02:12:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The very fact that Henry IV, Henry V were negotiating with the Popes shows that the Church did not have absolute authority. Yes, the Treaty of Worms empowered the Church - as a political entity foremost. Its moral authority rose up only for a few other centuries.

The notion that there are lines between Church and sovereign authorities was underscored by the Canossa and Warms episodes. For Islam, this notion still seems to be lightyears away, especially regarding the Sunni doctrine of caliphate.

Where do you draw the line between "advisory, propaganda roles" and whatever you think Islamists do?
We better have a taste for distinctions here. Concrete metrics would be: claimed necessity of own superiority (over politics, other religions); free will of sovereigns; historical evolution; eagerness of "supply vs demand".

My mentioned religions coexist in China, Japan for centuries almost without particular religious wars, and are pretty cool about "foolish" rulers. Confucianism went though the Han synthesis with Taoism and Qin legalism; distrust of the (Mongol) Yuan dynasty; Neo-Confucianism, New Confucianism variations.    

by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 04:45:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the Church did not have absolute authority

Yes, and? Neither did the mullahs and imams have absolute rule under the various shahs and sultans.

especially regarding the Sunni doctrine of caliphate

Church of England?

I think you are trying to paint with too broad a brush. There is a spectrum of church-state relations in Christian-dominated states through history, so is there one for Muslim-dominated states. I think the only way to see a significant difference is by ignoring large parts of the spectrum on both sides.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 10:52:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is you using a broad paintbrush "all religions are the same", refusing to see spectra differences. Clinging on extreme examples by superficial similarities is not a great instance of scrutiny.

Church of England is an example of political demand.

The Muslim countries had relaxed times about 50 years ago. And just as with (not so numerous) "free" shahs and sultans, the orthodox backlash was intense.

by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 06:26:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  • I never claimed that all religions are the same, not even that there are differences in spectrums I pointed out. I only contradicted your claims of fundamental differences.
  • Be specific: what do you consider an "extreme example" or a "superficial similarity" and why?
  • I don't get what "political demand" changes about the fact that the Church of England unites political and religious leadership just like the caliphate doctrine. Meanwhile, I don't view the caliphate doctrine as it developed as purely rooted in religion, either. Soon after Mohammed, it was transformed into a quite political justification for the hereditary imperial power of a clan (contrary to original Islamic notions of choosing a leader), and even later the Ottoman sultans claimed the title for their own imperial benefit (legitimising rule over Arabs) despite lack of descent from Mohammed. This, I note, wasn't too successful in practice when a string of Arab kingdoms defied central rule and gained semi-independence.
  • What is the narrative you are constructing with this "orthodox backlash"? Are you, like the author in the Atlantic, ignoring all other factors affecting various parts of the Arab world (European colonialists, CIA coups, Israel, etc...) and claim an intrinsic development? If we just speak about Iran, it has a very interesting history which doesn't lend itself to such simple narratives. For example, 47 years before the CIA-funded coup d'état against secular leftist PM Mohammad Mosaddegh, there was the Persian Constitutional Revolution, in which a broad coalition including clerics, merchants and advocates of Western-style reforms, united in rejection of submission to European colonialists, forced the Shah to establish a parliament. Those aren't the fault lines of The Atlantic's narrative. In fact, the fault lines in the 1979 Revolution weren't quite like that, either: in both Iran and the West, the fact that the revolution was the work of a broad coalition from Khomeini to communists was airbrushed from history (after establishing power, Khomeini quickly went after his former allies).
  • Furthermore, it is totally off to claim a switch from relaxed times to orthodox backlash for the entire Islamic world on the example of Iran. There was a more or less synchronous development in urban Afghanistan, Egypt and Palestine, but elsewhere, I don't think so. If anything, the Gulf States minus Saudi Arabia became more relaxed over the same time period, while orthodox madness started in Pakistan with independence. And as bad as Erdoğan is, IMHO it is a stretch to call developments in Turkey an orthodox backlash: Turkey is still more liberal and Westernized than the Shah's Persia ever was.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 04:51:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We don't have time to discuss "what is extreme, superficial, fundamental". The tone of your responses shows that you focus on own confirmation bias rather than open judgement of differences and their significance. There are many ways to sort Wikipedia facts. Some specific sorts would be optimal to see capably where the world is "stretching" now - but it is too costly for us to debate this fully academically. Nor we are qualified, or determined to have actual impact.

It is only since recently that I consider historical-social-religous-psychological backlashes against progress, enlightenments seriously. Here I have an occassion to share newly informed contemplations. But my time is limited, so I am not on a big educational mission.

