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August 19, 2003

How to Make Dictators Out of Gandhi's
Arash Jalali  [info|posts]

gandhi.jpg In one of my comments to a recent posting regarding charismatic leadership, I suggested that due to the mythical approach of the Iranian culture to leadership, we Iranians as a collective whole may even end up turning Gandhi-like leaders to dictators. This in turn, inspired another article in which there was a mention of this habit, we Iranians allegedly have, of attributing every social and political dysfunction to some defect in our culture.

In this article, I shall briefly propose an explanation that I have been able to develop, which would hopefully exonerate my comments from the charges of being part of a "mediocre nagging" stereotype as well as help stimulate some interesting discussions.

The Iranian society as a whole has deep religious roots and convictions and given the long history (centuries rather than decades) of the dominance of such convictions, one would expect to witness clear symptoms of a massive and collective sexual repression. This large-scale libidinal crisis has consequently turned into a collectively dampened social self-esteem. Such a society is therefore expected to long, more than anything else, for a savior, a father-like figure and a god.

To us, charisma is not sheer magnetism or charm; It is indeed, divinity and a charismatic leader is in fact expected to be a god (or at least a reflection of the God) and if not, we'll make it one. One could only make a dictator out of Gandhi by canonizing his ideas, making a taboo out of any contradiction of his views and in short, giving him a god-like status and that is exactly what I mean by "mythical approach to charismatic leadership". And yet, that might not be the only drive. Take all that and put it together with the fascination of our folklore with heroes, heroism and sportsmanship (for lack of a better word for pahlevani). I don't think anyone can compete with that.

Saeed at August 19, 2003 06:45 PM [permalink]:

Well, if that is the case, a non-religious or more intellectual charismatic figure might help you out! Or a charismatic leader that part of his charisma is his opposition to making God-links.

I also completely lost in your "sexual" argument!
Relating obsessions for having a god like figure to sexual problems is pretty dramatic. That would have been the case if our Gods were supermodels!

Coward at August 19, 2003 07:17 PM [permalink]:

In my opinion, Gandhi had a great chance of becoming a dictator in India as well, but that he did not become one was not because of Indian culture, rather it was his own belief that he should not succomb to becming one.

If you look at the 20th centuty history of dictators, you will see that they were all over the world across all different kinds of cultures. It is in fact very difficlut and requires a great strength to not become a dictator when one has all the power, and almost everybody believes in you. You can also easily observe this phenomenon in academic environments; where a person, because of his background, has too much of influence that nobody dares to disagree with him, as it could easily lead to delays in tenureship and such.

As an (counter) example, Khatami had a great potential to become a dictator but he blew it. So, even if a society dictates and praises dictatorships, at the end, the dictator-elect can resist this social force and stop becoming one. So, please do not blame everything on society and culture, people themselves have the free will that makes them responsible for what they do.

What makes a culture more receptive of dictators is phobia of decision making. There are people who in fact despise deciding their own future. They rather like to be told what to do. This way they can always blame another person for their misery. This is the cultural trait that feeds and upbrings dictators out of almost everybody.

To summarize, I believe while Iranian culture has a warm cultureal soil for the growth of dictators, but 1) it is not very different from many other cultures and 2) a person can always stop becoming a dictator.

