Sex, Salvation, and Violence in Radical Islam

The New Oxonian

A friend wrote to correct me recently, after I posted my theological reading of the current crisis in Islam, caused by a growing number of groups committed to the use of violence to pursue their religious (and political) goals.

My reading is fairly simple: It is that “mainstream” Muslims delude themselves in trying to make the crisis “Unislamic” when all of its markers–proof-texts, idioms, images and models–are drawn from a selective reading of Islamic history and tradition. Unfortunately, Islam lacks a central authority structure that would permit it to define what is “orthodoxy” and what isn’t. Its إمامة‎ (imāmah) is a barnyard of bleating goats each claiming some splinter of tradition to lend authority to a religious opinion. It (if it deserves to be called a coherent it) possesses neither wisdom nor theological acuity nor imagination.

Usually the discussion of religious experts is no more than text-quoting without context–a theological…

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