Enlightenment or Submission

Many people and groups have called (especially, for obvious reasons, recently) for the secularization of Islamic societies, for reform of Islam and Koranic laws, and for less attention and publicity for fundamentalist groups and putative ‘leaders’ and ‘representatives’ like the Muslim Council of Britain, and more for secular and rationalist groups and individuals.

Salman Rushdie for example:

However, this is the same [Iqbal] Sacranie who, in 1989, said that “Death is perhaps too easy” for the author of “The Satanic Verses.” Tony Blair’s decision to knight him and treat him as the acceptable face of “moderate,” “traditional” Islam is either a sign of his government’s penchant for religious appeasement or a demonstration of how limited Blair’s options really are…The Sacranie case illustrates the weakness of the Blair government’s strategy of relying on traditional, essentially orthodox Muslims to help eradicate Islamist radicalism. Traditional Islam is a broad church that certainly includes millions of tolerant, civilized men and women but also encompasses many whose views on women’s rights are antediluvian, who think of homosexuality as ungodly, who have little time for real freedom of expression, who routinely express anti-Semitic views…What is needed is a move beyond tradition — nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air.

Irshad Manji for another, in May 2005:

A Muslim woman author, once described as Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare, is to call for the setting up of an Islamic reform movement to press for a change in the faith’s attitudes towards human rights, women and pluralist societies at a public meeting this week. Irshad Manji, a Canadian-based writer and broadcaster, is to launch her campaign for Ijtihad (independent thinking) with a claim for Islamic pluralism and the aim of setting up a foundation for young, reform-minded Muslims to explore and challenge their faith. “No community, no ethnicity, no culture and no religion ought to be immune from respecting the universality of human rights,” she said. “This, of course, is a controversial message in an age of cultural relativism. I truly believe we can become pluralists without becoming relativists. Through our screaming self-pity and conspicuous silences, we Muslims are conspiring against ourselves. We’re in crisis and we are dragging the rest of the world with us. If ever there was a moment for an Islamic reformation, it is now.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali for another:

Islam as compiled in the Qur’an and Hadith could be viewed as static. The way Muslims believe or practice their religion is dynamic. The individual Muslim can choose to change. As humans they are endowed with reason and, if free, Muslims can, as Christians and Jews have done in the past and still do, progress by means of critical self-reflection.

There is an Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society:

We share the ideals of a democratic society, and a secular state that does not endorse any religion, religious institution, or any religious dogma. The basis for its authority is in man-made law, not in religious doctrine or in divine revelation. In a theocracy of the type that Islamic fundamentalists wish to establish, sovereignty belongs to god, but in a democracy sovereignty belongs to the people. We therefore favor the firm separation of religion and state: without such a separation there can be no freedom from tyranny, and such a separation is the sine qua non for a secular state…We endorse the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights without qualification. We are particularly concerned to promote and protect the rights of women and those with minority beliefs: all should be equal before the law.

Maryam Namazie, an Iranian exile who was imprisoned in Iran, speaks tirelessly for reform:

The urgent question we must all ask ourselves is how can we defend secularism, universalism and values worthy of 21st century humanity? I believe it is only via another transformative enlightenment by this century’s avant-gardes. We must give no more concessions to religion, superstition and cultural relativism; we must no longer respect and tolerate inhuman ideals, values and practices. An uncompromising and shamelessly aggressive demand for secularism is only a minimum, though, if we are to ensure that women’s rights are safeguarded and that the human being is put first and foremost. Today, more than ever, we are in need of the de-religionisation of society.

That’s just a small sample. B&W has a large collection of articles and links on the subject, so it’s time to collect them in one place.

Internal Resources

Homa Arjomand on Sharia Law and the Globalization of Political Islam

Political Islam in the heart of secular Europe.
Time for another transformative enlightenment.

Islam, Political Islam and Women in the Middle East

The conflict between minority and collective rights versus individual rights

Political Islam v Secularism.
Azar Majedi says Islamism is best understood as political rather than fundamentalist

Azar Majedi condemns the murder of Theo van Gogh

Maryam Namazie points out that defending secularism has nothing to do with racism

Maryam Namazie on The Politics Behind Cultural Relativism

Azam Kamguian on why Sharia should be opposed by everyone who believes in human rights.

Azam Kamguian on what the hijab does to young girls

Ibn Warraq takes Edward Said to task for a one-eyed view of the relationship between the Arab and Western worlds

External Resources

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