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Reader comment on item: [Finding Moderate Muslims:] Do you believe in modernity?

Submitted by Alo Kievalar (Saudi Arabia), Nov 28, 2003 at 07:12

I have always been convinced, and I will always be convinced, that trying to differentiate between militant Moslems and moderate Moslems is like trying to perceive a difference between militant communists and moderate communists. It can't be done.

Ask any Moslem if such a difference exists and they simply won't know what you're talking about. Throughout the Middle East, the media rejects such a difference. In on the spot media interviews, the most lofty Imam to the most down-trodden date seller will dismiss such an idea as preposterous.

Ask a Moslem living in the West and somewhat "westernized" the same question and you will get a circuitous answer that avoids the real issue. Their answers, laden with Islamic references and arcane philosophical sources, will generally silence any further enquiries - mainly because the the poor interviewer or questioner will simply not have the background necessary to refute any argument put forward. I've seen this happen dozens of times. (I only wish I had been there).

At bottom, this rejection of any differences among Moslems can be traced directly to the core of Islamic belief, to wit, that the idea of the oneness of God and the unity of the umma (the community of Moslems) are sacrosanct. To accept that there are differences would ultimately lead directly to the nullification of Islam.

Can Islam be brought within the fold of "modernity"? I doubt it very much. I think it would be perfectly possible for a Moslem to accept the oneness of Allah, the strictures of the sunna and sira, and the belief in the Koran as divine revelation and be commensurate with the modern world. (After all, change the words a little and you could be talking about any believing Christian).

But the problem is that Islam is simply much more than a code of beliefs with which you can direct your spiritual life. It is also a civilization (in the way Christianity used to be) that directs your life in ways incomprehensible to "westerners". It includes not only religious beliefs, but also determines the political system, education, sociology, personal habits, psychology and just about any other arena you'd care to name. Such an approach is simply unacceptable to any modern thinker.

Dr Pipes gives the following question as an example of what should be asked of Moslems:

"Self-criticism: Do you accept the legitimacy of scholarly inquiry into the origins of Islam?"

I can tell you right now that 1 billion Moslems would categorically and loudly proclaim "Absolutely Not". Discussion over.

In the end, you can't fit a square block into a round hole, no matter how you try to fix it or dress it up. It just can't be done.


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