The Other Islam

It's increasingly the issue of our time: can Islam be reconciled to modernity, to a globalized world, dedicated to individual freedom and free markets? Most of the time, I tend to the gloomy view, especially when you see the variants of Islam who get the most press and wield the most influence. The content of the Koran, as well as its alleged origins as a direct message from God also make scholarship, and a reformation, much more problematic than for, say, Christianity. A reader nevertheless insists that there is another reformist current that we should neither ignore nor dismiss:

"Since the early 1900s there have been vigorous movements within Muslim and Arab countries to democratize; there have been activists, writers, thinkers, all of whom are unfortunately in eclipse today, but whose past influence and history make clear that there is another way, even in Islam. Here are two from Pakistan and India: from Pakistan, there was the Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan; a great profile of him ran in the Progressive Magazine. Or, read about Maulana Azad, one of the leaders of the Indian independence movement and still revered among Indian Muslims as their most significant national leader.

Want something closer to the Arab heartland? How about reading up on al-Nahda - the Arab Renaissance - with its reformers, intellectuals, and political developments, including the great Egyptian intellectual Taha Hussein and the Egyptian secularist Ali Abd al-Raziq. And here's an article about the debate in Egypt between secularism and Islamism."

Thanks for the info. I cannot vouch for all of it, as I am not an expert in this area. But more of us need to be. We should also be aware and more supportive of contemporary Muslim moderates who are speaking out. My reader recommends two more: columnists Ardeshir Cowasjee and Irfan Husain of the Pakistani paper Dawn. Then there's blogospheric moderate Muslims, Imam Zaid Shakir, and the group blog, Aqoul. One thing I've learned these past few years. We need to be a little less certain of what we know about the Muslim world, who is our enemy, who isn't. Winning this war requires subtlety, engagement, openness to the other's argument. As readers know, I have no patience for the extremists in Islam, and no doubt about their current ascendancy. But they are not all there is. And we need to do a better job of reaching out to and understanding the arguments of their internal opponents.