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November 1, 2007
Fascinating series on developments within Islam
Blogger Ali Eteraz just completed a seven part series in the Guardian on developments within Islam. I would sum up his theme by saying that the religious thinkers who influenced the Jihadists and the Islamists were those who supported dissent against the political authority of their own times.
Once forces of dissent get unleashed in a culture they become difficult to control. For every Bin Laden wannabe who reads the Quran for himself and finds support for violence against Muslim and infidel alike there are now even more like Laleh Bakhtiar, a woman whose translation of the Quran removed the permission for wife-beating based on her understanding of alternative meanings of classical Arabic verbs. In the author's words
In Eteraz's view the Islamic world is on the verge of its own Enlightenment as people increasingly come to realize that the separation of the political sphere from the religious one is in their best interests. Eteraz has obviously thought deeply about his topic and is passionate about helping the Islamic world modernize.
Unfortunately his own biases (the series contains a comparison of Karl Rove to the Mullahs one expects to find in the Guardian) sometimes get in the way of the clarity of his political analysis. Apparently based on the "right = bad: left = good" formula that has infected the academic and media culture, Eteraz labels his own prescriptions for reform within the Islamic World "leftist". There is nothing leftist about them. Most of the readers of this site would call his prescriptions classical liberalism.
Eteraz's inability to recognize his own biases can make him a jarring read at time. Besides the Christian conservative bashing, he frequently criticizes "the west" for seeking to reform Islam based on the cult of personality by seeking a charismatic anti-Bin Laden figure for Muslims to rally around. Yet on his own blog he's was at least initially down right giddy over the campaign of Barak Obama, an engaging figure whose appeal is almost entirely based on personality as Obama has no political accomplishments of note on his resume.
Ali Eteraz on Islamic reform:
Article 1: The roots of Islamic reform
Article 2: The Islamic reformation
Article 3: An Islamic counter-reformation
Article 4: Beyond Islamic enlightenment
Article 5: The making of the Muslim left
Article 6: Muslim secularism and its allies
Article 7: Post-Islamism