The Closing of the Muslim Mind


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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Robert R. Reilly, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council who has written for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, and National Review, among many other publications. A member of the board of the Middle East Media Research Institute and a former director of the Voice of America, he has taught at the National Defense University, served in the White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His latest book is The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, just been published by ISI Press.

FP: Robert R. Reilly, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Let’s begin with what inspired you to write The Closing of the Muslim Mind.

Reilly: Several things.  Professionally, I was working in the “war of ideas” area both at the Voice of America and then at the Defense Department.  One cannot fight a war of ideas unless one understands the ideas one is at war with.  Our 9/11 attackers justified themselves in terms of their Muslim faith.  Therefore, I was ineluctably led into a deep study of Islamic theology and into an examination of what constitutes justice in Islam.

I was also intrigued by Bernard Lewis’ work, which so effectively laid out “what went wrong” in the Islamic world without exactly telling us “why” it went wrong.  I began searching for the answer.

FP: What is the main argument of your book and how is your book original?

Reilly: I did not find the answer to my question in any one place, or I would not have written the book.  I discovered bits and pieces here and there.  I put them together into what I hope is a coherent answer to the question of “why it went wrong?” I wrote the book for myself and for any others who are intrigued by the same question as to how this once great culture so totally collapsed in on itself and became so frustrated that it bred these Islamist terrorists.

My general thesis is that Islamism is a spiritual pathology based on a deformed theology that has produced a dysfunctional culture.  I know this is a mouthful, and I take some 200 pages to explain it.  In short, the source of the problem is a profound misconception as to who God is.

FP: Tell us about the Islamic conception of God and how it closes the human mind.

Reilly: First, I must be careful in saying that I speak only of Sunni Islam, which is by far the majority expression of the faith.  Within Sunni Islam, I speak of the Ash‘arite school of theology, which is the majority view within Sunni Islam, especially so in the Middle East.  I focus on this because the Arab world is dominant in Islam for the obvious reasons that Mohammed was an Arab and that the Quran, thought to be the literal word of God, is in Arabic.  As most Muslims accept the Quran as having existed co-eternally with God, this means that Arabic is God’s language.

The answer to your question completely hinges on God’s relationship to reason in Sunni Islam.   Is God reason, or logos, as the Greeks would say?  If God himself is reason, then it is hard to close the mind because one would then be closing oneself to God.  This, in fact, was the view of the first fully-developed theological school in Islam, the Mu‘tazilites. The Mu‘tazalites asserted the primacy of reason, and that one’s first duty is to engage in reason and, through it, to come to know God. They held that reason is a gift from God given to come to know Him through the order of his creation.   All men have this gift, not only Muslims.  Therefore, they were disposed to accept Greek philosophy and the moral truths it contained.

However, the school of theology that arose to oppose the Mu’tazilites, the Ash‘arites, held the opposite. Unfortunately, by the end of the ninth century, they prevailed and became the formative influence in Sunni Islam.  For the Ash‘arites, God is not reason, but pure will and absolute power.  He is not bound by anything, including his own word.  Since God is pure will, He has no reasons for his acts.  Thus what He does cannot be understood by man.   One of the things that God does is create the world, which also cannot be understood.

To protect their notion of God’s omnipotence, the Ash‘arites denied cause and effect in the natural world.  For God to be omnipotent, nothing else can be so much as potent.  Therefore, fire does not burn cotton; God does. Gravity does not make the rock fall; God does.  God is the direct cause of everything and there are no secondary causes.  To say otherwise is blasphemy – comparing something to the incomparable God.  Everything therefore becomes the equivalent of a miracle. By their very nature, miracles cannot be understood.  Without causality in the natural order, anything can come of anything, and nothing necessarily follows.  The world becomes incomprehensible because it is without a continuing narrative of cause and effect.

Within our Western tradition, Albert Einstein once remarked that “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” Thomas Aquinas put it another way. He said that we can understand the world because it was first “thought” by God.  The universe is the product of creative reason.  That is why it is comprehensible. The Ash‘arite rejoinder to Einstein’s statement would be that “the most comprehensible thing about the world is that it is incomprehensible.”  It must be incomprehensible because it is the direct consequence of God’s action, of his will, not of his reason.

