UI – Part 546 – To Reform Islam, First State the Problems
There will be 4 posts in the next two weeks discussing the reform of Islam. Political Islam is the target, peace an objective, interpretation of the Quran considered, the greatest obstacle to reform discussed, the silence of the moderate Muslim rebuked, and solutions are approached.
To Reform Islam, The Panel of Reformers
Recently I had the good fortune to be able to attend a 4 hour event with 5 noted Muslims who have been deemed moderate reformers. The cast included:
Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt serving under Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri of Al Qaeda fame, who 35 years ago began fighting radical Islam.
Dr. Elham Manea, focused on the Arab Middle East as a political scientist and human rights activist. Her fight is against extremist and Islamism; she defends universal human rights.
Dr. M Zuhdi Jasser, President and founder of the American Islamic Forum , for Democracy (AIFD) and co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM). The Senate appointed him as Vice-Chair of the U.S. Committee on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for the period 2012-2016.
Professor Salim Mansur, from Bangladesh, author of The Quran Problem and Islamism and Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism.
Raheel Raza, moderator, President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, founding member of The Muslim Reform Movement (MRM), and author of Their Jihad, Not My Jihad, and other publications.
As the writer of this blog being referred to as an Islamophobe is to be expected. Organizations like the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation, representing 56 Muslim majority Nations) refers to Islamophobes as racists. However Islam is not a race, and the ‘phobia’ would be a fear of the ideology of Islam, the more radical elements embodied in the actions of the terrorists and the more radical Islamists, seeing the inhumane preaching, thinking and habits as acts of evil. It would not be out of order to refer to each of the presenters as Islamophobes as well. They agreed. However Juhdi Jasser has suggested using a different term as it seems the OIC has succeeded in creating a stir in free world political circles, possibly due to their active funding for political purposes, to consider what Islamophobes have to say as blasphemous and giving thought to legislative actions to curb concerns raised. Thus the attack target becomes the individual and not the message. At least two of the five panelists referred to the OIC as the Islamic Mafia, and I seemed to sense agreement from movements made by the others when noted.
As a collective group the problems of Islam needing reform includes: a.) incompatibility of Islam with modern times, b.) a vast majority of Muslims favor reform, at least non-radical thinking, yet their silence avoids the problems, avoids any debate, as a safe and too defensive posture (more voices are needed), c.) governance in Muslim Countries is too ingrained in the Quran, structured legally using the ideology or religion, the politics and law (sharia) and even the military (that is, no separation of mosque and State), d.) Islamic Saudi-Wahhab-Salafi curriculums that reinforce negativism and hatred, starting with the children, e.) the radical Ideology of Islam generally being taught, to include the interpretation of the Quran and those that use outside sources (Hadiths and sunna) to align the definition of Islam being taught and individual responsibilities to enforce, f.) inaction in dealing with extremism, g.) the victimization of Islam, h.) gulf funding that has enabled the expansion of curriculums and programs being taught in madrassas and mosques being constructed, strings attached, i.) the lack of universal human rights, j.) the marginalization of women using methods such as FGM, head coverings, beating of wives, and inequality with men, k.) liberal and political organizations catering to the wrong influences (those that are generally the loudest politically), such as the OIC, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and other alphabet soups for radical Muslims to include, ICNA, CAIR, MAS, ICNA, MSA, and the Arab American Institute, l.) indifference and apathy by the majority of Muslims, m.) training of militants against infidels (to include Muslim reformers) that are not fundamentalists using Muhammad as the example along with questionable historical evidence, n.) and political correctness countering the opportunity for discussion and debate on important topics relating to Islam that are needed (avoidance of “the elephant in the room.”)
Need for Change
That is 14 problems (my summary, from my notes). What about solutions? This is the hard part. As a whole the presenters risk their lives everyday in calling out the need for change and expressing why. The direction towards change, and the emphasis would be on modernizing Islam, bringing it into the free world with the attitude in the free world toward human rights especially revealed and adopted when possible. They say reform can only begin in the West where there is tolerance towards religious freedom, a moral way of thinking, and actions to be taken, at the highest level of governments, against those that cater to extremist views, support radical Islam, and fail to assimilate into the culture and societies of their host countries.
