When liberal-minded Muslim scholars ‘did a Luther’ by nailing their call for change to the door of Washington’s Islamic Centre one of the first responses was a death threat. That’s the thing about a warlord’s creed: no hope of reforming what believers revere as Divine perfection
Near the end of 2015, thirteen leading (renegade) Muslims — six based in the US, five in Canada, one in the UK, and one in Denmark — signed and publicised a two-page Muslim Reform Movement (MRM) declaration of principles akin to a ‘charter’.[i] Several of their number (no doubt with Wittenberg and the year 1517 in mind) pinned a copy on the doors of the Islamic Centre in Washington, DC.
Earth shattering is not the way to describe the aftermath. Unlike Luther’s ninety-five theses, the MRM charter has not spread like wildfire. This is unsurprising.
For one side, it is nothing less than blasphemous, as I will explain. For the other, comprising Islam apologists, it opens the door to uncomfortable truth. To face up to this truth would be “Islamophobic” and therefore cannot be contemplated or debated in politically correct company. It is sufficient to know that Islam is already “the religion of peace” and, therefore, who knows what these renegade Muslim cranks might be on about?
Prominent among these cranks is Dr Zuhdi Jasser. He is one of the founders of the MRM. Jasser, of Syrian parentage, is an all-round good guy in my view. I have seen him often on US TV. I believe he is sincere. He is a physician and former officer in the US Navy. He is also a pitiable pipe-dreamer.
I don’t want to labour the point, so I will take just four statements from the charter and follow each of them with a discordant Koranic (Pickthall version) injunction. But, bear in mind that to your average imam, I imagine that the whole charter, every free-thinking word of it, looks like the works of Shaytan, the Evil One.
1. “We support the UN Declaration of Human Rights.”
Where to start? How about this:
So choose not friends from among them [disbelievers]…if they turn back to enmity [apostasy] then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend or helper from among them (4:89)
2. “We reject violent jihad.”
I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite their necks and smite of them each finger (8:12)
3. “We support equal rights for women, including equal rights to inheritance.”
Men are in charge of women…scourge [rebellious wives] (4:34). And call to witness, from among men, two witnesses. And if two men be not at hand then a man and two women (2:282). Allah chargeth you concerning the provision for your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females (4:11).
4. “We…consider all people equal…Every individual has the right to publicly express criticism of Islam”
Fight against those who have been given the scripture as believe not…until they pay the tribute [jizya] readily, being brought low [dhimmitude] (9:29)
Fine, you might say, but most Muslims do not live out their scripture. True enough. Should that quieten concern? No, it shouldn’t; not while potential rabble rousers, aka imams, muftis and the like are repositories of fundamentalism and can stoke religious passions at the drop of a hat. And this doesn’t just happen in predominantly Muslim countries. You might recall Muslims rioting in central Sydney in September, 2012, using the preposterous and puerile pretext of an obscure (US-made) YouTube movie on Mohammed.
Earlier this year Dr Jasser was interviewed for an article in The Federalist.[ii] He explained that the MRM had reached out to 3000 Mosques in the US (who knew there were so many) and to over 500 prominent Muslims. And how many replies did this outreach produce?
“We received only 40-plus rather dismissive responses from our outreach, and sadly less than ten of them were positive,” said Jasser. “In fact, one mosque in South Carolina left us a vicious voice mail threatening our staff if we contacted them again.” So, the positive hit rate was about 0.3%. It is safe to say that MRM’s charter has not been well received. Only pitiable pipe-dreamers would have expected otherwise.
Let’s get this straight before we all succumb to pipe dreams. It is not hard to find oddball Anglican clergy who doubt the Resurrection. Find an imam who will question the Koran? Now that really would be a find. Islam cannot be reformed. Islam is Islam, warts upon warts, and we better all start understanding that.
I have said this before and it is worth saying again. Give me a radical imam any day (and they are very easy to find). At least you know where you stand. Well inentioned as they are, people like Jasser and his twelve co-signers of the MRM charter are a menace. They lull many into a false sense of safety. They will never have a skerrick of influence inside their religion. They are heretics and blasphemers; and, indeed, well-meaning Muslim cranks to boot. They wouldn’t last two seconds in any self-respecting Islamic republic.
It is ridiculous to think you can have Islam without the bad bits. Mohammed was not a freethinker and neither is Allah. So when Jasser signs on to his secular charter and, at the same time, says he loves his religion (as he has stated) I wonder what religion he is talking about. It is certainly not Islam. Whatever it is, it is a pure distraction from a fourteen-century long problem, which shows no signs of abating. In fact, it may well get a lot worse.
Give me a child for the first seven years and I’ll give you the man, so the Jesuits claim, or did. Pew Research has just projected that the world’s Muslim population will rise from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion by 2050.[iii] Do the maths, that’s a lot of Muslim children to be born and live out their formative years during this period. To the extent that those wielding unreformable Islamic texts and tenets inform the upbringing of those children; it is, to put it mildly, a worry.