Senior Grad at August 19, 2003 09:14 PM [permalink]:
I have some issues with your article and its precedents that I hope you help illuminate. What's for sure, you cannot claim that dictators are *necessarily* made out of Gandhi-like figures in the Iranian society. So let's see what the exact meaning and content of your claim is. It's really hard for me to make a precise sense out of what your claim is. Do you mean that if instead of the Hindu/Hindi culture the Iranian culture dominated the Indian subcontinent back then, then Gandhi would necessarily become a dictator?! Or at least would he be "susceptible" to becoming a dictator? It doesn't seem to me that you could have something like this in mind. Besides, what does it exactly mean to talk about Gandhi-like figures? What is really the point of such comparison between Gandhi and Khomeini and Castro and Havel and the rest? Are the cases (of charismatic leaders and the ways they wielded their power and used it to promote or hamper democracy) numerous enough to yield a theory?! I do not disagree that some general principles can be deduced from observing the history of human societies (although there is a lot of controversy about who writes the history and how *reads*, that is, interpretes it), but even those principles must be handled with caution. With all due respect to their stature, it does not really suffice to quote Weber and other towering figures of sociology, perhaps out of context, and believe that their verdicts is directly applicable to the Iranian society of the 21st century. Iran's case cannot even be compared with its close neighbors in the *present* time (Afghanistan or Iraq are important examples, but think of Turkey and Pakistan as well), let alone with Protestant immigrants of the New Land back in *nineteenth* century. Let me digress a little bit and write a few words about the case of Mosaddegh with this excuse that it is the anniversary of that coup 50 years ago. What always befuddles me when there is nostalgic talk of Mosaddegh's fate is the assumption that *had* he stayed in power then today Iran would be another Japan or at least Korea or whatnot, or in any case a better place to live in. I do not quite understand the basis of this simple-minded assumption. Why do we tend to change something that has *actually* happened in the real world in our hypotheses and decide that *if* that event did not take place, then we'd be in a "better" situation today? Isn't it just an instance of wishful thinking? Isn't it part of our mourning culture and our passivity to blame everything that has taken place 50 years ago on which we had no control? Isn't this a paralysing determinism? In my opinion, all such talk is unsubstantiated, because (if you like Popper!) it is unverifibale. All this points to a problem in delivering social science implications such as "Gandhi-like figures (tend to) become dictators in an environment that is imbued with Iranian culture." Not to mention the difficulty that defining such notions as "Gandhi-like" or "Iranian culture" presents. However, I think such utterances can make sense if they are supported by compelling arguments. For *example*, if we can start with the well-known fact that there is the phenomenon of TAAROF (or if you're pedantic, TA'AAROF) among Iranians (although it's not exclusively Iranian) and then derive conclusions from this fact and others to finally argue for the plausibility of our claim that yes, based on all these chain of arguments Gandhi-like figures are prone to becoming d ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Senior Grad at August 19, 2003 09:54 PM [permalink]:

It turns out that I have more to say (and the time and the interest) in regard to your short article on Gandhis metamorphosing into disctators under certain circumstances. It's your own fault, Arash! You asked for interesting discussions. ;-)Here's some food for thought.

It's become a bit of a common practice to say Iranian culture is old and then derive some arbitrary conclusion out of it. Aren't Chinese and Indian and Japanese and even some African cultures old? All cultures of all people enjoy a certain continuity. America's culture today is the continuation of the European culture and that in turn is, I'm even tempted to say (and you'll forgive me for doing so), a "logical" consequence of the previous cultures. There has been, to be sure, mutations, or to borrow Hazhir's favorite term, "paradigm shifts", such as renaissance in the West, the emergence of Islam in some Arabian desert and its spreading all over the place, and so on and so forth. But one has to show/argue in what way such mutations have contributed to the forthcoming events.

Since you mentioned "sexual repression", let's talk a little bit about Freud, as little as I know about his work. I believe Freud offered *arguments*, NOT simply claimed and then leaving it to our faith, that due to sexual repression or whatnot such and such neuroses will result. He manufactured, as far as I know, a mammoth theory of dreams, explaining why this kind of dreams may be interpreted to tell what is happening in the depth of one's subconscious self. He defined, more or less sensibly some notions and coined some words (Id, Ego, Super-Ego, among others) to help him convey his ideas to his readers.

Let's go back to your second paragraph now. I honestly cannot make sense of it. Even if and when it is understood, I only see some claims and ideas without any attempt for supporting them with evidence, argument, or at least persuasion!

