Islamophilia: Voltaire’s “Fanaticism Or Mahomet” Can’t Be Played Anymore


The extremely wealthy and intrigue-prone Voltaire, friend and adviser to King Louis XV of France, was radical only in the minds of the most obdurate regressives and the Inquisition… In particular, Voltaire advised Louis to not defend the French settlements in America…. with the consequence that the genocidal, enslaving colonization of the enemy won. Yet Voltaire’s play on Muhammad and Intolerance is now banned…

Or, more exactly, to give it its exact title, “Fanaticism Or Muhammad the Prophet” cannot be played, lest the people crazed with god and tribal identifications go nuts once again! Islamophilia is a grave disease which, should it be not checked, would transmogrify into Catholicophilia, in other words, the Inquisition, when those who have power find pretexts in your minds to destroy your life for reasons you have.

Thus “god” fanaticism replaces all spiritual striving with blind obedience to whoever has the biggest sword. It is most convenient to tyrants who can then terrorize in the name of “God”. This is what went wrong with Oriental Rome, and its spiritual spawn, Islam. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahomet_(play)

There is nothing unfair or inflammatory to calling those who go to churches, mosques or temples, fanatics: this is actually what “fanum”, temple, means… Fanaticism or Muhammad was first played in Lille, in… 1741.

“Where would Virgil and Homer be if people had bothered them about the details?” Voltaire asks. Voltaire’s Mahomet was presented to annoy the religious fanatics.

In a private letter to Frederick of Prussia, Voltaire acknowledged that he had made Muhammad worse than he was: “Mahomet did not exactly weave the type of treason that forms the subject of this tragedy.” Instead Muhammad was himself the object of one determined attempt on his life (on a trail, involving a rock avalanche, among other things; the ambush was not prosecuted because it involved individuals too close to Muhammad…)

Voltaire blackened Muhammad a bit, so he would get Papal approval to show the play which was actually anti-Christian even more fundamentally than anti-Muslim, as the root of Islam is Judeo-Christianism.

The great philosophe was clearly familiar with the more positive details of the Prophet’s life. Translations of the Qur’an and Hadiths were ancient in France, by Voltaire’s time. Two French biographies of Muhammad, Henri de Boulainvillier’s Vie de Mahomed (1730), and Jean Gagnier’s La Vie de Mahomet traduite et compilée de l’Alcoran (1732). As a passionate anti-cleric, Voltaire used Islam to attack the hypocritical religiosity and predation which underpinned France’s Ancien Régime. Voltaire was against against priests of every denomination who “rise from an incestuous bed, manufacture a hundred versions of God, then eat and drink God, then piss and shit God.” Voltaire weaponized Muhammad against Christianism.

In Zaire, an earlier play Voltaire has the Sultan observe:
My heart doesn’t know itself …Custom and law moulded my earliest years to the happy Muslim religion. I see only too clearly: the training that we are given as children shapes our feelings, our mores, our belief. On the banks of the Ganges, I would have been a slave to false gods; in Paris, a Christian; in this place, a Muslim.

Voltaire’s subsequent essay, De l’Alcoran et de Mahomet (1748), maintains his view that Muhammad exploited beliefs in the supernatural while having no such supernatural obsession himself. Naively, Voltaire regarded Islam as inferior to the Chinese religion because—unlike Muhammad— Confucius depended neither on revelation, nor on lies, nor on the sword for his teachings, but only on reason. Disputing the claim that Muhammad was illiterate—a theme he took up in Chapter VI of the Essai sur les moeurs—Voltaire makes some positive comments about the founder of Islam:

“How can one imagine that a man who had been a merchant, poet, legislator and sovereign was unable to write his name? If his book is unsuitable for our times and for ourselves, it was truly good for his contemporaries. His religion was even better. We should recognise that he virtually rescued the whole of Asia from idolatry. He taught the unity of God and forcefully denounced anyone claiming that God has partners. He banned the usurious exploitation of strangers, and enjoined the giving of alms. Prayer is an absolute requirement; acceptance of eternal decrees animates all. It is hardly surprising that a religion so simple and wise, taught by a man who was always victorious in the field took power in much of the world. In actuality the Muslims made as many converts by the word as by the sword, including Indians and many Negroes. Even the Turkish conquerors submitted themselves to Islam.

Subtle was Voltaire.

Not so with our times.

Patrice Ayme

Islamism, same as Christianism, is all about fanaticism. No ifs and buts…

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4 Responses to “Islamophilia: Voltaire’s “Fanaticism Or Mahomet” Can’t Be Played Anymore”

  1. brodix Says:

    Patrice,

    Take Voltaire’s hint. Don’t attack the institution directly. Go for its conceptual foundations.
    I’ve pointed this out previously, that a spiritual absolute would be the essence of sentience, from which we rise, not an ideal of wisdom and judgement, from which we fell.
    In that emergent process, good and bad are not some cosmic conflict between righteousness and evil, but the basic biological binary of beneficial and detrimental. The 1/0 0f sentience.
    Seeking the ideal good is like seeking the ideal yes. When we assume it as aspirational, all the higher order complexity, nuance and subjectivity is suspect.
    The power of monotheism is that the two primal dynamics of nature are synchronization and harmonization. One centripetal and the other centrifugal. Nodes coalescing inward, while networks diversify outward.
    It is just that as these mobile, linear, goal oriented organisms, we tend more to focus on the monolith in the middle and lose sight of the context.
    So arguing against any of the versions of monotheism is swimming against a very strong tide. You need to step back and start with the implications, consequences and analogies, to give people a clearer way to frame the situation, than just wallow into the cultural mud and battle it out with the creatures defined by it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hmmm… Voltaire, I believe, gave very bad advice to Louis XV…
      I am also into conceptual torpedoes. Per se, people, in my tolerance can follow a religion… As long as it does not create problems. “Monotheism” is not that monolithic, anyway, it jst claims that to flatter its logical rigor. In truth, they have a trinity, Satan, Djinns, prophets, angels, etc.
      I love mud fights, because then people reveal their beings a bit more than when formal…

      Liked by 1 person

      • brodix Says:

        Given the premise is the ideal is absolute, the effect is polytheism, not even pantheism. As the many versions of one god compete.

        Like

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Yes, monotheism is de facto polytheism. In the Qur’an God evokes that problem, and then tell people to shut up about what they couldn’t possibly understand… The Qur’an can be very funny…

          Like

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