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Islam and the West (19 Feb 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

To Say That Change Would Never Happen In Islam Would Be a View Too Unfair To This Third Big Abrahamic Religion

By Mustafa Akyol

Feb. 18, 2019

Since 9/11, a recurrent theme in the far-right circles of America has been “creeping Shariah.” It reflects the fear that Islamic law will silently spread through the land of freedom to ultimately overtake it — to put all women in burqas and all adulterers to death. In this scenario, American Muslims, who make up only 1 percent of the population, will pursue this grand scheme because they are here not for freedom and opportunity, but to form a fifth column in it, as Steve Bannon seriously claimed in 2016.

Those with deeper knowledge of American Muslims, a minority that is much better integrated than some of their counterparts in Europe, can easily see such sordid fantasy as paranoia. Those with some knowledge of American history can also see that this new calumny about Islam has precedents, in the McCarthyism of the Cold War era and the anti-Catholicism of the 19th century.

But here is something even more ironic: When you examine the internal discussions among conservative Muslim leaders or pundits in America today, they don’t come across as concocting some “Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.” Instead of cheering for any creeping Shariah, they seem worried about a creeping liberalism within American Islam.

Read Mikaeel Ahmed Smith, for example. He’s an imam in Virginia who has titled an internet article “A Spiritual Disease in American Muslims, Making Them Gods Above God.” His criticism targets a new genre of Muslim bloggers and writers who he says “challenge or outright reject the traditionally normative Islamic view on social issues and Muslim life.” These young people care less about traditional religious texts, the imam warns, because of “a rejection of any authority other than one’s own intellect.”

Or read Butheina Hamdah, an academic, who sees alarming signs of “liberal individualism” among American Muslim women. She thinks the hijab (the Islamic head scarf) is becoming a mere “cultural marker of identity” while losing its “deeper theological dimensions.” That is why “trendy” or “sexy” versions of the hijab are emerging, she argues, while young Muslim women embrace feminist notions of “bodily autonomy” and “individual choice.”

Perhaps nothing marks this liberal trend more than the skyrocketing acceptance of gay marriage, which, as a 2017 poll showed, is now stronger among American Muslims than among white evangelical Christians. It is also reflected in the pro-L.G.B.T.Q. stance of two new Muslim congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. (This month, Ms. Omar took a lesson in how to integrate into America’s pluralist politics when she apologized, after heavy criticism from her own Democratic Party’s leaders, for a tweet that insinuated that American support for Israel is fuelled by money from a pro-Israel lobbying group. “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she said almost immediately, adding, “I unequivocally apologize.”)

There are two distinct lines in this trend toward American values. One is a kind of anything-goes social liberalism, spearheaded by small groups like Muslims for Progressive Values. The other, larger line is a political liberalism that accepts a pluralist framework for society while preserving its own social and moral conservatism. Jonathan Brown, a convert to Islam and scholar of Islamic studies at Georgetown University, theorized the latter approach in a much-discussed article in which he accepted gay marriage of non-Muslims by making an analogy to traditional Muslim empires’ non-interference in what he called “incestuous Zoroastrian marriages.”

Of course, all this is happening within a political context, which Eboo Patel, an interfaith leader, explains in a chapter on “the American Ummah” in his book “Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise.” In the wake of 9/11, and especially in the Trump era, Mr. Patel writes, worrying about Islamophobia has required the Muslim community to show that it really fits America. Hence, the centre of gravity has shifted from “traditional Muslims,” whose authority derives from knowledge of religious sources, to a new group of media-savvy “social Muslims,” whose strength is interpreting the Muslim experience for the broader society. The interesting twist is that the progressive narrative of the “social Muslims” is having an impact on the whole American Muslim community. “Once you invoke diversity as a value,” Mr. Patel writes, it is hard to deny a place to “gay Muslims, Shia Muslims, non-Hijabi female Muslims, less-observant-than-you Muslims.”

The conservatives are understandably worried that this may go too far. For example, Rashid Dar, a thoughtfully committed Muslim academic, fears the prospect of an irreversible transformation in his community. A life of “adhering to political liberalism in the public sphere but social conservatism at home or at the mosque very easily runs the risk of creating severe cognitive dissonance,” he told me. “I used to fear that this might lead to widespread ‘reform Islam’ movements. What I fear now is widespread nihilism and apathy toward faith.”

I think that while this concern is understandable, the opposite may also be true: Young generations may lose the faith if Islam remains too closed to rationality, individuality, tolerance and freedom.

For that reason, I find the American Muslim quandary fascinating — and promising. “Liberalism” as a framework for a free society is painfully lacking in large parts of the Muslim world today. If the Muslim community in the United States, what Mr. Patel called the “American ummah,” can embrace that by reinterpreting its traditions without losing itself, it could contribute to the broader ummah by offering new perspectives and a lived example.

Charles Taylor, one of the most prominent thinkers on religion today, reminds us of a historical precedent in an essay from 2011: In the 19th century, American Catholics were seen by the Protestant majority as “inassimilable to democratic mores, in ways very analogous to the suspicions that nag people over Islam today.” But, Mr. Taylor added, “American Catholicism evolved and, in the process, changed world Catholicism in significant ways.”

A similar transformation took place within American Judaism, as Steven R. Weisman shows in his recent book, “The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion.” Rabbinical authority waned, women became empowered, practices were modernized and Reform Judaism flourished.

To say that change would never happen in Islam would be a view too unfair to this third big Abrahamic religion. It would also underestimate America’s great potential to attract, and also transform, people of all faiths and races under a simple but rare principle — equal justice under the law. Shouldn’t some of those who call themselves “American nationalists” know this better than they seem to know these days?