I suppose you could at least say that since Iranians believed in a uinque deity and Shahs were seen as manifestations of the Almighty's power, or "small gods" or God's shadow on earth and in general having soem link to the Heaven, then Iranian society is more susceptible to elevating someone to dictatorship than the Hindu culture, because, say, the Indian mythology has been pantheistic. But then how to explain the multiple Greek deities and heroes and godesses and demigods of all sizes and genders and the fact that they had a nascent form of what we consider democracy today?

It may seem that I am cutting and sewing myself, but all I mean is establishing such far-fetched connections is at best subject to controversy and at worst simply meaningless and as such leading us nowhere.

Mehrdad at August 20, 2003 02:55 AM [permalink]:

Sorry for following harsh comments but here is my view on this peice:
A super simplistic psyco-analysis of a society, based on Generalization/Specialization Sickness which is very common among those who read their first book on psychology where everything has something to do with libido.

Arash Jalali at August 20, 2003 03:47 AM [permalink]:

Let me offer some clarifications:

1- As far as I can tell from history, we have not yet been able to witness a Gandhi (a metaphor for a charismatic and powerful leader, not just a politician, who is not dictatorial in nature) in Iran. The major claim was that, even if someone with such characteristics does rise up in Iran, it is very probable (but not an absolute necessity) that he (or she) ultimately turns into a dictator and I attributed it to cultural defects.

2- The cultural defect, I believe, is that we tend to give god-like status to charismatic leaders. Now I reckon that this remark would be, according to my own criticism, just a "mediocre nagging" if I do not try to "explain" it. The word "explain" could be just as controversial but in this context I take explanation as a deductive argument that is ultimately based on a premise which is not of the same nature as my claim, i.e., it is not again a cultural defect. With this definition, I respectfully reject Coward's remark regarding "phobia of decision making" as an ultimate explanation, because although I agree with the statement per se, I believe it is again another cultural defect.

3- So what drives a nation to make a god out of charismatic leaders? This is actually what I was hoping would trigger some new ideas and thoughts in our discussions. Coward thinks that this might be due to our fear to take responsibility for our decisions. I say, could it be because this society as a whole suffers from a dampened self-esteem? If so what is the cause of this lack of self-esteem or could it be the reason why we love to make a "pahlevan", an "Übermensch" as Nietzche would call it, out of every charismatic figure?

4- Senior Grad mentioned Freud. Although I admit I was inspired by Freud in suggesting sexual repression as my premise to my deduction, I believe there is a fundamental difference between my utterly short paragraph and Freud's fantastic work of a lifetime. Freud tried to explain why humans resort to religion and among other things he mentioned the (universal) Oedipus complex which according to Freud arises from repressing a person's sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex and "claimed" that an original Oedipal "crime" had established human culture (Totem and Taboo 1913). I, on the other hand, simply mentioned religion itself as the cause of a society-wide sexual repression.
5- I humbly disagree with Senior Grad that discussions as such would lead to nowhere. I believe such discussions and exchange of ideas would at least be a great exercise for people like me to construct arguments (no matter how sick, semantically bizarre and super-simplistic they may sound :-) ) and also to read constructive counter-arguments and views.

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Coward at August 20, 2003 04:36 AM [permalink]:

Let me clarify myself. What I am trying to convey is that the Iranian society will force any leader figure into becoming a dictator. So, focusing only on the 'charisma' of a leader is misleading.

Saeed at August 20, 2003 04:38 AM [permalink]:

Arash, you stated a very strange claim that Iranian sexual problems is a cause (important enough that you mentioned it). That needs a great deal of explanation.

I think you are making a big deal out of "pahlevani" obsession (if that is the case) of Iranians. This is all over the world. In this very US an Austrian born "weightlifter" (Arnold) is close to be the governor of the California -fifth largest economy in the world-.

You need to also explore more about the relation of sexual problems with Islam. With the temporary marriage law of Islam you can set a record for the number of sexual partners! This problem is more of a cultural issue than religious.