Man can only understand that God has given him rules to obey in his revelation.  As a consequence of its character, this revelation must be blindly obeyed.  It is not given to be understood or questioned, but to be complied with.  Put reason aside and submit.  This is how the Sunni Muslim mind closed.  It undercut reason and its ability to know reality.  Philosophy was forbidden.  To protect its notion of God, it made reality unknowable.  This had devastating consequences.

FP: Share some statistics and facts with us to illuminate the earthly incarnations of the closed Muslim mind. In other words, paint for us the dysfunctional culture of Islam today.

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  • Fred Glass

    The author, Robert Reilly contention that the peculiar asharite theology of a willful god rather than a reasoning god being the cause of Islam's closing in on itself begs the question why this particular "pathological theology" of the Sunni Arabs was adapted over other branches in the 9nth century & continuing to the present. I could argue that a deep psychic pathology is endemic to the Arab culture that chose this particular theology rather than the other way around.

    • sebyandrew

      I could argue that a deep psychic pathology is endemic to the Arab culture that chose this particular theology rather than the other way around.

      Any chance of fleshing this out?

  • waterwillows

    There seems to be no end of the devious ways of Islam. This foolish double-talk about a willful god not requiring reason from his creatures, is just another lie to trick unwary non muslims into accepting evil as the norm for everyday life.
    If Islam can get them young enough, the no questions allowed, schooling generally does the trick of acceptance. But this obvious sham is for answering adults. They say if you can tell a big enough lie, people will believe it.
    Really, just who do they think they are fooling? These guys are laughing up their sleeve at having pulled off the feat of making evil not only legal, but get this….sacred?
    I know that they know; and they know that I know……they know better.

  • proxywar

    I would say Islam went wrong the moment Muhammad divined it via an arc angel. The truth is the Mu‘tazilites went against Islam. The Mu‘tazilites are what went somewhat right with Islam but not for long as Ash‘arites made clear. Anytime a hint of reason within Islam shows up it is crushed by the true face of Islam.

    • Wordcrunch991

      No, it is not. Ali Pasha crushed the first edition of the Wahhabi rag-assed revolutionaries in 1818. He brought their leader Abdallaah to Constantinople in chains and had him beheaded as a heretic.
      If Bush (or anyone around him) had any brains, he would have occupied Saudi Arabia ( a desert country with no army to speak of) after 9/11 and deposed the monarchs. The evidence was strong that the attack on US was orchestrated with the crown prince (now king) Abdullah and the Pakistani ISI head Mahmood Ahmed being directly involved. Instead the US chose on an excellent adventure chasing the Saudi/Pakistan proxies around Afghanistan and toppling Saddam Hussein who was a mortal enemy of the Saudis. Nine years, tens of thousands of lost American lives and trillions of dollars later: what do we get ? Imam Rauf building a monument to American stupidity at Ground Zero ?

  • Chezwick_Mac

    Actually, the only thing "great" about this culture was its military prowess, allowing it to conquer the advanced civilizations of Byzantium and Persia and riding on the backs of THEIR achievements for two centuries. Once the depredations of dhimmitude exacted a sufficient toll on the subject peoples that they began to convert to Islam en mass, the so-called "Golden Age" came to an end and Islam became what it intrinsically was, stultifying and despotic.

    Islam (Reilly chooses to hide behind the PC contrivance of "Islamism") was "pathological" from its inception because it was a lie…(unless one believes that the arch-angel Gabriel actually DID appear to Muhammad, commanding Muslims to wage war on unbelievers and to beat their wives). Its pathologies were reinforced and institutionalized by the profound moral failings of Muhammad, the 'exemplar for all humanity".

    Finally, for all their fidelity to "reason", the Mutazalites engaged in slaughter to impose THEIR version of orthodoxy. Certainly they were preferable to what came after, but they were hardly a beacon of light. Islam was a sociological monstrosity from moment one, a mirror of the twisted mores of its founder.

  • potkas7

    The first problem the West has in dealing with Islam is its uncritical acceptance of Islam's Traditional Narrative of how an Arab army swept out of the Hijaz in a whirl of clattering hooves and flashing scimitars conquering all before it. The archaeological evidence supporting that claim is pretty thin, at least according to the late Yehuda Nevo, former head of the Negev Archaeological Project.

