Nailed to the Mosque Door


The Iraqi writer Majed Al-Gharbawi is calling for sweeping reform in Islamic culture and religious discourse. Writing for the liberal Arabic-language Website, (translation via MEMRI), Al-Gharbawi argued in the wake of the London bombings that while the psychological, political, and economic reasons for terrorism are important, "they are secondary reasons."

"The driving reason is religious ideology," according to Al-Gharbawi. "In the name of religion, wars have broken out; blood has been let; murder has been legitimized; rights have been revoked; regimes have been taken over; those with different opinions have been accused of unbelief; and Muslims with different opinions have even been accused of heresy . . . Religion was and remains a cover for justifying acts of terror and for arbitrary policies . . . ."

A distorted religious discourse "has reshaped the logic of the [Islamist] movements, based on mockery of life and love of death, hatred for the other and self-glorification, neglect of this world and [preparation] for the hereafter . . . ." That discourse "has not educated the people of the Islamist movements to adopt leniency, mercy, and tolerance for the other—but rather has educated [them] to hatred of the other and plans to murder and uproot the other . . . This culture is completely unconnected to the human values to which the Koran calls . . . . "

Al-Gharbawi is one of numerous Muslim writers demanding a religious response to Islam's global crisis. Many of these writers are calling for religious fatwas against terrorist deeds, but Al-Gharbawi thinks that's not enough. He wants a re-interpretation of Shari'a, a new understanding of the life of the Prophet, and even writes that "there is a need to discuss intensively the issue of abolishing chapters in the Koran."

A revised Koran may be unlikely, but changing perceptions of the Koran are a known historical phenomenon. The Mu'tazilites, for example, who controlled orthodoxy in early Baghdad, held that the Koran was a created book. There are numerous examples of changing Koranic understanding in Islamic history.

That process continues. As the NYT reported last December, many Muslims today are "dismayed by the ever more bloody image of Islam around the world. They are determined to find a way to wrestle the faith back from extremists. Basically the liberals seek to dilute what they criticize as the clerical monopoly on disseminating interpretations of the sacred texts." The long-term Muslim revolt against Islamism that Al-Gharbawi and others are demanding has been trying to start itself.