A digression:
One of the main differences of Islam and Christianity is the concept of "Divinity". If you look at Quran you see in many places strong arguments against people who saw Mohammad even special – not even close to divine. Maybe that is also the reason that you see very few stories about Mohammad in Quran and (more from Moses) so people can focus more on the message not Muhammad. BBC radio has pretty good discussions about this subject. (The fact that I told is one of the factors for people who converted in Britain to Islam.)

Babak S at August 20, 2003 05:00 AM [permalink]:

On the sexual roots of the main claim of the article and their religious nature, I believe Arash's arguement is a bit vague. But still, I don't think Saeed's last comment helps clarify things at all. The temporary marriage law does not enable one to set a record for sexual partners, rather it allows men to set a record for their officially temporary sexual partners. Even this, once put in the context of Islam and the Islamic society, does not add up to any freedom of `sexual repression' taht I guess Saeed is implying. The Arnold example does not relate to the point, regarding Pahlevani (Heroism) either in my view. He is just an example of another movie star with political ambitions.

Kaveh at August 20, 2003 08:41 AM [permalink]:

I happenned to be in a talk by Dr. Barahani and had the chance to read one of his old books Masculine History. He has a different view on this apparent sexual anomaly in our society: He calls it "patriarchal" (spelling?). If you use this word, what you see first will not be a libidinal crisis (I think you really mean "lack of balls") but a standard traditional society with patriarchal features and these features (including sportsmanship, heroism and personality cult) are actually the SOURCE of sexual repression, not vice versa.

Let me add something to Saeed's digression: You can't point to Qur'an and compare it with Bible like that. Qur'an was collected in the lifetime of eMohammad, when there wasn't much available about him, but Bible (New Testament) was accumulated by many people after Jesus died and they had time to make as many stories as they wanted. Qur'an might not offer a vision of Mohammad as an ubermensh but the scritpture that follows it does [and you have to buy "the whole package"!] How many times have you heard "All of creation has been made for the sake of Mohammad"? There is also one other theory about the origins of Qur'an (a non-divine theory) that explains why there is so much mention of Moses and the Israelites in Qu'ran.

Saeed at August 20, 2003 10:28 AM [permalink]:

Babak, I have some points about your emphasis on "men”. This is a general problem even here. A Woman who marries "officially" very late and has had many sexual partners might have a problem finding an ideal man to marry for the rest of her life. In another word, men might have many sexual partners, but once they decide to marry someone, they marry a woman who can have a child at least so they don't marry a 40 year old woman probably! I completely agree that this issue hear in US is much less important than Iran that men's want to marry a virgin. This issue is also much more accepted in EUROPE with respect to US! That is exactly my point: "this issue is more cultural than religious". At the end my point is ISLAMIC LAWS are very open to sexual relations and in these laws you don't have to REGISTER your marriage and you don't have to go to mosque and you don't need any cleric. The simplest of all.

Senior Grad at August 20, 2003 10:39 AM [permalink]:

I do appreciate Arash's attempt to clarify his positions. I see your using the word "sexual" has led to so many comments. Maybe someone should write a separate article all devoted to how our sexual deprivation[=MAHROOMIYAT] has affected, negatively or perhaps positively at times, the way Iranian society is today. (I should haste to add for the benefit of anybody who reads this in Iran that it is not true that such repression, or deprivation, does not exist in the West. Far from it, indeed, or else there would be no such thing as the celebrated [?] porn industry at work here. It's huge...)

Now let me briefly acknowledge and address the parts of your responses that replied to my boringly long comments. First of all, thanks for the clarification on Freud. As I've already confessed, I know far less about his work (and the evolution of psycho-analysis after him) that I would like to. There is a marvelous treatment of his work in Persian by the late Amir-Hossein Aryanpour, but that's too little. I believe every educational program should cover Freud. He's one of the greatest thinkers of our time.

