In an interesting and presumably comforting article recently posted on this site, titled Muslim Activism Done Right, Michael Volpe draws our attention to a new Canadian advocacy group, Progressive Muslims Institute Canada (PMIC). Anti-extremist, amenable to secular values and politically communal, PMIC seeks to counter the theological summons to jihad and the spirit of antisemitic hatred embraced by its majoritarian co-religionists, and to establish friendly working relations with the Jewish community. Volpe understands this new project as a welcoming sign and harbinger of the future, suggesting the hope for a gradual reconciliation between heretofore antagonistic groups and the restoration of both sanity and the desire for social peace within the Muslim collective.
According to the Director General of the PMIC, Tahir Gora, the Institute “strongly denounces all forms of extremism and terrorism in the name of Islam” and promotes “gender equality…liberal, progressive and secular values among Muslims, and believes in a clear separation between religion and state.” Jewish organizations like the The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), whose concern with interfaith outreach trumps Jewish security, and B’nai B’rith have enthusiastically applauded such initiatives. And of course, developments like PMIC are a far sight better than jihadist savagery and orthodox adherence to the basic Islamic texts.
But there is a real problem here that Volpe’s article refuses to acknowledge. What these “moderates” or enlightened Muslims are proposing, however laudable, has little to do with mainstream Islam, whose fundamental scriptures cannot be rewritten on pain of apostasy and execution. Any scrupulous reading of the Koran and the attendant canonical and jurisprudential literature should make it amply clear that injunctions to slaughter, conquest, oppression and domination are inscribed in the faith. No attempt at what is euphemistically called “re-interpretation” or “contextualizing” can be expected to gain even modest traction in the larger Muslim world.
Efforts like those advanced by PMIC are doomed to fail. They cling precariously to a comparatively few benign tropes in the earlier, Meccan portion of the Koran, which are in any case subject to the principle of abrogation (Nasikh/Mansukh) and replacement by the later, more ruthless and bloodthirsty passages in the Medinian Koran. The “activists” are incubating an entirely new religion, an ostensible form of Islam that is no longer Islam but something closer to, perhaps, the inoffensiveness of Bahá’i, which is vaguely related to Shi’a Islam but essentially independent of it and condemned by both Sunni and Shi’a as haraam (sinful, unclean, forbidden).
Scrub the propulsion toward imperial ferocity from the bedrock tenets of Islam, separate mosque from state, eliminate the doctrine of violent jihad and advocate for gender equality, and what you come up with is a fantasy exercise, that is, an Islam divorced from its historical and present reality. It would comprise a body of doctrine completely alien to the rules, beliefs, usages and commands associated with the legacy of Mohammed. Contrary to the pious and uninformed sentiments of the liberal intelligentsia, Islam is not a religion of peace. As Charlie Daniels writing for CSN News asks, …read more