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The mystics have always stressed the religious aspect of Islam, the rationalists the other one. All the same, both of them have always had difficulties with Islam, simply because it cannot be put into any of their classifications. Take wudu as an example. A mystic will define it as a religious ablution with symbolic meaning. A rationalist will look upon it as a matter of hygiene only. They are both right, but only partly. The defectiveness of the mystic explanation lies in the fact that it lets the hygienic side of wudu become a mere form. Following the same logic in other questions, this approach will reduce Islam to pure religion, by eliminating all physical, intellectual, and social components from it. The rationalists take quite the opposite way. By neglecting the religious side, they degrade Islam to a political movement only, creating a new type of nationalism from it, a so called Islamic nationalism, deprived of ethical-religious substance, empty and equal to all other nationalisms in this regard. To be a Muslim in this case, does not represent an appeal or a duty, a moral or a religious obligation, or any attitude to the universal truth. It means only belonging to a group different from the other one. Islam has never been only a nation. Rather, Islam is a call to a nation, " to enjoin the right and to forbid the wrong" Quran- that is, to perform a moral mission. If we disregard the political component of Islam and accept religious mysticism , we silently admit dependence and slavery. On the contrary, if we ignore the religious component , we cease to be any moral force.

Alija Izetbegović
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At a lunchtime reception for the diplomatic corps in Washington, given the day before the inauguration of Barack Obama as president, I was approached by a good-looking man who extended his hand. 'We once met many years ago, ' he said. 'And you knew and befriended my father.' My mind emptied, as so often happens on such occasions. I had to inform him that he had the advantage of me. 'My name is Hector Timerman. I am the ambassador of Argentina.' In my above album of things that seem to make life pointful and worthwhile, and that even occasionally suggest, in Dr. King's phrase as often cited by President Obama, that there could be a long arc in the moral universe that slowly, eventually bends toward justice, this would constitute an exceptional entry. It was also something more than a nudge to my memory. There was a time when the name of Jacobo Timerman, the kidnapped and tortured editor of the newspaper La Opinion in Buenos Aires, was a talismanic one. The mere mention of it was enough to elicit moans of obscene pleasure from every fascist south of the Rio Grande: finally in Argentina there was a strict 'New Order' that would stamp hard upon the international Communist-Jewish collusion. A little later, the mention of Timerman's case was enough to derail the nomination of Ronald Reagan's first nominee as undersecretary for human rights; a man who didn't seem to have grasped the point that neo-Nazism was a problem for American values. And Timerman's memoir, Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number, was the book above all that clothed in living, hurting flesh the necessarily abstract idea of the desaparecido: the disappeared one or, to invest it with the more sinister and grisly past participle with which it came into the world, the one who has been 'disappeared.' In the nuances of that past participle, many, many people vanished into a void that is still unimaginable. It became one of the keywords, along with escuadrone de la muerte or 'death squads, ' of another arc, this time of radical evil, that spanned a whole subcontinent. Do you know why General Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina was eventually sentenced? Well, do you? Because he sold the children of the tortured rape victims who were held in his private prison. I could italicize every second word in that last sentence without making it any more heart-stopping. And this subhuman character was boasted of, as a personal friend and genial host, even after he had been removed from the office he had defiled, by none other than Henry Kissinger. So there was an almost hygienic effect in meeting, in a new Washington, as an envoy of an elected government, the son of the brave man who had both survived and exposed the Videla tyranny.

Christopher Hitchens
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