It makes a lot of sense to blame religion (either Islam or Christianity or even non-religious moral doctrines) for the "sexual repression". But I couldn't immediately see what this had to do with making dictators out of charismatic leaders (let's not make poor Mahatma turn in his grave! ;-), and by the way thanks for clarifyung about the *metaphorical* use of his name.)

In fact I couldn't agree more with you about lack of "collective self-esteem", and I can relate many funny anecdotes about how some of my Iranian friends (mostly newcomers) shiver when they confront a white American, but I wouldn't attribute this to their historical and "society-wide" sexual repression. I simply don't see a connection.

Secondly, I must clarify a misunderstanding. I did not say that such discussions are leading us nowhere. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't sit here and type these for you now. Au contraire, I strongly believe in the urgency of such thought-storms. I use the opportunity here to thank whoever has been in charge of setting up and maintaining this forum. This is a great service, indeed. Without such intellectual boxings our society is doomed to stagnation.

Last, but not least, I don't understand why Arash has put my name, psedu as it is, inside quotation marks! I'm deeply hurt. Nah, I'm just kidding. :-)

Senior Grad at August 20, 2003 10:46 AM [permalink]:

Quick addendum to my latest comments.

What I said about "leading us nowhere" was specifically related to your writing, Arash, and that was conditional. I said your arguments, as far as I am concerned, made little sense, but it may very well be due to my poor background. They are open to discussion and I'm glad people welcomed your ideas. But *if* they are truly nonsensical, *then* they lead us nowhere. :-)

Saeed at August 20, 2003 10:51 AM [permalink]:

Kaveh, let me explain more on the digression.
First of all, in the version of Islam I learned you throw away any message that is not compatible with Quran’s “basic” principles. Quran is very unique in the sense that in the whole Islamic world there is one version of it and makes this principle unambiguous, well-defined you might say.

Frankly I think this very difficult statement you referred to "All of creation has been made for the sake of Mohammad" , which I don't think it's important at all and I might not believe in it, DOES NOT make Mohammad DIVINE. It is just a statement about the degree of perfection he achieved. It is just saying that in the eyes of GOD he was the most perfect human.

The mission of creation certainly has much more value than just a person.

junior grad at August 20, 2003 12:05 PM [permalink]:

i'm taking a break from moving crap...

about quran, kaveh mentioned in passing that there are other explanations for the emergence of this holiest book of muslims. i would love to hear some secular explanations for the emergence of prophets and religions, and not less importantly, the persistence of some of them to this very day.

there is a book in circulation these days, authored by an ex-muslim, ibn warraq (pseudonym, of course) and (following bertrand russell's "why i'm not a christian") titled "why i'm not a muslim." i've just quickly leafed through it. it's not written by a professional academic, so his arguments don't quite stick at times, but i suppose it has enough content to pose a challenge to muslim thinkers. interestingly, the author has used an iranian writer's work (ali dashti). my favorite part was grammatical errors of quran!

i don't think this is pertinent to gandhi or sexual repression, so feel free o mighty moderators to remove it. gotta go back to work...

Kaveh at August 20, 2003 12:13 PM [permalink]:

If it doesn't make him "DIVINE" what does it make him? Perfect? But that IS divinity! Divinity and Sanctity are completely related issues, in fact Sanctity is a monotheistic euphemism for being godlike or a demigod. If you want to know more about the concept of holiness and sanctity in Islam and Sufism, I would refer you to some impartial sources, such as Annemarie Schimmel.

Kaveh at August 20, 2003 12:21 PM [permalink]:

I have heard about "Why I am not a Muslim". Supposedly it is a good book, but I guess it wouldn't have much to add to "Why I am not a Christian".

Ali Dashti is an outspoken journalist who presented alternative views of Islam in his book "23 years"- banned in Iran, he himself called a heretic. It has mostly amusing value nowadays.

Arash Jalali at August 20, 2003 01:20 PM [permalink]:

Senior Grad,
I sincerely apologize for the careless use of double quotations which are removed now. I ment no disrepect and they were mistakenly used to bring the two parts of your bipartite pseudo-name together.

