Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Taking Bets on the Future

On the one hand:
We are a group of Muslim apostates who have left Islam out of our own conviction when we discovered that the religion of Islam is not a religion at all. Most of us had taken a prolong[ed] period of time to study, evaluate, reflect and contemplate on this religion of our birth. Having scrutinized this religion with meticulous attention, we concluded that Islam is not at all a religion of peace as touted by many smooth-talking, self-serving Islamists and the Islamic apologists. The core of Islam, that is, the Qur'an, Hadis and Sharia are filled with unbound hatred for the unbelievers, unbelievably intolerant and exceptionally cruel and merciless to those who dare to deviate an iota from its doctrine. We discovered that Islam is beyond alteration, because Muslims who attempt to modernize and reform its unremitting bigotry, mindless rituals and its barbaric and draconian punitive measures are targeted for annihilation. Our verdict was that the only way to escape from the tyranny of Islam is to leave it for good. That is why we discarded Islam from our lives-to be free, to enjoy a normal, pleasant and humane life, in complete harmony with all people on earth irrespective of their religion, race or creed.

As we thoroughly understood through our meticulous investigation for years to decades that Islam was nothing but a lie, we left Islam silently because of the fear for our lives. Then we felt that it was a responsibility on us to make the 1.4 billion world-Muslims to be aware of the falsity of Islam and its cruelty so that they can also leave Islam and live with love, respect and harmony with rest of the world. As Islamic terrorism overwhelms the world, we also felt it incumbent upon us to let the civilized world recognize the reality about Islam and take timely precautionary measures against this religion of terror, hate and mayhem. We want to tell the world that the current Islamic terrorism is not an aberration of the so-called 'peaceful Islam', rather it is the real Islam preached and practiced by the alleged Prophet Muhammad. This can be confirmed from a thorough study of the Qur'an and Hadis. We, therefore, have launched this website to expose the real Islam-the Islam that is determined to replace the current civilization with the 7th century Arab Bedouin barbarism, which is peddled as the Islamic Civilization. Let the world watch Islam through www.islam-watch.org and be warned.
On the other hand:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A group of reformists from Muslim societies who have become accustomed to death threats upped the ante yesterday with a declaration they hope will spark a popular movement across the Islamic world to "fight back" against fundamentalist interpreters of the faith.

Secularists such as Ibn Warraq, Nonie Darwish and Irshad Manji helped formulate the "St. Petersburg Declaration," which seeks to do no less than eliminate traditional understandings and practices of Islam that conflict with universally accepted human rights.
"You cannot believe the hunger of Muslims to hear what we're saying right now," said Darwish, a native of Egypt and a founder of ArabsForIsrael.com. "At least 50 percent will tell us, you are right, but don't reveal my name. They are so scared to speak out. To live in the Middle East and say what we're saying is a death sentence."

Darwish was among the speakers at the two-day Secular Islam Summit in St. Petersburg, which culminated with the declaration. Warraq, who uses a pseudonym because of death threats that followed his book "Why I am not a Muslim," abandoned Islam and considers himself an agnostic. Manji, author of the bestseller "The Trouble with Islam," sees herself as both a committed Muslim and a free thinker.

In the statement, the signatories identify as "believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree."

Anticipating their critics, the crafters say, "We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called 'Islamaphobia' in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights."
Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Truth About Muhammad," told WND he "wholeheartedly" applauds the declaration and wishes success for it and its sponsors.

"I do believe, unfortunately, that the prospects for its widespread acceptance among Muslims today are dim," he said.

Nevertheless, Spencer said the statement "gives Muslims who reject the ideology of Islamic supremacism something around which they can rally, and that may allow for larger movements for genuine Islamic reform than we have seen up to now."

Darwish believes the declaration will have a long life, growing "like wildfire" as "signature after signature" is added to it, but she acknowledged if there will be any change, it won't come soon.

"This is the infancy stage of a revolution in the Muslim world. To achieve our goal is going to take generations," said Darwish,
The declaration calls on the governments of the world to:

* reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights;

* eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women; protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence;

* reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims;

* and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.

The declaration calls on "academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media."

"We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine; to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens; and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent."
Well, if anyone knows of a writer who has a well-developed hypothesis of what a reformed Islam would look like, please let me know. Even as I am skeptical, I am not entirely doubtful as to the possibility. As the Generative Anthropologist, Adam Katz, often writes - with what I think is a true appreciation of the mystery by which new revelations of human self-understanding and concomitant ethical possibilities enter the world - lots of things are impossible until they happen. This is not to say that we think it is probable that Islam can reform and that we should bet the future of our children on it. But we should not bet the future on belief in the impossibility either. We should rather develop policies that put pressure on the Muslim world to change in a number of ways, especially in respect to their interaction with the West and the global economic system, and then see how Muslims decide to deal with this pressure.

In any case, Katz's suggestion that even Islam could find a way to make itself compatible with a freedom-expanding modernity rests on the faith that Muslims can both move significantly beyond/with the purported revelation provided to Mohammed, thus entering into a new historical conversation and covenant with the rest of us (but also through and with God, the believer must believe) and remain identifiably and meaningfully Muslim. In traditional Islam, Allah, unlike the personal God of Judeo-Christian religion, is deemed absolutely other, a real mystery to men, though/and he has already, through Islam, provided us with the final, eternal, and perfect revelation of his will for man. On the other hand, Judeo-Christian religion, the most important pillar of the western respect for the freedom lauded by the St. Petersburg reformists, assumes a covenant or partnership between God and man that unfolds through history its new revelations into the unending possibilities inherent in human origin.

The fact that no holy text, including those of Islam, can be read without a good deal of (historically contextualized) interpretation on the part of the reader, naturally puts in doubt any dogmatic claim that Islamic revelation is complete, that the Koran is eternal and uncreated. Could, as the St. Petersburg crowd suggests, the Islamic religion, somehow detached from its present and historically significant political ambitions, survive a working-through of its founding theological-anthropological ambiguities? What are the fundamental human and historical truths in what looks, to many of us "infidels", a rather barbaric and heretical (in its re-interpretation of the unfigurable divinity of the Hebrews) understanding of the sacred and of Being? This is what I would like the Irshad Manjis of the world to spend a lot more time thinking and talking about. If Irshad is not up to the task, can anyone be?

No comments: