Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by 2cents, Jun 13, 2007.

  1. http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr125.html
    August 2004 | Special Report No. 125

    Ijtihad: Reinterpreting Islamic Principles for the Twenty-first Century
    David Smock

    Download full PDF report

    Many Muslims believe that they must choose between Islam and modernity or between Islam and democracy, but these are false choices. To reinterpret Islam for the twenty-first century, the practice of ijtihad (interpretation and reasoning based on the sacred texts) must be revived.
    Religious scholars effectively terminated the practice of ijtihad five hundred years ago. But the principles of interpretation are well established and the need for contemporary interpretation is compelling.
    New interpretations of the texts are particularly important in relation to the status of women, relations between Sunnis and Shiites, relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, the role of Muslims in non-Muslim societies, and Islamic economic theories.
    Most scholars would limit the practice of ijtihad to specialists who have not only knowledge of the Qur'an and the hadiths but also broad familiarity with a wide range of modern scholarship in Arabic grammar, logic, philosophy, economics, and sociology.
    Other scholars assert that interpretation of the texts should not be confined to legal scholars but should be open to those with creative imagination.
    Restrictions on the contemporary practice of ijtihad are imposed both by religious establishments and by repressive governments in Muslim countries. Democracy and freedom of inquiry and expression are essential to the practice of ijtihad and to the successful reconciliation of Islam and modernity. Reform of Muslim educational systems is also essential.
    Muslim scholars and leaders in the United States and other Western societies have particular opportunities as well as a responsibility to lead a revival of ijtihad. Muslim scholars in the West have the freedom to think creatively while still being faithful to the texts, and their new interpretations could stimulate new thinking among the more traditional religious establishments in Muslim countries.


    ... continued http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr125.html
  2. http://www.muslim-refusenik.com/news/wall_street_journal_June_4_07.html


    Muslim Melting Pot
    Once again, America beats Europe on assimilation.

    Monday, June 4, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

    Against the backdrop of civil war, Abraham Lincoln stirred Americans by appealing to their "better angels." Now some of those angels appear in an unprecedented study about Muslims in the United States--and they may show us how to prevent civil war in Europe.

    "Muslim Americans," released by the Pew Research Center, contains moments of bad news. For example, one in four respondents under the age of 30 accepts suicide bombing. As a reformed-minded Muslim, I say that honoring any religion of peace through violence is like preserving virginity through pre-marital sex. Think about it.

    But the Pew report offers a lot more good news. Political Islam has not caught on in America as it has in Europe because most Muslims in the U.S. are--dare it be said--treated with dignity.

    The vast majority of those surveyed like their communities and describe their lives as "pretty happy" or "very happy." Which means lobbyists do not speak for Muslim Americans when they cry that the U.S. hates Islam.

    In Berlin recently, an audience buzzed nervously when I suggested that Europe can learn from America about integrating Muslims. Afterwards, several people confided to me that they know the U.S. is getting something right. What is that something? As I engage with young Muslims on both sides of the Atlantic, I see three factors: economics, diversity and faith.
    • For plenty of Muslims in the United States, ambition and initiative pay off. The Pew survey reinforces this lesson, telling us that 71% of Muslim Americans believe most people in the U.S. "can make it if they are willing to work hard."

    Meanwhile, in Europe, young Muslims face blatant discrimination in employment, educational and social opportunities, even when they are citizens. Many subsist on welfare, which only gives them time to stew and surf the Web for preachers who spew a rigid identity. This is the path that led Mohammed Bouyeri to murder Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

    • In much of America, diversity is a reason to intermingle. The Pew study reveals that most Muslims are close friends with non-Muslims.

    In much of Europe, diversity has become an excuse to self-segregate. Many of Europe's mosques, and the Muslims who attend them, refuse to communicate in the language of their new surroundings. As a result, young Muslim men drift away from moderate religious authorities and fall for online opportunists. That is how Mohammad Sidique Khan, mastermind of the London transit bombers, fell under the sway of "Sheikh Google," the collective nickname for Islamist Web sites.

    • To Americans, it is not the fact of having faith that invites scrutiny, but what one is perceived to be doing with that faith. Western Europeans, still steeped in a backlash against the Catholic Church, often show suspicion or outright contempt to people of faith. Such "secular fundamentalism" leads some Muslims to believe that they will never be accepted by their adopted countries. So why integrate?

    Small wonder that young Muslims in Western Europe whisper to me, "I wish I lived in the United States." The honesty doesn't end there. Muslim men, in their twenties, have complained to me that in an effort to appear sensitive, Europeans downplay shared values. This confuses many Muslim youth and creates a vacuum that radical clerics can exploit.

    Translation: A common aspiration such as the American Dream is crucial to giving Muslims a sense of belonging to something larger and more dynamic than cultural enclaves.

    But what about the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay? The answer always comes back that these are unfortunate and unjust exceptions. In America, they say, you can be more than a Muslim. You are a member of the wider public.

    Naïve? Not according to the Pew study. More than half of Muslims in the U.S. identify themselves as Americans first, easily eclipsing patriotism among Muslims in Germany, Spain or Britain. Clearly, the U.S. has retained its genius as a nation of immigrants.

    To be sure, there is a long way to go in giving non-immigrant Muslims, especially African-Americans, a sense of belonging. Most are not among the better educated, wealthier and politically influential Americans that so many South Asian, Iranian and Arab Muslims are.
    However, that gap is the product of America's persistent racial battle. It has almost nothing to do with a fear of Islam.

    For the all the slogans, accusations and fulminations of the Islam industry's lobbyists, fear is not what mainstream Americans feel about Muslims. Just ask the 73% of Muslims who told Pew that they have never been discriminated against in the U.S.

    Europe, take notes. America, take a break from self-flagellation. Reformist Muslims, take your cue. In the U.S., you have the possibility of a voice. Islam's better angels depend on it.

    Ms. Manji, a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, is author of "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith" (St. Martin's, 2005).
  3. http://www.muslim-refusenik.com/news/home-news-tribune-2007-04-21.html

    Muslim challenges status quo
    Home News Tribune Online 04/21/07
    NEW BRUNSWICK — Author Irshad Manji's proclivity to speak up and ask questions has landed her in hot water throughout her life.

    When she was 9, the Ugandan-born Muslim dared to tell her father not to lay a finger on her mother. He chased her around their home, threatening to cut her ear off.

    At 14, the madressa, or Islamic religious school, she attended on Saturdays while growing up in Canada booted her when they tired of her constant questioning of her Muslim teachers. And three years ago, after the 39-year-old's first book, "The Trouble With Islam Today," went to print, it was the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world who took issue with Manji.

    She receives scathing e-mails and death threats on an almost daily basis. Still, she speaks her mind and poses tough questions to her fellow Muslims.

    On Thursday evening, Manji engaged an audience eager to hear her views at the Home News Tribune-sponsored Smart Talk Women's Lecture Series at the State Theatre.

    "She was brilliant and enlightening," said Edison resident Joyce Andreola. But fellow Edison resident Vered Helfgott came away with mixed feelings after Manji's 50-minute speech and 30-minute question-and-answer session.

    "It was positive and sad," said Helfgott, who said she is well-versed in the teachings of the Quran. "It's great that she's not shy and came forward to express her views toward terrorism, but it's just a drop in a bucket. Why can't other Muslims who grew up in liberal countries, like Canada or the United States, speak out? Why is there such a silence?"

    Manji, a self-described Muslim "dissident," said she has deep faith in her religion. It's those that "exploit the Quran to justify abuses" that make her scratch her head and ask questions. Manji said she wrote her best-seller to "shake up the status quo" and to ask her Muslim brothers and sisters to take responsibility and speak up.

    Her new documentary, which premiered on PBS on Thursday night, "Faith Without Fear," continues where her book left off, as she ventures to the Arabian Peninsula asking much of the same questions.

    "More and more Muslim women are quietly approaching me to ask where I found the audacity to speak up," the petite and energetic Manji said while on stage. "I tell them, "Courage is not the absence of fear — it's OK to feel fear. Courage is the recognition that some things are more important than fear.' "

    Manji's message is getting out there. The book has been published internationally, including in Pakistan, Turkey, India and Lebanon. And in those countries that have banned the book, which Manji describes as an "open letter to concerned citizens of the world - Muslim or not," free versions on PDF files are available on her Web site in Arabic, Urdu and Persian. The free PDF versions came at the request of young Muslims, Manji said.

    How Manji came to be such a controversial yet dynamic figure is an enlightening story of self-awareness.

    A refugee from Idi Amin's Uganda, Manji and her family fled to Vancouver, Canada in 1972. Irshad attended public schools as well as the Islamic madressa that later expelled her when she asked questions such as "Why can't a woman lead prayer in Islam? You would think we were Catholic or something," Manji joked on Thursday as the packed audience broke out in laughter. "By asking questions I was able to see what my madressa teachers theories were."

    Manji further frustrated teachers by asking questions when they taught her "Jews were treacherous.

    "I thought, "What if I'm not being educated but instead being indoctrinated?' " Manji said. "Indoctrination - brainwashing - squelches critical thinking."

    After she was expelled, Manji spent some 20 years studying Islam on her own at public libraries. She found that the Quran told the story of a female prayer leader in the prophet Muhammad's time, and that the holy book gives women the right to stay single, Manji said.

    "The Quran even says that women are the partners, not the property, of men," she said."Thank God for the freedom of information because it saved my faith in Islam and woke up my conscious.

    "My integrity told me it was right to ask questions," Manji said.

    Manji, who lives in a house with bulletproof windows, said she must inspect the cars she rides in before turning on the ignition.

    "They say I'm a sellout," Manji said, "but the real sellouts are those exploiting the Quran to justify the abuses."

    On Thursday, an audience member asked her if there were any way to get moderate Muslims to speak up. Manji said moderate Muslims are part of the problem "because they denounce terrorism but deny that religion is the problem."

    "It is reformers that acknowledge religion is being used to inspire the violence," Manji said. "They are the ones that need to speak out."