Senior Grad at August 20, 2003 02:37 PM [permalink]:

To Arash Jalali:

No need to apologize, Arash. I was only teasing you, pal! I hope nobody minds my use of humor in this forum. It's not my intention to belittle its imporatnce at all. I just have a thing for humor and I think it can cheer us up in the midst of rather somber discussions. In Iran they taught us to use quotes around the important stuff (so I must be flattered to be put in quotes), but I learned here that they are used to mean "so-called" (and people use their fingers to make imaginary quotation marks in the air, when they mean "supposedly", or "the so-called"), or, well, to quote, as the name should signify. There is an Iranian publication outside the country, however, which over-uses the quotation marks for emphasis. I'm not sure, but I suppose emphasis is coneyed by using italics. Anyone knows how to italicize our words in these postings? I have been using ** so far...

Saeed at August 20, 2003 05:26 PM [permalink]:

I said "degree" of perfection not perfect. Nowhere in Quran calls Mohammad perfect!
It's like you have desined a biological system and you know that in two years a special thing will come out, you announce in the conference that if it wasn't for this I wouldn't created this system. It's just a symbol talking! I don't blame you kaveh, because we are presented with these symbols more than principles.

Saeed at August 20, 2003 05:28 PM [permalink]:

Kaveh, I forgot to tell you that I am not defending that sentence. but, I think you are making a big deal out of it.

Saeed at August 20, 2003 05:43 PM [permalink]:

Junior gard, I am astonished by your thougtfull presentation. Referring to a book not written by an academic and referring to the point " grammatical errors" that should be made by an academic is just street talking. As a non-academic I think Hafez has also a lot of grammatical errors. Let's hope I can publish it some day to gain publicicty!

junior grad at August 20, 2003 06:05 PM [permalink]:

no, no, you got it all wrong, saeed! even the spelling of my name. :) let me clarify: ibn warraq is an ex-muslim who has written a book titled "why i'm not a muslim." he doesn't sound like a professional academic, but seems to have been so much hurt by "islam", that has decided to do an extensive research and publish a book under a pseudonym, therefore not getting due credit for it. in part of his book (that i have only quickly leafed through, not to lose the remaining of my muslim faith) there is a section devoted to the grammatical errors of the holy book of muslims. i remember we were always told that quran is the pinnacle of arabic language. it's funny to find errors in such a masterpiece, then; isn't it?

Saeed at August 21, 2003 09:19 AM [permalink]:

Well, it's certainly funny. I think it's a big problem that you are saying "we are told" For a lot of us Islam is this "we are told" and because we are pretty busy with our studies or whatever we don't have time to go see the movie and we "just" read the critics! You add this with our frustation in Iran. Well the result is pretty simple: we become a magnet for "anything" against it: thoughtful or not academic or not.
There are certainly a lot of contoversial issues about Islam like women rights but questioning the arabic level of the book! come on Muhammad's opponents called him a magician because of its arabic influence. The style of Quran is a poetry so if you are a frustated arab you can certainly find grammatical errors!

Kaveh at August 21, 2003 10:02 AM [permalink]:

How about being the other pole of the magnet? Is that ok? Have you read this book[from Boston Glob, also look at this and this]? I just had one more thing to say and that would be my final comment on this digression. The narration of Islam that Saeed is so implicitly defending and protecting is actually put forward by people who benefitted most from it. As I mentionned before there are academic sources for studying these matters, from people of a spiritual or materialistic orientation. I believe I left a link in my previous comments that concerned an academic scholar WITH a spiritual base, I think if Saeed wants to really understand Islam it would be best if he also consulted some sources that have not been put forward by religious school teachers and clerics who are actually making money from Islam (yes they do, they always did, and will not always do).

