By YOUSEF DRUMMOND
DR. MURAD HOFFMAN’S assertion that Islam is an enlightened religion becomes blatantly clear when we witness both the positive and negative poles of European Enlightenment thought throughout the twentieth century. The corporate cable-news media, for example, embellish Ronald Reagan’s relentless crusade for individual freedom vis-à-vis the anti-democratic regime of the former Soviet Union and its “evil empire”; and, although the former president was capable of “charming millions of Americans with his soothing, grandfatherly demeanor”, his exacting leadership skills did not distract those of us who note his zeal to defeat communism as a pretext for “funding any faction, anywhere, fending off communist control” in Angola, Afghanistan and Central America, where tens of thousands of indigenous Guatemalans and Salvadorians were murdered through C.I.A. funded death squads.
Ronald Reagan’s vision continues today, now that the current president’s “war on terror” has effectively replaced the Cold War as a benchmark for foreign intervention, especially in Iraq.
The Enlightenment doctrine asserts that, if only everyone understands its fantastic but pessimistic thinking about religion and customs that enslave and derail individual self-interest, everyone from every global culture can achieve freedom, and only then will we understand that freedom engenders human progress, liberty and universal justice. But this is a grand hope, at best, for the Enlightenment rests on no internal logic. Instead, it has divided the world into two: “the kingdom of coercion, superstition, ignorance and self-enslavement – in a word, darkness – and the kingdom of truth, reason, progress, self-mastery – in a word, light”.
This stubborn fact, that the Enlightenment project has no internal logic, enables most of us to assume that free and rational thinking culminates in its acceptance, not its rejection. In this vein, it is virtually impossible that anyone, given their potential for free agency, will reject its formula for unmasking superior answers for humanity.
So when Muslims reject the Enlightenment hope for freedom and universal justice throughout the Muslim world, their critics are quick to assume that they are irrational, and in response they “focus on the varied forces that allegedly obstruct the Muslims’ way of reasoning”. Even now, as Muslims are asked to assimilate into their host countries, Muslims are blamed for not adjusting “normally” within Western societies. In essence, this is “not natural”, according to those who cherish Enlightenment thinking.
In addition, today's European political elites display a stubbornly stronger wave of self-righteousness that is only amplified by their relentless pursuit to transplant the ideals of universal justice throughout the Middle East through military might, a project that has killed thousands of people in its wake. It blinds them to the cost of progress, be it in financial terms or in lives lost in its pursuit. As a result, the Enlightenment project has emboldened modern man to construct other men, but doesn’t know what it is he is constructing.
Muslims do not hold western liberalism in high esteem since it offers no indisputable superior answers for humanity. Muslims do not believe in ontological man, or his being in all its material complexities but in the purpose of man – to worship Allah (SWT) and to help others to do the same. Islam infuses an ethic of responsibility that is blatantly absent within this Enlightenment project.
I’ve read reports where "enlightened" governments are now encouraging teenagers to engage in oral sex in order to reduce the high incidence of HIV/AIDS within their societies. Another feature of the enlightenment project is its absence of absolute values. According to its adherents, what is not measurable and quantifiable should be discarded as useless. Its ethics is incompatible with anything spiritual or transcendental. Accordingly, humanity differs from nature only in its ability to dominate and control it. Humanity is no different from nature insofar as it has the distinctive status of ruining it. Furthermore, the Enlightenment project fosters an individual view of struggle and conflict within society, where sympathetic bonds are noticeably absent.
We cannot afford to be swayed by “blind justice” since it doesn’t represent true justice at all.
(The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)