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Whither Islam?

Reader comment on item: Islam's Future [Can Be Modern]

Submitted by Sid Kant (United States), Aug 20, 2002 at 03:36

Mr Pipes,

Although humility compels one to acknowledge the possibilty of a cessation of hostility between modernity and Islam in some future time, the historical record of Islam suggests a long and bitter struggle. Is there a semper reformata within Islam? Or as some have postulated that Islam may be "irredeemably evil" ?

I do not believe that any reformations can emerge, at least theologically from within Islam, because although I reject the distasteful notion that Islam is "irredeemably evil" I contend that Islam is irredeemably inflexible. How is it possible for Islam to be receptive to gender equality, political liberalization, freedom of speech and conscience, without a renewed and critical reading of the Quran and the Hadith? And how is a critical (and modernising) reading of the Quran possible in a religion that will punish you severely (to the point of death) for blaspheming the prophet, or converting to another faith?

Liberal democracy is predicated upon openess, inclusiveness and consensus. In many ways liberal democracy does undermine traditional society, and hence the great and abiding fear of Islam against the enroachments of modernity. Islam in many ways will not only resist the West vehemently, but contrary to our wishful thinking, Islam fundamentally not only unwilling, but unable to change to the rythms and patterns of modernity.

An imperfect analogy to Islamic inflexibilty, is the example of Communism. How was it possible to reform communism when it entailed jettisoning its cherished orthodoxies? The minute Gorbachev introduced economic and political liberalization, the collapse of communism as we knew it was fait accompli. Similarly, a rethinking of Islamic orthodoxies will inevitably result in an Islam that will have to make concessions to modernity, abandon its dreams of hegemony, own up to its deficiencies and reject its posture of defiance and belligerancy as attitudes of statecraft.

The examples of Turkey and Indonesia are worth reflecting upon briefly, both Ataturk and Sukarno imposed from outside a secular order that over a period of time has had a moderating influence on Islam. Hermeneutical reflection in Turkey is surely circumscribed by its own particular political and cultural realities, something completely alien to Saudi Arabia.

Thank you.
Sid Kant
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