De keizer kreeg er nare dromen van en heeft mij gevraagd de aangelegenheid eens in de diepte te bestuderen. Nouw, de dingen in de diepte bestuderen, en vooral voelen, daar heb ik het wel voor. Ik heb mij dus verdiept in al het materiaal dat bij de indoloog Koenraad Elst te bestuderen valt, en ook bij de apocalyptische historicus Richard Landes met zijn twee weblogs The Augean Stables en The Second Draft. En mijn conclusies opgeschreven voor de keizer, in het Engels, die er beter aan zou doen voor het slapengaan zijn aandacht op iets anders te richten, iets dat letterlijk binnen handbereik ligt, hij zou dan ook beter kunnen slapen nadien. (Dat je dat altijd weer moet uitleggen, het is toch Godgeklaagd. Nu, het kan aan mij liggen, bang als ik ben om ongevraagde grensoverschrijdingen te begaan. Dat suum cuique uit het natuurrecht, dat heb ik nu wel begrepen. Maar dat van die grensoverschrijdingen lijkt mij niet in alle dingen even duidelijk. Als ik zijn hand neem om er mijzelf mee te plezieren, is dat dan een grensoverschrijding? Door wie? Wiens grens wordt er overschreden? Ongevraagd door wie? Wel, in geval van twijfel vertrouw ik op mijn intuïtie en doe gewoon waar ik zin in heb! Ha, geen hoofdbrekens meer voor mij, na al dat politiek studiewerk! Hij is groot genoeg om te protesteren tegen ongewenste intimiteiten. Als hij daar zin in mocht hebben.)
I'm not sure, but Koenraad Elst's expectation that Islam will implode may be justified by the logic of common knowledge.
Hypothesis: many Muslims have doubts about their absolutist belief system, but believe themselves to be alone in having these doubts. They are consequently very fearful of making these doubts known, even to friends, and so perpetuate their isolation. If it became common knowledge in the Muslim world that many Muslims have doubts about their absolutist belief system, Islam would implode.
Further to the hypothesis: it is difficult for any normal human person NOT to have doubts about an absolutist belief system that creates so much misery and oppression both for believers and unbelievers.
Only the fear instilled by the belief system itself and by the self-policing social relationships that are its consequence can contain these doubts: the God-willed self-righteous rule of believers over infidels maintains the outer islamic police state, while the God-willed self-righteous rule of believers over apostates and of men over women maintains the inner islamic police state.
Projection of self-imposed oppression onto outside 'oppressors' is only a natural escape path, but also contributes to perpetuate the isolation of doubters.
One may wonder how such a society of absolutist believers can ever liberate itself from the oppression caused by the terror of its own absolutist beliefs. Maybe Gustave Flaubert was right in thinking that to release the fear you must give them a tangible proof of the falsehood of their godforsaken absolutist beliefs.
In any case, I think Koenraad Elst is right in thinking that it is very difficult for Muslim doubters (or moderate Muslims) to reform their belief system 'gradually'. Not because it is theoretically inconceivable, but because the original literalist belief system so much favours the thugs, the rabble, those who don't hesitate to use violence to instill fear. So that any attempt at reform becomes an 'all or nothing' proposition.
The best thing outsiders (Westerners) can do for moderate Muslisms therefore, in Koenraad Elst's opinion, is to frontally attack the belief sysem itself as a hoax, and the prophet as a deluded and paranoid impostor. Thomas Aquinas did the same already in the 13th century, Arthur Schopenhauer was of no different opinion, and there are probably many others I don't know of. Only our contemporary Western intellectuals, in their own confused understanding of what religion is (e.g. "I'm proud to be an atheist"), can't think of anything better than paying 'respect' to a belief system that shows all the symptoms of a 'literalist derailment' in Voegelin's words (i.e. making immanentist nonsense of symbols that express the experience of divine presence in the order of man’s existence in society and history).
Granted, this is all about the hypothesis and its possible implications, I'm in no position to empirically test any of it. But hypothesis-building comes first, right? I've never worked my way through all of J.M. Keynes's "Treatise on Probability", but from what I understood (reasoning with probabilities is an extension of logical reasoning) there is a lot to say for speculating on probability relationships, it is indeed the meaning of the word 'speculate'.
PS (containing some empirical evidence): I once had a chance encounter with a Somali student who had grown up in Norway after having been sent there at age 10 by his well-connected family. We talked about too many things and didn't work out our speculations sufficiently. But I remember two things he brought up and that strike me now as relevant: fear (preventing people from thinking), and the inadequacy of Hirsi Ali's discourse (not reaching any Muslims and certainly not the women).
PPS: Koenraad Elst seems to take all his history of the prophet and of islam from islamic scriptures, without having any doubt about their veracity. And from a book by Herman Somers, "Een andere Mohammed" (1993). (E.g. the story that the prophet after his first auditory and visual hallucinations was afraid of going mad, and that it was his first wife who submitted the visions to a feminine test - "let's fuck". And when that helped to make the visions go away, she assured him that the hallucinations did not come from Satan, and encouraged hem in his vocation.) Tom Holland in his "In the Shadow of the Sword" on the other hand - which I haven't read, I just saw the TV documentary - stresses the 100 year or so gap that there is between the life of the prophet and the writing down of the scriptures, when the Arab-Muslim conquest was already underway and had reached Jerusalem. He suggests in other words that the scriptures were possibly a very conscious attempt at formulating a political ideology in the guise of religion. I don't know which one to choose, nor whether it really matters.