Anti-Terrorism Resources The Islamic Reformation? By Thomas J. Haidon This past year, as Islamist terrorism seemed to turn inward in Iraq and in Saudi Arabia, the phrase "Islamic reformation" has become a popular buzz word within the domestic and, to a lesser degree, the global Muslim community. The terrorist atrocities in Madrid and Beslan had a further positive effect on the re-emergence of a reformist discourse that has largely existed throughout pockets of Muslim history in smaller intellectual circles within Muslim communities to the wider Muslim audience. And while the events of September 11 undoubtedly set the initial stage for this discourse, the Islamist terrorist events of 2004, in their individual and collective capacity, have proven to be of an even greater significance to the reformist discussion. The savage and precise nature of these attacks has resulted in the increased non-Muslim scrutiny of Islam. On a small scale, Muslims are beginning to awaken to the fact that aspects of Islam, whether it be the exegesis of the Qur'an, the validity and application of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, or the Muslim tradition, have played a role in the troubles they face today (which include terrorism, relations with non-Muslims, Islam's relationship with the State, the role of women, and human rights in general). What does the genuine reformist discourse/movement entail? It is difficult to capture a confining definition, as there is much divergence even within reformist circles. However, there appears to be some agreement among actors that traditional Islam, including the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, is the primary source of the malaise. Several Muslim reformist organizations have used this as a platform, including the Free Muslim Coalition against Terrorism and the opaque Progressive Muslim Union of North America. There is also a small but growing voice within this discourse that genuinely believes that secularism is consistent with Islam. In fact, some Muslim commentators argue that Islam demands secularization. This is perhaps one of the most encouraging aspects of the movement. To date however, a comprehensive framework for the reformist agenda has not been established by the reformers their organizations, and this is a partial reason for the marginal effect of the discourse. Further compounding the situation is the presence of perceived moderates and reformers who have attempted to divide and destroy this discourse, including such individuals as Tariq Ramadan. These fake reformers and their representative organizations say one thing and mean another. Any genuine movement for Islamic reform must first seek to acknowledge that aspects particular to Islam and our understanding of Islam are problematic, and hence they need critical re-evaluation. And this is where it becomes easy to discern the real reformers from the fake ones. Real reformers go beyond blanket and general statements. Real reformers take it further to develop theologically based solutions. Now, these real reformists and their organizations must take further steps to eradicate disingenuine reformers from the ranks of their organizations. But really, how significant has this discourse been among the greater Muslim community? Not nearly as significant as it has to be. Perhaps the more important question is: how significant can the reformist discourse be? Can reform be realized? Both Muslims and non-Muslims are skeptical. Islamists themselves and many traditional an "middle of the road" Muslims (I am not trying to equate traditional Muslims with Islamists, because obviously many traditional Muslims are not Islamists) would assert that the entire body of Islam is immutable to change; because it is the essence of perfection: the undisputed word of God, and the comprehensive tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). Many Non-Muslim commentators and scholars who are critical of Islam express their skepticism that Islam cannot be reformed, due to the inviolability of its classical sources, and over fourteen hundred years of history and practice. These non-Muslim commentators are often maligned for merely confirming what Islamist and many traditional Muslims have confirmed innumerable times in tafsir, ta'wil, fatwa and other compendia. The contribution by Western Muslim organizations to this discourse has largely emerged in 2004. Again while the events of September 11, 2001 may have served as a partial catalyst, Muslim action was marginal and it was the inward turn of Islamist terrorism of 2004 that has made the discourse more "urgent" in some Muslim circles. Notable and genuine contributions to this discourse however, have been the emergence of the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism (FMCAT) and to a degree, the emergence of the Progressive Muslim Union, which is largely perceived as a "moderate" reformist organization (although analyst Daniel Pipes and others have provided a different and illuminating characterization), and some notable other organizations and institutes. Refusing to take a meaningful part in this discourse has been the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other mainstream organizations purporting to represent the collective interest of American and Western Muslims. But again, this movement has faced criticism from both Muslims and non-Muslims. As a member of such a "reformist" Muslim organization (FMCAT) and a firm believer that Islam is certainly capable of reform, I am acutely aware that many Muslims are unwilling to change their perspectives on Islam. A commonly held belief by many Muslims is that groups such as FMCAT do not intend to reach out to Muslims. In fact, these Muslims believe that groups like FMCAT exist to simply appease conservative white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who are becoming increasingly aware of Islam and Islamism.