    According to Nevo, references to a Muhammad don't begin to appear on inscriptions or coins until around 690C.E. or some 60 years after the Prophet's accepted date of death, suggesting Muhammad may be a mythical figure something like King Arthur of Britain: A First King of the Arabs who later morphed into a holy man.

    John Wansbrough, once the head of African and Oriental studies at the University of London, examined the documentary evidence supporting the Traditional Narrative and found no evidence of a Koran as a unified text before Islam's second century of existence; i.e. mid-800 to early 900 C.E. meaning it was certainly not dictated word-for-word by an angel.

    Most evidence suggests that Islam is an outgrowth of early Christianity with its root in Gnosticism and the Monophysite confession – hence the basis for the inscription on the Dome of the Rock proclaiming "God is One…" In his book Reilly makes a compelling case for how Islam split off from the mainline of Christianity that adopted the techniques of pagan Greek philosophy to examine and justify its truth claims, and drove off on its own into an intellectual dead end. This pretty much conforms to Nevo and Wansbrough's work that the path of Islam tracks the political trajectory of the rise of Arab culture from a collection of independent tribes, to a national Identity as Arabs, to a common culture with Arabic as its sacred language. That is a process that took centuries meaning that Islam developed rather peacefully, in a settled land, as the influence of the Byzantine Empire declined.

    Islam sealed its fate when it adopted a doctrine based on Allah's Will and denied the existence of human Reason. At that point it closed the door on science and modernity. To defeat the Islamists it is necessary first to attack the foundations of Islam, make it defend its truth claims and show that they're hollow. Islam needs to undergo a Reformation and an Age of Enlightenment just as Christendom did five centuries ago.

  • http://orthodoxytoday.org Jacobse

    The theological history that still needs to be developed is this: Is Islam the logical outgrowth of the Arian heresy in early Christendom? Islam flourished in the areas where Arianism took root. Is Arianism the the theological soil that spawned Islam?

    • sebyandrew

      Interesting question. I saw a shiite tract attacking the Christian doctrine of the divine Sonship of Christ-His divinity. Somewhere i heard or read that the authors of such tracts wd. consult Jehovah Witness (modern dayArianism) literature.

  • Kolbjorn1

    "Reilly: Self-delusion is one problem and ignorance is another. Many in the secular West find it hard to believe that anyone takes religion seriously anymore. Since they have lost their faith, they don’t have the ability to comprehend the terms of faith in anyone else’s life. In fact, their incomprehension, their obliviousness to the sacred, is one of the things that inflames Islam against the West.

    We are essentially facing a theological problem and a profound spiritual disorder. People ignorant of theology are unable to recognize the nature of the problem. They want to create another economic development program in the Middle East, as if that will solve it. This is delusional and a total waste. The problem needs to be addressed at the level at which it exists, not by sociologists or psychiatrists."

    As an atheist, I take offense at this statement. The fact that I don't have faith in some superstitious fairy tale has no impact upon my "ability to comprehend the terms of faith in anyone else’s life." In fact, recent research shows that I probably have more knowledge on the subject than the religious. Jews and Mormons excepted, of course.
    http://pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U

    • Wideband

      Good point. Since you've made the conscious decision to be an atheist, and have proclaimed yourself to be one, you've accepted the burden of defending your beliefs. This has led you to arm yourself with knowledge of the tenants of various religions. However, a very, very large number of the nominally religious among us have done no such thing. The secular Jews, frequently discussed at this site are a good example. They assume that the Muslims must prctice their religion as they do – an after thought, something to be trotted out twice a year, or when they really want our need something. These are the folks Reilly is discussing, and this is the danger that threaten us because of the ignorance of a large number of people.

    • Samurai Hit Woman

      Even though your faith is no faith I think you're right in saying the problem is essentially theological and a spiritual disorder for Muslims. And people losing their faith has nothing to do with comprehending the role of faith in other people's lives because comprehension is an intellectual activity, not spiritual .

      Besides, the loss of faith is not why Muslims are coming after the West to conquer it. They are coming after the West because of the loss of faith in the God of Jacob, in the West, is endemic and they see this as an opportunity to impose Islam because faith is essential to the human species and the loss or faith has created a vacuum.

      west .

