Will Islamic Reformation Ever Come?
by Ali Eteraz
I was recently asked whether the Islamic reformation will ever come.
The answer is that the roots of Islamic reform — dissent, criticism and re-evaluation of the orthodoxy — have been going on for a long time. In fact, the Islamic equivalent of the protestant reformation has already happened, and the results haven’t been pretty (as was the case with the actual Protestant reformation). While there has been some attempt by Muslim clerics to reassert their control by way of an Islamic counter-reformation, it is a case of too little too late. Instead, Islam finds itself moving beyond an Islamic enlightenment, characterized by high levels of individualism and characterized by a rejection of traditional authority structures. This individualist push could have been beneficial but for the twin evils of colonialism and rise of political Islam. The Islamists of the 20th century found the Muslim world hankering for direction and utilized a number of propagandist and geopolitical tricks to take control, all of which now requires a counter-movement to create a Muslim “left” which is anti-theocratic and pro-liberty (think of the former Muslim Brotherhood member in Kuwait on his TV show yelling at the pro-apostasy audience: “This is not liberty!”). This “limited leftism” can be described as a sort of Muslim secularism, as it tries to posit religious arguments for separating mosque and state. Once political parties around the Muslim world start adopting its basic premises — that the best way to solve human problems is through politics and not religion (which solves the problem of the after-life) — it will create a “post-Islamist” push (one that has already started). Only if, and when, this post-islamist push is successful will genuinely secular groups in the Muslim world start to raise their heads (although some will say that this correlation does not exist).
It should be clarified that this discussion is limited to “Islamic reform” i.e. Islam centric ways of creating equality and freedom in the Muslim majority world. If you want to discuss the presence of truly secular, entirely non-theistic ways, of creating equality and freedom in the Muslim world (Marxism, anarchism, socialism, atheism), that is an entirely different discussion, and shouldn’t be confused with Islamic reform.
Please visit Ali Eteraz’ site at http://eteraz.wordpress.com/