A follow-up to my previous post What Mehdi and Mo haven’t learned from the West Wing
Well I have been tweeting to Mehdi and Mo on a daily basis for the whole of February. (Actually I lay off Mo mid-month as he was off twitter for a while) and the silence has been deafening.
The text of the tweet I have been sending is “Dear @mehdirhasan & @MoAnsar Are you literalists? No? What, in the Quran, is not literally true?” along with a link to my previous post.
At the end of my last post I asked Mehdi or Mo to coment or reply. I conceded that they had much busier time-lines than me, which I’m sure they have, but I honestly don’t think even they can have missed a tweet-a-day for a month.
It’s not as if they’ve been in hiding. Over the last few days Mehdi has managed to tweet about Piers Morgan, House of Cards, and his head-to-head with Mona Eltahawy (which is excellent by the way – catch it here) and Mo has covered internet throttling, Philip Hollobone MP, immigration, Piers Morgan and “mixed lentils, roasted vegetables, garlic parsley sauce”. Yet neither of them has seen fit to comment in any way on their literalism, or non-literalism despite their belief that it is “the bane of every religion“
So, assuming they have seen the tweets, and are not going to reply or comment, I consider myself free to comment.
If you can’t point to something in your Holy book and say “Actually that bit isn’t literally true” then YOU ARE A LITERALIST. That’s what the word means. It’s not complicated. Nuance and context don’t come into it, they only come into play if you are NOT a literalist.
In his original article Mehdi attacked “Islam-Bashers” for making the same mistake as Islamists. That is, believing that there is only one, rigidly literal, interpretation of Islam and The Koran. I think he’s right and it was a good article, but to write that article but not be prepared to publically say whether or not he himself is a literalist seems at best disingenuous, and at worst hypocritical and cowardly.
As for Mo, well, he praised the article as “excellent” but, he too refuses to declare whether or not he is a literalist.
So, lets recap:
- if I assume that all Muslims are literalists I am being Islamophobic.
- But if I ask the two prominent Muslims who make that assertion to clarify their own status I am ignored.
- They both claim to be commentators but suddenly neither of them wants to comment!
I think the trouble is that in some ways Mehdi and Mo are both “professional” Muslims. This means they have to appear to be liberal and progressive to get the work. But they also cannot afford to take the chance of upsetting some of their more literalist supporters or they might lose their “authenticity”
Hence they write, and praise, seemingly liberal articles, then sometimes go quiet when asked a straight question about the very same issue.
I think this is a great shame. I think Mehdi’s article is right, Muslims are not homogeneous. There is a wide variety of opinions and differing interpretations of the Koran. As Mehdi says “Throughout Islamic history, interpretations (tafsir) have differed from scholar to scholar and this intra-Islamic pluralism and diversity of thought should be celebrated, not condemned or ignored.”
Unfortunately the more liberal, progressive, non-literal interpretations often come under strong, attack from the more illiberal, regressive, literal ones. Sometimes including threats of physical violence.
That’s why I think it is important that people like Mehdi and Mo should answer straight questions and not go quiet on this issue. Which is why I have banged on about it for a month. This my last try.
Mehdi, Mo I would genuinely love it if you proved me wrong and it would not be difficult. All you have to do is answer two straight questions. They are not trick questions. I can answer them quite easily, look . . .
- Q1 – Are you a literalist?
- A1 – No
- Q2 – If not, what in the holy book is not literally true?
- A2 – Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, Parting of the red sea, etc . . . .