Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Islam

Via The Daily Dish, a post from Irshad Manji:

Here’s news of a superstar Iranian scholar — and devout Muslim — who’s shaking the core of Islam as we know it. Abdulkarim Soroush argues that the Qur’an could have been authored by the Prophet Muhammad, not by God.

Like the Muslim Summit which signals a shift in our relations with the Muslim World, I again warn against taking this a little too enthusiastically for two reasons.

1) This is going to create a sectarian split. I'm not saying that because of anything against Muslims--this is the sort of theological split that caused divisions in Europe, and which continues to split churches (see: Episcopalian/Anglicans and homosexuals or Southern Baptists). People will decide for themselves: do I agree with this view, or do I not? There are plenty of people all over the world who already believe that the Qu'ran is a human document, but in terms of Muslim institutions, I think it's fairly rare. Suppose in Iraq, certain mosques and groups form around this idea of a humanist Islam (one in which the truth is not absolutely known, and must be sought out and discovered). And others believe that this is heresy. In a country like Turkey that might not cause violence; in a country like Iraq where people routinely kill each other over beliefs, it might foment more violence before it creates more peace.

2) The United States will want to support this line of thinking, because it is a distinctly anti-extremist strain. It gives moderate Muslims one rhetorical strategy to fight extremism. And the United States' goal is to fight extremism. But if these sects square off, it would be dangerous to side too closely with anyone, at risk of alienating others. After all, some Muslims may believe that the Qu'ran is the revealed word of God and because of that are moderate--I remember reading the injunction to respect all of the people's of the book, be they Christian, Jew, or Sabian. I'm fully aware that the Qu'ran also cuts the other way on the issue.

I'm not saying don't hope. I'm just saying we need to have two eyes: one for the opportunities and the other for the traps along the way. We need to be careful how we take advantage of this sort of strain in Muslim thinking to minimize the blowback.

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