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Friday, September 20, 2002

Bringing Mohammad to the Anglosphere- Steven den Beste is calling for a Islamic Reformation as part of his desire to see traditionalist Islam (I prefer “irredentist” as the proper modifier) go bye-bye.
Islam must go through its own version of the Reformation. That doesn't mean that Islam has to be destroyed; on the contrary. In many parts of the world it already has, in fact. Islam is a valuable part of the lives of millions of people who are not Arab Traditionalists. Because of the Reformation, in Europe and the US only a small number of Christians are biblical literalists. Most Christians treat the Bible as a source of wisdom and spiritual guidance which also contains parts which are harmful, false, wrong, irrelevant, or otherwise useless. By the same token, for many Muslims in the world much of what is in the Qur'an is helpful and valuable. But parts of the teachings of Islam are harmful, and those parts will have to be defeated. We know it's possible because the majority of the world's Muslims have already done so.
I think den Beste is misreading the Reformation here. The one-sentence synopsis of the Reformation was that Luther and company wanted to get rid of extrabiblical Catholic doctrine to get back to the original Gospel. It was the Enlightenment period that followed that led to modern liberal theology; the Reformation paid more attention to taking the Bible at face value, not less. If we are looking for a Islamic Reformation on the Christian model, such a movement would chuck the Sharia codes of the first millennia, which were interpretations of the Qur’an, and apply a 21st century hermeneutic to the Qur’an. Such a rethinking could be free of the traditionalism and anti-dynamic tendency of many pre-industrial cultures, thus freeing them from a lot of baggage that is slowing the Islamic world down. I'm not the greatest Islamic schollar, but it doesn't seen that you'd have to throw out the Qur’an to come to such a new paradigm. The Amish and Mennonites have the same basic theology, yet the Amish are tied to a pre-industrial paradigm based on a peculiar interpretation of the Bible. You don't need to turn an Amish person into a Unitarian in order for them to function in a modern society. Likewise, one doesn’t need to force an Islamic believer into throwing his Qur’an out the window in order to interact with the Anglosphere. The concept of Islam as a theocracy will need to be shelved, accepting that the government will be based on a more generic moral code that assumes individual liberty at its core. The Muslim is free to practice his faith as long as he doesn’t get in the way of someone else’s liberty. Assuming that the only alternative to the Wahhabi madrassa is secularism is a mistake that will create a lot of damage as we transition Islamic culture out of the first-millennial paradigm.

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