Thursday, September 2, 2010

Moderate Islam

For those wondering whether there can be such a thing as a "moderate Islam," this symposium: "What Is Moderate Islam?," provided by the Wall Street Journal, may help clarify the issues. Links to the contributors' articles:
In the final essay Akbar Ahmed, who is the chair of Islamic studies at American University and former Pakistani ambassador to Britain, categorizes Muslims into three broad groupings:
Having studied the practices of Muslims around the world today, I've come up with three broad categories: mystic, modernist and literalist. Of course, I must add the caveat that these are analytic models and aren't watertight.

Muslims in the mystic category reflect universal humanism, believing in "peace with all." The 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi exemplifies this category. In his verses, he glorifies worshipping the same God in the synagogue, the church and the mosque.

The second category is the modernist Muslim who believes in trying to balance tradition and modernity. The modernist is proud of Islam and yet able to live comfortably in, and contribute to, Western society.

Most Muslim leaders who led nationalist movements in the first half of the 20th century were modernists—from Sultan Mohammed V, the first king of independent Morocco, to M.A. Jinnah, who founded Pakistan in 1947. But as modernists failed over time, becoming increasingly incompetent and corrupt, the literalists stepped into the breach.

The literalists believe that Muslim behavior must approximate that of the Prophet in seventh-century Arabia. Their belief that Islam is under attack forces many of them to adopt a defensive posture. And while not all literalists advocate violence, many do. Movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Taliban belong to this category.

In the Muslim world the divisions between the three categories I have delineated are real. The outcome of their struggle will define Islam's fate. [emphasis added]
A Symposium: What Is Moderate Islam? - WSJ.com