Source: nytimes.com/2019/02/18/opinion/america-islam.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/mustafa-akyol/to-say-that-change-would-never-happen-in-islam-would-be-a-view-too-unfair-to-this-third-big-abrahamic-religion/d/117791


  • Naseer sb., 
    I try to understand the Quran as much as I can and if I find any verses in it which conflict with my vision of Allah, I say so.  I do not know if I am  a person imbued with wisdom and understanding or not. If you think you are, I hope you are right.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/1/2019 2:01:17 PM

  • Poor GM sb is reduced to firing away wildly in all directions because he has no answer to a very simple question.

    Have you grasped the Message (the complete Quran) and find it rational? If yes, then you are also a person imbued with wisdom and understanding. If no, then you are unwise and a man deficient in understanding. What are you GM Sb?

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/1/2019 3:40:56 AM

  • Poor Naseer sb.! He is reduced to arguing that only if you believe in amputating the limbs of thieves, lashing adulterers, wife beating and considering the religions of others as being unacceptable to God then only are you imbued with wisdom and understanding! I would much rather let Naseer sb. have such wisdom and understanding.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 2/28/2019 12:58:45 PM

  • Hats Off's intense belligerence towards progressive and moderate Muslims is understandable. They do not lend themselves as easy targets to the vitriolic attacks that the enemies of Islam like Hats Off are prone to launch. He must be feeling very frustrated.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 2/28/2019 12:50:02 PM

  • You have been challenged and rendered without an answer! Being a liar you pretend that you have answered when you have so far evaded answering. You have not answered my questions:

    Have you grasped the Message (the complete Quran) and find it rational? If yes, then you are also a person imbued with wisdom and understanding. If no, then you are unwise and a man deficient in understanding. What are you GM Sb?

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/27/2019 10:09:58 PM

  • jihadis are any time preferable to smooth talking snakes in the grass like this author.
    these guys mislead, obfuscate, pose as false friends and facilitate the work of murderous jihadis by recruiting sheeple from among the hordes of self-hating leftist liberals.

    By hats off! - 2/27/2019 5:39:34 PM

  • When Naseer sb. gets answers that he cannot respond to, he complains of being stalked! He should know that if he preaches regressive dark age sermons in 'New Age Islam', he will be challenged.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 2/27/2019 1:26:04 PM

  • GM sb cannot answer a simple question. He is stuck with his personal attack on me without any evidence to back it up. He is a cheap, third rate slanderer who has become to me what Abu Lahab was to the Prophet (pbuh). His sole purpose is to stalk me and say the opposite of whatever I say.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/26/2019 11:58:31 PM

  • I do think Naseer sb.is not one of those who has"grasped the Message"
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 2/26/2019 12:49:22 PM

  • You continue with your personal  attack GM sb while saying "he is not one of those who "grasp the Message". You are evidently the liar.
    You have not answered my questions:
    GM sb can now tell us about himself. Has he grasped the Message and finds it rational? If yes, then he is also a person imbued with wisdom and understanding. If no, then he is unwise and a man deficient in understanding. What are you GM Sb
    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/25/2019 11:10:06 PM

  • Naseer sb. has the cheek to accuse me of making personal attacks, while that is what he has been doing almost exclusively! He is a shameless liar. And he is not one of those who "grasp the Message", irrespective of whatever claims he may make!

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 2/25/2019 1:15:42 PM

  • GM sb  has such limited intellectual capacity that he does not understand the meaning of a generic sentence such as:

     "There is an Islam of the Quran which is perfectly rational for those who are imbued with understanding."

    The focus is not on any person but on those who find the Islam of the Quran to be irrational. They are the ones who are not imbued with understanding which is why they do not grasp its Message.

    Is GM sb such a person? He obviously is. If he also thought as I do, that the Islam of the Quran is rational, he would not have felt offended by the sentence but would have agreed with me.

    What I am certainly saying is that I consider the Islam of the Quran to be rational. Whether this is because I am myself a person imbued with understanding or because I have been taught well and I have learned well is not the focus of the sentence.

    However, since GM sb who is only interested in personal attacks wants to make me the focus of the discussion, let me give him a straight answer: The Quran says:

     (2:269) He granteth wisdom to whom He pleaseth; and he to whom wisdom is granted receiveth indeed a benefit overflowing; but none will grasp the Message but men of understanding.

     All those who grasp the Message are therefore men of understanding to whom Allah is pleased to grant wisdom. Only those who find the Quran rational have grasped the Message and not those who do not find it rational. 

    Vis-a vis a person who finds the Quran irrational, I am certainly a person to whom Allah has granted wisdom and understanding.
    GM sb can now tell us about himself. Has he grasped the Message and finds it rational? If yes, then he is also a person imbued with wisdom and understanding. If no, then he is unwise and a man deficient in understanding. What are you GM Sb?

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/25/2019 12:26:19 AM

  • Naseer sb. had said, "There is an Islam of the Quran which is perfectly rational for those who are imbued with understanding." Now he says he was not referring to himself. I too am convinced that he is not imbued with understanding.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 2/24/2019 12:26:22 PM

  • How GM sb lies! I have made a very generic statement which is a logical truism. I have not talked about myself. It is GM sb's unconscious self which thinks that I am wise and imbued with understanding which is causing him the heart-burn and therefore his conscious self is abusing me.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/23/2019 11:16:23 PM

  • Naseer sb. describes himself as being imbued with understanding! The understanding of an ultra-literalist village mullah!
    The same Book can produce saints and jingoists!

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 2/22/2019 12:38:07 PM

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