Ok, a few points on the articles:
the Islamic world has been coming to terms with modernity in its own often turbulent way for more than two centuries. And we’d better understand it, because it’s an interesting story, and often a positive one
True; I'd say the current wars and conflicts are, indeed, a step in the path of reformation; That, however, is not so easy, nor simple as the power dynamics in the middle east goes far into putting limits and obstacles towards reformation, not to mention the religious factions which would and does respond violently and the tight room for reforms and changes in mainstream Islam.
Western-style participatory democracy remains the dream of the man and woman in the souk.
I doubt that western-style democratic systems will be spreading in the middle east or the wider Islamic world in the coming years or any time soon as, unlike Europe, the middle east and the Islamic world is rarely made up of nation-states, but rather loosely bound federal-confederate states with many factions and nations within them, as such western-style democracies are only possible in very small nations, and would only be possible on a wider scale if most the bigger states in the region broke up and dissolved into nation-states.
The middle east, to a large extent, still maintains imperial borders drawn by former empires, be they regional or foreign.
Globalisation means that technical innovation and modern ideas cannot help seeping across borders.
True; However, I would argue this will, counter-intuitively, lead to more conflict rather than less as different nations evolve and expand, they will meet the boundaries of a central imperial or artificial state that seeks to maintain power, thus collision is inevitable.
Back in our own Dark Ages, Abbasid openness to science and philosophy provided a bridge between ancient Greece and Renaissance Europe. However, these advances were reversed as ijtihad, or independent reasoning, gave way to taqlid, or emulation of authority. The razing of the Galata Observatory in Istanbul in 1580 epitomised a waning intellectual curiosity.
The Islamic world was forced to deal with the post-Enlightenment West after Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in 1798. His ambitious Description of Egypt signalled purpose, which bore lasting fruit in developments such as a medical college in Cairo, run by the French surgeon Antoine Barthélemy Clot.
Stung by a sense of cultural inadequacy, the cleric Hassan al-Attar was one of several Egyptians who traveled in search of knowledge to Europe, where he concluded that the Quranic ban on body dissection was wrong. The scholar Rifaa al-Tahtawi oversaw the translation of over 2,000 European and Turkish books. Rulers like the Khedive Ismail Pasha underpinned such initiatives with infrastructural projects, including hospitals, railways, and the Suez Canal. But he also copied the West’s baser habits in his profligacy. The country’s parlous finances allowed Britain and France to extend control, sparking incipient nationalism which led to Colonel Ahmed Urabi’s revolt in 1879. Opposition to Western intellectual and economic hegemony has played a significant part in the Islamic revival
This is a point I've alluded to previously;
The modern Islamic tradition, specifically the mainstream Sunni mainstream was drawn by long-gone empires seeking to legitimize its authority by fixing religion and placing many bans and limitations on reforming the scripture.
That's why the Quran is filled with texts and verses banning any attempt of reforms and placing harsh punishments on it.
Compare and contrast, the various Shiite sects managed to overpass these limitations and forming many paths for reforms, especially the Imamite tradition; However, having it on the price of being labelled heretics, excluded and considered off-shoot sects, fought, and occasionally punished by exterminations by the radicals in the mainstream.
So, the Islamic Enlightenment — good for a laugh. But we’re all familiar with the serious argument that lies behind the jests; that Islam has not been through an Enlightenment, a Reformation, or any of the other rites of passage that have formed our modernity, and that, ergo, Muslims and modernity are strangers. Not just strangers, but enemies
Funny enough, this is, to a large extent, true.
The only way to truly reform Islam is to reform the Quran which, as aforementioned, overhauled by empires to be fixed and limit any attempts of reforms, in order to maintain their legitimacy.
This means that modern ideals and concepts will be incredibly hard, if not impossible, to integrate into Islam, leaving only 2 options for social and political reforms in the wider Islamic world: either abandon the religion completely or convert the majority into an entirely new mainstream by effectively creating an entirely new sect and spreading it as far as possible; Noting that both options would include large scale wars to the scale of a world war as the current mainstream Sunni tradition would not "go into the goodnight" peacefully.
that Islamic society is incapable of reforming because it hates progress.
Moving from a theological perspective into a social perspective, the various Islamic societies don't "hate" progress, rather it is forbidden from pursuing it.
The choice isn't accept or reject change, the choice is either stay as you are or try to change and be punished both in your current life and the afterlife by god.
A key aspect of Islamic modernisation (in Egypt’s case only until the British invasion of 1882) was that the lands in question acted as free, independent agents. Change was not only driven by royal autocrats like Iran’s Crown Prince Abbas Mirza, who reformed the Persian military during the Napoleonic wars, but also by commoners of vision such as the Egyptian administrator and intellectual Rifaa al-Tahtawi, whose conception of progress accommodated steamships, girls’ education and linguistic reform. Another secular visionary was Ibrahim Sinasi, father of Turkish journalism, who peppered the Ottoman government of the early 1860s with impertinent advice on how to deal with Greek irredentists and poured scorn on reactionaries who opposed the introduction of gaslights in Istanbul (the same innovation had met with the same reaction in Georgian London).
Islamic society on the eve of the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt in 1798 had indeed been medieval in many ways, its backwardness perpetuated by despotic government, almost universal illiteracy and the clergy’s monopoly over knowledge. Now change came in a rush. The telegraph, the postal service and table manners arrived almost simultaneously, closely followed by the first polite calls for the crowned head to share power. Theatres of anatomy overturned the prophet’s injunction against cutting up corpses (‘though it may have swallowed the most precious pearl’) and there was an increase in religious scepticism; a photograph of an Istanbul medical school around the middle of the century shows a cohort of medics posing in fezzes amid ghoulish arrangements of human remains. As for the plague, quarantine and hygiene did for this mass killer as they had in Europe two centuries earlier, while slavery was first challenged by a ban on the trade itself (insisted upon by those newbie zealots the British), and ultimately condemned by the decline of the harem, shared habitat of eunuchs and concubines.
The growing integration of the sexes and the decline in polygamy among the new middle class were two manifestations of a broader feminine emancipation. Having begun the century as unlettered chattels of their menfolk, by the first world war a growing number of educated women in Cairo, Istanbul and Tehran were equipped to contribute to an emerging national life. They wrote for feminist journals, led humanitarian campaigns and — to the dismay of puritans — shed layer after layer of chaste Islamic covering.
And none of those reforms came without a price, nor without a vicious response from the more radical and devout elements of the religion as I'm sure we are all fully aware of at the time.
From what I can ascertain; real Sunni-Shia sectarianism was entrenched mostly by the Ottomans, who attempted to use it as a rallying cry to control people and bring them out in support of their Empire.
It may have come to the forefront due to imperial conflicts and wars, however, it is more ideological than political.
Most Shi'a sects are Shi'a sects simply because they attempted to reform Islam and of that, became to be seen as heretics and enemies of Islam; As such, it is predictable that the ideological differences and hostilities will, at some point, seep into the political stage, and, potentially, direct it.
Apologies if any part was ill-written, I'm tired, busy, and have tons of things to do, and thus, my thought is occupied and hardly focused.