It is most difficult to progress with reform in Muslim majority nations that operate politically as if under a net as a barrier against anything non-Islamic, where theocratic voices express a strict interpretation of Islam looking more to the 7th century than the present. Risks for reformers in such locales are great. There is a need for a Billy Graham, a charismatic leader that can express the meaning of reform, with a sizable back-up team, opening the eyes and hearts of cultural Muslims and speaking for the majority.
Such a leader, according to Dr. Tawfik Hamid, needs to reveal the beauty of the world, getting indigenous Muslims, accessing the cultural individual more that those already radicalized, excited about the arts in a way that heightens their LOVE of family and mankind and makes it difficult, as he noted, “to pour mud into their minds, to instill hatred.” He has written in Arabic an annotated Quran explaining verses in modern terms, The Spirit of the Quran, intended to contrast more prevalent teaching from Wahhab-Salafi interpretations. He wants Muslims to see Allah as the final judge, not any current autocrat or theocrat, cleric or Ayatollah, monarch or Islamic police, with Judgement Day the only day when the Quran will be fully understood. Human rights, a moral way of living, joy and hope seen through love of the beauty of mankind and what can be accomplished when free, is his addition to an avenue for reform. He made a comment that struck me, and which he wants to fill the minds of all Muslims as to ‘discrimination.’ To the extent Muslims feel discriminated against, as radicals they today respond discriminating against non-Muslims, the infidel that opposes Islam in any fashion. But by discriminating as they do against other religions, Christianity and Judaism, as a religious minority for example, even atheists, and others, are they not defying Allah, doing the same towards others as they do not want done towards them.
Erroneous Voices for Islam
Organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood in fact do not speak for the majority. They too are radical, using politics, quiet and non-violent methods (in Islam, dawa), yet still extreme in seeking political change where otherwise people are free by incorporating Sharia Law, the combining of the ideology, jurisprudence, and even the policing actions of more militant, theocratic, Islamism. In the free world these organizations are opponents of the reformers, supporters of a progression of Islam into free societies, and see reform movements as efforts by aggressors to curb Islam’s imperialistic All fo Allah objective.
Education appears a primary pathway towards reform. Unfortunately the current systems, the curriculums, in Muslims schools and madrassas, are more theocratic and leading towards radicalism than they should be. Dr. Elham Manea, traveling from Switzerland to Aspen for the event, made note of the “source of indoctrination” as the root cause for radical Islamism. The education systems provide the indoctrination, and must change what they teach. She made clear the wealth of Islamic Nations from oil has been used far too much to spread a radical ideological doctrine. Fairness is ignored. The Quran has a verse, 4:135,”O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both,” emphasizing that a persons conduct must always embrace equal justice, that which is fair? This is the basis of common law, not sharia Law, legislation promulgated that is equal and just for everyone, majority or minority, rich or poor, Christian, Muslim, or Jew. All Islamic organizations seeking reform must be united in promoting justice for all, more that Allah for All.
More to Follow
I will address more from this event in another blog. But let me comment on these persons. They are and remain Muslims. They have not renounced their faith. They are modern, live in free nations like the USA, Canada and Switzerland. But they or their families have lived elsewhere too, such as Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria and India. They seek secularism over a theocracy. They prefer the mosque, the religion, be separated from influencing the decisions of those who govern. Societal judgments should be based on equality, morality, and human rights. That would preclude governments that refer to themselves as secular yet have at their side religious clerics as advisors and Islam as the religion of the Nation. They are seeking a “cure.” The moderator, Raheel Raza, provided the emphasis to a “cure” for radical Islam as the objective of their reform movement. The “establishment,” as we generally designate the elitists who govern, seek political office, and want to rule a nation, needs to be exposed, educated, as to the problems. They need to know who are the enemies of the peace. They need to be aware of those trying to influence them, using money as a tool, and not be fooled or cornered into accepting an otherwise intolerant viewpoint. They need to understand Islam (this blog one possible source) and be willing to debate and dialog on the subject. And they need to become active in the reform movement.
Grace and Peace.
Next: We consider if reform is even possible.