Somewhere on A1A...

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Moderate Islam Watch

Reported in Jordan's Star, In Amman a group of Islamic scholars, purportedly moderate Muslims, met to discuss the Futrue of Islam. I was disappointed.

At least they call for "a dialogue of cultures between nations," but little substance is reported to give any real hope that a voice of Moderate Islam exists. My impression from reading the report is that only the language is moderate. Except for the call for Islam to use modern technology and modern communications to spread Islam's message, there was nothing reported about any kind of real self-examination. All the themes are old and have been seen countless times.

The scholars recognize the need to modernize, but really have no idea how to do it. "Islam very much has a place in the modern World." They need "training [for] the new generation on how to use the new technology." They lament that "the world gained from the technological revolution especially its latest phase of satellites and the internet." and that "the Islamic world should take advantage of this revolution but at the same time take care to stay within the Islamic moral framework." Aren't these really statements of the problem? To paraphrase: "We have a place in the world. We need to modernize. We need to hold to our faith." In other words, they have no answer.

I guess what gives me hope is that these Islamic scholars are calling for modernizing communications and taking advantage of the internet. That's not much to feel good about though. We've seen, especially at lgf, how the Arabs fear and try to control internet access. But maybe if the religious scholars embrace it something positive will happen. But is that the only answer they have?

One of the other answers they propose is a dialogue. This group says that "society must strive to differentiate between terrorism and resistance and between extremism and Jihad." Well, we hear that 'dialogue' constantly it's more like a mantra from talking Arabian heads on any of the networks..

Maybe this conference will wind up doing good in the long run, but I see nothing more than empty generalities. Still, I continue to look for the voice of "Moderate Islam," or "True Islam." The scholars meeting in Amman speak in whispers while a more warlike Islam speaks with utter contempt for non-Muslim values and the action of violent confrontation. When the moderates fail to condemn, fail even to criticize the extremists, then they appear to be the one and the same. I look for moderate Muslims to start a dialogue with the extreme elements in their own world.

Although dialogue with the west is also necessary and should be ongoing, most of us are fully aware of the differences in opinions, values and goals, between the two cultures. What I don't understand, and I'm not sure they do either, is what are the differences between "True Islam" and the Islam that is in conflict with so much of the world? That dialogue is badly needed. Without the help of the moderates it is impossible to tell them apart. That is dangerous for us all.


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