My neighbor here in Secure Undisclosed Locationville, Salman Rushdie, with whom I frequently swap stories across the back fence, says in the Sunday Times (thanks to JE) that Muslims outside Islamic countries can spearhead a new, modern formulation of Islam that will allow for peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims.
Salman, I think there very well may be something to this. I don’t think, for example, that the phenomenon of Irshad Manji could have developed anywhere in the Islamic world. However, being part of the Muslim “diaspora” doesn’t guarantee that reform efforts will not trigger a backlash from traditional Muslims: after all, you received your death fatwa while living in Britain, and that was just for some silly ridicule in a meandering novel. What is needed, whether in Britain or elsewhere, is a group of Muslims large enough to stand up in the face of intimidation and death fatawa and say that they are rejecting Sharia and accepting pluralism, and rejecting Qur’anic literalism.
I am not holding my breath.
A FEW weeks ago, in a column written in response to the London bombings, I wrote about the urgent need for a “reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age”.
The response to this article has been widespread and extremely interesting.
Naturally there were those who rushed to dismiss my arguments because they came out of my mouth: “The man who lost his personality and beliefs should not speak about the great religion of Islam.”
However, there was an encouraging flood of more positive commentary, much of it coming from Muslims: “Absolutely right “” it is time Muslims accepted that it is Islam’s 8th-century attitudes that are causing so much suffering in the 21st-century world,” wrote Mohammed Iqbal, who lives in Leeds, home of three of the London Underground bombers.
“Please keep dogma aside and let reason be part of the debate,” wrote Nadeem Akhtar of Washington. “We believers have done enough to harm ourselves. What European monarchs and clergy did in the Dark and Middle Ages is exactly what Muslim rulers and clergy are doing to the Muslim world.”
Several writers challenged me to take the next step and hypothesize the content of such a reform movement. The thoughts that follow are an initial response to that challenge, and focus primarily on Britain.
Why Britain? It may well be that reform will be born in the Muslim diaspora, where contact “” and friction “” between communities is greatest, and then exported to the Muslim-majority countries….