Answers to Questions on Islam: Part V of VI

December 2, 2009 at 12:30 am (History, Islam)

Issue six:

And in the end, when all is said and done, does Islam have to be eradicated from the hearts and minds of one billion Muslims for them to live peacably? Or can Muslims modernize by critical reevaluation of texts and a mass movement to reject Islamic literalism?

To answer your question: it is the latter. One cannot solve a problem posed by a people by wiping them out. It never works. Christianity is almost 2,010 years old; Judaism is far older. Islam is just 1,430 years old. When Christianity was 1,430 years old, it was also crude and violent and uncouth, compared to today’s standards. Indeed, one may say Islam is further at 1,430 years than Christianity was at 1,430 years. So, on the one hand, one may say that we need to give Islam time to mature and thus become as open to change and reform as Christianity and Judaism have become (and in both, this openness came after a long time of existence). On the other hand, one can argue that internal forces in Islam will prevent any such openness.

I, personally, am of the opinion that no such mellowing will occur. I think it is a fallacy to believe that humanity will, of its own accord, evolve into peaceful beings. While this has happened to large degree in the West, outside the West the world hasn’t changed much. Consider the Hindus, for example: they have been around millennia more than Christianity, and yet their fundamentalists can be just as bad as Muslim fundamentalists. I don’t think it is realistic to expect that the world’s people will live in peace. War and violence and conflict are facts of life, and we should recognize this rather than anticipating some utopian vision of worldwide harmony. This isn’t to be negative but rather this should force us to focus on what matters: in a world full of evil and violence, we should embrace our differences and work on cooperating, respecting our differences.

That said, I do envision two forms of Islam. One influenced by the West, and one that is more extremist. The former will be far more compatible with the modern world, with a pluralistic society. The latter will not be. Both will exist side-by-side, with a tumultuous relationship. The more Muslims feel threatened by the modern world, the more they will cling to the fundamentalist interpretation. The more the fundamentalists disgust them and make like difficult for them, the more they will support the modernist interpretation.

People have been calling for a reform of Islam. Problem is that there is a reform in Islam: it’s the fundamentalist, Salafi movement (also known as the Wahhabi movement). What people need to call for is a modernizing of Islam. A reform works only if it makes Islam more extremist: a modernist reform will never catch on because it is viewed as perverting and rejecting Islam in favor of non-Islamic (if not anti-Islamic) ideas. What is needed is to reinterpret Islamic rules by Islamic experts on Islamic terms. There are some experts that are doing this, and doing a wonderful job of it.

I see it in my own family. Some relatives will speak in whispers about “real Islam” – simple, focused on good deeds, not ostentatious, independent of clerics, tolerant, rejecting fundamentalism and extremism. Other relatives will loudly denounce perversions in Islam, enemies of Islam, and call all Muslims to defend Islam by adhering to a more fundamentalist (if not extremist) interpretation. The argument can get very heated.

And this, I believe, is the future of Islam.


  1. th3cow said,

    I agree with the gist of this post – that Islam needs reform. More to the point – the civilised world needs Islam to be reformed.

    The last chapter In my book “The Cow” – “Mankind – Is there Hope?”, I outline the principles upon which this reform may be based.

    It is a realistic proposition, however it requires the abandonment of the Jihad ideal – the desire to make of Islam dominate all other religions.

    I have not posted this chapter yet, as it is the 34th and last chapter, but in the section containing sample pages on the sidebar on the right you can view the images of the last 3 pages, containing most of the last chapter, which will give you an idea of how Islam may be reformed.

    It is a long shot, but it is possible.

  2. sojournertruths said,

    “Consider the Hindus, for example: they have been around millennia more than Christianity, and yet their fundamentalists can be just as bad as Muslim fundamentalists.”
    My dear friend fundamentalists don’t have a religion; they have to do what they want to. In my understaning Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world and only teaches non-violence. It was the reason for Mahatma Gandhi to base his fight for independence on the principle of non-violence. And, in this age of intolerance, if, a handful of Hindus are going violent , then, the entire religion cant be labelled as fundamental and intolerant. Hinduism has never targeted the foreign shores for conversion or waged a war to prove its supremacy. As, every religion has, it might be having its own idiosyncrasies though.

  3. Robert said,

    I posted this on Innocent bystanders:

    Here is my comment – and I probably should post this on Musli’s site, but I do think a reckoning needs to happen with Islam, something akin to the destruction of Mecca. We, Jews went through that and by the waters of Babylon we wept and made songs next year in Jerusalem. Yet Judaism became a more grounded religion during the exile. Judaism became a less Jerusalem focused faith – and evolved to be a more personal faith. Something like this needs to happen in Islam. The militants must see that their religion is no more important than any other faith (hence the minnerts issue in Switzerland).

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