Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moderate Islam and Modernisation

From the Guardian: 'Muslim group holds 'anti-terrorism' summer camp':
The camp follows the publication by Qadri, founder of the moderate Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI) movement, of a headline-grabbing "fatwa on terrorism", a 600-page volume claiming to "remove decisively" any theological justification for Islamist terror.

"People have long asked where are the moderate Muslim organisations? What are they doing to combat extremism," said MQI spokesman Shahid Mursaleen. "We are trying to train young people here to counter the arguments they hear from the radicals, to give them the knowledge so they can question the extremists and contradict their ideology."

BBC coverage:
The 1,300 delegates were listening to Dr Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, an Islamic scholar with a gift for rhetorical flourishes and what he describes as a message of love for mankind...

"Extremists and terrorists are in the minority in the Muslim ummah [brotherhood]. But they have always been vocal", he says.

"The majority have always been against extremism and terrorism, but unfortunately they have always been silent.

"The Islamic solution is integration. Get integrated into British society.

"It's not against your religion. Has the word Pakistan been revealed in the Koran? If you can be Pakistani and Muslim, why can you not be Muslim and British?"

Britain might be the modern melting pot.

The worry was that Muslims don't melt. We suspected that they were individually modern but repressed by strict theologies. We called for reform, for self-examination. There were voices of dissent, ex-muslims, gay muslims. But the commentary on the hadith, and the comments on youtube were separated only by argot.

This does not represent a new age of theological flexibility. That world is unrealized. This is still a fatwa, an order, doctrine, the infallible word of a pope, if there were a thousand popes, telling Muslims what to think, not allowing freedom of thought. But it is a good fatwa as far as it goes.

What the doctrine allows is the compatibility of Islam and Western prosperity. Radical clerics call for the destruction of Western ways of life. These men are not sociologists: they are trained to be ignorant of the inadequacies of theocratic societies.

I'm not a great believer in trickle-down economics, but I believe that membership in the middle class enables access to types of education that liberate thought. The condescending phrase 'well-rounded education' encapsulates the way in which the humanities achieve cultural penetration by stealth. Conservative parents are rarely threatened by an adjunct of psychology to a hearty law or commerce curriculum.

The other provision of the Western state is an advanced system of protection for people who dissent with others, from restraining orders (called ASBOs in Britain) to a welfare system which supports those who have unexpectedly lost parental support. Messages of compatibility of Muslim and Western culture are important when these laws become a thorn in the side of the parent, in order that they do not lose their commitment to the prospect entirely.

The fatwa also enables Muslim students to make easier connections with non-Muslim teachers and mentors, and participate more fully in their classes, providing a contrast to the milieu of edicts on the haraam status of music, evolution, &c.

If you have watched the great Channel 4 documentary on gay muslims, it is clear that the process of liberalisation is already occuring, through courageous individuals who have their task forced on them by the conflict of their sexuality and their religion.

This fatwa lowers the bar for participation in this process, and accelerates it. The reformation of Islam is happening. It is inevitable.

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