Internet driven Islamic Reformation?

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Islam has never had a reformation but historian Tom Holland and theologian Theo Hobson make the claim that this is happening now. It’s being driven partly by the behaviour of ISIS but made possible by IT technology and the internet. This is an edited synopsis of a report about the latest claim.

I’m a believer in the “redemption of the house of Islam” and so I’m open to the increasing indications that history may yet deliver this. Academics Holland & Hobson have spoken at a debate organised by the charity Islamic Education and Research Academy (iREA). Both scholars agree that the Islamic world is entering a period of ‘internal reflection’, sparked by the internet.

The internet has played a similar role in the reform of Islam, as the printing press did in the Christian Reformation. This is because, while may be computer savvy, it also allows ‘ordinary Muslims’ to study Islamic texts rather than rely on remote authorities. They are now able to make up their own mind.

The very fact that Muslims are debating Islamic reformation proves the process is underway; but Islam needs to clarify whether it believes in the theocratic model, which combines religion and politics, or whether it can also affirm other points of view as valid.

European Muslims have already been affected by western values and thought patterns, which are seeping into Euro-Islam. This prompts Muslims in Europe to ask searching questions about Islam’s relationship to the state and to “foreign” Islamic authorities.

Islam is both religion & politics

The attacks in Belgium pose the question – “Is an Islamic reformation a “political” or a “theological” question?  Dr.Taj Hargey, Chairman of the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford and founder of a gay and women-friendly mosque in South Africa, says: ‘The problem is clearly theology.’ The sayings of Mohammed (hadiths) are used to drive Islamic law. Dr. Hargey claims it is this that’s damages modern Islam because these collections came centuries after Muhammed and so foster faulty interpretations of the original message of the Qur’an.

Hargey cites the integration of Islam into Indonesia from the 13th Century as a good model of Islamic adaptation into local culture rather than an obliterator of it. The earliest mosques in Indonesia looked like Hindu temples, Muslims married local women and became integrated into indigenous Indonesian society.

Comparing such active engagement with British Muslims today, Hargey is pessimistic, saying: ‘We’ve come to Britain with our baggage and need to become British Muslims’.

To achieve a reformation, Hargey believes British Muslims need to cut the umbilical cord that seeks to tie them to Saudi-Arabian Wahhabi or Salafi theology of extremism and unify around notions of a British Islam that is open; liberal; inclusive and pluralistic.

 Traditional Muslim voices

The party-line comes from Zara Faris of the Muslim Debate Initiative (funded by Saudi sources). She insists: ‘The Muslim world is in need of revival [i.e. of the status quo], not reformation.  I’m not interested in a British version of Islam’.

Faris disputes the need for Muslims to buy into British culture, just because they happen to live in Britain. She also warns against the idea of a ‘British Islam’ seeing that as something that’s imposed, by Anglo-Saxon politicians.

Another mainstream Muslim voice is Abdullah Al Andalusi, co-founder of the MDI who was  reportedly sacked from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) for defending extreme ideas ontelevision. He said: ‘The Muslim world has a very big problem but it’s not Islam that needs to reform but Muslims.’

But who can reform themselves? If ‘the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart’, then I know of no one – except Jesus – who is in the business of transforming the human heart.

Source: Lapido Media

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