To me, "political demand" versus "zealous supply" is a significant distinction. As for Sunni caliphate aspirations, I refer to this acclaimed Atlantic article for a start: "What ISIS Really Wants"

by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 05:53:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We don't have time to discuss "what is extreme, superficial, fundamental".

If you aren't prepared to back them up, then don't throw around such sweeping accusations. Which BTW you continue in your next sentence. Same about sweeping claims.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 12:05:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ironically and in a few ways, this discussion exemplifies what is apparently wrong with progressive aspirations. We do not have all energy to really sell Rationalism to everyone. And our rigid criteria limits own understanding of other sentiments.
by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 09:18:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For what it's worth, I continue my IMHO sub-academic discussion of both differences and similarities on the subject of parallels to the caliphate, where I see a direct connection to the investiture conflict.

Unlike Islam or Confucianism, Christianity started out without a direct connection to state power, which it only gained in the 4th century when it was turned into the state religion of the Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, and its descendant the Byzantine Empire, the Emperors developed an ideology of divine justification of power and exerted practical control over the church, which modern historians call Caesaropapism. But what is IMHO more interesting is what became of this tradition in the West.

When the Frank kings sought to re-establish the Roman Empire, this included the religious justification of power. For example, Charlemagne was quite brazen:

In any event, Charlemagne used these circumstances to claim that he was the renewer of the Roman Empire, which had apparently[citation needed] fallen into degradation under the Byzantines. In his official charters, Charles preferred the style Karolus serenissimus Augustus a Deo coronatus magnus pacificus imperator Romanum gubernans imperium[71] ("Charles, most serene Augustus crowned by God, the great, peaceful emperor ruling the Roman empire") to the more direct Imperator Romanorum ("Emperor of the Romans").

The claim of religious authority, of course, also translated into practical control of the Papacy. The investiture conflict was directly preceded by the church's rebellion against this:

Investiture Controversy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The crisis began when a group within the church, members of the Gregorian Reform, decided to rebel against the rule of simony by forcefully taking the power of investiture from the ruling secular power, i.e. the Holy Roman Emperor and placing that power wholly within control of the church. The Gregorian reformers knew this would not be possible so long as the emperor maintained the ability to appoint the pope, so their first step was to forcibly gain the papacy from the control of the emperor. An opportunity came in 1056 when Henry IV became German king at six years of age. The reformers seized the opportunity to take the papacy by force while he was still a child and could not react. In 1059, a church council in Rome declared, with In Nomine Domini, that leaders of the nobility would have no part in the selection of popes and created the College of Cardinals as a body of electors made up entirely of church officials. Once Rome regained control of the election of the pope, it was ready to attack the practice of investiture and simony on a broad front.

In 1075, Pope Gregory VII composed the Dictatus Papae. One clause asserted that the deposal of an emperor was under the sole power of the pope.[5] It declared that the Roman church was founded by God alone - that the papal power (the auctoritas of Pope Gelasius) was the sole universal power; in particular, a council held in the Lateran Palace from 24 to 28 February the same year decreed that the pope alone could appoint or depose churchmen or move them from see to see.[6] By this time, Henry IV was no longer a child, and he continued to appoint his own bishops.[5] He reacted to this declaration by sending Gregory VII a letter in which he withdrew his imperial support of Gregory as pope in no uncertain terms: the letter was headed "Henry, king not through usurpation but through the holy ordination of God, to Hildebrand, at present not pope but false monk".[7] It called for the election of a new pope. His letter ends, "I, Henry, king by the grace of God, with all of my Bishops, say to you, come down, come down!", and is often quoted with "and to be damned throughout the ages." which is a later addition.[7][8]

Note how Henry IV claims to be king "through the holy ordination of God" (rather than the Pope). It wasn't until the height of the investiture conflict that the Frankish empire began to call itself Holy Roman Empire, though. (Its claim of supremacy becoming increasingly hollow, it existed until the early 18th century.)

When compared to the Sunni Caliphate, what stands out to me is not the position of the Emperor but the position of the Pope.  AFAIK in Sunni Islam, you rarely find a top cleric with (at least symbolic) power comparable to that of the secular ruler (Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab is the exception); and even in Shi's Islam or Orthodox Christianity, the religious authority of top clerics is usually limited to a state.

