Reformist Muslim

Exploring possibilities for the future of Islam and other thoughts

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Friday, March 24, 2006

A Letter To Reformist Muslims

"It is conceivable, yes, that there are those in the West with as much sadomasochim (or courage, if you will), as the reformists of Islam; with as great a penchant for human rights as the reformists of Islam; with as great a willingness to face off against the edifice of a corrupt theology as the reformists of Islam. We must embrace them as our brothers, be they Latino, Black, or dare I say, white; be they Hindu, Jew, Christian, or dare I say, secular-humanist"
Click here to read the full piece

The extract is taken from an open letter written by Ali Eteraz to fellow reformist muslims. His argument is that while there may be some 'Westerners' with ulterior motives, to be successful the reform project has to accept those non-Muslims who show an interest in changing the world for the better.

Overcoming the threat of those with ill-intent, is a powerful idea which is applicable not just to non-Muslims. One finds it amongst those who are reluctant to let ijtihad devolve outside the exclusive preserve of religious scholars. There is an understandable fear that if religion is to be democratised then there would be widespread chaos which would undermine the basic tenets of Islam.

However as Ziauddin Sardar has eloquently put, when engaging with religion and making progress we must not be constrained by the banks of a river. Instead the future should be imagined as an ocean, where every assumption may be challenged and people can shape their own destiny.

Of course this may lead to the conversation within Islam occasionally veering towards areas which are uncomfortable. Mistakes will definitely be made, but this criticism makes the assumption that things are fine the way they are right now, they are not. In a way, Ali's piece demonstrates that for reformists to be both consistent and successful, we need to open their movement to those who are willing, just as we argue that the application of Islam should also become more open.

6 Comments:

Blogger liberal fundo said...

I think the idea of accepting a non-Muslim perspective on the problems within the Muslim community can be likened to accepting therapy or family counseling for problems within a household. People don't want to have to admit to third parties they have problems, and it becomes an issue of shame or indignity. I think the Muslim Ummah as a whole has developed a sort of arrogance as a defense mechanism.

9:44 am, March 25, 2006  
Blogger reformist_muslim said...

Nice analogy - there seems to be an angst that talking about issues opens up a whole new can of worms or can only done in certain circumstances.

This is very prevalent amongst Pakistani's who hold the notion that any critique of Pakistan can only be done when no non-Pakistani's are watching.

Going back to the analogy, since men are often those who resist counselling, could this be linked to the very patriarchal nature of a lot of Islam today?

2:16 pm, March 25, 2006  
Anonymous Maryam said...

Oooh interesting point reformist.

What say the masses?

6:09 am, March 27, 2006  
Blogger The A. said...

Some points. Though I could be accused of overanalysing your, er as you people put it, 'brother'.

I disagree with the principle that Western critiques on Islam should be accepted after assuaging fears of self-interest (imperialism, civilising mission etc.). Western critiques should be accepted because any believer of an ideology should strive for proving consistency in the face of counter-arguments, even if they stem from not-so-honourable intentions.

I think the most compelling reason to allow others into the itjihad process is to cement Islam's place as a part of the heritage of human intellectual thought. If the thought-engine of Islam is left closed to non-Muslims, then the intellectual content of this belief system is a part only of the Muslim world's legacy. This would be unlike the ideas of antiquity, which due to the absence of exclusion - have become everyone's legacy.

Secondly, I believe the principle that Muslims have a right to exclude people from their thought process should not be acceptable. This because the effects of ideas/rituals/beliefs in Islam spill beyond the boundary of Muslims/Non-Muslims. Its akin to the idea that when Sacarine says "gays are bad", the counter argument is not "since you're not gay, shut up". If homosexuality is not a pre-condition to being involved in its thought process, then neither should be being Muslim.

5:29 pm, March 27, 2006  
Blogger Matthew Sinclair said...

That letter's premises are bizarre:

"It is conceivable, yes, that there are those in the West... with as great a penchant for human rights as the reformists of Islam". Damned certain I'd say; of course it isn't as painful in the West.

"Face off against a corrupt theology". Which one? The Church of England and its coffee mornings? Secular humanism and its vague notion of human worth?

5:37 pm, March 29, 2006  
Blogger reformist_muslim said...

The A, I agree with your comments. Unfortunately, if the majority of Muslim 'intellectuals', were interested in counter-arguments and thought of Islam as part of a human heritage, chances are we wouldn't be in such a wretched state today.

Matthew, I can understand why you think the premise seems bizarre. Unfortunately, Muslim suspicion of western ideas is currently at a particularly low ebb. I believe it is too people who harbour such views that Ali is writing to.

11:02 pm, March 30, 2006  

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