It’s time to reform Islam, a lot of people are pointing out. (The other big religions could do with some reforming too, while you’re at it – though Islam’s need is obviously fairly urgent.)

Tariq Panja thinks UK mosques should do better.

The trouble for many young Muslims in Britain comes from the one-dimensional nature of Islamic instruction given in most mosques. Islamic consciousness comes from visits to the mosque and by going to madrassas to learn to read the Koran in Arabic. For many, though they can read the language, it is incomprehensible. Then there are the sermons delivered at Friday prayers, which are read in the language of the founders of the mosque. So in Beeston they are delivered in Urdu. The content rarely considers the lives of the scores of young men in the mosque. The result is a little like creating religious automatons, who go through the motions but have no concept of why they do what they are doing.

So ‘Islamic consciousness’ in that situation must be pretty empty of content.

Islam is a way of life. So in the home, parents – many of whom lack the education to explain to their children how to come to terms with their dual identities – simply demand that their children do certain things. Indeed, it feels as though there is a competition between parents to get their children to finish reading the Koran first. At a party, parents will say: ‘He’s only six; he’s finished the Koran’. So what? What has the child understood?

What have madrassa students who learn the Koran (in a language most of them don’t understand) and nothing else understood? Not much, it seems safe to say. Since they haven’t had an opportunity to learn or understand much, they probably don’t.

Boris Johnson is blunt.

That means disposing of the first taboo, and accepting that the problem is Islam. Islam is the problem…Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers. As the killer of Theo Van Gogh told his victim’s mother this week in a Dutch courtroom, he could not care for her, could not sympathise, because she was not a Muslim. The trouble with this disgusting arrogance and condescension is that it is widely supported in Koranic texts, and we look in vain for the enlightened Islamic teachers and preachers who will begin the process of reform. What is going on in these mosques and madrasas? When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s mediaeval ass?

Well, now; that’s when. Some people are indeed doing their best. Homa Arjomand, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Irshad Manji will all be speaking at a no sharia conference in Toronto in August. If people (and especially newspapers like the Guardian and broadcasters like the BBC) would pay a lot more attention to them and a lot less to Tariq Ali and Dilpazier Aslam…maybe reform would start to take hold.

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