Sunday, March 05, 2006

A fine line: defense and criticism

Pseudo-intellectuals and profiteers aside, I think that we can all agree that two separate discourses are needed today: (1) education about Islam and its history for non-Muslims, and (2) self-criticism within the Muslim community ('umma). The first is needed since defamation campaigns have turned Islam into one of the most maligned religions on earth today -- tragically and unjustifiably. The second is needed because something is obviously very wrong in the Muslim house, and has been wrong for quite some time. (Whatever you think of the new Bernard Lewis -- as opposed to the earlier Lewis, who was a great historian -- the title "What Went Wrong?" was pure genius).

Ideally, the two discourses would be kept separate: the first for non-Muslim eyes and ears, and the second for Muslims. Needless to say, we live in an integrated world where this has become impossible. In addition, one may be accused of hypocrisy if one does that... Curiously, those who do the exact opposite, seeking acclaim, wealth and power, are rarely accused of double-talk: They criticize Islam before non-Muslim eyes (to earn the "moderate" title), and "defend" Islam within Islamic gatherings (cite the ongoing charade on "defending the Prophet (p)").

So, what is one to do? The two messages (external defense and internal criticism) are in fact quite consistent with one another. One should feel perfectly coherent, honest and pious acting/speaking/writing along both dimensions. Recognizing that all audiences are mixed, the best one can do is to fine-tune the message to approximate the optimal ratio of outer-defense and inner-criticism, as a function of audience composition. If one is then charged with hypocrisy or incoherence, so be it. (At a local event on Friday, one of our past community leaders explained to me: "if you want to work for the betterment of Islam nowadays, you must be prepared for crucifixion").


Blogger heraish said...

A non-Muslim's view on sukuk.

A tipster e-mailed me last night:

I work as a corporate lawyer at a large law firm that has a speciality in Islamic finance. The real reason Dubai Ports World is undergoing the transaction is because of an Islamic finance vehicle called the sukuk. The sukuk is essentially a commerical paper type of Islamic financle vehicle--it is essentially a "fake" bond to work around the Muslim prohibition on interest.

Now comes the interesting part.

As you might know, Dubai has recently christened (my word) its stock exchange. It hasn't been very successful thus far--so they've been looking to
acquire really high profile items to trade on it. (Note: they also tried to buy the Refco assets after Refco collapsed). If the Dubai Ports World sukuk goes through, it becomes the largest publicly traded sukuk in the world.

As a result, Dubai instantly becomes the place to go for Islamic finance in the world--and folks specializing in Islamic finance stand to make a great deal of money.

9:17 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home