    • sflbib

      The default position of Western intellectuals [academia, media, etc.] is Leftist and as such believes that whatever is wrong with the world is the fault of the West, esp. the U.S. They tend to hold Western religions responsible for much of the problems while remaining tolerant of the religion of "the victim". They couldn't conceive that a "victim" religion could motivate its believers to do evil. In fact, I doubt they could even conceive of "victims" doing evil on their own: they were "forced" by "root causes" originating from Western "oppression"; and therefore, their religion had nothing to do with it. I think this is what the author was getting at.

  • dlp

    Anyone claming the Mutazila were "against" Islam is essentialising the religion in favour of what only after the Mutazila became orhtodoxy. The fact is that the Mutazila represent a ratiohnalist strain within Islamic tradition – they were not a diversion within it since the Asharite philosophy only ascended into a position of orthdoxy after the Mutazlia were ousted from the caliphal court (their doctrine was actually state orthodoxy for 3 caliphs). But even so, they were not really rationalist, as Reilly and many others simplistically claim since they were only interested in reason as a means to ascertain Islamic law from revelation. The key debates at the time were surrounding the status of revelation and its relationship to law, and they claimed God's law was best known via reason.

  • Beverley

    There are many so called 'christian doctrines that deny the divine sonship of Christ's divinity. That is why they are called cults. They go around calling themselves christians and use the name of Jesus and Christ to fool everyone. There is great deception afoot in the churches. I am a Christian and let me tell you there is some very, very scary stuff out there leading people astray

    There are some amazing websites that can explain all these differences. http://www.moriel.org http://www.thebereancall.org http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com

  • tim heekin

    it is interesting to ponder the dumbing down of islam in conjunction with mohammad sanctifying inbreeding, i.e., first cousin breeding, which in turn allows for the biological dumbing-down of the culture. If one has been dumbed down enough than the simpler the "explanation" the better. "In sha Allah" (God willing) seems to fit nicely. This inbreeding could also explain the apparent bottomless pit of available suicide bombers.
    As Reilyy said, "One must realize that the phrase “in shā Allah [God willing]” is not simply a polite social convention, but a theological doctrine." Sounds good, light the fuse!

  • chiquelets

    I still shudder at Obama's declaration not long ago about Islam's global contributions to science and their role in the betterment of mankind (paraphrased). I look forward to reading Mr. Reilly's book, and then forwarding it to Barack.

    • Mideast

      you better to look first at what they did so that you would be fair to yourself befor you to be to Mr. Obama!! they had done alot and you would lie to yourself if you will deny that!

  • sflbib

    "Three things are absolutely essential for science, including modem sciences. One must understand that:

    a. The world exists independent of us and is orderly.
    b. We can understand it.
    c. We should have no aversion to observing and working with nature (in particular to do experiments).[/INDENT]

    "One of the most quoted verses of the Bible in the Catholic Middle Ages was: God ‘has ordered all things in measure, number and weight. As for items b and c above, Catholicism has always emphasized the dignity of the human person, which it attributes especially to man’s ability to reason and understand starting from nature; its sacramental system manifests its belief in the necessity of the physical for man. The historians R.R. Palmer and Colton make the comparison with the culture of Islam, for example, that finally decided it was not okay to analyze the world in rational terms. Use of reason and its effectiveness in understanding this world were ultimately against the cult(ure), for according to Islam, Allah is sovereign in a sense that excludes secondary causes; according to that culture, Allah’s activity is completely inscrutable to man. Palmer and Colton say:

    ‘If any historical generalization may be made safely, it may be safely said that any society that believes reason to threaten its foundations will suppress reason. [St.] Thomas’ doctrine … gave freedom to thinkers to go on thinking. Here Latin Christendom [Catholicism] may be contrasted with the Muslim world. It was ruled, in about the time of Thomas Aquinas, that… the Gate was closed. Arabic thought, so brilliant for several centuries, went into decline.’ – Palmer and Colton, A History of the Modern World, page 38.”

    Anthony Rizzi, "The Science Before Science," page 187.

  • PAthena

    "The Ash‘arite rejoinder to Einstein’s statement would be that “the most comprehensible thing about the world is that it is incomprehensible.” It must be incomprehensible because it is the direct consequence of God’s action, of his will, not of his reason." The Ash'arite position is self-refuting, since it claims to comprehend the nature of God and of the universe.

  • Bill

    My understanding of Iislam is that it is a heresy from without as opposed to a heresy from within. What this means is that Mohammed (or whomever) was not a Christian, but he picked up pieces of Christian doctrine and developed is own heretical version. This can be seen through islamic recognition of the Blessed Mother as being important, but not the Mother of God.

    Arianism like many other heresies are heresy from within. Often heresey from within were christians latching on to some part of Christian doctrine and then overemphasizing it. They lost balance.

    I find the Helenation idea interesting. The West owes much of what it knows about the Greeks to islamic scribes who copied and preserved Greek texts.

    • WeMustResist

      I do not believe that the West learned "much of what it knows about the ancient Greeks" from Islamic scribes. That sounds implausible at best, Islamic propaganda at worst. I t is much more likely that the Europeans had more material about their ancients than foreigners had material about European ancients. I suspect the only "Islamic scribes" were Dhimmis in lands conquered by Islam. Rober Reilly paints a picture of Islamic scribes who were not interested in any intellectial pursuits.

      • Mideast

        denying the truth is the same like when you lie, try for awhile to google for that .. and try to check muslim and non muslim sites and you then and only then you can judge muslism and islam!

  • Hart

    Let us assume that there is a God and that that God revealed something important to the human race in the New Testament revelation of Christ, around 30 AD.
    Let us believe that there is an "angel Gabriel" who was sent with glad tidings to Mariam, the mother of Christ as reported in the Gospel [or else it's all just Hellenistic propaganda, right?]
    How could that same "Gabriel" be sent to a mystic in an arabian cave some 600 years later, with a different revelation that supposedly supercedes the first?
    One of the two revelations of God must be false – they cannot BOTH be right simultaneously.
    This later "revelation" has pushed an already religiously warring world into EVEN MORE religious violence. Will the real Gabriel please stand up?

    • Beverley

      Exactly the Bible was plagiarized , that is where all cults come from. They changed the Bible to suite their doctrine.

  • Carl

    It's simple to compare the influence on a country by intellectually-inspired people with those who fear true knowldege. What do you think Mark Twain would say today, if he were alive, about the land he visited 150 years ago and could see the difference? Jerusalem is today desired by Arabs as one center of their religion. But that's not the way it was. Twain wrote:

    Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Where Sodom and Gomorrah reared their domes and towers, that solemn sea now floods the plain, in whose bitter waters no living thing exists—over whose waveless surface the blistering air hangs motionless and dead—about whose borders nothing grows but weeds, and scattering tufts of cane, and that treacherous fruit that promises refreshment to parching lips, but turns to ashes at the touch. Nazareth is forlorn; about that ford of Jordan where the hosts of Israel entered the Promised Land with songs of rejoicing, one finds only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins of the desert; Jericho the accursed, lies a moldering ruin, to-day, even as Joshua's miracle left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Saviour's presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sang Peace on earth, good will to men, is untenanted by any living creature, and unblessed by any feature that is pleasant to the eye.

    Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village ; the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and the Ottoman crescent is lifted above the spot where, on that most memorable day in the annals of the world, they reared the Holy Cross. The noted Sea of Galilee, where Roman fleets once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed in their ships, was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness ; Capernaum is a shapeless ruin; Magdala is the home of beggared Arabs; Bethsaida and Chorazin have vanished from the earth, and the " desert places" round about them where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour's voice and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.

    Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise ? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land ?

    • Raymond in DC

      And without the Jews, who returned to reclaim and rebuilt it, Palestine would have remained "desolate and unlovely". It was, as military historian van Creveld relates, the goats and sheep of the Arab nomads who stripped the land of its vegetation. Israelis note that the "Green Line" – the armistice lines established in 1949 – aren't the lines on the map but the greenery evident on the Israeli side – the farms and reforested lands.

