Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mustafa Akyol: Islamism Alienating Muslims

Liberal reformist Muslim leader Mustafa Akyol, commenting in an NYT column  ("Islamism is driving Muslims to convert," March 26, 2018), has noticed that Islamists are inadvertently driving Muslims out of Islam, and he offers for our consideration the case of Iran:
The antigovernment protests that erupted in Iran in the last days of 2017 showed that millions of Iranians are now disillusioned with the Islamic Republic. Moreover, there are signs that quite a few Iranians are now also disenchanted with Islam itself. Often silently and secretly, they are abandoning their faith. Some opt for other faiths, often Christianity.
This is happening not only in Iran, as Akyol points out:
This trend is certainly not limited to Iran. Authoritarianism, violence, bigotry and patriarchy in the name of Islam are alienating people in almost every Muslim-majority nation.
And it is happening nor only at the state level, but also at the communal, even family level:
Authoritarianism at the communal level is also similarly self-defeating, as observed by Simon Cottee, a British scholar who interviewed dozens of ex-Muslims for his book, "The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam." The process of abandoning Islam accelerated in most cases . . . when young Muslims who had begun questioning religion faced rigid reactions from their families. "The narrow-mindedness they encountered, especially on privately airing doubts to those they trusted . . . just served to intensify their doubts."
Why is contemporary Islam so problematic? Look to Islam's past:
The core problem is that traditional Islamic jurisprudence, and the religious culture it produced, were formed when society was patriarchal, hierarchical and communitarian. Liberal values like free speech, open debate and individual freedom were much more limited. Hence Muslim jurists saw no problem in "protecting the religion" by executing apostates and blasphemers, and by enforcing religious observance. Some of them, like Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, whose ninth-century teachings were a precursor of modern-day Wahhabism - also championed blind faith, a notion of believing "without asking how."
This sort of Islam cannot long endure in the age of modernity:
Modern society, however, is a very different place. People are more individualistic and questioning, and have much more access to diverse views [of which Islamists keep themselves intentionally ignorant] . . . . Questions cannot be answered by platitudes, and ideas cannot be shut down by crude dictates. And those [Islamists] who insist in doing so will only push more people away from the faith . . . [that Islamists] claim to serve.
Akyol warns that continued Islamist domination of Islam will lead to mass secularization. If he's correct, then Islamism faces a dilemma: give up on political power and lose out to liberal Islam or press harder for political control and lose out to a non-Islamic future.

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