How could the Papacy not just endure but strengthen after repeated attempts by rulers (not just Holy Roman Emperors but French kings, too) to make it their tool? I think the reason is less religious than political. Already before the investiture conflict, requesting a crown from the Pope was a means for kings of newly established Christian kingdoms to protect their independence from the two Empires (Byzantine and Frakish). In the first round of the investiture conflict, the Emperor had to back down because his barons used the occasion to rebel against his authority. There was loss of central control in Sunni Islam, too, but instead of using an independent religious authority as catalyst, the renegades established rival caliphates.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 12:46:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The political evolution of Christianity is rich indeed, in a clear contrast to Islam's. Is this the difference between ongoing concurring successes and early traumas of Crusades, Mongols? Or does the desert environment lead to intellectual dessert, ha?

To Tom Holland (in "Millenium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom"), Canossa is an inauguration of the Western church-state separation. It seems that his The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West is just an alternative title:

Henry IV presumed that he had not only the right but also the duty to poke his nose in the affairs of the church, Holland says. Gregory's victory intended to assure that the business of the church was of the church alone.

Paradoxically, the incident, known as the "Investiture Crisis," eventually led to the idea of separation of church and state.

Now I am reading "Desert Queen", a biography of Gertrude Bell. The Arab religious leader around WWI was Sharif Hussein. His sons led the Arab revolt, together with T. E. Lawrence. Hussein declared himself a caliph briefly in 1924, but was soon militarily eclipsed by ibn Saud.

by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 09:52:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The political evolution of Christianity is rich indeed, in a clear contrast to Islam's.

I don't see how that follows from what I wrote, at all. I wrote about the parallel evolution of the Sunni caliphate and the Holy Roman Empire ideas. The former is just as complex. It first moved from a notionally elected leader to a hereditary concept, then absorbed Persian imperial culture, then came rival caliphates, then appropriation by dynasties without connection to Muhammad. And that's just the Sunni idea of the Caliphate.

Further, given that we are discussing the time period before the Mongol invasion, when Christian Europe still had everything to learn from the Muslim world intellectually, your "intellectual desert" speculation is totally off.

Regarding the Tom Holland quote, "eventually led to the idea of" is a lot weaker than your "inauguration of". Perhaps it will prove useful if I go into more detail. The outcome of the investiture conflict didn't change the facts that bishops were also feudal lords, attended the imperial assembly (Reichstag), and 3 of the originally 7 electors choosing new Holy Roman Emperors were cardinals. Neither was there a change in the Empire (as well as kingdoms independent from it) giving assistance to the Church in its hunt for heretics, and referring to divine authority and the Bible in its laws. What did change was only that the authority to appoint the same bishops as feudal lords and as church leaders was separated (forcing the Empire and the Papacy into compromises). I think real separation means the removal of the Church from state institutions and religious references from law. (BTW, in some Catholic states, this gathered steam well after the start of Enlightement.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 15th, 2016 at 06:09:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"eventually led to the idea of" is a phrase of a reviewer. Tom Holland is very emphatic that the Canossa episode was a significant crossroad in European history. Islam may have been similarly dynamic at that time, but the dispute between the Henries and the Popes was a special development that defined European norms and enabled a more dynamic trajectory. Sunni complexities remained chronological facts somehow.

Our general discussion is not just about before the Mongol invasion (especially if you still pivot on the real separation). It is surely an open question how Christianity would have coped with the Mongols if they would have seen Europe worthwhile to conquer. But the Mongol impact on the Middle East soil and ideology was pretty arresting.

by das monde on Wed Jun 15th, 2016 at 07:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have The Collected Letters of Gertrude Bell along with The Memoirs of Aga Khan in my library. I found them in a group of books on sale to the public from Cal State LA. Primary source material! I was appalled and snapped them up. Possibly a case of the university no longer having a middle east specialist on its faculty. I haven't taken the time to read either yet.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere." (But it helps!)
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jun 15th, 2016 at 02:52:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cal State Northridge it was. CSULA has an excellent middle east historian, but he wouldn't get into issues involving the Saudi monarchy. Told me about giving one talk and, afterwards, having an agent of the Saudi government come up to him and tell him: "You got things right THIS time." He has extended family in Alexandria.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere." (But it helps!)
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jun 16th, 2016 at 09:05:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a clear separation of politics and religion became possible, it took more time in the Colonies where various Protestant sects and off-shoots (Mormonism, anyone?) were still busy trying to create religion-based states.
The "wall of separation between Church and State" in the newly founded US looked no less firm than in the Revolutionary France.  Famously, the Founding Fathers forgot to reference God in the Constitution.  The liberal Scottish Realism, Deism, Unitarianism rather dominated the American thought between the first two Great Awakenings.  The direct opposition was firstly from Romanticism, Transcendentalism.  Protestant evangelism revived via anti-authoritarian reform societies rather than large organized Churches.  The Mormons, Shakers, Millerites were withdrawing Come-Outers, an extreme end of the market for the American existential combination of short term pessimism (for moral corruption or so) and some longer term optimism.  The evolution of American religious authority is complicated.
by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 07:54:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "wall of separation between Church and State" in the newly founded US

But that's the Enlightement already. And a direct reaction to the religious madness of Protestant sects in the preceding 150 years, a period during which Europe already got past that phase. The Mormons, meanwhile, could pursue a state led by their religious leaders in the 19th century, which was ended in 1858 by force (see Utah War and subsequent direct federal law enforcement). Only from then on can you speak of a full enforcement of the wall between Church and State.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 11:03:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you bring "it took more time in the Colonies" and "Enlightenment already" together?

Surely, most North American colonies were founded as religious projects, escaping religious prosecution in Europe. But they were disintegrating as such after a generation, as utopias. With so much fertile land around and so much labour to be done, authoritarian rule did not have a chance. Now US is dense, squeezed, resources expensive for most - thus a large potential for Big Brother.

There is a serious discontinuity of religious "madness" of the first settlers and later Awakenings. Romanticism and those Great Awakenings were direct anti-intellectual reactions to Enlightenment, industrial revolution. Apparently, there are human aspirations that progressive developments do not satisfy still, nor understand fairly. And that is where there could be a serious similarity with Islam - the cyclical pattern of stronger anti-intellectual sentiments. But then, differences in this similarity would be just as interesting.

Utah was not the first territory the Mormons were escaping to. Yes, they were seeking a religous state, theodemocracy. But they developed in opposition to the established religion and politics. Thus shelving them on the Christian spectrum without a footnote is not remarkably illuminating.

by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 07:04:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you bring "it took more time in the Colonies" and "Enlightenment already" together?

I thought we were in agreement that Church–State separation was definite with the Enlightenment, and only disputed how much older it was. (You traced it back to the Treat of Worms, I totally disagreed and traced it back to aftermath of the 30 Years War only, and even later elsewhere.) So when you brought the Great Awakenings into discussion, it had little to do with my comment it was a reply to, which was more about the madness of the first settlers.

I don't get your protest about my arguments regarding Mormonism. I didn't claim Utah was the first territory they were escaping to, I claimed they actually established a theocracy (which was crushed by force). Opposition to established religion and politics is an almost universal feature of religions when they are new.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 05:09:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the context of differences between Islam and Christianity, "definite" Church-State separation is a red herring in other galaxy. I argued that Islam did not come significantly close to the argument of Worms.

The Mormons only went so far to establish their theo(demo)crasy. ISIS would go back a thousand years, blow up the planet.

Mad first settlers in America? That would be the ones who saw only Cortez and Pizzaro as viable business models. Religion based settlements let their utopian "madness" dissipate very quickly. Interesting religion started with Great Awakenings.

by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 06:11:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I argued that Islam did not come significantly close to the argument of Worms.

And I argued that Worms wasn't a separation of church of state, quite the opposite. If we drop "Church-State separation" and look whether there is a parallel to Worms in the Islamic world, or specifically in Sunni Islam, I agree that there isn't, since there is no parallel to the Pope (see upthread). Then again, I question the significance of this difference.

The Mormons only went so far to establish their theo(demo)crasy. ISIS would go back a thousand years, blow up the planet.

What kind of argument is this? The Mormons went quite far in establishing their fake democratic theocracy (including death squads), which existed for decades, until they were checked by outside intervention. The Protestant madness which you claim dissipated "very quickly" also endured at least decades (in the case of the Amish, much longer). How far the only few years old ISIS will get, we'll see. I argued in my diary that ISIS may claim they want to go back a thousand years, but they are more Mad Max than Middle Ages.

Finally, I thought we were debating all of Islam, not just ISIS, and you don't want to pick extreme examples?...

Interesting religion started with Great Awakenings.

You again throw out a bold claim you don't elaborate on. Why do you think only the Great Awakenings are interesting (and when phrased that way, not just for you subjectively, but objectively)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 01:08:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ISIS obviously has deep cultural, political influence - far deeper than the Mormoms (or any extreme Christianity sect) ever did. Apart from the concrete Daesh form, their medieval grounding should be taken seriously.

You again throw out a bold claim you don't elaborate on.
Our perception is too asymetric. I can only encourage do targeted reading (or audio learning).
by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 10:08:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<dies laughing>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 15th, 2016 at 03:55:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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