An Islamic Reformation is the world’s best chance for peace

Great Article found on Reuters

An Islamic Reformation is the world’s best chance for peace

By John Lloyd
April 2, 2015

The Ottoman era Suleymaniye mosque is covered by fog as the sun sets in Istanbul

If a young woman, before her marriage or after it, is found to have had sexual relations with another man not her betrothed, she is sentenced to be stoned to death. By contrast, a man who rapes or seduces a young girl usually must pay a fine to her father, and offer to marry her himself.

This punishment, ordained by God, is not confined to the ideologues of Islamic State. It is to be found in the holiest books of Jews and Christians: in a part of the Jewish Torah, known to Christians as Old Testament’s book of Deuteronomy.

The Jewish literary critic Adam Kirsch writes that “in Deuteronomy, we find the same kind of panic about female sexuality, the same need to control women’s feelings and behavior…(while) under Talmudic law, (a woman) is not a legally competent individual, but the responsibility of a man.”

The Talmud is a compendium of centuries of Jewish thought and commentary on the Torah.

Why, then, should those born within the cultures of the two older monotheistic faiths — Judaism, the oldest, and Christianity — recoil in horror from the obedience of some Muslims to these commands of God, since our cultures contain the same observances and our cultures’ holy figures approved them?

Because both Christianity and Judaism were profoundly changed by the Reformation and the European Enlightenment. The Enlightenment’s apostles included large figures from the Christian tradition — David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Rene Descartes; and from the Jewish, in Baruch Spinoza and Moses Mendelsohn. They, and a legion of others, thought “freedom and toleration were … essential to the pursuit of enquiry, both religious and secular.” Their belief became, especially in France, a cause, a militant proclamation of freedom of thought and of publication, a definition of the rights of man.

“Man” to a degree meant also “woman” — but far from completely. The idea of male supremacy continues worldwide. Only under the influence of liberal and socialist reformers, emancipatory movements and feminism did (some) cultures recognize real, substantial equality of the sexes — rarely completely.

Islam did not join the renaissance, the rebirth, of Judaic and Christian cultures that began at the end of the 1500s and then evolved over centuries. Islam has within it millions of devotees who are liberal in their thoughts and actions, and who believe that nations should be secular, tolerating all religions and those with none. But the religion and the commentators on it do not lend them support: the religion still, in theory and in much of its practice, aspires to be the spine to a nation’s politics, the guide for its judiciary.

Last month, two powerful voices — one Jewish, one a Muslim breakaway — have been raised to give voice to the same belief: that until Islam undergoes its own rebirth, in which its divine commands are generally allowed to give way to secular, enlightenment practices, the majority of  Muslim moderates will be held hostage by the minority of Muslim extremists.

Benny Morris is professor of history at the University of the Negev: he is the most prominent member of the revisionist historians of the 1980s who broke with Zionist orthodoxy and who wrote a searing, detailed book about the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. An ardent leftist, he became a much more conservative figure, seeing in the failure of the negotiations in the early 2000s between Israel and the Palestinian leadership proof that the Palestinians would never agree to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

At a talk in London, Morris poured scorn on those Western leaders – As President Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron — who argued the attacks on the magazine Charlie Hebdo in January had “nothing to do with the true religion of Islam.”

Islamist violence, Morris said, is perpetrated in the name of Islam. Denying it doesn’t promote good community relations. It obscures a real problem that must be faced.

Morris’ other view — that all Muslims, militant or moderate, “hated” the West — seems to me to be wrong. I asked him if he thought the Palestinian Israelis were biding their time before turning on their Jewish fellow citizens? He replied that the Israeli government’s demonizing of them was wrong. Instead, the government must do all in its powers to bring Israeli Arabs into full citizenship.

Yet if they are suffused with hatred, how would that help?

The “renegade” Muslim I spoke of earlier is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her journey began with escape a forced marriage in Somalia, through the Netherlands and to the United States, where she now lives. She has also traveled from being a devout Muslim to a challenger of Islam’s basic precepts. She has been the subject of powerful memoirs, such as The Caged Virgin andNomad and has been forced to live behind armed protection. Last month, she wrote that “the theological warrant for intolerance and violence is embedded in (Muslims’) own religious texts. It simply will not do for Moslems to claim that their religion has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists. The killers of Islamic state and Nigeria’s Boko Haram cite the same religious texts that every other Muslim in the world considers sacrosanct.”

Judaism and Christianity, she writes “gradually consigned the violent passages of their own sacred texts to the past” so that extremism in both is confined to the fringes. “Regrettably in Islam it is the other way around: it is those seeking religious reform who are the fringe element.”

Hirsi Ali is a woman of notable bravery; one who cares deeply about the religion she felt forced to leave. She ardently wishes to engage those whom she calls “Mecca Muslims” — devout and peaceful men and women, “the majority from Casablanca to Jakarta” in “a dialogue about the meaning and practice of their faith.” The reformation of Islam, she writes, would benefit not only the faithful: Westerners, too, “have an enormous stake in how the struggle over Islam plays out.”

An Islamic reformation would be painful, surely internally violent — as reformation’s various phases were in Christianity. It would mean the sharp diminution of the power of the Imams; frontal challenges to the moral framework of millions, and to the power of religiously based dynasties, like the House of Saud. But if reform, and opening a space for free, unafraid debate, is to move from the fringes to the center and allow the majority to encompass both secular citizenship and devout practice, this hard transition is necessary — especially for Muslims themselves, the first and most numerous victims of extremism.

*Thoughts and opinions expressed are solely those of the author. I do not own the copyright. The original can be accessed at the link above.

**My re-blogging/sharing of this Article does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of the views or opinions expressed in the Article.

Brutish, Blind, Deaf-mute

Global Consilium

community-150124_1280 copy

Roughly half of the world’s seven billion habitants are women. Both in advanced economies as well as in emerging economies, many women still lack equal opportunities, acknowledgement, protection of governments, institutions, and society. Contrary to biased preconceptions, the issue of gender equality is not a battle of the sexes, or an argument of supremacy over men, it’s a matter of rights for women and men alike.

Why brutish, blind, deaf-mute?

Brutish: gender equality is still far away from becoming a reality. The first step to reduce the gender gap is by eliminating the barriers that exist in education. Although these have been reduced mainly in terms of primary education enrollment, there are still millions of girls and adolescents that cannot go to school. On the other hand, those who can attend, have to endure several obstacles that in multiple occasions force these girls and adolescents to abandon their studies. According…

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Separated and Unequal: The Rise of Gated Communities

Global Consilium

photo credit: <a href="">Private Property</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a> Darren Larson ‘ Private Property via FlickrCC

Among high perimeter walls, 24-7 security guards, nice roads and an array of fairly similar houses; the inhabitants of gated communities have a sense of common identity that is provided by the comfort of concrete walls. Gated communities are nothing more than modern housing in the form of a residential community such as a condominium, housing estate or villa. In the last decade or so these kinds of housing or urbanistic developments have increasingly become a global trend. From Pakistan, Malaysia or India to Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, the rise of gated communities have come to shape society as we know it.

Although the first gated communities started gaining notoriety in the United States back in the 80´s, their global popularity did not peaked until the last decade or so. Nowadays, gated communities have come to embody some sort of new lifestyle many…

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