Can Islam be reformed? If so, it would have to jettison huge elements of its self-understanding, particularly the idea of consensus (ijma) among the Islamic schools of jurisprudence establishing a matter as beyond question, and Muhammad's related assertion that "my community will not agree on an error." No one knows the future, but there is no large-scale movement for such a reevaluation on the horizon at this point.
Here is my debate with Zuhdi Jasser on this issue.
"Can Islam Be Reformed? Moroccan Exile Says No — But Not All Agree," by Tiffany Gabbay for The Blaze, March 12 (thanks to Andrew Bostom):
After turning away from Islam and becoming an atheist, young blogger Kassim al-Ghasali became a target in his native Morocco. Following a string of death threats, he sought political asylum in Switzerland, where he now lives and continues to embrace ideals of freedom and tolerance.
Ever-outspoken in his beliefs, al-Ghasali presented a speech at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in February. Speaking to the German-language news outlet Die Welt following the event, the young Moroccan shared his views (a translation of the full interview can be found in the Gates of Geneva blog), on the Arab Spring, why he believes Islam cannot be reformed in the same way that Christianity was, and why moderate Muslims should admit that “terror and violence” — or more pointedly, “unmitigated horror” — is part of the Koran.
Al-Ghasali also poignantly added that the Koran is a “politically and historically-determined book and not the word of Allah” and that Islam cannot be reformed as its tenets are anathema to Western enlightenment, which helped to reform Christianity...
“In my opinion, there can be no reformation or enlightenment in Sunni or Shiite Islam, because there is no church to be reformed,” al-Ghasali explained to Die Welt.
“In Islam, we are subject to the power of a sacred book and the instructions it gives. Identity and understanding of self come from the Quran. If Muslims could use their reason without the instructions of a book which is recognized as the Word of God, then we could talk about enlightenment. But today most Muslims are against the ideas of the Western Enlightenment.”
He went on to note that, historically, “there were several attempts at reform in Islam, but they were not welcomed.”
“Any moderate Muslim who would like to reform Islam should admit to himself that terror and violence are in the Quran. The unmitigated horror. But no Muslim could admit that the Quran is a politically — and historically-determined book — and not the word of Allah.”
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, author of “Battle for the Soul of Islam” and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) disagrees with al-Ghasali’s premise, however, and told TheBlaze that the blogger “is mixing a number of different concepts” thereby “passing judgement on all Muslims.”
"Passing judgement on all Muslims"? Jasser sounds like the spokesmen for Hamas-linked CAIR and other Islamic supremacists, who constantly claim, in defiance of reason and logic, that any criticism of Islamic jihad terrorism and analysis of how jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism is somehow an indictment of "all Muslims." Ignorant dhimmis fall for this hook, line and sinker, as we saw in San Francisco yesterday. (Please help keep our jihad truth ads running in the face of this pressure: contribute here.)
“He is free to believe what he wants,” Jasser qualified, before saying that it is “wrongheaded” to credit Western Enlightenment with having reformed Christianity because reformation of the faith was brought on more by individuals rather than an entire movement.
“I agree that reform cannot come from the top-down, that is not going to happen, but so many Muslims have written about separation of mosque and state,” Jasser said before explaining that the entirety of Islam should not be stereotyped based on politically-motivated clerics and the goals of Islamism, or, political Islam.
“He [al-Ghasali] does not give any solutions. So do all Muslims need to leave their faith?” Jasser asked.
I don't know, but I do know that pretending the problem does not exist is not a solution, either.
The author and doctor also said that he “could not disagree more” that the Koran harbors “unmitigated horrors” and explained that, just as in passages from the Old Testament and scriptures, there are texts that contain hellfire. “Islam is not a pacifist religion, and there are historical contexts at the time in which God told Muslims it was OK to fight and defend themselves.”
“We elevate [the words] of theocrats that use verses for their own empowerment rather than take into account the context of a battle that happened in 6th century AD,” Jasser said.
Not the 6th century, but the 7th century: Muhammad's prophetic career, according to Islamic tradition, took place between 610 and 632 AD. In any case, invoking "context," as we have seen so many times, is the last refuge of a cornered Islamic supremacist. Of course, Jasser rejects Islamic supremacism, we're told, so I hope he will enlighten us as to why so many "theocrats" worldwide today somehow miss the all-important context of the Qur'an's martial verses and think they're applicable to today. I hope he will explain why Islamic scholars going back to Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad's first biographer, and including Ibn Qayyam, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Taymiyya and many others, have argued just the opposite of what Jasser argues here, and have held that the Qur'anic verses mandating warfare against and subjugation of unbelievers are not just valid for the 7th century, but for all time.
...[Al-Ghasali] said that it makes “no sense” to “call for respect for human rights while, on the other hand, religious texts call for the killing of infidels, bullying women and oppressing minorities.”
On this point, another outspoken voice for human rights in Muslim countries, Nonie Darwish, agrees. The director for Arabs for Israel and author of the book “Now They Call Me Infidel,” left Islam for reasons similar to al-Ghasali.
She told TheBlaze that for her personally, Islam and being at peace with the world and those in it are “irreconcilable.”
“I personally cannot be a Muslim and be at peace with the world,” she said. “I could not make peace with Islam and the rest of the world at the same time. The problem with Islam is that it is very rigid in how it looks at others. I could not reconcile that with how to love the rest of the world.”
Darwish said that for her to have remained a Muslim, she would have had to “kid herself” or “try to create an Islam that does not exist.”
“Islamic ideology is obsessed with rejecting non-Muslims. The bulk of the scriptures are focused on condemning non-Muslims. I think it is hypocritical for people to call themselves Muslims and then say they can love the rest of the world because if they read their scriptures its always about cursing non-Muslims. It is hypocritical to reconcile Islam with peace.”
Darwish also shared her belief that being a Muslim “is a contract with the state, not a relationship with God.”
“If you leave the Islamic world — that state — or any Muslim — can kill you,” she said....