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A call for Islamic Protestantism – a story worth watching

Good news: it wasn’t merely some US policy wonk/adviser/pundit doing the calling, it was a Muslim. Bad news: it got him a death sentence. Good news: this death sentence has been and continues to be big news.

I know I’m following tracks trod by many, many others. Nevertheless I here add my little vocal chords to the chorus of support for thoughts along these lines, and of complaint that the man has been sentenced to death for voicing them.

I’ll spare you any further profound thoughts from me about Islam, exact nature of, menace of, blah blah blah, except to say that it seems to me a particular moral duty that those, like me, who have complained about such things as the “inherently beligerent” nature of Islam should note at least some evidence to suggest another interpretation of Islam’s nature, at least potentially, as and when it crops up.

So here’s a quote from the man himself, Hashem Aghajari, from his already much quoted speech of June 2002 that got him into all the trouble:

The Islam of today is different. It is very clear that we have a different understanding of it in all areas, including economics. It has to suit the thoughts and realities of today. Just as people at the dawn of Islam conversed with the Prophet, we have the right to do this today. Just as they interpreted what was conveyed [to them] at historical junctures, we must do the same. We cannot say: ‘Because this is the past we must accept it without question.’ This is putting too much emphasis on the past. This is not logical.

For years, young people were afraid to open a Koran. They said, ‘We must go ask the Mullahs what the Koran says,’ [since] it was used primarily in mosques and cemeteries. The new generation was not allowed to come near the Koran; [young people] were told that [first] they needed [training in] 101 methods of thought and they did not possess them. Consequently, [the young people] feared reading the Koran.

Then came Shariati, and he told the young people that these ideas were bankrupt; [he said] you could understand the Koran using your own methods – you could understand as well as the religious leaders who claim to have a ton of knowledge. The religious leaders taught that if you understand the Koran on your own, you have committed a crime. They feared that their racket would cease to exist if young people learned [Koran] on their own.

Ignoramus that I am, I have no idea who “Shariati” is (comment please).

Follow the link above, and you also find Thomas Friedman in a New York Times article (“A story worth watching”), reproduced by The Iranian, saying this:

What’s going on in Iran today is, without question, the most promising trend in the Muslim world. It is a combination of Martin Luther and Tiananmen Square – a drive for an Islamic reformation combined with a spontaneous student-led democracy movement.

And there are plenty of other enticing links. Follow. Copy. Paste. Comment. When the words “Hashem Aghajari” are typed into a search engine, let the hit number just keep on rising and rising.

I got this far by going to IndyMedia from (who else?) Instapundit, who has long been saying, for example here and then a few days later here, that all public Muslim moves in the right direction deserve the blogosphere’s support. Indeed.

6 comments to A call for Islamic Protestantism – a story worth watching

  • Hmm. The modern world we live in, and its liberalisms, pluralisms etc may be the consequence of the Protestant reformation. But the short-term consequences of the ordinary ploughman reading the bible in the vernacular and breaking the Church’s monopoly on interpretation were the Thirty Years War (1/3 of the German population dead) and sundry massacres and persecutions (not to speak of the destruction of innumerable artworks). And who’s who in the Islamic re-run of the Protestant reformation anyway? Don’t the Wahabbis or the Taliban have a good claim to the ultra-Protestant mantle?

  • Atlantic

    Jonah Goldberg has a great article why Islam needs a Pope:


  • Robert

    As Chris writes, the Reformation period was marked by warfare of a kind not seen previously in the West, however, these wars were not merely religious in nature. The Reformation was contemporaneous with the rise of the nation state as the dominant political system. That these conflicts defined, for the most part, the individual European nations along religious lines cannot be denied, but the Princes fought for personnel aggrandizement and used the religious element as a tool for the recruitment of armies.
    As to the Wahhabists and Taliban being “ultra-protestant”, it is like saying the inquisition was “ultra-reformist.”

  • Just read the Goldberg article: I’d endorse that recommendation.

  • It could be argued the Wahabbism *is* Islamic protestantism – it’s the equivalant of Calvinist puritanism.

    I hope and pray the Islamic world can reform itself without going through something as destructive as the Thirty Years war.

    I suspect we’re seeing the beginnings of that now, and the attacks on the west are ‘collaral damage’ in what’s really a civil war within Islam.

  • Ali Shariati was considered one of the intellectual godfathers of the concept of an Islamic Republic, and helped reintroduce Islamic principles in seeking to explain various sociological problems. You can find more information about him here.