Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The key to reform...from the inside out

I've always felt that key to reforming Islam is it had to come from Muslims inside Islam rather than from outsiders pushing change. The most moderate of Islamic nations in the Middle East, Turkey, has commissioned some revisions of Islamic texts.

While the Quran is off-limits, the Haditha, a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad, are being scrutinized and modernized to fit into a 21st century world. It was all done by scholars at Ankara University's School of Theology.

Some things that they are looking at are:
  • the use of the Haditha to justify female genital mutiliation.
  • women traveling alone
  • honor killings
  • rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones.
I can't say enough how important this is. I have no illusions that many in the Muslim world will discount or totally reject this effort. Osama Bin Laden won't suddenly come to see that his view of the Quran is outdated and wrong. But with a huge number of people in the Arab world turning to religion as both nationalism and socialism has failed them, it is vital that both sides of the discussion are represented.

Modernist Muslims cannot cede the theological and political debate about Islam to the radical conservatives any more than Democrats should cede the discussion of Christianity in American politics to Republicans.