Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Secular Humanism in Extremis: The Case of Noah Feldman

Let me start out by saying that I was wrong about Noah Feldman. He has a deep and abiding religious faith, by which he dogmatically interprets and organizes his reality. That faith is not, Heaven Forfend, the Judaism of his youth. It's a radical strain of post-modern, western, culturally imperialist Secular Humanism. He is existentially committed to his faith, in a manner that would only inspire wonder and admiration, if it weren't so dangerous.

The best proof of our Noah's faith is his recent, benighted article in the New York Times Sunday Section. Feldman would have us believe that 'for most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world.' For Muslims, perhaps, this was true (if you weren't a Sunni living among Shiites and vice versa). For non-Muslims, life under Islamic Law was hell. Why else would Maimonides assert that there has never been a more terrible exile than that of Ishmael? Why else would Abu Yusuf Hasdai Ibn Shaprut tell the Khazar King that he'd like to leave his job as de facto vizier of Abd-ar-Rahman III, Caliph of Spain, to become his subject? How does Feldman explain the hundreds of pages of testimonies collected by Bat Ye'or, and others? (See David Yerushalmi's response to Feldman, here.)

The truth is that Feldman's misguided piece of punditry is simply an expression of his deep religious faith. He reinterprets, recasts and represents Islam not as it is and not as it desires, but as it ought to be in his dogmatic scheme of things. That, for him and many others, is the deeper reality. (A reality, by the way, of which the sheikhs of Al-Azhar are unaware.)

What troubles me, though, is that the man has a doctorate in Islamic Thought! How can he ignore all of the contradictory evidence? At least he should confront it! No, Dr. Feldman chooses to selectively cite his points, and pontificate as the good pontifex maximus he aspires to be.

Allah yerahmu!

No comments: