In “The Region: Another kind of Islam,” Barry Rubin addresses the problem of reforming Islam and ending incitement. From the Jerusalem Post, with thanks to Designnut and RB:
A Saudi mother, a college professor, recently wrote about a remarkable experience. Shortly after September 11, 2001, her son came home from fifth grade and sang the praises of Osama bin Laden, repeating what his teacher had told the class. Three years later, that same teacher was one of the Islamist terrorists who attacked the Saudi Interior Ministry.
It is quite clear that terrorists in the Arab world are often the direct product of what they were taught in school about Islam. And even if the graduates make good, pro-regime citizens they are also inoculated against supporting political reform, democracy or moderate Islam.
That is why a recent article by Latif Lakhdar in the March issue of MERIA Journal – and in an earlier Arabic version published in Middle East Transparent Web site – is so important. For Lakhdar shows how this vicious circle can be broken, and is in fact already being broken in one Arab country.
Lakhdar, a Tunisian liberal who lives in Paris, contrasts how Islam is taught in his native country with what is done in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In those places, he explains, Islamic education “instills in the younger generation a religious fanaticism which entails a phobia toward dissimilarity and a rejection of the other, even to the extent of killing.” Any debate about religious precepts is an unacceptable deviation that must be punished.
In contrast, there is a way of teaching religion rationally, in a manner that does not bar science or logic. Such an approach includes the comparative study of religions, which shows there has been a historical development. It demonstrates not only the lack of a monopoly on piety but also that change is a natural part of religion.
The sociology and psychology of religion can be either a tremendous benefit or manipulated to serve the interests of unscrupulous people. Linguistics encourages the careful study of texts to show that they have always been interpreted….
Read it all. I wish Lakhdar well, but I wonder how he deals with the objection that the idea that “change is a natural part of religion” conflicts with Islamic orthodoxy. In Islam Unveiled I discuss the uphill (and well-nigh impossible) battle Islamic reformers must face, because reforms inevitably (and quickly) clash with cherished tenets of Islam. It is a problem to which I have yet to see a solution.