Thursday, May 19, 2005
President Bush says that the way to combat terrorism is by spreading freedom and democracy around the world. Others say that eliminating poverty and unemployment will result in an end to the humiliation that enables terrorists to recruit people. Leftist intellectuals in the west put the blame on US foreign policy, many Arab/Muslim intellectuals agree with them.
There is truth in all the above factors. However, I consider them to be the peripheral factors that miss the core issue which is religious reform, RR. Without RR, spreading democracy, eliminating poverty, and solving the Israel/Palestine issue would be as if someone cut a tree but didn’t pull out the roots from the ground.
Islam needs to undergo what almost every other religion went through. Christianity, Judaism, and even Hinduism had their own reforms that kept the basic beliefs of each faith intact but changed what cannot be applied today. Reform does not aim to change the basic building blocks of a faith but it works on making the faith more compatible with our age.
As far as reform in Islam is concerned, its aim should not be to change a violent Al Qaeda member to the nonviolence of the Muslim Brotherhood, but to bring him into the conviction that he cannot live like the Muslims of the year 640 AD. Basic Islamic tenants such as confessing the faith, prayers, fasting, paying alms, and going on the pilgrimage will always be preserved and followed, but other societal and immensely dogmatic laws should be revisited and reinterpreted taking into consideration the historical context that led to these laws hundreds of years ago.
Egypt witnessed several Islamic thinkers who challenged the status quo and called for reform. The most well known reformist was Sheikh Mohammed Abdou who lived over 100 years ago and was heavily persecuted by the religious establishment. Today’s reformists are branded by labels such as “unislamic”, “wrong thinkers”, “those who went astray”, “those who follow America’s endeavor to alter Islam”, etc. The prominent Islamic thinker Jamal Al Banna (ironically, the muslim brotherhood founder’s brother) found his books confiscated and banned by the Egyptian religious establishment and the secularist and Al Azhar (world’s most prominent sunni Islam university) graduate Ahmad Sobhi Mansour escaped to the US after receiving threats on his life. Unfortunately, anyone who calls for huge reform in Islam is like someone whispering in a discothèque. The radicals such as the Islamists groups are in total control of the “Islamic movement” and the official religious establishment (such as Al Azhar) want to maintain the status quo and doesn’t want anyone to rock the boat so hard.