Wednesday, December 28, 2005
I have stated countless times on this blog that I consider religious reform to be the most crucial element in our development as nations. I’ve said that just like other faiths, Islam should undergo reform in order for it to sign a peace agreement with the principles and values of the 21st century. By reform I mean a reinterpretation of historical texts that is based upon the historical context of those texts.
I believe religious reform supercedes the importance of democracy. Without religious reform, democracy would be like a nice carpet on a heap of dust. Take a look at Europe, it only progressed after it reformed religiously. It started with the protestant reformation and ended with the development of the notion of separation of church and state.
Now we do have a huge problem in our region. The established religious order and leadership stand in the way of any serious attempt of reforming Islam. Islamic thinkers who dare to cross their established “red lines” were persecuted and libeled. A number of them were even called “Kufaar” or “infidels” by the religious establishment.
What makes matter worse is that our “secular” government, in its attempt to portray itself as the guardian of our faith, joins the religious establishment in silencing and intimidating Islamic reformists. A good example is the case of Dr. Ahmed Sobhi Mansour.
Dr. Mansour was a professor at Al Azhar University, the world’s leading Sunni Islam institute. He “fell from grace” when he stated that the Muslim world need a serious reconsideration of the authenticity of the Hadith, collections of the sayings and doings of the prophet Muhammad written many years after his death. He said that Hadiths that contradict the Quran and do not have a sufficient “Quranic” basis should be disregarded.
As a result of his research, Dr. Mansour was fired from his job and got arrested in 1988. The official media smeared his reputation and terrorists organization threatened to kill him. We are yearning for Islamic reformers and free thinkers yet our “secular” government joins the stagnant religious establishment in silencing those people. It doesn’t really matter whether Mansour was correct in his thesis or not, reform will only come when thinkers have the freedom to think and present their findings freely.
Ahmed Sobhi Mansour is currently living in the US and he’s a member of Free Muslims Against Terrorism.