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February 19, 2005



Thanks for summarizing this.

This was the most interesting part to me:
"The survey asked some interesting questions which I haven't often seen publicly reported before. They asked Muslim respondents whether they believed that ijtihad (interpretation) remains open - a key indicator of one's attitude towards a more moderate or radical approach to religion: only 3% in Lebanon, 6% in Palestine, 5% in Egypt, 5% in Jordan, and 8% in Syria said that ijtihad was closed. Almost all Muslims surveyed thought that Sharia should be *a* source of legislation, with almost two thirds in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine saying that sharia should be the *only* source of legislation. This suggests broad-based support for a moderate Islamism, with sharia viewed as mandatory but open to interpretation - essentially the position advocated by Yusuf al Qaradawi. One final point of note: the survey found no significant correlation between support for sharia and anti-Western attitudes. In Jordan and Egypt, however, there was some correlation between preferring a less central role for sharia and having more positive views of the US."

So what you're saying is that there is majority support for sharia but perhaps with a more modern interpretation thereof? I wonder how, if you drilled down on specific issues (e.g. women's rights), this would play out. What do you think most people want to reinterpret?

the aardvark

I wish they had asked more specific questions on exactly that line - as I read the report, they were using ijtihad as a proxy for general attitudes towards religious orthodoxy vs pluralism. (orthodoxy isn't exactly the right word here, but I have to run out and stir my pasta sauce in about 30 seconds so it will have to do...)



the aardvark

Actually, one of the most interesting juxtapositions in the survey is that significant percentages of the people surveyed BOTH want sharia to be the source of legislation AND consider religious fanaticism to be a major problem in their societies.

In other words, no matter what certain prolific commentators on Islam say, these Muslims do not themselves consider it "fanatical" to want to see an ijtihad-centric, pluralistic Islam occupying a central place in their political system. And they clearly distinguish - in their own minds, regardless of whether or not these certain commentators consider this impossible - between this moderate Islamist position and a radical Islamist position.

Praktike, you mentioned in a comment on another post that As'ad describes Qaradawi as an Islamic fundamentalist. Well, As'ad is clearly and obviously right: Qaradawi describes himself as an Islamist, and his entire career has been devoted to promoting Islamism. But it's the former, moderate and ijtihad-based, version that he promotes, not the radical salafi/Wahhabi version that bin Laden promotes.

People have every right of course to oppose both forms of Islamism. But it seems to me just a major strategic and intellectual error to conflate the two when their own adherents and advocates do not.


Sigh. I guess I have to get around to the Baker book now, huh? Been collecting dust on my shelf for a while now.

The other day I loaded up an OnPoint segment with Fawaz Gerges and Khaled Abou el-Fadl as panelists ... I found them very interesting and el-Fadl in particular. His conception of shari'a as a kind of moral underpinning for a democratic Islam, his argument that Muslims need to embrace public reason rather than reverting to dogmatism strikes me as a very progressive approach.

Natch, I googled them, and sure enough -- stealth Islamist! and enemy of the state! -- right on cue.


Still, Qaradawi is far to the right of those guys, and I guess you know a lot about him ... but he still creeps me out.

the aardvark

Qaradawi *is* far to the right of guys like Abou el Fadl - which puts him a lot closer to the mainstream of Arab public opinion than someone like Abou el Fadl. It's not an accident that Qaradawi lives in Qatar and spends most of his time on al Jazeera and preaching to mass audiences, while Khaled lives in California and spends most of his time writing highly intellectual books. Different audiences, different projects.

Anyway, I've never said that Qaradawi shouldn't creep you out... just that you (and everyone else) should place him accurately within the political and ideological spectrum and deal with him for what he is: equating him with bin Laden confuses more than it enlightens, and would make it harder for those who want to fight against Qaradawi-ism (as it were) to actually do so.


A very interesting study. My one problem with it: it states that "approximately 50% of Lebanese are Christian". This is a very inflated number: all of the other studies on Lebanon I've seen estimate that Christians comprise between 20% to 30% of the population. Given that Lebanese Christians tend to be much more pro-American than their Muslim counterparts (although, of course, neither Christians nor Muslims are a monolithic community), the inflated sample may explain why Lebanon is such an outlier.

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