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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Towards Muslim reformation 

In our times of international strife, it's always good to once in a while be able to report on somebody somewhere in the world taking a step in the right direction. Many of you no doubt will be aware of the existence of this group, which has been brought to my attention yesterday by Dr Judith Klinghoffer. It's the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism, an organisation which proclaims in its mission statement:
"The Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism is a nonprofit organization made up of American Muslims and Arabs of all backgrounds who feel that religious violence and terrorism have not been fully rejected by the Muslim community in the post 9-11 era.

"The Coalition was created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts.

"The Coalition promotes a modern secular interpretation of Islam which is peace-loving, democracy-loving and compatible with other faiths and beliefs. The CoalitionÂ’s efforts are unique; it is the only mainstream American-Muslim organization willing to attack extremism and terrorism unambiguously."
The Coalition has put forward on its home page these statements of belief:
"We believe in the re-interpretation of Islam for the 21st century where terrorism is not justified under any circumstances.

"We believe in the separation of religion and state.

"We believe that democracy is the best form of government.

"We believe in the promotion of secularism in all forms of political activity.

"We believe that equality for women is an inalienable right.

"We believe that religion is a personal relationship between the individual and his or her God and is not to be forced on anyone."
In what looks like a great event, the Coalition is organising a national convention on October 1 in Washington DC (details on the left-hand bar on the home page): "A number of Muslim and Middle Eastern American Organizations are teaming up to put together the largest Muslim and Middle Eastern American event ever organized in the USA. This convention is organized by groups who want to take the lead in the war on terrorism, fanaticism and who love freedom and democracy."

On the other side of the world, there are signs of increasing debate within the Arab world about terrorism committed in the name of Islam. As debates go, this one will take time, but open discussion of these issues is a first step towards dealing with them.

In the end, infidels like you and me will not be able to contribute much. Just as Christianity had to modernise and de-politicise itself in order to finally close the dark chapter of religious wars, witchhunts and persecutions, so does the change within Islam have to come from within. Ultimately, it is in the interest of hundreds of millions of peaceful and decent Muslims world-wide to prevent the violent and vocal minority from hijacking the religious rhetoric and religious passion for political ends. Islamism is as much a threat to moderate Muslim states as to the rest of the world; the fact that the "silent Islamic majority" is slowly starting to wake up to.

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