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March 28, 2006

Waiting for Islamic Reforms

Topics: Understanding Islam

We Christians need no reminder that the Christian reformation was bloody and messy, and took time. However, The Big Pharoah says that the Islamic reform will take generations before it bears any fruit because Islam hasn't even reached stage one, and he offers some good reasons to back up his statement.

First, currently, we are not even in stage one. We are below the zero level. The debate of whether a convert out of islam should be killed or not didn't even commense. If such a simple crystal clear thing, the right to change religion, is still not being discussed, then when do you think the Islamic world will start discussing issues such as women rights, freedom of speech, and the seperation of politics and religion?

Second, Muslims are busy blaming the Jooooooz and America. When you are busy blaming others for your ills, you have no time to look at the mirror.

Inasmuch as I'm a Christian and The Big Pharoah is a Muslim, I'm not even close to being qualified to offer a different opinion on Islamic reform, especially when on the surface I agree with him that Islam is in dire need of reform (yes, there's surely a long way to go from killing people because of cartoons or one changing their religion) and that discussions on the reform of Islam, in order to be effective, need to come from within Islam, not outside it.

However, from the vantage (or "mis-vantage") point of an outsider, I'm a little more optimistic. As as been previously suggested by Irshad Manj, a Muslim reformer (albeit not a very popular one since she's an in-your-face lesbian that's paid little attention to by Muslims) the Muslim cartoons "lifted the lid on a debate that's needed to happen for a while", and on it's heels, the attempted execution of Abdul Rahman by Aghan judicial fiat, simply because he changed his religion, opened it up even more.

Prior to these Islamic fiascos, people in Europe denied any gap between Muslims and non-Muslims, claiming media fabrications or exaggerations or right-wing fantasy. What these cartoons and the Abdul Rahman case have done is "shatter a deadly silence" and opened eyes. For Muslims, the cartoons created a space in which alternative voices can be heard, as has the Rahman case. For non-Muslims, the cartoons and the Rahman case have made crystal clear a need of Islamic reform and an obvious lack of compatibility between Islam today, especially Islamic law, and democracy.

Convulsions between the West and the Muslim world such as these , in a technological world of instant communications, news cycles, and the instant exposure of "open wounds" and weaknesses, serve to give dessenters a presence and a voice. Without such convulsions, a need for Islamic reform would not be recognized as an important and urgent struggle.

Even TBP writes today that a couple of weeks ago he saw an Al Hurra interview with a Yemeni lady called Elham Manea, who amazed him with her common sense and intellect: "Unlike Wafa Sultan (an ex-Muslim), Manea is a professing Muslim with a reform mind we are all in dire need of. Manea, who lives in Switzerland, talked about religious reform and how Islamic jurisdiction didn't witness any change from over a thousand years."

And there many other Muslims begining to speak out, such as here, here, and more.

And to these, I'll add my Muslim friends with whom I share and enjoy hours of discussions (usually at Starbucks) on everything from medicine and information technology to Islamic reform and the negative contribution of the Saudis and their brand of Islam - to Islam.

For now, maybe only a trickle, but the faucet of reason is being turned on, and with it should come Islamic reform - hopefully it will at least begin in our lifetime.

Islamic reform is certainly long overdue, but it's at least being recognized as an urgent issue that affects both Muslims and non-Muslims. The debate is begining, and that's a start.

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Posted by Richard at March 28, 2006 11:35 AM

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