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Sunday, December 18, 2016
Adonis, the Canaanite
In Islamicate contexts, I've been hearing about the Arabic-language poet Adonis a lot. He doesn't write in French (nor English), but last year he deigned to put out a "conversations" book, Violence et Islam. He's conversing alongside Houria Abdelouahed, more firmly from the Franco-Arabic tradition.
My French is still nowhere near good enough to read the original but I have its English translation here. From my perspective it was a riveting read.
Adonis disapproves "monotheism" (p. 35) and considers Islam the highest form of that. He does approve "Christ" (p. 109) but only as a poet, like Abu Nuwas. He isn't as unethical and/or dimwitted as the IQSA panel on the question of "violence": the Qur'an not only sanctions hierarchy and force, but it also sanctions dehumanisation (pp. 39-42). In Hell the skin is peeled off; on the Judgement faces are blackened. This goes far beyond a monarch saying "mess with me and be hanged".
This book doesn't say the word "capitalism" but it has a deep moral problem with modern economics. Marx is mentioned and Adonis does not condemn his theory. Possession and sale of alienable property reward misers. They also lead, imitatively, to the possession and sale of humans especially women. Ultimately they lead to a Prime Mover of Possession, the monotheistic Allah. Girard is not among the French philosophers cited here, but I detect him in subtext.
Adonis judges Arab culture to be a dead end - he would agree with "Spengler" Goldman that Islam is dead, too. It may well never have been alive given that he considers Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd and even Ibn Khaldun to rest outside the Islamic genius. Arabophone Islam has had its chance to create a modern state, and the best which Muslims could do is... ISIS (p. 159). Adonis disapproves of Western policy, which he sees as allied to the retrograde elements in the Sunni Arab world; but ultimately the blame lies on the Sunni Arabs. He doesn't talk much about the Shi'a, especially not the wilayat'ul-faqih movement in Iran, but he might be seeing this as a movement toward Sunnism.
On to my verdict...
Adonis goes further than (even) I would. Within the Qur'an itself one finds woman-friendly suras like Qasas, which is also strongly anti-caliphal. (Lately we've been adding 16 and 43 here.) Adonis also romanticises the Mu'tazila, a rookie mistake for freethinkers. Other rookie mistakes, even in this English edition, include saying the Near Eastern Christians welcomed the Muslims in (dude, do you even Hoyland?). This may explain why Adonis's interpretation of history hasn't caught on - as he laments in p. 24.
And then there's the usual disease among wordsmiths that they live in a higher plane, above real work. I'll have to repeat myself again: Private-property is inevitable; anyone who disagrees is a liar and probably a thief. Hierarchy is inevitable too and force is necessary to keep it stable, against those liars and thieves. Not only is all this inevitable, but order and property are good. (Saying that all property belongs to The People, in the abstract, differs in no way at all from saying kull shay' li'llah.) And to the extent order and property lead to a despotic monotheletism, that's why we need an independent Church.
So again we have a man from Islam who has slipped over to the hard Left, from one cult to another. This is the tragedy of the Near East (and the Americas) which leads foreign businesses to deal with the authorities instead.
I will say that Adonis's voice is welcome, even if wrong. Freethought is sorely needed in Islam. As of now most Muslims never get even to argue against Adonis.
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