Blogs > Cliopatria > A glimmer of hope ... Liberal Islam

Sep 11, 2004 3:33 am

A glimmer of hope ... Liberal Islam

Quick, what organization says:

We believe in the separation of religion and state.
We believe that democracy is the best form of government.
We believe in the promotion of secularism in all forms of political activity.
We believe that equality for women is an inalienable right.
ACLU? Democratic Party? FIRE? Wrong. It's the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism [via the sporadic, but never shy, Judith Apter Klinghoffer] and the other two planks in their platform are:
We believe in the re-interpretation of Islam for the 21st century where terrorism is not justified under any circumstances.
We believe that religion is a personal relationship between the individual and his or her God and is not to be forced on anyone.
FMCAT has a religious agenda which is quite radical in its liberalism and modernism, and political positions that are clear-headed and progressive. They are in favor of equality for women and against demonizing Jews. Their website features both highly informative historical and political discussions as well as sobering news briefs. And they have a chapter in Hawai'i!

I do hope that at some point in the not-too-distant future they can drop"Against Terrorism" from their name and focus more on their very positive vision of Islam in the modern world, but for now it is an important position to take and aspect of their thought to emphasize.

update: Ralph Luker (see comments) thinks that I'm grasping at very thin straws, and I'm not sure he's wrong. Would one of our more Islam-knowledgeable readers care to step in?

supplement: Another strong statement by Muslims against politicization and oppression in the name of Islam is here [via B&W]

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More Comments:

Manan Ahmed - 9/9/2004

"tell us what we need to hear" is about right. I know that organizations like FMCAT make us feel better because they provide an alternative to demonizing the faith of a billion.There are some with their heads screwed on right! Yet, the way I see it, Islam has as much to explain about 9/11 as Shintoism had to about Pearl Harbor. The world we live in calls not for us to "reform" Islam but to go and "bring to justice" those that commit genocide or terrorism.

There are deep, profound and iconoclastic debates in Islam. They have been on-going ever since Islam took shape in the 8th/9th centuries. Centered around majoritarian vs subsumed sects and ideas, they have had martyrs and champions and hidden imams. The arrival of European colonialism, secularism, modernity energized, cast-aside, and reformulated these debates. Some thinkers sought militancy to re-establish Islam in the political realm and some withdrew inward to train and equip a just and pious Muslim. One can read these debates in the writings of al-Afghani, Maududi, Syed Ahmed Khan, Abduh, Abd al-Wahhab, and Ramadan's grandfather, al-Banna, among many, many others.

It is true, and right, that present-day Muslims under the labels of "Progressive", "Reformist" or "Liberal" are coming to terms with these new realities of faith. It is also true, and right, that other Muslims, like the deobandis, seek a return to some purer Islam centered on pious practice. Still others, secularists or humanists, treat Islam as part of their cultural fabric and no more. This is what constitutes a living tradition. It also underscores the fundamental truth that there is no such homogenous entity we can point and label as "Islam". And then attempt to reform it.

It is WRONG, however, that any of these Muslims stay silent and not condemn vocally and vociferously those that use their religion as an excuse or a sheild to shed innocent blood. Just as it would be wrong for anyone, as a human, to rationalize or minimize such henious acts. This much, I do believe and agree with.

Back to the issue of reform. Yes, Tariq Ramadan speaks of it. Yusuf al-Qaradawi speaks of it. [Abu Aardvark has lots on these two.] Pervaiz Musharraf speaks of it. But, who are they speaking to? Ramadan to European Muslims who are in a different boat then Qaradawi's Gulf audience or Musharraf's hostage nation. They all decry extremism and hatred and demonization of Jews or America. They are all part of various living Islams.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/9/2004

I think that my point would be that we have to look to someone like Tariq Ramadan who will tell us what we need to hear rather than to someone like Kamal Nawash who will tell us what we want to hear.

Jonathan Dresner - 9/9/2004

I don't think that Islam is essentially terroristic but the radicalism which runs through many of its current forms is troubling. I do think there is a militancy to Islam (much as there was in Judaism in the long-distant past, and as there was in Christianity until relatively recently) which makes some kind of fundamental reform desirable, at least in the eyes of those of us who think coexistence is a good idea. It is patriarchal, as practiced (though again, in theory it needn't be, at least not as much).

The supporting materials are not as one-sided as the Fox-O'Reilly-Klinghoffer axis suggests

Ralph E. Luker - 9/9/2004

"... the essentially terroristic and patriarchal nature of Islam as presently practiced ..." Where'd that come from? My guess is that this fellow found out that he could make a good living by taking money from right wing media in the United States. I suspect that Klinghoffer's promos on her site and his appearances on Fox and O'Reilly aren't likely to make him more well respected among his fellow Muslims.

Jonathan Dresner - 9/9/2004

Well, if part of their message is the essentially terroristic and patriarchal nature of Islam as presently practiced, then yes, I suspect they might well get a hearing. I'll look around some more, though.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/9/2004

Before you, or Klinghoffer, for that matter, get all het up about this, I'd ask: "Where does the money come from for all this?" Right there on the mainpage, we're told that the founder of this org appears regularly on Fox and O'Reilly. It doesn't surprise me that that doesn't ring Klinghoffer's alarm bells. It surprises me that it doesn't ring Dresner's alarm bells. Do you _really_ think that the prophets of an authentic modern Islam are going to be heard on Fox and O'Reilly? O'Really?