Islam doesn’t need a Reformation, it needs to reform

Islam is internally resistant to reform. Misleading polemics don’t help.

Mehdi Hasan is a presenter for Al Jazeera and wrote this piece for The Guardian. If that gets your bullshit detectors twitching, it should. In this curious article, Hasan actually says a lot of interesting things. Unfortunately, in doing so he also subtly deflects attention from the real issue: the desperate need for Islam to change.

Islam doesn?t need a Reformation, but it does need to be reformed. The question is, whether it even can be. These are all issues Hasan skillfully avoids, as he plays his clever rhetorical pea-and-shells game. Quote:

Cliched calls for reform of Islam, a 1,400-year-old faith, have intensified. ?We need a Muslim reformation,? announced Newsweek??conservative journalists have been as eager as liberal academics to search for Muslim Luthers???After all, Christianity had the Reformation, so goes the argument, which was followed by the Enlightenment; by secularism, liberalism and modern European democracy. End of quote.

As Hasan rightly goes on to point out, this is a badly flawed analogy.

Islam and Christianity are utterly dissimilar, in almost every respect. The argument also not only fails to make a causal-historical link between the Reformation and Enlightenment, but it also ignores exactly what the Reformation was: a violent conservative religious movement which unleashed carnage in Europe.

Does that ring any bells regarding Islam? Quote:

The truth is that Islam has already had its own reformation of sorts, in the sense of a stripping of cultural accretions and a process of supposed ?purification?. And it didn?t produce a tolerant, pluralistic, multifaith utopia, a Scandinavia-on-the-Euphrates. Instead, it produced ? the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab?offered an austere Islam cleansed of what he believed to be innovations?Some might argue that if anyone deserves the title of a Muslim Luther, it is Ibn Abdul Wahhab who, in the eyes of his critics, combined Luther?s puritanism with the German monk?s antipathy towards the Jews. End of quote.

Exactly. If you want an Islamic Reformation: you?re in it. Salafism is as close to the Reformation as Islam is going to get. Complete with its violent intolerance.

Unfortunately, Hasan?s motive in correctly identifying the mistaken analogy of ?Islamic Reformation? appears to be more about undermining critics of Islam like Ayaan Hirsi Ali as ?shallow and simplistic?ahistorical and even anti-historical?, than engaging in honest debate. Having shown his gullible Guardian readership the pea, Hasan quickly shuffles the shells. Quote:

Reforms are of course needed across the crisis-ridden Muslim-majority world: political, socio-economic and, yes, religious too. Muslims need to rediscover their own heritage of pluralism, tolerance and mutual respect ? embodied in, say, the Prophet?s letter to the monks of St Catherine?s monastery, or the ?convivencia? (or co-existence) of medieval Muslim Spain. End of quote.

That?s all he has to offer in contrast. Two sentences of jejune platitudes, leavened with a heaping dollop of taqiyya. That?s not to say that Hasan is lying: he?s just shuffling the shells madly, hoping that the gawping rubes don?t notice.

Hasan?s claims to an alleged Islamic ?heritage of pluralism, tolerance and mutual respect? is sorely undermined by the evidence of history. Islam was from the first a religion of bloody conquest, which offered three choices: conversion, death or dhimmitude. Islamophile apologists try to paint dhimmitude as some kind of huggy-bunny benign occupation: the reality is a shockingly brutal form of repression that makes the Jim Crow South look like a paradise of tolerance.

Hasan?s counter-examples to Islam?s savage history are as dubious as they are exceptional. The Ashtiname, the alleged covenant with the monks of St Catherine?s is riddled with anomalies that lend weight to the suspicion that it is a forgery. The so-called ?convivencia? is, as Mark Durie writes, a ?myth? with ?no foundation in history?.

While rightly pointing out that Islam and Christianity are utterly different, Hasan avoids the practical outcomes of that. Attempts to reform Islam founder on its resolutely uncompromising scripture. The Koran is perfect, eternal and unchangeable. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah: that is, Muhammad is the lived example of Allah?s will, providing an eternal model for Islamic conduct. There is no Islamic equivalent to such key Biblical texts as ?Render unto Caesar??

The uncompromising rigidity of Islam is shown by the persistence of brutal dhimmitude into modern times. Its duration was such that it was as if, as Mark Durie writes, the Norman conquerors of Britain ?required the Anglo-Saxons to line up once a year on every village green of England to pay war reparations and be ritually stabbed in the heart. Imagine too that this practice is still current today?[and] will continue in England more than four centuries hence,? and will only be stopped by foreign military intervention.

It is true that demands for an ?Islamic Reformation? are ill-informed and misguided. But it is also true that Islam desperately needs to change, if it is to coexist (as the catchy bumper stickers like to say) with the West, indeed with civilised norms of behaviour.

How it is to be done, indeed whether it is even possible, is an open question, and it?s not one that is ever going to be answered by misleading apologists who call ?kuffars? ?people of no intelligence?cattle?.