I’m often banging on that the philosophy of Islam is dangerous, damaging and an opponent of all the freedoms that have been bought for us in the West at very high cost by many generations.
However, although much of the Islamic world and wider Islamic culture is quite often a ‘civilisation fail’ I recognise, as should any reasonable person, that there are those in the Islamic community who have the potential to be the equivalent of a Spinoza or a Luther for their community.
There are two examples of this possible Islamic Enlightenment thinking that I’ll bring to you today.
The first is a group called British Muslims for a Secular Democracy. This group says it opposes radicalism and works towards reducing the disconnect between Muslim Britons and the culture of secularism and secular democracy. They also do seem to be at least trying to see those of other religions as equal of respect, something which has been missing from much of Islamic history. Yes, they have a naïve element of ‘if only we explain ourselves then people won’t hate us’ about them but at least they are trying. I’m not sure that I agree with their idea that the state should be totally secular (I’m a bit of an antidisestablishmentarianist and feel that the presence of the established Church acts as a channel between the secular and religious parts of society) but their view is one that is probably shared by groups such as the National Secular Society or other groups seeking disestablishment.
The second is a man who I hope has some beefy security surrounding him despite his touching trust in the British Police. In a world where Islamic discourse about the State of Israel mostly consists of mobs of bearded head-cases shouting ‘kill the Jews’, it is more than refreshing to hear of a Muslim speaking up FOR Israel. Hasan Afzal, of the group British Muslims for Israel, has observed the success of democratic open societies like Israel and has told Muslims to ask the question: ‘How would you like to be governed, by a democracy like Israel possess or like the dictatorships and theocracies that stain much of the Islamic world.
Some would say that the main problem that Islamic reformers have is the base material, ie the Qu’ran, isn’t exactly promising and also contains not just historical records of violence, as the Bible does, but has current exhortations to violence against Non Muslims. It would be good if these Islamic reformers could find a theological way to either ‘file away’ these verses of aggression and violence, or reinterpret them, or view them as a historic and textual curiosities. Christians and Jews have done this to varying degrees depending on sect, which shows that it could be possible for Islam to do this in the future. After all, I don’t know of any community of contemporary Christians or Jews who go in for stoning of adulterers despite that being a biblical punishment.
British Muslims for a Secular Democracy
Video of Hasan Afzal of British Muslims for Israel. Sorry I haven’t translated the intro of the video into English but my Ivrit is virtually non-existent.
Facebook page for Muslims United for Israel
Ray Cook, Zionist writer praises Hasan Afzal and says he should be considered one of ‘the righteous among the nations’
Wiki entry on the philosopher Baruch Spinoza
Wiki entry on the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther