Are we seeing a clash of civilisations?
In Malaysia now, there is a growing interest in the debate between so-called the “Liberals” and the “Muslims”, as if a clash of civilisations is going on, as if two sects such as the Sunni and the Shia are fighting as if there are only two groups in Malaysia fighting for resources; the bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras.We need to scrutinise the polarity in Islam and see where the contradictions lie and how the Muslims can move into a more practical ground to play and work, preferably together.
We live at a time of ideological, philological and semantic confusion, I feel, because we have trapped ourselves in words; because we use elusive concepts to define words we employ, to argue, to clarify, to elaborate, to extrapolate, to state our point of view, to deduce, to induce, and to conclude and to lock ourselves in this prison-house of language and we swallow the keys.
I am still trying to grasp the meaning of the ongoing, futile debate between, especially the "liberals" and the "Islamists" of Malaysia and to discern not the dichotomies and the seemingly irreconcilable worldviews that see to clash with one another al a that Samuel Huntington thesis produced sometime ago.
There is now a "liberal" camp and an "Islamist" camp. We must look into the mind of these campers, some happy and some not, and see what the neural network of complexities look like, what concepts get link from one another as the sub-concepts of the definitions try to find ways to connect to what is meaningful, as if they are creepers in my garden Walden III, some sweet smelling some not.
I can see Ibnu Rushd, or Averroes and the Greeks Hellenised him, sitting by the steps watching the liberals and the Islamists in New York City debating the nature of reality, the structure of truth and whether 9/11 was an inside job.
Journey into one another's minds
The Islamist speaker in the Malaysian forum, holding a Japanese-LIBERAL-made microphone, occasionally checking time on his Swiss-LIBERAL-made Omega SA watch he got from his wife who works in that Big-Four neo-LIBERAL accounting firm, wearing a new retro Travolta-styled haircut he got the week before from a UNISEX hair saloon housed in that LIBERAL-Kuala Lumpur mall built by ultra-neo-LIBERALS schooled in post-post Friedmann-ian economics while his head contemplates the perfect Islamic society ruled by the khalifah, whose early appearance is in the form of an Imam Al Baghdadi.
Connections in the brain are made; none of the speakers debating which is better and more moral - Islam or Liberalism - while thinking about what is for lunch.
We must journey into one another's minds and speak of this prison-house of language. We could find a way to resolve contradictions, if we believe that "philosophy can clip the wings of angels' and see, as the German poet Marie Rilke once said, how "angels can be terrifying".
As Ibnu Rushd, or again, Averroes, in the great Renaissance master-painter Raphael's work, The School of Athens, glanced upwards waiting for Plato and Aristotle to come down the steps of The Academy, hoping that the philosophers par excellence of the Hellenistic period would say "Hello" to him and thank him for doing those Arabic translated work to add to the corpus of the body of knowledge of the ars liberalis, or the arts of the free Man that will eventually become building blocks to the Enlightenment period first, Renaissance next, Age of Discovery and Exploration, Age of Science, to Age of the Application of Scientific Principles, and next Age of Industrialisation to Age of Machines, to Age of Thinking Machines to Spiritual Machines to Machines installed in Gardens of Eden, to Age of Neural Networks to Computing to High-Speed Computing, to the Age of post-Humanism-Cyberneticism and Bio-chip Implantation - this evolutionary period of paradigmatic changes in human consciousness as technology, culture, and human genomics come into play, Ibnu Rushd/Abverros asked: what must people argue if these exist an oppositional nature of ideas as in this raging yet useless debate between "Islam" and "liberalism".
A possible marriage?
And thus, Ibnu Rushd sat on the steps wandering, those great thinkers of the Age of Philosophy, that Axial Age of Spirituality, that Athens of the 5th Century BC, now long gone passed the spot where he sat, like the great beggar Diogenes; Averroes still wonders till late that night.
Where did Islam go wrong in thinking that 5,000 years of globalisation of ideas of Man has ended up in the impossibility of a marriage between the LIBERALS and the MUSLIMS? Why the ongoing conflict translating into destruction and civil war as well, especially in the Middle East?
Said Ibnu Rushd: Shall I unleash more questions on the nature of man, matter, God and the universe and all then, so that not only Descartes can benefit from my musings but the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will not come into being in the early 21st. century?
So that the idea of the Mutazillahs will reign supreme over pre-Wahabbi and Salafi notion of what must a human being be, and how must society look like, and what will be the nature of the state as it tries to define itself in the framework of the this idea of the Ummah?
And Ibnu Rushd could not sleep that night. Under the stars, under the clear blue sky painted by the Italian master Raphael, he wondered: have we, from the fall of the Empire of Uthmaniyah right up till the 21st Century, taken the wrong semiotic turn?
A question Ibnu Rushd would ask
Tomorrow is the celebration of Aidul Adha, the festival of sacrifice in America, Land of Pragmatism as its guiding philosophy. Having thought of Ibnu Rush and the possible marriage between Liberals and the Islamists in Malaysia, I have these questions on “sacrifice as ritual,” gleaned from an Averrosian point of view. Here:
I am still trying to understand this story of Abraham trying to sacrifice his son (and was it Isaac of Ishamel?) and the logic behind the command that a human being needed to be sacrificed and what kind of command is that, morally? Why craft that kind of story in a religious text? and it evolved into a religious celebration ... a problematique,isn't it? A friend asked:
Did Abraham hear a command in his head to slaughter and sacrifice his youngest son Ismail? Today you'd be diagnosed with schizophrenia and probably will be given a daily dose of Prozac or worst, incarceration. Instead Abe (Abraham) was awarded the Title of Prophet. Go figure!
I replied to his query: an interesting explanation there... who wrote the story to be included in the Jewish Bible/Old Testament and for what purpose? And the story also appeared in the Quran and became a story of celebration ... how is this possible?
In Malaysia, Muslims are forbidden to celebrate Valentine's Day (the festival of love), made to question the history of Mother's Day, and other “Western-influenced cellebrations and observances”, with the Islamic religious leaders giving the logic of why these are not to be celebrated by Muslims because of their "pagan" origin. But what is the logic of the Aidil Adha to commemorate the incident on commanded human sacrifice?
In Abraham's story - what could have gone wrong? Would the child's head be severed from the body had the voice not say: "Hold it... hold it… that was just a test of your obedience."
Would Abraham be arrested for murder and tried under the law of the Code of Hammurabi? And by the way, is Abraham, or the Prophet Ibrahim as the Muslims call him, a real person in history?
These are my questions.