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Yes it can. But...

Reader comment on item: Can Islam Be Reformed?

Submitted by Alain Jean-Mairet (Switzerland), Jul 3, 2013 at 06:27

As you say, pragmatists (or moderates) have a fundamental weakness: their interpretation is "not comprehensively rooted in or derived from the foundational, constitutional texts of Islam. Based on compromises and half measures, it always remained vulnerable to challenge by purists." And purists are first and foremost people who actually know, and then literally follow and respect, the "foundational, constitutional texts of Islam."

Whatever Muslims invent for reforming their religion, if they also recommend to have faith in it, to follow its most basic practice, in a modern world, they are going to multiply the number of people to know the content of the said texts, and thus the number and influence of (potential) purists.
In the past, when very few people were able to read, one could easily ignore some parts of the texts, or invent some new parts, or tweak the tradition and/or its interpretation. Those days are gone. The texts are now there, ready to be read by almost anyone, in almost any language, forever. So if you encourage the practice or just respect of Islam, you obligatorily strengthen the central source of purists' success.

It is a terrible uphill battle. Against very strong odds. And it blurs the frontier between moderates and purists: both are promoting the basic belief, in God and Mohamed, both are working towards more Islam, more informed Muslims, and a better reputation for Islam as a whole. And no-one can really say before it's very late in the day how many of the so-called moderates are sincere and how many still hope in the rise of standard Islam.
To the point that it seems unreasonable to support anyone who is promoting Islam, in any way or form, today.

What could be worth supporting, among Muslims, in a modern world, with modern means, is the search for the truth about Islam, about its prophet and its "foundational, constitutional texts." Showing to Muslims that their beliefs are just that, beliefs, with no concrete reality. That there were no Mohamed, no Islam, and no Muslims around before the end of the 7th Century. We have to weaken the belief in those texts for supporting true reformers. All the rest always favors purists, too. Islam(dom) can change indeed, but only if (most) Muslims stop believing that its texts are telling the truth. That is the challenge.

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