UI – Part 547 – Is Reform of Islam Possible?
In a prior blog (UI – Part 546) entitled, “To Reform Islam, First State the Problems,” I listed 14 issues that came from a recent presentation by five well regarded Islamic reformers. The group consisted of Raheel Raza, Dr. Tawfik Hamid, Dr. Elham Manea, Dr. M.Zuhdi Jasser, and Professor Salim Mansur.
The effort I sense is less one of reform than modernization. Although they would probably disagree as their effort is focused on a “cure” for Islam within the framework of its current scripture and related documents comprising the tenants of Islam. From a free world perspective success is achievable if Islamic majority nations become secular and separate mosque and State. The rule of law would be common law and not Sharia Law. Universal human rights would be embraced, to include without question women’s rights. Marginalizing women by use of head coverings and FGM, which are not called for in the Quran, would not exist. Neither would punishment for apostasy, also absent from the Quran. Other religions would be able to exist side-by-side, a street lined with church, synagogue, mosque and even a Mormon Temple, if you can imagine.
The reformers speak out addressing the problems, which need to be known and understood by influential parties, non-government organizations, politicians and other world leaders. Knowing who are the friends and opponents of the reformers is critical. Social media is a valuable communications tool to address all Muslims in all corners of the globe. In today’s world social media, Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Instagram, and others, the Internet in general, may in fact be the most valuable broadcasting means providing the widest access to diverse, and Islamic, populations worldwide.
The reformers state that the vast majority of Muslims are cultural, Muslims in name only. There are those that practice, but not in a dedicated ritualistic manner. They are more like the Christian ‘Chreasters’ that observe the more important occasions. It is these that make up most Muslims that the reformers agree side with their views. They are a primary target of opportunity. They must be aware and they must also be willing to be open in expressing their feelings. Knowing there are millions in accord will help to have more voices in concert and speaking out. This will help the movement. Being aware too of how people live in the free world, in pluralistic societies that accept and allow other points of view, other religions, is important to the cause as well.
But there is an obstacle which many in my camp feel is too high to navigate to reach the desired end. That obstacle will be addressed in another blog. (next: “The Greatest Obstacle to Islamic Reform”)
Pyramid of Islam
The pyramid of Islam consists of 5 parts, with the largest in numbers at the base of the pyramid. At the top are the Jihadists (terrorists promoting Islam), the next layer the Radicals, those who use force to implement and police their ideology, followed by Theologic Muslims; they believe in Sharia Law and are non-violent, then comes the Ritualistic, those Muslims that practice, but not diligently and less disciplined as to the application of the Five Pillars in their lives. They honor the holidays. At the bottom, the largest contingent by far, are the Cultural Muslims, born a muslim, living in a majority Muslim nation, but not a practicing Muslim. Dr. Tawfik Hamid provided this list. He takes a stand against intolerant people, the evil aspect of Islam, found at the top of the pyramid. The progression to become a Jihadist or Radical begins at the Cultural level and seeps upward as the populace becomes more educated in their mosques and madrassas and are subject to a governance or third-party influences that are strict in the interpretation and definition of True Islam. Living where governments are infused with this ideology easily enables a transition from cultural to radical and beyond. Born free and cultural, the Muslim then is placed on a path, a path which the reformers wish to modify to result in outcomes having moderate Muslims who do not adopt the problems of Islam that engender a population of theologic, radical or jihadists. They also want to reform the theology, how to read and understand the Quran in the context of historical progress and the modern age.
Addressing tactics used by the teachers, the Imams, and clerics of Islam in their education framework that hypes hatred as a conditioned response to that which is not Islamic is a goal of the reformers. The terrorists (jihadists) are doing nothing to cause the world to embrace Islam or view it in a positive light. The stress seems to be on the Ideological component of Islam that has been taken by humans, not as to the spirit of Islam, as a competition for control, first of women, then of the weak, of the non-muslim and then of societies and then the world as a whole, without borders and All for Allah, a Caliphate with one supreme leader.
There are radicals that make us believe they are ‘victims,’ that all Muslims are victims. The reformers recognize this. The world, certain societies and competing cultures, are against them, or are anti-Islam. There is no discussion. There is no debate. There is no addressing issues or concerns that might mitigate such thinking. The reformers call for open and objective discourse, addressing the most pressing of concerns, putting political correctness aside. Let’s have a dialog and let the cards fall where they may. This is an honorable plea. But even in free societies, the USA for example, the liberals and the conservatives are at odds, some seeking safe spaces just to avoid the other; in the UK too, you have the Tories and the Laborites, those for Brexit and those against Brexit, with a meeting of the minds, a compromise, a joint cooperative effort of any sort too often an issue.
The Ideological Islam, according to Dr. Elham Manea, has its roots in the Islamists preferred education curriculum, the Saudi-Wahhab-Salafi reading, interpretation, of Islam. It may not have been the preferred methodology at the turn of the 20th century, but with the discovery, exploration and financial largesse provided by oil in the deserts of Persia and Arabia vast quantities of dollars have funded the construction of mosques and madrassas, expanded the use of this curriculum (as a requisite), and focused attention on the True Islam as defined in this singular framework of thought. From Pakistan and Afghanistan, to India, Indonesia, into the European Union, Norway, the UK, Canada and America the growth of this system of thinking and education has been rapid and significant. At the university level also large bequests have been made for Islamic Cultural Centers that hold tight to the more theocratic and fundamental principles leaving the reformers behind. In accepting the millions as gifts open debate about Islam, discussions, are forbidden as to not cause ‘mischief’ for the cultural, ritualistic and other Muslims on the climb to radicalism that attend these institutions. Ideological Islam is religious, but it is also quite political. The teaching begins, as anywhere, with the children; In Islam it is then the politicians, the overseers, monarchs or autocrats, that maintain control using the extreme elements of Islam to their advantage. These leaders of Islam also support organizations that as NGO’s promote the same form of Islam they prefer, to include the Muslim Brotherhood, the OIC, CAIR, the Muslim Student Association, and others, financially backed with Gulf money. The reformers see them as the ‘Muslim Mafia,’ especially the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation). Beware. This is not Allah’s doing, but man’s doing.
Reaching those that object to these practices and the ‘mafiosas’ that oppose freedom, and free nations as operating theaters for the devil to engage the Muslim with temptations, to keep the strain of a Muslim pure, without sin, is a worthy cause. Muslims who wish to be pure as the white thobes they may wear, especially in Mecca, can do so, but the reformers feel as most do that what is morally correct, what is humane, and what is fair is to do so in a pluralistic society within the confines of the worship center of your choosing. It is not to be used to impose on society, except possibly for the moral and ethical values that are common and protective of all citizens.
The reformers should, must, and I pray will continue and their numbers and supporters, within the Muslim ummah’s as well as outside of Islam, will grow.
Yet more answers are needed, certainly the answer to the ‘greatest obstacle.’ See the next blog.
Grace and Peace
To follow: What is the greatest Obstacle to reform. Is it an imponderable?