      Then again, Jews have always accepted that God's creation was governed by rules (the Psalmist notes that "He has given His laws which are not over-ridden"), and that we are "partners" in an ongoing Creation. We can't serve that role if we don't seek to understand the rules.

  • no pride

    To know that we do not know is honest knowledge.
    There are so many people pretend to be clever.
    God's knowledge is far beyond our capacity, even prophets.
    Our scientific inventions are only a drop of water compare to oceans of God's knowledge.
    There are many scientists, doctors, etc in sunni muslim, but they have to realize their weaknesses of their capacity, and be humble before their God.

  • logos

    Any philosophy, like Darwinism or Freudianism or Sunniism, that undermines the conscious mind is self-refuting. It is self-refuting because its conclusions about reality depend on the mind–which these cults say is unreliable. But if the human mind is unreliable, then how do they (the cults) know their cult is true? Didn't they employ the mind to reach such a conclusion? But the conclusion can't be any more reliable than the mind that reached it, can it?

  • Mark

    The time is short. There is much to be done. It is clear to me that the only way the earth will ever be right is to begin again. He is on His way, and His temple, His kingdom, will be in Jerusalem; and the whole earth, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Taoists, Anglicans, everybody, will bow down before The Creator; and we will all worship Him.

  • Mideast

    i would have tried to accept your words but once you looks at what muslim believe in you will notice that.. they do believe in all holy books .. same with prophets .. Moses, Jesus..
    please check this website http://www.bilalphilips.com/

  • Mideast

    I think i wont be able to answer to all of what all of you have written but i would only invite those who still have time to see my answers which would be up to everyone's wish.
    Reason… Wish.. Muslims…. … would it be enough for you to read what some say about muslims other than to read what muslims might think about what you are speaking about!!!!
    here is my website.. http://www.bilalphilips.com/

  • Daniel

    I agree with his thesis: that faith is the problem and not economic security. The “Muslim world” (if we can speak so broadly) is home to a heterogenous group, ranging from non-developed countries to members of G-20 major economies such as Indonesia and India, the former of which houses the world’s largest Muslim population. If poverty were the catalyst for organized violence, then as the poorest continent Africa should be the terrorist hub of the developing world, yet terrorism and civil unrest are highest in predominantly Islamic states across Western Asia, leaving behind a pattern that in no way tracks with poverty level.

    The only component tying these diverse states together is faith.

    The dicey analysis is in measuring to what extent one’s faith breeds unreason, violence, etc. And in this I think we can say with some confidence that not all faiths are on equal footing here. True, there are reformed traditions of Islam that adopt a more “modern” or culturally acceptable understanding of their source texts (however deformed those traditions are compared with the words of the texts), just as there are Reformed traditions within Judaism which don’t take the Torah and Hebrew texts literally and acknowledge the fallible human component therein. You see this of course in Christianity as well: many traditions hold that the Bible is *about* God, not *revealed by* God.

    But the question it seems to me that should be asked is: Are Islam’s source texts and certain beliefs central to Islamic tradition more prone to give rise to misconduct and irrationality compared with the teachings of other religions, irrespective of culture or economic standing?

    One of the most important things you have to understand when contrasting Islam with Christianity for example, is the connection with holy texts. Unlike Christianity’s biblical texts, the Quranic texts are believed to dictated directly from Allah’s emissary, Gabriel, to the mind of Muhammad, which (in most traditions) is said to have then been dictated by Muhammad to a scribe (as the prevailing view is that Muhammad was illiterate).

    Because of this tradition, there is more “at stake”, so to speak, in not following its words and ignoring its directives. Among other things, the Quran explicitly authorizes the use of violence to silence infidels and apostates. Hadith law, which shares canonical status with the Quran in most traditions, strictly forbids visual depictions of Muhammad. It is not difficult to understand why people who believe the Quran’s words proceed straight from the mouth of God feel compelled to act upon them. Similarly, science, with its ability to corrode ancient dogma and outmoded teachings, is deemed an assault on theology in many pockets of Islamic thought. (Islamic creationism is a very big problem, and its spread is increasing in various states in the Middle East.)

    I wrote a short piece on this last year when the “Innocence of Muslims” video broke:

    http://www.techthoughts.net/2012/09/21/hysteria-and-7th-century-literature/
    - Daniel