I believe that Qur'an itself dismisses its own style as "poetry" and also the Prophet always had to clear his name of being called a poet, right? Besides Qur'an is not defendable as a text, no book is after a certain time. Its textuality and contextuality are two different discussions. I believe that it is the spirit in Qur'an or Bible or any other "progressive" holy book that must be understood and discussed. If one keeps on defending the text, the context would be lost and soon enough the text would become just another museum piece. Some years before revolution in Iran, some scientist muslims, most notably late Mr. Bazargan, started a numerical and text analysis of Qur'an and they apparently found some strange coincidences in it [you would hear things like that every day in the Muslim World, and there is just no way to prove it; what computers would tell you, they claim is wrong because you have to make sure how you count the Surahs and stuff like that]. But there were a bunch of old school clerics and Ayatullahs in Iran that were not impressed at all, such as Mr. Tabatabai; They had the most progressive idea, just because of their spiritual look at their own religion, that it's the context that makes any text such as Qur'an important. Bazargan's efforst to produce some facts of natural science from Qur'an were just a cheap try for them, because for them science was just something that could well be wrong and had no importance over religion.

I am really sorry for the long comment but I hope I have relayed my messages: (1) sanctity exists in all religions. (2) texts only in context (3) [substitute your own message here] (4) Ibn Warraq is not an Arab, he was born in India, incidentally at the same village as Gandhi!

junior grad at August 21, 2003 11:03 AM [permalink]:

i'm glad to hear ibn warraq has something to do with gandhi after all, Kaveh. i no longer feel guilty about bringing up his book in these series. what a load off my chest! :-)

i would say a few words about this interesting exchange between Saeed and Kaveh (and i'm pleased that it's been carried out so discreetly so far), but from the rare benfits of old age, one is gaining experience. i have learned the hard way that such religious discussions lead nowhere and are best to be avoided.

one has to realize that for the faithful (and i do not want to be black and white here. there are shades of the notion "faithful"), what makes him stick to his faith is not evidence or logic. no prophet of god logically argued with his people the way muslim philosophers did centuries later. i think the reason why the faithful sticks to his faith and cannot let go of it and whatever you say he comes up with another absolutely unlikely argument (especially if he's smart) to prove you wrong is that it helps him "operate" well. that is the only way he knows to see things. without his faith he would suffer from a painful anxiety.

junior grad at August 21, 2003 12:29 PM [permalink]:

quick follow-up to my previous posting. i had to leave abruptly, hence the looseness of my last sentence. i take the "anxiety" thing back, because it was not appropriate. all i meant was such approaches to religion (of philosophers) are misguided. let me repeat: throught the history people have not embraced a religion based on its scientific value. something altogether different is at work here. but religiosity found some competitors later on. it seems that some islamic scholars were so fascinated by greek philosophy that they tried to justify their religious beliefs based on philosophical arguments. to this very day, this approach has failed to change the number of believers in any substantial way. the dicord between science and religion is another matter that i think has been dealt with elsewhere in this forum.

Saeed at August 21, 2003 06:26 PM [permalink]:

Last comment: I genuinely don’t have a case to call Muhammad perfect. I wanted to clarify the fact that Kaveh’s quote is not a hard evidence for his statements on two grounds: 1) we don’t know how genuine his quote is. 2) It can be interpreted as a symbolic sentence.

Kaveh, it’s not a taboo to say that one guy is more perfect than the other in some fields. My 14 year old sister certainly has less degree of perfection in physics than Einstein. If you say, due to relative subjectivity or absolute one or whatever you can not say that, we can not communicate because we are leaving in two different worlds on this issue. Saying that Muhammad had “more degree of perfection in some aspects” than the others does not mean divinity. Calling him “perfect” does certainly means divinity and in my view it’s just doesn’t make sense.

About your labeling – “following the line of clerics “- I have to say that I have always tried to have my own original understanding of issues as principal as meaning of life or … that also Islam addresses it. I have had several issues in my mind including women rights and if you raise concerns I am not going to answer it because I have probably the similar concerns!

The LABELING is our other critical cultural issue and I have seen this behavior in all of my friends including me and you.